Published on February 7, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Bark to the future
The Chinese Year of the Dog is nigh. Alastair Gilmour ponders the pub and pooch connection
The Chinese New Year begins on February 15 and brings with it a fortnight of celebrations across the world. The next 12 months commemorates the Year of the Dog, as dictated by the Chinese lunar calendar which initiates a cycle of 12 years, each one named after an animal.
It’s a time when ancestral spirits are celebrated, family unity is honoured, and a happy future is anticipated. Strict customs are adhered to and superstition is rife, such as sweeping the floor before the big day else good fortune for the coming year be brushed aside, and the wearing of red which symbolises sunshine and brightness.
But what is it about dogs and pubs – why are some so accommodating towards them? Certainly, in a rural situation, being dog-friendly is good for business. Many town and city-centre pubs are also canine-keen, so it’s worth sniffing around the pub trade to find out what’s what.
Dave Carr’s dog Frank was voted one of the best pub dogs in a lavishly-illustrated book called Great British Pub Dogs which earned him a spot on The One Show on BBC1 in December. Dave is top dog at the Brandling Villa in South Gosforth, Newcastle, and has promoted canine-friendliness mercilessly since he took it over the pub eight years ago.
He says: “A lot of pubs are seeing the benefit of being dog friendly, it sets you out as an engaging venue – I think if they’re all right with dogs they’ll be all right with everything else.
“I can understand that dogs in pubs are not for everyone, but I probably wouldn’t like to be in one that doesn’t allow them, like some of the ‘corporate’ ones.”
Frank – Sunday name Franco after Francis Begbie, the character in Trainspotting – is half beagle, half Jack Russell. Dave says he bought him from a “questionable” man in County Durham who also tried to sell him a ferret on the way out.
And we all know a dog who laps up beer (Frank’s favourite is Theakston’s Old Peculier) and it’s one good reason why Gabby McCann from Tynemouth has developed Woof Dog Beer. It’s made from human-grade ingredients that include a broth derived from Aberdeen Angus beef bones and brewers’ wort – a sweet liquid mixture of malted barley and water drawn before it is fermented into beer – from her husband Ewan’s Three Kings Brewery in North Shields.
“Everything we use is approved by the Food Standards Agency and Defra (the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and the beef can be traced right back to individual fields,” says Gabby. “The beer, made from all-organic ingredients, is full of goodness for dogs, it’s non-alcoholic, hop-free and uncarbonated, so you won’t be walking a wobbly dog home.
“For some reason, Woof Dog Beer is very popular in the south, London and Cornwall in particular, but we’re going for a big push here in the North East. We’ve developed the business further with Brew Bites – doggy snacks in two flavours made from the brewing mash. They taste really nice.”
Gabby – and Woof – are also producing personalised beer mats, bandanas, Beer Buddy t-shirts, bowls and gift packs. The list of dog-friendly pubs is endless – The Boathouse in Wylam, Northumberland, is one, as is Caps Off micropub in Bishop Auckland and the City Tavern in Newcastle.
In December, the City Tavern was listed as one of the top 12 pubs across the North East in the DogBuddy Dog-Friendly Pub Awards. Judges looked for venues which went that extra mile to give dogs the VIP treatment, and looked at factors including the availability of water bowls plus dog-friendly food and drink.
“Dogs are a big part of our life here, and we pride ourselves on being one of the go-to places for dog owners,” says pub owner David King. “It’s always been something we’ve been passionate about, but I believe we have the perfect balance. We are still a pub at the end of the day, and food and drink is what we specialise in, but we’re also big dog lovers and have tried our best to incorporate them into the pub.”
David’s own dogs – three Irish terriers – also have pride of place at the bar. “We have three ales which have been specially created for us and one of our dogs, Dillan, appears on one of the logos. We’ve also named our Hector’s Cloudy House cider after another one of our dogs.”
Pub dogs have also made it into works of art. The Red Lion in Bedlington, Northumberland, features a six-foot high wire sculpture of a Bedlington Terrier. Give A Dog A Bone was “woven” by former chef and “Jaws” impersonator Gary Tiplady.
Appropriately enough, the popular Wetherspoons pub stocks BrewDog Punk IPA and Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA, while the lunch menu features Gourmet Dogs.