"To clink glasses of freshly made local beer, preferably in a pub or garden with friends and perhaps new acquaintances, is a ritual that makes every participant feel good.
We might not rationalise this in the moment, but it gives us a sense of place in our common community and our time in the tides of life on earth.
In this way, beer both cements our relationships and lubricates our culture."
- Michael James Jackson (1942 - 2007)
We, the folks behind Royal Docks, are Ohio natives that were lucky enough to call Britain home for a time — each of us at various times and for various reasons. Once we hit those shores, it didn’t take long for us to fall in love with a decidedly British concept that we are excited to bring back and share with you - the pub.
The pub is not just a bar, nightclub, restaurant or music venue. It’s all of these things to some degree, but really we Americans have no institution that is a direct analog to what a Brit understands the pub to be. It's a vital part of a community’s social fabric; a sort of public living room where the entire community comes and goes, eats, drinks, converses and communes.
The local pub is a scene welcome only to insiders and everyone who steps through the door becomes an insider somewhere between the threshold and the bar. It's a place where the welcome is a little warmer, the room is a little cosier, the barkeep is a little friendlier and the crowd is somehow a wee bit more familiar – even if it’s your first time there.
While travelling through the islands staying mostly in pubs with rooms to let it occurred to us that, while pubs are peculiar to Britain, they are not really a physical thing. It’s not the space that counts (though you’d be hard pressed to find warmer, more welcoming and beautiful spaces), it’s about the people that call them home and the communities they serve.
Maybe the pub is a cultural artefact that can be transplanted into community-minded villages no matter what country or continent they happen to be on. When we described that idea to friends some of them pointed out that America has those kinds of institutions but usually they are exclusive enclaves for closed groups like country clubs, some churches, fraternal organisations, sporting clubs….
So, if the concept, albeit usually centred around shared interests rather than a universal human interest, is not completely foreign, maybe it just needed the right place and people to foster it. Maybe appreciation for pub culture was more or less an intrinsic feature of the human condition that just needs the right spark to ignite the hearth fire wherever people live.
That’s what Royal Docks strives to achieve. Not the low ceilings, mismatched upholstery and peat-fired stoves of pubs in the British Isles, but the community living room. A place where we meet with neighbours and meet new friends to laugh, share news and share a beer while the kids run uncomfortably roughshod around other patrons' tables.
We’re not trying to be a hidden treasure or cater exclusively to eccentric tastes. We’re not aiming to recreate British kitsch in a theme restaurant. We’re just jazzed about making good beer, fostering a comfortable environment and sharing it with our friends and neighbours. That’s what pub culture is.