I constantly praise three pubs in Stratford-on-Avon but there are quite a few I have not even visited yet. I thought I would right those wrongs tonight and see what they have to offer. My first stop was to be the Lamplighter Inn. I have visited this pub a couple of times many years ago and at the time they sold Jennings Cumberland Ale and Banks's Mild. So what could they offer me tonight? Nothing. That was a quick visit then.
My second port of call was the recently refurbished White Swan Hotel. This Fullers pub is somewhere I have never visited so I was looking forward to seeing what it was like. It was lovely. Both to the left and right were comfortable drinking areas with leather sofas and chairs with plenty of privacy for many of the tables. The dining areas were hidden away and one of these to the far right was within a room with gorgeous wood panels. As a pub to visit for a quiet relaxing pint it was perfect. Could the beer match the surroundings? The choice was the usual Fullers selection. ESB, Gales Seafarers and London Pride were all available and Bengal Lancer was 'coming soon'. I chose the ESB, one of my favourite beers over the past 30 years. I was delighted to see it served in the ESB glass but the quality was not brilliant. It wasn't off but it was not what I would expect either. At £3.75 a pint it was reasonably expensive too. Despite this, I will probably give the pub another chance at some point to see if the beer quality improves.
The next stop was going to be No.7 Windsor Street. However, the sign outside said the pub was 'To Let' and the signs inside told me why. The place was empty. Onwards we go.
Next stop was The One Elm. This pub was always popular with my work colleagues when I originally worked in Stratford-on-Avon many years ago. It is quite a trendy bar which isn't normally my kind of establishment but I was pleasantly surprised by it. To the right was a colourful lounge and on the bar there was a choice of Doom Bar, Greene King Abbot, Purity Pure Gold and Purity UBU. I chose the Pure Gold (3.8% ABV) as I had never tried it before and it was served in the correct glass and in perfect condition. It was a delightfully refreshing hoppy session bitter. No complaints then about the beer or the pub.
Three pints was going to be my limit tonight so my next stop, The Pen and Parchment, would be my final port of call. This former GBG pub had a reasonable beer selection in the past but now it is limited to Greene King. I am assuming that the beer labelled Poet's Ink was from this brewery. They are becoming pretty good at hiding the origin of some of their beers and my past experience kept me away from it. The pub itself is nothing special anyway. The food has always been good when I've eaten there but it is not a pub for relaxing in. I did not wish to try anything on offer so I left.
I crossed the road to go in The Encore. The large corner pub (a former Beefeater if my memory is correct) had Purity UBU and Pure Gold available. I was looking for something a little different as I could find a decent pint of this back at the hotel so I moved on. The pub itself though had much more appeal than the Pen and Parchment and it is Cask Marque accredited so I will go back there at some point.
My final stop was The Garrick Inn. Reputedly the oldest pub in Stratford-on-Avon it is owned by the same pub company as The Pen and Parchment and the beers avalable were also from the Greene King stable. The pub was small, cosy and welcoming but, once again, I am on a downer where Greene King are concerned so I did not stay for a drink.
Will any of these pubs become regular haunts for me? The Bear remains my top choice as it has everything. Comfortable surroundings, friendly staff and a fantastic rotating beer selection from local micro breweries. For me this is the perfect ingredient for a regular pub. However, The One Elm turned out to be an excellent bar with well-kept beer including two from the local Purity Brewing Company. What I did find disappointing though is in a county full of thriving micro breweries I did not find any other local ales available, and in the case of one pub, no ales at all.