Imagine getting your beer home and discovering it's alcohol-free! | Matt Mohan-Hickson

I can’t remember the first time I drank beer – or more accurately, the first time I tried to drink beer.

By Matt Mohan-Hickson
Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 8:24 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 8:24 am

You see it happened when I was young, so little in fact that I could barely stand up unassisted. Or so I am told.

This young version of Matthew had been watching his parents attentively and noticed they liked a certain cold beverage.

Matthew the Younger’s brain might not have been able to correctly coordinate the dynamics of balancing on two legs, but it decided I needed to see what the fuss about this drink was all about.

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Liking alcohol-free lager. Picture: Adobe Stock

So for a brief period, I developed the habit of trying to drink from beer cans if they were left unattended for a moment.

But soon my fascination with beer cans was replaced by Thomas the Tank Engine and I didn’t turn into that drunken toddler from The Simpsons episode in which they go to Italy.

My next attempt to drink beer I do remember. It came when I was 14 and my French exchange buddy had arrived to spend a week.

He asked my parents for a beer, claiming he was allowed the occasional one back home (pull the other one) and not wanting to abandon my nascent masculinity, I also demanded one.

I remember the hiss of the Stella Artois can as I pulled the tab, followed by my instant regret as I took a swig.

I later remarked to my dad that I didn’t know how anyone could drink that stuff. Yet age mellows all our taste buds and I have become just another member in the chorus of lager drinkers.

And then, during the Easter holiday, I found myself staring down a four-pack of alcohol-free Birra Morretti – accidently bought when I saw the price was £4 for four bottles, thinking I’d got a real bargain.

I was expecting to relive that first moment trying beer as a naive teenager, minus my French friend, as I tentatively reached for a bottle opener. But despite expecting having to pinch my nose and hoping for the best, I discovered alcohol-free beer is surprisingly close in taste to the real thing.

It also comes without the side effects of tipsyness, melancholia or waking with a headache. All sensations I could firmly get used to.

PERHAPS NORMALITY IS RETURNING – I’VE BEEN TO A GIG

For the first time since I had the word coronavirus tattooed into my subconscious, I saw live music last weekend.

An arena, packed with thousands of people lost in the harmonies, guitars and drums. It was one of those moments where you could almost forget the past two years had happened.

We sacrificed a lot, but it feels like the old lives we once lived are returning. I hope I never have to wait so long again for a proper live concert – with the staging, light show, speakers and ludicrously priced drinks.

But I certainly hadn’t missed the joys of being stuck in a long queue waiting to be half-heartedly checked by security to get inside. Swings and roundabouts.

AM I OVER-THINKING THIS? PERHAPS I SHOULD JUST ENJOY IT

What do we mean when we call art ‘authentic’? I’ve been chewing my girlfriend, dad, brother and friends’ ears off in praise of singer Zach Byran who I stumbled across on Spotify.

The word I use most in this stream of gushing praise is ‘authentic’. How can I throw this word around when I don’t know the singer and the songs could be made up to be told on stage. His song Crooked Teeth has the lyrics ‘dumped him off a river bridge in the fall of ‘84’ - and considering the singer is in his 20s, I doubt he was killing a love rival 40 years ago.

Is it because the music is mostly acoustic and folky that makes me imagine ‘authentic’ - the way some hear distorted guitars and think ‘Satan’?