A Note on Conviviality


I have only been in The Gallows Bird once before; me and a drinking buddy decided to go west instead of east for our semi-regular beer/cycle trip. It was August, it was mid-afternoon, and the place was pretty quiet. We had a couple of halves of something decent, served by a perhaps slightly gruff barman (not that there’s anything wrong with that), before saddling up and, if I recall correctly, stopping by Viisi Penniä and Janoinen Lohi on our way home. Good exercise..

For a place on the edge of a dual carriageway, sandwiched between a fire station and a couple of burger joints, Gallows Bird seemed relatively impressive. Still, I came away without any particular desire to hurry back.

Aside: My aforementioned drinking buddy and I have a running joke about the local bar scene: you can have good beer, and you can have good music, but you can’t have both in the same place. This may not be entirely fair, but it holds true more often than not.

Take 2

Thursday afternoon. Day one of a three-day Real Ale Festival. Slightly after 4pm. Having opened at 3, The Gallows Bird is already almost full. I recognise faces from Helsinki beer bars. Staff, not customers. Something like fifteen handpumps line the bar. I get myself a glass of something and find a perch, watching the bar get busier and busier. I overhear conversations. The usual: a batch of Finns conversing with a lone Anglophone, switching languages while he’s away from the table, then back again. A couple of Estonia-dwellers, here to try the beer. But mostly straight-up Finnish, as far as my ears can discern. Eventually it hits me: I’m hearing all of this because there’s nothing in the way; no music, no television. Nothing but people having conversations over slowly sipped drinks. Atmosphere and responsible drinking.

In Finland.

Why hasn’t the government been informed about this?

Aside: So many Finnish bars seem forbidding, with windows almost completely covered in advertising matter (better that the passing children see alcohol advertising in the form of a cartoon bear than be exposed to the terrible sights that are sure to be on the other side of the glass), and signage brought to you by the letter A, and the numbers III and IV. It’s almost like a plain packaging law was passed, so nobody could possibly be tempted to go into one of these places.

Could it be that having a respectable environment, providing a selection of quality beverages and allowing patrons to create their own atmosphere can lead to the mature enjoyment of alcohol in society (as we don’t really say back home)? Could it be that treating alcohol as some kind of semi-illicit substance, like plutonium or something, causes more problems than it solves?

Then again, what would I know about it?


If you find yourself at the side of the road in Espoo, between a fire station and a couple of burger joints, do not despair. There’s something warm and flat waiting for you. Quietly.

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