Friday 22 October 2010

A dispatch from the front line

Closing time: is the writing on the wall
for the Wenlock?
It takes a lot to wake the Beer Advent Calendar from its nigh-on year-long slumber, but there is dirty work afoot and we must muster the forces of good. 

One of the originals is threatened. It's uncertain what we can do about it bar shouting and gnashing teeth, but if that's all we can do then by golly that's what we will.

It's not every day you find a pub in which you feel welcome from the word go. And for me, it was last night. Criminally, I'd managed to avoid going to The Wenlock Arms in London's N1, despite many good reports from respected commentators. But news of its impending demise was enough to spur the Calendar into action and along I trotted.

What a fool I'd been. In an instant, I discovered all that needed to be found in a boozer. Eight ales on draft, lager a mere sideshow, knowledgeable bar staff, lived-in decor, smelly toilets, ribaldry and a quiz night. I'm told they do food as well, but the sort where pickled eggs are accompanied by outsize bottles of Tabasco, not of the gastro variety. They even allowed a bloke to bring his bike in. A Reynolds 531-framed singlespeed, of course. Well, it is N1 after all.

Naturally, I felt honour bound to sample each of the ales on offer. Most were well kept, except the Dark Star American Pale Ale, which the barman accurately described as Metallica. Highlight was one whose name escapes me, but had a squirrel on the pump. Should have known it was trouble by the 5.6% volume, but at least it ensured I didn't have any more.

But these are trifles. The pub's owners are selling up. London may yet have another much-needed development of flats. Another piece of character smashed out of existence by the need to make money out of where people live. By all accounts, it's doomed. Its loss will be sad, but more than that, it will signal the crossing of yet another line in the sand. If they can take this, they can generally do what the Hell they like.

Not so fast. A small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the Roman invader. Two heartbroken souls have begun a campaign to save The Wenlock. The Beer Advent Calendar wholeheartedly endorses this message. It does seem a hopeless case, but it wouldn't be the first time the little man had triumphed against all odds. Can you help? Even if it's to send a message of support or hassle an MP, it might achieve something. Something amazing. Stuff like this shouldn't be lost. We need pubs like this to exist, otherwise we will be nothing. Dust. Only dust.

Beer Advent Calendar will be back in December. It seriously hopes the Wenlock will be there to see it.