Session #135: Sepia-Toned Pubs

The Ses­sion, when blog­gers around the world get togeth­er to write on the same sub­ject, is a frag­ile thing, only ever one dropped ball away from dis­ap­pear­ing alto­geth­er. This month’s was look­ing dicey until Al at Fug­gled stepped in hero­ical­ly to save the day, propos­ing for Ses­sion #135 the top­ic ‘Sepia Tones’. Here’s our con­tri­bu­tion.

Over the past few years we’ve spent a lot of our time think­ing in mono­chrome, thumb­ing through decay­ing papers, and star­ing into the eyes of long-dead brew­ers and pub­go­ers. But some­thing about Al’s par­tic­u­lar choice of words made us think not of archives but of a par­tic­u­lar cat­e­go­ry of pub that we’ve some­times strug­gled to describe.

The Blue Bell, York.

We’ve some­times used the short­cut ‘prop­er pub’ but call­ing them sepia toned is rather more poet­ic, and also implies less of a judge­ment against oth­er less ‘prop­er’ pubs.

The Marble Arch, Manchester.

These are places dom­i­nat­ed by shades of brown, from the dark wood of the bar to walls either stained with nico­tine or paint­ed to look that way. The prints on the walls are yel­lowed, the paint­ings dark and var­nished to death, the pho­tographs jaun­diced.

Swan With Two Necks, Bristol.

The beer prob­a­bly sits some­where on that stretch of the colour spec­trum, too – per­haps Courage Best, Bass, Tet­ley, or some oth­er brand from a long-gone brew­ery frozen in the flash-bang of nos­tal­gia, fad­ing away with mis­han­dling and neglect.

Two pints of Courage Best.

They have them on the Con­ti­nent, too, where the clue is in the name: brown cafes, or brown bars.

A Belgian Brown Cafe.

Here’s one test: take a pho­to in a sepia-toned pub and com­pare it to one  of the same place from a hun­dred years ago – can you see much dif­fer­ence?

Inns of York (1897)

Illus­tra­tions from The Old Inns and Inn Signs of York by Thomas Par­sons Coop­er (1897) released by the British Library on Flickr.

York – a great city for beer

york_brewery.jpgIf you like beer, York is a great place to spend a few days. And that doesn’t just apply to fans of real ale.

From our expe­ri­ence, you can’t go too far wrong fol­low­ing your instincts in York – if it looks a friend­ly pub, it prob­a­bly is – but here are some pubs we tried and liked.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “York – a great city for beer”