The Christmas party seemed like an ideal opportunity so the lovely Lisa and I headed off to Woking railway club on Friday. I knew it wasn't going to be a beards and sandals affair, as it was far too cold for sandals and when I'd emailed the Branch social secretary a woman had replied, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I opened the door.
At first I thought there must have been a power cut as it was very dark inside, but then I saw at the far end of the room two flickering candles on what what looked like a makeshift altar. A robed figure was standing behind it, and ranks of similarly attired followers were seated in front. I didn't like the look of this so I turned to leave but when I pulled on the door handle it wouldn't budge. We were trapped.
Out of the darkness a cowled figure loomed menacingly towards us and asked "Are you CAMRA members?". Fortunately the lovely Lisa had recently joined so I was able to hand over our membership cards. "Welcome brother and sister" came the voice and we were handed two robes and lead to our seats. The high priestess, I mean social secretary, was in full swing: "Our plans to hold back innovation in British brewing have had a great success this year. Working with SIBA, the BPPA, the masons and the illuminati we have forced the government to raise taxes on beers above 7.5% ABV. Our goal of making only boring brown bitters between 3.5% and 4.2% ABV available in pubs is drawing closer!" The assembled masses cheered at this and in the flickering light I saw the barman turn slightly pale and discretely turn round the pump clip on a 4.3% beer.
"Except in May that is" the social secretary continued. I could see this caused a wave of doubt and uncertainty to sweep though the congregation. But this woman knew how to work a crowd: "Because in May only milds below 3.5% ABV will be available" she thundered to a chorus of cheers. There was no doubt about it, every single thing that anyone has ever whinged on about regarding CAMRA was entirely true.
Next the mood turned darker "To ensure our success it is now time for the sacrifice" said the social secretary in a sombre tone. Two acolytes then dragged out a heavy object bound tightly with ropes. I asked my neighbour what it was and with a gleam in his eye told me it was a keg of Lovibond's beer. Surely they can't have anything against Lovibonds I thought. They don't even filter or pasteurise their beer. But these people brooked no compromise. "Gnat's piss" shouted someone in the crowd. "Chemical fizz" yelled a bearded oldster as he shook his fist. The keg was manhandled onto the altar and the social secretary clutched a dagger in both hands and raised it above the keg. That's not going to work I thought, but to my horror the knife plunged towards the keg and sliced straight into it. Extraneous CO2 filled beer spurted out showering the front ranks who howled with delight at seeing the keg dispatched. Truly these people are fanatics literally hell bent on achieving their aims.
Actually you may be surprised to hear it was nothing like that. It was in fact pretty much what you'd expect from a Christmas party at a social club: beer, buffet, quiz and raffle. As a beer enthusiasts party there were six beers on and I found the Rudgate Olde Honey Stout particularly good. And I met someone who follows this blog (hi Magnus!) which was nice. The buffet was at 8.30 though, and as we'd started drinking at 7.30 our food/beer balance was a bit out of kilter, but we enjoyed ourselves and strangely enough didn't find any evidence of an evil conspiracy.