Pub/Bar of the Month June 2014: The Land of Libery, Peace & Plenty, Heronsgate, UK
Back in the 1970s, they used to call them 'CAMRA pubs'.
These weren't pubs that CAMRA actually owned (although they did own some at one point) but rather pubs that seemed to embody everything that the fledgling consumer movement stood for.
They tended to be rather simple in nature. Comforts were basic and food was limited, if served at all. Atmosphere was crucial, with conversation and simple games enjoyed.
Above all, these pubs were driven by cask beer, served in tip-top condition from an impressive bank of handpumps.
There are still pubs like this around today and the extravagantly-named Land of Liberty, Peace & Plenty in Hertfordshire is one.
Barely a mile or so from junction 17 of the M25 motorway, it stands along a narrow lane in the village of Heronsgate. Outside the 1820s building, there's a large car park, a grassy garden and a covered, heated terrace known as 'The Pavilion'.
Magnet for Beer Lovers
Inside, there's a relatively small, single bar, built around a central servery. The floors are bare-boarded, their lacquer worn away over time; the walls are painted cream to contrast with exposed black ceiling beams, but it's really what is on the walls that is important, completely summing up the ethos of the place and its role as a magnet for beer lovers.
Your eyes are quickly drawn to the old brewery mirrors, the framed collections of beer mats and the montage of pumpclips, if not the high shelves laden with bottles. Then there are the many CAMRA award certificates and the prominent chalkboard, detailing the current cask offerings.
The selection varies, as in most pubs of this ilk, but there are usually half a dozen or more available. Expect to find contributions from Tring, Vale, XT and other local breweries, as well as others from further afield.
The ales foam richly into oversized glasses marked with lines to enable the service of thirds, halves and pints. Not surprisingly, regular beer festivals are staged.
Food is available at all times but is very limited. Hot pasties (with assorted fillings) are the house speciality, but you can also avail yourself of a pork pie, a sausage roll or perhaps a bowl of soup.
Seating is simple but comfortable enough, mostly provided by upholstered, cushioned benches built into the bay windows. There's a television in one corner, but that remains blank and silent for most of the time.
If you want entertainment, it's provided by a stack of board games or the many books that are clearly there to be read, rather than just brought in for effect. Among them are numerous beer books. I couldn't see any of mine, but I guess no pub is perfect.
Classic pop music plays in the background, at a level that doesn't deter or hinder conversation, which means that you can always eavesdrop on the latest gossip, probably joining in yourself after a pint or two.
On Sunday evenings, the music is given over to rock, and customers can bring in their own CDs, while Monday is games night. A book club meets on Sunday once a month.
But, whatever you do while supping your pint, don't be tempted to use your iPhone. Mobiles are politely discouraged in several signs posted around the room.
The Land of Liberty, Peace & Plenty is very much a community pub, with a loyal following of customers who appreciate its elementary pleasures. As its elongated name suggests, everything you'd wish to find in a village boozer is here, but there's really no need to expend all those letters.
You could just call it a CAMRA pub.
The Land of Liberty, Peace & Plenty, Long Lane, Heronsgate, Hertfordshire, WD3 5BS, UK
Tel. (01923) 282226
Opening Hours: 12–11; 12–midnight Friday & Saturday; 12–10.30 Sunday