The worst thing that can happen on a night out? Your pint-to-toilet cycle gets synchronised with a complete stranger's. The second worst thing? Bad beer. So drink at the Pacific Oriental. The beer's so good you won't care about your pint-to-toilet cycle. Scholars say that it was beer's power to alter mood and provide nutrition that forced man to forsake hunting and gathering and settle down. After a night at the Pacific, I understood. I was so drunk, I fell asleep on my landing carpet.
The Pacific Oriental's master brewer, Eddie Baines, likes to have his microbrewery on show – in the window. He polishes the kettle, the lauter tun and the whirlpool every day, but the City sorts just don't seem to notice. "Sometimes I reckon they think this is a theme pub." I can sympathise, because it certainly doesn't smell like a microbrewery. And there is no smell of hops – just Aramis for Gentlemen.
People drink with their eyes – so Eddie has decided to filter his beer. But the filtration does take out a lot of the body. And his Bishop's Bitter is served colder than I'm used to, but that's a trick to appeal to the lager drinkers. "Beer really should have the same cachet as wine," says Eddie. "Something like a tart raspberry wheat beer would be ideal with a rich chocolate torte. You watch – I've got big plans in the future."
The restaurant upstairs is a very separate space, with heavy velvet curtains to draw round the revelry downstairs. It has a buzz of its own. The general manager was halfway through calling it "Pacific-Rim-pan-fusion" when I blacked out. I came to as he was finishing the list of adjectives. I would recommend the ostrich from the central grill area. And the chocolate mousse with a glass of a Tokay Aszu 5 Puttonyos. Only because Eddie's wheat beer wasn't on the menu.
Eddie looks like a Viking, which makes sense – in Valhalla, the Norse paradise, they entertained the dead with ale from the udders of a goat. I know it's against current health and hygiene regulations, but Eddie would be prepared to make an exception if the goat ale was hoppy enough.
In Ancient Egypt, Pharaohs were buried with miniature wooden brewers to ensure a regular supply of beer on the journey to the afterworld. For early mankind, beer was a staple. A valuable source of protein and vitamins, it was significant in ensuring our survival as a species. Deep within the rain forest, you can still see people who brew beer the old-fashioned way. They chew cereal grains, allowing the enzyme ptyalin in their saliva to convert the starches into sugars. They then spit the resulting "mash" into clay pots to begin the fermentation. So is it just Britain that undervalues the science of brewing?
Teach them early. I started young, with ready-salted crisps to cleanse my palate. In Belgium, an organisation called Limburg Beer Friends is conducting tests to see if eight-year-old schoolchildren like beer in with their lunchboxes. It's designed to help them cut back on their intake of sweetened drinks. But it's also good for them to learn to drink moderately. Only then will they know the truth – drinking beer really won't help you date the American beach volleyball team.
Pacific Oriental, 1 Bishopsgate, London EC2 (020-7929 7117).Reuse content