‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly – Redux

3 01 2010

Some of you may remember that way back in November I posted about a carol service with real ale accompaniment.  Well, just in the cause of consumer research you understand the ADB team and a couple of likely Cider Tarts headed over to Gosforth to check things out.

Now as much as I love churches (and graveyards…but that’s perhaps a story for another occasion) I’m definitely agnostic in my theological standpoint so I wasn’t sure what I was going to make of it all and what the other members of the congregation would make of us.  The venue was, I realised as we pulled up in the car, the same as that for my friend Richard’s wedding several years ago, so I at least knew the place.  We had arrived early to get a suitable seat towards the back of the hall, you can’t seem too keen after all, and lets face it, the back of the hall was where the bar was likely to be.

I had arranged via email to pick up my tickets at the door so we waited in line and took the time to check out the other punters.  OK, given that the church lies in one of the more affluent areas of Newcastle I wasn’t surprised to see that the majority of people were exactly what I expected, the well healed, professional, middle class.  Just the sort of crowd you would expect at a country pub renowned for its good food by way of example.  Lots of neatly coiffured hair, clipped accents and Pringle sweaters.  Not that I’m trying to paint a picture of my being some sort of class warrior, or anti class snob, but they are not the sort of people I normally socialise with (for no reason other than I don’t know many who fit the demographic) and that, plus being in church, did make me a little uneasy I have to admit.

Getting in and securing a table I was in much need of a pint by this point just to calm my nerves and so, depositing the Cider Tarts, HH and I made our way to the bar.  Four handpumps greeted us, all carrying a Big Lamp Brewery badge informing us we had a choice of Bitter, Northern Lights, Prince Bishop or Summerhill Stout and it was the latter we plumped for using our tickets to secure a free pint.  Oh, we may also have nicked one of the Cider Tarts tickets too in order to have a ‘top-up’ glass of stout handy on the table.  We didn’t forget the Tarts though, oh no, we picked up a glass of white wine and can of diet coke, in the absence of any real cider, to keep them happy.

The stout was as good as always and perfect for the evenings festivities.  Summerhill has never been a heavy stout and is as close as you’ll come to having a stout as a session ale because it is so easy drinking.  It actually smells much heavier than it tastes, lots of dark, bitter chocolate, caramel and burnt, roasted malts mingling with a definite fruitiness.  The mouth feel is much lighter than you would expect from the aroma but all the flavours introduced in the aroma are present with a lovely coffee smoothness added for good measure.  All this for what turned out to be £2 a pint made for a very joyous evening, especially after a good few.

The carols and Christmas songs were sung with gusto, most accompanied by a band whose occasional atonal take on the tunes made the evening even more entertaining.  I’m sure the drummer was partaking of the brew as his initial timid, out of time, shuffle across the skins morphed into some sort of manic (if still out of time) Ginger Baker like crescendo.  I was introduced to several previously unheard verses of what I thought were well known songs and nobody tried to turn me from my path towards damnation or preach to me in any way.  The only time religion was brought up in conversation was when a friendly chap on the opposite table asked us which church we had come from.  When I explained that we had only come along for the beer and a bit of a sing song he seemed happy enough, if a little perplexed.

At the end of the day this was a great little event, good beer and company always make for a pleasant evening and this was no exception.  My initial discomfort was soon replaced and I was certainly made to feel comfortable and welcome.  We were informed that the event is likely to be repeated next year and I would have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone in the area.




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