he BBC has come a long way. For decades, British regional accents were frowned upon by the broadcasting powers-that-be who preferred the supercilious tones of Received Pronunciation.
Fortunately, strong and characterful accents now bless the airwaves and nowhere are they more evident than BBC television’s The Hairy Bikers’ Cookbook – two motorcyclists, habitual dodgers of scissors and razors, visit exotic locations and investigate and recreate local dishes with an accompaniment of liberal drizzles of extra-virgin wit, daftness and banter. Biker one is Dave Myers, 49, a native of Barrow-in- Furness (a ‘Barrovian’), the town at the southern tip of Cumbria, England’s most north-westerly county. His deadpan accent is flatter than a ruined soufflé. Biker two is Si King, 40, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne; his animated Geordie chatter adds spice the proceedings. The theme of their two TV series and books is simple – ride motorbikes, cook and eat local food and drink the local drink, especially beer: “We asked the BBC – can we take on the countries’ beer and drinking cultures, they said yes, which is great because you can put the research against expenses.”
Although destinations aren’t necessarily chosen for beer, it often gets a look-in. Namibia is a case in point, Dave explains: “Swakopmund was a German colony, and a brewery is the biggest employer in town. It makes superb beer, thirst quenching too, it needs to be, it’s the hottest country in the world.”
Si takes over with a big fond sigh: “Tafel, whoarrr: we had it to take the taste of Mopani worms [caterpillars of the Emperor Moth] out of our mouths. You bite through the crispy bit, the outside, and you get this mushy heap of sandy shite that smells of rotten beef and old trainers. The only thing to get rid of this flavour was Tafel beer, so we drank lots of it.”
The Hairy Bikers toured Vietnam for their first series and discovered an unusual beer culture. Every morning at six, representatives of the local breweries, Hanoi Brewery, Viet Ha Brewery and South East Asia Brewery gather to deliver individual kegs, often by scooter or wheelbarrow, to a multitude of outlets that advertise ‘Bia Hoi.’ The smallest outlets buy from bigger outlets where they send boys with containers no bigger than petrol cans. The fresh beer is consumed throughout the day with snacks during breaks from work. “The beer’s strange in Hanoi: every day, it’s fresh, they have it in a stainless steel dustbin. Every day it’s brand-new brewed. It’s ice-cold, nice and a bit sour – and it creeps up on you!” adds Si.
Closer to home, the duo raved about Okells the dominant brewer on the motorcycle friendly Isle of Man. “Isle of Man, yeah great beer, whatsit? Okells, Oikells, Yokels,” reminisces Myers, with a Geordie roar from King who declares something that sounds like “Erkles.”
Okells is expanding its estate into ‘the other island’ and pubs can now be found in Liverpool, Leeds, Aberystwyth and Chester. They stock a decent range of imported craft beers to complement Okells’ own cask-conditioned beers.