Every so often a short video of a British pub goes what is known as “viral” on the internet. In that it passes like a virus as everyone that sees it wishes to share it, and thus if you are on social media, you will see it several times from several sources. It tends to be part of a theme of video that either laughs at or laughs with a particular section of society, depending on your own personal connection, awareness or empathy to that identity group. They can be videos of garden BBQs or weddings where people enjoy themselves with a freedom and lack of restraint the more polite classes would never dream of. Sometimes you get the impression people are laughing at the vulgarity of people lower down the social scale to them and sometimes you get the impression people are simply enjoying the enjoyment of others and they would have loved to join in themselves. Sometimes it’s difficult to judge. Either way, little harm is done as snippets of people’s lives are shared and for a short moment, we join them and see the world of others.
The most famous example that I know of is this one, which displays a range of characters all overlapping each other in a way that no sitcom writer would have thought of in the depiction of a lively pub.
It feels dated somewhat by the hair style of the dancing girl that starts the clip but remains the standard to which all other pub videos must be judged. It is difficult to see a video of a group of middle-aged men in a micropub discussing a local microbrewery would ever go viral, sadly. So, to the world beyond the UK, the lively working-class pub of strange characters must be the definitive image of UK pub culture a person in the US or Spain or Japan must imagine a UK pub to be.
Recently another pub video went viral. This time of the Chestergate Pub in Stockport. The video & subsequent story is in the Manchester Evening News here.
There’s so much going on here. It’s bordering on art.— Announce Talisca (@ohffsmartin) October 6, 2022
(thread of stills follows ⬇️) pic.twitter.com/Cd2TJ4xcLj
I did not at first recognise the pub, but I did recognise the old chap pulling his red t shirt. A local harmless nutter whose face may be familiar but name unknown to anyone that has traversed the cheaper pubs of the town. Here he appears in his element. Soon enough the pub was identified as a Stockport Town Centre keg pub. Part of the Heineken stable of pubs.
The pub itself appears to be the source of the video, publishing on Facebook events that occur in the pub. In these difficult times for pubs, I'd guess a clever form of publicity striking a tone that the pub offers something most other pubs do not. Advertising a party. The town well caters for the more serious drinker wanting to contemplate their glass of fine ale in silence, or for that matter the diner. The surprise here is I'd expect the party pub to be about attracting the younger crowd. But they don't drink anymore. It's the older folk, that have lived a full life that appear to want to enjoy themselves in their later years.
The Evening news story is nice and correctly identifies the online reaction to the clip being warm and embracing. A fun pub people can let their hair down and enjoy themselves, in these times of national decline. Who doesn’t want a bit of that? It sounds like my cup of tea. So, a pint in the Chestergate was on the cards.
For the duration of the World Cup the pub has named itself the Southgate and on the Sunday afternoon I went in, the disco of the viral clips was not on. Instead, the pub had a steady number of customers occupying the tables of the main strip you see in the video. Tables were free. A got myself a pint of Birra Moretti as it was the strongest lager I could spot. I did not see draught Heineken or Kronenbourg despite being a Heineken pub. The tables advertise menus of drinks. It’s always worth reading these as you discover things you hadn’t previously heard of. A drink that looked like a pink Baileys caught my eye called Tequila Rose, but not enough to ever want to try it. You can double up on spirits for 2 quid, making me feel old as in my head doubling up spirits should be a quid. It’s even more than a quid in spoons these days.
Now if you go to the far end of that viral clip there is an alcove. A smarter carpeted area and that is where I decamped to. My photo is a direct 180 degrees from the position of the video. Looking at the pub from the other way.
The pub was warm, cosy and one feature that struck me, clean. Cleaner than pubs tend to be. You may be thinking my standards are lower than yours, considering my liking for the sticky tables of Wetherspoons. But, my friends, I drink in a wide variety of pubs. Even those CAMRA award pubs I lament as a bit soulless. This was the cleanest pub I’ve been in for a while. From the carpets to the toilets. I liked it.
The clientele was regular respectable people of the town. Conversations occurring at each table on anything from the football to the dire state of the country. My pint was crisp, clean & fresh tasting in a way that reminds you that Good Beer is very much a macro product made by professionals. At £4.70 you can judge whether it was expensive. The local spoons will do you a 660ml bottle of the same beer for under 4 quid or a San Miquel for £3.50. The nearby award-winning real ale haunt The Magnet will do you a pint of Bitburger lager for £4.40. The pubs of the market area have a range of authentic German lagers for a fiver a pint upwards. You pay your money; you take your pick, I guess. If you are paying for hospitality, I guess you’d come here. They have it in spades.
Being a cheapskate, I left after one and went up the hill to the spoons where at weekends they’ve formed a habit of putting on some headbanging bitters for buttons, because the local CAMRAs told them they liked the 6% wobbly bob. The 5.7% Peerless was a decent pint of bitter for buttons and an ideal way to sink a couple before heading home to watch the match.