But I wondered whether it's now becoming fashionable to abstain from alcohol? In moderation, it's fine but when you can't do without it then you have a problem. Since 2008, I have abstained from alcohol in Lent and have to say that the 46 day slog becomes a joy after a week or so. The sleep is amazing and sampling a glass of beer on Easter Sunday is well worth the wait. The marriage of malt and hops seems to dance on the palate.
Can a former dedicated real ale home brewer really be saying this? I hear you ask.
One of my best friends from Tisbury, who used to frequent my garage in the 1990s for a pint or two of my real ale, has just stopped patronising a hostelry in the said Wiltshire village with colleagues after work to plan the next day's business . When he realised that it was costing him £21 a night he knew that this couldn't be justified.
Times may indeed be tough in pub land as last week he received a phone call from the landlady asking if he was okay!
Not before time, the writing may be on the wall for many pubs in the UK where the beer quality doesn't reflect the care taken in its brewing. Too often I've paid through the nose for a poor pint in a UK pub.
But what's the answer?
Home brewing really is a great hobby and with a 56lb bag of malt and 2 lbs of hops (costing roughly £35-00) you can brew at least 320 pints. Hygiene and patience are the key as the brew is an all-day process but 4 weeks afterwards you have 40 pints of real ale, as good as any pub pint and costing a fifteenth of the price. You'll also be the most popular resident in your street! At least with the beer-drinking fraternity.
At any one time in the 1990s I used to have at least 200 pints of real ale maturing in my garage. Work commitments meant I never touched it in the week, but for me the real fun was in the brewing process.
To this day, I love English ales and Alsace beers and wines (the best in France!), but thankfully can also do without them from time to time.