Last week I walked into one of my favourite pubs in Charlottesville. The barmaid was at the taps pouring a beer, so I took a seat at the bar and allowed myself a cursory glance at the menu, I knew what I wanted. The barmaid turned, wandered in my direction and placed a glass of what I wanted right in front of me and asked how I was doing. For the first time in almost four years I didn't have to ask for a beer, the right one just came. Obviously the barmaid had seen me coming into the pub and knew what I have been drinking most since I finished my booze fast, Samuel Adams Alpine Spring. Being known to that level in a pub is, at least for me, a good thing. So, Tracy at McGrady's I take my hat of to you as a superior practitioner of your craft.
That little vignette of life popped into my head yesterday as a result of a Twitter chat about pubs in Prague. I commented that several of the pubs I would frequent in that most beautiful of cities had just one beer available, usually it was Pilsner Urquell, and how nice it was to be able to go to a pub, know exactly what you wanted to drink and that it would satisfy every time. There would be no umming and ahhing at the beer menu clearly written by Franz Kafka in his most verbose magnificence, no starring blankly at a wall of taps trying to find the needle in an IPA stack that I would actually want to drink. Nope, very simply you walk into the pub, acknowledge the barmaid/man and wait a couple of minutes while he pours you a pint.
One pub in particular, at least in my experience, ticked all the boxes for guaranteeing a good session. Tasty beer, tankové Pilsner Urquell, well kept, they had several awards for the quality of their pour, efficient staff, two fingers to go, here have another and keep 'em coming, a crowd of locals enjoying good beer but primarily enjoying the company of their friends (which is after all the whole point of the pub). That pub was called Bruska, it is up in one of Prague's suburbs, and it is a place I never once regretted going to.
Having a single beer on tap, though admittedly I think they had bottled non-alcoholic Birell, can be one of the most challenging things for a pub to do. Your regulars will come to know the beer very, very well, so you better have a good one. Also, because your regulars will come to know the beer very, very well, you better keep it in tip top condition because they will be able to tell when the lines need a clean or something is just not quite right.
Sure it is nice to go into a drinking hole and have a choice of 25 or 30 taps, assuming of course it isn't just 24 or 29 variants on American pale ale of differing India-ness plus Guinness, but there is much to be said for going to a pub knowing that the beer you will be drinking will hit the spot, every time. That you won't spend time trawling through the beer list and ignoring your friends. That is the mark of a quality pub.
Picture credit: taken from my book 'Pocket Pub Guide to Prague', picture by Mark Stewart.