Saying goodbye to my old local, and hello GBBF
August 2, 2010

Photo of Steve Bolton by philfromdublin on flickr

Is a blog without updates really a blog?  The generous folks at CAMRA seem to think so, and have granted me a pass to the Great British Beer Festival trade session.

I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go, especially after hearing Laura and Dave had to give it a miss this year.  But then I was lucky enough to meet up with Laura this weekend, as she was visiting for the Knit Nation extravaganza.  We ended up at the Market Porter fondling roving and wool Laura had found at the knitting event and drinking halves of Harvey’s Bitter and Deeside Talorcan (a hearty, chocolaty stout with an impressive beige head and just enough bitterness and wood notes to really make it complex).

We then made our way to the Rake which was more than hospitable.  We sampled most of what they had on at the moment, as well as some remarkable bottled ginger beer and the Williams Brothers’ Kelpie which had a warm salinity at the back that was fascinating.  We met Nick who’d just come from the Utobeer stall, fully stocked with De Molen bottles.  We marvelled at their elegant, mysterious labels in true beer fanatic fashion.  Everyone prompted me to get the blog going again, and as you can see they were very persuasive.

The only sad news of the day was seeing the landlord of my old local, the Magpie and Crown, pulling pints at the Rake.  I asked him what the situation was and he told me he’d been forced out due to excessive rents after running the place for 14 years, offering stellar real ales from local breweries and lovely cider as well as the best Thai food I’ve had in London.  This is a common story all over London, another example of greed pushing out places with individual character , history and personal vision.  I never really liked living in greater west London, but the Magpie and Crown was one consolation.  I relished the notion that I could go down the street and never know what I might try, but knowing there would be something that I was perfectly in the mood for, and the music would be good and at the right volume and the punters just strange enough to be interesting.  And, you know, I’d always have the corner seat by the window.  The pub is still there but it won’t be the same without Steve, and I thank him for helping to make the time I lived there much happier, welcoming and full of fantastic beers.

Cartoon over the Hearth of the Magpie and Crown

So now it’s on to forming my beer festival game plan.  Last year I had a list which became useless within minutes as I realized the beers I most wanted to try weren’t there yet or were MIA or were trumped by bigger and better ideas from the beer hounds surrounding me.  Which brings me to the real reason I’m going.  It isn’t really for the beer at all (don’t tell anyone!) but for the fellow beer writers and brewers– where good beer is you find good people, it’s as simple as that.