Desert Island Beers

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:

  1. Foster's

    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.

  2. Hoegaarden

    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.

  3. 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.

  4. Wychwood Hobgoblin

    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.

  5. Adnam's Broadside

    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.

  6. 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!

Back to Blog
Back to Things Of Interest

Discussion (13)

2011-03-27 13:53:08 by Lopsy:

Do we get a few other foods so we don't die from malnutrition?

If so: root beer, birch beer, ginger beer, spruce beer, and, erm, root beer floats. If I'm spending the rest of my life on this island, I don't want to become an alcoholic when I turn 21.

As for the snack, I'd take salted peanuts. I can't get enough of those.

(I'm picturing using the empty root beer bottles for a makeshift raft...)

2011-03-27 16:47:46 by Publius:

5 different items that are beers:

Berries (or boat)
Eagle meat
Rutabagas (or raft)
Sugar cane

^ That's what I would take. One luxury item... magic porridge pot. (luxury item doesn't actually need to be food, right?)

But that's just me.

2011-03-27 22:08:22 by Mike:

Founder's Kentucky Breakfast Stout for cold nights
Bell's Oberon for hot summer days
Stone Arrogant Bastard for drowning my sorrows
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA for when I want a throat punch of hops
Ommegang Three Philosophers Quadrupel for when I feel like drinking wine

2011-03-28 16:45:10 by Ross:

If I had a choice, I'd take NO beer. If I didn't have a choice, and was faced with the prospect of spending the rest of my life required to drink beer regularly, I'd probably drown myself in the waves.

2011-03-28 17:51:44 by P:

Timothy Taylor Landlord - for men of the north
Augustiner - brewed in Munich and served in litres
Black sheep bitter - not the ale in bottles
Wychwood Wytchcraft - a little bit chilled on a hot day
Castle rock screech owl - brewed at home in Nottingham

Luxury item: Pork Scratchings

List liable to change on every whim - could have chosen 5 others just as easily

2011-03-28 18:10:23 by qntm:

Thanks for your contribution, Ross!

2011-03-29 06:41:28 by Daniel:

I'd make sure one is alcoholic enough that I could use it for a signal fire. Or a cooking fire for that matter. I'd have one I could use to wash my hands (probably the same one) one that's essentially flavored water, so I don't have to choose between dying of thirst or liver failure, and one that attracts animals and preferably inebriates them enough to hunt. For the fifth one, I'll just go with whatever I decide tastes good if I ever start drinking.

2011-03-29 06:44:32 by Daniel:

Oh, and one for cooking stuff in.

Can I bring biscuits of finely minced booze? Or am I not allowed to use stuff from Dwarf Fortress?

2011-04-01 08:21:46 by Cory:

Ooh. Interesting.

Hobgoblin (Yes, please!)

New Belgium's Mothership Wit. Bright and spicy, and New Belgium reminds me of home.

Orval. I have an unreasonable soft spot for these monks (even compared to other trappistes). It helps that it's a pleasant and complex beer.

Unibroue La Fin Du Monde. Tripel... you're probably figuring out what sort of beer I like by now...

Three Floyd's Dark Lord Imperial Stout. Because not all of your beer should be sweet and spicy. And if you're trapped on a desert island, a deal with the chocolaty, tar-like lord of darkness might be useful.

2011-04-04 17:20:49 by gordy:

Doom Bar

2011-04-09 06:46:44 by Mike:

I can understand in at least two levels why we can't do the same thing for wine ('cause you're a beer connoisseur and essentially all wine is unique), but you gotta have something. I don't really like beer in general but I love wine (alcohol or without, it doesn't matter to me).

Let's go with a breadth-first approach. I'm probably going to want at least one white wine and at most two, as white wine is nice for hot summer days but I greatly favor red. I want a single champagne; if I get two white wines then this leaves me with only two slots for red wines, one of which I know is going to be a Tokaji (grr slovaks grr), not only because they brew excellent wine there but because Tokaji practically runs in my family's blood, us being Hungarians and all that (we go down there every summer to get our yearly fix; it's wonderful). So as a compromise, I'll trade in a white slot for a rosé. Pinot Noir being my favorite wine, and sometimes being used for this purpose, it is what I'll put in this slot; I'm used to having whatever Mark West is selling at the moment (because... (drumroll)... it's cheap!), so I'll have their Toad Hollow variety. So far we have:

Red Wine:
Tokaji Red Wine (home-brewed)
White Wine:
Rose Wine: Toad Hollow Pinot Noir Rosé

Hmm. I'm gonna need a full-bodied, yet pleasant red wine for the winter... signs point to Barolo. I had Vietti Barolo Rocche once at a formal dinner, and I've liked it ever since... can't say I've had it much, though. Well, screw money. This is a desert Island we're talking about here. It takes the cake.

White wine? Something light and sugary would be nice, since Pinot Noir Rosé is actually quite dry. And I know just the thing! Saracco Moscato d'Arsti would be just perfect- and it wouldn't ruin my liver either. I order this occasionally (generally Saracco), and the bubbles kinda get to me, but I've grown to like them. This wine is here to stay.

O, champagne, what must I have for you? Certainly not the clichéd Chardonnay, that's what. I've never had too many creative champagnes, and I've never bothered to memorize their names, so I don't know what to answer for this other than something I got off of the Internet that I've never tried. Well, here goes!


Done. Well, apparently a lot of great champagnes are made with Pinot Noir, which sounds perfect to me. I've picked out "Pol Roger Brut Rose", a $110 rose champagne made with Pinot Noir. It sounds exciting to me, and price tags never mislead, so I've selected this as my champagne.

I don't give a damn about bar snacks; I suppose cheese, as it never fails to go well with wine. I'm actually better at cheese snobbery than wine snobbery, but I'm too tired to care what sort of cheese I pick. Swiss it is.

So, the final lineup:

Some Tokaji home-brewed bór, to remind me of the days of my bachelorhood
Toad Hollow Pinot Noir Rosé, as a tribute to my favorite wine
Vietti Barolo Rocche, for those dark winter evenings
Saracco Muscato d'Arsti, to keep cool in the summer and to brighten up the taste of coconuts
Pol Roger Brut Rose, to celebrate victorious moments
Swiss cheese, because I'm not creative at 3 AM

So, yeah. I'd be pretty happy on a desert island if I could bring these.

2011-04-14 11:53:29 by pozorvlak:

Having given the matter some thought, I'm going to go for Timothy Taylor's Landlord, Harviestoun's Schiehallion, Krušovice, Chimay Bleu and Arrogant Bastard Ale, all of which are excellent beers and all of which remind me of good times in my life.

2011-05-03 13:26:28 by Pete:

I have used this question as a conversation starter for some time, but I only allow three beers, and as I'm located in Brussels the list of beers starts to become quite repetitive, the standard response is:
1) Leffe Blonde
2) Chimay Bleue
3) Hoegaarden Blanche OR a kriek (cherry beer) of some kind.

And who am I to argue with that?

I must commend your choice of the Westvleteren though - it's an excellent beer.

-- Pete.