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The Dragon's Rafters
A "Third Place" is a location, beyond home or work (the first and second places), where you can be a part of a social group. It's a place you can be yourself while engaging others in talk or just listen in. Perhaps there is a quiet corner to get away for a little bit to recharge yourself, knowing you are among those who respect your boundaries. For me, my favorite third place is The Dragon's Rafters.
My favorite brewpub, The Dragon's Rafters, is only a short walk from my house. Close enough that driving doesn't make sense and not so far as to be a burden coming home. More importantly, it is on a side-street, so drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way there, even on Saturday nights.
If you are asked why you favor a particular brewpub, it would seem natural to put the beer first, and you would be correct. Who wants to have a nice deep dark stout or caramel colored hopped up IPA that tastes like fizzy yellow water? But the next most important aspect is what people call its ‘atmosphere’.
To begin with, its whole architecture and fittings are "British Isles." It is dark wooded, with a wonderful bar to talk at and tables to socialize at and dark corners to read a book in. There are no fake plastic coverings. It's wonderful hardwood, of the dark cherry or stained oak, to suck in the light and give it a "den of inequity" feel.
There are two extra items that are nearly impossible to find in these times. The first is a wonderfully roaring fireplace for the winter. The smell of burning logs that accompanies the pop and sizzle has no comparison. The second is a smoking section. I typically do not smoke, but I do no begrudge those who do, as long as they are in an area that I can get away from. Sometimes, though, I want my pipe. I want my long stemmed, Gandalf-looking pipe filled with an English tobacco that is rich and warm and will remind me of my Uncle Richard.
There are games of all kinds, with a shelf that holds playing cards and several well chosen board games. Naturally there are a few dart boards (there has to be a dart board!) and a couple of pool tables. They are out of the way, though, around the corner, so no one -- neither the players nor the other patrons -- are duly bothered by flying darts and cue balls.
In The Dragon's Rafters' booth area, it is always quiet enough to talk. There is a television in the bar area, but its noise cannot be heard in the booth section. Those who want to enjoy a sporting event can do so and those who wish to have a pleasant conversation can do so, as well.
There is music, twice a week. Once during the week and again on Saturday night. It is usually the local Celtic rock band, but they get decent traveling artists, as well.
The bartenders and servers know the regulars by name. It's good to know you're known and what your "usual" is, even if you don't want to talk any more than necessary to order your ale.
The menu is small, but varied. Some deep fried appetizers, a few sandwiches, fish and chips, and mussels. You can't go wrong with beer steamed mussels, with a side of cheese, crunchy bread, and sausage. There is even a steak and a chicken dish, but no barbecue. I love barbecue, but that's what a local barbecue restaurant is for.
They understand it's not a fancy gastro-pub, though. It's just a wonderfully solid brewpub with good food, so they don't over charge for the bangers and mash.
The beer selection is varied, but there is something for everyone. I usually get the stout -- a wonderfully burnt brown with creamy head and lacing and chocolate malt undertones. They also have a couple of pale ales, to meet your hop requirements. They also have a nutty brown ale and a golden lager, as well as rotating seasonals, of which my favorite is the winter's barleywine.
They do have a nice selection of glassware, to match the beer. A handled stein for the lager to keep it cool and a handle-less pint glass for the stout, so your hand warms the ale up as you drink it.
What is your favorite type of bar?
The great surprise of The Dragon's Rafters is its back deck and garden. You go through a narrow passage leading out of the bar area and find yourself on a fairly large back deck with a beautiful garden surrounding the outside and beautifying the inside. There are small trees, under which there are little green tables with iron chairs around them. Shrubs and ferns abound in the area, with colorful plants further away. The sound of bees buzzing is relaxing, knowing that the flowers they are interested in are distant from the chairs.
But now is the time to reveal something which the discerning and disillusioned reader will probably have guessed already. There is no such place as The Dragon's Rafters. That is to say, there may well be a pub of that name, but I don’t know of it, nor do I know any pub with just that combination of qualities.
I know pubs where the beer is good but you can’t get meals, others where you can get meals but which are noisy and crowded, and others which are quiet but where the beer is generally sour. But, to be fair, I do know of a few pubs that almost come up to these stringent measures. They are good enough. I'm not that picky, and I can always choose which I go to, depending on what I am more in the mood for at that particular point in time.
Still, if anyone knows of such a pub, I would be forever in your debt, and your children's as well.
With regards and appreciate to George Orwell's "The Moon Under Water," for the inspiration.