As we’ve mentioned before, the pubs in my home town aren’t much to get excited about, but there are some nice places hidden out in the countryside.
The Red Tile at Cossington, for example, is a perfect cosy country pub. On Boxing Day, it was busy with diners (there’s an unpretentious pub menu) but I managed to find a corner in which to enjoy a pint of Butcombe Brunel IPA. I’m a fan of Butcombe’s beers but I’m happy to admit that regional chauvinism makes it hard for me to be objective. Butcombe ‘ordinary’ is brown, very bitter and slightly sulphurous. The IPA is quite different – less bitter, if anything, but with a warmer orange colour and pronounced flowery hop aroma. A good example of the English session IPA.
Also worth a look is the Burtle Inn. This pub is even cosier: dark, but not gloomy, with light from wonky 18th century windows and several fierce wood fires. Although the staff looked exhausted and the pub’s supplies were depleted (“We’ve only got parsnip crisps left”) the real ales were in good nick and were also available hot and spiced! In London these days, we take it for granted that a pub will have Czech lager, wheat beer and Leffe on tap, but it’s less common in the depths of the West Country.
Finally, there was Crown at Catcott, which my Dad called “old Fred Vernon’s place” after a landlord he remembered from his youth. It’s up a winding track on a particularly windy spot on the Somerset levels, so its burning fires and low ceilings were very welcome. There was a selection of West Country ales on offer from larger brewers like Sharp’s and Butcombe. The Butcombe ordinary was, well, extraordinary – perfectly fresh and in such good condition that the head didn’t move even in the stiff breeze whistling under the old wooden door.
In short, if you’re in Somerset, ditch the towns, get yourself a designated driver and go on a crawl across the levels. It’s likely to be a lot more fun than Bridgwater, Taunton or Yeovil.