I miss the pub. An impromptu drink after work before home. Meeting up down the Albany on a Friday night. Pub quiz at the Pear Tree Inn with my regular team on a Sunday night. The background noise of other social drinkers, raising a glass, chewing the fat and putting the world to rights. The casual relationships built up through time with landlords and bar staff at local haunts. Cask beer!
In some ways though, I've been prepping for virtual pubs for awhile. My wife, The Canadian, bought me a BeerBods subscription a couple of Christmases ago. Every Thursday at 9pm, subscribers around the UK drink the same craft beer and comment about it on Twitter (#BeerBods) or Facebook.
While a great innovation, interacting this way felt a little strange so I bought a subscription for a friend who lives some distance away and we video-called instead. A little later another friend joined us, then another, and more recently one more. All in all we have five households participating now with as many as nine of us on a call, and while we interact less often with the wider BeerBods community (sorry folks!), we are old hands at the virtual pub.
We often do start with a reflection of the beer for the week but in true pub style, the conversation then weaves back and forth from the serious to the mundane to the ridiculous. Sometimes one or two of us are late but know the others will either already be in the virtual pub or come along soon. We leave when we're ready, narrowing down to the late night drinkers and occasionally slipping into after-hours #WhiskyBods.
The importance of this virtual pub has increased during lockdown and many others across the world are having their own version. Most co-opt existing technology or jump on the Zoom bandwagon. One of my favourite community responses has to be CAMRA's The Red(On)Lion. I've not ventured into a public bar there yet but who knows, I might!
My Friday night with a couple of friends at the local has expanded to involve others in Cambridgeshire, London, Norfolk and Oxfordshire. Our Sunday night pub quiz has shifted format slightly and now live streams via Facebook to the regulars plus new participants from around the world.
Distance has become less meaningful when those you'd drink with after work are as hard/easy to interact with as your friends who live hours away. I'm looking forward to getting back to the pub but strangely grateful that necessity has expanded my virtual-pubbing to more people.
Entry 4 of my participation in the “100 Days to Offload” challenge – find out more and join in!