A neighbourhood pub, what? In Queensland?
When I was a kid, in gloomiest industrial Merseyside, in the Northwest of that now overcrowded place called England, there was solace, warmth, friendship, neighbourliness and fine beer to be had within walking distance of our rented home.
At drinking age, a state far more important than puberty, and achieved with synchronicity, though years ahead of legality, the exploration of the Public House was an exciting venture into adult-land, and that first opening of the door to a smoking, laughing, riotous bar was a nerve-wracking, wide-eyed challenge, charged with the ignominy of possible rejection.
Rejection for being, or worse, looking under-age; an illegal interloper in a grown-up paradise. But those behind the bar were always understanding, sensing future custom and revenue, and complicit in the inauguration of the accolyte. The customers also accepted responsibility, making way for new blood, and easing the right of passage.
Sometimes a wary landlord would quietly usher us into an empty snug, saying ‘keep your heads down boys’, but there in the privacy of a little bar, it would be ‘now gentlemen, what would you like to drink?’ and we were in, a part of Culture, Members of the Sect, and if we behaved ourselves, within reason, and not excluding having a good time, we were certain of an adult welcome on our second visit, and allowed in the public bar, or even the lounge.
Now in my home town were three pubs within ten minutes walk, and perhaps ten half-an-hour away, and by bike the choice was endless. But neighbourhoods had pubs. And the pubs were small, cosy, and full of familiar faces, and each pub had its own peculiar romance, and its characters, and its staff, and its own particular beer.
There were hotels too, with huge and varied bars, large car-parks, restaurants, and decor in varying degree of dilapidation: some posh, some swill-houses. We visited every last one of them to assess their charm or otherwise, but it was the walk to the neighbourhood pub that was our frequent and ingrained habit, a walk we took alone, or with visiting friends, or an occasional uncle.
Then came Australia, and Queensland of the 1970s. Not one single neighbourhood pub.In a country of dedicated beer-drinking alcoholics, no local pub. Just huge hotels miles from the suburbs, necessitating motorised transport and a deliberate journey to a tiled monstrosity and a bar full of desperate strangers, and opening hours guaranteed to turn a quiet beer into a rabid swill-against-the-clock.
Well, those days have gone. It took a long time. Forever, really, to alter the insane licensing restrictions, and yet, and yet, to this day, there are no neighbourhood pubs. Bars in the commercial districts and the city, yes, accessible to the high-rise renters of Asian property; but not one neighbourhod pub.
It’s not really a neighbourhood, where this pub is. Actually it’s not really a pub either: it’s a tin shed in an old industrial section of Banyo. But here’s the thing: you can walk to this shed from Nudgee or Banyo. And we do, and we are all neighbours, roughly speaking. And we bring our children and our dogs, and we meet folk from the next street whom we would never otherwise meet.
No plush carpet and multi-national beer for us. The floor is concrete, but the beers are of the finest craftsmanship, and that is what counts. Beers brewed on the premises by dedicated entrepeneurs of small pockets but vast considerations of taste, led by quietly-spoken Harley, a saint of fellowship, who single-handedly is uniting a community.
I have waited since 1969 for this event. I thought it would never happen. I appreciate the massive dedication of time and expertise that has brought this boon to the suburb, where neighbours may meet in the best of circumstances: the Neighbourhood Pub.
(Check All Inn Brewery for info.)