Pubs are a topic very close to my heart. Pubs are, in my as ever unhumble opinion, the natural environment for the lover of beer. It seems fitting then that the last post of 2011 should be a guest post on the theme of pubs, in particular the ones we call our "local". It is also fitting that the author of this post is Adrian Tierney-Jones of Called to the Bar, one of my favourite and absolute must read blogs, he is also the author of Great British Pubs. Without further ado, let me hand over to Adrian....
I’m greedy. I’m positively gargantuan in my appetite for pubs, which is why whenever I am asked about my local, I answer that I have two of them and both suit my ever changing moods in many ways. Both of them serve good grub and I eat in both. Both of them keep a perfect cellar and I drink beer in both, especially at the weekend, where in the company of several other topers I start at the bottom pub by the river and then end up at the pub at the top nearest to my house. I drink cask beer most times — St Austell Proper Job, Tribute, Otter Head, anything from Bristol Beer Factory, Dark Star, Adnams, Thornbridge — or I might have an Orval or a Flying Dog IPA (in their proper glasses).
Then, as Graham Greene wrote, there’s the human element. I like the people who run both these pubs. I enjoy the company of those that drink in both these pubs (some of whom, like myself, lead a dual pub life). We swap jokes, gossip, local news, comments on the weather, football and rugby anecdotes, rarely politics though, moans about road-works (they’ve just finished) and occasionally I talk about beer, though I try not to. I am minded to remember the look on the face of one of the guys a couple of years ago after I’d persuaded one of my pubs to take in Schneider Weiss on draught — I like this lager he said to me, and 10 minutes later was wishing he’d kept his mouth shut as I continued to drone on about Bavarian Weizen. On the other hand, Mike always asks me what the guest beer at one of my locals is like when I see him there over the weekend. We also get lots of tourists and you get wistful comments about how they would like a local back home. I always like talking with them; you just never know where the journey of conversation is going to take you.
So what else do my locals offer me? Both are a home from home, a place that is homely and public, a public house in the true sense of the word and of course having two homes is better than one (well I suppose you could say I have three). And much as I like the social discourse that having a local pub brings there are also subtle nuances that I think you can show whenever you just want to read your paper and have a quiet pint (though there is the odd type who even if it’s obvious that I’m sitting there working on my laptop will wander over and ask me what I am doing — for him and his sort I have reserved a special place in the third ring of hell, otherwise known as one of the pubs in the nearest market town over the border).
There’s one other thing that occurs to me as I think about the local. I travel about visiting pubs and I think that sometimes one also can have a mobile local, one that is very much of the here and now, a local that you don’t visit that often but as soon as you walk in it’s like slipping into a favourite pair of carpet slippers (not that I ever wear the fiendish things) and starting to relax. And this then makes me think that a local pub is both a physical entity (whether it’s one or two) and also a state of mind.
And finally, dialectically speaking, the synthesis of all this thought about the local is that it makes me realise what is the greatest thing about the local pub — it offers a never-ending potential for discussion and debate on what a local pub is. The road goes on forever.