Well. I had one of those moments last night.
I happened to find myself in the "Stoneybank" area of the greater Musselburgh conurbation. An area I know (or knew) quite well, as it happens - it being the ancient seat of my particular little branch of the mighty Hay clan.
I'd like to say that very little has changed since I left. I'd like to - but it would be feckin' lie. There's bugger all that I remember of it left. Bits I recognize? Oh yes. But as I remember it No.
Still. That's the way of things.
Anyway - I digress. I was in a little deli in Stoneybank. Yes! A "Deli"!! In Stoneybank! Christ. When I was a kid if a shop had both types of bread (plain and pan) then it was posh.
Now this deli, as well as "exotic" foods and breads also had a great many beers. Beers from all over the world.
I went in.
I didn't see anything... so I asked. "Excuse me. Do you have any alcohol free beers?".
And that's when it happened.. Words I am afraid are inadequate to convey the look on the shopkeepers face. It was, at once, a combination of pity, contempt, bewilderment, loathing, and a good dollop of bafflement thrown in for good measure. Imagine the queens face if somebody grabed her handbag off her - then had a dump in it. Her face would probably look a bit like his...
"Alcohol. Free?. Beer? Without Alcohol?.... Why?"
"I like it and I like to try different kinds."
"Different one's go with different food"
The excahnge didn't quite get as far as him asking me to leave, but it was obvious I was not what you might call representative of his target core customer demographic.
Sadly, it's an exchange I'm somewhat used to. Thing is I do like a beer with food. Just the one and always alcohol free. But it is a real bugger to source. Yes. You can get Becks "Blue" damn near everywhere (except Stoneybank), but it's expensive and very dry. Now "dry" isn't always a bad thing, but I don't want to drink it every night.
I know what people will think/say... "if you don't drink. Then why do you want beer? Why not just have juice or water?" Well. Sometimes I do, but you don't always want something too sweet. Who knows perhaps after years of the "real" stuff I've just got overly used to it?
Whatever. I like it, it's on the market, I'll drink it. But it is hard to source. So I invariably end up stocking up on different sorts when I find them so that I've always got a supply.
So. As John Coltrane once remarked, a full four years before Julie Andrews came along and ruined it, These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things.....
Becks Blue: The market leader (probably). A bit dry for my liking.
Kaliber: Not as easy to source as you'd think and one of my favourites though probably a tad watery.
Bavaria "Regular": Nice, everyday drink, goes with anything. Maybe a little bit sweet.
Bavaria Wit: I loved wheat beer, so finding this was great. Full of flavour and very fruity.
Kombacher: A relatively new one to me. Lovely stuff. Not as dry as becks, but nice and crisp.
Erdinger Alkoholfrei. The business. The daddy of them all. I love this stuff, but it's a bit hard to find (so I usually get a crate when I do find it). It actually tastes exactly like I remember wheat beer. Keeps it's creamy head for ages. Only down side is it might be a bit too gassy. As an aside the makers actually market it as a sports recovery drink and sponsor marathons and tri's. Got into a bit of a habit of having one the night before a marathon... with a shed load of pasta obviously.
Cobra: Don't have any at the moment, but another good one. Nice with a curry (unsurprisingly).
Thing about all of the above is, they should be cold, and as most lager drinkers would tell you, if they're honest, is that if you chill them enough all lagers taste pretty much the same anyway.
The irony? The little shop that's now a "Deli" was, many moons ago, a regular "licenced grocers" .... where I first used to buy drink as an under age drinker! :-)