First things first: this post is badly in need of some visual accompaniment. So, to start, here’s a few of the gorgeous beers I’ve had recently (if that gets your very fibres racing, head over to Instagram):
< Sorry about hideous mismatching of filters, but I’m too tired / drunk to do anything about it >
- BrewDog Pump Action Poet – stonefruit IPA, lots of lovely peach and apricot
- Redwillow Perceptionless – New England IPA with typical murk and richness
- Crate IPA – lovely bitter Anglo-American IPA
- Kernel India Double Porter [Citra Ella] – huge black IPA / hoppy porter hybrid
This is the sort of thing that makes you feel good to be alive.
Anyway, onto Part II…
So, as per usual, I’ve been having friendly “debates” with friends about the relative merits and drawbacks of your traditional real ale pub vs your modern (hipster) craft beer joint.
These days there’s a vastly diverse spectrum (although both extremes seem to have a lot of sawdust on the floors) and it’s fair to say that I generally prefer somewhere between 50/50 and 66/34 (in favour of hipster). But at one point a friend suggested I should open my own place (I think mostly so he could blag free drinks) and this got me thinking about what my “ideal” venue would be. What would the Normski fantasy beer den actually be like?
Disclaimer: this is utterly pointless, but fun (at least it was in my head).
So, let’s examine the various criteria essential to my “ideal” pub:
I like repurposed buildings and spaces. The Cambridgeshire village my in-laws live in has a micropub converted from an old bank; that’s the kind of thing. A quirky, unused space of some kind that’s preferably not too big. Or, if we’re going to go total hipster (we’re not), a disused Underground station.
I know it’s proper hipster to have exposed brickwork and woodwork, reclaimed furniture, barrels everywhere etc so let’s not overdo that sort of thing. What I’d like is some comfy sofas to lounge around on (c.f. the tea café in Beeston that we go to) and a few cool things on the walls: local artists’ work and some random psychedelic gig posters. That’ll do.
Alternatively, everything this gentleman has ever drawn.
Ok, so this is where we could get controversial.
I’m not bothered about cask ale. I don’t object to it, but I also don’t generally choose it. It’s too temperamental and inconsistent (unless you go somewhere that really knows what they’re doing), and (if I’m going to be running the place) a little bit too much like hard work. I also like to start off cold and let the thing warm up over time just to see how it changes; starting off at the standard cask temperature isn’t really to my taste and, to me, the whole thing actually seems rather behind the times these days.
Keg isn’t much better – I would gravitate towards it as a customer but, as a proprietor, that’s still a little too much manual labour to be contending with.
A craft beer bar dedicated entirely to cans and bottles?! In other words, a bottle shop that you can stay and try stuff in if you want.
Initially this seemed like quite a cool idea, until I realised that essentially my “bar” is a room with a few sofas and some fridges. Might as well do away with a bar altogether.
Now, I realise this isn’t a new idea – there are many bottle shops that also have a drink-in facility (at least two near me) – but all the ones I can think of have some kind of tap element to them, even if it’s only a couple of lines.
To explore my reasoning a little further, reliability and consistency are crucial to me when I’m choosing beer on an outing, as well as a good range. As mentioned earlier, I’ve gone right off cask and I sometimes find myself uninspired looking at the keg options. If I grab a bottle of a classic (or a new venture from a classic brewery) I can be pretty certain it’s going to be in great condition, and cans are even better. They don’t take up much room so there’s plenty of space for choice, and they look great.
Whilst we’re on the subject, I’ve actually had at least four bottles already in 2017 where the contents have obviously gone off (still in date), which compares to only one example I can think of in the 5-6 years prior (and that was out of date). They were from decent, reputable breweries. Why is that starting to happen?! What am I doing wrong?! I seriously can’t afford to spend £3-4 on a bottle and then have to throw it away.
I’ve never once had a problem with a can.
Back to the point: a craft beer bar with nothing on draught? Hmm.
I’m massively into coffee, so I’d want to provide that too, but then you’re obliged to have an espresso machine or some kind of fresh coffee apparatus (terrible instant coffee will not do) and suddenly it looks like I prioritise coffee over beer. This is becoming slightly uncomfortable.
Tea and soft drinks will also be provided. Due to my circumstances I kind of feel like it should be family-friendly…(so a baby milk microwave might be on the cards)
This is also awkward. The only assistance anyone has offered me in this feeble conjecture so far is a friend’s pledge to provide vegan sausage rolls. That’s fine, but it does seem like a bit of a one-trick pony. It’s also worth noting that I can’t cook, but I would definitely want something simple and righteous that could be provided without too much fuss. I spend most of my life washing up so I’m keen to avoid doing any more.
TOASTIES! Everyone likes them. Sorted.
OR! Team up with local street food vans.
From my perspective, every situation is improved by playing mind-numbingly long albums of Danish psychedelic stoner-metal, so I think it’s logical to extend that to this venture too. And a weekly acoustic night. It’d be rude not to.
Probably me, but I’d need to buy some new t-shirts (as 90% of the ones I currently own are BrewDog, such that I have been mistaken for staff on at least one occasion) and get back into epic beard growing. It’s becoming a terrible cliché, but this kind of thing simply will not work without a grossly disproportionate beard.
And at least one minion that can put up with my hipster dictatorship. I already currently supervise an apprentice, so obviously I’m qualified to be a boss.
So…this has turned into a very strange “fantasy”. I’d love to hear of others’ ideas.