I have to say I enjoy going on pub crawls of this kind as a leisure activity, visiting new pubs and reacquainting myself with more familiar ones. Every pub has something of interest, whether in its beer range, atmosphere or clientele, and so long as I’ve got a comfortable seat and a reasonable pint, and my ears are not being assailed by pounding hip-hop or screaming children, I’m happy enough. Whether it’s somewhere I’d actually choose to return to is another matter, of course.
As Richard has done an individual post on his blog for each pub we visited giving his own thoughts, I thought it might be interesting to offer some more personal opinions.
- Ale Wagon. I had a good pint, but can’t really say I’m a great fan of that type of slightly distressed, bare-boards alehouse. It all seems a bit 1987. Plus they can on a larger scale suffer from the same issue of monocultural clientele as micropubs. It would be interesting to see it at a busier time – is it all blokes with beards and beer guts, or does it attract a wider customer base?
Beer: Hoskins Brothers HOB Bitter. NBSS 4
- Bowling Green. Yes, it’s something of a Wetherspoon’s clone, but it does what it sets out to do, and was the busiest pub of all those we visited. It’s still fairly characterful at the front, and I had a decent pint, although drinking Robinson’s in Leicester is a bit of a busman’s holiday. As a notoriously pernickety eater, my steak was actually very enjoyable, and good to see spiral fries offered as an alternative to the so often soggy and flabby standard chips.
Beer: Robinson’s Dark Vader. NBSS 3
- Blue Boar: Really more a small conventional pub than a micropub, and very nicely done in a woody style reminiscent of Joule’s interiors. Plenty of comfortable bench seating around two walls, and while the clientele was a bit monocultural, it was people like us. Eight beers seemed a little over-ambitious, but the one we had was good, and owner Kieran Lyons gives the impression of someone who knows what he’s doing. I could happily spend a fair bit of time in here.
Beer: Titanic Kölsch. NBSS 4
- Globe (pictured above). As a pub, probably my favourite of the day, with a rambling interior featuring plenty of nooks and crannies, and a particularly congenial snug at the front. Had the kind of mixed clientele you would hope to find in a city-centre pub at the tail end of lunchtime. One poor beer was willingly changed, but the replacement didn’t really pull up any trees. It has to be admitted that all of Everards’ beers are a touch lacking in distinctive character.
Beer: Everards Tiger. NBSS 2.5
- Black Horse. A nice little two-roomer with a characterful front bar featuring a wood floor. Some tasteful (to me) music playing. Friendly, chatty licensee. And it had a cat. Unfortunately, as it was four o’clock in the afternoon, we were about the only customers.
Beer: Everards Old Original. NBSS 3
- West End Brewery. Very much “brewpub by numbers”, although at least it offered comfortable seating, beermats, a Bass plaque on the wall and free comics. The beers didn’t come across as anything out of the ordinary. Not a place I would personally choose to drink.
Beer: West End Copper Ale. NBSS 3
- Criterion. To me, the least impressive pub of the day, and it was hard to see what it was trying to achieve. As Richard said, it came across as an odd combination of Student Union bar and run-down estate pub, and the closed-off front room was a bit offputting as you walked in through the door. But they did play Jethro Tull!
Beer: Market Harborough Best. NBSS 3
- King’s Head. I liked this rather more than some of the others, and thought it was a nice cosy little pub. Black Country Ales produce some tasteful pub refurbishments, but unfortunately their own beers are a bit lacklustre, and they often seem to have too many on the bar in total – ten in this case. Not surprisingly, my pint proved to be a little tired. But it did have a cat, and a celebrated one at that.
Beer: Oakham Bishop’s Farewell. NBSS 2.5
In conclusion, I have to agree with Richard that Leicester overall proved a little disappointing. Plenty of decent pubs, but not a lot that was outstanding in terms of either beer or historic interest. From experience, I’d say that Derby and Nottingham, which are cities of a broadly similar size, have more to offer on both fronts.