Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Warwick Pub Crawl

Last night I decided to catch a train from Stratford-on-Avon and make the short journey to Warwick.  I had no particular plan or list of pubs to visit except for the first two stops.  The first stop was always going to be The Wild Boar which is very close to the station.  The Wild Boar is a magnificent pub that houses a microbrewery which can be viewed through a window at the back.  It is a collaboration between local brewer, Slaughterhouse, and the large regional brewer Everards of Leicester.  From the latter, Tiger Best (4.1% ABV) and Sunchaser (4.0% ABV) were available.  From the former I could choose from Saddleback (3.8% ABV), Rare Breed (4.2% ABV), Wild Boar (5.2% ABV) and Alt Bier Extra (5.5% ABV).  If that wasn't enough there were three guest beers from Arkells, Box Steam Brewery and Weatheroak.  I figured I'd find a Slaughterhouse beer elsewhere tonight on my travels so I chose Arkells Wiltshire Gold (4.0% ABV).  This pale golden bitter was quite hoppy with a pleasant bitter aftertaste.  It was served in perfect condition and it made a good start to the evening.

Leaving the Wild Boar I turned right towards the town.  After passing underneath the trainline I veered off to the left passing a pub called The Railway on the corner.  I came to The Coten and turned left where I came across the Millwright Arms.  It is a lovely looking building and reputedly one of the oldest buildings in Warwick.  The bar was quiet and central.  To the right was a small room lavishly decorated and to the far left was a more formal area.  Apparently there is a fabulous large garden to the rear and there is also outside seating at the front of the pub but you will have traffic fumes to contend with here.  The beers available were St Austell Tribute (4.2% ABV), Sharps Doom Bar (4.0% ABV) and Wye Valley HPA (4.0% ABV).  I love the latter but amazingly I have never tried Tribute before so I decided to put that beer to bed.  As for Doom Bar, I have never understood the popularity of this very ordinary beer and I am always dismayed to see it with such regularity.  The Tribute surprised me.  It was a pleasantly smooth golden bitter with citrus notes but quite a sweet finish that wasn't to my particular taste.  It certainly does not compare to the magnificent Hicks Special Draught which has always been one of my favourite beers but frustratingly difficult to find outside the South West.

I headed back towards town and it wasn't far to my next stop, The Oak.  This tiny pub had an excellent beer selection which is good because it is a real drinkers pub with limited seating, a pool table and dartboard to the rear and a function room at the back.  I could choose from Oakham JHB (3.8% ABV), Brains Rev James (4.5% ABV), two beers from Lincolnshire micro Newby Wyke,  Banquo (3.8% ABV) and White Squall (4.8% ABV) and the house beer Oak Ale (4.0% ABV).  The barmaid could not tell me where the house beer was brewed but she did offer me a sample of White Squall.  It had a powerful hoppy taste but I opted for the weaker Banquo.  This was also a pale, floral hoppy beer with a pleasant bitter aftertaste.  I liked this pub.  It was great to see that not only did the pub have a dartboard but it was also being used.

It was now time to head into the centre of this beautiful historic town.  I passed a couple of lovely looking hotels and a few upmarket bars before finding myself in the old market square.  I had a choice of the local Wetherspoons or a similarly large establishment called The Tilted Wig.  I had no desire to see another Spoons so I chose the latter.  Bad choice!!  It started off well when I chose a pint of Jewellery Porter from Birmingham micro Two Towers for just £1.99.  It was then downhill all the way.  The pub had large comfortable seating areas to both sides.  It was busy with plenty of people eating.  I wanted a packet of salted peanuts and I was informed they served them in small pots.  This is something I have become used to at a number of pubs in Stratford-on-Avon where they serve a variety of snacks in small dishes.  These can cost up to a pound so how much was it going to be here?  £2.50.  Sorry did you say £2.50?  That's more than the cost of the pint.  The ridiculousness of this pub did not stop there.  At both ends of the pub was wallpaper resembling bookshelves.  I had just come from The Oak which had real books on real bookshelves for the benefit of customers.  This was just hideous.  Special mention must go to the barmaid who was last seen ignoring all and sundry whilst studying her mobile phone with intense concentration.  This was in stark contrast to the friendly host in the Millwright Arms who was chatting to one and all.  Finally, the beer was very poor quality.  The slight sweetness hinted it was well passed its best which was very disappointing.  I hope to find this beer served in peak condition in the near future at a proper pub so I can find out what it really tastes like.

After finding a drinking establishment of such poor quality the simple solution is to stick with what you know.  I had time for one more beer so I headed back to the station and revisited the Wild Boar.  I wanted a beer brewed in Warwick and two new beers had arrived on the menu which were missing earlier.  Both were from Slaughterhouse - Space Trotter (4.3% ABV) and Starboard Porter (4.8% ABV).  After my disappointing porter at The Tilted Wig I thought I'd try my luck again.  This was totally different and was everything I look for in a porter.  Very smooth with a chocolate malt bitterness it was absolutely divine.  An excellent beer to end the evening with.  Whilst enjoying this I picked up a copy of The Beer and Ragged Staff, the local CAMRA newsletter from the Heart of Warwickshire branch.  An excellent read that gave me plenty of ideas for pubs to visit next time I come to Warwick.  It was such an easy journey it is certainly a place I will come back to before Christmas and next time I would like to find more pubs serving local beers.  As for The Tilted Wig.  That's one pub I will never set foot in again!!

Happy drinking.

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