Three ways to enjoy Nottingham
1) Go to a beer festival and drink the same beer four times
Yes, I used to plan festival attendance as if it were a campaign. Highlighted beer lists, a ranked order of imbibation, pencil, bottle of water, pencil sharpener, spare halfpint glass, spare pencil. Then I became reluctant. Nowadays, I'm louche to the point of insouciance. The Organ Grinder in Nottingham had a stack of beers on for the elongated weekend; I went, without a clue of what to do when I got there.
"What have you got worth drinking amongst this muck?", I enquired of the ever-patient Chris Sherratt. He poured me Sunlander by Stonehouse Brewery, so riven with passion-fruity goodness from a Galaxy hop addition that I had to drink it another three times. Just to be sure it was as gob-smackingly gorgeous as I first thought. It was. I was glad.
2) Sit at the back, attempt the crossword and people-watch
Hipsters play Guess Who ("Does the person wear glasses with no glass in them? Do they wear purple leggings? Is their name Tarquin?"). Couples aged fifty-something go from bemused to keg-curious to second-round-satiated within twenty minutes. Lads with wide teeth and hungover egos may or may not be off to the station to catch or not catch their train, depending on many factors but in particular whether one of them does or doesn't remember to pick his jacket up.
I'm installed on a long table at the back of Brewdog Nottingham with a pint of Punk IPA, another half-scrawled crossword and a wandering eye. The glint in the hipster's eye suggests he wants more this afternoon than a game of CSI: Cartoonface with the sylph-like lady in the Laura Ashley dress who smells of Refreshers. The couples are now eagerly sampling singled hopped IPAs, when they came in and were asked what they usually drink, one said, "um.... bitter?". The Man With The Unfeasibly Large Teeth forgets his jacket then comes back to pick it up. I drank more Punk and struggle with "Light ale brewed at that place inside (8)".
3) Watch the football
You walk into this pub and you're at the bar. Well, you're behind the bloke and his dog who are stood at the bar. His dog nuzzles me in a way that suggests that it's only a slight chemical imbalance away from attempting to detach my gentleman vegetables. Other blokes, with or without unstable dogs, clutter the bar around both sides. I break out my Grobbelaar spaghetti legs to duck and dart around the pumpclips before ordering a pint of Whim Arbor Light.
As the second half has just started, I'm fairly sure that no-one is sat at the only empty table and I can sit there without being stared down. Particularly by the double-denim clad rat-tail next to me. Who may or may not have Lov and Hat tattooed on knuckles. Who may or may not have lost fingers to an industrial injury or a bet that went too far. Any which way, she's happy to let me sit down.
Manchester City exhibit brooding confidence. Newcastle United exemplify nervy optimism. Thirty-ish drinkers of varying ages, genders, waistlines and medication requirements spend forty-five minutes sucking teeth, waving at the screen dismissively, uttering oaths and downing tip-top ale. Yaya Toure scores the kind of goal that marks out champions from also-rans. Mancini is on his feet. "Sit down, teaboy!", gruffs the salt-and-pepper haired curmudgeon on the far side of the bar. The final whistle blows. Pints are drained. Rounds are bought. Man U are on next. I tiptoe past a now-sleeping dog, knowing where I'll be watching Sunday matches next season.