I have a problem.
About 5pm on Saturday I was wandering through town. I’d just been to the butcher for a slab of belly pork the size of a teenager’s head which I was looking forward to eating after slow cooking all day Sunday while I was out brewing. I’d also bought a bag of coffee, Blue Sumatra, a medium but full bodied coffee that I drink every morning during the week to somehow mitigate the monotonous tedium of sitting behind a computer for 9 hours a day.
I decided to go for a pint. I walked up to the Royal Oak, my usual haunt when I’m in town. Four Joules ale and an ever rotating guest wicket of a local beer – usually mine, Brimstage, Offbeat or Salopian. The lads had just come back from watching the football at the Racecourse and were in a bit of a raucous mood. I fancied a quieter pint to carried on past.
I thought I’d do something different and go to the Golden Glow. It’s located on a street I never really have an excuse to go down. It’s nestled between a shop that sells domestic appliance spares and a shop run by an old dear who sells everything you could possibly want for knitting. The neighbours are shops that sell roll ends of carpet, a greasy spoon that doesn’t do a particularly good breakfast, a bookies and shops that seem to change every time I happen to go down.
The Golden Glow is a rare outpost of Holden’s Brewery from the Black Country and named after one of its brews. The pub matches the rest of the street, a little worn out and has definitely seen better days. The Holden’s signature green paint flaking from the sign, the usual story from a regional brewery that spends little on their estate, the landlady equally as unwilling to spruce the place up; that would involve money that she simply doesn’t have in the declining pub market.
I enter through the bar. Fairly quiet, the two old boys sat at the bar look up and I give them a nod before they quickly turn back to studying the Sun form guide while glancing up to the TV above the bar showing Racing UK. They were in the same position 15 years ago when I first moved to Wrexham and they drank the pub I’d chosen to be my local, sadly now a victim of an ever revolving array of landlords.
I pass through to the lounge area, although it seems more of an extension of the bar. Threadbare seats and wooden floorboards polished smooth by years of footfall. I glance at the bar. Three Holden’s beers and a couple of guests. It’s been a while since I’d had a Holden’s so I decide when in Rome. The barmaid, a young lass whose accent gives her away as coming from somewhere in the South East probably up here as a student, takes my order.
It’s pulled through on a handpump with no sparkler that doesn’t have the swan necks that seem to prevalent these days. The beer has no need of it, it’s bright and perfectly conditioned with a rough head that shows no signs of disappearing. I also order a pork pie. They’re very nice pork pies. Proper hot water crust pastry with just the right amount of aspic to lubricate the pastry as you shovel it down your throat.
It’s a nice day so I decide to go out and sit in the optimistically named beer garden. More of a yard situated between the staff entrances of the neighbouring shops, there’s a few tables out there and a token couple of plants in pots to try and give some greenery to a never ending display of Ruabon Red Brick buildings that are so common in this area of Wales.
I glance around the yard. A group of teenagers take up one corner, all of them drinking alcopops of varying colours. A couple of the lads appear to be holding a shadow boxing competition. An elderly bloke in the opposite corner reading the Guardian, a few couples laden down with shopping bags.
No seats left I decide to sit on the low wall by the cellar entrance. A mother with her child filling in his colouring book occupy the other end. I take a swig of my pint. Most people of my usual acquaintance would call the beer brown and boring but it tends to the golden side of brown and there’s a nice bit of zingy, floral hop on the aftertaste. It is what it is.
As I take a bite of my pork pie the elderly gentleman in the corner gets up and packs away his paper. I recognise him from the local CAMRA branch. He wanders over and asks me if I’m heading off to the meeting in the Bridge End later. I apologise and tell him that I must have missed the e-mail and assure him that I’ll follow him up as soon as I’ve finished my pint.
He leaves. I drop mustard on my shoe.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that the Golden Glow doesn’t exist. The street it is on, although looking like a lot of streets around here also doesn’t exist. Neither of them particularly remind me of anywhere I’ve been on my travels.
It’s a reoccurring dream I have every couple of months. Perhaps I’ve found my own place to match George Orwell’s famous Moon Under Water. A place with good beer where I can be reasonably anonymous. A place you can find in most towns. A place that by all accounts from those in the craft scene shouldn’t exist anymore.
I don’t know where the Golden Glow is, but I’d love to find out.
This pub isn’t my idea of utopia. Not even a massive fan of Holden’s. It’s just an attempt to write down and try and understand why I keep on having the reoccurring dream.