I've just spent a weekend in Newark-upon-Trent, home to my youth*. It being a while since my last visit, the changes were all that more obvious.
You're here for the beer. I won't sedate you with the redevelopment of the bus station, nor the new surgery behind the Robin Hood Hotel (sadly derelict and in imminent danger of collapse). I'll stick to beery matters.
On my last visit, the saddest sight was a blank-eyed Woolpack. The town's last unmodernised pub, with a multi-room layout and more than 500 hundred years behind it. I feared it would never open again. Or be gutted. Not sure which would have been worse.
Prince Rupert. There are still two distinct rooms, the ancient flags continue to flag the floor and the beams have been exposed. I can't remember them being hidden, myself. Not much of a ceiling spotter.
A really nice job. Most important of all: they let kids in. And have the wifi my kids need to go ticky-ticky-tack while I go slurpy-slurpy-slorp.
Anything that keeps them amused is OK by me. I had quite a nice pint (well, three, actually) of Orkney Dark Island. "An apple juice with six ice cubes, please." was Lexie's order. Don't know where he's learned to be so picky. It's not come from me, I can tell you.
Driving around town in my mate Henry's van, the kids bouncing around loose in the back, I noticed something (despite the sledgehammer I took to my senses at lunch). Suburban pubs are geography. No, physics. Social Sciences? RE? History. That's it. Suburban pubs are history. The Victorian backstreet locals, 1930's roadhouses and 1960's estate pubs. Pretty well all boarded up, converted or demolished. A couple of more recent pubs on the edge of town are still there, but that's about it. Drinking in Newark is, more than ever, concentrated in the town centre. I suspect this is typical of many English towns.
Just Beer, in what my sister calls Wheelie-bin Yard. I won't go into how it got that name. Let's just say it's a typical example of Newark humour. As the name suggests, Just Beer sells . . . just beer. Just cask beer to more precise. (Well and cask cider, but let's not pedant out.) Beer from smaller brewers with less muscle to elbow their way onto bars. I'd give you a detailed description, but I didn't stay long. For one extremely swift half. I'd left the kids in the Prince Rupert and only dropped in to drag out Henry. I must visit properly next time I'm over.
I spent most time in Sir John Arderne. On the kids' insistence. The wifi is better than elsewhere. And they let kids in, because it's a Wetherspoons. I could try and claim that it's an unusually classy and elegant Wetherspoons. But it isn't. There's the same eclectic mix of thrifty parents eating with their kids, thrifty pensioners eating with their mates and thrifty middle-aged pissheads pissing it up. Two out of three. Yehay. Must be my sort of place. Where else can you get three meals, two soft drinks and pint and a double whisky for less than 20 quid?
Sir John Arderne. It really is the only one I took in the pub. Apart from ones with my kids on. And they've put a cross in the "no publicity" box. No amount of incentivisation can make them change their minds. Funnily enough, Lexie was greatly amused by the picture. I wish he hadn't noticed it. Maybe I shouldn't have said "Look Lexie, there's a picture of man sticking his finger up someone's arse."
["Is it appropriate to have that picture on your blog, dad?"
"It's on display in the family eating area of a pub, Andrew. Why shouldn't I have it on my blog?"]
At the third attempt, I found a pint without that eau de Sarson's aroma. I think it was Abbot. No, tell a lie, it was Ruddles Best. One of the most inappropriately-named beers ever.
Don't read that honest description as a criticism of Spoons. I wouldn't go in them if they didn't fulfill my needs: cask beer, cheap whisky, budget scran for the sprogs.
Warwick and Richardson's former brewery is, like Hole's, now flats. It lay derelict for years. Sad it no longer brews, but at least the building is there as a reminder of Newark's brewing past. Talking of which, here's something odd. Newark has no brewery. There are ones down the road in Grantham and even closer in Sutton-on-Trent. But not one in Newark itself. Odd, because it seems such an obvious town to start a brewery in. (I'd go for the name McGeorge and Heppenstall. It rolls off the tongue so easily.)
Talking of starting a brewery, that's exactly what Henry is planning. He certainly has the room, what with all the outbuildings there are around his house. He wants to concentrate on historic recreations. You can probably guess what my role will be. AK would be a good place to start. A nice session Mild for the farmers and labourers of the East Midlands.
Some philosophical shit about the inevitability of change. I could write that as a conclusion. I did write that, then deleted it. It was stinky grilleaux.
"Dad, did that roof survive WW II?"
"No Lexie, it was built in the 1960's, when John Easter lived here. He used to own the chip shop . . ."
* Baldo if we're splitting peas.
The Prince Rupert
46 Stodman Street,
Swan & Salmon Yard
Sir John Arderne
1-3 Church Street
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