Beer Pong, the American college "sport" made famous by countless movies & tv shows, still found in campus bars and frat houses across the nation, is something of a cultural icon.
A classic drinking game that Combines physical activity (albeit limited, which suits me) and beer, although other libations can be used. It is for those, unfamiliar with the concept, an amended version of Ping Pong or table tennis for us Europeans
To be fair though, if it were called Beer Tennis, images of a different game jump to mind. Who would relish the idea of mixing booze with that game! Picture a drunkenly competitive John McEnroe, whacking tennis balls in your direction! It has Jackass & Emergency Room written all over it.
The game is governed by numerous rules and regulations, but in its simplest form requires, a ping pong ball, a long flat surface, 2 dozen or so cups, plastic would be best and of course some booze.
The cups, as per the picture below, can be set up in numerous patterns, with a wash cup set in either side.. well no one likes dirty balls..
Let's not get ahead of ourselves, anytime I have played the cups have been arranged in a pyramid formation and it's bloody hard to get a ball in a cup! Of course, that may have had something to do with already being drunk when deciding to play! Who ever decides to play sober? Actually, You may be surprised
Having set up our table, outside, thanks to a sunny day. My Pong opponent & I faced off with each other. We indulged in customary stare outs or stare squinting, due to the sun and some good old fashioned trash talking. Cue juvenile balls jokes!
As we took aim with our first shots, we fell foul of manly pride and thinking we had some sort of athletic prowess, we made the mistake of using or attempting to use ping pong bats! Forrest Gump would not be proud. At this rate, this was shaping up to be an endurance game.
If you haven't got the concept by now, each player throws or bounces the ball, towards their opponents cups, if you get the ball in then your opponent drinks the contents of the cup.
The winner is whichever player forced their opponent to drink all his cups first, the loser can then also be made to drink the winners cups
Of course The Irish version of this game forbids the loser drinking the winners booze.. that would just start a punch up! In fact extra official are employed to ensure the players aren't drinking their own cups during play.
This game does require a level of skill & I found My drunken Pong skills were so poor that I was gasping for a drink anytime I played. That's the main reason why our games never came to a natural conclusion, but ended when players began drinking the contents of their own cups out of desire for a swally.
As much of a drunken mess as our attempts at playing turned out, Beer Pong does have a serious side. Every year since 2008, Beer Pong Athletes descend on the state of Nevada to take part in the the World Series of Beer Pong which is advertised as the Worlds Largest tournament of its kind, with a top prize rumored to be approx $65000!
Surprisingly, The competition cups are filled with water, which the players do not drink... Now responsible drinking is a must, but it's a bloody beer Pong tournament.. if trading standards got wind of that....
According to the official website, the competition has drawn entrants from 45 US States and 5 Canadian provinces.. quite impressive, but not so much a World Series to be fair.
If you have never played Beer Pong, it's good Craic for a drunken Saturday afternoon. Perfect diversion game for when your mate "Beer Belly Brian" creepily suggests Strip poker for the 50th time..
Obviously you don't want to waste your decent craft brews on this, so either don a disguise or send the wife in to the offy's (liquor store) to buy some Budweiser or similarly pish beer.
My only rule addition would be a clean pair of hands, we all have that one friend who does questionable things with his hands.
Red Cups are available in most Supermarkets nowadays, although home bargains is the cheapest. Some places also sell Beer Pong kits.
Don't bother with bats, you will die of thirst
If you looked at a satellite image of Ireland and zoomed in around the ass of the teddy bear, which the country is often said to resemble, you would find the town of Wexford, just by the mouth of the River Slaney.
Home to approx 20,000 people or YellowBelly's as they are locally known, Wexford is where you will also find Yellowbelly Beer, a two year old Brewery that started from a brew kit in a basement below local watering hole Simon Lambert & Sons.
In that short 2 year period Declan Nixon (head brewer) & Nicky Lambert (director) collaborated on over 100 different beers. Although the majority remained keg only releases, 13 specialities were given nationwide releases.
In early 2017, having outgrown their basement site, the guys moved production to a new brewery, not far from the pub where it all began, now with more space & canning facilities the quest to take over the world one beer at a time is in full swing!
Each Of the guys Beers releases includes unique artwork featuring "Yellowbelly" the brand Character & somewhat uniquely a comic & digital content including games & animated videos, all produced under the watchful eye of designer Paul Reck.
The company title is of course ironic, in that YellowBelly Beer never fears to be progressive and innovative with their beer styles and ingredients.
It was a can of their award winning Citra Pale Ale that introduced me to Yellowbelly. The eye catching can featuring the aforementioned Yellowbelly, who reminds me of a wrench wielding maniacal Circus Master, was one of the first I took hold of on a recent visit to the Vineyard.
Having rested in the Liquorjunky fridge the 300ml can of 4.8% Citra Pale Ale was poured after a long warm day of baby sitting, or parenting as my wife insists I should call it. Perfectly chilled & ready to sink
Pouring a hazy golden orange with a thin albeit fluffy white head. I could detect the grapefruit scent on this immediately. It wasn't overly carbonated and the citrus, grapefruit taste combined with a little zest made it extremely refreshing.
Overall, Yellowbelly Citra Pale Ale is a medium bodied, not overpowering in taste yet refreshingly finished Pale Ale.
It's perfect for an afternoon in the garden in a can sized serving. Not sure my palate would welcome several pints of this, although I would be keen to sample it on draught
I purchased my beer in The Vineyard, Belfast - a 330ml can cost £1.99
More info can be found here www.yellowbellybeer.ie
Nestled on the Ormeau Road, a short walk from the Southern embankments of Belfast’s River Lagan. The Vineyard is a blink and you will miss it Off License, an ordinary and unassuming shop front on a busy route through the east of the city. Unless you stop to stare at its carefully crafted window displays, or you know that it exists by its reputation alone, then you could be missing out on a hidden gem
At first glance, it has the appearance of a decades old family run shop, a business passed down from Father to Son. One that never quite embraced modern times or technology which ultimately is a big part of the charm. Entering the store initially is like stepping back to a time when the World Wide Web was Merely three words that begin with W, Craft Ale was a drink for old men in the Pub and a Growler, well a Growler was something your lady friend owned. This isn’t elaborate or well-designed theming, its character, character that comes with age.
The entrance, the most open and airy part of the store, leads you to a choice, left through the metal gate or right to the counter. It is in fact less of a choice and more of a carefully crafted one way system, designed to make best use of the stores limited space. An Artificial Light bathed Supermarket Liquor Store this is not. It is claustrophobic, intimate and dark all at once, but then 6000 products in a space this size will do that.
Picking up a basket and venturing through the gate was akin to walking through that Wardrobe and finding yourself in Narnia. The realisation that this is in fact a Magical Land hits home quickly. Did you ever visit Toys R Us or Leisure World (for locals), as a child and wish you had the means to buy all that tempted you? That’s the feeling this place produces! Bottles of Alcohol surround you in every direction, time is lost and only the windows at the front give you a sense of day or night.
As I browsed the abundance of Wines covering the shelves, the walls and in places the floor, I haphazardly flicked through my banking App to check the balance, some serious man shopping was about to commence. Winding through the bottles on the Pathway to the Holy Grail I found myself in the Beer section.. Like a time travel flash in a tv show, I was a 4 year old again, standing in front of the largest display of Star Wars figure in Leisure World circa 1985! That feeling of Joy, wonder & excitement was back. My eyes tried to take it all in, but as they darted in every direction at once I relalised it was pointless. There were far too many Cans and bottles to take in.
I began to fill my basket, a mixture of cans I liked the artwork on and breweries of which I had heard good things. I must have done ten laps, easy, of the intimate beer section, apologising for no real reason to each person I had to squeeze by on my travels. When my basket was full I decided, reluctantly, to call it a day. It’s a repeat visit kind of place, with more beers that were new to me than not. My 35 minute shopping spree, didn’t even allow me time to inspect the Ciders, Sour Beers or the Cities only Growler Station. Which during my time there, seemed to be well used.
So with no space left I reluctantly made my way to the till, finding myself facing the spirit section. Where I dug deep for self-restraint and did my best not to look at the vast selection of bottles. As the staff member totalled my bill, I took in the atmosphere & the smell one last time. The Wooden shelves and wine racks add to the ambience and I half expected Arkwright to appear from the store room berating Granville.
So, with a final bill of £**.49 (My Wife might be reading) I settled up and lugged my tasty haul to the car, but not before being offered assistance by the incredibly friendly staff.
The Vineyard is 60 this year! Although it has evolved over time, crucially it has maintained its independence, which allows the sourcing of so many niche wines and beers. The selection is unparalleled and it deserves its place as the best specialist off license in the North of Ireland (In my opinion at least)
My advice, pay this place a visit close to payday.. Life has many tough choices, which excellent craft beer to leave behind shouldn’t be on that list
The Vineyard is located at 375-377 Ormeau Road, Belfast and is open from 0930 to late most days, 1130-9pm on Sunday!
Although present on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, their website remains under construction.
All beer purchased was paid for by myself. Credit to the owners of the pictures, I was carrying too many beers to take pics