Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Time marches on

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.

Neither happened. It's been tarted down and re-opened as the 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.

A genuine newcomer is 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.

The White Hind has reopened. Again. Never been in there and I never plan to. I'm proud of my full set of teeth.

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?

Apologies for the photo of the 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,
NG24 1AW

Just Beer
Swan & Salmon Yard
32A Castlegate
NG24 1BG

Sir John Arderne
1-3 Church Street
NG24 1DT


Neil, Eating isn't Cheating said...

Wow, what a fantastic conversion on the Woolpack. Looks really warm and traditional yet clean and wlecoming.

Bravo to the converters on that one. A stunning job well done. Any photos of the inside?

Ron Pattinson said...

Neil, the outside looks so much better. The inside doesn't look bad, either. Sadly my photos of that are a little blurry.

Dan said...

OK, I give up, why does he have his finger up someone's arse?

Ron Pattinson said...

Dan, I think he's a doctor. I hope he's a doctor.

Jeff Renner said...

Yes, he was a medieval surgeon.

I had fun visiting the neighborhoods in around the pubs using Google Maps street view. I was impressed how narrow the street is at the Prince Rupert.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff, that's why my photographs are from such a sharp angle - the street's too narrow to take one head on.

Anonymous said...

I was there the day after you. There's almost a decent pub crawl in Newark now!


Beerspitnight said...

Ron - I first "discovered" you after reading an article of yours in Beer Advocate. Love your work, even if I only understand 1 out of 5 of your posts - that is due in part to your use of stylish British colloquialisms and in part to my unfamiliarity of brewing terminology, albeit your combination of British slang within the brewing terminology causes double perplexity on my part. Either way, I appreciate your posts and have given a list of your books to my wife in hopes of getting them as birthday and Christmas presents...might you have an American English translation of "Mild" and "Porter"?! :)

Ron Pattinson said...

Beerspitnight, one in five isn't bad. I barely understand more myself.

Don't worry. A large percentage of Mild" and Porter! is numbers. No need to translate those.

Christopher Heppenstall said...

Wrt McGeorge and Heppenstall, I have pictures of the beer flagons. If someone can direct me how to add the pictures, please do let me know :)

Unknown said...

Nice to read your bit about the White Hind, I was actually born there June 30th 1959 when my mum & dad ran the place, I wasn't born in the bar by the way but in one of the top floor bedrooms. I live 300 miles away from Newark now but I revisited the pub quite a few years ago when it became The Ark (I think?) my cousin took me in, he said if anyone looks at you don't look back, sounds like nothing's changed!

Duckeggpaul said...

Nice to read your bit about the White Hind, I was actually born there June 30th 1959 when my mum & dad ran the place, I wasn't born in the bar by the way but in one of the top floor bedrooms. I live 300 miles away from Newark now but I revisited the pub quite a few years ago when it became The Ark (I think?) my cousin took me in, he said if anyone looks at you don't look back, sounds like nothing's changed!