November has escaped. December has found us with its tinsel, weight gain and overdraft-busting excess. Norwich is sunny and cold, and bun fights break out between shoppers in toy stores.
Normally, I’d be stocking up on good wine, cheese and cured meat at this time of year.
But in the last few years I’ve made a point of treating myself during the festive season and buying myself some top drawer beer, too. Working on a daily newspaper* can be bloody stressful, so I’ve earned it.
And I’m already halfway there. £70 of the good stuff is chilling in my fridge, with more to come.
It got there courtesy of my annual pilgrimage to ale Disneyland, Beers of Europe.
I love the place.
This was my third visit in three years, and I’ve learnt how to navigate its labyrinthine aisles.
Of course, if you wanted, you could rattle around armed with one of their rickety trollies, squealing like a five-year-old in Hamleys and sweeping armfuls of beer off the shelves.
In reality, the process is more like picking out ancient texts at the British Museum.
Unlike a discerning craft beer store, BoE’s strength and weakness lies in its vast range. It does not discriminate between good and bad beer.
You can get everything from aged bottles of Schneider Weisse Unter Aventinus to meat and potatoes Carlsberg. Cantillon to Carling. Boon to Budweiser.
Hundreds of different styles line its shelves, with no preference of placement.
You might find that Struise Black Damnation XXI Black Mes Senior on a dusty rack in the back corner, while tins of Pabst Blue Ribbon are given prime real estate, centre-shelf.
While wonderfully Utopian, it means you must take your time. And scour. Rush through an aisle, and you’ll miss a gem.
The prices aren’t especially cheap, and there aren’t any sales (a small section of reduced stock is as good as it gets) so don’t bother looking for a bargain.
You can, of course, swerve all this by simply buying online. At the very least, you can plan ahead by going through the website and making a list.
But there’s no sport in that.
Here’s my haul:
- Schneider Weisse Tap X Nelson Sauvin 750ml
- Brew by Numbers/Stockholm Brewing Oyster and Kombu Saison 750ml
- Cantillon Kriek Lambic Bio
- Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier x 2
- Westmalle Trappist Dubbel
- Anchor Summer Wheat can
- Sweetwater Hop Hash can
- Beavertown 8 Ball Rye IPA can x 2
- Orval x 4
- Firestone Walker Easy Jack IPA
- Brew by Numbers Lemon and Hibiscus Table Saison
- Anchor Go West IPA
- Chimay Red