One of the best things ever written about pubs was George Orwell’s essay, the Moon Under Water. This was the name of his favourite pub. The atmosphere was perfect, the clientele friendly, the food was basic but just right, and the beer was good.
At the end of the essay, Orwell confesses that there is no such pub. It was a composite of elements from his favourite pubs. All had something that made them special, but none seemed to be able to pull off the whole thing.
Little has changed. In Stoke Newington, the pub that serves the best beer won’t let you take dogs in. The one with the best pub quiz serves terrible food. The one that serves decent beer and lets you take the dog in, and has the best juke box, serves no food at all.
My local is the White Hart on the High Street.
It does a cracking Sunday lunch, they bring Captain a bowl of water and occasionally a chew when he comes in, they have an immense beer garden, big screens for the game, fantastic vibe and brilliant, eclectic crowd of characters – and shit beer. It’s the kind of pub you visit more than any other, and only ever drink Guinness while you’re there. There’s a Spitfire font in the corner of the bar, on its own, and you just know you don’t want to drink the stuff that comes out whenever someone disturbs the cobwebs on the hand pump.
That changed a few weeks ago. One Saturday afternoon, I walked in, and there, next to the dusty Spitfire font, was a brand new, shiny handpump, with a Timothy Taylor Landlord pump clip on the front. I pointed at it, open-mouthed, and Andy, the landlord, said, “You like that one do you?”
“Yeah, I only put it in on Thursday night and I’ve sold one cask already.”
“Well, it is one of the best beers in the world,” I replied.
“Yeah, I know that now,” said Andy.
The next time I went in, three days later, that second cask had gone too, and he was awaiting the next delivery.
This is a pub with a very hip crowd that has, until now, seen no need to take on the hassle of stocking cask ale. And now he’s selling more than two casks a week of Landlord – not exceptional, but certainly comparable to the throughput the beer would have in a decent real ale pub. Sticking it on the bar has unleashed a latent demand for cask ale among a clientele you wouldn’t automatically consider cask drinkers. I promise it wasn’t me drinking it all.
The perfect pub? Not yet, but it’s a damn sight better than the Wetherspoons in Leicester Square that set itself up for a fall by nicking the name of Orwell’s fantasy boozer.
By the way – apologies to anyone who is interested for the very infrequent posts at the moment. There’s loads I want to write about, but the IPA book is past its deadline!