by David Akanji
Nothing’s like the excitement of trying a new beer for the first time. The anticipation builds as you crack open the bottle and the aroma wafts up to your nose. The first sip is always the most telling, as you try to discern the flavours and characteristics of the brew. While the name of the beer naturally leads you to believe the grains have been fermenting for almost seven centuries, be thou not hoodwinked! It has only been fermenting for a couple of months.
The Oriel beer, 697, launches the college into a new era, one of zythological excellence. When such a libation hits the market, it’s not just about the flavour and quality of the beer, but also the story behind it. Lodge manager Samuel Henry started this journey into newfound liquid refreshment upon visitation to other colleges and a desire to bring a new and exciting prospect to our college that can’t be bought anywhere else. He first met with the Provost and the Treasurer to get their backing, of which they doubly backed up. We have James Fletcher of the Development Office to thank for the name 697. This name is the nomenclative equivalent of the holiday Barbie, changing with the new year, so prepare to usher in 697’s big brother – 698 – in the next Gregorian year. A tremendous achievement of this beer was the personal selection of the sustainable ingredients of UK-grown wheat and barley, with College staff brewing the beer alongside XT Brewing Company.
The launch of 697 was highly anticipated, with beer ‘enthusiasts’ and fans of cheap alcohol eagerly waiting to get their hands on a bottle. Atticus Ravinder George Garlick (left) was the MotM (as well as being the resident moon lounger), finishing the first-ever bottle of the English pale ale. Look at that exuberant expression! The Moon Lounger’s gleaming expression was followed by adoration for the father of our new beer: ‘I am lost for words. Sam Henry, I love you.’
Our new JCR president-elect, Samantha Beatrix Hardaker, said she had ‘never tasted another beer like this; it has a tanginess’. Henry Robert Lauriston Sawdy reached a descriptive peak as he got ‘hints of cocoa and dark chocolate with tanginess and a slight bitterness’; all these flavours however, were ‘welcome’ on Henry’s palate.
This was followed by a plagiarised opinion from our very own food rep, Flora Frances Mary Currie, describing the beer as ‘lightly hopped’, a comment stolen verbatim from the side of the glorious navy label. I am sure the Oriel community shares the feeling of disappointment for our food reps’ lack of original authorship.
To shed more insight into the label of the bottle, ½ of our bar reps, termed Eliza Smith, incessantly pointed out that ‘as a non-beer drinker’ she found the beverage ‘palatable’ before lending her creative direction to the label design: ‘I think we need some red and yellow in the packaging.’ While I am sure we all respect Eliza’s learned opinion, frankly, no one asked.
Her comment was battled by resident cricket captain Michael John Christopher Cooper, the institution MJCC, who thought ‘it would be a bit garish if there was red and yellow [in conjunction with the navy]’. MJCC led the raving reviews by saying he ‘will drink [697 beer] every day for the rest of [his] life’. Even our charities rep Roisin Bridget Doherty thought there ‘should be a feast day in Oriel’ for the beer – called ‘The Feast’.
Three of our chippiest chaps further adorned the scrumptious flavouring of the ‘wheaty’ potation, Felix James Smithson thought the hopped beer was ‘very hoppy, with a kick’; Smithson followed the kick with a punch to add ‘a kick – but not in a bad way’. Joseph Rees channelled a young tween from Streatham as he dubbed the beer ‘well peng’, while Edward Smart went for a more millennial approach with a very trendy ‘#great’. Stay smart Mr Smart! The Chip Chaps gave a concluding unanimous declarative: ‘epic’! The Chip Chaps have not been seen since this comment; they aim to return to the stage for the 700th anniversary. Stay vigilant galoots!
Even Neil Francis Jeremy Mendoza, Baron Mendoza, of King’s Reach in the City of London (right), praised Sam Henry’s efforts towards the development of this beer, saying that ‘he hasn’t done anything else for like the whole year’ – which is pretty lazy of Sam, to be honest. Our provost gave a (college) patriotic speech which he dubbed ‘incredible’, the credibility of which is still being investigated, as I was not there (I had a urinary tract embryology tutorial); however by all accounts, this beer represents a new and unique part of Oriel.
697 sets us apart from the crowd, not only by relentlessly reminding others how old the college is, in a snazzy navy-and-gold design, but since no other college has such a distinctive and exclusive product.
So, the next time you go to grab a beer off the shelves of Tesco, Sainsbury’s or M&S, maybe put it down and head down to the lodge to get a six-pack of your new favourite barley juice.
All inline photographs courtesy of David Akanji