I was recently in Darlington for work, and scheduled a brief visit to the city’s specialist beer shop.
Unlike most other specialist shops like, say, the York Beer and Wine Shop, or Open Bottles in Somerset, it isn’t a little store run by a middle-aged chap in a jumper — it’s part of a huge department store. Binns is part of the House of Fraser chain, and looks like the set of Are You Being Served.
After wandering around “teen fashions” for a while, getting some very funny looks, I found a dark cavern at the back of the basement stacked high with wine, beer and beer glasses. I couldn’t carry much, but picked up a Witkap Stimulo, an Anchor Porter and a Maudite, all of which were on sale.
I left behind a lot of interesting looking ales from up North, several bottles of St Bernardus 12 and a great big shiny Judas goblet which caught my eye, but which I knew would get broken on the train if I’d dared to buy it.
All in all, there must have been around 100 different beers on sale, which sure beats my local branch of Sainsbury’s. Londoners will know that the Army and Navy Stores in Westminster (also part of House of Fraser) also has a decent beer selection, but Binns is quite a bit better. Various experts say that it’s not as good as it used to be since the retirement of its original manager and the introduction of central buying, but I was nonetheless impressed.
If you’re in the area, it’s well worth a look.