Thursday, 4 June 2015

Pub Review: An unexpected night out

Last Saturday I decided that I would make good on threats and promises with myself and pop out for a quick half of an evening. Of course, being me, I decided to make it a thing and ended up visiting three local public houses and, naturally, decided to compare my impressions as well as sampling some of the ales on offer.

This is very much a local effort and I may well do something similar with more pubs locally as I think I quite enjoyed the contrasts and comparisons. I ended up visiting The Poacher, The Burnt Pig (previous review here) and The Brewery Taps (previous review link). Twas a good evening and I still managed to get some work done at the end of the night.

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First up was The Poacher, that is currently advertising for a change of landlord and has no pub tie, which is good. Lovely place on South Street that I have been meaning to visit for a while. It was well-lit on the exterior and, on entry, there are two bars. At first I didn't quite see what was happening here and went right. Big bar, plenty of LED lighting and a standard pub atmosphere greeted me but I couldn't see any real ales on pull (they were there, I was just being myopic) and went round the other side. Glad I did, too, because this was a smaller area, with sofas and a fireplace and a TV that seemed to be streaming youtube. Anyway, there were three pulls but only one ale that I could see (I later learned I'd missed their second) and I went with a half of 22 by Dancing Duck.

This had a musty aroma to it and an almost ruby colour to it, that looked good in the muted lights at this side of the bar. Decor was almost reminiscent of the 70s, though I didn't live through them, and I say that not as a bad thing. There was a good head to this one, minimal fizz on the tongue and a bitter sensation as the heavy malt did its work around a creamy mouthfeel. Good bitterness throughout developing from a harsh citrus to a softer, almost orange, aftertaste. Not much identifiable hops, this was a sessionable ale at 4.3% ABV that was clearly meant as an accompaniment to meals and spicy food. Good, soft ale overall with a decent amount of tang to it but not one for the hopheads.

At that point, the main bar was invaded by a group of revellers and the soft music was turned up a notch. It was as I was leaving through this group that I spotted the second ale that had been on offer, Robin Hood, but I lacked the ability to get to the bar at this point. Sensing that the bar was going to get even more crowded I decided to cut my losses and headed on to the Burnt Pig.

On arrival I was not surprised to see that the place was still quite busy - it wasn't long after the opening night - and I went to the bar to find that everything had changed. Still good decor, still just for drinking, still music playing softly in the background beneath the hubbub but a completely new set of ales on tap. There is no way I shall be able to keep pace with this change! On that note I decided to simply go for the Tuck from Lincoln Green as it was a porter and the only darker ale on tap on the evening. This earned me a clap from the landlord, and I was pleased to find that I had indeed chosen well. The back room was still filled at this point and I retreated back to the small space around the cellar door to have my ill-gotten gains. Still a bit busy for my tastes but it was pleasant enough and definitely requires future visits!

At 4.7% ABV this wasn't a big-hitting porter like the Pressure Drop from my trip to Leeds (here) but it definitely made itself known. Smooth biscuit malt on the nose with a dark and brooding blackness to it that spoke of depth and peaty bog. On the tongue it began with a soft malt that rapidly filled the mouth with a smooth, not creamy, feel. It was a decent little number that did the job well. Thicker than the 22 and obviously stronger, but also managing to maintain a small amount of fizz that somehow avoided becoming like Oyster Stout (here) or Dublin Porter (here) which was a very good thing. This was a good call after my first ale and a good call generally, if I see it again I shall approach knowing that it's the sort of ale one drinks to still the night, to calm things down and to generally savour and enjoy rather than knock back and move on. This held its own, no need for any frippery or extras, it just did the job and left a pleasantly alcohol-infused after-taste that never became too strong or too bitter. Still not one for the hop-heads but it fit the mood nicely.

With some reluctance, it has to be said, I took my leave after that experience and decided that there was still time to make my way over to The Brewery Taps, this was about the moment when I decided that the evening was to become a 'thing' and that I would compare hostelries. Because why not. Alas, my budget had been hammered by a car fault and so I forewent the pleasure of more chips and just went back to the South Street for the next half.

I was almost shocked here to find the place completely empty. I was, in fact, the only customer for some considerable time. This was a little strange, the place remained highly friendly and had some excellent ales on tap. More to the point there was no music and a good selection of reading material. I also noticed that there was a huge sofa to sit on that remained untouched. I had a bad back brewing though and wanted to rest my half as I tapped my phone (because I am not good at conversation). Luckily for all concerned other people began to filter in and the hum of conversation rose a little, with the publicans able to do what they do best and provide a good atmosphere. I have to say, I think I like the quiet. I chose to use it to sample Majic Mild from Raw and 3.2% ABV.

This had a good skein of head that looked very worty, like I like. Aroma was dry and chocolate tones were discernible through the deep malt and a little sparkle of hops and yeast. Dark colour in the glass, not as deep as the Tuck but very much in line with The Mild Side (here). Taste was dark and malty, a good taste, but limited in hops despite an overall bitterness on the edge of it all and a bitter tang to the aftertaste. It was vague, definitely there but I was unable to make sense of the sensation in terms of individual taste and hop varieties. This was surprisingly thin in terms of mouthfeel, funnelling through the middle of the mouth without filling it, but washing down the sides with the chocolate tones of the malt. I like it, it definitely works well for the brewery (see Anubis here) and it fit the end of the night. I was pleased with the lower strength of the alcohol too, it was a good ale to enjoy without being worried that I would be knocked out later.

Winners of this evening were The Brewery Taps for atmosphere and enjoyment but the winning ale was Tuck, without a doubt, and it was nice to feel that The Burnt Pig was a place that I could come back to and maybe even get over my normally crippling shyness! It was a good night and I look forward to repeating the performance again soon, perhaps after my present marking sessions!


  1. Great post, I like the sound of The Brewery Taps - good ale selection, sofa and various reading material!

    1. It is with sadness that I must tell you the Brewery Tap is shut now. But the Burnt Pig goes from strength to strength!

  2. I'll have to check it out if I'm down your way sometime!