Every once in a while, and now twice in a row for the ‘A Few Drinks In’ series, which is sometimes called ‘A Few Beers In’ because I’m forgetful and lazy, my usual method of just rocking up to a place and wandering about aimlessly is disrupted by a proper beer ticking exercise. I mean disrupted in the modern sense –
drastically alter the structure of an outdated practice. “Peter disrupted Kirsty’s beer-related wanderings by altering the structure by actually adding one, therefore making it 100% less frustrating for all involved”.
My good friend Peter was with his crew this time round. I’m not great with names in any situation, add in a number of pints and I require name tags and possibly a song to help me recall them. I know there was a multiple in there, possibly two Johns. Maybe a Dave. There was a ‘Scouse’, who wasn’t Scouse but went to Uni in Liverpool. A Mike is a distinct possibility. Anyway, they were all thoroughly nice chaps, which is what counts more than who they were, or what they were called.
My cousin Mark (the one who fell over) also came along. We said we would catch the gang up and headed straight for the Brewhouse and Kitchen, their first scheduled stop. “We’re looking for a group of men” I said to the barmaid and luckily she knew exactly who I was talking about, telling us they left ten minutes ago. This being a week day at about 2pm there were not huge hordes of men wandering in gangs from pub to pub as there can be in Stag Night Season. And I was quietly confident that none of them would be dressed as a chicken. We had one swift half there, very pleasant interiors with what you would call Instagrammable features, like the tables with firepits in the middle. This is how you can tell the kind of clientele the Brewhouse attracts- there are many bars which would see an open fire in the middle of a table as a sure fire way of getting onto 24 Hours In A&E but here the punters could be trusted not to light their friends on fire or obsessively burn beermats.
I had a Forest House, brewed in…house. Unfortunately because of my broken wrist I couldn’t take many pictures, but their website has some lovely ones. Instead here’s one of a man on a Stag Night dressed as a chicken.
We caught up with the Northampton tickers crew in the Bear and Billet, a splendid half-timbered Jacobean inn from 1664. Apparently the Earl of Shrewsbury leased it to the innkeeper on the condition that there was always a suite of rooms available for his family. Not sure how that contract would stand up now but they’d be bedding down in the function room. Here’s the current Earl, Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, to make up for lack of pictures. I’m told I have to attribute it – why is life so hard?
Usually Peter is on halves but some of the gang had gone rogue and were necking pints when we caught up with them, clearly emboldened by the six-stop crawl. I had a Northern Best dark bitter by Exit 33 and we discussed how John Lennon’s grandma was born in the Bear and Billet. It’s a pleasant, food serving, dog-friendly place which would be the belle of the ball in any other city, but in Chester it’s just one of many pubs which are hundreds of years old and has a ghost.
Onward then, to the Brewery Tap, a Spitting Feathers pub in an old Baronial Hall, with ceilings so high you could lose a child’s balloon. (I don’t do measurements). Here I did remember to take a picture, and it was a rare Double Header as some of the crew had ordered food. Honestly, it’s carnage when you have more than five on a pub crawl, the rule book goes out of the window. The beer list was very long, and also very high up. For a small, short-sighted person, it may as well have been written on the moon. I ended up opting for Kiwi as it was one of the only words I could make out, and it’s the title of a Harry Styles song which I like very much. It was alright. I’m scared of the NBSS scale because it involves thinking so I have designed my own, the Kirst Beer Scoring System, which goes like this :
KBSS 0 : This has gone, I can smell it
KBSS 1 : Bloody Amarillo hops, can’t stand them and they’re bloody everywhere
KBSS 2 : It’s alright. Wouldn’t have another
KBSS 3 : I could happily drink this again
KBSS 4 : I could happily drink this all day
KBSS 5 : I have drunk this all day, send help
Kiwi was a 2. I had a Thirst Quencher by Spitting Feathers which was a 2.5 (It’s alright, I’ll have another because it’s someone else’s round and I can’t be bothered putting my glasses on to read the beer list, it’s like a chuffing James Joyce novel.).
Next stop was another venue where they brew their own, the Pied Bull, where we visited on the X30 Challenge, you know, the one where Mark fell over. On that occasion the pub had been transformed into a winter wonderland, it was much more sensible this time. I had a Nimbull which is their lovely, easy drinking English Mild. KBSS 3.5 (I could happily drink this again another two times, but then stop). We were able to sit around a giant round table which looked like a cartwheel and discuss the matters of the day, including, as I recall, that we had visited this pub before, at Christmas, and that it had looked ridiculous.
As I believe I have pointed out before, pub ticking can lead you to all sorts of mad places, which are not really pubs but rather bars attached to other things which happen to serve real ale. Our next stop, The Mill, was one such – it’s a spa and hotel so it’s in an odd location and the actual establishment we were in was called Rialto’s Bar. Imagine a bar in a mid-priced hotel. Yes, you’ve got it.
Nothing wrong with the beers, a nice selection of which I chose Mill Premium Bitter by the Coach House Brewing Co. (KBSS 2.75 – It’s the only bitter they have). This being the daytime there were groups of older chaps in there who called the place home. I’m intrigued as to how this becomes someone’s local. Are these people who come for the Spa and stay for the Mild, or have they been barred from every other pub in the vicinity? “Ah yes, my old local pub, the Mill Hotel and Spa. Half price swimming for over 60s on Wednesdays. Oh, the memories!”
The final stop was a belter, the Harkers Arms which is situated on the banks of the canal. It’s a Brunning and Price gaff so it’s got that look of being designed and curated with a massive library of old books on the walls which have never been touched, and about 15 thousand frames which no-one has ever looked at but that you instinctively know contain pictures of old maps, illustrations of wild flowers, and sketches of old shop fronts. I had an Old Golden Hen, God knows why, must have been very IPA heavy on the pumps. This is a place where you could happily while away several hours but unfortunately Peter and the Northampton boys had to catch their train so we bid them adieu.
By the way, I was recently asked how I remember all of the minute and carefully curated details in my informative posts. I use untappd to record which beers I have imbibed. You can follow me on there if you wish, for more quality content such as ‘Nice beer’, and ‘Kirsty has earned her level 5 Not The Messiah badge for drinking 4000 beers brewed by a man called Brian’. I also use Swarm to check in the venues, and google photos takes my pictures directly from my phone and uploads them to the cloud in date order whether I ask it to or not. Welcome to The Future! Also, Peter sent me a list of pubs we had been to, because I had forgotten.