If you’re reading this blog post, you’re possibly a fan of independent microbreweries. You’re also probably a fan of the pub, and a good pub atmosphere is something I’ve missed for quite some time now. While lockdown restrictions continue to curtail the opening hours of most of our hospitality sector, I want to reflect on what a pub means to me. It may well be what it means to you too.
I was brought up and lived for many years in Ballymena but now reside in Carrickfergus. The castle town is most definitely not a place that’s known for, let’s call it, craft beer. There’s a Wetherspoon’s but we won’t talk about that. Apart from there, where to drink in the town? Sometimes we’d have a meal at Dobbins Inn or Ownies but that would be for the food, not the drink.
If I wanted a decent beer, I’d need to hop on a train and head to one of Belfast’s fine establishments such as The Errigle Inn, Northern Lights or The Sunflower. I was asked recently about my favourite pub and to my surprise, I didn’t choose one of those. I didn’t even choose a Belfast bar and – shock horror – I chose a pub that’s barren for craft beer and primarily sells Guinness and Carlsberg.
“HEATHEN!”, I hear you cry. Hold on, hear me out before I’m battered with my own judgemental stick.
A good pub is much more than its stock, though that does help us craft beer drinkers. So what do I want?
A pub that came straight to my mind is a place where, when I’m at the bar or having a bite to eat, the barman or barmaid knows me or a fellow drinker at the bar may know me. It’s a place I can walk into and be talking to someone within a few minutes. I love the phrase, “Ach Roy, how ya doin?” for I know I can grab a drink and the craic’ll be mighty. Ultimately it’s people that make a pub, of course, so micro or macro beer doesn’t matter. From a craft beer drinker’s point of view, even a small selection of microbrewery beer would make a great experience even better.
What else is there to love about this establishment which I haven’t yet named? It has fire, actually two gorgeous roaring open fires. It has a television showing sport. It has a pool table out the back. It usually has a full restaurant upstairs or mouth watering pub grub available downstairs beside one of those enticing fires. It has history, lots of intriguing history dating back to 1773. It has an ornate wooden beamed interior. It has a beautiful thatched roof. It has character.
For many years I played football for Braid United FC, a football club at the heart of Broughshane village, and when you play for a team like that you get to know people – you get to know the local pub. And I miss that pub. I miss it even though the last time I was there, the best beer offering was a bottle of Greene King’s Old Speckled Hen. But I miss it because of that intense fire, the craic to be had inside, the slate floors, the wooden beams… do I sound like an advert now? If only they stocked a few decent bottles of beer.
If you’re still reading, thank you, and I’ll reveal I’m talking about The Thatch Inn in Broughshane, County Antrim. I wish I were there now.
Which pub do you want to be in?