pubs real ale

The Old Fire House, Exeter

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.

6 replies on “The Old Fire House, Exeter”

Hmm, I’ve actually been here, in September 2008. If you don’t know it’s there, it is surprisingly hard to spot from the road. Not my kind of place, tbh, too bare boards and studenty, I much preferred the Great Western Hotel. Exeter in general isn’t going to qualify as one of your “beer cities”, though.

@Tandelman – when done well (sufficient turnover, cool location) then its no different to cellaring it, a useful alternative for those pubs without extensive cellarspace. The Cuckoo in Hamptworth is a good example but there’s a fair few country pubs in hampsire/dorset/somerset that do the same.

Have to admit that, in our experience, it’s never been much cop: bubbly, lacking a tight head, quickly goes flat. But, in this case, we were happy to forego condition for flavour. (The Marston’s beers at a pub nearby looked the part but tasted pretty rancid.)

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