The first in a series of collaborative posts with my friend, neighbour and Good Beer Hunting writer Matthew Curtis, documenting every public house in the N8 postcode area.
The beer bubble doesn’t just exist online – we reinforce it in our actions. The beer we buy, the venues we frequent, and the people we socialise with all cement our place within it. It’s a hobby, so this is fine. As long as we’re aware that life outside the bubble exists that is. I’ve been worried I’ve become alienated from wider pub culture recently, and it saddens me that the ‘working class boozers'(™) I honed my drinking game in now seem so alien to me.
Which brings us to The Wellington in Turnpike Lane. I’ve passed this pub on countless occasions since moving to Hornsey, and not once have I considered entering. Not because it looks ‘dodgy’, with its narrow facade, dingy interior and frequently smashed windows, but because I assumed they wouldn’t be selling *my beer*. I lament the fact that while I drink in very good pubs, my appreciation for the pub as a concept in and as of itself has diminished. So when Matt suggested this endeavour – to visit every pub in Hornsey and Crouch End – I was delighted, as it would force me to confront my latent prejudices and challenge my bourgeois expectations.
We entered just after 12pm on a Sunday afternoon and were the first to arrive. Like the Tardis, it’s bigger on the inside, and my first impression was of the strong smell of bleach hanging in the air. It became apparent it’s an Irish pub, with patriotic paraphernalia adorning every wall and several TVs showing a wide array of sports. We decided to order two pints of Guinness, regular of course, none of that extra cold nonsense. Our server, a middle-aged woman from Cork if I remember, immediately started a conversation prompted by my Glasgow accent and Brooklyn Brewery hat which happens to be green and white like the colours of my football team, Celtic. As we discussed Irish heritage and identity, I recounted my time spent living in Dublin and was thankful not to be dismissed as a part-time jackeen.
We took our pints to a table and took a seat. The pint was good, but I’ve no doubt our enjoyment of it was enhanced by the context. I sensed that for both of us this was a timeout – no phones, no Twitter, no *exciting beers* by *exciting new breweries*. Aside from the low chatter from the TV, it was tranquil; we talked about our lives outside of beer, outside of social media. The beer facilitated our afternoon but didn’t determine it. This is what I always loved about drinking and going to the pub, the pleasure of simply passing time amongst friends. We visited two more pubs that afternoon, not necessarily ‘beer destinations’, and do you know what? I feel like I got to know Matt better that afternoon because we both let our guard down to an extent. We were ourselves, and here’s to more of the same.
Below is Matt’s recounting of this sunny Sunday afternoon.
Skadoosh. It’s so quiet in The Wellington that when the bartender pours our Guinness the sound of the nitrogen forcing it through the tap is perfectly audible. I’d never had the gumption to visit this pub, despite living just a few hundred yards from its doors. I was intimidated, in fact, by what I might find on the other side of its threshold – I’d often walked past in the daytime to see its windows had been smashed the night before – but Peter and I had vowed to visit, and to write about, all of the pubs in our N8 postcode. So here it was that we found ourselves one Sunday lunchtime.
We were the first in, my first impression being how big the place was. The compact, flat-roofed exterior, windows blocked out with Sky Sports banners, giving little away of the building’s interior. The rectangular room, replete with nooks, crannies and booths against the wall, stretched well back from the entrance. What looks like vintage Guinness memorabilia is joined on the walls by Irish flags, portraits of sporting celebrities (I felt like the ghost of Alex Higgins was watching me from his frame while I supped my pint) and televisions, endless televisions showing pretty much every sport you can think of. The smell of bleach emanating from freshly mopped floors fills the air.
“Is there a game you want to watch lads? I can turn it over if you like,” the bartender says, gesturing towards the televisions as she serves our pints. We politely decline before retiring to a booth and saying very little to each other as we drain our glasses, pausing momentarily to remark on how satisfying our pints are. Eventually, a few locals start to fill the room, almost exclusively elderly Irish gentlemen, as we relax into our environment.
“Another?” Peter asks me, as I empty my glass. “Of course,” I reply.