Friday, 22 January 2010

There began an education

The Tap ‘n’ Tin. I was 17, thirsty to fit in, hungry to be different, eager to act like a grown up. I had dyed hair, the piercings had started. The pub was under railway bridges, heavy bouncers manned the doors. By day it’s a pub, relaxed, industrial silver, pool tables, free sandwiches, different rooms and levels throughout, big benches, great jukebox sound-system, a cool backyard in the shadow of an old, dark church. By night it transforms into a rock dive bar, loud music pumps, the crowd throb and push to DJs and live bands, hot, busy, fun. Fashion was a big thing, divided between the Goths, the Rockers, the Cool crowd and the wannabees. We went there to get drunk, to play pool, to hang out with friends and, later in the evening on the top floor, to dance wildly to great songs. The beer wasn’t good. One cask of Abbot Ale on gravity was always vinegary and stale; two casks of 8% cider which only the hardcore braved (vinegary and stale); the usual array of kegged lagers; a wall of spirits to get drunk quick; bottles of Bud and, thankfully, Newcastle Brown Ale. So there began an education in ale. Heavy bottle in hand, drinking it down, logo facing outwards to market myself as different, feeling super-cool. There was also Newcy Brown Girl. Tight jeans, funky hair, a piercing by her lip, tattoo on her back, dark eyes, one of those walks. She drank it from the bottle as she floated around, lots of eyes on her. And (this is the best bit) she had a belt made with the yellow-and-blue-starred caps, like notches or battle scars. She made us want to drink it more. And we did. Around we walked with our bottles, bumping in to people, feeling their sweat against us, our eyes stinging from the thick smoke, our ears banging from the music, our heads giddy and light from everything... So many great memories... Of playing pool, of dancing to the best songs, of going there on Christmas Eve and getting wasted, of going to a beer festival with two mates and my dad and then to the pub after, of afternoons spent there when we shouldn’t have, of pints of lager and cigarettes, of seeing people and things that opened my mind (it was there that I saw two girls kissing for the first time; it was there that I saw two guys kissing for the first time). That’s where we grew up, my friends and I, drinking bottles of Newcy Brown, trying to fit in, playing pool and dancing like we didn’t care.

I haven’t been back there for years and I really must. The pub is now flanked and linked to a laundrette, a tattoo parlour, a hairdressers and a cafe. It’s a pretty cool place to be. Pete Doherty played there once too, after he was released from prison. You will hear that story every time you mention the Tap to someone who loves it.


  1. Sounds like some of the places I went to at uni. Many people assume I like Newcastle Brown when they meet me (probably from the enthusiasm for beer and slight Geordie accent) but Im not a fan. Tho by the sound of the choices you had, it was probably the best option.

  2. My real beer education started at pub in Independence Oregon called Lenora's Ghost, with a bottle of Arrogant Bastard Ale. Ahhh memories.


  3. There's a similar place to that in Blackburn, where half the people drink Newky Brown because it's the only "ale" (well they did back then, but there's one cask on sometimes now) and the other half drink it for the image.

    I might actually write about that place because the early death of its owner coincided with the demise of the town centre in the last decade. Hmmm.