Pubcrawling with Jack-in-the-Green

May 1st isn’t celebrated widely in London, but the handful of people who do honor this day of class struggle and pagan roots do it in fantastical style. Yesterday I went boozing with Jack-in-the-green, a leafy giant and his attending bogies, men dressed in green rags and ivy crowns. Following them were a motley group of musicians. We wound our way through the streets from one pub to the next, startling the suits and rushing commuters.

We started with Adnam’s May Day golden ale while waiting at the Charles Dickens for the revelers to show. In our pessimism– they were over 40 minutes late– we turned to Sharpes Cornish Coaster. But once they arrived– rather mysterious and triumphant– we were treated to a pint of bitter by a kind, green-faced gentleman from Hastings named Jim.

Later we switched to milds– Harveys Sussex and Knots of May to be exact. While the pub lit up with fiddling, tin whistles and squeeze boxes, I decided the malty, easy drinking mild would become a favourite of mine. It’s a shame the style is so rare. (CAMRA devotes every May to celebrating this style– otherwise I might not have even tried it, or perhaps the pub we were in might not have had it!)

I ended the night raising a pint of Harvey’s Best Bitter with green-bearded brethren. (I now understand why 1,200 Best Bitter drinkers signed a petition to have the drink restored to a local pub in East Sussex after it was removed from pub-owning giant Greene King. People here care about beer, they really do.)

I took no notes. I was too busy dancing.

3 Responses

  1. I was in Hastings on May 1st and they had a big Jack-in-the-Green festival. I’d had no idea about this until I got there, and entered a town centre teeming with people dressed in green, massed ranks of Morris Dancers, pagans and gods know what else. If this wasn’t enough, Hastinsg was also the destination of a huge motorbike rally, with thousands of hogs filling the streets. Bikers and pagans seemed to get on really well. Most of the pubs were hung with greenery, and it was one of the more surreal experiences I’ve had for a while. I can recommend it (sort of) next year!

  2. Hi Pete– what a wonderfully surreal thing to happen upon. Jim, a man I met during the pub crawl, was encouraging me to check out Hastings on the Monday where they do another procession– and he told me about the bikers– that just sounds like my kind of party!

    I wasn’t able to make it this year but there is always next.

  3. […] what beer is most loved among the greenery?  It’s Harveys Best Bitter.  Two years ago I happened upon some neo-pagan shenanigans in the City.  These folklorists of the street had  fashioned giant tree in the Market Porter pub, […]

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