Saturday 28 September 2019

Whither the village pub?

On my recent visit to Cambridge, I happened to be driving through the village of Harston, to the south-west of the city, and spotted a closed Indian restaurant prominently situated in the fork of two roads. It looked like an obvious former pub, and after a certain amount of digging I found out that it was originally called the Old English Gentleman. Clearly a shoo-in for my Closed Pubs blog.

However, my investigations also revealed that there were two other closed pubs in the village, the Pemberton Arms and the Three Horseshoes, leaving just the Queen’s Head still standing, plus a keg-only brewery tap on an outlying industrial estate that is only open for ten hours a week. This is a familiar story from villages up and down the country.

Yet Harston is situated in area where there’s a lot of new housing development going on nearby. Surely that should provide new custom for its pubs. After all, it’s often said that being close to a good local pub is often a major factor in housebuying decisions – for example, this report states that a quarter of homebuyers see it as important. However, this seems to be yet another example of revealed preference, where what people say to pollsters isn’t borne out by what they actually do on the ground. There’s very little evidence that building new housing in practice does much to help village pubs. It’s a demonstration of the “chimneypots fallacy” that nearby housing is a guarantee of trade.

Take the large village or small town of Holmes Chapel, right in the heart of Cheshire. The 2011 census gave it a population of 5,605, but that has since been substantially boosted by major housing developments on three sides. It once had four pubs, one of which, the Good Companions, closed a number of years ago. Of the three remaining, Sam Smith’s Swan, just over the railway line from a big new estate, is currently closed, leaving just two, plus a new craft bar/micropub. Despite a large influx of new residents, it doesn’t seem to be boom time for pubs in Holmes Chapel. Maybe the archetypal village local isn’t what new house buyers are looking for.

Planning permission has now been granted for the former Old English Gentleman to be turned into a convenience store. Clearly that will be of more benefit to the local community than a closed Indian restaurant. And, while we may bemoan the loss of pubs to retail use, it has to be remembered that all pubs are not equal. While some can genuinely say they are the heart of their village, others adopt a trading format that delivers very little to local residents, something with which my recent Twitter poll agreed:

Thursday 26 September 2019


Over the past couple of years, Sam Smith’s have abruptly closed a substantial number of the pubs in their estate. Where the pubs have car parks, they are often crudely barricaded with large rocks, as shown in the two photos below of the Bird in Hand at Mobberley in Cheshire.

I don’t get the impression that, by and large, this is happening because the pubs in question are unviable. The Bird in Hand often seems pretty busy, and hosts regular gatherings of cyclists who I doubt would be welcome at the other gastropubs in the village. And I was recently in York where the York Arms facing the west door of the Minster was firmly shut: in the right hands that should be a goldmine.

The answer lies more in the company’s difficulty in recruiting new managers, following numerous press reports of their high-handed management practices. The managers are also put in a difficult position by being expected to enforce unreasonable policies such as the blanket bans on swearing and mobile phone use. Added to this, there appears to a reluctance to employ relief managers, thus leading to pubs closing entirely when there are no permanent incumbents. This seems to be a very short-sighted policy – not only will there be a loss of revenue, but regular customers may be lost and the fabric of the pub deteriorate while it is closed.

Two of the five Sam’s pubs in my local CAMRA branch area – the Turnpike in Withington and the Sun in September in Burnage - have been closed for some time with no immediate sign of reopening. The Bird in Hand, which I have written about here, is one of the most congenial pubs in their Cheshire estate, and one of the few proper country pubs remaining in the county. Let’s hope they are able to get it open again before too long.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Taking a punt

I’m not generally one for “what I did on my holidays” posts, but last week I spent a few days in Cambridge, which I thought would be worthy of a mention. The last time I was there was actually the week in 1997 following the death of Princess Diana, when there was a very strange atmosphere in the country. One thing that struck me this year was the amount of new construction of five- and six-storey buildings that had taken place, especially in the vicinity of the station.

Contrary to popular belief, my objective on holiday is mainly to visit places of historic interest rather than engaging on a non-stop pub crawl. I managed to get to Anglesey Abbey, which stands in beautiful grounds and was restored in the inter-war period by the wealthy Lord Fairhaven as a beau-ideal of the English country house:

The Imperial War Museum Aviation Collection at Duxford – even a full day can’t do this justice.

And Audley End. This is a palatial Jacobean house originally built by the Earl of Suffolk that, despite its current size, was in the early 1700s drastically reduced from its original huge extent. It even had a brief spell in the ownership of King Charles II in the 1660s. Unusually for such properties, it is in the hands of English Heritage rather than the National Trust, which results in a somewhat less cloying and patronising approach to presentation.

However, despite this, it’s impossible to avoid the opportunities for a bit of pub exploration that a trip away provides. On the Monday afternoon, I had a wander round some of the pubs on the eastern fringe of the city centre with Martin Taylor and Andrew from West Suffolk CAMRA, covering the Alexandra, Free Press, Elm Tree and Champion of the Thames (pictured at the top). Martin has written about this perambulation here and here.

All were good, but the Free Press and Champion are absolute classic unspoilt pubs, and both in fact Greene King tied houses. The Free Press had the rare Greene King XX Mild (which was superb) and a tiny box snug that was crowded with three of us in it. However, I probably marginally preferred the Champion, which is closer to the city centre and has more of a passing-trade clientele, Indeed I went back there the following night, when I overheard some classic pub banter:

Boycott was a boring batsman who turned into a stimulating commentator. Botham was the opposite...

British actor who has just landed a top role in a US TV series being interviewed on breakfast TV. “You must have beaten off a lot of American actors to get that part.”

Both of those, though, are very much middle-class pubs. The Champion shows the rugby on the telly, but not the footie. I have no problem with that but, apart from Wetherspoon’s, there really are no down-to-earth boozers left in central Cambridge, and Martin reports that the traditional estate pubs have also died the death on the outskirts. There is no Cambridge equivalent to Oxford’s Blackbird Leys and Cowley car factory. The lack of older customers in the pubs was also noticeable.

What Cambridge does have is the Mill Road area on the southeast of the city centre, which encompasses the two districts of Petersfield and Romsey Town on either side of the railway line. It is an area of Victorian terraced housing that is now occupied by young professional workers in education, healthcare and high-tech industries, and you could probably buy a whole street in Burnley for the price of a single house. The demographic is maybe similar to Cholrton in Manchester.

However, it has retained its small back-street locals, and the character of the local population is reflected in the clientele of pubs such as the Six Bells, Live and Let Live and Cambridge Blue, resulting in an atmosphere rare anywhere else in the country. You wouldn’t find any small suburban pub around here anywhere near as busy as the Six Bells at 8.30 pm on a Wednesday night, or with such a youthful customer profile. The Wikipedia article recounts that Dylan Thomas attended a notorious week-long drunken party in the Mill Road area in 1937 after coming to Cambridge to give a reading.

Despite the title, I spurned the offer of a trip in a punt on the Cam, but I did overhear one of the punters informing his passengers that Cambridge alumni had won 117 Nobel Prizes to Oxford’s 69. On the other hand, Cambridge has only produced 14 British Prime Ministers to Oxford’s 28. I suppose those statistics reflect rather better on Cambridge. Both are fascinating and characterful cities, but I don’t really have a preference between the two.

As an aside, Cambridge was the last major town or city in Britain to have a “one-sided” railway station, where all trains in either direction used the same very long through platform. I remember this from the late 70s and early 80s, and Wikipedia reports that it continued in that form until as late as 2011.

Sunday 22 September 2019

Reassuringly expensive

Wetherspoon’s have recently cut the price of some beers by 20p a pint as a way of illustrating the benefits that could be gained from a post-Brexit free trade regime. However, this has been criticised by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) on the grounds that it will devalue the product and make it increasingly difficult for small brewers to make a decent living.

To some extent, they have a case, as presenting beer as a high-quality, premium product is inconsistent with it being sold in a market where low price is a key selling point. However, comments like this often seem to assume that beer is somehow exempt from the normal laws of supply and demand. If Wetherspoon’s charged half as much again for their beer, as most of their competitors do, they would sell a lot less of it. Every price increase, however small, will make the product unaffordable for someone.

As RedNev argues here, it is wrong to blame drinkers for low prices in the beer market. It’s not as if they’re some organised lobby who could easily pay more, but prefer to greedily trouser the difference. They act as individuals and can only make their buying decisions based on what is set out before them. Plus it has to be said that, outside of Wetherspoon’s, beer isn’t exactly cheap anyway, with £4 a pint now common in many places, although how the cake is actually distributed is another matter.

Nobody, certainly not CAMRA, is actively campaigning for an across-the-board cut in beer prices, and I’ve argued in the past that relative price alone is a relatively minor factor in the decline in the pub trade over recent years. But it does beer no favours to be asked to pay a premium price for something that isn’t of consistently high quality.

I’ve discussed the beer pricing issue at some length in the past, and don’t intend to go over the same points again. However, rather than just complaining that life isn’t fair, the brewers should recognise that competitive markets are often unforgiving, and look at what they can do themselves to enhance the perceived value of their product.

There are a couple of factors in the marketplace that clearly work against this. The first is oversupply – there are a very large number of breweries chasing a finite amount of business, and many of them, for various reasons, are in a position where they don’t actually need to make a full-time living from brewing. This inevitably leads to intense price competition and deep discounting, which may benefit pubs and consumers in the short term, but which doesn’t produce a healthy brewing industry. It may sound harsh, but some kind of shakeout is needed to restore the equilibrium of supply and demand and allow the remaining brewers to improve their margins.

Then there is the prevailing culture, at least in the cask beer market, of ever-changing rotating guest beers. This presents cask as an undifferentiated, interchangeable product and denies drinkers the opportunity to make repeat purchases if a beer takes their fancy. If brewers wish to develop a premium reputation for their product, it is important to be able to secure permanent lines in pubs – possibly for the brewery rather than specific brands – so that customers are given the opportunity to show loyalty rather than just accepting what happens to have turned up on the bar.

But there are things that brewers could do to improve their situation. The first, which may sound obvious, is to actually brew good beer, so that people will try it, enjoy it, and ask for it again. If you don’t like Wetherspoon’s, don’t sell to them. Nobody has to; they don’t operate a monopoly. Try to avoid cut-throat price competition, and if necessary just walk away from a deal rather than selling at a price you’re not happy with. Ultimately, if you conclude you can’t make a living from it, it may be best to shut up shop entirely rather than playing beggar-my-neighbour.

And, perhaps most importantly, do what you can to gain more control over your distribution chain. This means that you can exert more influence over both the selling price and the quality of the end product. Restrict your sales to outlets that you know you can trust and, if finances allow, try to develop your own pubs and bars. Even a single brewery tap can act as a showcase for your products. These are things that far-sighted breweries are already doing. Yes, it’s a tough world out there, but brewers don’t just have to sit back and take it.

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Home Counties havens

Spectator Life magazine recently published a feature on the best country pubs within touching distance of London. I posted on Twitter that you just knew what kind of pubs these were going to be, and I wasn’t wrong, as they were, entirely predictably, the type of places where “Mouth-watering mains include whole Roast Grouse with Game Chips & Bread Sauce and Venison Steak with Quince Jelly & Blue Cheese Mashed Potato.”

So I invited suggestions for some genuinely unspoilt and characterful pubs that would fit the bill better, and the results are shown below. I haven’t made any attempts to vet the list and they are presented as given to me. The only ones I’ve actually been to are marked with a *. In particular, I really don’t know rural Hertfordshire and the southern part of Essex well at all. The preponderance of pubs in these two counties is, of course, maybe driven more by who responded than being an accurate reflection of the relative quality of the pub stock in the various areas. I’ve provided links for some that people waxed particularly lyrical about. Initially, nothing was suggested in Buckinghamshire, but I’ve now added a couple from the comments.


Cock, Broom *
Engineers Arms, Henlow


Bell, Aldworth *


Prince Albert, Frieth
White Horse, Hedgerley


Queen’s Head, Newton *


Bell, Castle Hedingham
Cats, Woodham Walter
Chequers, Dunmow
Chequers, Marks Tey
Compasses, Littley Green
Hurdlemakers Arms, Woodham Mortimer
Rodney, Little Baddow
Station Arms, Southminster
Swan, Little Totham
Three Elms, Chignall St James
Three Horseshores, Duton Hill
Viper, Mill Green (pictured above)


Harrow, Steep
Plough, Little London


Angler’s Retreat, Marsworth
Cross Keys, Harpenden
Crown & Sceptre, Bridens Camp
Green Man, Sandridge
Half Moon, Wilstone
John Bunyan, Coleman Green
Plough, Ley Green
Queen’s Head, Allens Green
Red Lion, Marsworth
Rising Sun, Berkhamstead
Rose & Crown, Trowley Bottom
Strathmore Arms, St Paul’s Walden
Woodman, Wild Hill


Crown, Groombridge
Five Bells, Eynsford
Old House, Ightham Common *
Queen’s Arms, Cowden Pound
Rock Inn, Chiddingstone Hoath


Black Horse, Checkendon


Fox, Worplesdon *
Fox & Hounds, Godstone
Royal Marine, Lyne
Scarlett Arms, Walliswood *


Blue Ship, The Haven *

This one – the Green Man at Sandridge – certainly sounds a world away from the kind of pub listed in the original article:

Something I’ve observed before is that traditional country pubs with a substantial wet trade seem to be much more prevalent in the South of England than the North, and an attempt to come up with a similar list for Cheshire and Lancashire would, I think, yield pretty slim pickings.

Monday 9 September 2019

Cream of the crop

My recent post about how judging the quality of beer contains a large element of subjectivity was prompted by Boak & Bailey defending Matthew Curtis’ right to say he liked Harvey’s beer. It certainly seems to be true that they attract a fair bit of affection from the craft fraternity.

Much of the contemporary British craft beer movement seems to have set out its stall by pitching itself in opposition to the established real ale scene, both in terms of “boring brown twiggy bitter” and the wider culture surrounding it of socks and sandals, folk-singing and steam railway preservation. But Harvey’s is one of the select band of established family brewers who seem to be an exception to this.

So why might this be the case? They are fairly close to London, which inevitably gives them a higher profile. I think they only have a couple of pubs in the capital, but they have an extensive free trade, often cropping up in those pubs that are viewed as making an effort on the beer front. On the other hand, they haven’t succumbed to the lure of getting large-scale deals with the major pub companies, which may bring more distribution, but inevitably leads to a drop in quality at the point of sale and an element of familiarity breeds contempt. They have also not gone for national supermarket distribution for their bottled beers, which is a low-margin, cut-throat business and again will erode the feeling of exclusiveness.

They have added to their pub estate piecemeal over the years – the latest Good Beer Guide gives a figure of 48 – but it hasn’t grown to the extent where they start being accused of high-handed practices towards their tenants and imposing bland corporate uniformity. And, most importantly, they do actually brew some very good beer. They have a range of products, have produced various seasonal and limited editions, and have even dabbled in the more crafty side of things. But their flagship product is undoubtedly Sussex Best Bitter, of which Mike Dunn in his 1986 book Local Brew says:

This is a magnificent beer, one of the truly great and distinctive bitters which are still available; quite sharp to the palate but nevertheless essentially malty in character, it i s regarded as well suited to local tastes and so, very reassuringly, there are no plans to follow other, more short-sighted, breweries by reducing its distinctive nature.
And the same still holds true thirty-three years later. It’s perhaps the archetypal example of the classic English balanced country bitter, and it makes no concessions to modern craft trends. But I think part of the affection for it stems from people saying “well, that’s not really my style of beer, but within that category that’s the one I like.” That’s an entirely reasonable stance, and not in any sense insincere. Many people might say something similar about whiskies, or blue cheeses. You can’t have an in-depth experience of everything. There may also be an element of “revealed preference”, with people saying they like it, but not in practice making a great deal of effort to seek it out.

It’s interesting to look at how Harveys have risen to this position of pre-eminence. Going back forty years, they were just a small curiosity in the roll-call of independent breweries, to be be filed alongside the likes of Burts and Paines. According to the 1978 Good Beer Guide, they had a mere 24 pubs, of which only half sold real ale. They also provided beer to the 26 pubs of their erstwhile local rivals Beards, who had closed their own brewery in the early 1950s due to a yeast infection, but only half of these had real ale. Yes, their beer was good, but in the South-East south of the Thames Gales, King & Barnes, Youngs and Shepherd Neame were more highly regarded.

But, since them, under the stewardship of Miles Jenner, who combined the roles of Joint Managing Director and Head Brewer, the company slowly but steadily advanced. It maintained the quality of its core beers, while expanding its range, increasing its pub estate and developing its free trade. And, partly due to others falling by the wayside, it’s emerged at the front of the pack in that part of the world. Three of the breweries I mentioned have gone, while Shepherd Neame seem to have sacrificed beer quality on the altar of expansion.

Over the years, I can’t say I’ve drunk a huge amount of Harvey’s beer, as it is rarely seen in my part of the world. I’ve probably not had more than thirty pints of it in total, despite having both been on a pub crawl of Lewes and had a holiday in Eastbourne, two things that I suspect few of my readers have done. But I’ve had enough to say that, in my view, Sussex Best is one of my favourite cask beers, and one of the best beers of its category in the country. It’s definitely one that would spring out from the bar when I walked into a pub.

But I’m not convinced it really does stand head-and-shoulders above its competitors. Last month, I had an excellent pint of John Smith’s Cask in Preston, and recently I’ve had several very good drops of Black Sheep Bitter. Are they as good as Harvey’s? Probably not. But they’re certainly in the same general ballpark of quality when well-kept. And, if I was marooned on a desert island and could only drink one beer for the rest of my life, I would probably choose Draught Bass in preference, and certainly Batham’s Best.

If you decide Harvey’s is the one trad beer you like, that’s fair enough. But if you then dismiss Wadworth’s 6X, Palmer’s IPA and Brain’s SA as boring brown bitters, then you’re just demonstrating your own ignorance.

Friday 6 September 2019

Making pubs safe for Saskia

Every year, the Good Pub Guide is published around this time, and often courts controversy with the accompanying publicity. As I’ve mentioned in the past, it has a very specific vision of what constitutes a “good pub” – namely an unthreatening, smart, middle-class dining pub. The occasional more basic and characterful establishment may occasionally get a look-in to add a touch of colour and authenticity, but they know very well what their readership is looking for.

This year, they have chosen to celebrate the transformation of pubs in the twelve years since the introduction of the smoking ban. However, its tone comes across as smug, middle-class triumphalism. What we don’t like, nobody else should be allowed to have, especially not the scummy plebs.

12 years since the introduction of the smoking ban in England, a pub guide has credited the initiative with transforming pubs and forcing them to become cleaner, brighter places with better food and with greater appeal to women and families...

“Those bars full of fug and male chat quickly became a thing of the past,” the guide notes. “Pubs adapted by installing smokers’ shelters and outdoor heaters, and licensees soon realised that by making their pubs smoke-free, they turned into cleaner, brighter places, and opened up a massive new customer base: women and families with young children who headed to pubs for a meal and even an overnight stay.”

However, even before 2007, there was no shortage of bright, family-friendly, food-dominated pubs. What has happened is not so much that the old working-class wet-led boozers have transformed themselves, as that they have closed down in huge numbers. The article says rather dismissively “It was predicted to be the death knell for the traditional British boozer and likely to lead to a slump in business and permanent closures,” but then goes on to contradict itself by pointing out that fourteen pubs a day are still closing. The amount of beer sold in pubs has fallen by 35% since 2007. As one commentator on Twitter says,
It’s rather baffling how the smoking ban is supposed to have made pubs more appealing to women, when a higher proportion of women smoke than men. And the very fact that they have chosen to return to the subject twelve years on indicates that it is still a live issue that has created an abiding legacy of bitterness. We haven’t moved on and put it behind us. If people choose to constantly reiterate their argument it suggests they do not feel that they’re standing on particularly solid ground.

Sunday 1 September 2019

The twenty-year itch – Part 2

We pick up the story of our Proper Day Out in Preston having just left the Olde Blue Bell and retracing our steps along Churchgate towards the city centre. We turned right along Lancaster Road, passing between the actual Guild Hall, a modern edifice on our right, and a row of impressive Victorian civic buildings on the left. This brought us to the Guild Ale House, described as “a larger than average micropub”. It also has longer than average hours, being open from noon every day to 11 pm most evenings.

It has a main bar area with posing tables, a more comfortable snug to the rear where we were able to find some seats, and also an upstairs seating area reached by a Wild West saloon-style open staircase. There were seven cask beers on offer, from which we chose Lancaster Blonde, Blackedge Cascade APA and Bank Top Swan Lane Mill. The latter was an amber-coloured beer which was in good condition but had a distinctive liquorice flavour that wasn’t to my liking.

We then had a long but fortunately level walk up North Road, passing the New Meadow Street Labour Club where people in the outside drinking area at the front were obviously enjoying their Friday afternoon in the sun. I’m sure if Life After Football had been with us he would have wanted to dive in for a swift pint. Eventually we reached our next port of call, the Moorbrook, which is now the solitary pub on a road junction where there used to be several others. Here we stragglers at last caught up with the rest of the party.

It has a distinctive frontage with arched, single-light, frosted windows on either side of the entrance door. Inside the bar is on the right with two snug areas with bench seating to the left. There is also a small beer garden at the rear. Once a Thwaites pub, it is now a free house, with eight beers on the bar, including their own Moorbrook Pale Ale brewed by Blackjack, Durham Lemon Dib Dab, Potbelly Streaky and Raw Black Forest Stout. This did seem a somewhat ambitious range for such a small pub, but all those we had were in decent enough nick. My sole previous visit here had been on Saturday 27 November 1993, when I memorably watched England beat New Zealand at Rugby Union, and also visited two of its now-closed neighbours.

Heading back down Moor Lane towards the city centre, past further closed pubs, we turned off the right along Adelphi Street to reach the Vinyl Tap. Formerly the Hearts of Oak, this street-corner pub has now been reopened and revived with a vinyl record theme. There were two large racks of vinyl albums for people to pick out, although it wasn’t entirely clear to the casual visitor how the request system worked. We were treated to Hot Fuss by The Killers which, let’s face it, wasn’t exactly Jethro Tull.

The pub has a spacious single-room interior, albeit with something of a lack of seating, although we were able to find a berth at a long table in the centre. There were five beers available including their own Vinyl Tap Pale, Duffield Amber, Waen Eek-a-Mousse Stout (a musical reference there, folks) and Abbeydale Reaper.

We then followed Friargate back towards the city centre. This is a long street that, despite closures, still has plenty of pubs, including the Old Black Bull, once the city’s premier specialist beer pub, but now apparently fallen on hard times in the hands of Greene King, and the Sun, where Paul Mudge was staying. This is the last remaining Thwaites pub in the city centre, and we had considered including it on the itinerary for that reason, but he reported that they actually had no Thwaites beers on the bar. The top end of Friargate is closed off by an impressive vista of the Victorian Harris Museum which many people might imagine was the town hall.

Deliberately putting off the best until last, we diverted off Friargate along Orchard Street to reach the Market Tap, which not surprisingly faces the Victorian covered market halls. This pub seems to be undergoing an identity crisis, as it has been fashionably renamed “Tap”, but still plainly says “Market Tavern” on the frontage, as the photo shows. I suspect even that is relatively modern, and going back forty or fifty years it might well have been the Market Hotel or Vaults.

It has an L-shaped single-room interior around the central bar, with plenty of bench seating and couple of intimate but rather dark booths on the right. A notable feature is a glass panel on the floor just inside the door allowing you to see down into the cellar. There were four beers on the bar – John Smith’s Cask, Hawkshead Bitter, Titanic Plum Porter and Beartown Bluebeary. Compared with one or two of the earlier pubs, it was good to see some familiar pumpclips, and the John Smith’s, while it might be a beer that some look down on, was in fact very good indeed. Jessie’s Girl by Rick Springfield on the soundtrack brought back some memories of the 1981. Maybe, or maybe not, by coincidence, that particular day happened to be Rick Springfield’s 70th birthday.

Doubling back down Orchard Street took us to our final call and the crème de la crème of Preston pubs, Robinson’s Black Horse. This is an impressive late-Victorian redbrick street-corner pub that merits a full entry on CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. There are a couple of cosy front smoke rooms on either side of a mosaic-floored corridor leading to an amazing ceramic bar counter in what was originally the public bar. At the rear is a comfortable recessed seating area with mirrored walls, with the entrances to the Ladies’ and Gents’ toilets on either side.

There seemed to be something of a Hop Back tap takeover, with Citra, Entire and Fuggle Stone, but in a pub such as this it would be rude not to drink the Robinson’s, which was available in the shape of Unicorn and Dizzy Blonde in both standard and chilled version. The Unicorn was excellent and for me was the best beer of the day. We discussed what was the point of chilled cask beer when the actual serving temperature achieved was so variable anyway. Wouldn’t it be redundant if the target cellar-cool temperature was reliably achieved?

From here it was a brisk ten-minute walk back to the station for those of us not living locally or staying overnight. As always, a great day out with good beer, good – and varied – pubs and good company. Sheffield Hatter had worked out that the planned itinerary covered 4.2 miles, and with the fruitless short cut to get to the Continental it must have been more like four and a half. Who says beer drinking doesn’t keep you fit?

Thanks to Peter Allen of Pubs Then And Now for the photos of the Guild Ale House, Vinyl Tap and Market Tap/Tavern.