We'd sort of lost touch with the Edinburgh CAMRA mob over the last few years, but as Jenny was considering doing her dissertation on applying Quality Methods to the brewing industry, she went on a brewery trip a little while ago and found out that there was a Christmas meal out coming up. Now, for one reason or another we've not had "work" meals out this year, so we decided to go.
Then we found out that it was the same Saturday as Andrew (who I know through CAMRA, and Jenny knows through work) was having his annual Christmas party. We've been going to this for about the last three years, and the format is mostly the same (but in a good way, like a well-performed ritual).
The invitations are timed throughout the afternoon and evening, with family friends with children first (we must be getting old: it was nice to see young kids running around having fun), and friends from various places blending in and out through the evening (this helps with the "Gosh, aren't your friends weird" problem that can come up when people have friends from lots of different situations). So, we were rather glad to discover that our invite was for the time slot after the meal.
I'll not say a lot about the meal: "China China" is Edinburgh's first equivalent of the "All you can eat for £X" buffet as seen around the Leicester Square/Charing Cross Road end of London, and I have to say they haven't learned all the tricks of the trade yet. For one thing, all the meat dishes actually had a large amount of nicely cooked meat in them -- I suspect that the percentage of meat will drop as they realise it's that, or bump prices up. We tried to be restrained, but ended up having somewhat more to eat than we intended (I was good: I avoided the desserts. Jenny was good: she avoided the Saké -- I had the best of it, as while the fresh fruit was both fresh and varied, the cakes were still a bit frozen).
Anyway, we staggered out and shared a taxi to Andrew and Maureen's with a couple who'd just come back from climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, and who managed to make it sound (please don't laugh) as if it was something even people like us could do with a modicum of walking practice.
I mentioned there are traditional/ritual elements to this particular party. Andrew is a home brewer, with the emphasis on "brewer", rather than "home". There were four casks of beer on, with a fifth in reserve. The mild was a little dodgy at first, as it hadn't quite settled, but the best bitter was very nice indeed. There was a porter, maybe more on the ruby red side than is usual, but with a fair bite to it, and finally a strong ale that was very nutritious indeed, and I'm glad I only had a half of - as otherwise I'd maybe still be there.
There was also an excellent mulled wine, and (for those who hadn't overdone the Chinese earlier) pickled quails' eggs, mince pies and what I can only describe as "tadpoles-in-the-hole" (okay, cocktail sausages in mini-Yorkshire puddings).
The main thing that was slightly changed from previous years was that the infamous Singing Christmas Tree was exiled to the Outer Darkness where the beer was kept, and spent the evening switched firmly off. It did grace us with a chorus of "Jingle Bells" before we left, though.