Thursday, October 29, 2009

To the USA...

I've embarked on a dig through some old cassettes in the basement, the latest fruit of which is Leonard Cohen's 1997 album The Future. The CD's down there somewhere, too, but the relative inconvenience of tape – no simple track-skipping here – means I'm listening to the whole thing for the first time in years. Currently playing is one of its key tracks, Democracy, in which the Canadian posits the emergence of a new order in typically deadpan fashion. Democracy is coming to the USA, he sings, 'on a visionary flood of alcohol'.

Substitute 'large aeroplane' for 'visionary flood of alcohol' and 'Hale and Hearty' for 'democracy' and you have a fairly accurate picture of our movements next month, when tools will be downed for a final trip to New York before the baby comes. Among the manifold attractions will be fine restaurants and, if not a biblical tide's worth of booze, a renewed chance to enjoy some decent American brews that usually only make it across the Atlantic in a crate.

It's reasonably easy to order something reliable from Chicago's Goose Island or NYC's own Brooklyn Brewery in a British bar; pick your spot and you'll also find bottles from some of the 1,000-odd small breweries that have set up in the US in the past 30 years. By happy coincidence, however, our local shop sells six-bottle carriers of the one I'll be drinking on the first night. Happy, and bizarre, given the brewery's size: I can't remember ever seeing its beers in a supermarket or off-licence.

There really is nothing to dislike about a proper pint of Samuel Adams' Boston Lager, unless you're the kind of old colonialist who takes exception to the product of one of our finest exported processes taking its name from an architect of the American revolution (which seems unlikely). Full-bodied and richly malty, it's a long way from the bland fizz of the multinational big-hitters. I'd like to think it's what Barack Obama had in mind when he floated a bit of 'bar-stool diplomacy' at the White House this summer. What Len would make of that is anyone's guess.

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