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.

Mild (and more) at the Museum


The Muse­um Tav­ern, oppo­site the British Muse­um, is one of those rare beasts – a decent pub in a tourist trap loca­tion. It’s always amus­ing to sit/stand at the bar and watch a suc­ces­sion of bewil­dered vis­i­tors cope with con­cepts like mushy peas (“They’re peas, but they’re mushy”, as the bar­maid help­ful­ly explained).

In fact, it’s often quite heart­en­ing. Peo­ple usu­al­ly want to try some­thing British, and the bar staff are pret­ty friend­ly and will­ing to rec­om­mend one of the six ales on tap, which are kept in great con­di­tion.

We popped in specif­i­cal­ly for some Old Peculi­er,  but were dis­tract­ed by Cain’s dark mild.  This packs a huge amount of flavour for a beer that is bare­ly alco­holic (3.2%).  Cof­fee and caramel, in an extreme­ly potable form.

Anoth­er sub-4% crack­er was on offer, “GMT” from Stockport’s 3 Rivers brew­ery. This was the first time we’ve tried any of their stuff, and we’ll be look­ing out for them in the future. GMT (which stands for the three rivers in ques­tion – Goyt, Mersey & Thame) is a love­ly crisp ses­sion beer with hints of orange.

Final­ly, the Old Peculi­er.  This is such a mar­vel­lous beer from the cask – extreme­ly fruity, a lit­tle sour, with a but­ter­scotch after­taste.  It’s almost Bel­gian in its rich­ness. You could cer­tain­ly serve it in a la-di-da chal­ice glass and fool a few peo­ple if you were so mind­ed. The bot­tled ver­sion real­ly doesn’t com­pete.

Jeff rec­om­mend­ed this place months back when we were after Old Peculi­er on tap in Lon­don, so thanks to him for the tip.

The Beer Rep Cometh

A band of aggres­sive beer sales­men seems to have passed through our neck of the woods, or maybe a new cash-and-car­ry has opened?

Some cornershop beers
Some cor­ner­shop beers

A band of aggres­sive beer sales­men seems to have passed through our neck of the woods, or maybe a new cash-and-car­ry has opened?

At any rate, the range of beers avail­able at fair­ly ordi­nary cor­ner shops and gro­cers near our house has expand­ed mas­sive­ly in recent weeks.

Here’s a par­tial list of bot­tled beers we can buy on the way home from work with­out going near a super­mar­ket:

  • Grolsch Weizen (big thumbs up from Bai­ley, Boak not so excit­ed)
  • Jen­nings Cock­er Hoop, Cum­ber­land and Sneck Lifter
  • Bateman’s Com­bined Har­vest and Vic­to­ry
  • All the Bad­gers, includ­ing unsea­son­al Pump­kin
  • Young’s Bit­ter (bot­tle con­di­tioned), Spe­cial Lon­don and Choco­late Stout
  • Wych­wood Hob­gob­lin, Wychcraft, Black Wych, Cir­cle Mas­ter and Goliath
  • Hen’s Tooth
  • Cooper’s Sparkling Pale Ale
  • Theakston’s Old Peculi­er
  • Shep­herd Neame Whit­stable Bay, Spit­fire, Bishop’s Fin­ger, Mas­ter Brew and 1698
  • Fuller’s Lon­don Pride, ESB, Gold­en Pride, Hon­ey Dew and 1845
  • Svy­tu­rys Ekstra, Gin­tari­nis and Bal­tas
  • Balti­ka porter, wheat beer, dark lager and helles
  • Pil­sner Urquell
  • Bud­var and Bud­var Dark
  • Pit­field Red Ale, Stock Ale and EKG
  • Gulpen­er Rose (eugh!)
  • Paulan­er Helles
  • Brak­s­pear Organ­ic and Triple
  • St Austell Prop­er Job and Trib­ute
  • Balti­ka porter, dark lager and wheat beer
  • Usher’s Founders Ale.

That cov­ers a great many of our day-to-day needs, but it would be nice to see more porters and stouts; more Bel­gian beer; and the return of Brook­lyn Lager, which has dis­ap­peared from our local off licence.

And, of course, there is a bit of an illu­sion of choice here, because many of these beers are very sim­i­lar in taste and appear­ance and, in some cas­es, are made and owned by a hand­ful of umbrel­la com­pa­nies.

Can you bring up your kids to like good beer?

Stonch’s recent post on under-age drink­ing has remind­ed me to post on a top­ic I almost wrote about a while ago. Is it pos­si­ble to bring up your kids to drink respon­si­bly and appre­ci­ate good beer?

My par­ents liked qual­i­ty booze and believed in shar­ing it. They’d drink a pint of ale with Sat­ur­day lunch (usu­al­ly some­thing like Theak­ston’s Old Pecu­liar) and a bot­tle of wine on Sun­day, and from the age of around 12 upwards, they’d let me have a bit of both. Grow­ing up in the eight­ies, kids were still banned from most pubs, but I have hap­py mem­o­ries of run­ning around pub gar­dens where my par­ents and their friends were relaxed and hap­py; I don’t ever remem­ber them being drunk.

So, I had a clas­sic slow intro­duc­tion to good qual­i­ty alco­hol and respon­si­ble drink­ing. It’s prob­a­bly what I would do with my kids, were I to have any.

Trou­ble is, I didn’t then start drink­ing “good” alco­hol respon­si­bly. When I went out as a teenag­er, my poi­son of choice was what­ev­er was cheap­est and what­ev­er my friends were drink­ing. Snakebite and black, alcopops, quar­ter bot­tles of Teach­ers’ Whisky. As a stu­dent, I grad­u­at­ed to Guin­ness when I want­ed to be cool but most­ly drank keg Tetley’s because it was cheap. So what hap­pened?

I reck­on there were at least four rea­sons why my par­ents’ admirable attempts failed;

(1) Pure eco­nom­ics. Even if I’d want­ed to drink fine wine, Strong­bow was cheap­er.

(2) Con­trari­ness. Teenagers don’t want to do what their par­ents do, so will drink what their friends do regard­less of how they’ve been brought up.

(3) Imma­ture taste­buds. The fact is, I didn’t real­ly enjoy the taste of ale until I hit my twen­ties. Dit­to wine. I still haven’t real­ly got whisky (how uncool am I?) This leads me to con­clude that no mat­ter how much your ear­ly expo­sure, it’s not going to “take” until your taste­buds are ready.

(4) Imma­ture mind. A com­mon theme from read­ing the ses­sion posts is that most people’s ear­ly drink­ing expe­ri­ences are about get­ting ham­mered. I think it’s just a stage you go through. Par­tic­u­lar­ly in Britain, where for what­ev­er rea­sons, our binge­ing cul­ture has been with us for a long time.

Did I real­ly learn noth­ing from ear­ly expo­sure to respon­si­ble drink­ing? Think­ing about it some more, I guess it famil­iarised me with the con­cept of ale (or at least, beer that was brown, bit­ter and had flavour) – - even if I didn’t real­ly like it for years, it wasn’t alien to me.

Sec­ond­ly, parental influ­ence may not have taught me to drink respon­si­bly, but it did teach me to live respon­si­bly. Even if the pri­ma­ry aim of hav­ing a drink for me was to get wast­ed, I knew that it wasn’t a good idea to go out and get pissed every night.