Beer Matters

On Rams, Buses and Telepathy

One doesn’t need much excuse for ringing or drinking, but a wake for a bus is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. On December 9th the last Routemasters in public service (apart from the so-called “heritage” routes) ended their journeys at Streatham garage. Two half-muffled quarters were rung at St Leonard’s and then most of the party adjourned to the Pied Bull, just down the road from the bus garage, to raise a glass or two in tribute to a much-loved national institution.

Some of us drank rather too liberally of the excellent Winter Warmer. This once very variable beer has enjoyed another good season, which I suspect may be due to deliberate quality control procedures on the part of Young’s, including only supplying it to larger outlets where a reasonable turnover is assured. Unfortunately, this rules out my local but, if that is the policy, I cannot fault it. It takes many thousands of pints to build a beer’s reputation but only a few bad ones to ruin it.

Talking of Young’s, their “It’s a ram’s world” campaign was one of the first to fall foul of the new alcohol advertising rules I mentioned recently. Two adverts, showing the anthropoid ram eyeing bikini-clad young women and holding court in a gentleman’s club, have been banned for suggesting that the product might enhance sexual prowess and social standing respectively. Interestingly, the one set on a golf course was allowed. Presumably the implication that a pint might improve one’s handicap was not judged likely to set the nation’s youth on the road to perdition. Perhaps in future the ram’s activities should be limited to things that real Young’s Ordinary drinkers get up to – like ringing, for instance?

This column didn’t set out to be a plug for Young’s but I must mention the Bridge in Greenford. The Ordinary wasn’t as good as it might be and a couple of minutes later I noticed the pumping, examining and bucketing which denotes a fresh cask being bought on line. I’d already decided my pint wasn’t quite bad enough to send back and consoled myself with the knowledge that the next one would be better, though I couldn’t help thinking of the –admittedly rare – occasions when an “end of barrel” pint has been replaced without the need for complaint.

Scarcely had the thought passed through my mind when the barmaid appeared unbidden at the table with a brief apology, set a fresh pint in front of me and whisked away the old one, which was by now half empty. Now that’s what I call service. Many are the assets of a good barmaid, including (no, I’m not getting physical) a welcoming smile, a sympathetic ear and a memory for names and favourite tipples, but telepathy is definitely a bonus. On the other hand, it could just be a sound investment in customer satisfaction (see above).

I was recently in conversation with a young lady who normally drinks lager but would prefer not to, not least because the excessive gassiness of the average keg lager leaves her feeling bloated. She has never developed a taste for “real” beer but is quite willing to be converted. Never one to shirk a challenge, I offered to prescribe a suitable course of treatment.

She mentioned having tried Harvey’s Sussex but that, fine beer though it is, is probably too much of a culture shock for the lager-attuned palate. I am thinking more along the lines of the newer light “golden” bitters. Oakham JHB might be a good one to start with. [I am reminded here of “77 Level” in Philadelphia, specifically aimed at “weaning the Bud drinker”.] The problem is that most of these beers are brewed by micros and tend to be available irregularly in free houses with a constantly-changing menu. Maybe a good, no nonsense session bitter like Fuller’s Chiswick would be the answer? Or, Heaven forbid, I may have to ingest a mouthful of Fosters in order to work out what the ideal transitional beer would taste like. I shall let you know how the experiment proceeds.

I shall, however, refrain from the Wychwood technique. The brewery’s screen saver entitled “How to convert a lagerboy” features the Hobgoblin creeping up behind the hapless youth and kicking him over a rugby goalpost.

Maximus Bibendus

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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