Having failed to blog for a couple of weeks, here’s a whole bunch of things I wanted to talk about: CAMRA’s Prices & Availability Survey, May is Mild month, and Upcoming beer-themed Gloucester events.
Prices & Availability:
Every year CAMRA conducts a prices and availability survey: as the name suggests this investigates what beers are available and what they cost. It also gathers information on who owns and runs the pubs and includes all pubs even if they don’t sell real ale. In Gloucester, the pubs are split up into groups and at one of the regular monthly social meets members are asked to choose one or more of these groups to survey.
I suspect there was very little competition for the group of pubs that I selected: I chose them not for the quality of the pubs or their ale, but because out of the four in the group I was curious about one of them and hadn’t ever visited two of the others.
And so it was that I found myself heading for the Park End a few weeks ago. I had persuaded my brother to accompany me for moral support and to act as beer tester since I am still sadly abstaining from beer due to food intolerances. It was because he was running late that I took a walk around Gloucester Park, the subject of my blog a few weeks ago: now I finally get onto the real reason I was there!
The Park End was the pub that I wanted to visit out of curiosity. About a year ago it seemed to be under threat of closure: I blogged about this and subsequently appeared in the Citizen as a ‘campaigner’ to keep the pub open. I also took some pictures of the impressive interior. Subsequently it became less clear whether the pub was going to close or not and again I blogged about this mystery. Well, it’s still open, so I wanted to go and have a look.
Sure enough, nothing seems to have changed at the Park End. I ordered a pint (of cider) and tried to engage the barman in conversation. He was not of the effusive, outgoing school of barmen: in fact he seemed very reluctant to talk. When I told him why I was there he was even less keen to talk to me – and why should he be? He doesn’t sell real ale, so what’s in it for him?
Finally I got him to admit that he is the landlord and even, after much persuasion, to tell me his name, but that was all I could get: the owner of the pub apparently doesn’t like people to know who he is. I wasn’t even allowed to know the pub’s phone number! Oh well, I tried!
My brother and I supped our drinks and moved on. Next stop was Sam’s Bar and Grill, one of the pub’s I hadn’t been to before. Well, that’s not strictly true. I visited it on a number of occasions in its previous guise as the Brunswick and, before that, back in the 1980s, I was a regular for a while when it went by the name of The Man in the Bowler Hat. But I didn’t hold out much hope for Sam’s Bar & Grill – it sounds like a restaurant with a bar tacked on.
I need not have worried though: Sam’s Bar & Grill is still very much a pub and has changed very little since its days as the Brunswick. The ambiance of the place looks much the same; it caters to the same clientele and hosts the same hard rock/ metal bands. It also has two real ales and a real cider on all at a very reasonable £2.50 per pint.
This was definitely a top pub: the landlord was serving behind the bar and couldn’t have been more friendly, helpful and welcoming: a stark contrast to the Park End! My brother even got a free half pint of Old Hooky to confirm how good it was.
Reluctantly we dragged ourselves away, but the rest of the evening was a bust. The other pub that I had not yet visited was Liberty’s on Eastgate Street and it remained unvisited as it does not open on Tuesday nights. The final pub was TnT, next door, a great party place at the weekend, but that is the only time it opens so it too was closed.
We therefore headed for a pint in the Water Poet to finish off the evening before heading for home – and missing my bus! I can report that cider drinking does not aid good timekeeping.
I returned to Liberty’s at a later date: this really is based on an American diner. The colour scheme is predominantly red, white and blue, there is lots of vinyl and it has diner type booths with fixed seats and tables. There is also the back end of an American style school bus protruding from one wall and, less obviously US-influenced, a mini protruding from one of the booths. It does apparently sell real ale though: Old Speckled Hen, but it wasn’t on when I visited. Liberty’s is owned by the same guy that manages TnT, so although that was still not open I was able to kill two-birds with one stone.
Hopefully the other CAMRA researchers will have better luck – once the results are out I’ll let you know.
Mild Month of May
May is traditionally CAMRA’s mild month. Mild is a very under rated beer style: it is associated with old blokes with flat caps and, perhaps because of this, not one that you see about very much.
I like mild a lot though and, if you look hard enough, there are some good ones out there. Traditionally it is not strong: normally less than 4% ABV, making it a great session beer, although these days you do get stronger versions. It is dark and often has a complex taste that belies its lack of strength.
So go on, give mild a go – let me know where in Gloucester you find it, either in the comments here or on Gloucester’s Pubs Facebook Page.
Check out CAMRA’s web page for more details and to see their Mild of the Day.
There are lots of good events coming up in Gloucester over the next few months that are well worth checking out for the beer lover (many thanks to Alan Stephens, Gloucester CAMRA Chairman, for most of these):
- Varsity in Northgate Street has new staff, and possibly in line with the vast improvement at the Old Restoration in Cheltenham, owners Barracuda Inns may be switching the pub’s emphasis to real ale and cider – they are holding a real ale and cider festival on 18-21 May.
- I will be leading guided Gloucester Pub Tours for the Civic Trust on Saturday 18th June at 3:00pm and Tuesday 5th July at 7:30pm – tickets available from St Michael’s Tower or the Tourist Information Centre (also see my website for details of upcoming guided pub tours)
- In July the Pig Inn the City and Dick Whittington are joining forces to stage a Lower Westgate Beer and Blues Fest throughout the Gloucester Blues Fest week (23-31 July). There will be music in both pubs and at least 30 ales from unrestricted suppliers. As usual, Cafe Rene will also be hosting a Blues Festival over the period.
- The Gloucester Tall ships Festival has been confirmed to take place over the August bank holiday weekend. Although not specifically beer related this was an excellent event when it was last held 2 years ago and included a beer festival at Coots – no word yet whether that will happen again. I am also hoping to arrange a guided pub tour of the Docks pubs as part of the events – details to be confirmed.
- The Gloucestershire Craft Brewers will seek to repeat the success of last year’s Gloucester Beer Fest at the Farmers Club on Friday and Saturday 9 and 10 September.