((Footnote: This is part 2 of the Musings of an Irish Beer Drinker series - to read Part 1: The Early Years Click Here))
And so it came to pass, an Ulsterman had arrived in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire on an adventure that was to take up the next four years of his life.
Gone was "Bout Ye" and in was "Ay Up". Away was 'after-bar' Pastie Suppers and in was Spicy Kebabs. Good bye to Harp Lager and hello to John Smiths Ale. This was no doubt, a time of big change and new experiences - The days of being a Student begin.
So as my parents waved good bye and I returned to unpack my boxes of belongings into my little single bedroom at Storthes Hall (the University Campus for first year students), I was looking forward to meeting my new flatmates and I couldn't wait to get stuck into the Freshers Week festivities that I had heard so much about. Soon we had all been introduced and the first stop was the local student bar on Campus - The Arb.
The Arb was located 32 seconds (running) from my apartment block - yes I timed it 😂
It was a pretty cool wee place with everything that you could want, ranging from pool tables, arcade machines, a big screen for sports, a dance floor with DJ in the evenings, takeaway food and a VERY reasonably priced bar. The range of drinks weren't outstanding granted, but they didn't need to be. Cheap and with alcohol seemed to be necessary criteria of the student clientele and nobody was left disappointed.
So, let's talk beer...
From drinking pints of Harp back in Northern Ireland, the beer of choice in my new surroundings was not brewed in Dublin, it was an English Lager and it tasted nearly as grim -
So, let's be honest here, Carling wasn't the greatest beer ever to grace the inside of a pint glass but it did have a few things going for it during this early stage in my life...
It was wet - around 90 odd percent water (although it tasted like more!)
It contained alcohol - 4% ABV to be precise
It was chilled (if you were lucky)
Carling Sponsored the Premier League at the time
It was cheap - £1 per Pint!!!
Yes, at £1 per pint I was a happy student and so were my other inebriated pals. It didn't matter that the beer essentially tasted of malty water, the price ensured that a £10 note could more than fund your night and pay for a burger a chips at the end of the evening.
My beer drinking standards were at an all time low but there was a big smile on my face during the years of 2000/01.
I was never really a big Guinness drinker before University. To be honest, I never really gave it a chance. I enjoyed Lager and shots when I was out in Bangor (that's so Nineties!) that Guinness never really got a look in. That was of course, before I became an Irish student based in an English Uni.
What soon became apparent following my unofficial name change to 'Irish Andy' was that certain things were expected of someone of that title - namely to drink plenty of the Black stuff. I was happy to oblige and before long Guinness became my drink of choice. Still reasonably well priced at the union and actually quite a pleasant brew having acquired the taste, I have fond memories of enjoying plenty of pints of the stuff throughout my student career and indeed the times that followed it.
Even today, Guinness is a great 'fall back' beer should the bar that I'm in not happen to serve a nice craft brew. There's something about that smooth, foamy and roasted malt flavoured first taste that still brings a smile to my face. Close my eyes for a moment and I'm transported back to a tobacco smoked, jam packed Milton (Huddersfield University's old Students Union), watching the big screen as Keith Woods crashed over the try line to help deny England the Grand Slam in the 2001 Six Nations, with a pint of Guinness in my hand. I was a popular man on that particular night 😁
Indeed, many a sporting fixture has been watched since with a pint of Arthur's brew in my hand and for the good memories alone, it will always have a place in my heart, even if there are better stouts now available.
So there's only one more beer to mention that stands out during my student years and to be honest, it isn't so much of a beer as a bad beer cocktail 😐
I remember sampling it one Saturday evening in the Union before we hit 'The Warehouse' in Huddersfield. I don't know who suggested mixing a bottle of Smirnoff Ice with a half pint of Lager but for the sweet and unrefined palates of a group of early twenty year olds, the idea struck home. Not only did it add some flavour to a cheap pint of Carling but it gave it an extra kick as well.
I remember introducing it to my friends back in Bangor when I came home for Christmas that year and it was only a matter of time before all sorts of alcopops were being mixed with half pints of Lager. Did you know that a Blue WKD turns green when you add it to beer.
I cringe at the memory now.
So that was it, four years spent at the University of Huddersfield. I look back now with so many fond memories, not just about the quality beers that I enjoyed (ahem) but also at the lovely town I lived and the fantastic people I met. I laugh to myself when I think that if I studied in Huddersfield now I would have Magic Rock Brewery right on my doorstep - how cool would that be!
I can only hope that the current students understand how good they have it and also learn that Turbo Shandys are neither big or clever!
Anyway, for me it was the start of the next chapter. Full time employment, a move down to Solihull in the West Midlands and of course a whole new variety of beer to try.
Yep, I'm the pale, beardless, skinny guy in the Ireland top 😂