Part of the reason for my love for Movie Night is the view. I get to watch a film, always a positive in the world of Bin, through a forest of heads.
Anything might be going on in those heads. Should the film go slack, I can make up stories about what’s inside those heads, all while sampling the Guinness and contributing to the life of a charity.
I can feel quite good about myself whilst drinking. It is a rare situation in which I find myself and I don’t take it for granted, knowing as I do that, if I were sitting in the comfy chairs, some idiot behind the bar might start speculating about my hopes, ambitions, times I’ve contemplated affairs or murders.
The bar itself is textured formica, marbled and orange wooden tones.
The glasses sit arse-up on the countertop on plastic mesh trays, and the beer pumps stand like monoliths reaching towards the ceiling.
Tankards in pewter and glass hang, some scrubbed and scratched, some cobwebbed, above my head.
Someone has changed the Guinness pump. If you want to wind up an Irishwoman, play with the Guinness, see what happens. Sadly, I have no conception of who it was that determined Extra Cold was not enough.
I suspect a rep: some well-meaning, clipboard-carrying, walking infection.
Now, we find ourselves with an option. The Guinness is served either Extra Cold or, new and exciting, Room Temperature. I may be sick.
My veins flow chilly-black with stout.
‘Room temperature’ strikes me as an option unearthed by an ale-drinker in search of something less like stagnant rainwater, but not as cold as to make the fillings ache. ‘Room temperature’, and a thousand sassanach slurs enter my mind. I remonstrate with myself like a pervert. Perhaps the room temperature stout is not as evil as I imagine.
I sit two wine glasses under the split pump and set the taps a-pouring. The Extra Cold strikes the glass like a bell, and frosts the glass as it fills to three-quarters. The Room Temp bubbles fall and drown more slowly than I have become accustomed to but fills its glass at similar speed.
I watch and wait. Time passes like a wound closing. I push the tap backwards and witness the flow to epic fullness.
I am become Jilly Goolden, the wine expert on ‘Food & Drink’ when I was growing up. Some bottle from far flung somewhere or other would be poured into her glass. She would examine it, marvel at it, waft and sniff and soliloquise about it. The first sip would touch her lips and words would spring out like a gazelle in moon boots.
‘I’m getting strawberries, and summer, just a hint of grass’, she would say. I would expect the next words to be ‘I’m getting Wimbledon.. Sue Barker!’ – they never were.
The Room Temp looks right, the head is heavy and white as death.
I have been told that, on pouring a canned or bottled stout, you can tell if it will be sweet or bitter by the colour of the head. If it’s brownish, it will be bitter. If it’s lighter, it will be sweeter.
It smells earthier than I would normally allow for. I take a sip: it bites me back.
This Room Temp puts me in mind of a Buckinghamshire wedding, populated entirely by the Old Boys’ Network, all in kilts. It is inauthentic, inarticulate, indelicate, in my Club.
A bar manager from years ago used to clean the pipes out when he remembered. This, it turned out, was not especially often. The industry standard suggests weekly cleaning is acceptable. The old bar manager used to do them once every four weeks. If he remembered. We were undoubtedly growing things in the pipes.
The practise can be time consuming but its import is obvious. The pipes are disconnected from the barrels and driven into outlets on the cellar wall. A spare pipe is loaded into a bucket of diluted cleaning fluid, the gas is switched on, the beer pumps are turned on in the bar. A few pints of possibly drinkable beer issue forth, and sudden and surreptitiously the colour fades from brown to green. The cleaning fluid enters the pipe in aching shades of purple. If it’s green on its escape, it’s killing something. Regardless of colour, once it’s changed from beer to cleaning fluid, we leave it in the pipe for twenty to thirty minutes.
We find something to do. I tend to pour the waste from the pipe into a bucket, and use the yawn of time to empty the bucket and move the furniture about.
After the time has sapped away, I pull the pints until the green turns to purple and then nuclear pink. Then I know the pipes are clean. Returning to the cellar, I remove the pipe from the bucket, empty and clean it, then refill with a dozen gallons of fresh water. I pull these through at the bar. A few pints-worth of pulling, and the liquid turns from pink to clear.
When I was taught to do this, I learnt to check the water by examining its colour and scent and, if I was sure it was clean, to drink it. The theory was: if I didn’t go blind, the water was clean.
Then, back to the cellar, return the pipes from their stations on the wall to the beer kegs, and pull through pint after pint until it’s definitely beer. I could check this too with the taste test, but I have no mouth for lager.
The old bar manager didn’t use a bucket in the bar to collect the waste. He used an old cider bottle, deeming a bucket unnecessarily drippy. One of the euchre-players came in one Sunday and ordered a pint of cider from him. He poured from the wrong bottle. They both looked at the purplish froth that spilled out of the bottle and into the glass. Neither questioned it.
The euchre-player got out of the Gents’ after three hours.
I rinse my mouth out, and try the Extra Cold. This is the stuff.
Later, when customers appear for the film and the glory of drinking in the dark, some ask for stout. I give them the options, minus my own opinions. They are more confused that I am. I always give my opinion. I sell two and a half pints of Room Temp. Perhaps my face has given the review without my knowledge.
Time has passed and I have been informed that it winds up my bar manager when I refer to the Not-Extra-Cold as Room Temperature. I should, I understand, call them “Guinness” and “Extra Cold”.
I know my place: “Extra Cold” and “Not”, it is.