This week's guest post on the theme of "my local" comes from pithy blogger, beer taster, beer retailer and one of the few people I know with a beer named after him - Zak Avery. Over to you Zak......
To me, there's a clear difference between "your local" and "your favourite".
To get to my local, I walk for about 4 minutes. To get to my favourite - depending on which favourite you mean - is anything from a 20 minute busride to a longhaul flight. Even then, I'm cheating a bit, because I walk past two pubs to get to "my local", The Black Bull in Rothwell.
The Black Bull is typical of good, suburban British pubs. Everything about it is instantly familiar, from the almost-lurid pattern of the brown and red carpet to the elbow-height, dark wooden wainscotting. True to type, there is a bit of exposed brickwork, and an area of bare floorboards that leads up to, and around, the bar. At 6.30 on a wet Thursday evening, there is already an assortment of drinkers assembled, but the pub is quiet. The gleaming chrome fonts offer familiar megabrands, the optics on the wooden barback are the usual suspects. The selection is nothing to write home about.
Of course, there's a reason that I walk past two pubs to get to this one. It's not the slightly-too-loud jukebox, the quiz machine, the Sky Sports TVs, the raised area with the pool table. It is, of course, the beer. Ordinary, beautiful, humble, dazzling British bitter. They have three handpumps, and will rotate beers through them with a decent amount of speed - tonight there are only two on, which is as it should be mid-week. It's better to offer one cask ale in perfect condition than three that are past their best, and The Black Bull knows that. I've never had a bad pint here. Tonight, I'm drinking Adnams Southwold Bitter, in an Adnams glass, at the perfect temperature. Other times, Tetley's Bitter (in a Tetley's glass), Acorn Barnsley Bitter (in an Acorn glass), Ossett Excelsior (in an Ossett glass).
The Black Bull is an ur-pub, outside of fashion and trend. This is the sort of place that any visitor to the UK should try to experience in order to get an insight into the real drinking culture of the country. While I love drinking in beer geek bars (and I use that term with love), while I love being asked "This is £9 a pint, is that OK?", while I love the current preoccupation with offering the best Scotch egg known to humanity as a humble bar snack ("This Scotch egg's a fiver, is that OK?"), I also love the brilliant simplicity of a pub that just wants to be a good, ordinary pub serving good, ordinary beer.