Feeling good was good enough for me

Cherry Bomb Ale

Cherry Bomb Ale

In all the beer talk it really boils down to a feeling: being drunk is sublime.  And at Christmas time you have this tidy rationalization:  It’s festive!

Christmas in London is my favorite time of year.  Unlike Christmas in LA, which could be surreal at best and cloyingly commercial at worst, Christmas in London is warm and comforting.  There’s enough of a pagan edge:  it’s all holly and ivy, with Jesus on the sidelines.  People who all year have pretended not to know you live next to them or shop at their store every week suddenly recognize you and say hello.  There are baked goods soaked brandy and port and rum. And let’s not forget those paper crowns.  (Never trust anyone who takes themselves so seriously they won’t wear their paper crown).  And of course there are various winter ales.

On Sunday I went to the Red Lion in Isleworth, my favourite pub in the badlands of greater West London where I live.  The place was decked out with tasteful evergreen garlands and glass icicles.  I tried every winter ale they had on, maybe six in total.  The Youngs was good but the best I forgot to note– it had nutmeg and clove as well as a subtle gooseberry note.  I’m a terrible ticker not to have written it down.

I started to complain that I had had halves of all these beers and wasn’t even tipsy.  Mr. Malting returned from the bar with a 6% monstrosity: Hanby’s Cherry Bomb, a mediocre ale, not unlike an IPA scented with cherry, and tasting of it too, but the kind of cherry in Cherry Coke.  Basically fake cherry. I suppose it’s a testament to my tipsy-ness that I finished this half pint and, laid off and skint as I am, by the time I was done I felt all was right and well, even if the same could not be said of the the state of things, or the beer I just finished.  I was almost ready to sing, hello world I’m your wild girl…

At the bus stop we met a gentleman waiting for the same bus…he was going for a piss-up with his daughter.  In the U.S. no one would admit to doing this on a Sunday night, but hey, it’s Christmas in London.  Apparently he’d already started celebrating without her.  On the bus he confidentially leaned into us and asked what we thought of all these people, you know:  immigrants.  When we reminded him we were immigrants he changed his tune, literally, and started singing Tie a Yellow Ribbon…


My family tells me this was one of the first songs I apparently danced to as a wee little one watching the Tony, Orlando and Dawn variety show.  (The same song decades later would spawn the cynical, pro-war “yellow ribbon” campaign)  I hadn’t heard that song in maybe as long, and I sang with him.

And then, after telling us of his heartache, he sang a perfectly in tune version of Bobby McGee, full of duende on the 237 bus.

Some things can only happen with beer.

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7 Responses

  1. I’m right with you with the holly and ivy, I dragged my good lady out on an Ivy gathering trip on Sunday. The guys from beer club told me to decorate my shed and not being a fan of tinsel I opted for the more natural approach. The blackboard has allsorts hung around it and the green man above the door has a very large garland hung over him.

    I tried some Cherry Chocolate Mild at the town beer festival and that tasted of fake cherries and it wasn’t my cup of tea at all.

    What I quite like about parts of London is that you get quite a Dickensian vibe wandering round in the cold and dark, I secretly enjoyed my latest wander round the capital.

    • Happy Holidays, John! I’m partial to Ivy, too. I mean, if you have to choose one. Did you make garlands or wreaths? Kew has a Holly walk– might go there tomorrow.

  2. Happy holidays to you too.

    We made what can be best described as a large bow of Holly, Ivy and Rosemary with some red ribbons in it for colour and hung this above the door of the shed. The rest of it was just strewn around inside. It was quite fun to have a party on the solstice and get the place all decked out in greenery, it looks much nicer than tinsel or other sparkly tat.

  3. Hi John– sorry I didn’t originally see your whole comment. I’m not used to the new WordPress set up yet. The decorations sound lovely. I much prefer that to tinsel!

    I think I’ve tried a Chocolate Cherry Mild at the GBBF– I liked it in a guilty way. I can drink that stuff but I know it’s really a failure flavor-wise.

  4. Tis the time for christmas ale!

    I don’t think I’d like christmas in the sun very much. Part of the fun is the bad weather and the very short days. Fairy lights wouldn’t be twinkly without fog.

    Happy Christmas Impy Malting, I look forward to reading more of your adventures in ale next year.

  5. Happy Christmas! Off out for some Christmas eve boozing.

  6. Just got back and checked on my favourite blogs. This is a great post. Happy New Year. Please continue to write about beer in 2009!

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