I’m a big beer guy. No question about it. And I’m not talking about Natty Light or Bud Light or any of that crap. I love trying beers from around the world from smaller high quality breweries (commonly called craft beer in the U.S.). In fact, when I’m traveling, I make it a point to do my best to experience the beer there (or whatever alcohol is famous there). It is my opinion that the three most important things to experience while traveling are the way the culture eats, the way the culture lets loose (drinks), and the way the culture worships. No matter if it is something you actually do in your daily life, you can learn a lot by at least observing these three things. Even if you’re a vegetarian in a Spanish meat market, a muslim in an English tavern, or an atheist in a Catholic Church in Central America, there is something to be learned from the experience even if you don’t participate. So as you can imagine, here in London, my first trip to a pub was something I was really looking forward to!
We left my friends flat and headed to Bermondsey Street, a trendy row of bars and pubs that lead up to the London Bridge. We passed pub after pub, and I can honestly say that the most challenging part of the night was picking which place we wanted to go to. The first one, not enough people inside. The second, too many people inside. The third, expensive as hell. We ended up heading to the famous Borough Market area to check out a pub I’d read rave reviews for online, we walked in, and I was in heaven, I was in The Market Porter.
The walls were covered with beer coasters from a countless list of breweries, the bar wrapped around and around to create a front bar, a side bar, and a back bar, and there were tons of bartenders, assuring you’d never be waiting long for a drink. On top of that, about half of the taps were what is called “cask ales” or “real ales”, which are the pride and joy of England. To make a long conversation short, basically these beers are never artificially carbonated while most other beers in the world are. These beers were attached to hand pump taps, so to fill a glass the bartender had to literally pump the tap until the glass was full. I ran off from the girls (my girlfriend and my friend we were staying with) and began meandering around the bar taking a peak at all they had to offer. They had 12 cask beers on tap, which might not sound like much, but equals about a 10 to 15 minute decision for me on what I should drink… The bartender seemed used to it and didn’t rush me. He actually explained what I should expect from a few of the beers. I made my decision and ordered my first pint of English beer.
After conquering the beer decision I glanced around to take in the atmosphere of the bar. This is how it is supposed to be. Men and women in suits, others in jeans and still dirty from the days work, and a few really old guys who looked like they hadn’t stood up from the bar in about a week. All of them here drinking, laughing, and having a good old “debate” about something no one would care about tomorrow. Everyone out to let loose and enjoy themselves after a hard day at work. I even noticed a few of the most beautiful women I had ever seen sitting with random guys around the bar. At first, I thought it was somewhat strange, as these guys did not seem like anything special. My friend, however, informed me that many of these women are escorts and that this is a common occurrence in London. The men who were sitting with these women looked like they were having the times of their lives and, in reality, they were the envy of every other man in the building. “It couldn’t get any better than this” I thought, but then it almost did.
Out of the back corner of the bar I heard it. Just like you see in the movies, it couldn’t be anymore dead on. Two of the drunkest guys in the bar start up with what appears to be a famous English drinking chant. Maybe one or two more random people also pick up on it, but before they were done with the first verse their friend quickly shouted to them “Shut the F@$K up you drunk asses!” as he single handedly crushed my hopes and dreams… And there it was, my ALMOST perfect first night out in an English pub.