I’ve had a few days closer to home, before I embark on the great Doncaster/Tunbridge Wells/Hull odyssey (unfortunately in that order) this weekend. No new GBG ticks for 3 days; BRAPA will be catching me up by May.
My now regular St.Neots Thursday has just uncovered a gem though. I wrote about the town’s pubs last month, but neglected The Olde Sun, rating it a competent but workaday local on a fleeting visit when it won local Pub of the Year in 2013.
The Whitbread livery is very late ’80s, and the beer range from an only slightly later era. Despite the old beams and fireplaces it’s not at Olde Worlde, and coupled with pub grub can feel very basic.
As Simon Everitt often says, you need to take time to appreciate a pub, though his guideline of 27.5 minutes always seems a challenge to me. I managed 32 minutes here (may have made that up); the longest since the ‘Front in Falmouth.
It wasn’t just the beer that won me over, though the Hydes Mild (NBSS 3) and particularly the Grainstore (NBSS 4) were superbly presented with a proper tight head, and a great advert for cask. Perhaps the Mild is a tad cold, but that’s all I can say against it.
Like the Dove in Bury St Edmunds, this is a drinkers pub where you be as sociable or not as you like, with the bonus of consistent beer, without worrying about weird tastes or the lottery of low turnover.
In the 32 minutes I was there (mid-afternoon) I’d guess the Sun sold a few dozen pints of cask, with each of the range getting a try.
Either the pint or the locally made scratchings were bargain; I’d guess the latter such was the rate they were being consumed.
At this time of day it’s very much the tradesman’s pub; lots of blokes with phones arranging their jobs and fobbing off the missus. Other topics of conversation are, of course, cars and recent beer festival excesses. Banter.
This feels nothing like a CAMRA pub, but the bloke telling Simon how great his pint of Pride over the phone is certainly a magnificent campaigner for real ale. But if his mate chooses Stella when he gets here from Kimbolton, no-one will care.
A great contrast to the Wetherspoons, which is still essentially a lunch club for pensioners. St Neots is a fast growing town that can support a good mix of pubs, perhaps even a micropub.
The barmaid is a gem; funny, assertive, and knows her beers, which is a must here. Simon Everitt, if he hasn’t been here yet, will love this place.