Simon Everitt may be the only other person to have visited all of the Beer Guide entries for Bedfordshire, and that’s more due to the alphabet than the county’s limited appeal.
I’ve decided to give it another chance, having visited most of the Guide pubs a decade or more ago, and started in the county town, having been surprised by Luton recently.
Bedford has a great live music venue in Esquires, and used to be a reliable place for a proper Italian pizza due to its PoW legacy. Today’s food options are both wider and less impressively authentic.
The civic buildings have been spruced up a bit, adding a bit of gravitas to an otherwise dull shopping centre. I quite like dull shopping centres, mind.
The riverside is still impressive, though blighted by the concrete carbuncles to the west. A frankly dismal attempt to replicate Stockport’s pyramid marks the end of the riverside walk. Like Stockport, the pubs are dominated by what were family brewers (Wells and Greene King), but sadly lacking in much character.
The big surprise was the revamped Higgins Museum, a collection of fine and decorative arts coupled with town history close to the castle mound and the majority of the town’s Beer Guide entries. It feels a bit “National Trust” for my taste, but it’s beautifully laid out in an attractive old brewery building.
The local history section is excellent, but a bit skimpy on brewing. Mind you, Bedford Town FC get no mention at all, 60 years on from their 2-2 draw at Highbury.
There’s more brewerania in The Wellington, for some years Bedford’s main (only) proper ale house. The rather scary beer range, jam jars, and sale of the Imbiber marks it down as a bit of a “CAMRA” pub, but rather like Histon’s Red Lion I was heartened to get none of that impression yesterday.
A few old boys talked hospital visits, and I enjoyed the second best Bass of the year (NBSS 4). No food at all except crisps, which make a nutritious lunch. The quality of the Bass is surprising, given it’s one of about 14 real ales, which shows the reverence some folk still have for this classic beer. Leighton Buzzard’s Black Lion had a similar quality.
On my walk back I noticed St Peters Ale House, keeping the usual micropub hours (closed) but certainly worthy of investigation. Once the Wetherspoons Hotel I walked past opens, it might even get a very odd beer tourist or two.