It happened. It might not have occurred in exactly the way I'm about to describe, and certainly not all at the same time or in the same place, but it happened. Of that, I am positive. It happened on a weekday evening, in one of any number of pubs, but let's say it was up on White Lion Street, for the sake of argument.
There will have been a row of handpumps, each offering something slightly different, including one, none or fewer from the most reliable names in British brewing. Perhaps there was a Jaipur or a Wild Swan from Thornbridge; a Hophead or American Pale from Dark Star. Alongside, I have no doubt that there will have been something from a newer name - perhaps something interesting from Liverpool Organic, or maybe even one of the earlier sightings of Siren's core beers. On a weekday evening, I will have had to wait to be served. The condition of the beers being pulled will have been observed and, in all likelihood, been found to be excellent, at least to the eye.
My gaze wanders, though, to the keg fonts. To the promise of something new. To the rarity that probably shouldn't be on a bar in central London. To the exciting new beer from Wild Beer in Somerset. To the unfamiliar import from Scandinavia. To the novelty from the US. To the hop bombs from SE21. To the styles that I know for certain weren't being served here 5 years ago, and who knows when they'll be gone again?
There is an anxiety in the choice that I face at the bar on that weekday evening. I may never see some of those beers on the keg fonts again. This might be the only keg of that beer that ever sees this bar. I may never have another opportunity to taste that beer. I can order that pint of Hophead or Jaipur from hundreds of bars up and down the country, albeit perhaps without certainty about the perfection of the condition, so...
I will have been served at that point, with all my avenues still open to me in my mind. I will have only intended to come for two, perhaps three beers. The decision will have been made based on a simple calculation - what would I rather forego? The pint of Jaipur or Hophead? Or the promise of the undiscovered countries in a glass?
The memory of what certainly happened, but which may not have occurred exactly as described, comes to me as I watch the sun set, a long way away from London. There is no cask beer, waiting to be ordered. There are no familiar names on the bar nearby, and their condition is irrelevant. There are only the same names of the same beers, above identikit bars and restaurants, in the same colours. The beers aren't bad, as such, but...
Part of me wants to dismiss it as a touch of homesickness. However, the truth is that the fraction of a portion of a memory tells me what I already knew - that I perhaps didn't realise quite what it was to have that choice in front of me; that today's drinker in London is privileged in a way that, due to the pace of change in the past few years, they may not fully realise until part of that choice is gone.