Friday, December 9, 2011

My Local - Guest Blog

Pubs are a ubiquitous feature of life in many European countries and Ireland surely has one of the more celebrated pub cultures. So, off to Ireland we go, and this week's post comes from Reuben, writer of the Tale of the Ale blog and all round good egg. I'll be hanging out with Reuben and his wife in a few weeks in Paris, something Mrs V and I are very much looking forward to. Without further ado.....

Ah the local, a term of endearment. It's a home away from home. For many it might feel more like home than wherever you live. It's an odd term "Your local". What does it actually mean? In the strictest terms, your local should be the pub/bar that's closest to your place of residence, or at least in the vicinity. What happens if you live in a small rural town with only two remaining pubs? That's my current situation, since I have moved to the town formerly known as Beggars Bridge, though the Irish name Droichead Chaisleán Loiste means Castlelost Bridge and refers to a ruined castle named Castlelost and so on. Yes there is history to this little town, though little of it all that interesting. Not until you get to more modern times. Apparently (and I have no evidence either way), my humble little town is the site of the country's first strip or pole dancing club. I'm not sure which, or even if it's true but since it happened before I moved here, I also don't care.

What I do care about is that of the two pubs remaining in my town, neither have any beer worth drinking. Now that would not bother me so much if my closest pub, Bagnalls (the one VelkyAl has been to) still served food. When we moved here first they actually had lovely food and Sunday lunch was fantastic. It was not a carvery, it was menu and table service but the cost was about the same and the food quality far superior to a carvery. Sadly they stopped serving food a few years ago and as a result, we stopped having a reason to go there. I have tried a few times to make it my local. For a time they had bottled Guinness and I went to watch a few rugby games but it just had no atmosphere.

The other pub called Lysters is more of a farmer and GAA pub. I have only been in there once while waiting for the post office to open. When I mentioned this to the bar man he pointed out that in actual fact the post office closed in 20 minutes and I had been waiting for it to close all that time.

I now have a dilemma. The closest homely pub to me is in my closest large town of Mullingar. Daly's serves craft beer and is a lovely pub as well. It is hard to get to using public transport. My only real option is to either use a taxi at over €20 each way, or I can cycle as I did in my report.

That means my real local, the one I feel most at home in must be somewhere with a better public transport link and where else but my home town of Dublin?

There are many great pubs I can choose but The Bull & Castle usually ends up as number one, as long as we are talking Saturday or Sunday afternoon when it's quiet enough to sit at the downstairs bar and read. Later on weekends they bring on a DJ and loud music to ruin the atmosphere and ability to have a conversation. This can be overlooked for their dedication to craft beer, their sheer range of craft and world beers and also because if I get hungry, as I often do when drinking beer, I have some fantastic dishes to choose from. The manager also runs a blog listing their latest beers and current rotation cask and keg offerings.

Sitting at the bar downstairs is probably my favourite place to be while enjoying a beer, a book and perhaps something to eat. Upstairs is the German style beer hall but there is something more homely & more welcoming about the downstairs bar if you are on your own. If not, head upstairs to the beer hall and pick any bench style table. Pick a beer of any of the chalkboard or table menus. See what's on cask that day or watch a match on the projector, assuming there is one. It's a great place to watch Rugby matches.

There are quieter and more relaxing pubs, pubs that serve better food perhaps or even pubs that might be better craic, but as an all round great place to be, for their sheer number of speciality world and craft beers, their dedication to Irish craft beer and their cask offerings and many other indefinable reasons, The Bull & Castle is my local, my home away from home.

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