I wasn't going to enter Zak's competition, but this piece below (or a piece like it) has been in my mind for a while, so here it is:
It is one of those piercingly cold, but cloudless days. The low winter sun slants directly into my eyes with an annoying persistence, even though it is that self same sun that makes the day what it is. That and something new. Something different.
It is January 1979 and as I walk, I take in the unfamiliar surroundings. The yellow brick houses, interspersed with red, are tall and seen through my eyes, strangely exotic. The double deck buses sail past, green and cream, with destinations that are foreign to me. The air is different too, though the cry of seagulls is the same, an insistent, shrill and plaintive "ceeaw ceeaw" sound. If I close my eyes for a second, I am back in my own familiar High St, with the same call of the gull, but there accompanied by the sweet barley scent of whisky in the making.
Aware of the difference and the thrill of the unknown, I walk on passing pubs too which evoke interest, but the brewery names mean little. This isn't home, where I know everything and everyone; where pints appear at my elbow, acknowledged by a nod to my benefactor, whom I've probably known all my life. Here I feel slightly ill at ease and out of place. I know almost nobody, or much about this city, its people, its pubs, its history; but that will come and this walk is part of the process. At a large junction, I take in the view that is now below me. The river gleams in the distance, but the city, spread out before me is an unknown quantity. I don't know the landmarks, its districts or its people. I don't know how this place works. What makes it tick.
I hesitate. If I walk on I'll end up in the centre, but that isn't the aim. I look left and survey the imposing pub before me. "Gregson's Well" is picked out in white letters on a red background. I pause indecisively on the step. It is half past two and they'll be shutting soon. I take a breath and enter. It is almost empty and remarkably Spartan, with greying, scruffy floorboards and an imposing, unvarnished, wooden bar. The alien handpumps are clad in red vinyl. The barman is idly scanning the first edition of the Echo and glances over. "I indicate the pump." Pint please" I say as neutrally as possible. The beer is almost flat, and uncompromisingly bitter. I sip tentatively, standing at the bar. Nobody speaks to me and I speak to no-one. As time is called, I sup up and leave.
This first ever pint of Higson's Bitter was followed by countless, more convivial ones in the next nine years, as Liverpool became my home. Lamentably Higgies is gone now though and Liverpool just isn't the same without it. It would be my desert island beer and those who haven't drank it, have missed one of the classic bitter beers of England.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
This blog mentions specifics; pubs and beer, good and bad. The opinions will be forthright, but you can always disagree, just don't be offended. Comments from those mentioned are particularly welcome and a right of reply is hereby offered.
Read my information and links and then decide for yourself. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes.
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Beer samples are welcome, but I cannot guarantee a good review. You, the brewer, on the other hand can.
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