I’ve always fancied myself as a man of position, taking bribes for community projects, forcing rivals into the boot of my Volvo and sleeping my way to the top. So you can imagine my pride when I was invited to join a council, a real life decision-making body, tackling local issues head on and muttering.
Being in the right place at the right time is a gift. I was in the right place (the pub) at the right time (within opening hours) to be pressed into service as an Honoured Councillor of the Blackheath Beer Council by its Chairman and spiritual chaperone, Andrew John Copping.
At first I was afraid, I was petrified. The Council is a congregation of eminent soaks brought together to divine which ale should be served at the Hare & Billet next month. So, basically, it runs essential services. Firstly, I was concerned that I’d be joining a rabble of corpulent red-nosed old men whose beards would be rich with last week’s suet. Secondly, I was worried that consequences of free beer tasting could lead me to lose more than my dignity.
But what fool would turn down free ale, especially at the Hare & Billet, a lovely pub opposite a pond on Blackheath which provides a consistently perfect pint?
My fear of meeting the Real Ale Twats parodied so well by Viz proved unfounded. A quarter of the Council were women (thank fuck), another quarter, beardless men in their twenties (whatever), and there were Europeans and even persons from Canadia. The only beards belonged to the brewers behind the current explosion in quality British brewing.
My second fear was realistic. My first Beer Council resulted in me losing my phone down the toilet into which I was vomiting. On another occasion it took me an hour and a half to complete the twenty-minute walk home.
Each month the sage members don their robes while two brewers are pitted against each other in battle. This month’s saw Signature Brew from Hackney versus Tiny Rebel, from Newport, with a fantastic array of American Pale, Golden, Red and India Pale Ales. Lucky us.
We were told to expect: “Candied peel, dirty hay, biscuity malt. Everything a growing horse needs” from Signature’s Backstage IPA. And I’m sure I heard someone say: “I’m getting notes of Lemmy.”
The rock theme continued with Tiny Rebel’s Amplified IPA, Hadouken!, an intense and delicious concentration of American hops. Having tasted seven ales, I voted and congratulated myself on survival. Then Sam from Signature turned the rock up to eleven with a Double Black IPA brewed in conjunction with Atlanta metal band, Mastadon. Sam told us the band were heavily involved in the brew, with drummer Brann Dailor showing an encyclopaedic knowledge of obscure British brewers. Fair play to the noisy feckers though. The beer, Black Tongue, is a masterpiece and at 8.3%, just what the doctor might order at the end of an evening, if he was drunk out of his mind and hooked on prescription drugs.
The serious business over, we were then forced to enjoy ourselves with more beer and giggles. The Council has been a great success in bringing people together, giving them an input into an institution they care about and connecting a booming miracle industry with their customers in a way that involves shared enthusiasm, rather than marketing. Long may she sit.