Yesterday I did a ten and a half hour shift behind the bar in my local. I don't work there as such, but when they are short handed, I step in. Last time I was cooking meals in the kitchen, the time before looking after it when the tenants took a short break. Yesterday I was front of house. I think most drinkers would have their experience enhanced by being on the staff side of things for once. For me though, apart from a few stints here already, it isn't exactly new, having worked in a pub part-time for a few years and of course, having pulled countless pints at beer festivals.
Things started quietly enough around twelve with a few locals drifting in, having a pint and a natter, then wandering off. This is the social side really. We knew each other and it was cosy and easy going. Then as things got quiet, a large influx of customers arrived more or less all at once. Ah. Yes! The rugby internationals were being shown live on TV. This was a fairly easy part of the day too, with steady pint pulling for an appreciative and cheerful rugby crew. Wales having seen off Italy, things changed. The rugby fans drifted off to be replaced by a younger more shaven headed mob. Some not so young. Man Utd were on live. There were plenty locals too, in for the game. The atmosphere was boisterous and noisy. This was hectic stuff with large rounds and to me at least, a gratifying number of bitter drinkers. Having said that, I had to change the Lees Golden Original, their own lager which still sells well. That involved a frantic dash to the cellar and a wrestle with a recalcitrant connector then straight back to the thirsty hordes. Other FoH duties, include taking food from the kitchen to the punters, collecting glasses and dirty plates, clearing and cleaning tables, washing glasses, selling eggs - yes we do - and generally ensuring everything ran smoothly.
There was no respite. England were on live in the rugby next. Some of the Man U lot stayed and more joined. The beer flew out thick and fast. I had no time to eat all day, other than a chip muffin hastily grabbed in what passed for a lull, though I confess to the odd glass of mild. Later while it was all in full swing, four under age drinkers crept in to the snug. Bad tactics folks. It gives the game away. You should have marched boldly up to the bar! They were promptly shown the door by the landlady, with me riding shotgun to see them off the premises.
Finally the various fans were gone and the locals returned. Mostly older, all regulars at this lateish time of night. It was back to banter, checking lottery tickets, swapping tales, meeting old friends over a nice buzz of conversation and a cracking pint. We could relax, have a couple of pints and review the day. There had been two of us behind the bar and two in the kitchen. We were a good team and basked in the glow of success. E joined me for a couple of drinks too. We knew everyone and all was well with the world. We finally wended our way home around half past midnight, leaving the farmers and the others to it.
I had enjoyed observing the dynamics of it all. The reluctant girlfriends, the bored designated driver, the ale causing the boisterousness to increase with each round, a worrying feeling that surely they couldn't be polishing off beer this fast (and the nagging concern that sometimes I do). I had missed a CAMRA pub crawl of Liverpool to do it, my feet were aching, I was tired, but I had enjoyed it.
I'll be back again today on the customer side of the bar!
The picture shows the beers we had on handpump last night.
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.
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