Hey Laaaaady
April 9, 2009

Can you spot the laydeez?

Can you spot the laydeez?

I’ve spoken before of my love of the Ship Tavern in Holborn, and I visited there yesterday.  The celebrations of Cask Ale Week were definitely on: a Theakston Mild and Bitter being the most significant and tasty offerings. After a day of checking out dead things in jars at the Hunterian Museum, nothing satisfies like a lovely pint of bitter!

Two American friends were visiting and were drinking the mild. I tried to explain the philosophy behind Cask Ale Week but it was difficult.  While perusing the official website, I had little luck figuring out how to find a participating pub, or even what events were on, (don’t get me started on the picture of the well groomed college students on the site’s homepage.  It’s just odd.) I was guessing when I explained it was a way to celebrate a distinctive national beverage that has been coded as unfashionable.

In the US, the microbrewery revolution has changed the kind of beer most people I know drink.  The offerings at most stores are quite varied now. Many Brits who have never been to America think it’s still the land of Bud and Coors, but in metropolitan places this is not the case.  My friends ordered pints of mild without having to be coaxed to do it, and one of them was…wait for it…a woman.  That cask ale is associated with old bearded men was impossible to convey to them as we were sitting in the lively Ship, surrounded by all kinds of people who were drinking ale.  (It’s true the women were mostly drinking, you guessed it, white wine.)

My friend Laura picked up a flyer announcing the events of Cask Ale Week at the pub, one of which headlined with the pun, “femALE” day.  It addressed us as Ladies, and my friend said, “See, they’ve gone wrong right there.  Ladies?”  To an American ear the word lady is an insult.  It’s something Jerry Lewis yells.  No one wants to be addressed as a lady– which either means you are a granny, a member of the Christian Right or the recipient of some stranger’s anger.   Here it’s perfectly normal, and even polite, to refer to a woman as a lady.  I still vaguely resent it, and all the ideas that come packaged in that word–which is probably why I engage in such unladylike activities like beer blogging.

The flyer suggested we try some cask ale for £1 on the 15th of April, technically two days after Cask Ale Week is over.   Presumably we don’t have to wear a hat and gloves to partake of our cheeky half, just a pair of XX chromosomes.

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The Ship Tavern
June 25, 2008

The Ship Tavern Stained Glass, originally uploaded by currybet.

On Sunday I was wandering around Covent Garden with friends and we found ourselves in Holborn. There is only one pub I know there and they are usually closed on Sundays but we tried anyway and– wonders– The Ship Tavern is now open on Sundays. This tiny back street pub is over 400 years old, but it’s not resting on its history or pandering to tourists (even though it seems to be featured on a “Haunted London” walk– I’ve never seen a ghost there, or a throng of tourists for that matter, but apparently during the reign of Henry VIII it was a place where clandestine Catholic mass was held. Some of the priests were found and executed in the tavern).

The people working the bar there are always friendly. Sunday they had on four real ales which the landlord offered for us to try. I fell or the Everards Sunchaser– very light and delicately hoppy, served a little cooler than cellar temperature, it was perfect for the rather hot day, as was the dark, cool pub which was lit with candles. We sat in a both that was stocked with lovely old books. The place was quiet, just my friends and two deaf women signing to each other. On the stereo Nina Simone and Dawn Penn made it feel like a home-away-from-home.