Last time we went to Exeter, we struggled to find any outstanding beer, but various commenters, and some blokes at a beer festival, told us that we’d missed the best pub: the Old Fire House on New North Road.
We nearly missed it again.
Going in in the middle of the afternoon, we saw several pumps for ‘real cider’, but no beer. Puzzled, we turned and left. Outside, we scratched our heads, Stan Laurel style, and decided to try again. This time, we gave ourselves time to adjust to the gloom and realised that there were several casks on the back wall, labelled as if at a beer festival, along with a blackboard.
The beers could have done with a bit more condition, but there was no faulting their freshness. Dark Star Hophead, our 2010 beer of the year, and one we miss sorely since leaving London, was as delicious as ever. Titanic Centenary was also a surprising success — an almost green, Champagne-like yellow, and with enough hop aroma to compete with the Dark Star.
Only one thing bothered us: a pervasive aroma of vomit. We assume this was a temporary problem caused by the residual effects of someone, you know, vomiting, but then this wouldn’t be the first real-ale-focused pub with a B.O. problem.
Our final observation: this is one of Exeter’s more trendily decorated pubs; the crowd was young; and there was a bouncer. In this city, at least, real ale is cool.