Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Great British Pubs




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.  


15 comments:

Bud Jazzman said...

Weird...I was just perusing around Google and snatched a nice pic of a pub cellar for my post on Cask ale and the managers that always panicked when I came to fix their refrigeration. "Mind my barrels, mate" They kept forgetting I'd been around cellars and cask ale stillages for years....lol

Bud Jazzman said...

I loved it when I was working the licensed trade end of the fridge game. (Ran a pub for a bit in London in the 70s.) Been to some really nice pubs, and some horror story ones. Met plenty of nice people and a few really nasty ones. The banter working behind the bar around the country can't be beaten. Granted, the hours were long....summer time saw me doing 92 hour weeks when on call, but I loved it. I've seen many changes over the years and watched the major breweries wheel and deal and mess with peoples jobs and livelihoods all in the name of mass profits. The turning point in the pub game was when the breweries realised there was a lot of money on the food side.

Bud Jazzman said...

What was the name of Adrian's band and what type of music did they do? Looking at that hairstyle, I'd say the jam maybe?

Do a post on his music days, Jane.

Exmoorjane said...

Which London pub, Bud? You should talk to Adrian about the food issue - one of his biggest bugbears is when you can't just go in a pub for a pint - cos all the tables are laid out for dinner and have RESERVED signs on them. Though he doesn't turn his nose up at a good plate of fish and chips. :)
His band was called Ersatz - a punkish outfit. He'd finished with it years before I met him - though I did buy him a guitar long time back and he still plays occasionally. Nowadays, however, he listens almost entirely to classical music. lol

Bud Jazzman said...

The French Revolution in Putney, formerly The Cricketers, by the common. We used to visit the famous Half Moon down the road and watch some great bands. Had a few nice chats with Paul Rodgers (free)as he used to pop in for a pint and a butty, amongst other celebs. Only there for a few months before my wife decided she wanted to go back home to Scouseland so I followed her.

Yes, the food side of things now gets pubs around the laws concerning kids. We love kids, but my wife works with them all week so she likes a break, plus, some managers just let them run wild. It's hard to find a good sit down pub where you can have a chat and relax these days.

Bud Jazzman said...

I've made many attempts to try and find an old picture of the place, but failed. It was a Whitbread house and had a restaurant at the back. There was a dairy across the road and it was near to the common on Lower Richmond Road. If anyone knows what it is now called or has any old pics of it, it would be great to see them or hear any news about the place. We were training for management there, but mostly left to run the place. I remember a barmaid called Penny who had worked there for years.

Exmoorjane said...

I don't believe it. You've found a pub he doesn't know! :)

Bud Jazzman said...

I'm sure there must be someone out there who remembers this pace. We also used to go to a bar called Mr Macawbers. It was run by a couple of gay guys and they had a resident guitarist who always played our request when we visited...Light my fire by Jose Feliciano.

Meer For Beer said...

Mu husband despairs of fact I will be able to find a pub anywhere even though the talent has meant we have been able to avoid downpours in the past.

Frankie said...

This book is going to win me the best sister in law award come Christmas.

Exmoorjane said...

Bud - I'll ask Adrian to put out the word amongst his pub history geeks. We will find the answer to your riddle. :)

Meer - you have a point. When the weather is foul, a cosy pub is a refuge indeed. :)

Frankie - yay! Glad to be of service.

Bud Jazzman said...

Brilliant, Jane...thanks.xx

Exmoorjane said...

Okay, Bud, our woman in the know reckons it would be The Spencer... Is it? Probably looks a bit different now though! http://www.thespencerpub.com/

Bud Jazzman said...

The inside has been refurbed, which is understandable given that it was in the 70s when we were there so I don't recognise the inside but on googling it in images and asking my wife for confirmation it's spruced up a bit, but that's the baby. If you look at the small wall on top of the pub, our room was just behind that. Nice one! Thanks xxxx

Heidianne said...

A good pub is truly a joy. I live here in Portland Oregon, Beervana they call it. We have so much good ale and beer available I feel spoiled and lucky. BUT these ultra spare, cold, clean "modern" hipster brew pubs just don't cut it for me, an earthy artisan, who likes my tables old and wooden, good ales on tap in cask, the place itself cozy and the crowd a mix of generations.
I think your husbands book, be it "pub Porn" or no, would be perfect for a Yuletide gift for my hubby and me. Wassail!