Bermondsey Beer Mile

I was a bit ambivalent about the Mile until the last year or so. Gideon’s Rag published a piece about it in early 2014 and the effect was devastating. What had previously been low or non-existent on the radar of general morons and braying, salmon-shirted or orange-tinted fools, was suddenly overwhelmed, particularly with stags, and the atmosphere changed considerably. The Kernel understandably decided to shut their taproom because they just didn’t want the grief any more of obnoxious, half- or fully- pissed up mobs barking their orders at staff; although now they just have to deal with them wandering in and getting take out and then cracking them open on Dockley Road as they herd up or down to the next stop. They were financially stable enough that they could do that, and are something of an outlier anyway in that they seem to reject expansion purely for the sake of it.

Others though seemed happy to absorb the new influx, notably Anspach and Hobday. This reached a bit of a boiling point in 2015/16 when some (not all) residents of the Arnold Estate lobbied Southwark for the Druid St. market to be shut down and for A+H to be stripped of their license, as drinkers were crossing the street and sitting on the kerbs of the estate entrance with their glasses. The Bottle Shop was also a source of noise. Eventually Southwark slapped conditions on all the Arches where any outdoor space was strictly delineated and enforced by security with capacity limits and cutoff times. Presumably they wanted to avoid any similar situation with the Neckinger Estate and Enid Street, where there is a cluster of heaving breweries opposite the flats.

My old friends say to me that I hate anything once it becomes popular – a grain of truth in that I’ll admit. I used to like a monthly excursion up to the Mile when there were only about a half-dozen of them trading, dragging my then only kid along for the ride and hoping he’d either entertain himself or other tipsy day drinkers would coo over him. I don’t do that monthly trip anymore, my gut thanks me for it. But the atmosphere was nice – you could sit next to and strike up a conversation with practically anybody and wouldn’t be construed as a psychopath or overbearing pisshead. Most attendees weren’t there for a grand beery day out in lieu of Soho or Shoreditch.

The ES article changed that, but having been up there three or four times in recent months, thankfully it seems to have calmed down somewhat. The addition of many extra stops means that it does not feel so oppressive with the idiot crowds – if one location is rammed you can just choose another. And the sense of adventure or a change from the norm still permeates mindsets; you still can chat to the people next to you and make new friends, and there are still people on similar wavelengths coming in. So in the spirit of the Lido, I can’t unendorse the Mile.

It’s difficult to see what will happen next with it, the Arches are limited in space so the expansion can only go so far; although FourPure have recently expanded their taproom behind Screwfix to something approaching a nightclub (a contract with Tesco will let you do that). Now that the Arches have been bought out from Network Rail, it’s entirely possible that in five to ten years time they’ll all be Costa and Pret, or a hellish drinkers equivalent (Spoons, or even increasingly, BrewDog). So maybe I should grumble less and enjoy it while it lasts.

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