Monday, March 15, 2010

In Praise of Hop Picking Peasants!

My parents arrive in the US later today, having yesterday taken the train to London from their home in the Limousin region of France. Obviously I am excited to see them again, last time we were together was in January 2009, after the first Christmas is about 20 years where we finally managed to get myself, my three brothers and my parents in the same room for turkey and chrimble pud. As you would hope for in life I guess, Mrs Velkyal and I get on very well with my parents, we all have similar senses of humour, like similar things and are happy to sit round the moron box with a bottle of something to while away the hours, often with the moron box set firmly in the off position.

I think subconsciously my father has been very influential on my beer life, largely because the production of beer has been present in various periods of his life, as opposed to the simple drinking of beer (a radical opinion perhaps, but I am finding myself cynical of those beer geeks who don't homebrew, it is like saying you love food but don't cook!). When dad was growing up in Southall, back when Middlesex was more than a cricket club, his annual holiday, like many in the area, was to Kent. The purpose of said holiday was hop picking, and it was known as the holiday "with work and pay", but many a London family, several generations worth, would take the train down to Kent as their annual getaway. Once, in a wine fueled evening when my parents still lived in Uist, referred to my father as the "hop picking peasant", a label which has kind of stuck.

Another way my dad influenced my beery world is that he also homebrewed for a time, and I am very much looking forward to him trying some of my beer while he is here. Dad's homebrew days were back in the mid 1980s when you bought a can of syrup from Boots, added water and sugar, fermented and then "conditioned" said brew in a polypin. Around this time we were living in a Welsh town called Cwmbran (none of your domesticated livestock living for us!), having moved there just before Dad retired from the army. One night sticks in my mind, when we officially unveiled our new patio in the first house our family had ever bought. It was a huge, multi-layer thing, with an in-built barbecue, and my little brother and I's job for the evening was to keep the adults' glasses well stocked with the bitter and "lager" in the polypins. One thing I am sure they didn't countenance upon was my brother and I having the occasional mouthful or two ourselves.

There are various other episodes I could go in to here, not just with beer, but wine and cider got a look in as well when we were kids, as did whisky when we were ill, in the shape of a hot toddy, but those are for another time. Suffice to say, I am looking forward to having my Mum and Dad around, anyone for an aperitif?


  1. My dad would let us have small amounts of alcohol growing up, too. We lived in Bavaria for a while, where he taught me the finer points of beer. Proper.

  2. I love food but don't cook (and barely brew). I also love travel but can't fly an aeroplane.

  3. I really should have said "beginning to find myself cynical" - but perfectly happy to have my cynicism challenged.

  4. Well I don't brew either. I drink enough without doing that and besides I just couldn't be arsed.


Rauch Against the Machine

I am just going to come out and say it, I have loved rauchbier ever since I first had Schlenkerla's iconic Märzen back in Prague in 2008...