Beer history

Tooled Up Froth Blowers, RALF and the Ring

Not the real RALF logo.
Not the real RALF logo…

When we wrote about the Ancient Order of Froth Blowers, we knew they were relatively well known, but didn’t know they’d been immortalised in animation. Our favourite discovery, however, has been that the AOFB was used as a cover by ‘Wild Geese’ mercenaries who turned up to support a 1981 coup in the Seychelles wearing blazers embroidered with the Order’s logo, and with their bags stuffed with guns.

That Froth Blowers post also led a chap called Bert to tip us off to the existence of the militant Real Ale Liberation Front (RALF), founded by pub landlord and CAMRA member Nick Winnington in Weymouth in c.1977, with the aim of carrying out small acts of sabotage against keg beer and the big brewers. There was more than one member, and there were some stickers, but that’s all we know. We’ve emailed Nick (with Bob Arnott’s help) and await more information.

Finally, our new favourite book(s), Green and White’s Evening Standard Guide to London Pubs (1973), gives us this:

Another organization concerned with pubs and beer is ‘the Ring.’ This is a loosely knit group of mature students of the pub scene. They meet once a month for a determined pub crawl, obliged to visit ten or eleven pre-selected pubs. Masonic rituals prevail; you buy drinks in groups of three or four in strict rotation; and when the leader has finished his half pint, he shouts ‘Ring out!’, at which you must drain your glass and leave the pub… Men are known collectively as Hector, and ladies — though not normally accepted — as Morag.

Can anyone confirm the existence of the Ring? Or is this just it’s-a-mad-world journalistic bullshit?

9 replies on “Tooled Up Froth Blowers, RALF and the Ring”

It wouldn’t surprise me at all. When Easter was coming up a folkie of my acquaintance started going on about “doing the Mobberley Eight”, as a regular (traditional?) custom on Easter Monday. I thought it was going to be ringing the bells in eight different churches or something, but when I asked it turned out to be a pub crawl on bikes. Rules are strict: in the course of the day you visit each of eight pubs, scattered around Mobberley (which is pretty rural), and you drink a pint in each one. Halves, of course, are frowned upon, and the beer absolutely has to be real ale. Apparently one of the eight pubs has gone keg since they started doing it, so the rule is to take along a bottle of something ‘real’ and drink it on a bench outside. It all sounded very Frothblower.

The Ring did exist and is mentioned in the obituary of ‘Arry Hart in the December 2007 London Drinker – he was one of the (or the?) organisers. It is reproduced at I had a little involvement in CAMRA SW London in the early 1980s and remember meeting ‘Arry – I think he was also a leading light in SPBW Wimbledon branch. The author of the obituary, Chris Cobbold, was Chairman of SW London branch for many years and would be worth contacting for your research. I haven’t seen him for years but he is on the British Guild of Beer Writers website.

The Ring is still going, there’s been well over 600 so far. I’ve been on a couple of them. It’s hard work – 12 halves if you do the lot – but surprisingly good fun, and you get to discover good pubs you’d never even have heard of otherwise.

So, who’s in charge? Is there someone we can email? Did you get called Hector and do the ‘Ring out!’ bit and everything?

Is RALF pronounced Ralph? As in “to ralph in the toilet”, or “Raif” as in Ralph Fiennes?

I’m American so I pronounce everything nasal-y.

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