They say you marry your father. I laughed my head off at that when I met Adrian. Don’t be daft, I thought, they couldn’t be more different. I could cite many reasons but the main one? We barely ever went to a pub.
My father, on the other hand, lived for the boozer and I sincerely don’t remember the first time I visited one (probably in a pram). He was never happier than sitting in the back bar at the Greyhound, Bella the pathetic dachshund at his feet, with a pint of Youngs in his hand. His dream was to run a pub, a small rural pub in Kent. It never happened - he died of lung cancer at 52.
Pubs to me, on another hand (how many have I got?) meant immense tedium, the stale smell of fags and beer, people talking nonsense as they got more drunk. Pubs meant walking to the other side of the road to avoid being lunged at or thrown up over by blokes staggering out. Yeah, I went to them as a teenager (didn’t everyone?) but, to be honest, once I’d left home, I didn’t really frequent them that much. I sort of went straight to clubs, parties and music venues. J
Then the sordid truth came out. Adrian was a beer drinker. And a pub aficionado. Okay, so aficionado is probably too tame a word. Let’s just say he has an obsession, akin to a religion, a holy calling. ‘A good pub is a comfort, a cross-roads of social mobility,’ he says, rhapsodically. ‘Pub. Boozer. Tavern. Local. Rub-a-Dub (whaat?? Does anyone really say that?), Public bar. Village inn. Gin palace. Home from home.’ He fondles the words like poetry. ‘The pub is where we meet and greet friends, neighbours, strangers (friends in the making) and (on occasion) future lovers.’ Well, we met at a Paul McKenna press show, but hey…
|Adrian in his rock star days...|
'A good pub is a comfort,’ he continues, getting into his stride. ‘A crossroads of social mobility, a centre of communications and a place where the reward of a great beer sustains during the long working day.’ Well, not for me but hey, who am I to argue? Plenty of people agree with him. J
|And now, with fellow lush (I mean beer writer) Pete Brown.|
Many years ago, Adrian announced that he wanted to be a beer writer. He wanted to make a living tasting beer and writing about it. But not just about the beer itself, but about the places which served it. Serve eh? See, the pub is a temple and those who drink there are its priests and priestesses, its acolytes, its servants. I smiled and said, ‘Sure, why not?’ But I didn’t really think he’d do it. I thought it would go the way of writing the great Welsh novel. Oh so wrong. He’s now a major expert in the field of beer.
He’s written a swathe of books on the subject and travels round the world tasting beer. My father would have listened open-mouthed as Adrian gets the gleam of the preacher in his eye. ‘Beer,’ he says, waving a pint glass, sniffing, swirling it round the glass, holding it to the light, taking a small mouthful and swilling it round his mouth, cheeks puckering before, eventually, slowly swallowing. ‘Beer is the currency with which we spend our time in these pubs. John Barleycorn, who must die every harvest before being reborn the following spring – the golden promise of resurrection.’ See, told you it was a religion.
Anyhow. His new book is just out. Great British Pubs by Adrian Tierney-Jones, published by CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale).
Unmissable pubs * Perfect pints * Favourite destinations.
Or, as one wag put it: ‘It’s pub porn, innit?’ He has a point. Anyone who shares my husband's predilection for pubs will salivate over this book. Over 200 British pubs, all photographed and plonked into handy 'best of' categories – brewpubs, country pubs, community pubs, family pubs, pub gardens, seaside pubs, cider pubs, railway pubs, entertainment pubs etc etc. Jeez, the word ‘pub’ is starting to do strange things to my eyes. There are features, indices and all sorts. Yup, pub porn alright. And, let me just float this idea past you – an ideal Christmas present maybe?
|Woods - look bottom right. :-)|
Me? Nah. Though I’ve sort of come round to pubs. Let’s face it, my life would be tricky if I didn’t. Wherever we go you can bet there will be a pub involved at some point along the way. And I do like some of them, I do. I’m deeply fond of our locals, Woods and The Bridge Inn – both superb in their own ways. The Culm Valley Inn in neighbouring Devon is superb for top-notch food (while still remaining a great community local) and The Turf in Exminster keeps it simple but has a rather pleasing insouciance (they shut up shop during the winter to go travelling to warmer climes – oh how sensible). Kilverts in Hay-on-Wye is one pub I felt totally comfortable in on my own (crazy but it can still be a bit weird as a woman on your own in a pub – in some places it is still very much a man’s domain). Pen-y-Gwryd in Nant Gwynant in Snowdonia is a climber’s pit-stop in deep Snowdonia, surrounded by mountains, just begging for ghost stories to be told round the fire.
Buy the book. See if you agree with his choices. However, if you want to rhapsodize about pubs, or disagree vehemently, or argue the case for your local or favourite holiday find, might I direct you to Adrian’s blog – Maltworms. Do please engage with him in conversation there about your mutual obsession. He will be delighted. My eyes will glaze over.
btw, he also conducts tutored tastings and beer talks for corporate dos and other functions. They’re allegedly great fun and a bit different from the standard wine malarkey. He can tailor them to your requirements. So, if you or your company like the sound of it, drop him a line.