In the last year or so, Exeter has gained two drinking holes which make craft beer a key part of their offer.
Until recently, the stretch of the West beyond Bristol was short on Belgian, American and ‘new wave’ beer, and Exeter in particular seemed ripe for the plucking. We’ll look at St Austell’s new ‘smoke and ale house’ The Samuel Jones tomorrow, but first, here are some long-matured thoughts on The Beer Cellar.
Taking over a box-like unit previously occupied by a Chinese noodle bar, the Beer Cellar opened at the end of 2013. The people behind it also run the sister Cornish breweries Penpont and Firebrand, as well as owning adventurous off licences in Launceston and Truro.
Despite a superficial resemblance to the Rake at London’s Borough Market, when we first visited the Beer Cellar almost exactly a year ago, we didn’t take to it.
One problem was undoubtedly the high stools and tables that made a stab at hipness but were actually just uncomfortable and unstable, spinning at the slightest movement so that our beers kept sliding away from our hands as if on a lazy Susan. The atmosphere was lacking, too: we could hear every word everyone else said, and they could hear us. And, despite a fairly extensive list on draught and in bottles, the range of beer on offer failed to trigger a ‘kid in a sweet shop’ feeling which, now we think of it, is probably what we’re looking for in something billed as a craft beer bar.
A year on, it has worn in somewhat. The wonky seating is still there but is now also tatty, each chair’s quirks written on the back rest in marker pen: NOISY CHAIR, THE WOBBLY SQUEAKY ONE. We still struggled to find any sense of intimacy, but maybe that’s not what this place is for: there was a decent crowd, 50-50 male-female, and lots of the punters were talking to each other, and to the friendly barman, as if they were old pals — a micro pub in craft beer clothing?
Though we enjoyed Beavertown Gamma Ray and Black Jack Farmhouse Red IPA (both keg) well enough, there wasn’t much else that moved us. But maybe, again, that’s not the point: this, we think, is a local craft beer bar which brings a bit of much-needed variety to the city, at rather reasonable prices, rather than attempting to cater to jaded palates with extreme wackiness and/or obscurity.
The Beer Cellar tweeted this last night, so maybe the wonky chairs are on the way out…
Quick heads up. We will be closed for decorating on Monday 26th – Wednesday 28th of January. http://t.co/po8Xa21wGm
— Beer Cellar Exeter (@BeerCellarExe) January 19, 2015