It’s a crusade. I’ve long been a crusader. But it isn’t just a crusade – it’s the big divide between my two worlds. I have always been the awkward one. I’ve always been the beer enthusiast since before I could legally drink. Yet, I’ve also always been the party boy who loves a good, big night out more than most. I was the student who didn’t want the “pound-a-pint” Carling in the student bars. I was the student who ignored the student drinks offers in clubs when he spotted Goose Island available for 4 times the price. I was the student who started nights out in Mr. Foley’s rather than the SU. But still, I was the student who was there for EVERY night out and had stories to tell and forgotten memories to recall.
I’ve written about my conflicts before. My love for having a good time without worrying about the hops was written about Blackpool and the Ale Trail. My love for football as well as good beer was written (poorly looking back) at the time of Euro 2012. So last week I went on a Stag Do in Leeds – my second love and hopefully future home – and I was annoyed by the “craft” scene opinions.
A brief synopsis is that we’d made conscious decisions before getting to Leeds about how the day would pan out. Firstly, you can’t have a stag/hen party without dressing the offending fiancé up. Secondly, we’d sacrifice this tradition in the evening, so we didn’t have bouncer problems, by just dressing them for the afternoon. Thirdly, since we were going to such a great drinking city, we’d visit the better beer bars before tea before succumbing to ‘anywhere that would except a large group of drunken lads’ later on.
So we travelled, arriving in Leeds just after 11, all dressed smartly apart from our felonious stag. After a brief Wetherspoons breakfast, a few of us decided we’d all stop off at a couple of those good beer bars whilst still sober. The day had just gone noon. “Let’s take them to Friends of Ham” I offered, thinking about just how much I love the place and that it may be quiet having just opened its doors. Some were apprehensive about the name, but most were enthused by the description. And so we made our way over. We arrived at an empty looking Friends of Ham at 12:03. At this stage, there are 9 lads. 8 are dressed appropriately. 1 is dressed as a flasher. We are clearly not here to buy shots or start fights with strangers. But we are greeted with the all too familiar:
“Sorry lads – no fancy dress.”
We plead our case to a bright green haired lady (whom I originally thought might be in fancy dress herself) who accepts we can be let in if the Stag removes his wig. This is where he unhelpfully adds – “What about my giant, fake cock?” to which she is not amused and we move on.
We move on to Leeds Brewery Tap a few doors down who were most welcoming. But, an hour later, we find the entrance to Tapped Leeds, which I was particularly excited about, blocked again by the same rule. WHY?
I extend this ruling of NO FUN to the continuous NO SPORTS rule that seems to define many of my favourite drinking holes. They are places that are great for a conversation, sure, but if I want to cheer on my team I’m often forced into the nearest 70’s hungover BrewCo pub that offers nothing more exciting than Caffrey’s.
My mate and I have often joked about opening a “Craft Beer Sports Bar” in Manchester to satisfy our conflicting needs. I’m beginning to think it’s not crazy.
The Leeds Brewery Tap proved on Saturday that the two can mix. The bar staff seemed a little alarmed at what they’d let themselves in for at first sight, but then relaxed once they saw the sort we were and what we wanted to drink. Other pub-goers joined in our banter and laughed at the fancy dress. All of the group passed around beers of unusual taste and strength – even those who may be regular lager drinkers. We were asked to quiet down once when we had admittedly reached a point of loudness too much for any pub, anywhere. I thank them for allowing us the time and treating us like any regular customers.
I could expand on my examples of when I feel that beer focused bars have been one dimensional in their idea of fun, but I leave it at that. Why can’t we drink great beer and have a pool table? Why can’t we drink great beer and watch Liverpool win the title? Why can’t we drink great beer and embarrass our ballerina-dressed mate? Why can’t we drink great beer and have a jukebox? Why can’t we drink great beer and have regular pub fun?