The first thing to hit you is the smell of smoke from the fire, a nice aromatic smell from the well seasoned wood they’re burning. It’s 4pm on a Monday afternoon and I counted eighteen drinkers all told, not including a couple sat outside in the beer garden amongst what looked like the beginnings of a German Christmas market. Blokes having a drink after work, some older chaps in serious discussion, a couple with a pushchair; which seemed to be a popular occurrence in St Albans.
For a Monday afternoon in St Michaels the Six Bells was thriving and they hadn’t even started doing evening food. I say St Michaels because that’s actually the village where it is. Apart from walking over a quaint bridge with barely a trickle of a stream under, I didn’t really notice any transition from City to Village, although I’m sure pedants enjoy these sort of facts.
The Six Bells is a sort of keep your had down place with it’s low ceiling and even lower beams. Food seemed to be a feature; lunch, evening meals, Sunday dinners, special menu nights, Afternoon teas. Looking at the photos on the pubs website, I now believe the German market affair is actually for alfresco food service?
Six cask ales on, all solid traditional choices, but that’s what you expect in a solid traditional Olde Worlde pub; Olde Worlde beers. There wasn’t much evidence of modern progressive (as opposed to solid traditional) brewing that I saw in any of the pubs we visited.
Was that the choice of solid traditional licensees, their customers, or the absence of any call for something a bit racier? I did notice an absence of students in the town, whose presence often accompanies modern progressive beers and although there are large swathes of non-metropolitanised England where beer choices are narrow, we’re only about 20 miles, as the crow flies, from London?
I went Tring again here with the local brewers Ridgeway, a traditional style Best Bitter which was easy GBG standard, somewhere around NBSS 3.5-. I actually put my hand in my pocket and bought a round. I can’t remember how much, other than it was fair and reasonable and not requiring the Yorkshire War Cry.
American visitors and those who seldom frequent public houses would be wowed and wooed by the charms of this shambling, long narrow boozer. Many would say it was exactly the sort of inn Hilaire Belloc said we shouldn’t lose or we’d have to drown ourselves.
Oh, and the toilets were most excellent. And no, I was never going to try Landlord in a southern pub, GBG pedigree or not, it’s not one of those homogenised, filtered to within an inch of not being real anymore, beers like the large national brewers turn out that anyone can keep.