If asked, I know I get defensive about it. I shouldn’t – I should have the strength of mind to ignore the stereotyped sniping that can arise. I should stand proud, chest thrust out. But no. The truth is that when I tell people that I’m interested in railways the nerd on my shoulder kicks in. “They’ll think you’re a trainspotter” “First real ale, now trains. You’ll be growing a beard and wearing sandals next” “Standing at the end of a platform. Better than gold, surely?”
And the real truth (not sounding defensive) is that I’m not a trainspotter. There is no child-inspired interest in jotting down engine numbers. I’m really not interested in the carriage configurations of Virgin Pendolinos*. But I am enthralled by the confidence, the grandeur, the sheer scale at which the Victorians thought. I am impressed when the aforementioned Virgin train goes barreling past at 125 mph, tilting wildly. But most of all, it’s the stations and their concourses. Whenever I travel through one of major cities I can’t help but look up in awe at the majesty of the engineering – both in the vision and the delivery. The soaring & swooping Cathedral-like roof of Paddington Station; the civil engineering marvel of Edinburgh Waverley; the majestic curve at York. And of course, pretty much anything to do with St Pancras, always sharpened by the fact that where I occasionally go for a coffee is located in the beer store built by my old company almost 200 years before.
And then there’s Euston. One of the UK’s busiest stations. The London terminus of my daily commute, a designated critical European transport corridor and the most important route for freight on the whole British rail network. It should be like New York’s Grand Central, Chicago’s Grand Union or Gare du Nord in Paris. Alas, while once it was, today it’s a Le Corbusian temple to concrete, blockiness and functionality. The real travesty being what stood there before – the Doric arch entrance being unceremoniously broken up and dumped.
Yet, where the entrance once stood are two gatehouses. I have been skirting by them for about two years when an ex colleague suggested we meet for a beer before heading home – the venue: The Euston Tap. I almost blew my lid when I found out what I have been missing. Despite its heady architectural pedigree, the Tap isn’t much to look at. Just off the Euston Road, it’s so prominent it’s hidden to the eye, as most users of the ‘new’ station enter at either end, rather than through the middle where the old station entrance once was. In design, it’s Classical, but in classical terms it’s dumpy and lumpy, so the architecture doesn’t really rock you back on your heels. But the bar does. I didn’t count them, but there must have been a dozen draught beers, served through taps in the wall – a set up I have only seen once before, in San Francisco, but I’ll admit to living a sheltered life. Mostly, internal alarm bells ring when I see so many draught brands on sale, but here it was clear that they have the drinkers to justify it. Frustratingly in fact, both of my first two choices had run dry on the back of recommendations from the barstaff and the general volume of supping that had already commenced on an early Friday evening. Fortunately, the bottled selection was jaw dropping and gave me the opportunity to start a walk through The Kernel’s range of single hop IPAs, a voyage which once begun must be concluded. As for The Tap, that too is a voyage started. I will return and suggest you do too.
* I only know there are such things after I eavesdropped on a conversation between some real train spotters whilst delayed at Rugby Station
©Beer Tinted Spectacles, 2013