Beer and Loathing at Imbibe LIVE!
Imbibe LIVE!, Kensington Olympia
“Imbibe Live!” is an annual industry drinks expo where up and coming brands come to showcase their wares alongside some of the more established names in the licence trade. Publicans and drinks suppliers from across the nation are invited down to west London to sample the drinks, snacks and bar peripherals on offer. This would be the second year that our ragtag gang from south east London would be attending. Unlike the majority of besuited industry dons that stalk the carpeting in between the stalls, our lot were here less to source a new gin supplier and more to drink as much free booze as we could then fall in the nearest ditch.
The premise of having a room with hundreds of stalls, each offering a different alcohol and each with a person manning the stall who can (and want to) tell you the entire history of the product and the brand whilst pouring their booze down your throat, is a dizzying concept upon first entry. It’s like being nine and getting through the gates of a theme park without your stupid parents. You don’t know where to run to first. You have to pace yourself or risk vomiting. You somehow want to go on every ride at once but know it’s impossible and that in itself makes you sad. You take a note of the ‘water bar’, where one can sit and attempt to regain a modicum of sobriety. Vow never to use it. Then head forth into the maelstrom of free tasters.
Although we were a group of ten or more, I spent the vast majority of my time either on my own or with one or two others. Its difficult to stay in a large group because somebody is always going to want to go and drink Alcohol A, whilst another wants to go and sample Alcohol B. And once you’ve started sampling you inevitably get drawn into conversation with the wonderful people that run the stall about the history of british toffee vodka (or whatever) and your mates fuck off to some smoked peanut stand and are lost until you next call them.
For those of you that want to know how this year’s drinks brands were tempting gormless publicans to stock their stuff here is a selection of the wackiest/rubbishest.
- Pink Pigeon Rum (I had never heard of it either) had a ‘doctor’ on hand with a couple of ‘sexy’ nurses out the front. There was no banner over the top of the stall saying ‘precisely what the doctor ordered’ but it was certainly inferred. The nurses looked a bit sad.
- Some company sold these big tubes that you put on peoples’ tables that could hold 8 pints and meant that you people could just buy these in clubs and not keep going to the bar. Their plan of action was to hire about nine first year uni students to man their 2 x 2 metre stall and barrage you with enthusiasm:
“It’s a great idea! You don’t have to keep going to the bar!”
“Yes, but it’s not a great idea. The beer will go flat.”
“Not if you have to get, like, pints for, like, eight people! You won’t have to carry all that glass!”
“Yes, but all eight of my group would still need glasses to get their beer out of your stupid tube so I would need to carry 8 pints glasses AND a giant tube full of beer.”
“Yeah but you would only need to go to the bar once!!??!11″
Fucking freshers, man.
- A company that made a cannabis energy drink (gay) and were encourageing you to make cocktails with it, all of which started with the word “stoned”, had hired a magician to drum up interest in their stall. He was by far the best thing in Imbibe Live. Other than all the free booze. He was by far the best non-alcoholic thing in Imbibe Live, then. His magic consisted just of that old game of “guess which cup I have put the marble under” but fuck me was he good at it. Even if you second guessed him and deliberately didn’t guess where he wanted you to guess AND where you thought he didn’t want you to guess you would still get it wrong. He was the Derren Brown of cups and marbles. And cannabis energy drinks.
Our youthful complexions did mean that we were shunned from a couple of stalls, though. Johnny McSuit the CEO of Drinkz Inc. is always going to be served over Johnny McTshirt the CEO of Imjustheretogetdrunk Ltd. And this is what happened. More and more so as the alcohol started taking hold and our eyelids started slipping further over our eyes. To the point where we actually started getting some fairly evil looks. I had thought ahead, though. I’d worn a blazer and shirt to camouflage my alterior motives. Nobody would doubt the sobriety of somebody in smart casual attire whose name badge said “Founder/Owner – Beer and Loathing.” Or at least this is what I thought. Apparently word passed around of this alleged founder/owner nicking bottles of cognac and looking shifty around the flavoured rum stand and before I knew it my hands were behind my back and I was being escorted out for reasons that were not divulged. Probably for the best though because my next memory is dancing round my back garden wearing special suspenders that attach your shirt to your socks that mean that your shirt will never become untucked and your socks will never fall down again. I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to wear them with trousers.
Basically anybody whose job was listed as bar supervisor and lower on their name tag had a pretty good chance of having a tattoo or a piercing or something in that vein. Unfortunately this expo is pretty biased towards spirits so you get a lot of bar tenders turn up who take their cocktails really seriously. And it’s these serious cocktail bar folk who tend to be the sort of people that think it’s a really good idea to get Banksy work tattooed onto themselves.
I don’t rate Kensington Olympia, it’s in west. It’s on some weird appendix of the District Line, and when I wandered mournfully up it’s high street in search of distractions because all my friends were still inside having a great time I found nothing but kebab shops. And I was already full of peanuts.
Free is the ultimate price. The only way this could get any better is if we were paid to go.
Everyone was friendly, but I didn’t feel super welcome. Especially when two burly dudes threw me out. Although I suppose they aren’t out to create an atmosphere that is conducive to getting pissed in. And especially not one where the patrons think that theft is welcome. But if we’re being brutally honest I don’t remember a great deal.
Do you have any god awful pubs in mind for Jack to go to at some point in the future? If you do please harass him on twitter @beerandloathinz