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Phil Mellows: My destiny - real ale tale

From The Publican


The Publican's features editor Phil Mellows sings the praises of real ale as part of The Publican Newspaper's 30th Birthday celebrations.

Pubs have always been an important part of my life. Thirty years ago you would have found me sitting on a saloon bar doorstep with a glass of lemonade and a bag of crisps, waiting for mum and dad to finish doing whatever it was they did in there.

Needless to say I was a bit miffed about this state of affairs. After all, I was 19 at the time and going out to work.

Even before that, though, there was the pub. My grandfather was licensee of the Nag's Head, a Mann Crossman & Paulin tenancy in the East End of London. He died before I was born and my grandmother married a bookmaker. So you can see where she was coming from.

I had my first drink in a pub rather late, when I was 16. There must have been people drinking younger than that because one of the sixth form gangs I hung around with used to avoid "nippers' pubs", not wanting to mix with the even more underaged.

When I was old enough to drink legally I was working at a big office in central London and my social life in the week was organised around "table tennis practice", an excuse to sample the delights of Watneys Red Barrel, JC, Worthington E, Double Diamond, Whitbread Tankard and Younger's Tartan.

Needless to say, my bid to be the next Chester Barnes foundered.

Then one weekend Pete showed us his new discovery, the Prince of Wales in Clapton. It was two miles walk away but it served stuff called "real ale". The Young's Special was something of an acquired taste. But it only took a couple of mouthfuls to acquire it. The story can go on. And on. I was hooked. Not on alcohol, I'm still pretty sure, but on hops. And on pubs that sell good beer.

The nice thing is I don't have to walk two miles to find one now. There are many more pubs selling good beer. And that's something to be happy about, isn't it?

  • Phil Mellows is features editor at The Publican.

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