480ca. Wed 19/9/18: Strandbar Mitte, Moribou Park, Berlin

Beer: Allgauer Fest Bier 5.5%

The Strandbar is an odd place. Dance classes going on in the open air, Berlin folk of all ages sat on deckchairs enjoying the view of museum island, over the river Spree. The beer (there is only one on draft on our visit) is the slightly over-strong and sickly Festbier.  It is also flat, and for my wife, not at all drinkable. I manage mine.

Nice conversation with a friendly local woman who gives us some tips on the Christmas markets, and fun activities for children, convincing us to book a Christmas return trip with our lad.


882c. Sun 1/12/19: The Bear Club, Luton

Beer: Kelchner After Dark 4.8%

The crowd is a little sparse to start with. It’s a Sunday after all. Then again, the talent and calibre of the musicians on stage – Tony Kofi has pulled together some very impressive sidemen – would surely have pulled a bigger crowd on any other evening.

Still, we’re here, this is a second night of an lp recording session and the punters do drift in immediately before and as the set opens. Pete’s mate seems excited to be in to be in the presence of double bass player Andrew Cleyndert; I’m keener to revel, for the third time in recent weeks, in Alfonso Vitale’s drumming. Otherwise, folk seem a little worn out and excited by goings on in town recently; me and SRW are knackered from The Knockouts gig the previous night, as is Pete. Justin still seems fired up by Filmstock. As he should be.

The few signs and suggestions that this might not be one of the brightest, crispest gigs is comfortably confounded, as the show begins and the jazz pours out.

Post script. I’ve made a note about sprinklers and fire safety. Can’t imagine, for one minute, that we didn’t talk about this, but I can’t remember a damned thing about this. I think both these things – the fact of such an important thing being discussed and the fact of it being such a boring topic of convo that it’s been erased from my mind – are both good.

1237a. Sat 26/2/22: The Black Horse, Luton

Beer: Leighton Buzzard Bavarian Dragon 4.2%

Today’s visitors are Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. Big game for them. Apparently, a group of Rams fans were boisterous on the train StCFH took down from the East Midlands.

At my request, StCFH talks about the Popperian view of the creation of art and culture. Something about testing and interrogating. Seems to make sense. Then… is it beginning to seem bleedin’ obvious…..? No – lost you. And repeat. Any chance I had of an academic career has, I think, been shot.

Some reminiscing about old Conference players. Are we getting nostalgic for the bad old days?

1428a. Fri 25/11/22: The Bricklayers Arms, Luton

Beer: Purity Jimbo 4.0%

Last Friday, the sport seekers thrilled to wheelchair basket ball. It got quite involved. This evening, it’s Ingerlund versus the USA in the World Cup. Thankfully, while the front bar is nicely full, the back bar is even more nicely not-so-full.

So, back bar it is. Other than football, which seems a pretty dreary affair, it’s a fairly normal Friday night out. L8s is out. So’s SRW. There’s some Knockout chat, before Talbot arrives. As ever, he looks the part, though he’s talking a good deal about dragons and not making much sense.

After Talbot departs, I talk up my brilliant plan of getting to Wigan (for the Town’s away game) without using the even-worse-than-Virgin train co that is Avanti. Who are complete dog sh*t, and who can’t sort out a timetable or issue tickets more than six weeks in advance. I don’t much care for TPK’s slightly withering view of my plan, which involves travelling up and staying over in Sheffield. He has a point, however, when he points out that jolly as my plan is for getting to Wigan, there’s no plan for getting back. 

1000. Fri 28/2/20: O Gato Negro, Santiago de Compostela

Beer: Estrella Galicia (bottled) 4.7% 

Excellent little back street bar/restaurant to mark the 1000th of my reports for this here blog (what with the other contributors, its actually the 1543rd). It’d be wrong to suggest we hadn’t scouted out what looked like Santiago de Compostela’s most interesting bar to mark the event, but this really is a corker. And it’s chaos.

The place has not long opened for the night, and is already packed. Standing room only at the (apparently home-made) bar just inside the door. The bar is between three to five metres long – and past that are up to a half dozen tables. Another room at the back of this one has room for about the same number again. All are taken.

We manage to squeeze a position at the bar and attempt to order octopus from the main barman/owner who seems to be running the place single-handedly. He’s not. He has three or four staff, but he seems to be all over the shop – taking orders from here there and everywhere. He has an excellent affable bar presence.

He takes our order for octopus and within a few minutes deliveries us a plate of squid, cooked in its own black ink. I’d probably have accepted the alternative, but Steph won’t touch it (it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing dish in the world, admittedly). We manage to attract the owner’s attention. He’s not hugely happy to discuss the matter with us, what with serving so many locals who speak the same language, but one of the aforementioned staff tell him he’s got it wrong – he relents and delivers the correct fish dish. Again, he doesn’t seem overjoyed at the protracted transaction, but he deals with it with good grace and friendly professionalism. Liked him, and his bar, a lot.

Last bar/night in Santiago de Compostela – we’re off to Vigo in the morning.

Will we ever get to Santiago de Compostela again? I hope so. If/when we do, we’ll certainly be bothering the good folk at O Gato Negro again… maybe a quiet(er) Tuesday or Wednesday night would suit us better, though the Friday night hubbub was something to experience (and be an annoying part of).

1101a. Thu 5/8/21: The Bear Club, Luton

Beer: Three Brewers IPA 4.6%

Down for reconnaissance for next week’s Slow Club. I’d planned to read my book, but don’t. There’s too much noise, and too much else going on. John F suggests I ask him to turn the music down. I ask; he ignores me.

I had expected The Bear to have a ‘come in and read’ vibe, in all honesty. In the event, things were very brisk. There’s only one free table, so I grab it. It’s great to be back, and the wooden window frames partition at the bar is a cute, wacky addition. 

John F sits and joins me for a while. He’s drinking Mexican Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout. I have a taste. Not sure it tastes Mexican, but there are heavy Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Stout overtones. I suggest John pours it down the sink, though he’s enjoying it.

My IPA is very good.

1451. Fri 20/1/23: The Anchor Tap, Horsham

Beer: Cload & Dagger We All Float Oatmeal Stout 4.8%

This is the way it’s going. Horsham’s Anchor Tap boasts an exceptional and expansive, excellently kept (in keg), range of beers. Taps are overseen by bearded (and tattooed) young men, keen that customers utilise their expertise – until Steph asks for something weak and brown. No chance.

My Oatmeal Stout (with the stupid name) is great. It goes down like a velvet suit (an analogy which seemed clever when I wrote it, being at least half cut, but seems incongruous typing up…which works too). It’s reasonably early in the evening, and the pub’s packed. Doing a fine trade. My pint cost £5.60, and that’s inexpensive in comparison to other (mostly stronger) beers.

We may be the oldest people in – although mid-life crisis man from The Malt Shovel (episode 1449) is here too. We left him a little over an hour ago. In the meantime he’s gotten considerably more inebriated. He has a new friend in tow. This friend is a young bearded gentlemen, who listens patiently as his soused companion tells him (and most of the pub – he’s quite noisy) about the piercings he has, and has had over the years. It was all about the new tattoos in the Shovel.

He’s alright but, again, he’s got quite drunk, very quickly. I hope he’s ok.

Apart from he and we – the AT clientele is young and white and middle class. The music, meanwhile, is 80s indie. It’s like being down a monied version of The Switch in 1989. Good, nostalgic, sounds. I like it.

Not sure I like this place so much. Too trendy by half, for us. I’m surprised it’s made it into The Good Beer Guide. The beer is very good – and that’s the main thing – but one wonders if the old lags at the local CAMRA chapter felt compelled to include it. The beards here are of a different vintage. I wouldn’t be surprised if we were the only couple in here with CAMRA cards in our wallet.

But, you know, if these places didn’t exist – some bright spark would have to invent them. We’re moving on.

1189. Sat 4/12/21: The Bricklayers Arms, Luton

Beer: Leighton Buzzard Earth Quaker Oatmeal Stout 4.3%

Quick post-work pint. I’ve been working, shifting home test kits, in the Arndale. Meeting Stephanie, fresh from the hair salon, here. Just one pint. I’m driving.

Brickies is lovely and convivial. Just as good, maybe even better, than after a match – the regular Saturday regulars – a charming bunch of fellows.

Luton Rugby fans (a dozen or so, if that) back from Newlands.

Watford v Man City on the telly.

City score after four minutes. That goes down well.

Newly placed Christmas tree stands, as yet undressed, in the corner. The smell of pine sap is lovely.

Watford go 2-0 down.

The Town won 3-0 at Blackpool, this is turning into a model afternoon… wish I could’ve stayed for a few more pints/goals.

538. Thu 8/11/18: U Matěje Kotrby, Nové Město, Prague

Beer: Pilsner Urquell 4.4% 

Spend the morning wondering what to do, ruling lots out, and end up going to the Bohemka Club Shop to buy t-shirts. On the way our no.6 tram hits a car, which means we’ve got to walk the last couple of stops on Vršovická. Quite exciting. Nobody hurt. Tram driver shouts at the aged car driver, who has driven his car into an intersection, oblivious to the oncoming tram. Aged driver puts his head in his hands.

That drama over, and the accident cleared impressively quickly to clear the tram-jam briefly clogging up both directions, we make our way back into town – and towards U Fleků. Got to go to U Fleků don’t we?

We arrive at U Fleků at around 3pm. The place is already packed and noisy and… shall we give it a miss? It’s a shame, in purely nostalgic terms; I’ve been to Flek every visit to Prague dating back over twenty years. It’s not changed much, maybe we have. Back in the day, U Fleků was easily my favourite pub/beer in Prague. Not now. Beer is still good, but it’s served in short measures, and there’s too much rigmarole attached to make it worthwhile.

Sad. Anyway, Steph uses their lavs and we leave: up Křemencova to this unassuming PUG. They seem a little put out, but not pushy, about our not wanting to eat. There’s none of the enthusiasm, infectious like a rash, of U Fleků: no hordes of tuetonic tourists, no oompah band, no barstaff feverishly offloading trayfuls of Becherovka, no dark beer. I’m getting U Fleků nostalgic typing this up – but the feeling on the day was that we’d done ourselves a favour avoiding all that.

U Matěje Kotrby couldn’t care less, apparently. As chains go – the faux traditional Pilsner Urquell green pubs are safe and staid, bored and boring. The new Lokál chain (also Pilsner Urquell), however, intrigues me… not that we’ll be seeking out another just yet. Having said goodbye to one childhood hero, we’re going back seeking solace at The Little Bears (U Medvídků).

1070. Wed 26/5/21: The Frog & Rhubarb, Slip End, Luton

Beer: Amstel 5.0%

My Dad is already in the Frog on arrival. This time round I decide against giving GKIPA the benefit of the doubt, ‘cause there isn’t any, and go straight for the Amstel. Frankly, due to the relative beer offering/enthusiasm, I’m a bit miffed that the old boy prefers the Frog to The Rising Sun (the Farrs Brewery pub I’ve just left, after one hurried pint). It’s a little more refined, down The Frog, I suppose… the beer has been good in the fairly recent past too… but Greene King IPA? No, thank you.

DGK is in good form. This week he’s reminiscing, again, about trips for work: this time his Wickeresque monologue is about going to the Far East – travelling for a week, in relatively rickety old aeroplanes, before finally arriving in Hong Kong. My father seems to have enjoyed the last twentieth century halcyon days of travel. It’s nice, and evocative, hearing the old boy go on – but mostly, I’m just jealous. My vocational travel was an Easyjet flight to Belfast, a decade and a half ago, to show a clerk in a brewery how to use some accounts software. I was there for three hours, tops, then went back to the airport and drank Guinness.

Back in Slip End, I have two pints to Dad’s one, as is the norm, and we wander back to the house for tea.