Time Out’s award winning columnist Michael Hodges has been at it again. This week’s thing not to do in London – No 376 : pretend to be a beer expert.
All of them naked! Hanging from the chandeliers by their feet!’ one of the men says.￼‘No!’ say the others.
‘Yes, he couldn’t believe his luck!’
‘And then he got his thing out and put it in…’
‘Sorry?’ I stop listening to the four men next to us in the pub and return my attention to the woman I’m with.
‘You were talking about the beer’s nose,’ she says.
I’m having trouble concentrating because of these men. They are loudly discussing sexual acts that barely come under the umbrella of subjects appropriate for public discussion. In fact, they’re standing so close to the edge of that umbrella that they’re getting rain on their shoes. This is throwing tonight’s attempt to join the hurly-burly of London dating into disarray.
There are many ways to impress a member of the opposite sex. Great wealth, a mesmerisingly magnetic personality, powerful sexual confidence, or even an exciting lifestyle: all can be relied upon to further your chance of success. If you’re lacking those things, you have to make the most of what you have. Which, in this case, is that I know a little bit about beer and my partner tonight likes beer very much. On the way here she was explaining the Viennese style of lager to me (not yellow, but reddish — like brown ale but more Austrian). Her enthusiasm for the subject might have led me to overemphasise my expertise.
‘Oh yes, the nose,’ I say. ‘It’s malty. Very malty.’
‘And the chocolate?’ the woman says.
‘Chocolate?’ I reply, as the men break into fresh paroxysms of laughter at the mention of one of the better-known female body parts.
‘You were saying you were getting chocolate.’
‘Was I? That’s odd, isn’t it?’
‘Oh no, not at all,’ she says with excitement.‘It comes from the way they cook the malt. Toast it longer and you get chocolatey flavours. This malt, I would say, is made with Maris Otter.’She actually knows much more about beer than I do. She is a walking compendium of ale knowledge. Early in her life, her parents saved her from gender stereotyping by tugging the Barbie out of her little fists and handing her a bottle-fermented White Shield from Burton upon Trent. (‘Essentially,’ she tells me, ‘the Mecca of English brewing.’)
Many women in London have taken to drinking real ale. This is good: much of it is great and the more new people who drink it – moderately and within government guidelines – the better.
But to do so they must come in to contact with the people who have, until now, been doing most of the real-ale drinking: men. And some of those men now remind us that they are still in the room.
‘So Ralph took his trousers down,’ the smallest one bellows. ‘And ran around the room with a great big…’
‘Hops!’ I ejaculate.
‘Mmmm, the hops,’ she says, taking another gobful of oily brown liquid. ‘I think Challenger and…’ she sloshes the glass. ‘…Fuggles. Or…’ She stops mid-slosh. ‘What do you think?’ I have as much idea about the colour of David Cameron’s underpants tonight as I do about which hops are in this glass of beer. My evening is about to collapse. Then, there comes the sound of a saviour. ‘So, he – ha ha ha!’ the short man shouts, ‘wiped it on the curtain!’
‘That’s enough,’ I say to the woman. ‘I’m not having you listen to this any more. We’re going.’
‘To that wine bar across the road.’
Find out what else not to do in London according to Michael Hodges.
And definitely don’t: