As part of my continuing mission to revisit all of Gloucester’s pubs, this weekend I conducted my second ‘research’ pub crawl: this time around Westgate Street.
I last did this pub crawl on 27 June 2009, and you can read the details here. Unlike last month’s pub crawl around Barton & Tredworth, most of the pubs that I visited in 2009 are still open. The exception is the sadly lost and lamented Pig Inn the City, which closed in October 2011 and despite rumours that there are plans to re-open it there has been no sign yet.
Westgate contains some of the best and most historic pubs in the city and, again in stark contrast to last month’s adventure, most sell real ale, so I had hoped that this pub crawl would be popular. I was not wrong, I didn’t do a proper headcount, but at its peak there must have been 20 of us – quite a logistical challenge to get everyone from place to place in an orderly fashion. It was a very diverse group too, with several different circles of friends including the daredevil, stuntman and all-round Gloucester legend Dick Sheppard!
We started the evening in the Union as a reasonably small group of about nine of us. The Union is a very nice pub, it has suffered over recent years but the current tenants have turned it around and it now serves two or three real ales which are not only well kept but tend to be out of the ordinary. On this occasion, there was also a barrel of Black Rat cider, so I was happy too. The pub still lacks some of the atmosphere and ambience of past times, but it is definitely heading in the right direction. In addition to us there were a few regulars in, but it was quiet at this early hour.
The next contingent of ‘researchers’ turned up around 8pm, just as it was time to move on, so they missed out on the Union and headed straight to the next stop, which was a late addition to the programme and a pub that wasn’t open in 2009: The Music Lounge in Bull Lane.
Formerly the Loft and Poets Wine Bar, the Music Lounge is tiny and we had difficult all squeezing in. It served a Gloucester Brewery ale from a cask on the bar and had a range of bottled Severn Cider. Music could be heard emanating from upstairs, where there was a dance floor, a few sofas and a DJ, so we stayed on the ground floor. Here we were joined by another contingent of friends causing the party to spill out into the lane.
Next stop was the Westgate. Well known as a gay bar, I assumed that there would be no real ale here, but my stereotyping was wrong: Hobgoblin was available on hand pump. The Westgate is modern and contemporary, with little evidence of its history as the Lamprey remaining, although a friend who I met in there and is a regular informs me that they still have the old pub sign stashed away somewhere. The evening was still young, so we were too early for the cabaret and apart from us there were only a few people in.
There was not much walking involved in this pub crawl: we just had to cross back over the road for out next stop: the Fountain. The weather wasn’t particularly kind to us so we couldn’t sit in the courtyard as I thought we might, but all were impressed by the wonderful ambience of the place, which claims to be one of the oldest known sites connected with the brewing trade in Gloucester, and by the wide range of beers available.
It was getting increasingly difficult to herd the large group between pubs, but we managed to escape the lure of the fountain and head off to The Old Crown on schedule. A Sam Smiths pub, there is no real ale here, although the landlord Martyn, formerly of the Pig Inn the City, is trying hard to rectify that situation. Despite the lack of real ale the pub was well received and the Cheltenham guys were disappointed when I told them that the wonderful Victorian interior they were admiring wasn’t original as it had only been converted back into a pub in 1990.
Once again it was only a short walk across the road to our next destination, The Dick Whittington, another superb building, dating from fifteenth century when it was built by Richard Whittington, nephew of Dick Whittington of panto fame. Here all were delighted to find another impressive line up of interesting beers, as well as Severn Cider on hand pump, which is always excellent. By this stage my memory was becoming hazy, but I’m pretty sure everyone was having a good time.
The final pub on our list wasn’t intended to be on this route, but was added by popular request: The Pelican. This is not only a superb pub, allegedly build using timbers from the Golden Hind, but it also gave us the opportunity for a bit of a walk. Even before we all turned up en masse it was reasonably busy and everyone was more than happy to squeeze down some of the well kept Wye Valley beer, or in my case one of the several ciders they have on tap. I had intended to round off the night sampling some of the wide range of rums that the landlord, Mike, has amassed, but somehow it slipped my mind.
After a while people started to drift off home. Several went off for a curry, but unusually I declined, being too full of cider to manage food. A diminished group stayed drinking until we were finally kicked out and then, despite my better judgement, we went well off-piste from the Westgate route, ending up in the Cafe Rene for a last drink before I called it a night and headed for the night bus home.