I can’t recall what actual year it was but I can remember one of the ‘Red Tops’ loudly trumpeting the advent of the £1 pint. Coming from an era when my drinking career began when I exchanged a mere 1 shilling and ten pence for my first foaming glass of 20 fluid ounces, paying a pound for that same privilege seemed an age away. I remember once going to a nightclub in the 1970s and being asked to pay 24p – an outrage!
When I opened a pub in Nottingham in 1992, we were still able to offer the bog standard bitter at 99p. We were, however, rowing against the current, and it wasn’t long before we joined everybody else in Pound land.
Of course that original newspaper proclamation of the £1 pint had to be qualified in that somebody had stumbled upon a pub selling, I think, Marstons Owd Rodger which at over 8%abv was entitled to be a little pricier than most.
Although I’ve still enjoyed the experience of buying a pint for less than £2 on a couple of occasions this season – primarily at Wetherspoons but also in a Sam Smiths house – my recent excursions to London usually sees me reaching for three gold coins and a bit more too. But not yet 4 – but we’re getting close!
Today is one of those rare decent weather days when I don’t have to worry too much about contingencies. The sky is clear and the prognosis is good. I start out fully intending to head for Witham Town but having had an opportunity to look at giving myself more options later in the season, the game at Three Bridges becomes my new best bet.
First it’s the trek from St Pancras to Liverpool Street, and thankfully the Hamilton Hall has had its food delivery on time this morning, and I can get my breakfast. Scans of websites and Twitter feeds confirm that all my target games are on, but I stick to my latest choice and head off down to the London Bridge area for a pre-train pint. The Market Porter in Borough Market has been a favourite haunt of mine in the past but for reasons best known to the management they don’t open their doors until midday, despite the area teeming with potential custom and many indeed peering through the windows in hope and frustration. Fortunately the much smaller but more personable Rake just round the corner is enlightened enough to open at 10 and although the cask choice is limited to 3, they make up for that with an unlimited supply of craft keg and bottle options. You’d never get bored in here!
As a traditional real ale drinker I go for Windsor & Eton’s Zinzan’s Drop, a black bitter made with a New Zealand hops. There’s a lot going on in the glass and I nearly order a second, but decide to decamp to Three Bridges and see what the local hostelries in that part of the world have to offer.
Opposite Three Bridges station is the Snooty Fox, a foody estate-type pub with one cask beer on tap. Reassuring it’s from local microbrewery Hepworth & Co and although golden and typical of the style, I’d rather that than the sweet and sickly Doombar I have to suffer at the next pub, the Moonraker, a local under new management. There’s nothing wrong with the presentation of the pint, it’s just that I remind myself why I tend to avoid this beer like the plague. It’s apparently now Britain’s number one beer, thanks to massive promotional activity from Molson Coors, but to me it’s as bland as they come. Should do well!
When I arrive at the Jubilee Fields ground of Three Bridges FC, the same beer is in sale in their clubhouse. Naturally, I reach for the J20 option. There are a few bottled beers in the fridge, but it looks like the usual suspects so I sip my fruity drink while trying to make sense of the football programme, which comes in several pieces and is sadly lacking any staples. My food options seem to be limited to chips, so it’s lucky I stocked up at Holland & Barrett earlier in the event of just such a scenario.
The stadium consists of a small but upright main stand to the side of the clubhouse, which seems to be favoured by committee members, despite the fact that the longer but shallower covered seated stand opposite has seats reserved for the dignatories. Obviously too far to walk!
Although too close to the bottom of the table for comfort, Three Bridges had managed to string some results together before recent postponements, and although visiting Hythe Town are firmly esconsed in mid-table it looks potentially like a decent contest. Which is how it turns out, with the home side belying their lowly status to turn in a good show and fully earn the three points. Both sides play the ball quickly through midfield and supply some stirling goalmouth entertainment, but it’s Three Bridges who make the most of it, with two goals in the first half hour.
Any hope of getting back into the game is lost to Hythe on 70 when their sub is booked twice in a matter of minutes and walks the walk. A 90th minute tap in settles it at 3-0
I mentioned at the beginning of this piece about the £1 pint, and how close we’re getting to £4. The Hepworth’s beer in the Snooty Fox – a modest 4.2%abv golden bitter called Pullman – was on sale at £3.94 a pint! Nearly £4 then, I noted to the barmaid as I handed over my savings. ‘Not quite’ she replied. Maybe next week, then…..
Programme: As mentioned earlier, a bulky collection of glossy pre-printed advertising pages with a 24-page mono insert. An overheard conversation in the bar was along the lines that there had been no time to staple it. Nice cover and more facts than you could shake a stick at, covering several age group teams. 7/10
Birdlife: No parakeets here today
Floodlight Pylons: 6
Club shop: I honestly can’t recall seeing one
Music the players run out to: Nothing noted
Kop choir: No
Away fans: not spotted
What’s In A Name: Hythe Town’s ‘Pepe’ Lee Pleau. I suspect most opponents would struggle to escape the man-marking skills of Three Bridges defender Charlie Leach.