I drink no cider,
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in a letter to his wife Abigail
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LONDON (20 May 2005)
The boys on the bus.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...Oh, who am I kidding? Best of times, all the way. Friday rocked.
The first sign that we were in for some fun was finding London Registered Blue Badge Guide Gary McGowan waiting in front of the hotel in the morning with a big red double-decker bus. Gary was the guide on my previous DBI trip to London and took us through the Tower and all 'round the town, amusing us with his wild sense of humor (nothing is scared, from the Royal Family to, especially, Americans: You guys know the Canadians, right? They were the ones who stayed loyal) and encyclopedic knowledge of both history and pop culture and music (Over there is where they beheaded this king or that king...and across the street is where Madonna first got shagged in London).
There was a light rain intermittently falling so, while the driver remained behind to keep drying the seats on the upper level, we walked the few blocks to Westminster Abbey for a quick 30-minute or so walk-through; this map gives you an idea; we came in the North Entrance at left and then down the south aisle and up the north one, seeing the burial places of lots of dead Brits, the centuries-old chair in which each new king or queen is crowned and all like that, all the while being regaled by Gary's witticisms and commentary.
The rain had let up when we walked back so we boarded the bus, as you can see here:
Note the "two-fingered salute" being given cameraman Gary by several of the less polite members of our group. Part of his regular shtick is telling how French soldiers at Agincourt threatened to cut off the index and middle fingers of captured archers in the army of Henry V so that they could no longer use their longbows. After their ultimate victory in that battle, he told us, those archers would mock their foes by raising those two fingers in their direction (similar to the single middle digit "salute" in the U.S.). Here's more about all that, including a suggestion that there was a bit more to the story.
And, by golly, the possibility that our loyal guide might have been shading the truth a bit in order to make a better story brings me, via an admittedly convoluted route, to something I've been meaning to get to....
The can't-be-avoided "Beer Dave" aside.
Since most of us were strangers when the trip began, business card exchanges were the order of the day. Most were, as you'd expect, business cards. Not so that of Dave (one of four "Daves" on the trip, collect them all) Gausepohl. His read BCCA -- Brewery Collectibles Club of America and one of the first things out of his mouth was that he has, are you ready, 400,000 beer memorabilia items in his Kentucky home, including a billboard or two.
Weirdo, right? On-a them geeks...? Not at all. Well, okay, just a little bit, but the man who identifies himself as "Beer Dave" is articulate, stunningly quick-witted and a good traveling companion. I'll tell you, he'd fit right in with the increasingly dormant LDO posse, were he a local, filling the slot left vacant when Dan (The Big One) turned into a serious working man once he took on the obligation of a new truck and accompanying loan, maybe serving as a sidekick to Steve (The Other One), who looks lost these days without his big buddy. Dave's apparently been everywhere, sometimes twice, and could probably find his way around these parts as readily as the Big Fella, comes to that. When I told him I was from Oaks, a place I never even heard of until I moved there, he replied with this stream-of-consciousness monologue: Oaks? That's near Phoenixville, isn't it? Do you ever go to the Epicurean? Is Sly Fox still there? Do the Giannopouloses still own it? Is Bill Moore still the brewer?
Yes, yes, yes and no, but, as someone we'll encounter a few paragraphs on famously says, I digress...
This is a photo of Dave taken on the bus, where he is obviously pleased enough with himself to offer a thumbs-up, rather than two fingers, after having tossed out his latest bon mot.
Note DBI's Joe O'Grady bowing his head in despair and PR-savvy Sheryl looking away in anguish, which may raise the question of just how bon this particular mot was, but, in truth, it was downright hilarious.
Gary has just told us the story of how an accomplice of Colonel Thomas Blood, who tried steal Britain's priceless Crown Jewels back in 1671, attempted to escape by stuffing a long scepter and huge orb down into his tights, but was apprehended while being chased down the street by loads of women. Dave immediately topped that with and that's why men often call their stuff "the Crown Jewels."
Which, albeit circuitously as promised, brings us to what will have to pass for the point. Both Garry and I thought that was so perfect an addendum that he's agreed to make it part of his spiel from here on and I said I'd get the concept rolling on the internet. (To see how I'm doing my part, which is to say, fabricating the story, go over to my other blog and scroll down to Ten Things I learned While Travelling, item #9). With any luck and concerted effort, we'll make that fabrication the "truth" within a couple of years or so.
You will recall that, back in section one wherein I revealed my misadventures in the St. Mullin's graveyard in Carlow, I called your attention to Gregg Glaser and his raincoat, acknowledging that I had misidentified the wearer of a similar coat on the old Laugh In show as Ruth Buzzi rather than Arte Johnson and suggested you remember that. Here's why, my final "Beer Dave" story. As we were walking either to or from Westminster Abbey on Friday, I was walking with Gregg, in that same coat, and Sheryl beside him, a few paces behind Gausepohl. Suddenly he spun around, pointed at us one by one and proclaimed Dave Garcia. Ruth Buzzi. And Twiggy. It was pretty good (even if Garcia is, y'know, dead) and he bought into my Ruth Buzzi misinformation.
Sorry, I needed that...and you did too, you'll see, 'cause Beer Dave is quite likely to be the guy standing beside you at some beer gathering one of these days. But I'm done now. Let's move on....
Rubbing Churchill's foot.
After an hour or so's roaming about London on the bus, we stopped for a fantastic buffet lunch at a really marvelous pub whose name I can't find in my notes. What I do recall is that it was a place where all the evidence indicated that apparently Friday afternoons are not exactly prime work hours for Londoners. This photo was taken at about 1:30 PM (a clock is barely visible on the rear wall), through the pass-through window where we were getting our beers passed through; not a bad crowd for mid-afternoon, eh?
The beers being passed through, by the way, were pints of Fuller's new Discovery, a golden summer seasonal. A very nice beer, just introduced and one we saw being poured just about everywhere we went. Granted, these were all Fuller's pubs, but I suspect this one will be a winner for the brewery. Given my druthers, I'd still opt for London Pride or the Porter (or the marvelous 3.5% abv session beer, Chiswick Bitter) but that's just me, stuck in my ways.
We did some walking about and hit another pub at least, maybe two, but it was all just biding time now. Once we got back on the bus, a "big surprise" (which I'd expected, having done this before) was revealed: we were off to the House of Parliament, where we'd be given a private tour and...well, everybody would soon see.
Once inside, we were greeted by our host, Nigel Evans, MP, vice-chairman of the Conservative Party and also vice-chairman of Parliament's All Party Beer Committee, the largest committee in the entire governing body, clear signs this is a government with its priorities straight. Last time, All Party Beer chairman John Grogan, of the Labour Party, was the host, but because he was in a very close election (finally won by 475 votes), George Wald though Evans a wiser choice.
The MP took us out the nearly 1000-year old terrace in front of the House of Parliament for the photo which appears with the Introduction to this so-very-long account (asked by one of our group how old the terrace was, he blithely responded Oh, we just opened it last week), then onto the floor of the House of Parliament, letting us pause before entering and rub the left foot of a massive Winston Churchill statue by the entrance for good luck, as is the custom for members. We then went over to the House of Lords side, where there is no statue to rub for luck, being a lord apparently lucky enough in itself.
After that, we repair to the Hop Inn Sports & Social Club, a private pub for Members and staff workers, which is located beneath Parliament. The pub was quite crowded on a late Friday afternoon, but we pressed in, about 15 strong, and were soon enjoying Fuller's pints. And it is here--you remember this photo, right?--that we met Angus, and Angus met "Missy" and...