When I arrived at around 1.30 my local was heaving. I thought briefly that if it was always like this, I'd enjoy it a lot less. I was spotted by the landlady as soon as I got in though. A new cask of mild was excellent and in the dog days of Lees Mild I was content. I looked at the dynamics of the place. It is not big. One medium sized room which includes the bar and a snug holding only a dozen or so. Locals were squeezed out of their places by occasional visitors and were dotted around, separated from their friends by the teeming throng.
I'd come in with Dave, one of our mob who had picked me up half way up the lane, thus saving me a few hundred yards walk. We found a spot at the bar and were joined bit by bit by others of our lot. We occupy a table between the door and the bar. We get about nine or ten around it by "hutching up" though I believe the record is either eleven or twelve. We look on slightly resentfully as outsiders linger over sipped drinks, taking up with two people, a space we'd get six in. But they are fleeting such folk. By around three, we are all together and making the table's assets sweat. All nine of us drink cask - as always. Most are on bitter which I found a bit sweet. Some are on Bumpy Lane. I switched to the Bumpy, which is a dry hopped version of Lees Bitter and unique to our pub. It was good. Later as conversation grew louder and much ale had been supped, I finished on a couple of pints of Plum Pudding. This was a great sample, full bodied, rich and just a hint of fruit and spice. Lovely stuff. I don't doubt that between us we did a nine in. We are good for business!
The rest of the pub had settled into their usual corners with their usual friends. We all know each other and exchange banter and greetings, but we rarely sit in each other's company. It is just the way of the local. Once normal service is resumed we can nod at strangers and make them feel welcome, but the truth of it is we all like to sit in our usual places. In our pub it's where we belong! When a pub is over full, it does lose some of its allure and some of its manners. A bit of space is essential.
At the bar service is swift and pleasant. Michelle and Duncan have it all under control, while Dave slaves away in the kitchen More or less all of the food is locally sourced, the locals don't come far and nor does the beer. Eco friendly or what? Also, being somewhat isolated, the pub is the centre of this community.There was a Christmas Cake raffle going on in aid of a local charity. We get our eggs from there and later today, along with many others, we'll pick up our Christmas turkey from a local farmer. Of course we all arrange to pick up our turkeys at the same time, so we can slip a couple of pints in.
Our pub is probably like thousands of locals all over the country, a source of familiarity and ease in a busy world. The English pub. Nothing quite like it at all. And nothing to beat it!
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. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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