So, I went to a meet-up of London bloggers Wednesday evening, the 17th of February, that took place in City Tavern and was sponsored by Greene King, which meant quantities of free IPA.
Yep, that’s right. Free beer.
The event for the London Bloggers Meetup group began at 7:00 pm that evening, but not only did I show up at half past that time, I wound up ordering and eating a spinach burger in the main bar area–not in the function room where all the beer was to be had. I only noticed after ordering my food and my Appletiser (man, I am so hooked on these things) that the meet-up was taking place upstairs from the main room. Oh.
Not really much of a loss, really, as I was hungry and the burger was delicious, and I had perfectly amicable company to chat with (Hi, Cian!). Once the burger was done and gone, we went upstairs to where the event was being held, right during a beer tasting being held by head brewer John Bexon, discussing their Greene King IPA.
I noticed earlier that City Tavern was a Greene King pub, meaning they serve the brewery’s ales there. The logo was on the wall outside, and I’ve actually seen the logo around on other pubs as well.
So yeah, beer. The Greene King IPA being passed around was good. After the talk I had a pint done up “Northern,” meaning the ale was pulled so that the spout was directly against the bottom of the glass, causing a thicker, creamier head at the top of the beer, thus changing the way the beer tasted as well. As much of a beer fan I am, I didn’t realise that there were regional preferences in Britain regarding how they want their cask ale pulled. Apparently it’s one of many North/South divides, with the Northerners preferring the smoother variant while Southerners wanting a more crisp taste. Greene King illustrates this here on their website, with even an instructional video: Decisions, decisions.
One thing, though–ales can be heavy on the stomach, and it wasn’t long into my pint before I felt rather full of ale. A bit too full. I wound up not finishing my glass (sacrilege, I know) because the IPA was just so heavy. I actually hadn’t had any ale relatively recently–meaning the last four or five days–so it was a bit of a weighty overload.
But that didn’t stop me from getting a collection of six bottles at the end of the night from Greene King! In fact, it didn’t stop me from getting another bag! Yes, this greedy bastard took home twelve bottles of ale on the 43 back to Holloway at the end of the evening, because they had a few extra bags, and, well, I was just standing there. The bags held six different bottles of six different varieties of ale: Old Speckled Hen, Greene King IPA, Suffolk Springer, St Edmunds, Abbot Ale and Ruddles County.
Guess what I’m showing up with to the next party I’m invited to.
Really, I wasn’t so excited about the free beer as much as the bags they came in. These Greene King bags are awesome. Totally hitting up Morrisons with these bags in the near future.
Corporate shill, am I? I mean, that’s why Greene King sponsored the event, right? To have people blogging about their ales? Well, I’ve already been bequeathed one free item and blogged about it (see Do your alcohol justice). But with this evening’s case, it brings out another topic I’d like to touch on regarding pubs and legislation.
Don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but I have a vague idea of doing my dissertation on legislation and drinking in the UK. Haven’t started any research on it yet, although I have been gathering snippets of information from various sources, including a former classmate at a pub, to start outlining a direction I may want to go. One of the things that is very important is a piece of legislation put forth in 1989. In an attempt to break and prevent monopolies of breweries and pubs, Parliament introduced the Beer Orders, meant to increase competition in brewing and retailing. Instead, it created these companies which managed and leased pubs out to licensees, referred to as pubcos (pub companies). To read more about this and see what the arguments around Beer Orders and pubs are, have a look at this article by The Publican.
I learnt about this at a small seminar held on 11 February 2010. The speaker was Richard Muir of the Institute for Public Policy Research, and he talked about the role of pubs in communities, and why pubs matter. It was fascinating to learn about this, because the pub is so important in British culture and society, and an outsider such as myself new to pub culture wasn’t aware of all the politics involved surrounding pubs and breweries. Thus, if I’m blogging about beer, and a beer corporation, I also should blog about a wonderful organisation called CAMRA, which stand for Campaign for Real Ale. Per their About Us section:
CAMRA campaigns for real ale, real pubs and consumer rights. We are an independent, voluntary organisation with over 100,000 members and have been described as the most successful consumer group in Europe. CAMRA promotes good-quality real ale and pubs, as well as acting as the consumer’s champion in relation to the UK and European beer and drinks industry. We aim to:
- Protect and improve consumer rights
- Promote quality, choice and value for money
- Support the public house as a focus of community life
- Campaign for greater appreciation of traditional beers, ciders and perries as part of our national heritage and culture
- Seek improvements in all licensed premises and throughout the brewing industry
Noble causes, aren’t they? They have a campaign called Save Our Pubs. Although the pub is a central part of Britishness, 39 pubs are closing every week. I recently had a look at the pub directory in my area of North London, and it was pretty sad and depressing to see what pubs have closed down, or no longer serve real ales. If you’ve got a Facebook account, and you are a supporter of real ale, why not check out the CAMRA Facebook page and become a fan?
So yeah, the Greene King was trying to promote its beer, and in turn, we were trying to promote our blogs among the other people in the room. But it wasn’t all about schmoozing and the free ales. I shared a really nice chat with a guy named Tom and American television, and had an interesting conversation about politeness in British society with Luke and his girlfriend whose name I’ve forgotten (but she was lovely!). So it was also a good way to meet people, and actually meeting people in a large city where people spend most of their time with strangers–on buses and in the tube, waiting in the queue at Sainsbury’s and walking along the street–can be quite enjoyable.
Now, what to do with all this beer….