I visit North West Hampshire quite a bit as it’s on my way to the End of the Road music festival, has good walks in Watership Down territory and is amply supplied with cheapo Travelodges and Premier Inns.
Just north of Andover are some of the prettiest villages in the South, including the thatch and stream chocolate box that is Hurstbourne Tarrant. As usual for the Test Valley, I felt like I was being watched on account of my exceptional scruffiness.
The George & Dragon there is “modern upmarket“, with bottles of Bolly and fresh daffs on the windowsills, decent seating options, £13.50 burgers and some dull homebrew (Betteridge) from round the corner. I liked it though, being less oppressively posh than some recent Beer Guide entries nearby (Tangley – see for yourself).
Closer to Andover I stopped at the intriguing village of Enham Alamein. Ostensibly used for rehabilitation of ex-servicemen, this is both history and great architecture, right down to a thatched bus-stop.
Andover itself has never really justified a visit, with Beer Guide entries confined to a cluster of southern villages, notably the White Lion in Wherwell. Being a London overflow town, it’s also got a smaller historic centre than you might expect. Still, I gave it every chance yesterday.
It has its moments, despite a slightly run-down but functional pedestrianized main street that reminds me of Haverhill. The hilly area around the Church is attractive though.
Nearby, the ancient Angel has an interesting courtyard of murals, and provides the first clue to the dominant beer supply.
There’s almost more Greene King here than in Bury St Edmunds, and to be honest I’m not sure what else I expected (Wadworth, Fullers ?). The best ranges would be in the Beer Guide choices, starting with a Wetherspoons typically busy with OAP lunchtime trade, and the usual few professional Doom Bar drinkers.
I adopted my normal tactic of going for the last beer pulled, and was surprised at the quality of (predictably) Ruddles, which had all the body I’ve found lacking in the small breweries beers. I rated it NBSS 4, a rare high for me.
Almost as good was the 6X is the accurately named Town Mills. This is a vast, sprawling pub with a healthier lunchtime food trade than you’d find in Cambridge outside the Eagle. In a smarter town, this would be converted into a Brunning & Price or similar. Here, it is as unpretentious a casual dining pub as you’ll find.
Hard to fault, and not just because of the wealth of breweriana dotted about.
Good to see such excellent beer in Andover, and I will continue to seek after some appreciation of Flack Catcher and Andwell when they no doubt pop up in the remaining GBG village pubs, while wishing they had Ringwood on.