Wiltshire is a great county, particularly if you have the strength of character to appreciate Swindon. Despite having an Ember Inn and a Yates in the Guide, the pubs aren’t that bad.
20 years ago Wadworth 6X was one of the revered beers in CAMRA circles, as common in Beer Guide pubs as Adnams, Pride, and Castle Eden. With the death of Whitbread chains like Hogshead and Tap & Spile it seemed to lose its slot in “free houses” and I’ve seen a lot less of it in the last decade.
Anyone who’s been to this pub will know how good it can be though, such as here:-
A trip to Devizes is a chance to ignore the often disappointing Plain, Downton and Ramsbury beers in the town’s Guide freehouses, and track down Wadworth pubs. The lack of the town’s brewery’s pubs in the current mirrors the situation with Arkells in Swindon.
The two new Beer Guide pubs, within a decent walk of the town, are nicely contrasting in style and approach, but both produced a 6X that prove it’s not the brewery that’s at fault if you’ve had a dull drop recently.
The Barge at Seend Cleeve is a smartish canalside pub that was less foody than I expected, even as the early evening diners tipped up ready to complain about condiments.
It reminded me of Wadworth’s unpretentious place by the seafront in Poole, and beer quality was helped as much by the number of drinkers as the shortness of the beer menu (6X plus IPA and seasonal). Malty, full-bodied and served cool (NBSS 3.5).
A couple of miles south of the Kennet & Avon, Poulshot’s Raven manages to be both more upmarket and more basic, though I suspect the menus were pretty identical. Finding a pub whose meny doesn’t run through steaks, pasta, burger and curry these days is a challenge.
It’s attractive and cosy rather than stunning, but the gravity dispense is always a visual winner, and the beer was on a par with the Barge (NBSS 3.5).
The Raven loses a half point for saying their “soup is souper“, but gets it back for some classic outside toilets that were well hidden (and I was never going to ask where they were, was I ?). I think the barperson was glad when I left, bemused by my attempts to get the perfect shot of a barrel of beer (I’d asked first).
So there you go, conclusive proof that 6X is still a classic beer when pubs can be bothered,