Devils Washtub, North Coast IPA

  • Brewed by: Lacada Brewery Co-op
  • Style: Dark IPA
  • ABV%: 5.2
  • From: Portrush, N.Ireland

Billed as a North Coast IPA I was unsure as what to expect. The labelling didn’t expand anymore on what was contained within. Was it just a bit of spin to sell an IPA made on the north coast of Ireland or was it a unique style of beer in itself. 

Obviously I wasn’t going to discern much more with the lid on, so it was time to pour it. 

I was honestly caught off guard with the pour, the colour, dark almost black, with a swirling head of  cream caramel as it settled. 

So now my interest was welland truely peaked, what was this beer? Some kind of dark IPA?

It had the floral hop aroma of an IPA that was true but with the maltyness of a dark ale there too, in almost equal measures. 

First sip and again my tastebuds are confused, there’s the bitterness I’d expect, light floral notes, hint of citrus possibly but right alongside that were malt flavours, burnt sugar and dried fruit. The first drop on the tongue says IPA but the aftertaste that remains says dark ale. 

As someone who was making tasting notes to describe this beer, it really made me work for it, really hard to nail down. I’d say I’d classify it as a Cascadian Dark Ale, a little known style more common in North America that is starting to take off. 

I think this would be a great bridge beer between the IPA and dark beer drinkers, if you were a Hophead who wanted to start trying more dark beers, this would ease you in perfectly and visa versa. 
Overall an incredibly enjoyable beer that I’ll definitely have again. 

Big congratulations to the boys at Lacada for creating what is certainly the most interesting beer I’ve had in a while. 

Galway Bay: Buried at Sea Milk Stout

  • Brewed by: Galway Bay brewery
  • Style: Milk Stout
  • ABV%: 4.5
  • From: Galway, Ireland 

I’ve been so busy lately setting up a new series of articles I’m planning that I’ve neglected my reviewing. So I thought I’d write one today on the last beer I’ve drank. 

(Edit. I know notice that the previous single beer review before this was another Galway Bay beer, I’d like to point out I have no affiliation with the brewery and this is purely coincidental… If however the brewery would like to sponsor me I’m sure we can arrange something wink wink.)

Firstly for those who may not know what a milk Stout is. 

Milk Stout, sometimes called Sweet Stout is essentially made as you’d make dry Stout but lactose (sugar from milk) is added to the brewing process. Since these sugars can’t be broken down and fermented by the brewing yeast, it remains in the brew and adds a sweetness to the final product. Milk Stouts were once incredibly popular and the dominant Stout style available most places except Ireland. It was even promoted for its health benefits and as a kind of latter day energy drink and while it’s health benefits may have been exaggerated to an extent, its certainly healthier than the energy drinks we have today. 

So this stout poured silky smooth as I’d expected, dark but not as black as some other stouts and with a creamy caramel coloured head. (I’d long drank this before I realised I’d maybe write about it and probably should have taken a picture)

I’d had this beer once before but back then it was labelled as a chocolate milk Stout. I’m not sure if they’ve changed to recipe along with the label or they decided it wasn’t chocolaty enough to have it in its title. 

Aroma wise it has everything you’d expect from a good milk Stout, roasted malt, molasses but with a very prominent hit of coffee. The lactose gives a rich mouthfeel and coats the throat on the way down. Obviously sweet on the palette but not overwhelmingly so, flavours of malt biscuit, caramel, with rich dark chocolate riding underneath, finishing again with that full coffee flavour. 

All in all a very decent wee milk Stout. Too sweet for me personally as a session beer but not for many others I’d imagine. But if I could have this with my dessert after a good meal, in lieu of the coffee course, I’d be extremely happy. 

11 stereotypes you meet at every beer festival 

The “Beard”

Harder to spot than it used to be thanks to the resurgence in facial hair, the beard is the elder of the real ale world. They were into this scene before the term “craft beer” had ever been uttered and they’ll still be around should the hipsters move on to a new scene. 

How to spot: Apart from the obvious beard itself, they often wear large hats and waterproof coats that would blend in well at a game fair or horse race. They may also have brought their dog and possibly their own glass/tankard. 

Most likely to say: is this CAMRA approved?

The Lads


These lads (or bros as Americans might describe them) are only here for one thing, to get drunk. To be fair there’s an honesty to them that you can’t help but admire. They only drink pints as “halfs are for girls!” And inevitably they underestimate how strong many of the beers are and end up much more drunk than even they’d imagined. 

How to spot: Travel in a pack, usually minimum of 6 lads. Often sporting chinos and rugby tops or maybe a dress shirt if they are out in town on “the sesh” afterwards. 

Most likely to say: chug chug chug chug!


The Beer Hater 

Many people attend these festivals with their partners, maybe they weren’t allowed out on their own or maybe they were convinced it would be a fun couples activity, which if both people like beer then it really is. However quite often people attend these events when not only are they not big beer fans but sometimes they can’t stand the stuff. If it’s a big, well organised festival then there will be plenty of other things for them to entertain them, music, food, maybe even ciders or a spirit tent. But if it’s a small festival, like one of the ones you get in a town hall then they may struggle to have a good time. 

How to spot: Often overdressed for the occasion, they’ll have a distant look in their eye. They’ll try and steer the conversation away from beer which the others in the group are talking about until they can convince their partners to go. 

Most likely to say: What kind of place doesn’t have any wine?!


The Nerd 

A lot like the beard but probably less interesting. The nerd is obsessed with details. They know the exact brewing technique used in each ale or the variety of hops used and they’ll tell anyone who’ll listen to them. If you’re really into your beer you can actually learn a lot from these guys but if you’re just looking to enjoy a good beer in a pleasant atmosphere then they can be a little grinding. 

How to spot: They’ll often have a near full glass as they were too busy talking to drink it. They’ll either be talking to someone who looks like they want to run and hide or they’ll have found a fellow nerd and are doing what they love most, arguing about details. 

Most likely to say: Actually, I think you’ll find…

The Hophead

The hophead is a relatively new group to the beer world, they crave hops and only the hoppiest (is that a word) beer will suffice. They’ll stick to the IPAs and anything with hops in the name all day. Theirs is a never ending quest to find a beer so bitterly hoppy that they can’t even drink it. 

How to spot: Generally among the younger end of the crowd, usually dressed trendily even if you’re not sure what trend it is. The contents of their glass will rarely be dark. 

Most likely to say: This is so hoppy, like definitely the hopiest hoppy beer I’ve had this week. 

The Instagramer 

Pretty self explanatory this one. They spend more time taking pictures, selecting the right filter or adding the right hashtags. 

How to spot: They’ll probably be dressed unremarkably but they’ll be easy to spot by the massive camera around their neck and smartphone in hand. 

Most likely to say: I should have posted during peak hours! 
The Foodie

This festival goer is all about the food. They appreciate the beer too but it’s more about how it compliments the food. And if it’s a well organised festival then they will be in heaven, with hog roasts and pies and giant pretzels for snacking. 

How to spot: You’ll find the foodies in the food area (duh) talking to the people running the stalls. They’ll have at least one hand full of food, which they may be taking pictures of. 

Most likely to say: It’s all about beer pairing, that’s the future. 


The guy who’s only there for the band

You can get a very diverse range of music at a beer fest. Sometimes bands who you’d rarely see anywhere else. Nearby you’ll find this guy, he’s waiting for the seven piece bluegrass band he saw at a festival in Belgium last year. 

How to spot: He’ll be in the tent where the bands play and he’ll rarely leave. Likely be wearing a teeshirt with the name of a band you’ve never heard of. 

Most likely to say: You just have to hear these guys, they are so tight. 

The BeerTicker 

If you don’t know what a beer ticker is, it’s someone who’s mission it is in life to sample as many beers as humanly possible. This can become an obsession, with family holidays revolving around regional beers and back again for the seasonal brews. 

How to spot: The easiest way to spot the beer ticker is by the size of their glass, why drink a few pints when you can drink a mouthful of every beer there. 

Most likely to say: That’s a great beer… but I’ve had it before so I’ll pass

The Tourist 

The tourist and family are having a short break in the country and have quickly realised there’s not a lot to do. So in an effort to find something to pass they day they’ve stumbled upon this beer festival. They may not even like beer but it’s this or the model railway museum again!

How to spot: Probably one of the few family groups at the festival, they’ll usually be seen chasing after kids who’ve quickly got bored. 

Most likely to say: Next year we’re going to Spain 

The Designated Driver 

What can we say about these absolute heroes. With many beer festivals taking place in rural areas or at a brewery outside of town, these guys are essential. There are many possible reasons why they’re driving today, maybe they lost a bet, maybe they made a mess of themselves at the same festival last year and this was the conditions of them being allowed back, maybe they’re just awesome, who knows. Whatever the reason, if you have a designated driver, look after them well, pay their fuel, buy their lunch etc. 

How to spot: Look for a group of five or less, see one of them without a beer and with a slightly sad look on their face? That’s the DD. 

Most likely to say: How many tokens is it for a coffee?

Death of a Wetherspoons

Recently I witnessed something truly unique, the closing of a JD Wetherspoons. 

The closure of a pub shouldn’t be that big of a shock, as currently they are closing at a rate of 25-30 a week, depending on your source. But for years Wetherspoons has bucked that trend and grown at a rate unheard of in the hospitality industry. 

This particular ‘spoons was very special to me, not only was it my local for many years but it was established around the time I first started drinking. It was where I had my first legal pint. 

Now many of you may have no fondness for the chain and wouldn’t mourn its loss. And to be fair a chain of pubs goes against everything I look for in a pub, but it does fulfill a role in society, a niche they have clawed out for themselves. 
The price

Money makes the world go round of course and if you can offer the same or similar as your competitors but at a lower price you a pretty much on to a winner. 

With the price of alcohol rising constantly in the UK, Wetherspoons remains a place where you can get a pint at a decent price. This was particularly true during my time in London. The prices in London are famously extortionate and I’m sure £6-7 a pint is fine for some but for a poor student ‘spoons was the only option. 

And £5 for a burger and pint was an affordable luxury then for me as it still is for many. Thursday night for me and my friends meant curry night, a hot sit down meal with friends for the price of a McDonald’s or something similar. 
Selection of beer

It seems hard to imagine nowadays but for many of us bland mass produced lagers was the only thing on tap in our local pubs. Of course now most pubs have got at least one craft ale on tap and several more bottled. 

I’d never even seen a real ale let alone tasted one before a trip to Edinburgh with my college, during which I visited the Caledonian Brewery. It was there that I first tasted an IPA. I’m not gonna pretend that I was hooked from that one taste but it definitely opened my eyes to what was out there. 

The next time I was in my local Wetherspoons I saw another beer from the same brewery, and I liked it more. I then began to work my way through all the different beers available and looked forward to each new guest beer. It was by this that I slowly developed my taste and discovered beers I’d never never have found elsewhere. So if beer was my chosen subject, then Wetherspoons was my classroom. 
The people 

When local first opened its doors everyone was welcome and everyone came. Including people who had been barred from every other pub for miles around. This made for a very interesting first few weeks to say the least. 

Since then ‘spoons has been one of my favourite places to people watch. You won’t find another place around where you will get such a mix of characters. From the old man just looking somewhere warm to sit to the struggling writer nursing a single cup of coffee and using the free wifi. I’ve seen girls starting a big night out rubbing shoulders with men just finished a hard days work on the building sight. I’ve seen divorced dads taking their kids for an affordable Sunday lunch next to young parents out without their young one for the first time and anxiously checking their phones regularly. 
The settings

Ironically for a chain that are often attacked for being cold and devoid of individuality, some of the most beautiful and grand pubs I’ve been in have been Wetherspoons. 

They’ve taken some historic local building and made them useful again, saving many from the bulldozer. I’ve drank in old cinemas, banks, church’s, my local was once the county courthouse. Buildings with marble columns, silver domed ceilings, stained glass windows. 

Even old pubs that have stood for hundreds of years have been saved for another generation by the chain. 
The familiarity 

There is a reason chains of all kinds are popular, people like the comfort of familiarity. 

If you’re in a strange city all alone and you see a sign for a restaurant/pub chain that you know from home, then you can feel drawn to it. You know what to expect when you cross that threshold. 

When I first set out on my own, I found myself at a loose end one Thursday night and to be honest I was feeling a bit lonely and sorry for myself. I knew if I was back in London me and my friends would be out for a curry club at ‘spoons. I soon found myself in a nearby branch and sitting down to a curry and though I was on my own it felt like I wasn’t. 
Now my old Wetherspoons is gone, sure to be replaced by something very similar but it won’t be the same. 

Just it’s opening was a watershed moment in my drinking life, so it’s closing seems to come at an apt time for me. It’s been been years since I regularly went to a ‘spoons for cheap booze. I’m at a stage in my life where I drink less but I what I do drink I demand to be of high quality and I don’t mind paying for it. 

So you can say what you like about the chain, I’ll always have a special fondness for it, even though I’ve moved on from them now. 

That said I’ve now got a craving for a curry and a 99p pint of IPA


(The landlord)

De Halve Maan Brewery, Brugge 

I was talking to my wife last night and we were discussing our upcoming trip to Brugge this summer, probably one of our favourite places in the world, couldn’t recommend it more. We both agreed that it’s a very laid back place and it’s best not to have a strict plan but just go with the flow. However there were a few things that we both agreed are musts and we do every visit. 

The canal boat ride, a very touristy thing to do yes, but it’s a very relaxing way to see Brugge from a side you really don’t get to appreciate on foot. 

The beer wall, this is a long alley and on the wall, behind glass, is a bottle of every beer made in Belgium (or so they say) and it’s coresponding glass. This is my wife’s favourite spot, not because she has any interest in bottles or glassware, but because at the end of the wall is a little bar and beer garden. On a good day you can spend hours there sampling their beers with your feet up on the canal wall watching the boats go by, which we often do. 

De Halve Maan brewery, or the half moon in English. This is still always our first stop when we get off the train. If it’s your first time in Brugge then the brewery tour is a must. It’s actually the only remaining brewery in Brugge itself. Not only is it a great little brewery, little is actually very accurate, some of the doors a passageways were not built for tall people, some were even a struggle for the shorter ones. But the best thing about the tour is that it ends on the brewery roof and offers an amazing view of Brugge. A better view and a much more pleasant assent than the famous belfry tower, which I did once and swore never again!

We don’t do the tour of the brewery every time, often we just sit in the courtyard and enjoy the atmosphere and sample the brewery’s four main beers on tap. 

There’s also a lovely little tavern attached that does some great food. It’s open for lunch only I believe for a couple of hours in the afternoon. 

I’ll now give a quick overview of their four main beers, the Bruges Zot which comes in blond and bruin and the Straffe Hendrik which comes in a tripel and a quadrupel, but I’ll point out that the tasting notes I wrote for these were ones I made at the brewery where I had the beer on tap. Most of you, unless you visit there, are more likely to get the beer bottled. The beer goes through a second fermentation in the bottle and ages to give a different taste, I’ll not say better/worse as I enjoy both, though I found the bottles to be a bit more complex. 

  • Style: Blond
  • ABV: 6%

A very straight forward easy drunk Belgian blond. It’s made with 4 different malts which give a subtle amount of depth to it. It has a strong aroma of yeast and some floral notes, hints of coriander too. The taste is simple but pleasant, a sweet malt on the tongue with a touch of citrus and definitely some banana there too. My wife’s favourite of the four and my least favourite. 

  • Style: Dubbel
  • ABV: 7.5%

It usually follows that where you have a blond you have a bruin, often the bruin seems like an afterthought, something they just had to make to fill a quota. This little dubbel isn’t like that at all, a great beer in it’s on right. Made with the same yeast as it’s brother it has many of the same tastes including that strange hint of banana. It’s made with 6 malts which add a deep malty flavour to the beer, a slight taste of coffee and chocolate with a subtle bitter and hoppy aftertaste. This isn’t the most complex Dubbel you’ll ever drink but sitting in the sun in that courtyard I could easily put away 2 or 3 and really enjoy myself. 

  • Style: Tripel
  • ABV: 9%

Where to start with this one? Whilst the Zots were very simple, this one had a lot going on in it. Again there’s that banana flavour and yeasty aroma same as the others, but then you’ve got coriander, cardamon, lemon zest, orange, traces of honey and cinnamon and finished with a malty sweetness. Throughout the whole beer you can definitely taste the alcohol, which at 9% maybe shouldn’t have surprised me but with all the other flavours going on I expected it to be more hidden. Quite a heavy little beer, one to savour over time. 

  • Style: Quadrupel
  • ABV: 11%

Finally we come to my personal favourite. This is a great example of  a quadrupel, or at least it’s what I look for in a quad. Again the aroma has a distinct hit of yeast, followed by malt and red berries. The taste once again has that hint of banana as seems to be the common trait of this brewery. You also get sweet malt notes, caramel, dried fruit, cherry and a bit of liquorice. The mouthfeel is surprisingly clean and dry and unlike the tripel this one hides its strong alcohol deceptively well, watch yourself with this one. 

I bring home a suitcase full off beer every visit to Brugge and these four always feature. I like to store them away in a dark cupboard and let them mature over some time. The Straffe Hendriks especially benefit from this treatment and can be stored for up to 2 years when they’ll be almost unrecognisable from the beer I drink in that brewery courtyard. 

All this reminiscing has made me itching to get away, July can’t come soon enough!


(The landlord)

Galway Bay Of Foam And Fury 

  • Brewed by: Galway bay brewery
  • Style: Double IPA
  • ABV%: 8.5
  • From: Galway, Ireland 

So I got a lot heat yesterday when I said I wasn’t a lover of IPA. I said I could appreciate a good one and I enjoyed them but personally they wouldn’t be top of my list. It all comes down to personal preference with beer, don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t like. If you enjoy a Belgian lambic Kriek, as I know I do from time to time, you go ahead and enjoy the hell out of that. Or if you prefer a mug of strong imperial stout warmed by dipping a hot poker straight from the fire, as my Granny was fond of, well just you do that. I’ll try and give my personal opinion on whatever lands in my glass and if that inspires you to try it out too, then great! That’s my job done. 

So anyway…

IPA or in this case Double IPA, personally I usually call it Imperial IPA, I think Double is more the American term but since they are pretty much responsible from the creation of IPAs steroid bloated brother, we’ll call it whatever they want. 

Now I’m sure you are all aware of what an IPA is by now, it’s probably the most written about beer style ever. But just incase you aren’t here’s the jist. 

IPA = Indian Pale Ale. It was created during the days when Britain ruled half the bloody world. Their soldiers in India were crying out for some decent beer. The problem was that the sea journey from Britain to India was long and beer was usually past its best before date by the time it got there. And bad beer leads to unhappy soldiers. So IPA was created, a beer packed full of hops and strong in alcohol, both of these not only helped the beer survive the crossing but actually created a beer that matured and aged so well during transportation that it was far more popular with the soldiers than with anything they could get on their return to Britain. Eventually of course a version for the home market was made. 

Now Double IPA is the result of those craft brewers on the west coast of America. They had an arms race but with hops, each trying to out do the other. The result is a beer that is much stronger than the traditional IPAs (about double strength, hence the name) and with a hoppy punch that will knock your teeth in. 

Of foam and fury. Apt name because when you pour this, it’s like a foaming, cloudy sea in the midst of a furious storm… or at least it would be if it wasn’t a beautiful golden orange colour. It has an aroma of pine, grass and citrus fruits. The taste is everything you’d expect from a good IPA. Strong bitterness from the hops but this is perfectly balanced by the complex fruity hit. There is a slight hint of malts that I really wasn’t expecting but was very pleasantly surprised by. 

This beer is almost too drinkable, the bold flavours mask the strength of it and at 8.5% you could easily over do it with this one. But if you’re patient and take the time to savour the flavours, I can think of few better ways to pass a spring afternoon than sitting outside with a glass of this. Maybe the only way it could be better was to look out over Galway bay itself. 


(The landlord)

Chew Chew Stout by Fallen Brewing

  • Brewed by: Fallen Brewing
  • Style: Milk Stout
  • ABV%: 6%
  • From: Kippen, Stirlingshire, Scotland

I’m going through a Stout/Porter phase at the moment, I’ve always been a fan but every now and then I get into them in a big way. It just so happens that the craft brewing world is also going through a Stout/Porter renaissance right now.

This is great for me not only because I’m a fan of the black beers but also (and this isn’t something you shout about in the beer world) I’m not a big fan of IPAs…. there I’ve said it. I mean I drink them from time to time and I can appreciate them. But for a while there it was all anyone was brewing. And it was all about how hoppy they could make it. It got to the stage that I stopped asking what the guest ale was when I went to a new pub because it was always another bloody IPA.

Ok, now that’s out, let’s talk about Stout.

This particular Stout is a Milk Stout, sometimes called a sweet Stout. It’s called milk Stout because lactose, the sugar from milk is added to the fermentation process. This sugar unlike other sugars isn’t broken down by the yeast during the fermentation, hence it stays around in the final brew and gives a rich sweet taste.

A quick word about Fallen Brewing before I get on to their beer.

When you think of craft beer, we like to think of a picture postcard little old stone building, run by a handful of dedicated brewers who care for their brew from raw ingredient to finished bottle. Where as often, even though the marketing men would lead to believe different, they are made in a big industrial brewery along with a hundred other craft beers.

Now there’s nothing wrong with this at heart and many small brewers use big brewery’s to make a beer of their own recipe but at a scale that means it can reach a bigger audience. And that’s all good but don’t blow smoke up the drinkers arse and tell us you’re some one man band.

Fallen on the other hand is that ideal we have of the small brewer. Actually starting out as a one man brewery, Paul Fallen made the leap, that many have dreamed of, from home brewer to brewery owner in a short few years. He actually used a big brewery to make his first few batches until he found the ideal spot to set up on his own.

Onto the beer, I have a tendency to go off topic on these reviews as you may have noticed.

Chew Chew salted caramel milk Stout. Straight away that name sets out what to expect.

The beer pours very dark and thick, it has an aroma of rich chocolate, malts and molasses. It forms a pale creamy head, which is always a good sign when trying a new Stout.

The taste is strong and sweet, distinctive caramel notes with a hint of vanilla. It actually reminds of of Scottish tablet, which it a kind of very sweet, crumbly vanilla fudge. There is a slight hint of saltyness but that doesn’t come into full until the aftertaste. As you swallow you get a touch of the bitterness you expect from a Stout, which is quickly replaced by a wave of sea salt, which I found very pleasant.

All in all a very nice beer and a great example of what a milk Stout should be. I’d advise you to try it out and if the rest of their beers are as good as this one I can’t wait to try the range.

I believe they did a collaboration with Brewdog, where they did an extra strong version of this with raspberry flavours. Which I was keen to try before, but after drinking this one I’m now even more so.


(The landlord)

Funky Buddha Maple Bacon Coffee Porter

  • Brewed by: Funky Buddha
  • Style: American Porter
  • ABV: 6.3%
  • From: Oakland Park, Florida, USA

C’mon! Tell me you didn’t read the name of this beer and instantly want a bottle for breakfast, no? Just me?

Pairing beer with food has been a big thing in the brewing industry for years now, so why should breakfast be neglected? Honestly this would go great with a big plate of fluffy American style pancakes. 

Anyway I suppose I should get on with my review…

I’ve always been drawn to the dark side. And when it comes to that, you don’t get much darker than porters. 

Traditionally brewed in London for years, they started to fall out of favour after limits were put on production during the First World War and the downturn continued until the 50’s when it had pretty much ceased being made in the city. 

By this time it’s spiritual home had crossed the sea to Ireland where Guinness had successfully been making an extra stout porter for several years. Eventually it became so dominant that the name porter almost disappeared and Stout became the name for this type of beer. 

Irelands dominance of the Porter industry continued for the rest of the century but now we see challengers emerging. English brewers have started brewing London porters to the old pre war recipes and over the ocean the craft beer revolution in America has led to some truly amazing new takes on the style as well as some quality recreations of the traditional recipes. 

I categorise all Porters brewed in America as American Porters, this is kind of a generalisation on my part as the actual styles of Porters being brewed in the states right now are diverse and wide ranging, from Baltic style stouts, to traditional London styles, to styles that are very much American. 

I’ve chosen the maple bacon coffe Porter by Funky Buddha as an example of a true American Porter. 

The moment this beer hits your tongue you get a delicious rich taste of maple, an earthy sweetness. Then the smokey meat taste comes in and warms the roof of your mouth. The aftertaste is where the coffee comes in, the bitter notes of a strong Colombian bean. 

I don’t know if the guys at Funky Buddha set out to make a porter with those 3 flavours so prominent or if they set out to make a great Porter and these are the flavours that came through so they named it thus. 

The difference in the latter and the former is that one makes you a brewing genius and the other a marketing genius. 

Either way it’s a great beer and regularly comes in as one of my top 5 Porters (yes I make top 5’s, top 10’s actually)

So crack open a bottle and start your day the right way. It’s the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast. 

(The landlord)

The Game

It was Saturday and I got to the Hallion about noon. I wouldn’t normally be there so early on a Saturday but I was for the football that day and I wanted to get a couple of pints and meet up with a few mates before getting the train. 

Our local team was on a great run and had made it to the semifinals of the cup, better still we’d been drawn against our fierce local rivals. 

When I arrived at the Hallion it was already pretty full. The crowd could be narrowed down to 3 distinct groups. 

You had the old boys in the corner, they had been around for our glory days and they’d be quick to remind you of that. They’d witnessed league titles and cups wins aplenty. They’d experienced sell out derby games with crowd numbers we could only dream of now a days. 

On the other side of the bar was the young lads, downing pints of cheap lager and multicoloured shots. They were pumped up and singing, this would be the first big cup run for most of them and they honestly believed that our boys were unbeatable. By the end of the day most of them would either be arrested or calling their mum to bring them home as they’d vomited a rainbow of colours over themselves. 

I myself stood near the bar, in a group that was between the other too, literally and figuratively. We we too young to remember the glory days but to old to have the optimism of the youth. We’d had our hopes raised too many times only for them to be dashed on the rocks. Many times we’d question why we put ourselves through it, the cold midweek matches, standing in the rain watching players hoof a ball up and down a muddy field with all the elegance of a farmer knocking dung of his boots. So we didn’t have high hopes for today’s game, sure we knew that we had the better team and anything was possible in the cup, but we also knew the more you believed the more it hurt when you came crashing down. But still, somewhere in the back of us was a spark that refused to go out, it was this that kept us going back every Saturday for all these years. 

The plan of attack that day was a couple of pints in the Hallion, watch the first half of the televised game and then get the early train to the match, which was being played at a neutral ground about 20 minutes train ride away, with plenty of time to spare. Maybe get a pie and a bovril and have plenty of time to get to our seats. 

As usual though after those first 2 pints we get what is known in the trade as the taste, once this happens you begin to underestimate how fast time moves and it “one more before we go, sure there’s no rush” then it’s “another round, we’ll get the next train, plenty of time” next it’s “we’d better make this on the last, we’ll be cutting it fine now” eventually it’s “right, quick round of shots and we’ll get a taxi between us” 

On days like these by the time you reach the ground you often can’t see what teams what. 

But sometimes the football itself is only a small part of the picture. 

The landlord

I’m sure the landlord had a name but I never found it out. He was simply called Landlord or the Landlord by the regulars in a way that was somewhere between a nickname and a title. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d always been called that, even when he was a schoolboy. Tommy, the student who helped out behind the bar on the weekends, when I asked his name said “He’s called the Landlord, just the Landlord. He’s kinda like the Doctor from Doctor Who, you know?” I didn’t. 

What I quickly learned though as I visited the Dirty Hallion, which I did with alarming regularity, was that the Landlord was a true master of his domain. He commanded respect from all who frequented his establishment, from drunks to some genuinely scary looking guys. 

He was also an expert of all things alcohol and boasted a selection of some of the finest ales and spirits ever made, many of whom I’d never heard of before. His party piece, as I’d discovered that first day, was pairing a drink to the drinker just by looking at them. This proved invaluable when you’d get someone ordering and dithering about what they want, which as you all know I’m sure is against proper pub etiquette. 

He could stop a fight and eject the combatants without ever having to cross over from his side of the bar. In fact he never seemed to cross over to our side, Tommy collected glasses on the busy weekends and the rest of the time we brought our own back up to the bar. This had led to jokes that he had no legs and simply floated or that he wore no trousers, he bore all these jokes in good humour. Except for the time it was suggested that he wore fishnet stockings and suspenders, that he didn’t take so well, maybe it made a man of his generation uncomfortable at the thought or maybe it was close to the truth, who knows. Either way, a slap from one of his big ham fists didn’t seem worth finding out. 

He had a wife, and she had a name, Margaret. Though I’d never actually saw her, I’d heard her shrill voice calling from upstairs where they lived. And on quiet days she’d make some of us toasted sandwiches, so she was alright in my book. 

They were childless, though from the way the landlord spoke about children I don’t think it was by choice. And he looked over the younger patrons of the bar in a very paternal way. Especially young Tommy the student who worked there at weekends. In fact the first time I met Tommy I actually assumed he was the landlords son. 

Anyway, you’ll hear more about the landlord as we go and I’m sure he’ll bend your ear about his ale of the week or some such thing.