Wednesday, 13 February 2013

More Leamington Spa / Warwick pubs

On my first visit to Leamington Spa it was apparent there was more to see.  My second trip last week saw me visit a further three pubs.  My first stop, The Somerville Arms, was the furthest from the station.  It was located in a quiet street in the NE quadrant of this delightful town.  It is a fine Victorian building.  It was certainly friendly and busy too for such an early hour.  To the front was a comfortable bar with dartboard to the left and the bar area to the right.  At the back is a smaller snug.  There was a lovely looking row of handpumps with four offerings from Everards alongside Wadworths 6X and two from Adnams (Bitter and Broadside).  I chose a pint of Wadworths 6X (4.3% ABV) as it is probably years since I last tried this popular beer.  It is a particularly malty ale with a pleasant subtle bitterness.  It has never been a particular favourite of mine but it is easy to appreciate and enjoy.

Overall, this was an excellent start to the evening.  It is easy to see why the Somerville Arms was awarded the local CAMRA pub of the year in 2011.  It has lots of wooden panelling.  The wooden bench seat in the front window was very comfortable and there was plenty more wooden tables and chairs scattered around although most were occupied.  It is a genuine backstreet local that is more than welcoming to strangers.

I then retraced my steps before heading down a wide avenue with a central pathway.  Off to the right I soon saw a likely looking pub but upon closer inspection The Sausage looked a bit garish.  I'm not sure who would call their pub The Sausage (or The Sozzled Sausage as I read on a different sign) but either way you know what you are probably going to find once you step inside.  The decor proved to be pretty horrendous.  The same disgusting wallpaper pretending to be bookshelves as I witnessed in The Tilted Wig in Warwick did not improve my mood.  The beer choice was UBU or Darling Buds (4.0% ABV) from Warwickshire Beer Co.  I chose the latter and it was ok if a little warm.  I was convinced it should have tasted better though. 

I did not hang around in The Sausage for long so after downing my pint I headed into the town centre.  I only had time for one more stop so it was a choice of two Spoons.  I chose the Benjamin Satchwell and I wasn't disappointed.  The pub had a dartboard (in a very inconvenient position) but the pub was so big you could have played 5-a-side football in it.  Not much to add about the pub really.  It was a typical Wetherspoons with a good choice of beers and I chose Byatt's Urban Red (4.5% ABV).  This was an amazing beer.  A lovely deep auburn colour, a lovely balance of malt and hops and a subtle bitter finish.  A fabulous beer to end the evening with.

Last night I decided to make my third trip to Leamington and from the station I headed off to the west back to Warwick.  My first stop was the Coventry Arms.  It appeared to be a quiet street corner local and upon entering I discovered a large sofa'd area with a big screen on the wall.  The bar area was to the left with high tables and stools (a bit low for the tables) and further on there was a more basic bar area.  My first impression was very good and the choice of beers was excellent too.  UBU and Wadworth 6X were available as well as my beer from last week, Darling Buds.  OK I had to try it again and discover whether it was a proper pint or not last week.  This time it was served at a perfect temperature and it was a lovely pale, hoppy bitter with plenty of citrus flavours.  That definitely answered my question. 

The loveliness of the bar staff and an imminent pub quiz was not enough to detain me as I had a long walk back to Warwick and two or three more pubs to visit.  Next time perhaps.  It is certainly a pub to visit again due to the comfortable surroundings, the excellent beer and the friendliness of the staff.  A perfect combination.

I knew where I was ending the pub crawl and I had one other pub in mind but I thought I'd see what else I discovered en route.  I have no idea where the border between Warwick and Leamington exists but I think I was in Warwick when I came across the Lord Nelson.  Situated on the main road this street corner pub looked ok but once inside it was not very pleasant for a number of reasons.  The bar to the left had a redundant pool table and there was a lone guy sitting morosely at his laptop.  The lounge could be viewed through the serving area and was also sparsely populated. 

The bar had no handpumps but I saw a couple in the lounge and I was offered Wadworths Old Henry or Everards Beacon.  I chose the latter expecting the worst but it was actually a very pleasant pint and served in good condition.  It is a Cask Marque pub so I guess it should not have been such a huge surprise.  Once I had my pint I found an empty table (I had plenty to choose from) but finding a chair that did not have bits missing or was sturdy enough proved a bit more difficult.  I sat down warily and enjoyed the beer.  The barman walking from bar to bar singing as he went did not improve the atmosphere but I guess it did give me something to distract me from the depressing decor all around me.

I left the Lord Nelson feeling a little deflated and because I drank my pint fairly quickly to get myself out of there I decided I had time for two more stops.  I was soon in Warwick where I visited my two favourite pubs in the town which I have described in an earlier post.  The Oak is a tiny gem of a pub and I chose a pint of Black Sheep Bitter (3.8%ABV).  I cannot imagine getting served a better pint of Black Sheep even if I was in Masham.  It was a glorious pint.  An absolutely fantastic chestnut coloured beer with an intense bitterness.  A perfect session beer.

Leaving The Oak my mood had greatly improved and I had time for a pint in the Wild Boar, Warwick's best pub.  As well as the usual Slaughterhouse beers they had two from Byatts as well as a Batemans beer with a rugby themed name.  I'd always wanted to try the Byatts XL Dark (3.5% ABV)  so that is what I went for.  I was expecting a mild but I'm not sure what it was really as it had much more roasted malt flavours as well as a lovely crisp bitterness that I would not have expected.  It was beautiful and it was served in perfect condition too.

Overall, I was a little spoiled by my third visit to Leamington (and Warwick this time).  All four beers were excellent as were three of the four pubs.  The towns are certainly joined at the hip as the border is indistinguishable but the centres are distinctly different.  Warwick is the older partner with its splendid castle and Leamington has a fine Georgian grandeur with wide avenues and canals.  Both towns have plenty to offer the beer lover as well as being steeped in history so I would recommend a trip to both towns if you get a chance.

Happy drinking.

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