Pub of the week: The Bag o’ Nails

21 12 2011

Pubs come and pubs go. The Bristol branch of Camra are so concerned about our disappearing pubs that last month they held a press conference for local media highlighting the issue and then took members of the third estate on a different type of pub crawl, viewing empty pubs across Bristol.

Landlords come and landlords go. And it’s landlords that open and reopen pubs. Luke Daniels should be congratulated for bringing the Bag o’ Nails at the foot of Jacob’s Wells Road back to life after it has been boarded up for the last 18 months, even starting up a blog, the Saga of Nails, to document his progress.

The beer selection is most generous in a pub that used to feature regularly in good beer guides and might soon make a comeback. When I visited on a rainy Friday afternoon, on tap was Wye Valley, Wye Butty Bach, Cheddar Totty Pot, and Yeovil Star Gazer and Ruby. The two ciders were Rich’s Sweet and Wilkins Dry.

Black and white photographs of jazz musicians who I didn’t recognise adorn one wall, while bottled world beers sit on a ledge above the bar, itself adorned by tiles.

Near to my seat, I found a fascinating pamphlet, The Complete Guide to Bristol Pubs by Fred Pearce and David Wilson, sadly without a date but at least a few decades old and written at a time when there more than 400 pubs in Bristol, including the Gaiety on the Christmas Steps and the Dick Turpin on Whiteladies Road.

Reading the pamphlet, I discovered that, at the time of writing, the Bag o’ Nails was called the American Eagle. It received just one star out of three:

“Working class husband and wife custom. Single cramped spit and sawdust bar. In need of decoration. Bullfighting posters, cast iron tables, darts. Good for a taste of 1950s working class Britain.”

Just to get a sample of the tastes of Messrs. Pearce and Wilson, they gave the nearby Hope & Anchor a short walk up Jacob’s Wells Road the maximum three stars, and were especially pleased with the “hot water, soap and towel in loo”.

Walking through the front door at the Bag o’ Nails felt really good after passing this pub so many times over the last year and seeing it shut. It even has hot water, soap and towel in the loo.

The Bag o’ Nails, 141 St George’s Road, Hotwells, Bristol.



5 responses

13 01 2012
Jon Tiltman

It’s my new favourite pub. I love the fact that the only music comes from the turntable in the corner and there’s a large selection of excellent records to choose from.

15 01 2012

Thanks for the review, and link to my Blog. As Jon mentioned, music is played on vinyl only and customers are welcome to bring their own suitable records in to listen to. I can’t beleive that you didn’t mention the sexy wallpaper though. 🙂

22 06 2012
Drink a toast to real local ale on 4 July! | Bristol Independents Day

[…] From the review on the Bristol Culture blog: […]

20 01 2013
Al Mchardy

Fantastic pub – a real pub. Not many left now and Luke has made this really welcoming with his own style applied liberally. If you like Ale and you want a great selection this is the place to go. Dont forget the kittens that will often come and say hello. Well done Luke – we are regulars now

26 03 2013
Bristol rambler

Stumbled upon the Bag o’ Nails and was blown away. A gem of a pub – a tiny place but with a big heart – how (I imagine!) pubs used to be – although have come across a few places in Belgium with a similar feel. If you like sterile, clone pubs, stay away. If you don’t know what real ale taste likes, steer clear. If you don’t know what a LP is, keep out. If you don’t like cats demanding attention, avoid at all costs. Otherwise, you’ll be welcome and be offered a ‘try before you buy’ from the great range of ever-changing beers.

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