Is this a Brains’ pub? The City Arms. The barman nods. In name only says the chap at the bar as he looks through the mullion-paned windows at Gate 3 of the Millennium Stadium. I was going to a match at Arms Park in the 70s, he continues, bumped into Stanley Baker with a trilby on his head, bit of a tough nut he was, he’d had a few as well, he was off to the rugby. Wish I’d had a camera. He died a couple of years later from lung cancer. Do you like what they’ve done here I ask? Not bad comes the reply. But is it a Brains pub?
Oh yes there’s Brains Dark, SA and Bitter, but there’s also Marble Best (grapefruit star crossed with tangerine, mouth-catching bitterness that clangs away like a demented bell-ringer), Abbey Vale’s Resolution and Otley’s O5, plus others (14 cask in all). Taps and bottles also proliferate. The interior is honey-coloured distressed wood, while remembrance is the theme of décor: sepia-toned prints of yesteryear, old gents, old teams, old towns, rugby, beer and a label of the year award for 1989 for a Brains commemorative beer. This has only been open in this guise for several months, but I like — I’m not sure that the old boy nursing a half of SA does.
I wish I could stay longer but I’m off to Pontypridd prior to brewing with the Otley boys tomorrow (with BAD on tour in Aberdeen this is obviously the week for karaoke brewing). As beer bars start to emerge in all sorts of places (I hesitate to use the word grow, there will always be a pedantic desire for the statistical basis for the word grow and I don’t have it), the City Arms is a refreshing, warm and civilised celebration of beer, and rather brave of the brewery. Yes, this is a Brains pub.