November 1992, I get a phone call from my parents asking if I fancy a few days in the Lake District between Christmas and New Year. That sounds like a nice idea; let's go for it says I.
I'd never really been bothered about beer before. Sure I drank it, and 'bitter' was my choice over lager, but I wasn't that concerned about the nuances of the drink. I knew I enjoyed Wells Bombardier, Marstons Pedigree (believe me, it was nice in the early 90's) and I'd had some lovely Boddingtons in a pub near Manchester once, but ask me to name a few other good beers and I honestly couldn't.
So the trip to The Lake District ensued, and, for some reason I cannot remember, we visited The Masons Arms in Strawberry Bank. A remote pub, but famed the nation over. A quick look at the bar revealed a few real ales and books on the tables showed that the pub had a pretty good range of foreign bottled beers. I don't think we were aware before we got there, but the pub brewed its own beers back then, but one beer, or to be precise its name and pumpclip, just said 'drink me'.
That year Mauldons Black Adder had won Champion Beer Of Britain; an award I'd not even heard of. The pumpclip proudly advertized this award, and added to the fact that Blackadder sounded like a pretty cool name (the television programme hadn't started yet), we had to order some. It was delicious. A roasty full bodied dark stout. It seemed very complex and so flavoursome. This was probably the best beer I'd ever had the joy of tasting.
It was wonderful. But, it would have been rude not to try the home brewed stuff, so we then had some Amazon Bitter. To be honest after the Black Adder, this was really bland. From memory it was just an ordinary bitter with sessionable qualities, but it couldn't stand up to the stout we'd just had.
So a third beer was called for, and especially for the season, the pub had their homebrewed Damson Beer on. Now this sounded both wierd and exciting. I didn't know about fruit in beers, and I don't even think I'd ever eaten a damson in my life. The beer itself was a potent 9%, and quite strange to my tastebuds, it was pretty sour, and I'm not sure I liked it.
But I'd tried three beers, all very different. I'd been shown in one lunchtime session what a versatile and exciting drink beer is, and I wanted more.
We had a few more beers that holiday, mostly from Northern breweries, and although nothing matched the beauty of that Black Adder, I enjoyed each and every one. A hobby was born, and thousands of different beers later, I'm still discovering new things.
That's how it started for me. Mum and Dad - it's all your fault!!!