Wednesday, 3 October 2018

On the sauce in Worcester – Part 1

Our latest Beer and Pubs Forum Proper Day Out took place in the last week of September with a visit to the cathedral city of Worcester. It’s easily reachable in 2¼ hours on the train from Stockport, changing at Birmingham, and once again I was able to get a good discount on the fare by using the services of trainsplit.com. After several visits I still struggle with the layout of the revamped New Street station, though. I had been to Worcester before, but not for the past twenty years, so much of it would be new to me. One thing I remember from my university days is that it was one of the select band of towns and cities that suffered the very restrictive 2 pm afternoon closing, along with Northampton which we visited earlier in the year. Of course this isn’t a problem now, but a sign of the times was that some of the pubs, even on the fringes of the city centre, didn’t open until 4 pm on weekdays. It was a typical fine early Autumn day that started off rather chilly, but became pleasantly warm once the sun had got to work. Apologies for the hackneyed blog title, by the way, but it does rather write itself.

We met up at Wetherspoon’s Postal Order, which is handily situated just a stone’s throw from Foregate Street station. I had been here before in 1998 – it’s a typical old-school Spoons conversion, surprisngly enough, from a former post office, with plenty of dark wood in the decor and bench seating around the walls of the large single room. It had a fair number of customers at 11.30am, including a guy at the bar on a mobility scooter. There were about ten cask beers on the bar, with the usual mixture of regulars and guests. Amongst the guests were Woods Shropshire Lad, Acorn Old Moor Porter, Hop Farm Frizzle, Man in a Hat American Pale Ale and Boss Brave AIPA. I had the Shropshire Lad, which was pretty good, and all the others were well-received too, with the Frizzle being particularly appreciated. It claims to have one of the largest cask beer sales of any Wetherspoon’s in the West Midlands area, and is definitely in the top of the Spoons drawer.

Counter and bar back in the Paul Pry
A short walk took us to the Paul Pry, a distinctive late Victorian or Edwardian pub in the angle of two streets. After a somewhat chequered history, including a spell as a restaurant, it reopened in 2017 as a free house and in fact is a new entry in the 2019 Good Beer Guide. It features on CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors, and pride of place goes to the magnificently unspoilt public bar in the apex, with impressive carved wooden counter and mosaic floor. There’s more mosaic and tilework in the central passageway leading to the toilets, and another room on the opposite side of the entrance which retains original wall detailing but has lost its fixed seating.

Pub dog in the Paul Pry
First impressions were good, with a friendly, helpful barman, an endearing pub dog and a number of proper pub customers including a pair of codgers sitting in a corner with pint tankards. However, unfortunately it was let down by the beer. The range was sensibly limited to three – their own Paul Pry ale brewed by Teme Valley, Salopian Picc and Animal London Porter, together with Lily the Pink cider. However, all of them were to a greater or lesser degree a touch tired, flat and tepid, which really isn’t what you expect in a GBG pub. Some of the latecomers who visited the pub in the evening had a similar experience. For me, my beer in the Paul Pry was the least good of the day.

Just around the corner on a main shopping street was the Cricketers, our scheduled lunch stop. This is a regional entry on the National Inventory, and is perhaps a little smaller inside than it looks from the street, with two areas on either side of a curved wooden bar. It was pretty busy, and we had to squeeze on to a corner table and pull a couple of extra chairs up. There was a high quality of banter from some of the other customers. The beer range was more familiar than in the Paul Pry, comprising Doom Bar, Wadworth Horizon, Sadler’s Peaky Blinder and Prescott Hill Climb. I, perhaps foolishly, went for the Doom Bar in the interests of research, which was well enough kept, but still lacking in much distinctive flavour. The other beers were all judged pretty decent. The pub has an extensive menu of good-value food – my £6.25 Ploughman’s couldn’t be faulted at the price, and the £5.95 Faggots, Chips and Peas also went down well. Upstairs, in keeping with the name, is a fascinating little museum of cricket memorabilia, which is well worth a visit.

The Plough - a Sooty charity box is always a good sign in a pub
We now had a longer walk down the busy pedestrianised High Street to reach the Plough on Fish Street near the cathedral. Worcester has a general air of prosperity about it, with very few vacant shop units in the city centre. The Plough is one of two historic pubs on this short street, being almost next door to the Farriers Arms, which also looks very inviting. Entering up a short flight of stairs, you’re immediately confronted by the short bar counter, with cosy rooms on either side with bench seating, together with a surprising suntrap beer garden, although you do find yourself sitting right next to a busy street. Meals are served from Friday to Sunday, but weren’t today. The beer range, concentrating on West Midlands beers, was Ledbury Bitter, Hobson’s Best, Swan Brewery Green Swan Green Hop, Black Pear MHB and Beowulf Finns Hall Porter. All those sampled, including my Hobson’s, were good. In terms of general atmosphere, this was my pub of the day.

...to be continued...

22 comments:

  1. On our visit the Plough was the pub I wished I had stayed in longer. A very pleasant pub in my opinion.

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  2. Honest, informative, and top photos. I would have joined you in the Plough, excellent on last visit, but my friend Charles was banned for asking for two tasters on his last visit.

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    1. Banned? Just for asking? And some wonder why pubs are closing?

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    2. No, banned by me ! I regard asking for tasters as a mortal sin. The Landlady wasn't very happy when he asked, mind.

      #APintIsATaster

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  3. Doing your bit to save pubs. What's needed are more old codgers pottering around pubs during the day and necking the bitter.

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    1. Nah. What's needed is publicans, who look around their neighbourhoods with their eyes open to change, and who ask themselves what it is, that the people who live there might like. Yeah, it might mean the end of what some on here call "proper pubs", but do make up your minds eh?

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    2. The Stafford Mudgie4 October 2018 at 11:30

      Timbo,
      And I think what last Wednesday proved, other than that Worcester's not the best town for beer, is that everywhere needs a proper variety of pubs and bars.
      There were several of us who all get on very well together but there's no way that we would be able to agree on what is the best beer or which is the best pub.
      If we all lived in Worcester we would meet up occasionally but there's no Worcester pub, or probably no pub in any other town, that every one of us would happy to have as a local.
      We all have our favourites, obviously, and maybe we should better acknowledge the opinions of others.

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    3. @Timbo - but you can't assume that every pub can suddenly make itself successful just by changing its offer and bringing new customers in. The general demand for pubs of all types has substantially declined.

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    4. Nah Timbo. Mudgies codger club is the last generation of Pubmen. The last generation of pubs. When they go, the pubs go.

      Not that bothered myself, but I do think there should be a living museum of pubs kept open at least somewhere so future generations that never witnessed the twilight of the Pubmen can maybe get an understanding of the social history that will of by then passed.

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    5. The Stafford Mudgie5 October 2018 at 14:14

      CL,
      Yes, and a statue in some town centre of those final Pubmen on their very last Proper Day Out.

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  4. There's a Saddlers/Craddocks joint venture tied house in one of the back streets of the town centre:dark wood panels, open fires, limited food etc etc. King charles i think it's called. You missed out if you didn't go there.

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    1. We went there in the second half- watch this space...

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  5. There's more from Martin Taylor about the Paul Pry here, which confirms my impression.

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  6. I picked the wrong beer in the Postal Order,going for the Man In A Hat beer which was average in quality, as was the Salopian in The Paul Pry thereafter, but I took to the pub despite this and was one of my favourites of the day.From this half of Mudgies report, The Cricketers was my least favourite,(apart from the Spoons, which I rarely admit to liking), I found the pub to be rather formulated, a bit like a Nicholsons. Best beer I tried in the above mentioned pubs was Swan - Green Swan, in The Plough, a nice juicy pint.

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  7. Incidentally, the general colour balance on my photo of the bar in the Paul Pry, which I think comes from the flash having operated, makes it look like an old black and white picture that has been "colourized".

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  8. Top work Mudgie �� looks like a great day out..and were only halfway through! What was Paul Pry like as a boozer...beer aside
    Britain Beermat

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    1. I would say NOT a boozer. Sort of placed you'd takes Mrs Beer Mat and have a light lunch and glass of wine/half of keg. Reminds me of the Red Lion in the Jewellery Quarter.

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  9. Back in 1832 my 3 x Great Grandfather, same name, ran the beer house that later became the Paul Pry. He was an injured veteran of Moore's Portugal campaign and had a Chelsea out pension and like so many others ran a beer house. He was done by the Magistrates at Worcester for selling beer from a stall at Worcester Racecourse without permission.

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  10. Message for "Timbo": I have a number of your comments in the moderation queue. If you'd like them approved, all you need to do is to drop me a line to confirm your identity. My e-mail address is in the sidebar.

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  11. Thanks our lad, but I'm happy enough to drop by now and then as anon. I've been spending too much time on this anyway. Cheers, T.

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