LIFE these days is much more complicated than it used to be in so many ways.

I was reminded at the weekend of yet another aspect in which this is so, through the simple act of reaching into the fridge for a bottle of beer.

Back in my impressionable years - I've had a lot of those, but I'm thinking specifically of my late teens - going for a pint was a simple matter. Pubs had keg beers, pure and simple. OK, maybe not so pure, but the choice was straightforward. In Blairgowrie, in the early to mid-1970s, you could have draught Tartan Special, or you could have Tennent's Lager. Exotic, far-travelled types would have Guinness, and women and sissies would have a bottle of Sweetheart stout, but that was about it.

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Now, though, choosing a beer is more complicated than buying a car. Thanks to Camra and changing tastes, there are thousands of varieties on offer, and you really need to know whether you're a BMW 5 Series or a Skoda Fabia-type drinker. I don't know what I am. Taxi for Allan ...

Anyway, a good friend, who has more sense than money, gave me a couple of bottles of beer for Christmas. And on Saturday night, because it is a health hazard to tackle an episode of Splash! unfortified, I finally got around to seeking them out.

The first was called Wychwood Bah Humbug. The blurb on the label read: "Brewed with choicest hops and malt, lightly spiced with cinnamon, this is a rich ale complemented with subtle tones of dried fruits. To those who say the spirit of Christmas is a thing of the past, we say Bah Humbug! Don't be a misery! Go on, enjoy yourself. - Jeff Drew, head brewer."

I was hanged if I was going to be nagged by a beer label, so I turned to the second one, Batemans Christmas Eve: "With a liberal measure of cinnamon, and the subtle hue of fruitcake and some say even whisky, this indulgent tipple is the perfect way to toast the onset of the festive season. A deeply flavoured malty beer brimming with molasses and sweet-ness all offset with a touch of spice."

Well, I tried it, and it tasted of beer. I got the cinnamon - which I prefer on an apple pie, thank you - but the fruitcake passed me by, as indeed did the whisky and the molasses. Camra-types please look away now - I thought it was, well, nice.

I'm pretty sure they make these descriptions up, anyway. Who's to know? I'm going to buy my friend a pint of Belhaven next time we meet. You should try it. It's a cheeky little tipple, floral yet earthy with a subtle undertone of Tunnock's Caramel Wafer. Honest.