If The Pilot on The Greenses was firmly anchored in a time that, if now lost, we could never get back, then my second Berwick pub, The Barrels is stuck firmly in the nineties, maybe early noughties? I couldn’t find out, unlike The Pilot, people didn’t seem so talkative, unless they knew who you were. For that last phrase read, ‘unless you were a local’. This may seem totally contradictory, because if you’ve read my previous post you’ll probably get the impression The Pilot was a locals pub. And it was, a friendly, locals pub with friendly locals and staff, who engaged in friendly conversation. I do hope that makes sense dear reader?
There were only four customers in the pub when we walked in; a married couple on holiday, a beer ticker sat in the window enjoying his beer and a professional drinker occupying one side of the bar, with his bottle of red and glass of iced water sat on a reachable sideboard/side table/shelf affair. The barmaid flitted from behind the bar and an ante room at the top of some steep stairs. To be honest she steered clear of the bar as much as possible, conversational discourse seemed to be restricted to those she knew, and only increased as more local lads rolled in. All I got was, ‘Three pounds twenty’ and an outstretched hand.
The down town location presumably accounted for the 20p premium on the previous out of town, back street boozer’s prices. To be fair, it was worth every penny, both beers I had were excellent, a solid NBSS 4, impressive. There were four real ales to choose from, with the potential for a fifth on an empty pump; Anarchy ‘Blond Star’, Kelburn ‘Red Smiddy’, Tyne Bank ‘Northern Porter’ and Top Out ‘Drei hopped’. There were also the usual shiny suspects and a couple of things that probably passed for ‘Craft’ but which I wouldn’t touch with yours.
There’s a basement bar, but I daredn’t venture down the stairs alone, so I’ll restrict my commentary to the interconnecting two room ground floor, which achieves an effect many aim for, but never arrive at. Eclectic, totally random, well worn, scruffy and dirty are words that instantly spring to mind. Interior designers would never be able to authentically recreate the many initials and ‘words’ scrawled into the woodwork. Americana and Rock and Roll memorabilia form a large part of the decor. If you look very closely, there’s more than a few Christmas decorations hiding in the gloom.
The chit chat between locals was similarly uninspiring, and not at all witty. The professional drinker couldn’t remember the last time he went on a bus. Another lad wanted to know the best way of driving a car home without any road tax?
Despite the brilliant beer, and previous, no doubt deserved, CAMRA accolades, I can’t see The Barrels getting another Pub of the Year award anytime soon, at least not until someone pulls it through with a Christmas tree.
On the plus side there’s regular live music, Wi-Fi, toasties and some decent tunes from the eighties and late seventies playing; C30, C60, C90, Go! Annabella Lwin and friends summed The Barrels up entirely – Bow Wow Wow!
Verdict; Top quality beer, but proper ‘clicky’ and a little bit mucky. I didn’t really care for it and to be honest, I never felt comfortable, so we quickly moved on.