Beese’s Tea Gardens – Biergarten-am-Avon

The riv­er for the first half mile is abom­inably dirty, and for some dis­tance above that is not to be called clean. In addi­tion to the water being so dirty, very unsavoury odours assail your nos­trils, at inter­vals, for the first mile as you pass through the parish of St. Philip’s. After the first mile or so you come into the fresh air of the coun­try. The water here is beau­ti­ful­ly clear, and if the weath­er is fine every­thing is very enjoy­able. At one bend of the riv­er a rail­way pass­es very near it, and to strength­en the banks it has been found nec­es­sary to build some arch­es which are now cov­ered with ivy, which gives them a very roman­tic and pleas­ing appear­ance — quite unlike the mat­ter-of-fact appear­ance of an ordi­nary rail­way embank­ment. After this the riv­er is of the most pleas­ing descrip­tion. A short dis­tance above the ivy-cov­ered arch­es is a land­ing for boats called Beese’s Tea Gar­dens. The Tea Gar­dens are three and a half miles from Bris­tol, so it is just a suit­able dis­tance there and back for an after­noon. It is quite easy to go up this length any half hol­i­day after call over, and to be back by lock up.

R.W.W. in The Clifton­ian, 1867

Beese’s Tea Gar­dens opened on the banks of the Avon in 1846 as a part­ner busi­ness to the Con­ham Fer­ry.

Nowa­days, under the name Beese’s River­side Bar, there’s as much beer, cider and wine drunk as tea, and lit­tle evi­dence of Vic­to­ri­an her­itage in the fix­tures and fit­tings, but, still, it’s an incred­i­ble sur­vivor.

We first came across it last sum­mer on an evening walk, hear­ing the chim­ing of glass­ware and song of con­ver­sa­tion from the wrong side of the water. From a dis­tance it looked and sound­ed like a Ger­man beer gar­den. We didn’t stop then but made a note to come back.

Last Sat­ur­day, we approached from Broomhill, cut­ting from a coun­cil estate into a slop­ing park where teenagers flirt­ed on the climb­ing frame next to a bas­ket­ball court. A short walk down a wood­ed path brought us to a gate that might have been trans­plant­ed from Bavaria.

Tables under the shade of a tree.

Down fur­ther, all the way down to sea lev­el, we found tables scat­tered across a lawn and huge, old trees pol­ished smooth by a cen­tu­ry of clam­ber­ing chil­dren.

It’s almost mag­i­cal, except it’s also very British: the self-ser­vice bar feels as if it ought to be at a Butlin’s hol­i­day camp and the ser­vice was abrupt to the point of aggres­sion. (Though it warmed up lat­er as the lunchtime rush passed.)

Beer and cider cans.

We drank Veltins, served in chunky Ger­man han­dled glass­ware for the first round, albeit with a stingy head of foam, and sat on a table in the shade.

I used to think it was for old ladies, the Tea Gar­dens,” said an old­er woman to her friend, “but it’s nice, innit?  It’s a laugh. And you can smoke, too. It’s  treat to have a prop­er fag.”

The River Avon

There’s some­thing class­less about the place, and a sense that it exists out­side real­i­ty, like Brigadoon. We not­ed Amer­i­cans, Spaniards, Poles, Roma­ni­ans, hip­pies, hip­sters, fam­i­lies from the estate up the hill, and plum­my tote-bag tot­ers with extrav­a­gant­ly named free-range chil­dren, and yet no ten­sion beyond occa­sion­al pas­sive-aggres­sion in pur­suit of the prime seats.

It’s so peace­ful that a boat pass­ing reg­is­ters as a major event, draw­ing peo­ple to the water’s edge to watch. We saw fer­ries, row­ers, and even a swim­mer at one point. (We wor­ry for them; we’ve heard that swim­ming here tends to make you sick.)

Beese's from the other bank

The trees and the danc­ing of light through the leaves are what makes it feel like a Ger­man beer gar­den – a sense of being out­side but shel­tered, enfold­ed in green.

Get­ting the fer­ry across the water (£1 for a 45 sec­ond jour­ney, but it beats pad­dling) was the per­fect way to fin­ish – a return to the real world in a puff of diesel fumes.

Beese’s River­side Bar is open Fri­day 12:00–11:00 pm, Sat­ur­day 12:00–11:00 pm, Sun­day 12:00–7:00 pm through­out the sum­mer sea­son.

The Man Within Compass: mystery solved?

A couple of months ago someone tagged us into a Twitter query: what is the origin of the name of a pub called The Man Within Compass? After weeks of digging around, we think we’ve sussed it.

The Man With­in Com­pass is a famous real ale pub in Whitwick, near Coalville, in Leices­ter­shire, and has been in numer­ous edi­tions of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide over the years.

Its name is appar­ent­ly unique and cer­tain­ly mys­te­ri­ous – none of the stan­dard ref­er­ences seem to even offer a sug­ges­tion. There’s no joy to be had from local his­to­ry web­sites, either.

So, we went through our usu­al research rou­tines:

1. Search the exact phrase using quotes (“man with­in com­pass”) to see if it appears in old books, news­pa­pers or the Bible. All the ref­er­ences we found were to the pub itself, or seemed unlike­ly to be con­nect­ed, e.g. John Locke uses those words in that order but there’s no obvi­ous link.

2. Search vari­a­tions on the phrase: “man­with­in com­pass” and “man with­en com­pass” (between unortho­dox spelling and dodgy OCR, this can some­times turn up results); “man­wid­den com­pass” (pub names are often man­gled ver­sions of place or per­son­al names); and “men with­in com­pass”.

3. Look for par­tial match­es: “man with­in”, “with­in com­pass”, “man * com­pass”, and so on.

It was “with­in com­pass” that unlocked it, specif­i­cal­ly lead­ing us to the fol­low­ing mass-pro­duced print from c.1820 at the British Muse­um web­site.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “The Man With­in Com­pass: mys­tery solved?”

News, nuggets and longreads 11 May 2019: Mild, Mergers, Manchester

Here’s everything around beer and pubs that seemed to us worth bookmarking in the past week, from boozelessness to buyouts.

The week’s big news is that two Amer­i­can brew­eries we’ve actu­al­ly heard of, and whose beers we have actu­al­ly man­aged to taste, are merg­ing. That is, Boston Beer and Dog­fish Head. We’ve been won­der­ing for some time if we might see more craft-on-craft acqui­si­tions and merg­ers; it’ll be inter­est­ing to see if this is the start of a wave. In the mean­time, we went straight to Jeff Alworth at Beer­vana for com­men­tary, as should you.

If you enjoy indus­try dra­ma then do have a look at this Twit­ter con­ver­sa­tion around BrewDog’s new alco­hol-free Punk IPA vari­ant ini­ti­at­ed by a mar­ket­ing agency for­mer­ly retained by the Scot­tish brew­ery:

The Mild Guy by Lily Waite/Pellicle.

For the brand new pub­li­ca­tion Pel­li­cle Lily Waite has writ­ten about a Lon­don brew­ery find­ing space in a crowd­ed mar­ket by focus­ing on an unfash­ion­able style. Box­car is based in Beth­nal Green and run by Sam Dick­i­son:

Whilst not nec­es­sar­i­ly the polar oppo­site of the New Eng­land-style beers that put Box­car on the prover­bial map, dark mild is a depar­ture from those juicy, hazy, hop­py beers. It is, how­ev­er, very much in keep­ing with Boxcar’s ethos.

We’ve gone in the hop­py direc­tions because I love those beers, but equal­ly, I love dark mild, so I said ‘let’s do a dark mild”, he says, with a typ­i­cal qui­et smile.

(This kind of thing sig­nals some­thing inter­est­ing: mild has become a quirky minor­i­ty style – a nov­el­ty, rather than an every­day beer, like Berlin­er Weisse or Gose.)

Detail from a 1943 advert for Lifesavers depicting fruit on a tree.

At a time when sil­ly one-off beers with sil­ly stuff in them has become one of the go-to moans in beer com­men­tary, it’s refresh­ing to read a post which, though it starts that way, ends up talk­ing pos­i­tive­ly about the ben­e­fits of get­ting to know a stan­dard beer real­ly well, from Joan Vil­lar-i-Martí at Bir­raire:

I enjoy see­ing the con­stant qual­i­ty of Montse­ny IPA Aniver­sari, even when bought in the super­mar­ket; my sens­es soared the first time I drank Espiga’s Mosa­ic Hops Col­lec­tion in a can, a for­mat that enhances a recipe that was already a sol­id. After analysing it dur­ing a guid­ed tast­ing, I felt the urge to buy a whole box of Sansa, La Pirata’s Amber Ale, so tasty and smooth that it prompt­ly dis­ap­peared.

(Flag­ship Feb­ru­ary feels so long ago.)

Intoxicate Lubricate Connect

For the Guardian Tony Nay­lor has writ­ten about why booze­less pubs don’t work:

Beyond lov­ing the taste of beer, I also love the effects of alco­hol, and for what it can do to a pub. I cher­ish that three-pint win­dow where real life melts away. I love the warmth, the laugh­ter, the life, the ran­dom, non­sen­si­cal con­ver­sa­tions and soft-edged, jovial chaos of full pubs at peak hours. I like the din. I like the rev­el­ry. I like a bit of noise and chaos, frankly. And I like the sense of drinkers of often very dif­fer­ent back­grounds rub­bing along in mutu­al intox­i­cat­ed tol­er­ance. In an increas­ing­ly atom­ised soci­ety, there is val­ue in that.

A map of the world.

A fas­ci­nat­ing piece in the Econ­o­mist puts AB-InBev into con­text as one strand in a glob­al busi­ness that also oper­ates 3G net­works and owns the strug­gling Kraft Heinz con­glom­er­ate. With few costs left to be cut, and few busi­ness­es left to acquire, where do they go next? Per­haps towards acquir­ing Coca-Cola (we’ve heard this in the form of a rumour before) or Dia­geo, the arti­cle spec­u­lates. We can cer­tain­ly imag­ine ABI fan­cy­ing Guin­ness in its port­fo­lio. (Arti­cle pay­walled; reg­is­tra­tion required to read five arti­cles per month for free.)

A vintage image a flat-roofed pub.
The Old Gar­ratt c.1970 via Manchester’s Estate Pubs.

It’s always excit­ing when one of our favourite blogs, Man­ches­ter Estate Pubs, posts some­thing new. This week Steve Mar­land shares pho­tographs of and notes on The Old Gar­ratt:

Time changes every­thing the Cream of Man­ches­ter is now a some­what sour sub­ject, the Old Gar­ratt has dropped the old in favour of Ye Old­en Days, a look which it clear­ly lacked. Moder­ni­ty is now dragged up as a cut price stage set coach­ing house caprice, replete with lamps, black and gold lin­ing, columns and ped­i­ments. The pub that thinks it’s a pack of John Play­er Spe­cials.

And final­ly, a great pho­to of a pub we vis­it­ed dur­ing research for 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub, in the base of a tow­er block in north Lon­don:

For more of the same, but dif­fer­ent, check out Alan’s blog on Thurs­days and Stan Hierony­mus on Mon­day.

News, nuggets and longreads 20 April 2019: Pub Crawling, Carlsberg, Craftonia

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that caught our attention in the past week, from Leeds to low alcohol beer.

For the Guardian Dave Simp­son writes about the devel­op­ment of the post-punk scene in Leeds in the late 1970s, which took place in pubs, with the York­shire Rip­per as a dark back­ground pres­ence:

Today, with its wood and tiles and punk sound­track, [the Fen­ton] is almost as it was; Gill observes that the juke­box has moved rooms. “Pre-mobile phones, you’d have to go where you knew peo­ple would be,” Mekons singer Tom Green­hal­gh explains, remem­ber­ing “intense polit­i­cal debates and insane hedo­nism”, and leg­endary scene char­ac­ters such as Bar­ry the Badge. “A huge gay guy cov­ered in badges from Arm­ley Social­ist Worker’s par­ty. He was rock-hard, but then he could just grab you, snog you and stick his tongue down your throat.”

Roger Protz has been writ­ing about lager in Britain for 40 years so his com­men­tary on where the new ‘Dan­ish Pil­sner’ Carls­berg has just launched in the UK fits in was bound to be inter­est­ing. Where oth­ers have been cau­tious­ly pos­i­tive, Mr Protz essen­tial­ly dis­miss­es the beer as more the same:

I was asked for my views by Carlsberg’s Lon­don-based PR com­pa­ny, who sent me some sam­ples. The bot­tled ver­sion said it was brewed in the UK – pre­sum­ably this means the Northamp­ton fac­to­ry – while the can says “brewed in the EU”. I said this made a mock­ery of the new beer being called “Dan­ish Pil­sner”… I added that 3.8 per cent ABV was too low to mer­it being called Pil­sner: the clas­sic Pil­sner Urquell is 4.4 per cent and all claims to be a Pil­sner should be judged against it. I found the Carls­berg beer to be thin and lack­ing in aro­ma and flavour.

A foot­note from us: we were asked to take part in mar­ket research by Heineken ear­li­er this week, which leads us to sus­pect some sim­i­lar post-Cam­den rein­ven­tion is in the pipeline there, too.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, nuggets and lon­greads 20 April 2019: Pub Crawl­ing, Carls­berg, Crafto­nia”

The best pub in Britain, according to Twitter

On Saturday night, Tony Naylor declared the Old Bridge, Ripponden, ‘arguably Britain’s best pub’:

That prompt­ed us to ask our Twit­ter fol­low­ers, slight­ly mis­chie­vous­ly, we must admit, to place their votes for Britain’s best pub.

When the replies start­ed to tum­ble in, we realised the results might actu­al­ly be some­what mean­ing­ful, as cer­tain pubs got mul­ti­ple votes, and the names of cool-sound­ing pubs we’d nev­er vis­it­ed popped up.

So, we’ve decid­ed to sort through the answers and turn them into a to-do list.


We dis­count­ed pubs that nom­i­nat­ed them­selves, obvi­ous­ly.

There were a sur­pris­ing num­ber of votes for Orwell’s the Moon Under Water, or sim­i­lar­ly whim­si­cal per­fect pubs of the imag­i­na­tion. Love­ly stuff but basi­cal­ly a smart-arsed way of cop­ping out of answer­ing.

Where peo­ple named mul­ti­ple pubs, we’ve ignored all but the first one men­tioned in their Tweet. That’ll teach ’em.

We noticed one satir­i­cal answer – the Wether­spoon in Pre­ston that was con­tro­ver­sial­ly named best pub in town last week – but oth­ers might have slipped through the net.

The list

First, here’s a list of all the pubs that got more than one nom­i­na­tion – a very decent list, which over­laps with our per­son­al favourites to some degree.

  1. The Great West­ern, Wolver­hamp­ton
  2. The Hope, Car­shal­ton
  3. The Grove, Hud­der­s­field
  4. The Free Trade Inn, New­cas­tle
  5. The Bell, Ald­worth
  6. The Old Ship, Sea­hous­es
  7. The Ship & Mitre, Liv­er­pool

(We real­ly must get to the Hope. This is get­ting embar­rass­ing.)

Now, here’s the full list.

You might not like every pub sug­gest­ed but the point is, to some­one, some­where, these pubs were spe­cial enough to war­rant a response, which means they’re prob­a­bly at least worth stick­ing a nose into if you find your­self in the area.