Beer Blog

The Great Northern, St Albans

Great Northerrn-1

First impressions? Looks like a pub from the outside, but on walking in it seems more bar than pub. First impressions aren’t always to be relied on though are they. The welcome from the young couple behind the bar was warm and sincere though. I’m not sure whether it was their pub or they were just working there. 

To be fair, after seven pubs I wasn’t sure about a great deal. I’m not entirely sure what time it was neither? I remember it was dark outside and the photo proves it.

The beer was in top form. They’d just changed the Mad Squirrel Resolution and I got the first one out, NBSS 3.5+ easy. I could have had Farr Brew Porter or the more ubiquitous Black Sheep Bitter or Otter Ale. I tend not to chose the ubiquitous ones and very rarely (never) go for Yorkshire beers when I’ve travelled close on 300 miles, unless it’s something like North Riding.

The Great Northern does proper chef made food and pre-cinema 20% discount meals on production of your ticket for the flicks next door, as well as Quiz nights and other food productions. A bit of research tells me a local lad Dan Gibney and two others took over the pub, reopening it in April 2015. A report in the local rag bills him as a local public school boy, corporate financier who fancied his own pub business. The corporate bit probably explaining why you can hire out the premises, something which pushes it out of the pub sphere for me. If you pop down the road to your local for one at lunch time and find it closed and full of corporates then it’s not a proper pub anymore. It wasn’t called The Great Northern neither and was originally named after the famous Crimean battle; Alma.

A bit more research tells me the asking price was around £500k with Potential for Redevelopment – subject to planning, according to the estate agents blurb. I guess that tells us that it isn’t just the big Pubcos who are to blame when pubs Go West! Although isn’t that what the big Pubcos essentially are; property management and development vehicles?

Thankfully it was taken on as a going concern and whatever they paid, judging by what Roger told me, and what I’ve read, the new owners will have had to put a substantial amount of investment on top of the freehold costs to obtain what they have achieved. My message here is it’s all too easy for punters to moan about pubs, but unless you’ve stumped up or borrowed the large sums involved in buying and running a pub you’ve probably no right to open your trap; a statement which runs a horse and carriage through my statement two paragraphs ago.

So again we’re down to the ‘people make pubs’ thing. That includes the welcoming couple, who looking at online photos now, aren’t the owners (who also make pubs), and the people you’re with.

At this stage the Proper Day Out was still quorate, but for quite a few this was the last pub. Talk continued along the lines of My Good Beer Guide is bigger, better or fuller than yours. Mr Protz didn’t comment, apparently he’s got a full set right up until the 45th edition, 24 of them signed by the editor!

As people drifted off, I think everyone agreed, over seven different pubs this had been a Proper Day Out, proving St Albans to be a decent pub town, with it’s own distinct pubby signature. And bear in mind we’d walked past as many if not more pubs than we went in.

6 replies »

  1. As a former local resident…glad you enjoyed the pub. It really is a huge improvement on the pub as it was before. Opening up a decent pub in line with the new cinema was a great business idea. The bar staff are some of the friendliest around. It may have changed since my days, but the quiz nights run by an Only Connect winner were superb.

    Liked by 1 person

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