My head was banging. It wasn’t only banging because of last night’s heavy session with Barry. It was also banging because every few seconds my body would be rocked by a tremendous force, and my head would slam on the cold, hard ground beneath me.
I was in a small, dark room; it was spinning and moving all at once. I tried to stand, fell over and hit the wall with a thud. A glimmer of light came from one side of the room. The room that sounded more and more like a van.
“Barry?!” I yelled. Immediately I winced. My head felt cracked in eight places.
A partition slid aside. Pale sunlight streamed into the back of the van. Barry peered at me. Beyond him I could see a road and trees. A lot of trees. “Finally awake then, yer lazy bugger?”
I found a harness on the side of the van and hauled myself up, lurching ape-like across the moving van until I reached Barry’s partition. I crawled through head first and landed among a pile of empty cans on the passenger seat. They were all half-crushed and stank of taurine. I picked one up: Horse Super Energy Drink.
“Want one?” Barry offered me a can. He looked like he’d been wired in to the National Grid. His eyes were huge and glowing, his big right fist clenched in a death grip on the steering wheel as he barrelled down some forgotten country road.
“No. I need to have a shit, a shave and a shower. Where the fuck are we?” I peered at the road signs. I must have still been drunk. I couldn’t make them out.
“Well. You know how last night we was talking about that really rare beer – the West Terrier one?”
“West Terrier? I think York Brewery do a beer called Terrier but it’s not…” it suddenly struck me why I couldn’t read the road signs. Not West Terrier. Westvleteren. “Barry, are we in fucking Belgium?”
“Aye. Been driving all night.” He cracked open the can of Horse that I had refused and snorted a long gulp.
“Oh fuck. I don’t have my passport. You’ve people smuggled me across two international borders!”
“The Belgians owe me one. It’ll be fine.”
“How do they…?”
“That look like a monastery to you?” Barry interrupted. Beyond the tree line we could see a medieval bell tower. Walls and cloisters came into view as we crested a small hill. We had arrived at the Trappist monastery of Westvleteren, producers of one of the world’s rarest and most highly sought after beers.
Barry drove us straight up to the entrance. I vaguely recalled sales were extremely limited, to something like a case per driver, and only by advanced booking. “Barry, I don’t think we can simply walk into Westvleteren.”
A bearded monk had clocked the van and was approaching us as we pulled up to the front gate. Barry rolled his window down, leaned out and hollered at him. “Oi! You in the dress. Sell us some booze!”
I could tell this wasn’t going to go down well…