Beer: Brains SA Gold
Origin: Cardiff (Caerdydd)
Obtained: Sainsbury’s, UK
Wales has some great traditional beers. I’d have been delighted to get hold of some Felinfoel (pronounced roughly ‘velinvowl’, not in the way you might feel if you had a particularly nasty hangover). It also has a feisty craft beer scene. Who wouldn’t want a bottle of Dirty Stop Out? Brains and I, however, have some history.
It all goes back to 1998 and moving to Wales to study at Cardiff Uni. As both a way of earning some cash whilst studying but also to make use of the musical education of my formative years I earned a transfer from Chester Cathedral Choir to the (basically) now defunct Llandaff Cathedral Choir. It was there that I learned to sing the Welsh National Anthem (one of four at the tournament I can sing along to from memory), though I’m ashamed to say that the choirmaster got choristers through rehearsals by getting them to sing ‘my hen laid a haddock on top of a tree’, and I also learned the only grammatically advanced sentence of Welsh I can muster, ‘Yn enw’r tad a’r mab a’r ysbryd glân’, although I can rustle up a fair bit of vocabulary, not least cwrw (‘coo-roo’) which means, wait for it, beer.
The connection may not be obvious to some, but anyone within a sniff of a cathedral choir will know that choirs and pubs are never far apart. I believe the person behind the apparently lapsed Cathedral Choir Pubs website is a former Llandaff lay clerk himself. The gentlemen of the choir would after evensong frequently graduate to the Black Lion. Perhaps I missed out on the partying and nightclubs of uni life but made up for it through plenty of proper old school drinking, of mainly Brains (standard, the stronger ‘SA’, the very pleasant ‘dark’, which was a mild, and the just slightly more subtle-tasting Reverend James) and, being the youngest person there, paid for very little of it (one of the venerable bases would then drive himself home, apparently stone cold sober).
So this could explain how I became a plastic Welshman, for the purposes of Euro 2016 anyway, but there’s more to it than that. I in fact have roots in Wales. My grandmother’s name was Gwyneth Griffiths, and they hailed from Pembrokeshire (in actual fact the part they call ‘little England beyond Wales’, for the reason that the Welsh place names start giving way to English ones) so I qualify through ancestry, like a kind of Kit Symons or Vinnie Jones (The scorer of Wales’ winner against Slovakia is English-born with a Welsh grandmother, so don’t knock it).
The real blame though lies with the construction of Wales’ grand Millenium Stadium, which will host next year’s Champions League final no less. The ground is always jam packed for the rugby, but when it was tentatively decided to start hosting Wales national football matches there, with tickets only ten quid a piece, locals lapped them up, and with my Welsh connections and no particular history of following England at the turnstiles, I ended up at qualifiers against the likes of Norway, Poland and Ukraine. I even made one away game, in 2004, in Budapest against Hungary. My Welsh allegiances then went into the deep freeze a bit but I always wanted to back them if they made it to a tournament, and here they are. Lloniannau!