Musings of an Irish Beer Drinker (The Early Years)

The Beer Musings

The Beer Musings are based on experiences that I have had drinking beer from the early days up until now. These are moments of interest from my past and stories written around this fantastic beverage. As you will read, these weren't always positive experiences but they all contribute to the journey that has brought me here today.

They are nostalgic, un-tamed, heartfelt and I have really enjoyed writing them. So sit back, clear your head and compare them to your own early beer experiences.

I hope you enjoy the forthcoming posts

- now, let's go to the beach....

Oh Beer Network - Beach Beer

Do you remember your first Beer?

I don't mean taste of beer, I mean your first actual glass, bottle or can of beer, bought for or given to you, specifically for your own consumption?

I do.

Picture the scene...

It's about 1:30 pm on a sunny August afternoon in 1998.

What day? It doesn't matter. It's school holidays so to a teenager, all days seem the same. Needless to say, I had booked the time off from my part time job, working in the stock room in the local Dunnes Stores. For me, today was going to be much more exciting than sweeping floors and unpacking boxes. Because today, me and my mates were heading to the local beach at Ballyholme with a Carry Out.

* Please Note: In Northern Ireland, a 'Carry Out' is NOT the same as a 'Take Away'. A Carry out (or CO) in the term we use it, consists of a selection of alcoholic beverages to be consumed outside of a bar and doesn't refer to a collection of Cheesy Chips and Pastie Suppers fresh from the Chip Shop!

I was pretty excited. Back then, I was in the Air Cadets and we had recently returned from our Annual Summer Camp - basically a week away at an English RAF base with a few other NI Squadrons. We had arranged for some of our new Belfast based friends to bounce on the train to Bangor and we would all meet up at the beach for some drinking in the sun 😐

Oh Beer Network - Ballyholme Promenade

Ballyholme Promenade

Anyway, the weather had been kind. It was sunny although still pretty Baltic (we do live on the Irish Coast after all), but none of us were worried. There would be girls there you see and we were "To Hard" to feel the cold, besides soon we'd be putting our beer jackets on (assuming our 'older' pal was successful in getting us the booze!).

Soon we had our places set up on the beach and amongst the soundtrack of laughter and various Oasis tracks from someone's tape player, a familiar looking group of lads could be spotted sauntering down towards us along the promenade - blue bags in hands.

- Mission - 'Beers for the Beach' had been successful and this day was about to get a whole lot better - or so we thought....


It's at this stage I feel compelled to point out that at the tender age of 18 (ahem!), I wasn't exactly a beer aficionado and nor did I pretend to be. In my limited experience, alcohol was enjoyed best out of two litre plastic cider bottles and beer was something that my dad drunk. I remember licking the foam on one of his glasses of beer as a child and nearly being sick.

I was aware of how it worked. When someone else was getting booze for the group, you would give your money in and then be grateful for what you got so I wasn't going to complain. Also, you knew not to expect to get any change back either. Whatever left over money there was would be used as an unofficial acquisition fee usually absorbed by the Mastermind of the Operation - that's just the way it was. I was prepared and ready to drink whatever I was given (please be a bottle of White Lightning!).

So what had my 4 pound coins and two 50p's managed to buy for me. My predictions had been correct. The blue bags opened and I received four cans of Tennent's Lager. To be honest, I wasn't too bothered. Booze was booze wasn't it? How bad could beer be after all. "Man up son", I told myself. "You're going to drink this beer and you're going to enjoy it. If anyone asks, you'll say that it's "Dead On" and that you drink it all the time. The girls will think I'm so cool - no doubt! 😂

Oh Beer Network - Tennent's Lager

The time had arrived, I had tasted swigs of beer on numerous occasions before (usually when there was nothing else) but today would be special - my first official can of beer. I hauled back the ring pull and with a metallic slice and crack, the can was open. A swell of foam escaped out the top and ran down the sides of the tin. I could feel eyes on me from around the group and there was no turning back now. I smiled to my fellow cronies and raised the can to my mouth. In the seconds that followed I could feel the warm fizzy liquid flow down the back of my throat. My face contorted and as I tried to pass off my gag reflex as a delayed feeling of satisfaction, but one thing was very clear - it tasted bloody awful!!

Bluffing as best as I could, the can continued it's journey to and from my lips. I remember thinking, why do people drink this. It had a metallic and cardboard like taste that was nowhere near as good as cider. I soldiered on and funnily enough after my first can the taste wasn't tending to bother me as much. As the music and laughter continued to get louder and the day began to turn to evening I recall us heading back to my mate's house to carry on drinking in his garage. The best bit about that was, I knew I already had a bottle of cider waiting for me there, no more of this beer stuff

- Feeling Super Sonic!

To this day, I still don't particularly enjoy Tennents which is unfortunate as it continues to be a common offering in many of the brewery tied bars locally. I know I try not to be negative about beer in this blog but I think in this instance I am going to allow myself an exception.

You'll be pleased to hear that after my first negative experience, I of course did give beer another chance. As with most 'Norn Iron' youngsters, we soon 'upgraded' from cider to Harp Lager. Partly because it was the local brew and partly because it was cheaper, oh and partly because of the Camel that sounded like Frank Carson on their advert.

Harp definitely wasn't as bad a Tennents but it certainly wasn't Nectar from the god's either. I remember my brother and his mates used to call it HNH, which stood for 'Harp No Hangover'. Honestly, I think we can connect that statement to their age at the time rather than any medicinal properties attributed to the beer itself. I can certainly testify that following many Harp drinking sessions myself, that the 'No Hangover' theory certainly has it's flaws

- it does taste nice with a packet of dates though 😉

As the years continued I upgraded again. There was a 'new kid on the block' or maybe that should be 'on the shelves' of our local supermarket and now, officially within legal drinking age, I used to purchase boxes of it (when it was on offer anyway). The beer was called Grolsch and it was Dutch. It tasted different to Harp and I preferred it.

I also liked the fact that you could buy big monster bottles of it with a special European 'Flip Caps' on the top. These were cool because the bottles were so big that you could pretend you were drinking a "50" in the hood, like 2Pac used to rap about, but also the caps looked really sophisticated and opened with satisfying pop (I still love that!). The crap thing about those bottles however, was how quickly the beer got warm and nasty if you didn't drink it quick enough. Needless to say, the novelty soon wore off.

Oh Beer Network - Grolsch Lager

Soon my youthful years in Bangor would draw to a close. The New Millennium had arrived, Y2K had turned out to be a sham, Gladiator smashed up the Cinema Box office charts and the Playstation 2 was released. I had also secured a place studying Marketing, Retail and Distribution in the University of Huddersfield. As September rolled around it was good bye to the Emerald Isle and hello to my Student Day's in England. An exciting and completely new lifestyle lay before me, along with a totally different range of beers...

'Musings of an Irish Beer Drinker - The Student Years'.

Coming Soon....

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