QUICK ONE: An Unexpected Beer in an Unexpected Pub

The Beaufort Arms, off Durdham Down.

Trying to visit every pub in Bristol takes us out of our way sometimes, as on Saturday when the mission nudged us up a side street towards The Beaufort Arms.

It’s on a steep, nar­row lane called, odd­ly, High Street, which feels more like part of some windswept coastal vil­lage than some­where two min­utes walk from White­ladies Road. Back­street pubs are an endan­gered species in gen­er­al which made this one seem all the more note­wor­thy.

It’ll be poshed up,” we thought, but as we approached we saw plas­tic patio chairs lined up on the pave­ment out­side, sig­nalling oth­er­wise. A young man was sat on one of them eat­ing a Miss Millie’s fried chick­en meal from a box nest­ing in a car­ri­er bag, swig­ging from a can of ener­gy drink.

Inside we found a sin­gle large room psy­chi­cal­ly divid­ed into pub­lic bar vs. games-room/dead­zone. Every­thing was brown and warm, dim and well-worn, the walls cov­ered in nick-nacks and in-jokes, pho­tographs cut from news­pa­pers and hol­i­day post­cards from reg­u­lars. The accents were West Coun­try, not west Lon­don. Most peo­ple seemed to be drink­ing cider, includ­ing cans of Natch, the avail­abil­i­ty of which divides a cer­tain type of seri­ous, old-fash­ioned Bris­tol booz­er from the design­er-gin and craft-beer lifestyle exhi­bi­tions.

In this con­text we were rather star­tled to see Theak­ston Vanil­la Stout on offer. No, scratch that: we rather star­tled to dis­cov­er the exis­tence of Theak­ston Vanil­la Stout, and even more star­tled to find it here. Not as star­tled as the woman behind the bar seemed when we ordered a pint of it, though, along with a half of St Austell Trib­ute as a safe fall­back.

Our aston­ish­ment inten­si­fied fur­ther when it turned out not only to be in good con­di­tion, but also a quite bril­liant beer. We (Jes­si­ca espe­cial­ly) have been fas­ci­nat­ed by Tiny Rebel’s Stay Puft Marsh­mal­low Porter for the past few months, half-repelled by its kitsch, arti­fi­cial char­ac­ter, but unable to stop dip­ping back in. This Theak­ston beer was in remark­ably sim­i­lar ter­ri­to­ry, loaded high with sick­ly can­dy-bar flavour­ing, but some­how also irre­sistible – full of beans if you like, ho ho. But also clean­er than the Tiny Rebel beer, and with­out any pre­tence of being hop­py. If Young’s Dou­ble Choco­late is to your taste, or those Saltaire beers that seem like they’ve had Nesquik syrup squirt­ed into them, then you’ll enjoy this one, too.

That’s two impres­sive “cask craft” (their phrase, not ours) beers from Theak­ston in the past year, for those who are keep­ing count. And anoth­er pub for our grow­ing list of The Prop­er Pubs of Bris­tol.

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