......I decided to go to a few public houses on New Years Eve. You know, that event, along with Christmas Eve, that I claimed not to have the slightest desire to go out drinking on. Just so were clear. In mitigation, a decent Christmas Eve sup at DAda did go someway to changing my mind. And, one of the primary concerns espoused, that it would be rammed, turned out to be well wide of the mark.
When I used to go drinking on New Years Eve in the nineties, in most pubs if you weren't in by 7pm you weren't getting in full stop, and you needed to arrive earlier for a seat. Last night, notwithstanding the possibility that West Street venues were rammed, only the very last pub got full (but was half empty at midnight) and had the radio not been on for the countdown I think the new year could have passed us all by! Here's what happened prior to that.
The day started off with a cameo at work - a 5 hour 13 minute shift making a mess of my flexi balance. Now deficit. But hey, it was New Year. Who wants to work New Year? Well, the answer is very few people, but as the rest of the day would demonstrate, a lot of people have to work long into the night. So before I go any further lets say thanks to the bar staff of the world who have to manage hoards of revellers, idiots, children, drinkers, alco's, bar room professors and barflys safely through to the next year. Well done to you!
So after leaving work, and despite the best efforts of SYPTE and Worst Mainline I did eventually get to the Hallamshire House - 50 minutes after setting off. Amazing. Luckily, the sole reason for my trip was in place - not the Man of Ash behind the bar, but the fantastic Thornbridge Hall Heather Honey Imperial Stout at 10% (and, I think, £3.60 a half), on it. Not wanting to start quite so high, I first had a half of another honey ale. Usually when I see honey listed on a pump clip I steer well clear, but the Thornbridge Craft Union seemed to pull off being both an enjoyable beer, and one with honey in it.
Now the more astute amongst you will have worked out that in having sought out a Heather Honey Stout I couldn't really claim to actively avoid honey beers, but that beer came highly recommended by people who know their stuff so I figured it would be a risk worth taking - I also imagined the Heather and stout components would save it. And they do. The HHIS as we'll call it has an astonishingly sumptuous and inviting aroma and an impressively smooth taste and texture. True, it took me 40 minutes to drink a half, but it seemed silly rushing it, even though I was pushed for time. I suspect that a pint or more of HHIS would render much of the rest of any evening blurry however, so its probably best that I had places to be. A great beer though.
Next I somehow made it to DAda in 15 minutes and found it even more deserted than usual. It seems the high up chaps at Fornbrij had decided that it wasn't busy enough last year to warrant opening past 7pm this. (lucky I popped in, since I was thinking of going later). I had a decent pint of the Dancing Duck Gold and a chat with the barman here, before heading off, bang on time, for Platillos.
Not exactly pitched as a beer wonderland, it still riles me that after an initially promising start the range at Platillos has gone steadily downhill as the years have passed. The discovery that there wasn't even over priced Budvar on keg was a blow - from a choice of Theakston keg, Thatchers cider on keg and the usual suspects, the two lagers suggested, Cruzcampo or A.N.Other did nothing for me, likewise the bottles. In the end I reluctantly parted with £4.50 for a bottle of Vedett. At least that's a decent drink. That said the food was nice and the wine OK but when Zizzis has a more interesting range of beers you are really doing something wrong....
Off next to the Church House, the well known "Bit of empty" branded pub nearby. We found it easy to get a seat in here because even with the arrival of a group of 10 ahead of us there was almost nobody in. Not that this hastened the arrival of our drinks. Whilst waiting to be served the manager asked if we were all together (me, Chala and Thangor), which we confirmed - then he just walked off. Erm..what? Why ask and then not serve us? We finally got to order after nearly 5 minutes. V pooer.
Not as bad though, I had a pint of Caledonian Double Dark and Chala and Thangor had he-ladeez drinks. You know. Ickle ones, wi stuff in. We went to sit down on comfy seats near the bar and strangely, after spending 15 minutes seemingly doing nothing the manager sat down nearby and sighed, then loudly announced that it was time for a break. Irony perhaps?
Off next to our final and by far the best venue of the night, The Rutland Arms. This wasn't stupendously busy so we got a table quite easily - and after putting several tracks on the jukebox the comfy settee came free and we headed that way to appreciate our choices a bit better.
Apart from Alcy Bob here, Chala and Thangor remained steadfastly on the same drinks - Freedom Wheat for Chala and a vodka and tonic for Thangor. I meanwhile started with a pint of (and had many more pints of) Pennine Black Fell Porter - or similar. There's really no pint (edit - point!) trying to claim that I have clear memories of the night, so lets just assume this is correct and go with it. It was a really very nice dark beer anyway! I also had a few halves of Magic Rock High Wire, nicely reminding me why the NZ version was better, and a pint of Bollington White Nancy.
Despite not seeing Mr Stephens (not the catering manager from Death Star Canteen) it was still nice to see Joe, Paultous, the other guy (sorry other guy) and the chefs, especially Rich (subject to confirmation!) who after finishing his shift was merrily supping bottles of super expensive but super excellent Goose Island Bourbon County Stout - possibly helping to demonstrate that he's a mean dancer too. Mind you, the opinion of a very relaxed man who can't dance himself is feint praise indeed...
Later on a group arrived from Lichfield, obviously doing some sort of pub crawl, and many of whom seemed to appreciate my choice of tunes, and they were joined by punters including L'Chapelle and Dom who I know from the Moon and other pubs. This made for a very good atmosphere, even though as alluded earlier, the pub wasn't packed. Midnight came with champagne and I was interspersing every pint or half with a pint of water by this point, before finally the drinks stopped and we got a taxi back at a surprisingly late stage.
Overall the night nicely dispelled some of my fears about going out New Years Eve (although the cab home is annoying) and most importantly, I am really glad I got to spend it with friends, family and the fine folk of the Rutland.
Happy New Year!