A Perfect Pint in a Perfect Pub
January 25, 2010

John, the Landlord of the Merchant Arms, Bristol

On our recent trip to Wales, Mr. Malting and I had a brief stop in Bristol where we found what might possibly be the perfect pub.  The Merchant Arms is a Bath Ale pub, the trademark ghost-bunny etched into the windows.  We tried all three ales on tap and they were immaculately kept.  The Spa turned out to be my favourite, with its bright hoppiness and caramel-corn malts.  Though Barnstomer was a close second– an easier mouthfeel than in the bottle, the brown-sugar nose dominating and coffee and dried fruit up front.  The head was quite substantial, lingering and lacing the glass.

The pub itself is cozy, the sills filled with succulents. The Landlord, John, is welcoming and witty.  There isn’t a bad seat in the house, as every corner had its own little table.  The telly is hidden away in a cabinet and good music was playing the first evening we were there, and on the second visit Radio 4 was on the stereo.  An array of books for browsing are stacked above the booths as well as games.  M and I played a round of Jumbling Towers.  Who knew ale could steady the hand?  If anyone is wondering, I won.

Dark Hare
May 30, 2008

I have had numerous beer conversion moments, with lots of false starts. The first beer I ever loved was Guinness, and the first time I had that was when I was a teenager in San Francisco. I had the flu and my Irish friend brought me a pint of Guinness and a raw onion which he said would make me feel better if I just bit into it, “like an apple.” The onion was painful but the Guinness was a revelation, as previously I’d thought all beer was icky lager.

I am nostalgic for a time before I existed, when nursing mothers were given milk stout as a tonic. For years Guinness was my chicken soup. I had no idea that what I was drinking was a shabby version of what could be had in Dublin, and now it’s possible to find wonderful stouts whenever I have the blues or the lurgy strikes. (The last time I was at Utobeer I was eying the imported Rogue Shakespeare Stout for my medicine cabinet. Specific indication for that brew– homesickness.)

I love bath ales which I have only had on tap until now. I found a bottle of Dark Hare at Waitrose and kept it for medicinal purposes, and tonight it’s my dinner: roasty and dry with just enough bitter chocolate to be comforting. I’m skipping the raw onion.

While listening to: The Young Charlatans’ “Shivers”