Generalisations about beer culture pubs

The country pub out of season


When people talk with moist eyes of the English country pub, they’ve usually got somewhere specific in mind — a place which greeted them like old friends; which had an open fire; good food; low ceilings; and fresh, tasty beer. Cosy is the word that usually gets trotted out.

Sadly, not many country pubs live up to that ideal, especially out of season. One pub we visited in Cornwall last week seemed pretty typical of the reality.

We walked into the gloom and were struck by the smell of damp carpet and the chilly feel of the air.

The place was large (with seats for more than 100 people, at a guess) but almost empty. There was just one old man sat at the bar with a dog asleep at his feet. The only light was what made it through the small, dusty windows, and from the flickering mp3 jukebox.

The beer was actually spot on, although it did take a couple of attempts to find a pump clip that wasn’t purely decorative (“Ain’t got that ‘cept in bottles”). The landlord wasn’t unfriendly but nor did he look especially pleased to see us. Why should he? Our £5.20 wasn’t much of a contribution to a miserable winter weekday’s takings.

We sat on damp red velvet seats underneath foxed, curling pictures of local sporting teams and chains of dusty horse brasses for as long as it took us to finish our pints in seemly fashion and escaped into the fresh air.

Not so much cosy as bloody bleak.

7 replies on “The country pub out of season”

Plenty of country pubs are busy and welcoming all year round – it sounds like this was a bad one, not a typical one. What prompted you to go there, by the way? Is it in the Good Beer Guide?

I find it depressing. Places can’t be full all the time, but surely they should never stop trying to be welcoming? Otherwise it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy: ‘no-one ever comes here at this time…I’m not going in there it’s empty’. I shudder to think what would have happened had you wanted food….just the ping-ping of the microwave I suspect!

Last time I went to the Lower Red Lion in St Albans (I know it’s a town pub, but it has a country character) it was exactly like this. That was two Sundays ago.

Not the sort of country pub experience that I, living in rural England, er, experience — was in one yesterday evening, one that we had never visited before, up in the hills between Tivvy and Wellington — 6.15pm, car park full, bar full of people, happy buzz, good beer, good food, friendly bar maid, no League of Gentlemen vibes here; maybe this Cornish pub was one of the ones that —sadly — will perish in the Battle of Stalingrad that is pub life at the moment.

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