Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Beer and football

Beer and football go together like fish and chips.  Football without beer is unthinkable.  I find it impossible to go to a football match without having a couple of pints first.  I have tried it on a few occasions and it just isn't the same.  You may think that is because I follow Southampton FC and that they would look better after a couple of pints but even in the heady days of the early 1980s, when we were probably the most attractive side in the country to watch, the pre-match beer was all part of the match day experience for me.

Like most football clubs, Southampton do not make it attractive to drink at the ground.  It has always been a case of leaving the pub at and arriving at the ground as the teams are running out.  If you like your beer cold and tasteless and served in a plastic glass though feel free to try the bars at St Marys.  You won't be disappointed.       

In the old Dell days my chosen pub was The Alexandra, a 15 minute walk from the ground and handy for parking.  When Southampton moved to St Marys the new ground was a 15 minute walk from the Alexandra in the opposite direction.  That was damned convenient.  The Alex is a real pub but it has been a while since I was last in there.  It had a solid beer selection as Old Thumper, London Pride and Tim Taylors Landlord always featured.  I see from their website that the OT and LP have gone and have been replaced with Ringwood Best and the horrible Doom Bar so I guess the selection has taken a dive recently.  I'm sure the TT Landlord is still a nice pint though so all is not lost.

The Alexandra 

This brings me on to the Giddy Bridge which sort of took over from The Alex as the place we drank in although I can't really remember why we changed.  The Giddy Bridge is a Wetherspoons with a decent beer selection at a decent price and with CAMRA vouchers to spend it sort of became the number one choice after a period of alternating between the two.  Once our Wetherspoons vouchers had run out we would revert back to The Alex but nowadays I struggle to use all my vouchers so that never tends to happen.  The Giddy Bridge is a typical 'Spoons though.  Takes ages to get served and never a relaxing experience.        

This brings me on to last night when I decided to try The Rockstone.  Since I stopped working in Warwickshire I have missed Sadlers Ales more and more.  That was therefore my reason for seeking out The Rockstone as their lovely beers regularly appear there (so I am told).  In a previous incarnation the pub was called the Bevois Valley Inn and it was a bit of a scruffy Eldridge Pope house.  The Rockstone's website paints a picture of a top class pub with the feel of a village local.  High expectations indeed.

The Rockstone
Firstly, my sincere apologies for the crap photo.  The pub itself is a delight with a central bar area surrounded by seating areas to both sides.  The pub was not full of football fans but a young crowd of locals and I found it to be a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere.  There is also plenty of outside seating to the front.  This is a real pub for sure.

I immediately felt at home when I saw the superb beer selection.  A large selection of local beers came from Hop Back, Irving, Hammerpot, Hop Back and Itchen Valley although the range is constantly changing. There was also the house beer, Rolling Rockstone (3.8% ABV), brewed by my favourite brewery Sadlers Ales.  It is months since I last had a pint of Sadlers so I immediately ordered a pint.  This very pale beer (yes I guess it does resemble Rolling Rock until you discover it actually has some taste to it) is packed with Citra hops and I'm sure it is Sadlers JPA with a house label.  This is the beer I helped to brew when I visited Sadlers so it is always a special pint.  Absolutely gorgeous.

For my second pint I moved over to the Tin Fish (4.3% ABV) from the Irving Brewery of Portsmouth.  I may avoid all things Portsmouth when it comes to football but I show no bias when it comes to beer.  Irving's was established by former Gales brewer Malcolm Irving (Gales HSB was my first love when it comes to beer).  Tin Fish was a bit of a challenge after the extreme citrus taste of the Sadlers.  It is therefore appropriate that it is brewed with the Challenger hop as part of a series of single hop variety beers showcasing traditional English hops.  Once my tastebuds had adjusted to the different taste I found it to be a very nice beer with a gentle malty sweetness which gave way to a subtle dry bitter finish.  It is definitely worthy of a score of 8/10.

The Rockstone is definitely my pub of choice now before a Saints game.  The beer choice is excellent and judging by the platefuls of grub coming out I will have to try the food at some point too.  Of course there is also the draw of some Sadlers Ales.  All I can hope for is for some Mud City Stout on my next visit.

Happy drinking.

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