Friday, 2 March 2012

The Art of the Pub Crawl


Since I learned to drink, I have favoured the pub crawl. Sitting in a bar all night just doesn’t do it for me. I always have to be on the move. Constantly moving maintains the momentum of a drinking session. It is constantly bringing you into contact with new sights, experiences and drinks.

Sometimes you might find yourself drinking with people who would rather stay where they are – because they have a seat – than go out and experience something else. You can always find another seat – maybe not in the next place, but you won’t be there long, so maybe the one after that. If it’s a seat you’re after, you may as well stay at home.

And anyway, it’s a fact: a pub crawl is more fun than sitting in a pub. And it’s more than just drinking. As I am about to show you… it is an art.

It’s not an art; it’s a science. Actually, it’s not a science either, but there are some useful things to know (not rules) for making a good pub crawl. Before I get into those (things, not rules), you should know there are two types of pub crawl. The first (and best) is the Impromptu Piss-up. In this scenario you take whoever you are with, wherever you are, and careen blithely from one pub to another, not a care in the world. You might even call more friends and invite them to join you. And they might. This is truly a beautiful experience, and sadly a rare one. It feels extra special because it’s like you’ve stolen it – this wasn’t supposed to be happening! But it is! Let’s ride this crazy train for as long as it lasts! The Impromptu Piss-up, as its name suggests, requires absolutely no planning.

The other kind of pub crawl does need planning, and also a little bit of technical experience. These are the things you need to know. First you need to invite some dedicated drinkers, people who aren’t afraid to step up to the plate and stay there. People who are ready. You need to make sure they know this is a pub crawl.

Second you need a focus. This can be a theme if you like, but it doesn’t involve dressing up (though you can do that, if you want). More specifically, it should be an area that you intend to drink in, a starting point and an end point with pubs in between that you will drink in, or a selection of pubs with something in common. This could be something as inane as pubs with beer gardens, rock pubs, pubs with an animal in the name, rough pubs – use your imagination. Make sure you have this in your mind before you start, or you may spend too much time not going anywhere, just trying to think of somewhere to go next. Try to visit at least a few pubs that you haven’t been to before.

Third; start early. Any time before 6pm is fine, but earlier is better (noon for the hardcore). There is no feeling to equal the glow you get after a few early afternoon pints when the world’s shining bright and you still have a long way to go.

The final guideline is keep everyone together, but keep moving. The larger the group, the harder it is to synchronise people’s drinking. This is fine, but you need to make sure that people are ready to leave at the same time. This means communication. Make sure people know when you are approaching time to move on. Make sure they know that they need to have finished their drinks by this time. If you’re a fast drinker, and they’re a long way behind, it is acceptable for you to get another drink, but you need to make sure that they don’t – otherwise the cycle will repeat and you’ll never move on. If you do get a second drink, you need to make sure you finish it when everyone else finishes their first. And away you go.

Repeat that last one until it’s time to go home… or for a curry.

That’s it really. It requires a bit of discipline and a strong leader. It helps if you’ve developed a pub crawl team – a crack core of veterans that you’ve done this with before. You should make that your mission.

I got my pub crawl stripes in the Quayside area of Newcastle on Saturday afternoons in the late 90s. A group of us would meet at the Haymarket at noon, walk down to the Head of Steam and begin. Stops along the way included The Bridge Hotel (where I swore I had the best ever pint of John Smith’s), The Cooperage, The Red House, Bonded Warehouse (or Bondage Whorehouse, as we called it) and any others we fancied along the way. Just before 8pm we’d call into Flynn’s to get some cocktails and vodka jellies before happy hour finished, and then we’d be very drunk. 

I don’t remember too much of what would happen after that; we might go up into other parts of town for more drinks, or go to a club, or the Student’s Union, or a party. We had stamina in those days, and we were young enough to laugh in the face of hangovers; we rarely got them. 

I know I won’t see days like those anymore, but I try now to have a pub crawl once a month, just to recapture that glow, to feel young and carefree again.

This weekend sees the first pub crawl since Drink it How You Like it began, and having struggled with crawler’s block (that can happen after you’ve survived a large number of pub crawls in a town) my friends and I have decided to keep it simple; we’ll be doing the famous “Didsbury Dozen” – but in our own way. We may visit 12 pubs or we may not, but it will most likely finish with a curry. If I have anything interesting to say about it, I’ll fill you in next week. Until then, have a great weekend.

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