Thursday, 28 June 2012

2 Crown

Visited On 17 April 2012

Here's the photo ...

... and here's the map

So, from Free House to Tied House. Tenanted pubs used to get a bad press: complaints to breweries would be fobbed off (“we’ve no real control over them”), while anyone stepping out of line and getting caught nipping down the local Makro to buy spirits would find that the same brewery had enough control to boot them out in very short order.

But nowadays, after the horrors of some PubCos, like, oh I dunno, er, Punch Taverns (Hey, did I say Punch Taverns? I wonder why the first one that came to mind was Punch Taverns?), folks are beginning to realise that the old system has things going for it. For one, as I visit, the Crown is advertising for another tenant. The brewery steps in and makes sure it keeps running while they find one.

What doesn’t happen so much is the use of pubs as property chips to cash in for a fast buck. A brewery can look to turn round an underperforming pub, rather than flog the site to a property developer and not be bothered if it ends up getting demolished or turned into flats (examples of both can be seen a few hundred metres away along Earle Street).

So here I am at the north east corner of Town Square. The Crown is a Robinson’s pub: they’ve kept hold of their tied estate. So what’s new? Progress over the 30-odd years since I first encountered their ales has meant that Best Bitter is now [fx drum roll] Unicorn Best Bitter. With a fancy clip on the handpump. Yeah, right. Actually, it’s – still – a good pint.

The Crown is a perfectly decent boozer, although a bit quiet as I check out the rest of the offerings. Cask stout! What is it about cask stout? All of a sudden, everyone who can brew the stuff is offering it. The Robinson’s version is called Black Beauty. There would have been a third real ale on, but Dizzy Blonde (ooh, another not appearing in the House of Commons any time soon) was sold out.

What else is there to tell? You might not go out of your way to visit this pub, but it’s an OK watering hole with plenty of space and the beer is good. Standard Robinson’s Best Bitter warning applies: it’s a 4.2% ale, so stronger than your average session bitter. There’s a large TV screen. But don’t be put off, it’s not loud and you can hear yourself talk. Is that a good thing? Ah, talking points.

Two or three cask beer choices is more than acceptable. And, as a banner proclaiming “under new management” has appeared since my visit, there will have to be another one. Just to make a comparison, you understand. That they might still have Black Beauty on is totally incidental. Y’know, by this point in the evening I’m starting to enjoy this pub review malarkey. Er, we’ll soon put a stop to that. Next!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

1 Borough Arms

Visited on 17 April 2012
There’s also a website HERE.

The Borough Arms

And here's a map to help you find it:
So the task of doing the rounds of forty-odd pubs kicks off on a cold April evening, with a bracing wind of Skeggy proportions howling through the town. Where to start? Well, I might as well pick somewhere that can’t fail to serve a half decent pint of beer, and give me a choice to boot.

Getting to the Borough Arms on foot can require a little care: Earle Street is busy for most of the day, and especially so at the end of the week. Don’t even think about just walking across – the hump back rail bridge and the lousy sight lines can catch you out. Cross over using the zebra crossing at the other side of the rail bridge, or the light controlled one at the entrance to the retail park. Especially after drinksh.

The pub advertises its CAMRA awards outside. Is that a good or bad sign? Whatever, there’s only one way to find out. A slightly cramped entrance, compact but not small inside (not to forget the beer garden for summer), it has all the keg taps on the front of the bar with all the real ale handpumps at the side.

Ticking over nicely midweek – always a good sign – and the bar staff are happy to be quizzed about the beer range, which is nine different real ales, with one brewed on the premises. My order is O’Hanlon’s Port Stout, which is fine. Cask stout? Again? As Spike Milligan once observed, there’s a lot of it about. It’s not a patch on Higson’s Stout or Brimstage Oyster Catcher, though.

 Can a pub keep that many choices in equally good condition? I’m not sure. That, of course, may be just my being of A Certain Age and thinking in terms of pubs that never did more than two or three cask beers. The own brew is Golden Ale, which at 5.3% I reckon a little strong for a first pint.

They do continental bottled beers as well. The keg range includes Weissbier, various other Euro brews and at least one cider. A good start, I’d be more than happy to come back and sample another. And maybe one after that. Allegedly.

And that’s the first pub done. The north easterly doesn’t seem quite so biting now, as I retrace my steps over the rail bridge. Will that standard be maintained or even approached? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

What It’s All About

Crewe has more than 40 pubs. There used to be many more. What’s behind the changes? What kind of pubs can the resident and visitor enjoy? Strangely, there isn’t an up-to-date survey or guide – the closest I could find on the web was the Crewe TV Blog’s take on the town’s pubs, which is now out of date – and so, taking my cue from the nice folks who run The Chester Beer Project, I decided to do my own.

Basically Ken, it's like this

The Crewe Beer Blog is intended to include a review of every pub in the town. Along the way, there’ll be posts taking time to explain some of the history and other background, about the brewing industry, and giving some idea of how pubs and breweries arrived at Where We Are Now. No authority is claimed for the blog – it’s entirely one person’s opinion.

What kind of criteria are employed in deciding whether a pub is good, bad or indifferent? Well, all visits were done midweek, and any pub that’s doing OK should be at least ticking over, especially if there’s an Alex or England football match on. That’s one factor, but my personal filter comes down to whether or not the place offers its punters cask beer.

Why? Simples. Anything else you can get off the shelves at Asda, and that includes every kind of Extra Cold Mega Smooth Super Creamy Nitro Keg rubbish. And with the advent of the FastCask, there’s no excuse. Also, there’s a bewildering array of craft and micro breweries offering the stuff, so the idea that you’d be pushed to find a supplier is, to use the vernacular, crap.

The welcome also influences my judgment, as does the company and the presence of Very Loud Music. I say, you’ll have to SPEAK UP! Yes dear, WRAP UP WARM!! OK if there’s a music evening or sports event on I make an exception for that. Sometimes the cost is mentioned: if I remember it, of course. Cost is one factor that determines whether folks walk through the door.

Going to the pub is what’s known as an optional purchase. No longer do you need to go there to drink, not when every supermarket and corner shop in town is heaving with the stuff. And when there is a choice of pubs, you don’t have to stick to the same one. If a pub isn’t cutting the mustard, the punters will simply up sticks and pile off elsewhere. And so did I. On more than one occasion.

So, are we all sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.