The Highest Compliment
So we’re in London. Two lads from the north with a day of drinking to do before getting back on those tracks and out of the bustling, buzzing capital. Notebooks out. Phones out. Plan, plan, plan… maps, routes. Ley Lines for hops and malt, for the pub stool and the swinging wooden sign. Don’t want to miss anything. Do it – do it all, drink it all and see it all and talk it all and experience it all and –
No; we can’t. This is madness.
We opt, instead, to visit pubs we know will satisfy our needs and, perhaps more importantly, take us away from the madding crowds. As we emerge from the tube, bags deposited in King’s Cross for safe-keeping, Clerkenwell seems in fine mood this morning. Powder-blue sky provides the backdrop to a gleaming white church which begs to be admired for a quiet minute or two. It’s still early, but The Jerusalem Tavern is busy enough, a cacophony of rattling forks, jabbering lips and swooshing beer taps. Casks sticking out from behind the bar are being drained of Suffolk’s finest with aplomb, and it’s elbow-room only with jostled pints of Pale until, in an example of the natural tides that are birthed in busy pubs, two large groups leave at the same time. Being northern (did I mention that?), we dive into a vacated table, swap Pales for Cream Stout, and get on with the business of conversation. The usual stuff. Stuff that matters – to us, at least. We could sit here all day in the cosy gloom, but we know that beyond that glass-less black door is more of the same.
More walking, scarves wrapped around our necks that little tighter against the increasingly-spiky wind, takes us to the Gunmakers. We stride in, imaginary (but keenly felt) snow-flakes around our boots, only to be greeted by the biggest smile of the weekend; a real ear-to-ear job, mustachioed to boot. By happy coincidence, a friend, transplanted, is pulling pints today. Two pints of Harvey’s Best, please.
Standing at the end of the bar, we lift the beer to our lips and … silence.
Perfect. Satisfying and vibrant of voice, but leaving the freshest, crispest hop-smack on the lips, these pints –we know – are why we’re here. Without restraint or manners we guzzle them down, becoming aware that the powder-blue outside has melted into Cadbury’s purple and the streetlights are blinking to life.
‘Another beer?’ asks our friend behind the bar.
‘Same again, please’, we smile.
Same again. The highest compliment a beer could wish for.
** UPDATE ** – if you enjoyed the feel of this post, check this out by ATJ this week. Wonderful stuff.