Friday, March 27, 2009

What's a Pub, Daddy?

I'd like to welcome a guest author all the way from the UK, East Anglia, as a matter-of-fact! His name is Neil Haverson, and he is the Chief Writer of Let’s Talk!

Neil, Senior Magazine's Foreign Correspondent ;)

He wrote a piece for Senior Magazine's April Edition (April edition will be available online on April 1st), called "What's a Pub, Daddy?" and I found it so interesting that I asked him if I could post it on my site. :)

And here was his kind reply:

Hi Kristy Thank you so much for your kind comment about my pub column. Of course you can use it on your blog… I'll be very honoured to be a guest post! Best wishes Neil

So, please enjoy this commentary on Beer & Brewpubs by Neil Haverson…

What's a Pub, Daddy? by Neil Haverson

Tanglefoot, Fursty Ferret, Riggwelter; What Do You Reckon they Are? Characters from Lord of the Rings perhaps? How about Waggle Dance, Hobgoblin or Hopping Hare? Could they be names of racehorses?

Give up? They’re names of British beers. There’s been a revolution in beer drinking in the UK over the past 50 or so years which has seen these strange names come on the scene. And sadly it’s affected the great British institution, the pub…soon to be a museum of memories.

Before I go any further, I should say that I know full well what you folk over there think of our beer; warm and flat. Okay, what we call Real Ale is not gassy but the taste, once acquired, beats the pants off that gassy liquid you drink.

As for the temperature, I know you like yours chilled, but honestly, ours is not warm. It is usually a shade below room temperature.

Here in the UK, we’ve been drinking ale since the Bronze Age but it was thanks to the Romans we have pubs. The Romans invaded and established a network of roads, with them came inns where the traveller could obtain refreshment and overnight accommodation.

These alehouses became meeting place for locals to exchange gossip and sort out issues within the communities. Each alehouse would brew its own beer but by the 17th century independent breweries sprang up.

When I was first of drinking age the pub was still a warm, inviting place; somewhere to meet friends and chat over a pint of bitter, maybe play game of darts or dominoes––most pubs had their own teams and took part in a league. There was an open fire and the only food came out of a cellophane packet.

I believe the decline of the pub started in 1967 when drink driving came to the fore and the Breathalyser was introduced. Many good pubs were in rural locations meaning driving was essential. For people like me, a 20-year-old out and about, it was unthinkable to go into a pub and order an orange juice or a Coke.

Drink driving wasn’t enforced back then as strongly as it is now and, being young and foolish, many of us risked having one for the road and driving home.

Pubs began offering food to attract customers. Pool tables appeared; quiz nights were staged and brewers moved to abandon the traditional ales in favour of a tasteless synthetic brew.

Then an organization called The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) came on the scene and there was groundswell of support for the return of that flat, tepid beer we love so much over here.

But pubs continued to struggle. The authorities toughened up on drink driving, trendy wine bars sprung up and you couldn’t find a pub to relax in because most of the tables were reserved for diners. And tinny piped music replaced the traditional juke box.

Fish & Chips, Traditional Pub Faire

In July 2007, the smoking ban was introduced. For some––not me––sipping a beer while drawing on a cigarette goes together like apple pie and custard.

Pubs are closing here at the rate of 36 a week. CAMRA is running a “Use them or lose them” campaign. But the fact remains they are no longer hubs of communities. And those names I mentioned at the start of this column must share some of the blame. In the UK, drinking at home is becoming more and more popular and those beers are just a few among a huge range that are brewed for home consumption. They are of good quality and many of them have quite a kick––but who cares, no one’s driving anywhere.

Adam & Eve Pub

There is a ghost story attached to the Adam & Eve pub: In 1549, Lord Sheffield led an army to Norwich to quell a local rebellion against land enclosures. He was hacked from his horse and taken to the Adam & Eve where he died. For the past 460 years he has haunted the pub. Customers are tapped on the shoulder only to find no one there; tankards swing on their hooks above the bar; staff report banging on locked doors when the pub is closed and unseen fingers running through their hair. Customers have returned from the bar to find their car keys, umbrellas or cigarette lighters have disappeared. The missing items invariably turn up exactly where they were left a day or so later.

Old Speckled Hen, Yummy Brew

It’s Saturday night here, when I have finished writing this column I shall take from the cupboard a bottle of Old Speckled Hen, my favourite. I shall join my wife on the sofa where I will spend the evening savouring my beer and enjoying a movie.

Some of it comes with age. Sometimes we seniors just can’t be bothered to make the effort to get ready and go out. But I’d be off the sofa like a shot if I could wind the clock back to those days where Saturday night meant a trip to a very special place; a place of old furniture, oak beams and the uncomplicated company of like-minded people.

Those days will never return. I just raise my glass to the memory and give thanks that I was there.

Interior of Old Fashoned Pub

Golden Jackal Draught, yes please.


Paul Garrard said...

Reports of the death of the pub are greatly exaggerated is perhaps what Mark Twain might have said. Yes pubs are closing, that's because there's been a change in British social habits. Many still survive, due often to real ale. In the main you can only really get real ale in a pub. It is my belief that real ale and the middle classes will be the saviours of the pub.

Deniz Bevan said...

Thanks for posting this article! I've linked to it :-)