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Heineken. And Why Not.

Tony Stanton takes his position at the bar. Photos: Lucky 8.

Why do I love beer? It’s a question that has come up once or twice in my life. Probably because it’s quite obvious to anyone who knows me that I am something of a fan. In response I would say: I love beer mostly because it’s cold, wet and lip-smackingly yum in a bitter-sweet kind of way; because it goes equally well with meat or fish, as it does with golf, snooker, darts or Monopoly; it is a marriage made in heaven when paired with pizza, it makes even the most saltless peanuts sing and it’s relatively affordable. But mostly I love beer because it gets me drunk.

Not too drunk mind, that’s not fun at all, just … drunk enough. This is an important consideration for anyone who believes that the best way to handle most of life’s ups and downs is to stay mildly pissed at all times (post-prandially, in a responsible over-the-yardarm sort of way, of course).

Let’s not forget – as with beer drinkers, not all beers are created equal. There are your real ales for starters, rightly famed in Britain (mostly). These are often spectacular varietals worthy of much fire-warmed supping, more British in their Britishness than a Brexiteer in Bradford. These beers I love; within each of their regional groupings I have my special favourites. But alas it is to the tropics that I took my bags so many moons ago, and in this part of the world real ale simply does not exist. It does not travel, you see.

There are some brave attempts at reproduction of course, ales that employ various widgets to pump gas into the limp liquid within each can, but while these do occasionally appear in Indonesia (along with their trusted Irish uncle, Guinness), their supply can be somewhat hit and miss. And you need to take out a mortgage to drink them on any daily basis.

And so, inevitably as we spin at 4,000 miles an hour around the fattest part of this planet, the equatorial beer drinker is forced to consider alternatives, by which I mean lager.

First up (for at least the initial 10 years of this equatorial circum-perambulation) it is of course the cheapest beer on the shelves … an old faithful best served at finger-to-bottle-sticking coldness that can mask most odiferous offerings … but as the palate ages and the wallet expands, one develops a certain expectation for something more. Not quite as top shelf as anything imported (I look with envy at the gold-flecked labels of Kirin Super Dry and Sapporo), but one step beyond the local hooch. I am talking of course about Heineken, the green goddess, the airport lounge staple, the ‘Heiny’, dripping in condensation in the fist of an airline pilot as he holds forth at the Captain’s bar; the international beer: the one that says … I value taste and design and colour above the next guy. I aspire!

Those of you above the age of puberty and its early twenty something aspirations will of course know Heineken from way back. It was, in the golden age of beer advertising, the one that ‘refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach’. In my book, it still is. Rounded, crisp and slightly sweet, it can be served a tad less cold than its counterparts and still enjoyed; the shape of its neck is slightly longer and thus more felicitous to manageable pouring, its body slightly slimmer to promote a feeling of being more in charge. In all, a better beer … and at 5% by alcohol volume, one with a decent delivery.

There are recent new alternatives to this full strength Heineken of old, and while I was at first slightly conflicted about the nouveau arrivé that is Heineken Light, I have since learned to love it.

Introduced relatively recently to a bar near you, this toned-down version of the original goddess comes in at 3.3%, so it’s far from a pushover and certainly wouldn’t qualify as ‘non-alcoholic’ [note to readers: never use the phrase “non-alcoholic” in front of a beer drinker – it will not end well].

There are advantages to lower alcohol lager of course, not the least being the fact that you can drink more of it. In fact you have to in order to reach the optimium blood-alcohol level required to take the edge off the day . . . to reach that point at which the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie [etc etc, thank you Dean Martin] and onwards into partial oblivion (“What did we have for dinner last night, darling? I can’t quite recall”).

And let’s not forget the benefit of being temporarily held back from that point at which one starts spouting nonsense to anyone who will listen (this is what I do when the drink takes hold, anyway), and the fact that you are safe in the knowledge that you are well within your daily calorific intake. So you see, what is there not to like about Heineken, Light? It’s just a longer version of the same fabulous episode we call life. Cheers.

Heineken is the official beer of The Yak Awards 2018.