GBBF trip post No2
If the best beer writers in the country can't organise a good party, then who can? Monday night saw the 21st Birthday party of the British Guild of Beer Writers. My first real chance to meet up with many people I had heard about and perhaps interacted with on the Internet. Pete Brown gives an excellent report here almost making my post superfluous. But I'll find some words to fill a post, after all, I've got to practice so I too can work up to a 130,000 word1 book.
A fine party it was indeed, made that way by good beer and good company. If I listed all the people I met I'd be bound to get some wrong, so I'll save myself the embarrassment. With so many new people in little more than 24 hours that I was in London, I soon started to get confused, not unusual, it's true.
Jeff Pickthall, my fellow Cumbrian, had managed to get The Hairy Bikers to come along. With Jeff Bell also there the northern contingent2 formed the naughty boys at the back of the room during the speeches. We ended up getting told to stop chatting. The trouble was we couldn't hear the speakers, which was a bit of a shame really, because I gather some good stuff was said. Unfortunately the PA just wasn't set right for Public Address. It did work well for the SIBA band later though.
The beer was interesting. Not quite as exciting in its entirety as the American beers of earlier in the day, but the Harveys' Imperial Extra Double Stout was fantastic. I've never had a beer so opaque, it was so black that even the low sun over the Thames couldn't get it's bright penetrating rays through the liquid. I had a nice picture of the bottle, but on returning home I looked at the pics only to find that a member's female acquaintance was sitting opposite and all I can see in the mid background is the region just above the low cut top3 she was wearing. Honest, I didn't notice at the time, sorry.
I think I was just captivated by the quality of the beer and the joy of being with people, as Pete points out, brought together by beer. It was one of those evenings that you just don't want to end, the crack4 was spot on and I stayed longer than I should have done.
This trip was an important chance for me to explore how far I'm going to take this beer writing lark. To do so much further than blogging, we're told, is a toughy. However, It's turning into a passion, a desire to communicate what I know about beer, which it turns out isn't much and there is so much to learn. The beer world is interesting and it's diversity is becoming broader and deeper and there is a future - somewhere - for us beer writers, provided there are people who are prepared to read it. I wanted to hang on to these people for as long as possible, to soak up their combined knowledge before I had to go home. But sadly, I recognised the signals all too easily, as the bar staff signalled less and less subtly that it was Foxtrot Oscar o'clock.
I still hadn't checked into my hotel at this point and the last tube had gone. Jeff P got me to Clapham Junction, from where there should have been a single bus journey to take me to Earls Court. I've never got on with the bus route maps. Which side of the street should I be on and which street? These seemed to be nagging questions. The digestif effect of the stout and stuffed chilli peppers seemed to be kicking off peristalsis causing discomfort as various muscles fought. This doesn't help one to concentrate on sorting out a confusing situation. Being from the country, where a good sense of direction is required, a real map is preferable, rather than some sort of stylised interconnectivity transport node solution that bares little resemblance to reality. I decided to walk, using the A to Z as my comfort blanket, praying for the conclusion of alimentary activity to just wait a little while longer5. At 3am I eventually checked into the hotel, got to porcelain with such relief but surprisingly un-drunk and went to bed.
I'd been drinking beers that we're typically 6% and above, but I'd just been having tasters. Free beer all day and I was sober, well, fairly anyway. How was that? I think it's a sharing thing. I had a glass and there were bottles. Later, when it was draft beer, it was in pitchers. We just drank, and talked, and poured a little more into the small glass I had. No pressure. No rounds. No big glass shouting "drink me". Just great beer to enjoy, oh, and top company.
1Pete signed my copy of his book, Hops and Glory. In doing so he also disclosed the word count - thanks for the target, although I suspect, like you, I would overshoot somewhat. What's all this "couldn't think of any more" bollocks? Although words come easily, I've got several dictionaries and a thesaurus full of them if I get stuck, it's assembling them in a suitable order I sometimes have problems with. Oh, and thanks Liz for insisting on my full name.
2Sorry Stonch, you're from the North, as well you know, and don't forget it. But, it was nice to see you've got somebody who's able to cope with you, spot on company both.
3No, I'm not sending out copies. I like these people, I'm not going to upset them any more.
4Crack is similar to criac in Ireland. In Cumbria it means gossip, news or general conversation. I know in London it means some sort of substance, but us simple country folk don't understand these sort of things.
5OK, too much information, but in Cumbria you don't have to walk too far before you can find a convenient wall to hop over. Where do you go at 2am when you are caught short in London? Call yourselves civilised?