The day i hopped to it

Kieran Watman
Let me start my introducing myself for those who do not know already (shame on you). 

My name is Charles. 

I have a title but I don’t want to lord it over you so Charles will do. Or Charlie if I have given you permission and we have shared a drink or two together.  I have to say I was rather honoured when Bob asked me to write a little piece about how I came to meet him and his fine wife, Samantha (she is always asking me to call her Sam but she is a lady so I refuse). 

Given how much I have come to adore these two fine people and the story of our meeting is now legend, it is a pleasure to share the story with the world (for those of you who have drunk a staggeringly good beer or two with me over the years will have heard this already but it is good tale so listen again).


Back in 2014 I think it was (might have been the year before or the year after, I get a little confused with the dates), I had just returned from a rather lovely visit to Champagne in France where I had been on the infamous Older Rich Gentlemen of Shropshire Wine Tour, which that year had led us to the region of Champagne. 

Towards the end of the tour I had been invited to squash grapes with a wonderful wine maker called Jacques. During this rather delightful, messy and fruity experience, Jacques asked me whether I knew of the legend of the Great Bearded Punch & Judy Man who was delighting crowds with his vim and pep throughout Shropshire. I had to admit that I had not heard of this man but upon my return I would seek him out.  Seeking the Great Bearded Punch & Judy Man of Shropshire out was no easy task, given I have no phone, did not know his name and was slightly piddled on champagne so had forgotten most of the essential information Jacques had gone on to reveal. 

veg.jpg It must have been fate, therefore, that when I invited some of my old chums from Harrow up for the weekend we happened upon a rather quaint fete in my village which had lured us in with the promise of cider, perry and giant, hilariously shaped vegetables (that never gets old I can tell you, and I am old).  Not long after entering the rather rustic gateway to this village affair, I spotted a tent that looked suspiciously like the Punch & Judy tents of my childhood when we had days out at the seaside with nanny. 

Could this be the Great Bearded Punch & Judy Man of Shropshire?  Sadly no, but the proprietor of the tent told me that Great Bearded Punch & Judy Man of Shropshire was now the landlord of a rather fine establishment in a market town called Bridgnorth. I thanked him for his wisdom, admired an aubergine, sampled the local delicacies and got a young person to drive me to The White Lion.  I walked up the two steps into the pub with what can only be described as a keen sense of anticipation. 

Something I had not experienced since I fell heir to my country estate (another story for another time). Behind the bar were two smiling faces, one belonging to a lovely lady (who I later discovered was Samantha) and the other belonging to a bearded man. 

Could this be? 

farm.jpg I do not know what came over me but I shook them both rigorously by the hand, performed a short extract of a two-step I learned in the armed forces and made the decision there and then that this would be my home from home.  

And let me tell you this. I have not had champagne or cider or perry since that day. 

The reason? Well it turns out that Bob and Samantha brew a range of rather good, no staggeringly good beer from their brewery, Hop & Stagger (what a wonderful name, don’t you think?).  

Since that day we have shared so much together and I have no doubt that I can persuade Bob and Samantha to let me tell you some of those stories. 

Come and join me for a pint any day of the week. 

There is a place at my table and nothing would give me greater pleasure than sharing Hop & Stagger with you.