Beer Travels with Adrian-Tierney-Jones

I am a romantic when it comes to writing about the pub, of the many moods each pub I visit seems to cloak itself in, the people who come and go, the beers that I drink and the home from home feeling that a good pub always seems to possess (though most pub front rooms don’t have nearly 2,000 books like I do).

I often think about the universal pub, the one pub that stands for all pubs, even though each pub, like each human being, is different and unique, and I am unabashed in celebrating this difference. However (and there is always a however), there is romance, an idealisation, a fiction even, and then there is the reality but there is always the mood of a pub.

Like the tide on a lonely beach that no one ever visits, the mood of a pub ebbs and flows throughout the day. Some evenings are boisterous and roistering bringing with them a chorus of voices as men and women are faced with the choice of what to drink and who to talk with and who to avoid. Then there are early doors and mid-afternoon doors, both of which I am also a fan. These are the reflective and contemplative times, the times when the pub can have an air of solitude, a solicitous silence as grave as the face of a disordered artist who has found solace in their work, slowly and methodically creating a new world on a piece of canvas. This is all about the slow tick-tock of time as you sit in a corner, your glass of beer placed on the table surface in front of you with an air of reverence, accompanied by an open book or a notebook awaiting words. Other silent souls might be dotted about the bar adding to this sense of devotion and ritual.

I found myself in the midst of this tranquil mood during a recent afternoon visit to the Lincolnshire Poacher in Nottingham. This is a pub I always try to visit when in the city, a Castle Rock house that sells the beers of the brewery as well as many others, both local and further afield. Inside its two drinking spaces around the bar, it is stripped wooden floors all the way through, pub mirrors on the wall, glass-handled mugs hanging over the wooden bar, a well-polished brass rail running along the bottom of the bar upon which vertical drinkers can rest a foot. There is also a conservatory and a room at the back of the bar. This is an elemental, cosy, comfortable and reassuring pub, and the first pint I had was Castle Rock’s Harvest Pale, a refreshing, delicately citrusy, palate-pleasing pale that didn’t last long in the glass (my thirst was far more energetic than the mood of the pub).

There was a calm and considered air in the pub during the time I spent there. As well as writing I watched people. A mother and father came in with their student son; a regular sat on a stool at the end of the bar puzzling away at a crossword; two allotment owners discussed the beers they were drinking, the mysterious ways of the courgette and other things horticultural. Meanwhile, as if bored with the cloistered atmosphere a large impatient dog pulled on its lead, a sign to its owner that it desperately needed a walk. Sighing loudly, he swiftly finished his pint and the dog almost galloped out.

Outside in the afternoon drizzle of June, traffic swished by but inside the pub there was almost a serene atmosphere, the kind you would get in a cathedral before the crowds start filing in. It is a place for beer, a place for silence, but then as the afternoon wore on the mood of the pub changed again as more people drifted in, work finished for the day and the call for a cool pint loud and clear. The pub then became a place for conversation, the day’s events mulled over and pulled apart and even though I wouldn’t be there I knew that the evening would bring in more people in search of beer and a friendly face. I don’t know when I will next visit the Lincolnshire Poacher and at what time of the day, but as I went out into the fine sheen of summer drizzle, I knew that I would carry with me that sense of serenity and security that a pub during its quiet mood has.

Adrian Tierney-Jones

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