When I say I want to go to the pub, what do I mean?
What exactly am I looking for?
My favourite thing in the world is going to an old pub for a pint. I love sitting in the peace of a bar room softly buzzing with the chit chat of locals and fellow drinkers, basking in the atmosphere of a place that’s been a second living room for generations of people.
I spend a lot of time researching places to visit. I live in a part of England that’s seemingly blessed with quaint old pubs, and yet there are so few of them that really fit my elusive parameters—so few of them boast every aspect I need to call them perfect. I thought it was about time I tried to consolidate these requirements of mine, to try and put into words what it is I’m looking for, to see if what I’m after isn’t just me wishing for the Moon Under Water. I travel quite far for a good pub, so I try and make sure I’m not wasting diesel. Imagine driving two hours around the winding roads of North Yorkshire to find you’ve arrived at a total dud.
When I’m searching for pubs to visit, the first thing that puts me off are renovations. So many beautiful country pubs in the Ribble Valley have had their character stripped in favour of light oak tables and pastel tartan. What keeps me interested are original beams, wonky floors, and horse brasses—or big, clichéd bunches of dried hops and age-tinted maps on the walls. Keep talking.
If reviews talk about “decent pub grub” I am likely to wonder about the price, quality, and selection of the beer. My next step is to check photos of their bar to see what they sell. Nine times out of ten, my suspicions about Pedigree and/or Doom Bar are confirmed.
Conversely, if a country pub has stunning reviews for its food, that pub is going to be hellishly busy, it will require a reservation, and it is not what I’m looking for. I will probably book to go for my tea sometime. I don’t want to have a pint there, because it’s a restaurant. I’ll feel like I’m taking up space, and I’ll overhear someone talking about struggling to fill their holiday lets.
When I get there, I want to feel comfortable and welcome, but left alone. I want a delicious pint of beer and plenty of fun trinkets to look at on the walls and shelves. I want to feel like I’m sat reading or playing cards just like a patron 150 years ago might have done in my spot.
I want to be chatted to when I go to the bar to choose from good selection of beer, and feel like the people who work here are looked after and enjoy being there. I love a real fire, but controversially, it’s not a dealbreaker. I do, however, award huge bonus points for hauntings, witch marks, and fascinating or gory local history that can be linked to the pub—however tentatively. Points are deducted for tourism-baiting, although I’m not too harsh on this right now. It’s a difficult industry out there. Beautiful views from the windows are a tick. Funny or interesting regulars are a tick. Classic bar snacks are a massive tick—pickled eggs, butties wrapped in clingfilm, or pies from a local butchers’ shop all tot the points right up.
I want a pint that’s so good I get two more of the same. I want to feel my shoulders relax and my cheeks ache with smiling—I want to feel happy. I want to be slightly sad when it’s time to leave.
This week on Pelllicle Will Hawkes writes about northern Germany’s Störtebeker Braumanufaktur. I have always wanted to go to Germany’s Balkan coast.
I re-read Will Hawkes’ story about Bundobust this week as a result of the above and it really is super interesting to learn about Bradford and the owners of everyone’s favourite curry pub/tap room
Polyester Zine are just coming out with some of the most interesting and insightful features right now. Try this on Shanzhai design and fashion for size, or read this about the enduring popularity of smoking in all its forms (including vaping) — particularly interesting to me since I said I was giving up two weeks ago and it’s all I can think about. Critically and in a hot, aloof way, of course.
“Saltburn is an anti-Scouse film” by Ella Fradgley for STAT magazine. Wow there is just SO MUCH great culture critique out there right now.
Golden Hive Mead made wine out of Mountain Dew and I want to drink it.
I’m writing a lot more for Ferment these days, so if you get Glug or Ferment magazines, you’ll see more of me in both.
My series of newsletters about processed food, PROCESS is coming into its penultimate week. Upgrade to a paid subscription to read the whole series so far and to be among the first to see what’s coming next.
I’m working on a lot more of my own work, which doesn’t bring me in any money. This is not ideal. If you have writing work you’d love to send my way, please get in touch!
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