In a week when the purpose of CAMRA is under discussion (again), I should say that the quality of beer in a succession of Beer Guide pubs has been fantastic recently. Yes, even in (South-East) London.
If all CAMRA does is provide a structure for pubs to be assessed for beer quality and recommended in an annual guide then that’s good reason to exist. A visitor to Dorset this Easter using the Guide (like Mrs RM and me) would have struggled to get a duff pint, and may very well conclude that boring brown bitters are the greatest thing on earth.*
They would have enjoyed a great pint of Ringwood (NBSS 3.5) in Corfe Castle, one of the must-see places that had made this part of the UK a must-see destination for our European visitors. I presume they all watched “Nuts in May” in 1975 and are staying on that same campsite.
They might be surprised that it’s the Legion rather than the Greyhound in the Guide though. I reckon the latter must be one of the most recognisable pubs in the country, even featuring on my in-laws placemats.
I’m fairly sure we went to the Greyhound on our previous visit and I can imagine nothing finer than drinking Doom Bar underneath the castle with a plate of “slow roasted cassolulet of confit beef” (£14.95).
All the Legion could offer was a pint, coke, crisps and nuts for a fiver, and chat with a bar manager who took great pride in the quality of his beer.
As did the management at the Scott Arms in Kingston, whose garden provides one of the great views. Also one of the great beer choices; Otter (NBSS 3.5) or Greene King IPA.
Poole’s RBL is in a rather less picture postcard location in the residential backstreets of Parkstone, but the usual shaped building contained an unusually enthusiastic welcome on a quiet night. Outside a few Northern clubs (Mexborough, Idle stand out), these clubs can be as quiet midweek as any regular pub.
The beer was strong and wonderful. Yeovil’s 6% Night Train was also a bargain £1.4o a half; a dark rich porter that was a little too moreish.
The conversation here was equally superior too, though much of it unrepeatable and about the failings of men. The machinations of the local chess league were more exciting than they sound, particularly accompanied by early Style Council. A dead ringer for the late LJK Setright was the sole book reader.
Not all Clubs have quite the atmosphere these did, or provide the sort of pub experience a visitor might look for, but it’s good to see local CAMRA branches putting quality first in Guide selection.
* Which they are, as long as served in a nonic glass of course.