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.