Can we order a pint of your finest real ale?
THE beer may have been flowing, but the usual pub talk it certainly wasn't.
The 50 or so real ale lovers had not assembled in the city centre to talk about football or MPs expenses but the arrival of a new kid on the pub block.
Mark Davies, general manager of Hotel du Vin in Birmingham, better known for serving the Crystal Champagne and huia pinot noir brigade, had raised a few eyebrows after announcing the venue would be selling real ales.
A mixture of around 50 real ale lovers, publicans and others met at the Church Street hotel for a good natured debate.
Co-panelists included Nigel Barker, landlord of the nearby Wellington pub and member of the Campaign for Real Ale. It was chaired by Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson.
The vast majority of the assembled wholeheartedly supported the hotel's decision to sell quality real ale, which could help promote the city as a destination for real ale lovers.
Mr Barker said of his new business neighbour: "This is not going to take business away from the Wellington.
"Birmingham is a big city and there is room for all of us." Mr Davies said: "Selling real ale has definitely brought a more diverse range of people into the pub and we are getting more people in." Everyone agreed that the bigger issue was that ale still suffered from an image problem, namely, it was still associated as "an old man's drink" popular with the woolly jumpers and pipe posse.
Without the big budgets of Carling, the publicans had taken steps to make real ale popular with young, mostly male, drinkers who preferred lager to a quality tipple.
These included getting breweries to sponsor tasting sessions and "funking up" the drink as one landlord put it.
The party then adjourned to the Wellington to continue their discussions..