Tuesday, 4 October 2016

London Goose day one

I’ve only been back a week from Chicago and it’s time to travel again for a Goose Island event. This time only as far as London.

My flight is only at 11 am so I’m not in a huge rush. I even have a bit of a lie in compared to a normal weekday. I’m allowing plenty of time. When I flew to Chicago it took me 40 minutes to get through security.

No delay at security this time. I waltz virtually straight through. Just as well as this time I spend 40 minutes dropping off a checked in bag. Bit of a bummer, that. Some of the machines seem to be malfunctioning.

As my flight is leaving from D pier, I feel obliged to nip in the Irish pub. It’s a tradition when I’m down this end of the airport. I recognise all the staff now. The nice Scottish lady gets me my half of Stout and double Jamesons after I squeeze up to the bar. It’s always busy here, no matter what time of the day.

I got myself a sarnie in the Albert Heijn landside. Just in case. You never know what they’re going to serve you on short flights. It’s as well I did. The food served was a miniature packet of nachos. I ate them after wolfing down my egg and bacon job.

The flight is packed, but uneventful and we arrive on time. I’ve been doing well with my bags. Third on the carousel coming back from Chicago, fourth this time. In no time I’m on a DLR train crawling through the former docklands. I only take it as far as West Ham, where I can get on a proper tube train. In 40 minutes I’m at my hotel on the Strand.

I’d like to drop my bags and freshen up. But my room isn’t ready yet. I’ve still a little time before I’m due to meet Mike Siegel of Goose Island. So I dump my bags and do what I always do with spare time in London: spend it in a pub. Luckily, I noticed a suitable Nicholson’s house, The Wellington, on my walk from the tube.

I quickly rush back there. There’s a gaggle of forty-something women at the bar and one younger bloke. I assume it’s an office crowd. They’re humming and hawing about what to order and I’m able to nip and order my pint. Not much doubt about what I’d get when I spotted Harvey’s Sussex Best.

The group at the bar have in fact travelled up to London to see a show. Two of the women start discussing bra sizes and the younger bloke reaches round from behind one of them and grabs hold of her right breast.

“That’s a nice handful.” He says.

“How can you get away with that?” one of the other women says to him.

He then starts smacking another woman on her bottom. Quite hard, in fact. They must all be good friends because no-one seems to mind. Or even pay much attention. When the young chap gets out his old chap I look away. Don’t want to be put off my pint. They go outside to smoke and the excitement disappears with them.

Only time for the one, sadly. Have to meet Mike in the hotel lobby. Me, him and Ken, Goose Island’s media guy, walk the short distance to Joe Allen Restaurant, our lunch destination.

AB-Inbev’s local PR people are already at the table. It’s a sort of working lunch. Not for me, obviously. I left work in Amsterdam. I’m just along for the ride. And the steak, which is rather good. And there’s Goose Island IPA on tap, which thankfully is brought to the table in pitchers. Otherwise the largest measure is a half pint.

Once repasted, we get a bit of a thirst on. I’ve already planned our next step with Mike.

You may find this hard to believe, but I’ve never been to The Harp in Covent Garden. One of London’s most famous beer pubs. Not sure how that happened. Probably because I haven’t been down this part of London much in the last 20 years.

John Hall, Goose Island’s founder, is already here. I met him briefly at my talk in Chicago. Seems a nice bloke.

The remainder of the afternoon slips by in pints of Sussex Best. Yes, they’ve got it here as well. And even though I’m going to the brewery tomorrow, I can’t resist a few more pints. It’s such a lovely beer. And a real taste of the past. In the early 1970’s, this is how most Southern Bitters tasted.

I finally get to check into my room in the late afternoon. But can’t dally long. I’ve just about time to log into the wifi network and quickly check my mail before it’s time to jump in a taxi to head to this evening’s event. Which is me bullshitting about Stock Pale Ale. While hopefully getting to drink quite a bit of it.

The event is in the Rake. I was quite surprised when it was mentioned as a venue. Only been there once before and what most struck me was its small size. I’ll be talking in the slightly larger garden at the back. Which fortunately is covered by an awning, in case the weather turns nasty.

First things first. I check that my presentation is properly loaded and that the laptop is so placed that I can look at its screen and the audience at the same time. Once that’s done, I get stuck into some beer. Just to make sure my throat doesn’t try out before talking, obviously.

Before too many punters show up, some promo photos are taken of me and Mike proudly holding bottles of Brewery Yard. It’s like standing next to one of my kids. I look like a midget.

There are a fair few – actually possibly a majority – of the audience that I know. Not surprising seeing as I was involved in drawing up the guest list. Plenty of people to chat with. And whose opinion on the Brewery Yard I’m interested in hearing.

When I spot Roger Protz I realise that I’ve forgotten to bring the bottle of Ij IPA he asked for. Not from Holland, I must add. I just forgot to bring it from my hotel. I promise to leave it there for him to pick up.

The talk goes even better than in Chicago. Practice helps. I get a few laughs and some heartening applause. Time does weird things when I’m up in front of an audience. It always only seems like I’m talking for five minutes. Even when it’s several hours.

I’m pleased to learn that the beer is going down well. The responses are very positive. Which sort of makes the two years the project lasted worthwhile.

Once the crowd has gone we pop around the corner to Black & Blue for a meal. I have another steak.

Back at the hotel a couple of us linger in the Gin Palace bar for a nightcap. A warming Glenmorangie. Just as well, as Mr. Laphroaig hasn’t accompanied me this trip.

The Wellington
351 Strand,
London WC2R 0HS.
Tel: +44 20 7836 2789

Joe Allen Restaurant
13 Exeter St,
London WC2E 7DT.
Tel: +44 20 7836 0651

The Harp
47 Chandos Pl,
London WC2N 4HS.
Tel: +44 20 7836 0291

The Rake
14 Winchester Walk,
Borough Market SE1 9AG.
Tel: +44 20 7407 0557

Black & Blue
1-2 Rochester Walk,
London SE1 9AF.
Tel: +44 20 7357 9922

Disclaimer: my trip was paid for by Goose Island as part of my consultancy fee.

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