I'm writing this on a train back from London. The bloke in front is listening to repetitive African music, the woman to my left is on her phone shouting at her friend. Nothing she has said so far has been worth saying let alone listening to. If she is reading this over my shoulder ( I’ve just increased the font size so she can) she should also note that she is wearing too much perfume and has lipstick on her teeth and moustache. None of the above-listed petty irritations can burst my bubble this morning. Last night I had another fantastically memorable night, this time at the Houses of Parliament with 15 other All Parliamentary Beer Group brewers of the year.
Walking through the crowds of tourists into the entrance was quite a novelty. I suspect that in my pinstriped suit and gold tie I looked a bit like the MP for Henley on Thames rushing back to vote against a bill to ban badger strangling. Looking around the terrace by the Thames I saw pretty much every brewer who I have ever looked up to during my career. Names like Powell-Evans, Theakston, Drury and Wellington conjure flavours of great ales from the past and present in the mind. At dinner I was sat between Giles Dennis, formally of JW Lees (the man who gave the world JW Lees Vintage Ale) and my local MP the wonderfully down to earth Dan Rogerson.
The dinner itself was like a beer journey back through time for me. I was delighted that Chalky’s Bite was selected to accompany the starter of gilt head bream. The main was paired with another beer I brewed 12 years ago, McMullen’s Hertford Castle which went brilliantly with the rump of lamb. And the dessert of Pear tartin was served with Fuller’s Golden Pride, a beer which I used to have to round off an evening on ESBs in the Boat at the bottom of Gravel Path in Berkhamsted as a teenager. In fact I think this very beer was in my stomach when I finally decided that life as anything other than a brewer would be an empty affair.
Being the youngest person in the room was intimidating at first (Stefano couldn’t make it) but brewers being brewers I was never short of warm company. At least 5 of the brewers have retired but the next generation continue on the work they began. Nigel Griffiths the MP for Burton on Trent gave a speech about beer in the UK today and concluded that although beer sales were falling the quality of beer today is better than it has ever been. The 15 men in that dining room last night have all been instrumental in making that the case.
I left at 11 with the party still in full swing in the commons Stranger's Bar and walked alone through the deserted vast stone spaces towards the exit. It was magical, right up to the point where the security guard caught me taking pictures on my phone in a restricted area!