Years Back - England part 1

Continuing our European year 10 years back. We spent the winter in southern England and loved it. Saw snow once. Here's the diary.

About British beer. It's warm. It's flat. It's bitter. It's good. We're of course drinking only real ale - draught beer drawn by suction or gravity from casks where the beer is still fermenting. Of course Stella Artois, Budweiser, Becks, lager shandys, and other alcopops are around but who cares?
Three weeks on this side of the channel and we've had quite a few beers. Many of the bitters are quite similar - you could really throw a (large) blanket over the whole Ordinary Bitter style.
  • Adnam's Broadside
  • Archers Lost The Plot - Seasonal Guy Fawkes Day special. Bready. 4.0%.
  • Arkell's 2B
  • Arkell's 3B
  • Arkell's Kingsdown Special Ale
  • Badger Tanglefoot
  • Banks's Original - Weak mild.
  • Bateman's Blackbeerd - Sweet porter. Chocolaty. 3.6%.
  • Bateman's XXXB
  • Caledonian Golden Promise - Golden Promise hops. Earthy, spicy. Still smooth.
  • Cottage Whipper Howling Ale
  • Deuchars IPA
  • Donnington BB
  • Donnington SBA - Fruity mild.
  • Everard's Beacon
  • Exmoor Wildcat - 4.4%.
  • Fat Cat Best - Brewed by Norfolk Cottage Brewery.
  • Fat Cat Madcat - Brewed by Norfolk Cottage Brewery.
  • Flower's Original - Too warm and maybe a bit old.
  • Fuller's London Pride
  • Fuller's Mr. Harry - 4.2%.
  • Fuller's Vintage - Full strength  8.5%.
  • Gales Trafalgar 200 - Rich, buttery
  • Goacher's Best Dark - Very bitter with fruity aftertaste. 4.1%.
  • Goffs Tournament - Monthly seasonal. Fruity and full. 4.0%. First pull of the day. The barman washed 2 pints through, drew mine, tested it himself, warned me off as it was too fruity, headed for the cellar and came back with a fresh one.
  • Gold Label Barleywine (Inbev, Luton) - In 180ml bottle. Strong and fairly raw yet not overpowering. Mass produced. Some carbonation. 9.5%. £1.40.
  • Green Jack Ripper - Barley wine. Fully matured. Light color. Quite sweet aftertaste. 8.5%.
  • Greene King Abbot
  • Greene King IPA
  • Hampshire Arthur Pendragon - Hoppy. 4.2%.
  • Harveys Trafalgar 200 - Licorice notes. 10%.
  • Hook Norton Hooky Bitter
  • Hook Norton Old Hooky
  • Hopback Old Red Devil - A little toasty. 4.5%
  • Hop Daemon Skrimshander - They say cherry, I say not. 4.5%.
  • Moreland Old Speckled Hen
  • North Cotswold Brewery Pig Brook - Made in Marston-on-Marsh. 3.8%
  • North Cotswold Brewery Winter Solstice - Dark porter. Big creamy head through a tight sparkler. Tingly. Sweet finish. 4.5%
  • Old Canon Best Bitter - Quite hoppy. 3.8%
  • Old Canon Gunner's Daughter - Less hoppy ESB. 5.5%.
  • Ringwood Best Bitter
  • Robinson's Unicorn - Very very light.
  • Sarah Hughes Ruby Mild - Yummy. Dark and plummy. 6%.
  • Shepherd Neame Autumn Red
  • Shepherd Neame Masterworks
  • Shepherd Neame Spitfire - 4.5%.
  • St. Austell's Tribute - from Cornwall.
  • Stanway Stanney Bitter - Floral hop aroma. At £2 about the cheapest.
  • Stonehenge Great Bustard
  • Theakston's Black Sheep - Floral with a big aftertaste.
  • Theakston's Traditional Mild - Dark, bitter, sharp.
  • Thomas Salt's Bitter - 3.8%.
  • Titanic Night to Remember - Northdown, Fuggles, and Goldings hops. Crisp edges.
  • Usher's Autumn Frenzy - Fruity and Rich - Bob's favorite. 4%.
  • Wadworth 6X - Not as bready as we remember. Now in metal casks instead of wood. 4.3%.
  • Wadworth Henry's IPA
  • Wadworth JCB - John Bartholomew Carnes (whoever he was).
  • Wadworth Malt & Hops - Seasonal. Dark golden. Much hoppier than 6X. Foral. Green Kent Goldings hops are used the same day they are picked.
  • Whitstable Oyster Stout
  • Wickwar Bob - Terry's favorite.
  • Wolf Woild Moild - Dark and rich. Coffee. 4.8%.
  • Wychwood Hobgoblin - Dark red.
  • Wye Valley Dorothy Goodbody's Wholesome Stout - Creamy but very mild. Good balance.
  • Young's Bitter
and a test of some homebrew that might become a house beer at the Bell Inn in Lacock.

The traditional British pub is a marvelous place. It's a center for entertainment but has no TV or even music. Conversation is easy. Quiz nights are fun - knowledge contests for teams. Food, pub grub. And of course beer.
The first thing we did after hitting the white cliffs of Dover was to get a tour book and a CAMRA Good Pub Guide. The Campaign for Real Ale publishes an 800-page book with details about the best pubs in almost every town in the UK. How better to find where to eat?

The towns near Stow-on-the-Wold offered many choices.

  • Bourton on Water
    - Duke of Ellington
    - Kingsbridge Inn
  • Bristol, Gloucestershire
    - ZeroDegrees *B
  • Broad Campden
    Bakers Arms *
  • Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk
    - Old Canon Brewery *B
  • Canterbury, Kent
    - Bishop's Finger
    - Phoenix *
    - Unicorn *
  • Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
    - The Restoration *
  • Chipping Campdon, Gloucestershire
    - The Volunteer *
  • Derry Hill, Wiltshire
    - Landsdown Arms
  • Devizes, Wiltshire
    - White Bear
  • Evesham, Herefordshire
    - Old Swanne Inn *jdw
  • Hodson, Wiltshire
    - Calley Arms *
  • Kington St. Michael, Wiltshire
    - Jolly Huntsman *
  • Lacock, Wiltshire
    - The Bell Inn *nw
  • Mildenhall, Suffolk
    - Maids Head
    - Queens Arms *
  • Moreton-on-Marsh
    Inn on the Marsh *
  • Naunton - Gloucestershire
    - Black Horse *
  • Norwich, Norfolk
    - Belgian Monk
    - Fat Cat *Nat
    - Sir Garnet Wolsley
  • Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
    - Garrick Inn *
  • Wellingborough, Northamptonshire
    - Locomotive *
    - Old Grammarians Association *
    - Ye Golden Lion

And in Stow-on-the-Wold in Glouchestershire:
  • Bell Inn - Free House. John Entwhistle's old local. He's a friend of the landlady and lived down the street at one time. 106+ years old.
  • Grapevine - Free House - Best Western Hotel. At least 120 years old.
  • Kings Arms - Greene King Brewery. King Charles I stayed here on May 8, 1645 during the English Civil War.
  • Queen's Head * - Donnington Brewery has owned this pub for over 100 years.
  • Royalist Hotel - Free House. "Oldest inn in England" according to the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest inn in Britain. They date it to 947AD. It was known as the Eagle and Child in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries. But in the late 1800s it was not a licensed property so it can't be called the oldest pub.
  • Talbot Inn - Wadworth Brewery. Dates to at least 1856.
  • Unicorn Hotel - Hook Norton Brewery. A 17th century coaching inn.
  • White Hart Inn - Arkells Brewery. Built in 1698.
* - CAMRA GBG pub
*nw - Northwest Wiltshire's Pub of the Year
*Nat - CAMRA's National Pub of the Year
jdw - One of the JD Wetherspoon chain.
B - Brewpub
JD Wetherspoon is a chain of some 600 pubs that all have real ale at about 50p less than normal. Food is also cheap also but the selection and quality aren't really there. Greasy fish and frozen chips. But right now there is a 2-week Autumn Beer festival at all JDW outlets - they are rotating through 44 ales from all over the isles.
The selection of Scotch in country pubs has improved considerably in the 12 years since we've been in Great Britain. Back then, Bells, Glenfidditch, and Famous Grouse were about all you found in most pubs. Now, the whole Classic Malts series is in many pubs including Lagavulin, Oban, and Talisker. Many also have other single malts such as The McCallan, Glenlivit, Tobermory, and Glenmorange.

There's also a lot of cider in Britain. We've had bottled cider (actually won a bottle at a quiz night) but the traditional cider, on the handpull, is the most interesting. Also quite rare around mid-England. More are available in the south and in Wales we understand.
  • Cheddar Valley - Quite tart of green apples.
  • Thatcher Heritage Cider - Green yellow color. Mild tartness.

We've stopped many times on previous trips at the Calley Arms in Hodson. Big Les is now retired and living 2 doors away. When anyone bought him a beer he would draw one, down it in one gulp, and express his thanks. We'll miss him.

The Calley Arms - Hodson, Wiltshire

Landsdowne Arms - Derry Hill, Wiltshire
Once the home of the Landsdowne Arms Precision Drinking Team.

The Fat Cat - Norwich, Norfolk
CAMRA's two-time National Pub of the Year

Selection at the Fat Cat

Volunteer Inn - Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire

Wadworth Brewery - Devizes, Wiltshire

The ZeroDegrees brewpub in Bristol is in the Good Beer Guide but it's not clear why. When we were there no real ale was in evidence, neither were there any handpulls sitting idle. It's a ultra-modern downtown technopub and restaurant with pizza, mussels, and pasta on the menu. In other words, easy fixing food.
The brewery is downstairs with 9 horizontal serving tanks upstairs. 5 beers were on tap, all served quite cold by CO2 pressure.
  • Pilsner - Saaz hops.
  • Pale Ale - American style with Cascade and Centennial.
  • Black Lager - "Roasted & carmelised malts, Czech style". Creamy with some coffee notes.
  • Wheat Ale - Americana wheat. OK but not notable. They rotate wheat's between this, a German hefe, and a Belgian wit.
  • Mango Ale - Seasonal. Very sweet.

The overhead supply pipes are architecturally interesting.

Got to go to the Norwich Beer Fest for a day. Over 200 ales direct from the casks. Ciders, 50 Belgian beers.
Here's how a British beer festival works: CAMRA members get in free (£5 to non-members). You pay £4 for a commemorative glass (half or whole pint, your choice). Then buy beer as you like; 1/2 pints for 90p to £1.20, pints ran £1.80 to £2.40 (as much as in many pubs).
This fest was held in an ex-church which was quite a spectacular setting. It went from Tuesday through Saturday with sessions from 11am-3pm and 6pm-10pm each day. That's a lot of volunteer effort.

We had set up for a week at a local holiday cottage and ran into our landlords which caused a stop at a pub afterward.

The cider bar.

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