Ok, this time around I am going to do a very different kind of post. I am not looking at those beers that I consider to be my favorites, rather those that have a nostalgic value for me and which I have a specific set of memories attached to. Now, I grew up in a household where beer and wine were a staple of everyday life. Don’t get me wrong, nobody in my immediate family had a drinking problem, but we are a family who values a good glass of beer or a bottle of wine.
I have always had a very strong tactile memory and very specific memories attached to tastes. I have planned at least 4 other beers, but I’m gonna start with Newcastle Brown Ale as my first beer with major memories attached.
This is a beer that I really got into during my years as an undergraduate studying at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, IL. Its deep nutty, almost buttery flavor was very attractive to the angry young punk rocker wannabe version of myself. Newcastle was one of the first non-domestic beers that I really got into and I thought drinking it made me sophisticated.
On Wednesdays, me and a couple of my buddies would head over to Zorba’s Greek Restaurant (627 E Green St, Champaign, IL 61820) for a weekly jazz performance. Every Wednesday, they had live Jazz music and their beer selection was rather limited to domestics and only 2 or 3 foreign beers. Now, Zorba’s was (and I believe still is) one of the more popular eateries in the campus town area that has been there since the early seventies. They serve great gyros and other assorted pitas and other greek dishes. I did always enjoy the food during the day, but it was best with an icy brew and a clove cigarette on a Wednesday night. Zorba’s would set up about 50 chairs in 5 rows and because Zorba’s had no stage, the band would set up in an open space on the floor often with stools to sit on.
Now when I say jazz night, don’t get misunderstand, this was not the kind of jazz night populated with pretentious yuppies who stare down there noses at anybody who doesn’t “get” jazz. I was a pierced bleach haired kid who listened to nothing but punk and hardcore and my closest jazz night buddy was a metal head. I’m sure there were those there that played and were accustomed to jazz, but I would guess the majority were just bored college students who loved music and saw jazz night as a great way to experience more of it. We would spend those nights sitting smoking and chatting as we listened to the music into the wee hours of the morning. The taste of this English beer will forever remind me of those noisy and constant movement of those hazy nights at Zorbas.