In an era of social distancing, one British institution has proven resilient.
“Which country has the longest coastline?”
“Which television characters are associated with Wimbledon?”
“Sniffled Rotten is an anagram of which famous cartoon character?”
I didn’t know any of the answers. And judging by the many bemused faces in front of me, I wasn’t alone. Some chose to confer with their partners, making sure to turn their mouths away so that no one might read their lips, before scribbling down their response. Others, seemingly resigned to their fate, took a swig of beer and leaned back in their chair. Looking down at my own paper, I knew the chances of my team—just myself and my boyfriend—winning this pub quiz was going to be slim. But hey, there was always the next round.
The questions were challenging, perhaps not unlike those that would be asked of “punters” at any of the thousands of pub quizzes that are typically held on a given night across Britain. Only this wasn’t a typical quiz night, nor was it taking place in a pub. Rather, this quiz was happening via a Zoom call at the Corona Arms, a “virtual pub” that, until a few weeks ago, had no reason to exist.
The outbreak of the coronavirus changed that. The first cases emerged in Britain earlier this year, and any semblance of normal life has since come to a grinding halt. Social-distancing measures have been put into place, and nonessential areas of congregation, including restaurants, gyms, and cinemas, are now closed. In the nationwide effort to curb the spread of the virus, not even a treasured institution like the pub—perhaps one of the most recognizable symbols of ordinary British life—was spared [ . . . ]
Our Beerhunter points out the way our lives connect up around good times in pubs and people we meet there
I’m not sure if I’ll manage to keep a beer column going for the duration of our current exile from pubs but here’s one, inspired by Mark Gilliver, landlord of the Coach & Horses at Draycott, which he has built into a marvellous community facility.
This was Mark’s Facebook post which spurred me into action:
“Life just doesn’t seem the same without The Pub. A pub should be a cornerstone of every village, like a post office or church. It’s a place where a community knits and socialises. It’s a second front room, where you go to meet your neighbours, vent your woes, wind down after a day at work, solve all the world’s problems or join a pool team. You can have a bite to eat, watch the football and it’s the perfect place to take the in-laws when the conversation at home dries up.
“Call me old-fashioned but I think the good stereotypical English boozer has an esteemed place in our history and whether it will still be living and breathing in the future remains to be seen, but for many of us it’s an essential part of every decent community in this fine land. Looking forward to seeing all our friends and neighbours back at the Coach, hopefully sooner rather than later.”
If anyone reading this can’t agree with that then they might as well move on. Wrong article, wrong column! Continue reading →
How much would you spend on a pint of beer? Depends on where you live most likely, but it’s safe to say that the majority of British people would draw the line at around £7, which itself is ludicrous.
But what if we told you that there is a pint of alcoholic liquid that would set you back more than £20-per-pint? No, this is not some cruel prank we’re playing on you ahead of pints actually costing that much after a no deal Brexit, it is in fact the real price of a pint of a particular stout in London.
The rare stout is quite strong – 12 percent – so it traditionally comes in sizes like a third, or a half of a pint, but travelled down to see how good probably the most expensive pint in Britain actually tastes.
A good pub within walking distance is on most buyers’ wish lists and can even uphold an area’s value. But what makes the perfect village pub? Arabella Youens investigates.
If the idea that a village pub can sell a country house sounds a bit extreme, here’s a story to prove it. When the parents of James Mackenzie, head of the country-house department at Strutt & Parker, were in Oman and reading a copy of Country Life, they spotted an old rectory near Lyme Regis in Dorset for sale.
As soon as they could, they jumped on a plane and booked a viewing,’ says Mr Mackenzie. ‘When they reached the top of the drive, my father jumped up onto the gate to inspect the exterior and its aspect. Then, without venturing any further, he took the agent for lunch in the pub opposite. Once that had passed the test, they bought the house – barely bothering to look inside.’
The Bell at Stow is one such pub – gorgeously cosy with beautiful food.
That a pub acts as a binding force within a community was ever thus, but, today, this role is on the rise, believes Harry Gladwin of The Buying Solution, Knight Frank’s buying arm, who says a good village pub comes within the top three requirements of a country-house buyer. ‘It’s a place where everyone meets, regardless of background. This mix of people and ideas around an open fire is what breathes life back into many villages and – unlike village shops – can never be replaced by Amazon.’
In recent months, Mr Gladwin has handled two transactions where a good pub was at the top of the list of must-haves; as neither client enjoyed cooking, the pub would be an extension of their kitchen, to feed the family and house guests.
The Ebrington Arms.
‘Even in less extreme scenarios,’ he adds, ‘it’s great entertainment for guests at weekends, especially if they can combine a good walk with a pub lunch or have a late dinner there after driving down from London.’ The best landlords, adds his colleague Jonathan Bramwell, ‘will keep their kitchens open a bit late to accommodate this type of clientele. Now that you can no longer make a profit on selling pints alone, it’s the food that helps in no small way to keep these pubs alive’.
‘We will never do pea shoots or foams’
Village pubs that are successful tread a fine line between catering for the weekend crowd and looking after locals. Peter Creed runs The Bell Inn at Langford in west Oxfordshire, having taken over the pub, which was then derelict, with his business partner, chef Tom Noest, two years ago. It’s taken off and they now have an outlet in Soho Farmhouse (The Little Bell) and are in the process of negotiating on another pub nearby.
‘A pub needs to act as a hub for the village,’ says Mr Creed. ‘It has to be somewhere that everyone can afford to go.’ To that end, they ensure the menu accommodates local families, as well as those wanting to celebrate an important anniversary. ‘We will never do pea shoots or foams.’
Dogs friendly is a must – luckily, the Ebrington Arms welcomes all types of patrons!
Although it may not come as a surprise that the British public hankers after a regular pint to wash down wholesome grub, Charlie Wells of Prime Purchase, Savills’ buying agents, believes the pub factor is increasingly playing a role for international buyers, too. ‘Foreign buyers love a good old-fashioned English pub with horse brasses, which doesn’t really exist in Scandinavia or America,’ he explains. In addition, they attract buyers with families; as children become teenagers, the pub becomes particularly useful if they can walk there and meet friends, rather than using parents as a taxi service.
The Fife Arms, Braemar – The Flying Stag adds a unique decorative touch.
‘A good pub makes a good village and vice versa,’ concludes Mr Gladwin. With that in mind, if the current pub isn’t hitting the mark, it might be a good plan to take it over. That may sound like a storyline from The Archers, but these days, communities are beginning to take matters into their own hands and village-owned, village-run pubs are reversing some of the decline in pub closures.
In (albeit rare) cases, incoming buyers of large country houses are also buying the pub to turn it around – a move made by a number of Mr Wells’s clients. This can work to benefit everyone, argues Adam Buxton of Middleton Advisors. ‘It might underpin the popularity of the village and ultimately help hold up values.’
What would you expect from a pub called the Crooked House?
Himley is a small village situated between Dudley and Wolverhampton. It is mostly unremarkable, and is perhaps best known as being the home of Himley Hall, the former home of the Lords of Dudley.
Himley has another claim to fame though, in that it is home to the wonkiest pub in Britain: the Crooked House.
Originally a farmhouse, this building became a pub in the 1800s, by which point it had already begun sinking to one side due to mining in the area.
It remains a pub, despite being condemned as unsafe roughly 80 years ago. With all this knowledge in mind, JOE decided to take a trip to this pub, to see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be and whether the rumours of gravitational anomalies are actually true.
“Do I want to go to the pub and wonder if the building’s gonna collapse? I’m not sure.”
The Crooked House is the wonkiest pub in Britain, where the pints slide out of control and absolutely nothing makes sense. pic.twitter.com/RkinE2jzEk