From the one man show of Pete Brown’s Beer and Music Matching I made my way to the second and sadly last of my booked sessions. I’ve joined up with one of my table from Pete’s session and we’ve made our way to the Library. It’s raining but bank holiday spirits are high on Stoke Newington Church Street as it can only be when you know you have two more days off work.
As we enter the wrong venue I announce to the steward “I’m here for the Gin!”… to be told with a smile that the Gin is round the corner. I suppress the urge to make a Hogarth, Gin Alley reference and head off as instructed. Entering the right venue I again announce with less vigour “i’m here for the Gin?”, to be told i’m in the right place. This one you may have guessed is a gin soaked two hander from festival sponsors Hendricks. Our hosts are David Piper, Commander of Special Operations and Duncan McRae, Hendrick’s Gin, British Ambassador. Think Nick Cave crossed with Terry Thomas and if Brains had given up International Rescue for life as a mixologist.
Piper, with a liberal flash of red socks perches on a vintage couch. In a low voice he purrs and growls into the microphone, reading from various works, leaving young and old, male and female, enthralled. Surely the desired effect. McRae bounds around the stage demonstrating his skills at mixing the perfect Hendrick’s cocktails. Vigorously shaking the mixer he tells us that he’s not allowed to make eye contact with Piper, for obvious reasons. There is the air of a seasoned double act here which makes the hour more than a sponsored plug for Hendricks. It’s a finely crafted theatre of botanicals. Sure, there are liberal mentions of the brand but honestly – it was £4, they were supplying me with excellent gin, a few tips on mixology (all of which I subsequently forgot) and a concise education of gin in literature, which will surely lead to a trip to Amazon.I think you cannot say fairer than that.
A pint of Truman’s at the Rose and Crown rounds off the afternoon and i’m sorry not to have sampled more of the less alcoholic sessions. From my view the Stokey Lit Fest is a real asset, supporting local businesses, writers and the community. Centred around the Library at a time when many are under threat. It’s over for this year but follow them on Twitter (@stokeylitfest) and make a date in your diary for 2013.
As the Jubilee flotilla set sail I was passing over Blackfriars Bridge and momentarily glimpsed the crowds on the Southbank. Any thoughts that I should be down there in the rain, amongst the plastic flags were put to rest. I had an afternoon planned that was essentially a few beers masked as cultural pursuits at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival.
We are all familiar with matching beer (and wine) with food, but who would be able to match beer and music? It’s a subject Pete covered in Word magazine recently and for the first time was exploring it as a live session. There’s serious science underpinning the concept but I won’t go into cognitive priming theory as I simply wouldn’t do it justice with my E in GCSE Biology. What it did undoubtedly prove is that beer (and music) are truly a social lubricant. I entered a room of strangers took a seat and exchanged a few pleasantries to break the silence. Pete was finalising the matches at the front, glimpsing a half filled room, most likely wondering if it was going to fill up. It did and by 1:10pm it was full. As the beer flowed and the music played the table started to talk more and more – about beer, music, friends, memories and whatever was brought to mind. By the end, the five of us were happily draining any bottles left on our tables or those nearby until politely asked to leave.
The matches worked for me and I got the point of the session. More practice on my part maybe required and there is a thought to try the odd music match myself. I won’t list all the matches but Duvel and the Pixies was inspired – as was the description and comparison of Duvel poured into a Duvel glass and the chosen track – the foam rising up the glass ready to tear your face off (in a good way). This was the final match and by this point Pete like his audience was nicely buzzed. More than just a talk by a beer writer this was firmly in the territory of a one man show. There were plenty of laughs, those head nodding moments when something connects and Pete’s passion for music (and New Order in particular… can you taste the synths?) shining through and the odd candid moment when questioned from the audience. To hazard a guess I would think that Pete at points was loving it, as he breaks away from the mic stand and the language becomes a little sharper, but without straying too far. In between his spots when the music is playing I thought I could even detect signs that we may see a dancing Pete Brown at any second. I’m sure (hope) that this isn’t the last we see of the beer and music matching as a live event. I would go as far to say that this could even make it North of the border to the Fringe. Simply, it’s the perfect way to introduce people to beer whether above the White Hart during the Lit Fest, at the Fringe or in a festival field.
It’s the TV treatment that we’ve been waiting for. An intelligent, humorous and objective look at Britain and it’s drinking culture. I didn’t catch it last night when it was aired as I was in a pub observing some of the rules myself. Catching up on iPlayer it took me back to memories of one of my first jobs in a Working Mens Club. An archive piece from the late 50s brought a smile to my face as members debate on whether to allow access to women. That same debate was still raging in 1995 when I was “Lad on’t door”
It was a balanced look at how drinking culture has developed without resorting to hysterical politically motivated posturing about the evils of alcohol. Thankfully there weren’t any politicians amongst the contributors. Featuring amongst others is Pete Brown enjoying a pint at The Jolly Butchers. You can catch his take on it here. There is surely a whole series in the Rules of Drinking but sadly we probably won’t see anything like this in a hurry. Give it a view and tell us what you think (for those outside the UK the iPlayer link may not work – i’m told there’s a way around it – if you know please post here).
It seems that the SIBA Proud of British Beer film has divided opinion, albeit only in the murky depths of the online beer community. I have to say that from what i’ve read so far there seems to be more praise than criticism, with the general opinion being that it’s a welcome development. Leading the charge for the positive crowd is writer of the script and all round beer writing, drinking and talking supremo Pete Brown. Having read his recent post it added some context which made me re-evaluate (slightly). I get the message, I support the message and I don’t think the film is without its merits. But I still stand by my points made. I dived into comment on Pete’s post at position number 43 and in the proceeding 24 hours (and counting) seemed to have remained the last comment. Now I think I made a pretty good point. And believe me this can be a rare occurrence and I realise how arrogant that last comment sounds. So this was it:
I’d count myself as one of those taking the odd pot shot via Twitter and blog post – how else to wile away the time before the clock hits 5? And yes I’m anonymous to an extent. I’d stand by any pop I took but with the added context of time, budget and intended audience my view does thaw slightly.
If it gets the message over to a targetted group and that’s the intention then great, but I’d stand by the point that something else could take this alot wider. So taking account of this and comments that it doesn’t hit the spot with a younger audience there’s a spark of an idea. It may just be the hangover wearing off but perhaps SIBA, CAMRA, Individual Brewers or just individuals pick up the baton, or in this case a camera and record why they are Proud of British Beer? If you’ve got a video phone or a digital camera then you’ve got the tools for the job. Could this be the start of a number of lo-fi Proud of British Beer indie films? Brewdog, Proud of Punk anyone? Right that’s my quota of constructive thought for the day I’m off to the Pub.
In my own warped mind I’d like to think that cameras were being dusted off and there’s crews of slightly pissed up bloggers turned Auteurs roaming the pubs of Britain. In reality I’d think that few people took it seriously. So I suppose I better put up or shut up? So I’ll be dusting down the Super VHS and posting something provisionally titled Pub Diaries: Proud of British Beer. It probably won’t be next week, it probably won’t be next month but it will come (nothing like a vague timeline to fall back on!). Hell that might even be more than one! It’s not an attempt to take a pop at SIBA or anyone else, it’s just another way of showing support (and tossing around with a camera pretending i’m Kubrick or Coppola). It will probably get shot down in flames, be riddled with continuity errors and draw hits in the mere 10s but its ok by me as I will have given it a go; and I suppose that’s what being British is all about.