We went to Gloucester on Saturday, barely planning the trip at all, choosing where to go with a map and a train timetable over our morning tea.
On the way, crammed onto a train full of rugby fans, we did what we often do in these situations: checked Martin’s blog, as a kind of Good Beer Guide by proxy, with photos and commentary. Though beer wasn’t the primary purpose of the trip (under-the-weather-ness, lingering post-holiday booze exhaustion) we made a mental note of his description of the Gloucester Brewery tap:
Gloucester Brewery’s newish Tank is a very decent chunk of modern beer bar, a bit like the Twisted Barrel tap but with burgers…. Full marks to the cheery and engaging staff, who seemed pleased to serve me. Perhaps because of their enthusiasm, they were selling a lot of beer. Some upholstered bench seating makes it feel decently pubby, though I was confined to the high tables…. A 1981 soundtrack of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Bette Davis Eyes” and good cheapish burger compensated for an inability to discern any interesting banter among the young professionals.
Hours later — the other side of a cathedral, a cream tea, a wool shop, and an antiques centre, we found ourselves at the docks confronted by a Gloucester Brewery branded van. Nosing around we found a taproom with two bars, a shop, and a fiercely flaming wood burner. “This must be it,” we said, not thinking to check, but slightly bemused by the disconnect between the reality and Martin’s prose. This place was cold, dark, quiet, and basic, though not at all unpleasant — a bit like drinking in a forest hut or mountain refuge.
We had a couple of rounds of beer that ranged from passable (Wit, session IPA) to impressive (porter, a brilliant session-strength saison) against a backdrop of echoing Beatlesque pop-rock and 1990s indie rock.
A family (parents, teenage daughter) came, sat sullenly for an hour, and left; they were replaced by a group of Germans in state-of-the-art winter-wear, which we suspect they were glad of. The staff labelled bottles, whistled merrily, danced, and occasionally prodded the fire.
We were the last to leave, after the posted closing time of 5pm, when we wandered towards the unmistakable sounds of Saturday night reaching simmering point across the water.
And that’s where we found Tank, exactly as described by Martin, barely two minutes away.
What a pair of idiots we are.
(But do you know what? The beer was better at the taproom proper.)