CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 3 Conwy Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - September 20, 2009

guinness eileen

The Bridge, Rosehill Street, Conwy, Caernarfonshire, Northwest Wales

guinness eileen

The George & Dragon, 21 Castle Street, Conwy, Caernarfonshire, Northwest Wales

guinness eileen

The Liverpool Arms, Lower Gate Street, Conwy, Caernarfonshire, Northwest Wales

Although I've visited many parts of the British Isles I've been sadly lacking in my coverage of anything west or southwest. This is why I was very excited recently when I found myself heading off for a short holiday in Wales. Because we were driving from Yorkshire in search of some sea air, we followed the A55 along the north coast of Wales past the Irish Sea toward Anglesey. After passing through the nightmarish caravan-holiday horror of Rhyl and Prestatyn we proceeded on to Northwest Wales and down the B5106 into the castle town of Conwy.

Situated on the Conwy Estuary, this town began life in the late 13th century when the magnificent Conwy Castle, perched on a rock overlooking the estuary, was built by Edward I as part of his "iron ring" of fortresses to contain the Welsh. Consisting of 8 towers with connecting walls, Conwy Castle is considered one of the great fortresses of medieval Europe. The town of Conwy is surrounded by intact walls connected by 21 regularly spaced towers.

Directly across from the castle we stopped in the Bridge to have a pint and enquire about accommodation. It was a Tuesday afternoon and the small pub was relatively quiet, the only customers being us, an old man, and 2 men with a little boy. The sky was dark and cloudy, as was my head which was full of sinus infection. Of the several cask ales available, we opted for pints of Fish King Ale (4.3% ABV, Jennings Bros., Cockermouth, Cumbria). With my first sip I realised my beer taste buds, deadened by my infection, were returning. How could they help but rally with the stimulation of this lovely pint? It's a typical Jennings brew, with a very crinkly bitter taste like a fish-scale pattern against the tongue. Brewed with Boadicea hops, this ale is named after the osprey that nests on Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District.

We ended up spending the night at the Bridge and even having an evening meal. The food is of good quality and very nicely cooked, but we were a bit confused by the overly bland sauces. For instance, the "parsley, wine, and cheese sauce" on my salmon tasted suspiciously like the "local Welsh vegetable and cheese soup" I had for a starter. But I'll leave it at that; after all, I write about beer, not food.

Just around the corner from the Bridge we found the George & Dragon, a long skinny pub populated by friendly locals. We sat at a table in the middle and had pints of Old Speckled Hen (4.5% ABV, Morland PLC, Abingdon, Oxfordshire). It's been a long time since I've had a pint of this. I was expecting a return to the dark side, descending down winding bitterly dank stone stairs to the darker levels, stepping through a door into the arms of a friendly but intoxicating brew. Although I'd always remembered it being one of the strong'uns, it's only 4.5%, so it's really only halfway down those stumbling stairs.

As we sipped our Hens I thought about the fact that hen means "old" in Welsh. So does that make "Old Speckled Hen" a bit redundant? Except for the Speckled part, of course...but I suppose "speckled" implies more than one speckle, which makes that a bit redundant as well. Ah, well, when enjoying a pint of Old Speckled Hen it's probably best not to dwell on such questions.

At the far end of the bar above the fire is a Welsh dragon flag flanked by a Union Jack and a mysterious flag with fields of green, white, orange, and blue. We had inadvertently arrived in Conwy in the middle of the weeklong Conwy River Festival, with rowing competitions, exhibitions, RAF and Lifeboat displays, and live music and entertainment, so perhaps the flag had some connection with that. On second thought, it's probably completely unrelated.

Before we left the George & Dragon we had a look at the spacious beer garden which features regular barbecues. The menu posted above the barbecue includes a salmon burger, which is a rare and very welcome touch for pescavegetarians like myself.

Later on in the evening we walked out past the castle and over the road bridge to have a look at the Conwy suspension bridge. One of the first road suspension bridges in the world, it was completed in 1826 by Thomas Telford to provide easier access to the ferry across the Irish Sea. The sky was spectacular on this particular evening, making for stunning photographs of the bridge, castle, and estuary.

Thirsty from our picture-snapping we stopped into the Liverpool Arms for a drink. Built into the town walls in 1843, this pub is next to the Smallest House in Great Britain, which measures 6 feet by 10 feet and was once owned by a fisherman who was too tall to stand up straight in it.

For a change we decided to have shorts of Glenmorangie single malt, so sadly I can't comment on the quality of the Liverpool Arms' beer. But I can say the pub is a bit irresistible on a nice evening. Situated on the quay with a view of the boats in the bay, it features long tables which were crowded on this balmy night. We sat and chatted with other customers, including a woman who had been involved in the River Festival and a man who helped build the 1090-metre-long Conwy Tunnel 20 years earlier. As the evening became a bit nippier we retired inside to the boatlike atmosphere where a group of regulars populated another long table. The ambience reminded me of the Ferry Inn in Stromness, Orkney -- except without the fine Orkney ales and the wonderful Scapa whisky.

One thing I must say for all three pubs is that they seemed very friendly. Perhaps it's just Conwy that's so friendly. Or perhaps it's Wales. Whatever the reason, I'm looking forward to exploring more of Wales and its tafarndai -- and being able to say "lechyd da!"

Of course, I suppose I could say "lechyd da!" without going to Wales. After all, everybody knows I'm a bit odd...