Thursday, 24 November 2022

My turn to speak

The first talk is at 9 AM. I’m on third, at 10:45.

When I tip into the breakfast room around 8:20 AM, there’s no-one I recognise. All the tables are full and I can only find a stool. My food choice is the same a yesterday: boiled eggs and fruit. Washed down with coffee and orange juice.

The first shuttle is at 9. Meaning I miss the start of Travis's talk. A shame, as what I do catch is dead interesting. All about beer in the ancient world. Along with a good chunk of linguistics, looking at the terms for beer in various ancient languages. Right down my street. And miles away from the stuff I do. 

Stan Hieronymous has me struggling when his hop talk gets all sciency. In a very good way, don’t get me wrong. Fascinating stuff about hop genetics. Which, obviously, turns out to be more complicated than once thought. Like everything else.

I’m up after a short break. Brewing in WW I is the topic. I get several laughs, don’t spot anyone nodding off or fucking off. A win, in my book.

Lunch is at Josiah Chowning's Tavern. Or rather, outside it. Where there’s a stage for a musical performance. One which mostly seemed to be taking the piss out of Frank Clark (the brain behind the conference and one of Colonial Williamsburg’s food and drink experts). Or maybe paying homage to him. It’s all very light-hearted and fun.

We get a bag with a cold lunch: pasta, a chicken sandwich, an apple and two chocolates. Some salad, too. And a bottle of Williamsburg beer. In Paul’s case, two. Damn. It’s me that’s supposed to pull stunts like that.

It’s sunny today. And warm. 23-24º C. Something like that. Having turned up a bit late, we don’t get seats in the shade. I can feel my sensitive skin starting to crisp after half an hour. Shit. This is worse than Brazil. And literally as hot as some days in Florianopolis last month.

I'm enjoying spending time with Paul and Jamie. What with Covid and everything, it’s been a few years since we last met. It's great to catch up.

The talks after lunch are as fascinating as those before it. Very educational. Andrea, obviously, talks about malting. And the evil practices required to placate the excise man. All dressed in 18th-century garb.

To round off the day, there’s a round table of the speakers. A stimulating discussion ensues, with everyone filling in from their own area of expertise. And me talking some crap.

We’re on our own for dinner. Around half the panel – Pete Brown, Stan, Martyn Andrea and me – along with Paul and Jamie, trundle over to the Precarious brewpub. It’s packed inside. Mostly with rather loud kids playing computer games. We grab a table outside.

You don’t just pay the barman here. You order and pay at a till, then a barman around the corner pours it. An efficient system, I guess, when the place is mobbed. As it currently is. I get myself a Vector Nectar. A Double IPA. All that talking has given me a bit of a thirst. One only a pint of something stupid strong can quench.

Evidently Frank and some others are at Green Leafe. So that’s where we go. It’s a bit of a walk. But not too long a one. We pass by what are obviously college dorms.

“Which university is that?” I ask.

“William & Mary.”

“Like in the song?”


“Steely Dan. William & Mary won't do. I think that’s the title.”

Green Leafe isn’t very full. Frank and a few other conference stragglers aside.

While standing at the bar watching the football. a barmaid asks me if I want a beer. I’m not particularly queueing, but I won’t turn away a beer. This is like the reverse of my dreams, where I can never get served, no matter what I do.

I get an IPA. The non-sludge type. It’s fine.

“How did you get that beer?” Paul asks. He’s been waiting for a while.

“I just stood over there.”

“It was that easy?”

“For me, it was.”

Andrea pops up with a cocktail in her glass.

“Gin and tonic is only $5.”

Damn. I quite fancy one of those. And here I am stuck with a stupid IPA.

We’ve dinner reservations at Amber Ox. Luckily, it’s not far away. At least that’s what I’m told. I’ve no idea where I am. Just as well someone else is leading me around.

"It's weird how there all these bars just opposite the university campus." I remark dumbly. No-one bothers to reply.

Our table at Amber Ox is outside. Not a problem, given the clement weather.

Inspired by Andrea, I order a cocktail with some witty name. I don’t care about the name. Just the shots inside. It’s warmingly alcoholic. Just how I like my cocktails.

We get sharing starters. But I really just stick to the octopus. Tender and smoky. Very good.

We walk back. Paul and Jamie split away in Colonial Williamsburg. Leaving me and Andrea to make our way back to the hotel. She knows the way. She’s walked it every day.

Things look different at night. Andrea doesn’t quite find her usual way. After a while I realise she’s lost her way.

“Are you sure this is the right way?”

“No worries. I’ve just gone a little off course.”

We make it back eventually, mind. In only about double the expected time. There’s my exercise for the day.

In the lobby, there’s a bottle share going on again. I’m not tempted. I feel double knacked.

Tomintin has to kick me down the stairs to sleepy town.

Josiah Chowning's Tavern
109 E Duke of Gloucester St,
VA 23185.

Precarious Beer Project
110 S Henry St,
VA 23185.

Green Leafe Cafe
765 Scotland St,
VA 23185.

Amber Ox Public House
525 Prince George St Suite 102,
VA 23185.

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