Well. Some of these yarns could be ribald, some long and convoluted in the telling, and others could be as fishy as they are beery. However, for this Session (and apologies for not contributing since my last rant many months ago!), I wanted to focus upon beer as being the excuse for the story; the stimulant for the tales that unfold, not the story itself.
In fact my first yarn hardly features beer at all. Back in the day, as a postgrad student in Cardiff, in the early 90s, beer was Brains (or, if you were unlucky, Hancock's....or if you had committed one of the most heinous sins known to Man, Ansells). So a chance to sample something else was always welcome, and one pub where this was possible was out of town, up a hill, at a pub where we had to direct the taxi driver - the Ty Mawr in Lisvane.
On a summer's evening, the garden looked down to the coast, with a great view. But this evening was a wintery one. It was blowing a gale outside, raining sideways. I don't recall what I drank, probably something dark and deeply flavoured. I almost cannot recall who was in the intrepid party, except a few brave souls from the Department. But what I recall is the pub, with its fire roaring, shuttered against the elements, the gentle hubbub of conversation, gradually loosened by beers we had never tasted before was the antidote we all needed. I just remember laughter, warmth and friendship. I also recall visiting a few years later, as a friend left to I study in the US. It had now become a family friendly pub. For all this, the warmth it had on that winter's evening had disappeared in a haze of menus and child friendly policies...
My other tale is also wintery. Christmas morning to be exact. My sister and I had taken a walk up to the pub whilst mom finished cooking. Our destination was The Beacon Hotel, not 20 minutes walk up a relatively steep hill. The day was crisp; snow on the ground from a previous fall, but the sun was out. Glorious. We sat, with many, in the back of the pub. The landlord had tapped a new barrel of Ruby Mild. After the walk up, it tasted utterly superb. The boss came in and individually wished all of his customers a "Happy Christmas" and there was much chatting between strangers. If you don't know the pub, and I know many do, it is an old Victorian building, with furnishings to match, and the decorations consisted of holly obtained from the Beacon Hill behind the pub. No music, no fruit machine, just the cracking of coals in the grate, and the sound of people happy and contented. It was almost as if this scene was a replay of the same moment, recreated over 100 times on the same spot. After a second pint, lunch beckoned, and I left this fantastic bit of the Black Country behind me, knowing full well that however things change outside, what happens inside would represent what is good, and will persist, for many Christmases to come.