A bevy for the Bevy
I WENT to a beer festival a little while ago. Now I'm more of a
G&T or Pinot Grigio type of cleric generally, but I loved it. I
was there helping out on a stall for the Bevy, the pub/hub/café
we've been trying to reopen in Moulsecoomb (Diary, 11 January
2013), closed some three years ago by the police because of
drugs and violence. (We're almost there, after a £130,000 grant
from the lovely Social Investment Business Group. Hurrah! Mine's a
pint of Bishop's Finger when it opens.)
My chat-up line to the beer-supping punters was: "Hello - fancy
buying a pub?", and, on the night, we added some £2500 to the
coffers. None through my efforts, I fear, as most of my clients
wanted to discuss why they were born-again atheists: the
occupational hazard of dog-collar-wearing in such venues.
HAVING done my front-of-house stint on the stall, I started
wandering round the cavernous rooms of Hove Town Hall clutching my
CAMRA beer glass, wondering how to sift through the 200 or so beers
on offer, finally deciding to sample those with a vaguely religious
I started off with a half pint of Cross Keys Bitter from Rectory
Ales, brewed by the Revd Godfrey Broster of Plumpton Green, who for
years has had a micro-brewery at his parsonage nestling in the
downs. Many church fêtes, inductions, and farewells have been
graced by a keg or two of Godfrey's alchemy, as well as a fair
number of Sussex pubs. Now with a niche in Harveys Brewery, in
Lewes, this "man of the froth", as the Daily Express once
called him, is a feature of local brewing lore.
Fortified by this, I went for a further third of a pint of
Absolution from Abbeydale, in Sheffield, "with aromas of tropical
fruit and mangoes", followed by Black Bishop, "black treacle
character combined with citrus and spice". Even my liberal
tendencies baulked, however, at trying Black Mass, despite its
enticing description of "strong flavours of bitter chocolate,
fruitcake, raisins, and hints of cherry".
I sampled Black Jesus, from Great Heck, in Yorkshire; Golden
Angel, from East Hoathely, in West Sussex; and Wild Heaven, from
Arundel. But my favourite? Decadence, from Brewster's Ales, in
Lincolnshire: "passion fruit and grapefruit aromas on the nose;
first taste gives a zesty hop palate leading on to a fresh herby
I trundled off cheerily into the night; but was rather
nonplussed to hear a man on the bus holding forth in tones of
derision: "Did you see that stall for a pub in Moulsecoomb? What's
the point? It'll be smashed up within a fortnight."
I leant over. "Excuse me," I said, smiling sweetly, "I couldn't
help overhearing you: I was on that stall and am part of the
community: there is a real sense of local pride and common
ownership in this project, and it'll work really well. Mind you,
there are indeed people you don't mess with in Moulsecoomb"- here
my face was wreathed with another smile - "and the Vicar's one of
He got off at the next stop.
I HAVE just written a reference for a Yellowcoat. A former
member of my choir has taken time out from doing a music degree at
university to work at a holiday camp - it will suit him down to the
ground. But it made me reflect on all the references I've supplied
over the years, ranging from care workers to ordinands, charity
workers to top-level government security officers, school
applications to senior clergy appointments.
But the standard one is the ASDA request from young members of
the congregation for their first job. I write a glowing reference;
before you know it, they're working on a Sunday, and then soon out
in the wide blue post-church yonder. It's even more of a rite of
passage than confirmation, itself often called the "passing out
But whenever I do a reference, I always remember one of the last
ever done about me, written by my theological college principal,
Father/later Bishop/now Monsignor Barnes. I made him rewrite it
twice on his "sit up and beg" typewriter, which, in hindsight, was
hugely kind of him.
I remember saying to him at the time: "From now on, I'll be
writing reports on other people. I hope I always remember how
horrible it feels." And I have.
The Revd John Wall is Team Rector in the Moulsecoomb Team
Ministry in Brighton.