There is a difference between a bar and pub, explains Alex Foulkes, one of the owners of Penny Lane Pub in Old Saybrook.
“A bar would be exclusively drink, or mostly focused on drink. Whereas we are a little more focused on food,” he says. “Everybody who is coming is generally eating food, and we pair that up with drinks.”
Foulkes’ English-style pub delivers on the food side of that promise with a fresh-ingredient-driven menu of classic pub fare prepared by chef and co-owner Wilson Castaneda. You can enjoy dishes like the grilled steak salad ($16), as well as the pub’s ever-popular burgers ($13-$16), which include the Impossible Burger vegetarian option. The wide-ranging menu also includes a variety of soups, sandwiches, seafood dishes and classics like shepherd’s pie ($18) and fish and chips ($18).
The food is served in an old-world atmosphere that is truly worthy of the pub moniker. The place is warm and welcoming, with many regulars. The exterior has the wood-centric design elements you’d expect, while there is ample seating outside overlooking Old Saybrook’s Main Street.
But the food and atmosphere do not come at the expense of the drink quality. Foulkes is a certified beer cicerone, the equivalent of a wine sommelier but for beer. As such, he’s an expert in various beer styles and pairings, and the beer list is more diverse and interesting than what you’ll find at many places.
“I start at balance,” he says of how puts the list together. “I think that’s one thing that a lot of places lack. Everybody is so hyper-focused on the IPAs that everybody wants and the local great [breweries]. ... You should provide those if you can. But there’s also a whole ton of other styles and European producers and different beers that you can bring in.”
Foulkes doesn’t like when his 14-beer tap list has more than one version of the same style, but he caves somewhat when it comes to IPAs. “I have a regular single IPA and I have a double IPA, and sometimes, if I get a specialty IPA, I’ll have three on. But that’s it. And I feel bad when I have three IPAs on.”
The rest of the list is reserved for less common styles that will make a beer lover’s heart sing. Saison, hefeweizen, Belgian, sour, even German dunkel beers are commonly on tap here.
Foulkes also loves to recommend beers based on customers’ existing preferences. Like Heineken or Stella? He doesn’t have either on tap but can suggest a clean, crisp lager you might like even more instead.
Penny Lane Pub opened more than a decade and a half ago. Foulkes and Castaneda have owned it since 2016, and both previously worked at the restaurant. Today, whether you’re looking for good food or drink or a combination of the two, Penny Lane Pub is worth a stop.