Monday, 22 February 2016

The (new) Owl Sanctuary

So after countless signatures, an incredible fundraising campaign and local government and CAMRA involvement, The Owl Sanctuary building was decreed an Asset of Community Value and therefore protected from being turned into anything other than a pub. At least for a while. In the meantime, not one to rest on his laurels, landlord Dan found another venue to host the city’s tattooed, pierced and green-haired music-loving community. The new home for the Owl is on Timber Hill and used to be a strip club and as such has no windows (and if rumour is to be believed, a large number of used condoms discovered behind the booths). Opening night was rammed, as one might hope and expect, and the place had been transformed with signature Owl colours of red and black and the huge Owl mural in blues and greys. It definitely had more of a club rather than pub feel but Ghost Ship was still on tap (albeit in a plastic glass) and tasting great, despite the short time Dan and the crew must have had to get a cellar up and running. As we walked up friends of ours were leaving, saying ‘they’re playing Ronan Keating, we’re off’. As we got to the bar Dido played and the barman assured me if I found out who put it on the jukebox I was welcome to smack them. In the ‘smoking tunnel’ a girl was overheard to say ‘He did me up the arse then we went to the Castle Museum’. I’m not sure anything else needs saying after that amazing piece of information. The Owl is dead. Long live The Owl!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Good Guys, Bad Boys and Total Drunken Arseholes

I write a version of this blog, once a month, for local magazine Outline. I get 250 words or so each issue, about a quarter page, and I focus on something amusing that has happened to me, in a local Norwich pub, while I mention a beer. Or two. I'd like to say it's all organic and practically writes itself, but it doesn't. I usually end up realising I have a deadline looming at the end of the week and frantically rack my brain to find a pub I haven't written about before, that I actually want to drink in, then find someone who wants to come with me. It's not usually difficult, as being in a pub is awesome.

But, being a writer and gal-about-town, I don't always need or even want someone to drink with me, so occasionally head out on my own. The right pub can feel like a home from home, a place where you know people enough to be in their company but can be left alone if required. This was one of those occasions. It is unusual, still, for women to drink alone in pubs, but being the eye-catching chick I am (currently with half-shaved blue hair and tattoos) I tend to find that people either do their best to ignore me or will strike up a conversation for the entire evening.

Most of the time conversation is welcomed, as the general population of Norwich are lovely and I like chatting to new people, especially new people who appreciate a decent beer. Occasionally it takes a turn for the creepy and slightly saddening. Unfortunately today ended up being the latter. This isn't a rant about how awful it is when guys approach girls and chat them up. Done correctly that should always be a compliment, whether it turns into something more or not, but over the last few months I've been approached by a few chaps who managed to make it a very sad affair, not only for themselves but for decent chaps (and chappesses) who enjoy a drink and a chat without their partner from time to time.

I clocked this particular chap as soon as I walked in. He was the youngest of three guys at the bar and eyed me for a little longer than was completely necessary. Well, I do have blue hair, so fair do's. Then he came and chatted to me. No problem there either, all polite and friendly. Then he asked if the barman was my boyfriend. Negative, just a mate. Did I have a boyfriend? Yes I did. Again fair enough, I appreciate someone being up front, life's too short etc. Was I waiting here for him? No, just here having a drink on my own. Odd question, but the guy was a good few beers ahead of me so, benefit of the doubt. After that he offered to buy me a drink, which I accepted (as he knew I had a fella I didn't see any chance of leading him on by having a pint). We chatted a little longer. He spoke to the two blokes next to us at the bar. One had recently had a baby. Drunk chat-up guy said his girlfriend was expecting a baby soon and he was worried about it.

Yep, you heard right. Girlfriend.
Pregnant girlfriend.

If you're thinking 'well he didn't actually ask you out, he's done nothing wrong', strictly speaking that's true. But if a guy is asking if you have a boyfriend and where he is, he's interested and trying to actively get somewhere. End of.

He then bought himself another drink and invited me back to his house as he and his mates were having a party. "I don't know about you, but when I get drunk I just want to have lots of sex".

How interesting. Oh no actually, how awkward and creepy.
After turning down his kind offer of joining him and his friends, he persisted with his invitation.
"I did say I had a boyfriend"
"Oh yeah, you did. I've got a girlfriend but, y'know"

Unfortunately yes, I do know. Still not interested.
He left soon after, but not before discussing with the neighbouring chaps how he wanted a 'blowie' when he got home.

This whole exchange not only creeped me out, but made me very sad. I felt sorry for his girlfriend. I felt sorry for myself actually (do I come across as the kind of person who cheats on someone? Am I worth that little?) and I felt sorry for the two other guys at the bar too.

After Creepy McDrunkard left, they looked at me with a mixed expression of 'How weird/gross was that?' and 'Are you ok?'. They then told me about their girlfriends and babies and how they had to leave soon as because they'd promised to be home by a certain time and didn't want to be late. How they liked their partners and didn't take the piss by rolling home smashed. How guys like that gave nice guys a bad name, and made girls paranoid about 'letting' their men out on their own. One told me I should meet his girlfriend as we'd really get on. The other insisted on showing me a photo of his new baby girl, the massive grin on his face partly made up for the previous hour or so.

Unfortunately the horrible part of that evening is not unusual. It won't stop me going out on my own, and it won't stop me talking to people (as my faith in people refuses to be shaken), but it will contribute to the growing girl-paranoia that leads to pub-bans and arguments. Don't get me wrong, it's not just girls who do the 'are you going to the pub again?!' rant. I'm constantly grateful to be with someone who let's me be myself, and go to the pub alone and as many times as I like, who trusts me not to be a cheating dick (although with Creepy McDrunkard around I'd rather stay at home with my chap, so maybe that's his thinking?).

My point is (if there is one to be gleaned from this) if you've got a nice partner, let them go to the pub. It will make them happy and more likely to come home to you.
If you don't trust your other half to be out drinking without you, ask yourself why that is?

Monday, 8 February 2016

February Outline Magazine - The Owl Sanctuary

Pint Size for February's Outline Magazine is all about The Owl Sanctuary. A pub I have actually worked in (and spent more time than any other drinking in) was about to be shut down. The alternative community of Norwich rallied round, campaigned, raised money and ultimately saved their venue and their home from home. The story caused a lot of response across the country (I had friends as far as Cardiff tell me they'd heard of the imminent closure)
The soul of the Owl now has a new home (which I look forward to drinking in as soon as humanly possible).

My column is online (and in print of course) here.

Long live The Owl.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Beer, Networking and Unicorn tears

Anyone who knows me knows I hate networking. It feels like sales disguised as false social niceties. Both of these things I hate. If I have to go to a 'networking event' I do my utmost to be straightforward. "Hi I'm here from company X and we do Y. Does any of that interest you? No? Great, what do you think of the vol-au-vents?"

Last night I was asked if I wanted to attend the Norfolk Food & Drink Network's first networking event for my day job.

"I don't really like networking"
"Redwell brewery will be there and they're talking about brewing."
"OK, I might be interested."
"There's free beer."
"Why didn't you lead with that?!"

So off I went, with the apprentice (who doesn't drink) to schmooze and drink beer. One of these things is my favourite thing in the world. The apprentice politely refused free samples of beer while I made the most of mine. One of the founders of Redwell gave a talk about setting up the business and her background and the mistakes they made along the way (and of course the debacle with Redbull). I got to try unfiltered Steam Lager (which I actually preferred unfiltered), as well as the West Coast Pale Ale (which I don't think I've had the pleasure of before, but I will definitely keep an eye out for) and finally the Kofra Coffee Stout. I don't like stout and I don't really like coffee, but this I could drink. The burnt taste was subtle and not cloying and didn't make me feel as though I was drowning from the inside.

At the end of the talk one attendee was saying how he'd spent time in America and hadn't had a nicer beer in the whole of the States. I like Redwell beers, but even so. Was he just drinking Coors Light and PBR over there or something? (Actually I quite like PBR but that's another story.) Someone actually started talking about buying and recommending beer to go with certain types of food. It was clear I was a different kind of beer drinker than most in the room.

As is probably evident by the offhand and slightly gonzo nature of this blog, I know no more about beer than any other average beerlover. I couldn't tell you how different beers are made and I certainly can't taste grapefruit in anything. I like a decent pint in a decent pub and if something amusing happens on the way, then fantastic. I desperately wracked my brain for an interesting, non-networking question to ask at the end of all the talking and all I could think of was asking about Unicorn tears (see a previous blog where I visited the Redwell Brewery). No one else knew what I was talking about, apart from the people from Redwell of course, and they didn't feel the need to explain (making me feel smug, like the little anarchist beer-snob that I am). They said the brewery had a dedicated room on site, filled with crying unicorns. The image this conjured up made me very happy indeed.

I gave my Bullards gin sample to a friend (it did smell lovely but I draw the line at shots of neat gin), gave a few business cards out (boss will be happy) and went home, happy with an evening well spent. I might have to email Redwell asking for a tour of the miserable unicorn room though...

PSB is on twitter, if that's your bag, and sporadically on instagram. But drinking beer is always better than tweeting about it.