Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Beer Hunting by Bus - Special Photo Edition!

Hello all.

I've been terribly remiss recently and have not posted anything for over a week - mainly because I've been behaving myself and avoiding pubs till payday.  However, this week I'm on leave, so I thought I would a) do some concerted beer hunting around the neighbourhoods of West/North West Birmingham, particularly looking for East European treats; and b) try and put some photos on my blog - something I've singularly failed to do so far.

A week or so ago (prior to this week's beer hunting) I took a walk from City Hospital to Cape Hill, 'hitting' [that's slang for checking out] all the shops, mini-marts and local stores specialising in continental produce.  I must have nosed around in 5 or 6 shops in total and picked up 6 beers (2 of which I wrongly believed I'd never tried before - Gambrinus Svetly and Zlatopramen 11).  The four genuinely new ones for me, were as follows:

Redds Cranberry - an almost unbearably sweet Cranberry flavoured lager.  I couldn't finish this one, as my teeth were starting to erode.  Avoid.

Argus - a perfectly average Polish lager, with moments of breaded bedspread and cellotape.

Corgon - a Slovakian lager, erroneously listed as 10% (though it is actually 4%) which is yet to be sampled.  As is.....>>

Kolson Super - an 8.6% lager of mysterious origin.  So mysterious in fact that it doesn't yet exist on Ratebeer.  To rectify this I have been badgering the Polish and Croatian RB admins to help me out in identifying this beaut.  The latest thinking is that it's brewed by the Polish arm of a Danish multinational brewer, which may or may not have transferred ownership to a different Polish brewer, following a purchase of shares.....  And people think think that drinking beer is just a bit of a doss!  Honestly.

Here is a photo of Kolson and Corgon:

The Kolson can really is rather cool isn't it?  Reminds me of Knight Rider.

Today's beer hunting was via the number 11 bus route and took me firstly to Handsworth, then Witton.  Handsworth is a brilliant treasure trove of shops, representing a cornucopia of different countries.  I could have walked the length of Soho Road, or wandered down Grove Lane, but I'll have to do those another time.  Today's stroll covered Rookery Road.

First I popped into a a Vietnamese supermarket, but sadly, they had no Vietnamese beer :(

On a more positive note, visits to 4 different Baltic/Polish/Czech stores yielded up 5 new beers - 3 Lithuanians, a Latvian and a Polish.  Here are some more photos:

First up, here's a strange one -Ragutis Smetoniska Duonos Gira, from Lithuania.  I bought it, not really knowing what it was, but have since learnt that it's a KVASS, a low alcohol 'beer', made from fermented bread (I think).  I haven't a clue how palatable this will be, but I love the gold foil which tops the can.

(Ignore the two bottles in the background, we'll get to those later).

Here's a picture of Wojak - today's Polish lager.  Rather strong at 6.0%, but not labelled as a Mocne.

Finally, in terms of East European-ness, is Cesu from Latvia.

The other 2 beers were Svyturys Ekstra Draught (which you can spot to the back right of Cesu, above) and Kalnapilis Original - 2 standard looking Lithuanians.

The other part of this mornings festivities was a trip to Tesco in Witton, which is rather towards the other end of the beer hunting scale (i.e. the not very challenging end).

In Tesco, I picked up 3 beers which I was supposed to sample last Sunday, in a triply blogged collaboration with CAMRGB and Porter Pages.  In a display of rare incompetence, I managed to totally cock up the acquisition of Cains Calcutta Pale Ale, Marston Pale Ale and Fullers Mighty Atom, as every Tesco within my weekend range did not stock them.  Consequently I ended up across the other side of the City, picking them up 3 days late.  In any case I will sample them tonight and tweet my findings, before the comments of the three bloggers are sequewayed together into a single blog piece, which will be published on the Campaign for Really Good Beer site - look out for it.

Why those 3 beers in particular?  Well, they are 3 x 2.8% efforts, so below 3 percent, being sampled by 3 different bloggers.  3 is the magic number.  Neat huh?

Here's your last photo, where you can see the '3 under 3%' and the other results of this morning's haul.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Post St. Patrick's Party

Having neither the energy, nor desire to spend Saturday evening supping Guinness on Broad Street, I instead resolved to stay in my house, visualising Leicester beating Chelsea in the FA Cup Quarter Final the following day.

By 4.00 Sunday, having watched Leicester narrowly get thrashed lose to Chelsea, I then headed over to Digbeth, belatedly keen to grab whatever Irish cheer was still remaining.

Once settled at the trusty Anchor, I sampled three Irish microbrewed ales, which were by turns pleasant, very nice and then nice.  They were Or, a Golden ale from Trouble Brewery, White Gypsy's Red Oak and 8 Degrees' Sunburnt Irish Red.  It's unusual to sample a single tasty Irish Red ale, let alone 2 in one pub, in 15 minutes. Very nice.  The Anchor was totally empty during my visit - I guess everyone was partied out.

However, following a spirit crushing football loss, during which I was accompanied by only Tetley's Extra Cold, I wasn't in the mood to go home yet.

So I popped into the very plush Hennesseys, where I sampled a quick half of Camerons Hurleys Irish Ale (yep, another one, also nice), then scuttled on, around the back streets of Digbeth.  Wherein I saw two lovely looking, but sadly closed pubs (Spotted Dog and the Old Wharf), then a Casper Polish supermarket, where I picked up a can of Perla Niepasteryzowana, which will be consumed in due course.

Finally, before heading home, I had a very productive (and quick) visit to the Post Office Vaults, where I sampled the marvellous Oakham Tranquility, which was perilously smooth, hoppy and drinkable; and a bottle of De Molen Amerikaans.  The big, bouncy bouquet of the latter, dripping with hops, will live with me for a long, long time.  Buoyed by the De Molen I got a bottle of their Bed and Breakfast, to be gulped at another later date.

A good miniature crawl. Short, but sweet, but a happy [day after] St. Patricks Day to me.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Brewdog Birmingham

This is exciting news, non?

Brewdog, who have long been urged to head to Birmingham, by all right minded beer fans, now seem to be heading in our direction, faster than I dared hope.

Here is the blog post where they ask for feedback on the potential location of their Second City joint:

Now The Victoria might not agree* but this seems like a logical location - 5 minutes from New Street Station, 5 minutes from Broad Street, 5(ish) minutes from the Chinese Quarter, 5 minutes from New Street (and the Post Office Vaults).  Sounds pretty equidistant to me.

Obviously many a slip twixt cup and lip etc, but this sounds like a good deal to me.  My brother Foxo has [this very week] reported back very favourably on Brewdog Nottingham; so hopefully someday soon, I'll be able to send him live updates from BD Brum, detailing the delicious IPAs and DIPAs I'm supping.  God speed.

*this is debatable actually.  Nigel Barker (from the Wellington) has always said that he actively welcomes good beer bars opening close to his pubs, as the friendly rivalry helps everyone to raise their standards (and beer fans end up being the winners).  Perhaps with Post Office Vaults, The Victoria and other places not a million miles away, Brum will end up with a nice central crawl and standards will ascend, like a randy tent pole.

Wednesday and Thursday exploits

Last night yielded a relaxing visit to the Jekyll and Hyde, for a couple of buckets of Jaipur and some great falafel.

I don't usually indulge in beer and food tasting - I'm not really refined enough.  However, on this rare occasion, it seemed very civilised to grab a plate of grub and follow the example of my older, wiser drinking buddies.  Generally speaking, I find that food buggers up a good pub sesh - one becomes sleepy, bloated and valuable time is wasted.  But last night, it just felt right.  The falafel was delicious, as were the quesadillas, although I can't remember what was in the latter.

The J&H is a pretty cool (unlike me), but I felt quite comfortable there.  Any fan of Purity is well served, but a fan of gin would be even better off.  Unfortunately I know absolutely nothing about gin or indeed any other spirit.

After the evening's fun, I swiftly popped into the Square Peg en route to the bus stop.  [Blimey, I'd forgotten how big the bar is in this pub, but that's by the by].  Even having sworn I would not be sucked in by JDW's Spring real ale festival, I could not resist a quick peek.  This latest fest runs from 14 March until 1 April and features a rather uninspired line up.  However the one undoubtedly tempting item = a bitter brewed by Norwegian masters Nogne O.  As Wetherspoons generally do for their fests, they flew over the head brewer of a renowned foreign brewery (in this case Nogne O) and had him brew a real ale interpretation at a friendly UK brewery (in this case Batemans).  Soooooo, was it any good?  No. No flavour.  I was supremely bummed.  But at least I have a bottle of Nogne's #100 barley wine in my cupboard - one of the best beers I've ever tasted, and it's reassuring to have it sitting there, waiting to be drunked.  Actually it doesn't just sit there, it talks to me.  Every day.  "Drink me Dan - you deserve it".  I deserve a prize for having resisted thus far.  I also sampled quick halves of Caledonian Coffee Porter, Otter Pilgrim and Zululand Blonde (another of the foreign brewer guest beers).  All the beers were average or worse.  Oh dear.

Still, there's no fool like an old fool, so on Thursday afternoon I legged it over to Halesowen, for a super quick nose around their Wetherspoons venue, the William Shenstone.  I sampled 3 x thirds there - two of which were other foreign brewer efforts - Murrikan Mild from US-based Smuttynose and John Martin's Pale Ale from Belgium. Both were reasonable, so that was cheering.  The Martin's in particular had a very gentle, fresh and tasty hop signature.  After 10 mins it was time to head home, but I did manage a 20 min visit to the Waggon and Horses anyway (I'm a weak man and the W&H is irresistible).  At the Waggon, I necked an Art Brew Art Nouveau (leafy and pleasant) and half an Ename Dubbel - a Belgian beer on tap in Halesowen!??!  Yes that's right, and very nice it was too, thanks for asking.

Then it really was home time.

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Final Conflict (Lager III)

Well lager.  Lager lager.  I feel like my World has been lagerfied over the past couple of weeks, with a sustained gambol down memory lane.

So where do I stand with lager now?  Well, I've had my highs* and I've had my lows**.  But until this sudden peak of interest, I had long since stopped giving two hoots about lager.

A couple things brought me back to the table, and threaten to keep lager in my life for at least the medium future.

1. Strong Lager.

Up until I started nosing around the Polsky Skleps of the West Midlands, strong lager meant things like Special Brew, Kestrel Super and Irvine Welsh's 'purple tin'.  But along came Mocne and I was thoroughly intrigued.  I'm still trainspotting Mocnes now, but they seem to be rarer (in this country) than hen's dentures.  Not just from Poland do they come, but Lithuania also - new products, in new shops, waiting to be bought (cheaply) and supped (like a furtive squirrel).  What's that you say - an unashamedly powerful, malty/sweet lager, with an opaque foreign etymology?

Q. Who wouldn't be intrigued?

2. Craft Lager.

A. Not me.

Except that the style which Ratebeer used to call European Strong Lager, wasn't/isn't just about Eastern Bloc power; it also means a new kind of craft lager experimentation, with beers like Brewdog's Avery Brown Dredge and the awesome Birra del Borgo My Antonia providing hoppy, flavoursome, big lagers.  Camden Town also got in on the act with their HellesThere are leg in There is legs on this lagery beast yet;  I am excited and slightly fascinated to see what comes next.

But before I put lager to bed (for a bit), here is one final 'Top' list of lagers - probably the hardest one to call.  As we know, lagers fall into many several stylistic compartments, for which I have previously reeled off the ones I have rated highest in each case.  This list is different.  Here is a manipulated, hand picked, hand fiddled, softened by the gentle mists of amnesia list of my favourite lagers, irrespective of provenance.

So here we are (in reverse order):

10. Lech
- great on tap in Warsaw, also translates very well to being necked from bottle in Wetherspoons. 

9. Warsteiner
- not the only beer in this top ten which drips with Berlin memories.  Great when fresh.

8. Veltins
- another fave from trip to Berlin in 2001.  Especially good when supped in friendly Senegalese bar called Sunugaal.

7. Kozel
- another Wetherspoons favourite, especially in a non-branded, hexagonal glass.  Good in Praha too.

6. Augustiner Lagerbeer Hell
- in their Munich biergarten, supping this by the liter.  Yes.  

5. Augustiner Pils
- also yes.

4. Andechs Spezial Hell
- whether at home, or at their monastery after a 1-hour hike, this is goood.

3. Birra del Borgo My Antonia
- if this is the future of lager, I want that future - a future of lager, like this future lager.

2. Pilsner Urquell
- on tap in Prague, this was a memory of purest green gold.

1. Jever
- first sampled in Kreuzberg in 2001, this is the one.

 I reserve the right to change this whenever I like.

- fin -

*any of the top ten, on nearly every occasion I've sampled them

** Sitting in All Bar One, on my 30th birthday, getting trousered on five pints of St. Pauli Girl.  Tough to sink much lower. Nothing against All Bar One.  Nothing against St.Pauli Girl either, actually.  But for depths of self-indulgent misery, all cakes (and biscuits) were taken. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Lager Trilogy - Part II

Previously I revealed the 10 Premium Lagers which I've rated highest on Ratebeer.  I also looked at the fact that the most famous lager brands always taste better in their home country.  All very obvious stuff really.

This post is a lot less wordy, but will contain a greater density of lists, so look away now, if that grinds your gears.

First off, I should previously have attempted to explain the differences between Pale Lager and Premium Lager according to Ratebeer.  But better (and quicker) still, just click the aforelinked phrases and they can do it themselves.

Just out of interest, my 10 highest rated Pale Lagers are:

1. Dent Rambrau
2. Radegast Premium
3. Borsodi Sor
4. Cains Finest Lager
5. Obolon Lager
6. Hancock Høker Bajer
7. Bali Hai
8. Vratislav Premium
9. Fischer Tradition
10. Kronenbourg Kanterbrau

Now, more importantly, onto the meat of the matter.  In the grand scheme of things my top 10 Pale Lagers are beers I enjoyed in spite of myself.  But German Pilseners... well now you're talking my language (English).

First sampled in Berlin in 2001 and then eagerly sought out in the UK, this is a Ratebeer style that does get me purring.  Lager as artform, cultural lubricant and liquid evidence of German precision.  These are beers that taste marvellous in the bars of Munich and Hamburg, and thankfully, they also travel well.

1. Jever Pilsener
2. Furstenberg Premium Pilsener
3. Veltins Pilsener
4. Keesman Bamberger Herren Pils
5. Augustiner Pils
6. Wernesgruner Pils
7. Bitburger Premium Pils
8. Warsteiner Premium Pils
9. Rothaus Pils Tannen Zapfle
10. Eichbaum Pilsener 

German beer hit me like Thor's hammer, when I first stuck my nose in the trough a decade back.  Each of the ten above are masterful examples of grassy, golden fluted clarity.  For me, Jever is clearly the toppermost of the poppermost, but the thought of both Augustiner and Warsteiner, sampled in a Munich biergarten or a Kreuzberg hipster joint leaves me equally inflated with joy.

I didn't imagine any lager could pip the Germans, even though I regularly enjoyed several pints of Staropramen at the Hogshead each and every Friday evening, throughout 2003.  However, it was when sampling Czech goods in Prague a year later, that I had my most sustained and pleasurable lager epiphany.

Czech beer.  Boy of boy.  Yet another example of beer tasting better in it's home territory. And then some.  The beers in the following list induced tremors of ecstacy and squirrels of disbelief as I eagerly scoffed them by the vase in Strahov, Josefov and Vinohrady.  Ratebeer (pleasingly) separates Bohemian Pilsener as another lager off-shoot, here are my premiere dix:

1. Pilsner Urquell
2. Bernard Světlý Ležák 12° (Premium)
3. Gambrinus Premium Svetlý Ležák 12°
4. Starobrno Premium Lager
5. Budweiser Budvar (Czechvar) 12°
6. Krušovice Světlé 10°
7. Kratochwill Svetlo
8. Kozel Premium Lager 12°
9. Hostan Praga
10. ’t IJ Plzen

Strangely enough, a Slovenian beer sneaks in at 7, and a Dutch one at 10, but still.  Here are some blatant examples of lager that transcends: nectary, light, bubbly, ethereal, firm, yet insistent.  Light years from Carlsberg (Export or otherwise) on tap in the hotspots of Brum.

The final list today is my top 10 Dortmunder/Helles beers.  I'll be honest: my brain has addled and I can't really remember what separates a Dortmunder/Helles from a German Pilsener or indeed a Pale or Premium Lager, but that's beside the point.  Here:

1. Augustiner Lagerbier Hell
2. Kaltenberg Vilagos
3. Weltenburger Urtyp Hell
4. Airbrau FliegerQuell
5. Recken Export
6. Andechser Spezial Hell
7. Thurn und Taxis Hell
8. Spaten Münchner Hell / München / Premium
9. Hofbrau Munchen Original
10. Andechser Hell

Well that final top 10 certainly raised the dribble quotient somewhat.  I'd forgotten just what lovely beers reside in the Dortmunder/Helles category.  In retrospect, German lager is undoubtedly so good, that they deserve two style categories to themselves.  Sorted.

My visits to Germany and Czech Republic occurred at the height of my beer travails.  In fact, somewhat serendipitously, they also coincided with the period of my greatest European frontier pushing generally: my beer world got bigger as my physical boundaries became looser. Quite poetic really.

But after Germany and Czech Republic, where is there to go for good lager?  The peaks have been scaled, the best have been discovered.  What is left?  Excess.

In my final lager post, I try to extrapolate my top lagers (irrespective of style) and I puzzle over what lager challenges remain (if any).


Sunday, 4 March 2012

One: The Lager Trilogy

It seems apt to talk about lager now, as at this very moment the BBC is reporting that sales are in the down position.  

For a long time, I've been off lager.  It's attraction, so often linked to convenience, weather, or some desire to be contrary finally wilted about 2 years ago, even though I didn't actually notice until recently.  Lager seemed to represent the antithesis of my beer world view: we never purposely frequented the same pubs anymore.  But it hadn't always been that way.   

I wrote about Mild this week, with which I had a very positive, finite relationship.  My lager story is slightly more quixotic: I'm not sure it's been as productive or cheery.

Because Ratebeer's classification of Lager styles is very extensive, I've chopped this post into three parts, to avoid a mind numbingly thorough brick of text.

One of the most important beers in my life was a lager - Fosters in fact.  When I finally tired of being the only cider drinker in each and every social group I was a part of, I knew that I would have to dive right into lager and get it done. Fosters was a good choice for this, cos it didn't have an overwhelming (or indeed any) flavour.  I liked it, I could drink it, and it was ubiquitous.  It served it's purpose, as I broadened my beer knowledge.  From there, it was an easy road to Budweiser, Rolling Rock, Becks, Grolsch, Stella et al.

In the years between 2001-2003 however, I noticed something - namely that when I travelled to continental Europe, the lager there (Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels etc) tasted better than here.  I initially put this down to different lagers being available; but sometimes even the same beers tasted better in other countries, than they did here.  Thus a bipolar relationship with lager was born.

I was already a victim of lager branding, being sucked into spending extra ££ on bottled Sagres, Castle, Nastro Azzuro et al, rather than Castlemaine XXXX, but my travel was amplifying this lager hierarchy.  I loved Jupiler and Maes when fresh in Antwerp, I even loved Stella, when sampled in Leuven; but in the UK, I would run a mile from these same brands.  In short, lager in UK = raspberry noise, lager abroad = comedy hooter. 

So the lagers I enjoyed were determined not just by by the brewery, but by the circumstances of the sample. Obviously this is the same situation with real ale, but seems a little more twisted, given that lager is a pretty steady product.  In my personal beer ranking taxonomy, this presents a problem...... what is a good lager?  Ratebeer seemed (and seems) to have the same problem, which it solves by classifying Pale Lagers and Premium Lagers separately.  It also makes distinctions between Bohemian and Classic German Pilseners and Dortmunder/Helles.  Clearly lager is a beer style with self worth issues, perhaps even schizophrenia.

Therefore my story of lager, by which I mean the lagers I have the fondest memories of [rated the highest] is shaped, perhaps even predetermined by the need to preamble, to over explain.

This has already gone on too long, so lets just plonk down a list.  Here are my top ranked Premium Lagers:

1. Kulmbacher Monchshof Maingold Landbier
2. Thisted Thy Økologisk Humle
3. Svyturys Jubiliejinis 1784
4. Hepworth Blonde
5. Lech Premium
6. Williams Brothers Caesar Augustus
7. Kona Longboard Lager
8. Samuel Smiths Pure Brewed Lager
9. Tatra Jasne Pelne (Pils)
10. Zubr

So what do I learn from this?  Well numbers 1 and 6 are arguably not lagers at all; 2 is Danish, 3 is Lithuanian, 4 & 8 are UK real ales, 5, 9 & 10 are Polish and 7 is Hawaiian.  Aside from the fact that very a lot of the top 10 are lagers that masquerade as not lagers at all, the most striking thing is that I obviously enjoy East European lagers - and that is true.

So much so that I have spent the past few days hunting down some of the more obscure bottled and canned continental lagers, which have snuck into Birmingham under the radar.  Places like Lithuanica and Casper are great for this, and there is still something about finding a new lager which excites me more than it should.  Perhaps the very phenomenon that I referred to above (i.e. local lager tasting best in situ) has encouraged the economic migrants entering the UK from Europe to demand that their lager follows them.

People think I'm joking, but honestly, lagers from Poland keep tempting me back to the genre in a way that no amount of special/cut-price/BOGOF deals in supermarkets can do.  Why is this?  Well perhaps it's a reminder of my days of travel, a taste of the [relatively] exotic and the thrill of discovery.

As for lagers that are unarguably tasty, Part Two of this trilogy will look at the best of the best.      


Thursday, 1 March 2012

My love of Lists: No.1 - Mild

In addition to being a rather pedantic and borderline obsessive beer spotter, I also have an enduring love of lists.  (Sorry ladies, I'm taken).

I try to limit the number of times that I burden other people with my latest list, but I always end up convincing myself that they might be interested.  In this post, there is a list coming up.

When I started getting fully [fully] into Ratebeer in 2004, I quickly morphed from someone only interested in European beer, to someone also interested only in UK cask ales also please.  One style in particular what fascinated me was Mild - that most unloved and dwindling member of the beer family.  I didn't know much about Mild, apart from that myth about it being constructed from the dregs of other brews.  In order to be (slightly) contrary, I started to identify myself as a Mild fan, and hunted them out like a randy dog.

Luckily my Mild odyssey coincided with something of a Mild revival, which made my job easier.  Perhaps because CAMRA were so successful in keeping the style alive, the novelty started to wear off.  Due to this, sometime around the 100 Mild mark, I started to resist their arguable charm, and instead indulged my rising hop lust. I was being honest with myself: Milds were too mild for me.

It is at this moment in time, that I revisit my Mild heritage.  How many of the Milds that scored the highest are even in existence now?  How many would I actually seek out nowadays? After reviewing my historical ratings, here are my top ten:

1. Custom Beers Smooth Mild (4.4/5)
Well, this brewery went out of business in 2008, which is a shame as I remember this Mild being quite hoppy and deliciously smooth

2. Belvoir Star Mild (4.3/5)
I remember necking a pint of this delicious fellow at the Swan and Rushes: Leicestershire (well, Rutland) beer in a Leicester pub. Can't be bad.  This one is still around and when fresh, is delicious.

3. Iceni Thetford Forest Mild (4.3/5)
A nice Norfolk drop, which seems to still be doing the rounds.

4. Beartown Ambeardextrous (4.2/5)
Strangely enough, this brewery used to be one of my favourites.  This Mild is no longer listed on their website.

5. Spinning Dog Muttleys Dark (4.2/5)
The brewery is now renamed Hereford, and it seems that this milkshakey Mild is still going.

6. Banks and Taylor Black Dragon Mild (4.2/5)
Well this oily beauty is definitely still around.

7. Potbelly Beijing Black (4.2/5)
I remember this brewery first arriving on the scene, and the burnt power of this tasty number.  It's still going.

8. Iceni Men of Norfolk (4.2/5)
Another Norfolk Mild, this time a big beautiful beast. Another stayer.

9. Derventio Maia Mild (4.2/5)
Still around.

10. Otter Mild (4.2/5)
Well, this is a fairly new one, sampled during a JDW fest, with pleasure.

Other faves, just outside my top 10 include: Grainstore Rutland Panther, Everards Mild, Sarah Hughes Ruby Mild, Church End Grave Diggers, Teignworthy Marthas Mild and Rugby 1823.

Hmmm, in starting this post I expected to report that all of my favourites were no longer in existence - a metaphor for my lost Mild love.  In fact, they are still around, bar Custom Smooth, which is a shame.

Even so, on the (rare) occasions when I do sup a Mild nowadays, it's because I'm curious to see what the new lads are doing with the style.  But if anything, I want to go out now and sample a few old faves, which is most unlike me.  Nostalgia is powerful indeed, but we already knew that, right?