You are going to spend the rest of your life on a desert island and you may only take five different beers with you.
For the purposes of the Desert Island Discs metaphor, you may also take one luxury item (bar snack). Plus, you are by default provided with an unlimited supply of Guinness and The Complete Works of Lousy Four Percent Lager: Foster's, Carlsberg and Carling. This is the equivalent of the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare - not because they are of equivalent importance, of course, but because P and I reckon they are quite likely to be very common, banal selections. Finally, they must be beers/ales/ciders: no gin, no tonic, no wine, because those open up entire ridiculous possibilities.
I haven't completely constructed my selections yet. P suggested this idea to me on Friday at the pub and he was thinking mainly of selecting a range of real ales that would be suitable for all weathers and seasons. Something quite light and golden for summer days, something denser for winter and so on. Assuming the desert island has seasons worth speaking of, of course. This is a valid approach and the question is not unlike constructing a classic mix tape. There are a whole lot of rules.
I'm going in a different direction, mainly because I think that any given beer is going to get boring after a sufficient amount of time. These beers are the most sentimental and personally significant to me:
This is technically a freebie and a terrible choice overall but I'm putting it in here because it harks back to my very earliest days of drinking with P and H and other assorted members of our gang in Nottingham. We would rock up to the Eagle and do the quiz of a Sunday and/or Tuesday night, in between possible pool. The others at the table were a year or two older than me (and still are, knowing them) which meant I was a little behind; it took me some time to locate any sort of beer that I actually enjoyed drinking and to even develop a taste for the stuff. There being not much in terms of ale on the taps, "Frosties" was where I settled down for those first shaky years. Or, if you're nearly finished for the evening, just order a single Foster.
There has to be a wheat beer somewhere on this list - I adore the stuff - and it might as well be this one. This beer doesn't have any special emotional attachments for me but it is delicious enough to be worth listing. Hoegaarden is a beer which looks like alcoholic graprefruit juice and tastes like vanilla ice cream. (I say this as a man with a very uncultured palate and no significant sense of taste for beer.) If you don't like it, I'll have yours.
Trappist Westvleteren Blond
As is well recorded, after leaving university I went through a two-year period of being persistently unable to find serious full-time employment. I took part in, and failed to pass, a great series of software engineering job interviews (and others, for more peripheral roles), and each time it became more difficult to bring a "I seriously think I can get this job" attitude to the next one. Unemployment is a vicious cycle, and harrowing, mind-grinding temp work that filled the gap was hardly a bright point. Midway through this period I visited Belgium with some college contemporaries with the intention of sampling as many Belgian beers as possible, reaching a combined total of 85 distinct beers. We brought a little beer back with us, most notably one bottle each of Trappist Westvleteren Blond which we had found for sale in a beer shop on Antwerp market square. This is one of the finest and greatest beers ever and is produced in very small amounts by the Trappist monks who brew it.
I took my sole bottle of the beer home with me and elected to save it for the day I got a proper job. Eventually, in early 2008, I got that job, and I drank that bottle of beer. It was delicious and well-earned.
My dad is a great fan of interesting ales and coincidentally drinks beer a little slower than I do. Wychwood Brewery is located in Witney and I have family in the area, which means I am nearby frequently enough to be able to drop in and buy a big box of assorted Wychwood beers from them when I need to: for example, Christmas, Father's Day and my dad's birthday, which approximately trisect the calendar year. One crate lasts him until the next one, pretty much. It is a highly agreeable arrangement. Plus, Hobgoblin (which is of course just one of the many beers appearing in said crate), while it is bottled under the usual circumstances, is arguably the finest beer that it is possible to buy in cans.
As many of my readers are aware, I currently work for Intercontinental Business Machines in Hampshire. The interviews for this job started early in the morning, so on the previous night I stayed in a guest room in a nearby pub. The guest room in question left a great deal to be desired, but a strong point in the location's favour was the opportunity to sit in comfortable chairs in the lounge reading and enjoying pints of the above beer. I distinctly remember: the book in question was Glasshouse, by Charles Stross. This beer is chosen in memory of that pleasant evening.
Harboe Jubilæum 110
Technically my selection of Foster's leaves me with a free space. There was a week-long crazy-internet-person trip to Copenhagen, and in this foreign and interesting land we collectively drank about 110 (smallish) bottles of this delicious and highly drinkable and (if I remember rightly) very reasonably-priced beer. We lined them up along the longest wall we could find, and the resulting "beerometer" ran many miles into the distance.
Anyway, doubtless Mr. P will be along shortly to add his take. And my luxury item (bar snack)? Smoky bacon crisps, please!