It's amazing to think that this is the first time in seven years of living in Pudsey that Wolfie and I did not attend the CAMRA real ale festival.
Admittedly, when it clashes with a Leeds Meet weekend, like it did this year, it is always difficult but it is also a sign of how out of favour real ale has fallen with us when compared to craft beer. Indeed, we were far more interested in the Irish craft beer tap takeover at BrewDog for St Patrick's Day than we were with our local real ale festival, although we have only been able to sample them in the odd growler due to other commitments. This included someone visiting the dungeon on Thursday night where I got the opportunity to be dominant for the first time and Wolfie having to work in Crewe on Friday and thus not getting home until 10pm. We had intended to visit the festival but we ran out of time, but I don't feel too bad about missing out.
Wednesday we were out in town for the inaugural Bottle Share at ShuffleDog (since rebranded to BrewDog North Street). Unfortunately, despite their promotion, it was just Wolfie and I who turned up, despite us waiting for over half an hour to see if anyone else would arrive. This seems to be a constant theme with bottle share nights in BrewDog as the smaller bar used to run a number of events too and usually we were the only ones participating. Still, we did get to sample a number of good beers with the staff, with us bringing in To Ol's excellent Fuck Art Winter Is Coming witbier. We also got to sample Beavertown's Dr Jekyll (another wit) and Mr Hyde (a dark unctuous stout) brewed from the same key ingredients but altered halfway through the fermentation process. Unfortunately, ShuffleDog was quite busy on Wednesday night with another tasting session and a party for Nandos staff and there was an emergency in the kitchen, meaning the bottle share was largely over before it began. It was still great chatting about beer with them though and at least it gave us the opportunity to get some food, which had been lacking thus far due to the early 6pm start.
We went to the excellent Pizza Fella again, where we wondered why Wolfie had received a threatening letter from some baliffs due to a traffic incident which had happened seven months previously. It was another Wednesday night and we couldn't remember ever being there, a situation made worse as he only received the threat rather than any prior information about the fine itself. It was eventually sorted after a whole load of hassle - and indeed it was Wolfie's car that was involved - although things had been complicated by the fact it was his old car and he had transferred the insurance over that very day. After our pizza, we headed over to the new casino at Victoria Gate as we had been told that there were two bars there and a restaurant. One of these was labelled a craft beer bar, but it was craft beer in the loosest sense of the word, with them doing as little as absolutely possible to give themselves that name. More impressive was the sports bar with the huge screens upon which they were showing Manchester City being defeated by Monaco, getting knocked out of the Champions League in the process. We had a wander around the casino with our drinks in hand and it was interesting to note the large number of familiar brands and machines, borne out of me working in the industry. We were tempted to play a little roulette but declined in the end. It was certainly the most Las Vegas like casino I had ever been in, with flashy lights and no windows, and it was a comfortable place to be, although I can imagine blowing a whole load of money should I ever go there properly. Fortunately, there were a number of new beers to try in BrewDog so we ended the night here, having a couple before getting one of the last buses.
Saturday was meet day and after the low attendance the previous month, I was fearing the worst. However, the numbers kept coming, including a large number from further afield including SouthPaw, Tungro and Washu. We had a large number of fursuiters, our largest ever actually at over 20, so it was a shame that the bar kicked us out at 5pm due to the need to clean for a birthday party. It is quite clear now that our current bar is rather small and we need to look elsewhere, but that is easier said than done in this city. One option, however, is the Atlas Brauhaus, where we went afterwards, bringing about 25 people in tow. Their upstairs area was free, and they were very happy to have us, even supplying complimentary fries smothered in smoky paprika and chives which tasted soooo good. I spoke to the manager there and she seemed quite receptive to hosting us, so it's definitely something to explore, particularly as the furs who were with us thought highly of the place. We have a few other irons in the fire too though, so we shall see. It will be shame to leave our current place, but space really is an issue, and this was highlighted yesterday, particularly regarding fursuit changing. For the second month in a row, I opted to bring my fursuit (despite the mixed weather), and the walk was great fun, particularly when I decided to wear my fursuit paws rather than my normal shoes based on the improving dryness of the ground. We bumped into the cosplayers again, like we did back in February, while in a break from tradition we decided to go down Briggate to get more interaction. A couple of kids remembered me from a Festival but they never intimated which one, although the youngest was delighted to see me and spent about ten minutes dancing as we waited for some furs to finish their shopping in Poundland. It was quite difficult for Wolfie to organise so many people and while he did a great job, it's also clear we desperately need some sort of committee as there are occasions when we are rather hamstrung by having to organise things. One of these examples was that we had intended to go to Little Tokyo with Arcais for her birthday, but they left early and as we needed to mentor people in Atlas, we ended up having to go to Trinity Kitchen instead. There were six of us there in the end. One of these was Cub, an American fur now living in Chesterfield who was incredibly shy initially and took four attempts just to come to the meet. She was great and we had a nice long chat with her, and I am glad she really enjoyed the meet. After Trinity, she headed to the cinema to catch Beauty and the Beast while Saber, Tonks, Wolfie and I tried to get to BrewDog to sample some more Irish tipples. Alas it was rammed and not fancying the crowds, we headed home, getting back at the early hour of 10pm, meaning at least we could recover ahead of a lazy Sunday.
The only other things that happened this week was the Cheltenham Challenge at work, where I only got three horses of 28 correct but at least finished in positive territory with £3.75 profit and the sacking of Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka on Thursday. Having seen Boro play at Spurs last month and our frustrating inability to do anything in the final third, I can't help but feel this was the correct decision as we were definitely going down if no change was made. Alas I think Steve Agnew will remain in charge until the summer and although we were more attacking against Manchester United this afternoon I fear it's all too little too late and we are down anyway. Our next two games are huge and against our big rivals though so if we can get maximum points here then there is a chance. However as it is, we haven't won since mid-December so this seems unlikely. It's sad but we do seem to be going down with a whimper.