Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Watering the Workers' Beer?

Beer and the social impact of that very British institution, the pub, is one of the sub-topics that I hope to explore when I'm in America.  I have a certain romantic idealism of post-WWII working-class life - when you worked, lived and drank in very close proximity: as perhaps most famously portrayed in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe.  Incidentally I've always believed that the pub in the film of the book where Arthur falls down the stair is The White Horse on Ilkeston Road (you can see it here in its current status as a takeaway: but I'm not sure I could prove it.  Either way, it's exactly the right location for Arthur Seaton to live: he works at the Raleigh factory, the site of which was round the corner (now student flats) and there would have been a large amount of terraced housing the other side of Ilkeston Road (which were cleared and redeveloped in the 70s I believe).

Where you socialise and what you drink when you do are a key determinant of what a city is like to live and work in in my experience.  The brief times that I worked in London were always marked by a couple of pints after work on a Friday and I am always struck by the large crowds spilling out into the street from London's pubs any time after 5 during the week - much more so than other cities.  Working where I do on the Boots campus to the west of the city the vast majority of people drive to work so there's no culture of going for a drink with colleagues after work.  It's one of the oddest things that I found about working there when I joined (and still do!).

I struggle with the concept of living in one place, working in another and probably socialising somewhere else - all very often car dependant (see post on Tuesday for more on this).  And yes, we spend a lot of time already with work colleagues so might not want to spend leisure time with them, but it is a key bonding and team building experience nevertheless. 

I'll be interested to find out what workers in the American cities I hope to visit feel about socialising with their work colleagues.  Is this the 'done thing'?  Or a no-no in a country that still features hundreds of 'dry' localities?  What sort of places do people go for a "quick one" after work - is that different from where they might go with their partner or friends? 

I'll also be planning to sample some of the burgeoning craft ale scene in America.  I was lucky enough to be at the opening night of the new BrewDog bar in Nottingham the other week and I know that they learned a lot of their style and marketing from the much more established tradition in America. 

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