This entry comes from a web cafe in Tenerife about an hour before I board the Europa and sail across the Atlantic, both lighter of luggage and heavier of heart than I should be.
We arrived in Tenerife just over a week ago and I hired an apartment in the south east corner of the island. After a weekend taking the pulse of the great British holiday and the beers thereof (Dorada is just a great name for a beer, but it has to be a beer you only drink on holiday, don´t you think?) I had to dash home for a couple of days for the media launch of the Cask Ale Report, leaving Barry on his own. On his own in a sealed, south-facing apartment.
I got back to the apartment late last night and wondered why there was a strong smell of air freshener in the corridor. I opened the door, and there was a different smell in the apartment. Not one hundred per cent unpleasant, but not right either. I checked the bin and the fridge, and noticed my feet were sticking to the floor. Something had leaked. My brain did not want to even consider the most likley possibility, so I checked the ceiling for leaks, the toilet, under the sink, until finally, after about five minutes, my brain caught up with my nose and identified the smell: stale, oxidised beer. SPILT beer.
I rushed to pick Barry up and take him out on to the patio to have a look without making more of a mess. He was very, very light.
I slit open the cellophane wrapping the bag – the thick layer of cellophane – and opened the bag. An empty barrel, a puddle of stale beer and dry hops, with the bung from the barrel floating in the bottom. Barry had committed suicide. I hadn´t realised our relationship had deteriorated that far.
Historically on this voyage, beers used to have to withstand extremes of temperature. High temperatures encouraged a more vigorous fermentation inside the cask, so it was essential the cask could breathe, allowing excess CO2 to escape. I´m pretty sure this was the problem, whether the cask wasn´t allowing CO2 to escape in the first place, or whether wrapping the cask inside a bag and then encasing it very tightly in a thick layer of cellophane was what did it, I´m not sure. But I think I know.
We´re now seeing if it´s possible to get me a replacement barrel delivered to Brazil. While this beer will have missed some of the most interestig and certaiinly the most authentic leg of the voyage, at that point we´ll still have 60-70% of the distance left to run, so the experiment just about stands.
But I´m about to set sail, and when I do, I have very limited e-mail contact.
And whereas three weeks ago, it was looking like I had about niine days between arriving in Brazil and the container ship leaving, I´ve been notified that the container ship is speeding up, and is now due to leave Rio on 30th October – just three days after we are due to arrive in Salvador, a thousand miles up the coast. It´s starting to look doubtful whether I´ll even be able to board the container ship, let alone arrange to meet with a new barrel before I do.
Things are starting to become a little too interesting.