I’m going to talk about beer. But first, a quick detour. Over the years, I’ve noticed that teary-eyed American films always seem to include some suitably irritating appeal to moral worthiness. Usually, it’s a nugget of free-range Hollywood sagacity that wouldn’t look out of place on a Live Laugh Love trinket and is often no more than a waste of oxygen dressed up as common sense. Most run along fairly anodyne lines (be true to yourself, don’t judge people, eat your vegetables & be kind to animals), and hence don’t really keep anybody up at night, or indeed have any relevance to this article. The reason we’ve pulled into this particular side road, Dearest Reader, is that the worst California cliché of them all is about to be comprehensively ignored. This is, of course, the age-old exhortation (For best effect, said aloud with a west-coast drawl) to “Focus on what unites us, rather than what divides us”. No. If you want to do that, go and read the Bible, or daydream about Mandela. Stay here if you want ringside tickets to a verbal bar fight.
So back to beer. Our two contenders, for the Scottish Heavyweight Beer of the Year title (ABH freshers having taken the Lightweight title), are Belhaven Best, of Dunbar, East Lothian, and the infamous Tennents, of Glasgow. Now I should make it clear from the outset that this fight is rigged. I myself am a Belhaven drinker because it’s 55p cheaper in Mollys than a Tennents: most normal people, on the other hand, drink Tennents, because it’s better. But we’ll ignore that for now, and take a quick look at the runners and riders. Belhaven Best is a sexy little beast that purports to be an ale and can be bought for the sultry sum of £3.30 in the sweat pits of Molly Malones. It’s sort of brownish in colour, and tastes like watered-down Guinness. Tennents, on the other hand, is a sturdy larger which goes for £3.85 at Mollys (but only £3 at the Rule…) and tastes like an alcoholic’s San Pellegrino. That’s all you’re going to get from me about the taste - if you’re into that kind of thing, feel free to go hipster and join the other members of Americans Anonymous in Brewdog. Most normal students drink for two reasons: intoxication, and intercourse (of the social kind – mind OUT of the gutter, please). These can be our first two categories.
At first sight, intoxication is the easiest: at a measly 3.2%, Belhaven Best simply isn’t up there with the 4% big boy Tennents. It’s like getting an asthmatic maths student to compete in a shagging contest with Mick Jagger: surely no contest as long as Mick’s zimmer frame holds up. But hold on: Belhaven has a secret weapon. Not only is it cheaper (win), but crucially, it sits far better in the stomach at 11:30 when you’re on round 7. How come? Less gas is probably the answer. In any case, on the piss-up front, it’s a dead heat: when taken in medicinal qualities you really won’t notice the difference. Next up is the, ahem, intercourse, category. Simply put, what kind of message is your pint giving out to the room? Will that bloke in the corner baulk at your beverage? Will your mates call you unspeakable names for your choice of pint? Will the barmaid make nasty jokes about you behind the counter? Well, there’s a simple answer to that. Absolutely nobody is going to judge you for drinking Tennents, unless it’s with your morning porridge. Drinking Tennents in St Andrews is like eating rice in a paddy field- it doesn’t say anything. Belhaven, on the other hand, is making a statement: either you’re 58 and called Dave, or you’re a student on a budget. I’d say Belhaven takes the win on this one: I’d rather have character and a colostomy bag than be one of the Tennent-chugging masses.
Evidently, it’s going to be a pretty close contest going into round three: both contenders are neck and neck on all the traditional metrics, and no one is backing down. A serious tie-breaker is required. The question, therefore, is which pint you’d rather have a pint with. I reckon Belhaven is pretty straightforward: a real-life Best would spend the evening complaining about their third divorce, and trying to start a fight with the people on the next table. A Tennents, on the other hand, would chat about BPM and then chun on your carpet. Quite the evening, although I’m not sure Mr Stella would approve. However, even with this insight, your typical pub-goer is still left in a quandary: which pint should they call for? Well here’s my take: neither. If you want a good night out in St Andrews, do what normal people do, and buy something from Tescos. It’s cheap, it’s cheerful, and you can earn Clubcard points. It may not save your liver, but it just might just save your bank balance. Go on – as they say, every little helps!
Image: Pavel Danilyuk, Pexels