Almost British

Me at Sunkenkirk, 2006

It isn’t hard to give up beer.

Provided, of course,  you don’t go to any stores that sell decent beers, and you forego reading beer blogs and avoid pubs altogether, even crap pubs because you might end up having a Guinness.

See, it’s easy.

Except what happens when you realize that after 5 years of immigration limbo, this country you’ve been living in has finally adopted you?  Through an arcane, Kafkaesque ritual involving metal benches, bulletproof glass and endless paperwork it has secured you to its bosom as tenderly any bureaucratic behemoth could.

My passport now reads SETTLEMENT, and I can stay.

So you see, I had to plan carefully on that day, because I really, really wanted a beer.  I ended up at the Gunmakers because I knew Jeff would have Old Rosie on and in some twisted logic I felt that drinking cider would allow me to continue my fast with some integrity.  But when Mr. Malting and my friend P both had pints of Old Engine Oil it became harder.  But I persevered, I will have you know. Even when Jesus John showed up, regaling me with tales of Hardcore IPA on cask at the Rake, I did. not. waver.

I think John would have rather been at the London Drinker fest, which was no doubt where Jeff, the Landlord, was.  Last year I attempted to go and couldn’t contemplate standing in the queue which wrapped around the block– glimpses of the interior revealed it to be packed.  After the surreal ordeal at the Border Agency, the last thing I wanted to do was be in a crowd.

But what this means is we are no longer tied to London for work permits, etc.  We can live anywhere in the UK, and I think we are both ready to find a new place.  I am already planning beery pilgrimages of this fair isle, if anyone has some suggestions, I’m getting out my maps.  Those of you in the UK, tell me about your locals.  Which nearby breweries do you favor?  In short, what’s it like where you are?

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27 Responses

  1. Come on up to Manchester! We may not have the sheer volume of pubs that London boasts or the repeated award-winning pull of Sheffield, but we do have one secret weapon that’s guaranteed to knock your socks off: The Marble Arch, home of the rather wonderful Marble Brewery and a damn fine pub / eatery in its own right.

    • That’s a fantastic idea, Darren. I’ve been only once before and that was just for a day, and I didn’t have the forethought to ask about pubs. I might find myself in Liverpool in May, so maybe I can just add a few days onto the trip.

  2. Come to Sheffield! There’s beer festival next week and there’s even a Shindig beer! Plus the Tap / Devonshire Cat / Kelham Island Tavern etc. etc. And Thornbridge! And Kelham Island! And Crown Brewery And many more!

    • Hey Simon! SHINDIG BEER!!! Yeah, I’ve never been and clearly need to be in Sheffield! I will see if I can sort out a train ticket, etc. Were you going to the festival? What days?

      • We’re going on the Saturday – J does the Shindig folk column so I’m hoping for freebies. I am also planning to get hammered.

        • OK, I am not sure how long it takes to get there from London. So, who brewed the Shindig beer? I’ve actually never read that zine but now I’ll check it out. Hammer plan is better than hammer pants (trousers).

          • It’s a Kelham Island Brew so it may be alright. I concur on the pants. It’ll take about 2 1/2 hours from London – send me an email if you’re serious and I’ll send you my number etc.

  3. Liverpool has the best range of pubs I have come across in any city centre, and all fairly close together, as Liverpool isn’t an enormous city. Then in Southport, the seaside town 20 miles up the coast where I live, we have a better range of pubs than in most seaside towns I’ve been to (and as former trade union officer, I’ve been to lots of them for conferences). And West Lancashire is fairly accessible by public transport with beautiful country inns and canalside pubs. Throw in the friendliness of the people and the Liverpudlian sense of humour ~ well, how can you lose?

    The other suggestions are fine for a visit, but for long term quality of life, the Liverpool-Southport-West Lancs area takes some beating.

    • Hi Neville, I have a friend nearby and I’m going up to Liverpool in Mid-May. I will contact you nearer the time– it would be great see Southport and if you’re free, to meet you finally!

  4. I look forward to it.

    • I highly recommend a tour of the Cains brewery followed by a decent session in the brewery pub. Cains beers are outstanding.

  5. Yeah, go north. In our experience, and with a bit of common sense, it’s much easier to find decent pubs in any northern city than down south. Sticking up for the West Country a bit, though, you might go back to Bristol and try the Grain Barge; and you’d probably enjoy the cider in Somerset.

    I had a pint of Shindig the other night at the Pembury. They served it totally flat (grrr) but it was still very tasty indeed.

    • In my limited experience traveling, this has also been the case in the North and West Country as well! Next time I’m in Bristol I will seek out the Grain Barge.

      Flat Shindigs…that just doesn’t seem right! Haha.

  6. I can assure you I would not rather have been at the London Drinker!

    Much as I love the idea of beer festivals per se, I’ve only ever heard of this one in terms that would lead one to believe Hieronymus Bosch had been present to record it visually for posterity: http://bit.ly/coBqrC

    It was a pleasure to see you all. Plan your trip up to Cambridge soon!

    • It was fantastic seeing you as well. I have to agree the one time I peeked in at the London Drinker fest it did resemble this Bosch painting! I will be in touch about dates for Cambridge– thinking mid April?

  7. For a short excursion outside of London, I highly recommend the Chiltern brewery. It is incredibly small, but they make up for it in some great beer tastings during the tour. We followed this up with lunch at the pub tied in with the brewery in nearby Aylesbury.

    • I haven’t had beers from either of these breweries– great idea, as it could be done in a day. Thanks!

  8. *raises a glass*

    Here’s to casting seeds to the wind and seeing which ones take root

    • Thanks, Claire!

  9. Firstly – congrats! Secondly – Yorkshire rules!! Scenery, cities, and great breweries in Kelham, Leeds, York, Acorn, Roosters, Ossett, Salamander, Goose Eye…the list goes on…!

    • Hi Leigh– thanks for commenting– I have been to Yorkshire several times and I love it, but there is still so much to see. I cant wait to return.

  10. Next time you’re over in the West, it’s worth taking a quick jaunt north to Cheltenham. I’m a Bristol exile surviving up here (saying that makes it sound far, but it isn’t), and the only thing that keeps me going are the 3 or 4 great pubs in easy walking distance.

    The Jolly Brewmaster is my favourite pub in the world and the Somerset Arms, Royal Union and Kemble are all pretty close behind it.

    If you’re ever in the area, I’d be happy to show you around…

    • Hi Phil– thanks so much for the offer– I will definitely take you up on it. I’ve never been to Cheltenham but with that many good pubs it’s certainly tempting.

  11. Ah, you’ve got to come to Derbyshire. The brewpubs of Derby, the train up to Sheffield / Nottingham / Birmingham / Leicester, the brewery taps in villages throughout the county. Perhaps a looksie around Thornbridge Brewery?

    • That’s a fantastic idea. It seems that there is so much going on beer-wise in Sheffield that I really need to sort out a trip. Are there any summer beer festivals coming up near there? I should have a look at the CAMRA listing.

      • Sheffield is a permanent beer festival! The walk along the River Don with the sun of your back, popping into pubs with great beer gardens, is far more attractive than spending an afternoon inside a sweaty CAMRA tent somewhere.

        • I like the sound of that. More and more I feel I need to explore that area! Perhaps later this summer.

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