There is a duality about the nature of the pub. It is a house into which an owner or tenant invites people to socialise. It is also a shop, where beer (as well as wine and spirits, or so I’m told) is sold and drunk. Another sort of duality fits the Barley Twist. Until last year it was a sweet shop. Last autumn though, confectionery was replaced by craft beer, with local brewing powerhouse Castle Rock taking charge.
Outside it’s very much a this-pub-was-once-a-shop aesthetic, but inside the modern beer ambience takes over, with stripped and stained wooden flooring, bare brick walls, fridges filled with bottles and cans and a chalked beer menu on the wall. (There is also a cellar with moody lighting.) Sometimes this is a formula that can dehumanise a place, but here on a Saturday lunchtime it has a warmth and cosiness that fits in with the steady hum of conversation from drinkers.
Beer (and wine) is served at a compact booth-like serving counter in the left-hand side of the bar (the feng shui wealth corner, if I’m not mistaken). With its cavalcade of colourful keg-font badges stuck to the front, shining stainless steel taps and gleaming lights above and to the side, I’m strangely reminded of a confessional booth from a Spanish cathedral.
Instead of repenting my sins, however, I order a glass of Castle Rock’s keg Session IPA, as recommended by a hopeful Notts County fan: it’s bittersweet and juicy, with a dry finish reminiscent of an English summer drought. Delicious. The clock ticks and I glance at the digital screen that shows train departures from the nearby station.
There’s time for one more, so I plump for a pint of Black Iris’s Triple B, a rich, spirituous 9.5% barley wine, whose potent flavour stays with me all the way home – as does the memory of this ace of a pub, to which I shall return, the better to investigate its mystical duality.
Carrington St, Nottingham NG1 7FE: 0115 950 5456; castlerockbrewery.co.uk