George Orwell, one of the twentieth century’s most important English authors, wrote an essay in 1946 describing his favorite public house in London, The Moon Under Water. (Cick the link to read Orwell's original essay.)
At the end of this short and delightful piece, Orwell reveals that the Moon Under Water doesn’t really exist and that no pub he’s been able to discover has all the necessary attributes of the perfect public house. He died just four years later, but had he lived until 2011 (at which point he would have been a spry 108 years old), he could have discovered the exquisite hospitality of the Civil Life. Aside from a few tangential details, the pub at the Civil Life meets all of Orwell’s requirements. Indeed, our pub is practically the embodiment of Orwell’s ideal.
“My favorite public house, ‘The Moon Under Water,’ is only two minutes from a bus stop, but it is on a side-street, and drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way here.” Ah Holt Avenue, you’ve served us well over the past four-plus years. Right off a major intersection but hidden slightly from view is enough to keep people from just wandering in and making mischief.
Orwell also identifies the clientele as large and varied but seemingly mostly regulars, who come for conversation as much as beer. Such regulars can often be found on the same bar stools many nights each month (that’s Lindsay reading under the lamp next to the taps and Jeff and Erin on the other side of the taps, deciding what to put in those four growlers).
He identifies the space as being richly adorned with grained woodwork throughout and being free from “glass-topped tables or other modern miseries.”
It’s true we have no blazing fires, but no one has questioned the undeniable warmth of the Civil Life. We also don’t have the multiple bars described by Orwell, but stay tuned for a coming expansion.
Games such as darts occur in a dedicated area, so patrons are kept safe from flying projectiles at the mythic Moon Under Water as well as the Civil Life. And we replace both our dartboards and our darts regularly so your experience will not be marred by shoddy equipment.
It’s quiet enough to talk thanks to the lack of radio (read television now). From the start, we’ve kept our bar free of television (besides a couple of Cardinal’s related exceptions) just so patrons can enjoy the conversation and community that a first-rate pub fosters.
While we’re not middle-aged barmaids with outlandish shades of hair color, we do strive to know everyone’s names and we sincerely do take a personal interest in all of our patrons.
While the Moon Under Water doesn’t have a full kitchen serving elaborate meals, they do sell delicious, affordable sandwiches, including a popular liverwurst (I promise, we didn’t steal all of our ideas from Orwell!).
Orwell sings the praises of the fine draught stout available at his favorite pub. Our delicious Big American Stout is on draught now, with the milk stout returning, too, on draught as well as cask.
“They are particular about their drinking vessels at ‘The Moon Under Water’ and never, for example, make the mistake of serving a pint of beer in a handleless glass.” Actually, we serve our beer in dimpled pint mugs as well as nonic pint glasses. Some customers feel strongly about which type of glass they prefer (ahem, Mac, Mike etc.), and we are happy to serve their pints the way they like them.
Orwell also sings the praises of the large beer garden and how family-friendly his ideal pub is: “Many as are the virtues of the ‘Moon Under Water’ I think that the garden is its best feature, because it allows whole families to go there instead of Mum having to stay at home and mind the baby while Dad goes out alone.” Or vice versa, for that matter.
The Moon Under Water is surely too perfect to be true. That’s what Orwell thought, at any rate. But a great pub need not be wishful thinking. At the Civil Life, we know some ideals are worth living up to.
-Dr. Patrick Hurley, Barman and Civility Expert
The Civil Blog has returned. It is predominantly authored by Civil Life Barman, Dr. Patrick Hurley, who can be found tending to our bar patrons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He is also responsible for tending to our draft lines, which is recognized as one of our most important tasks. Special guest writers will appear from time to time. We hope reading this blog will give you much insight about the Civil Life and most importantly help you understand a bit more about all of us that work here and the beers we put our hearts into.