I landed in St John’s in the early morning on a Wednesday. I managed to get to my Airbnb, relax a bit and get a shower before I made some calls to some old friends to see who was available to head out to dinner. I’ve never been one to plan too far ahead and because of this, people were working, out of the city, or just otherwise occupied – so I set out on my own to find a place to eat before my friends could make it downtown. I wanted to walk around the city to see what has changed over the last few years and what’s still here that’s familiar. As I walked down Water St. I was hit with memories of my university days, such as when a group of friends had a busker give us a by-request Neil Young tribute concert and we were late to the bar because we were signing on the street, or another friend burning himself with a flaming sambuca because the bar staff wouldn’t light his on fire, so he did it himself, to the detriment of the skin on his forearm. I love this city and my university years spent here, but when I saw a new pub just south of George Street called Yellow Belly Brewery, I felt the need to forgo all of my old haunts in favour of this beautiful brew pub in a building that was rebuilt after the great fire in 1846.
The Yellow Belly Brewery brews their own beer in-house and provides a robust menu of pub fare. I sat at the bar and ordered a Fighting Irish Red Ale, looking around at the beautiful masonry and the wonderful job the crew did refurbishing this old building. The bar was full and the patio was rammed, a true testament to what this pub has been able to accomplish in their five years in operation. I leaned to the guy next to me and asked him if he had been here before, trying to get information for what would become this post. It turns out that this guy, Pierson, was in St John’s on a 12-hour layover on his way to London, England, where he was in the process of moving. He had never been to St John’s before so he wasn’t able to talk to me about the pub, so we talked about the beer, the city, and why he was moving to London over a couple rounds at the bar.
My plan to question him about the new developments in St. John’s quickly changed when Pierson asked me what he should do since he only had a couple hours in St John’s. I told him he needs to get ‘screeched in.’ Getting screeched in is a rite of passage for anyone who comes to the island and a process I’ve been through many time before. So we pay our tab (I’ll come back to YBB and the end of this post) and head over to a bar on George St. that specializes in this local custom. We get Pierson set up with the bartender, and a couple nice people from Ontario, to make them all honorary Newfoundlanders. There’s a speech involved, the kissing of the cod, and of course, the shot of screech. Pierson received his certificate as proof that he made it through in one piece, and hopefully he has a story to tell of the city.
The beer I had at Yellow Belly Brewery is exactly what I look for in a beer. It was a rich creamy red colour that is inviting when you see the draft poured fresh at the bar and you can see where it was made. The aroma was full of malts and a hint of oak. Drinking it you can feel the smoothness in your mouth, supplied by the malts that are used in this brew. The taste of the beer is flavourful without being too heavy. It is exactly what I was looking for. As good as this beer is, the true winner is the pub itself. It’s a true piece of St. John’s with a heritage that dates back to when the city was establishing itself. It is five levels of pub heaven. I truly wish this pub was here when I was living in St. John’s because it is one of the best pubs I have been in outside of England.
The power of a pub is unmatched. I was able to sit down at a pub alone, meet someone doing the same thing, and we were able to make a connection over a pint of beer. It is what attracted me to sharing a drink with people so long ago. It’s a way to tell stories, meet people, and make new memories. And, this relatively new pub in St John’s has given me a new tale in an old city. Thank you, Yellow Belly Brewery.
Yellow Belly Brewery – Fighting Irish Red
(Pierson, left, is trying to sound out ‘long may your big jib draw’ but is having great difficulties. Notice the three shots of screech set up on the bar)