Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Cask Ale Week in Stratford-on-Avon

Cask Ale Week is a great reason to indulge.  I always try and sample new beers so this week I decided to also try and visit new pubs.  During the week I stay at the Legacy Falcon Hotel in Stratford-on-Avon.  This is a delightful hotel.  I've stayed in most of the hotels in Stratford-on-Avon over the past six years and this is the best.  Room 308 is a room to avoid and there's always something missing from the breakfast tray but the friendly staff make it far superior to the rest.  In the bar they serve an excellent pint of UBU (4.5% ABV) and Mad Goose (4.2% ABV) from the local Purity Ales

However, I digress.  This was not the week to drink in the hotel bar.  The Sunday Telegraph issued a free pint of cask ale voucher for Cask Ale Week so on Monday I had to seek out a pub that accepted this.  The Old Tramway is a pub on the outskirts of town so after visiting The Bear at the Swan's Nest, my Stratford favourite, where I sampled the Wye Valley Butty Bach (4.5% ABV), I walked on and discovered a delighful pub.  The elegant building houses a single open-plan bar serving Fullers London Pride and a guest ale from the Rudgate Brewery of York, Viking Bitter (3.8% ABV).  The barman knew nothing about the latter and it was not a name I recognised but I decided to give it a try (it was free after all).  It turned out to be a delicious beer.  A subtle malty taste with a delightful bitter finish.

Last night I drove out to one of my favourite pubs, The Victoria Works at Studley.  The Weatheroak Brewery tap is a delightful drinking establishment that is well worth a visit.  I chose a pint of their brilliantly named St Udley (3.4% ABV), a very tasty traditional mild.  They were serving the full range of the Weatheroak Brewery beers in addition to a guest ale from the Slaughterhouse Brewery (Wild Boar 5.2% ABV).  I find it disappointing that the last bus back form Studley to Straford-on-Avon leaves ridiculously early so driving is the only option and a single pint was my limit.  Arriving back in Stratford-on-Avon I found time for a pint of Byatt's Coventry Bitter at the Golden Bee.  A lovely session bitter that is incredibly smooth and has a lovely bitter finish.

Tonight I decided to visit three Stratford-on-Avon pubs that I had previously avoided.  The first of these was The Windmill.  The Flowers and Son sign on the outside wall brought back memories.  Flowers Original was a decent beer when I was in my twenties.  Tonight the beers available were Greene King Abbot (5.0% ABV), Morlands Old Speckled Hen (4.5% ABV) and Purity Ales UBU (4.5% ABV).  All three are fairly strong.  Where's the session bitter?  I chose the latter.  UBU is easy to find in Stratford-on-Avon so I rarely drink it but it is a delightful pint.  Malty, full-bodied and very drinkable.  I will be drinking more of it in the future.  It reminds me of one of my favourite long lost beers, King & Barnes Festive.  The pub is very pleasant too.  An old beamed building with comfortable spacious seating areas and a separate dining area.

Next stop was The Queen's Head.  The only available beer worth drinking was Adnams Southwold Bitter (3.7% ABV).  The pub is one to avoid.  I have stayed in Southwold many times.  I have visited every Adnams pub when I completed the Adnams Ale Trail in the 1990s and I have been given a tour of their wonderful brewery by the head brewer as a reward for completing the aforementioned trail.  Adnams Broadside is my favourite beer and all their beers are delightful.  Tonight it was not such a pleasant beer.  I was the only person in the pub.  Now I know why.

Finally I visited The Rose and Crown.  The pub is opposite the Wetherspoons pub, the Golden Bee.  This Taylor Walkers pub brought back memories from when I lived in London in the 1980s.  Taylor Walker did not brew any decent beer from what I remember but they had a large number of pubs in the London area.  This pub was a very pleasant suprise.  It is a vast cavernous building with a long bar running from front to back.  It has numerous TV screens but they do not intrude due to the large number of seating areas.  At the very back there was a pool table.  The first suprise was the beer selection.  This was enhanced by a two week Cask Ale Festival featuring 14 cask ales.  Three were available tonight, Oakham Ales JHB (3.8% ABV), Beartown Brewery Ginger Beer (4.0% ABV) and Inveralmond's Lia Fail (4.7% ABV).  I chose the latter.  A malty concoction full of coffee and toffee flavours it was a lovely beer.  In addition to the festival beers, Youngs Bitter (3.7% ABV) and Doom Bar (4.0% ABV) were also available.  With a festival loyalty card and a 10% discount for CAMRA members I will be visiting the pub again next week.  It is good to see that what is essentially a pub company is now committed to delivering fine ales and I read somewhere in their literature that all 114 of their pubs are Cask Marque accredited. 

That brings me to the end of my Cask Ale Week adventures.  Tomorrow I will be drinking again of course but that will result in a totally new blog post.  The week so far has been a reason to discover new beers in new environments.  I have my favourite pubs whilst in Stratford-on-Avon and during the week I have discovered a couple more that I will definitely visit again so it was a worthwhile exercise .

Happy drinking.

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