First was The Pelican in St Mary’s Street. Ever since Wye Valley Brewery took over this sadly neglected and under-performing back street boozer it has been one of Gloucester’s finest drinking establishments, and this weekend marked the first anniversary of their ownership.
Even on a normal occasion you aren’t short of choice at the Pelican; they provide a wide range of Wye Valley beers, plus guests and a couple of real ciders on tap too. The landlord, Michael Hall, is also partial to a rum, so there is also a good range of those available.
This weekend, however, they really pulled out all the stops, holding a beer festival to celebrate the occasion with 22 real ales and nine real ciders. And for the lager drinker? Well, quoting from the programme, “If you like lager we present you with the perfect opportunity to try something different today.”
And people didn’t seem to be complaining. The pub is not large, and when I was there on Saturday afternoon it was bulging at the seams, including an excellent blues duo Rev Ferriday & Owen Bray tucked into one corner – I’m trying to persuade Mike to get them back for the Blues Festival, so if you’re in maybe you could casually mention the idea in passing…
The event was helped by the fact that it was a gloriously sunny day, so the courtyard was equally packed; here you could not only enjoy the sun, but also some excellent food – provided by Peppers from Bull Lane at lunchtime and a hog roast for dinner.
It was, as you might imagine, difficult to drag myself away, but drag myself away I did, because not too far away was another pub with a celebration: the landlords at the Coach & Horses in St Catherine Street were celebrating three years at the pub. Not only that, it has just re-opened as a cider pub after an extensive refurbishment, now going by the name of the Cider Tree at the Coach and Horses.
This is of great interest to me as, of late, I have turned from a real ale drinker to a cider drinker. The pub, owned by Paul Soden, who also runs the Cafe Rene and the Old Bell, stocks 34 varieties of cider, more than enough choice to keep you coming back for more. Previously the pub felt a little bare, but the refurb has been done well: contemporary, but in keeping with the sixteenth century timbered building. And the cider, it goes without saying, was excellent.
Both of these pubs are doing an excellent job of identifying a niche and putting in the effort to provide an interesting, distinctive and quality drinking experience. They are well worth seeking out.
And this brings me to a different issue: an opportunity for the Docks to gain an equally interesting, distinctive and quality pub. The former Coots cafe bar, adjacent to the Waterways Museum, has been empty for some time and the Gloucester Brewery, situated just across the courtyard, want to buy it and turn it into their brewery tap.
What an excellent opportunity that would be, and perfectly in keeping with what should be the ethos of the Docks as a unique experience for residents and tourists alike.
The problem is, Wetherspoons are also interested.
So what would you prefer? A unique bar owned by the local craft brewer, or a huge pub company where you could be drinking anywhere in the country – including their other two pubs already in Gloucester?