JOHN SMITHS IN PETERBOROUGH ESTATE PUBS

Regular contributor Malcolm recently requested I do a penance (for questionable apostrophe usage) of three pints of John Smiths before 10am.

I’m sure Malcolm meant JS Smooth, as I’d be quite happy to accept that challenge if the cask was available in any Spoons. Johns cask is still a pint I’d go for given the choice.  Unlike Bass, I’ve never seen the cask in Spoons.

Peterborough was historically the southern outpost of Johns in the ’90s, as just one page from Pubs Around ‘Ere (’94) will show. “Working-mens locals” would have been the term back then.  Changes in pub ownership, the growth of the Smooth and no doubt other factors (cough,2007, cough) has seen availability of the cask dwindle to a figure close to zero.

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Whatever happened to that Ruddles ?

The Hand & Heart, almost a southern Roscoe’s Head in terms of style and vulnerability, sadly gave up on their wonderful John Smiths a decade or so ago, which coincidentally is the last time I went in.

CAMRA locally has done a lot to promote the estate pubs where John Smiths used to thrive, and I applaud them for that.  The GBG-regular Ploughman in Werrington is the better known for its 10 (ten !) regular beers, but even a pub like the nearby Dragon serving Directors and Bombardier is better than no pub at all.

My Aunt’s local in Stanground is the 18th Century Woolpack, 2016 branch pub of the year.  If she wasn’t teetotal I’m sure she’d enjoy its LocAles, bants and riverside views.

I made for the 1950s Heron down the road. Beautiful JS insignia, but of couse no Johns.  It’s like those houses that convert the last pub in a village into a home for Range Rovers but leave the old pub sign up in the drive.

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This is a proper estate pub, with signs unchanged since the ’70s, music unchanged since the ’70s and children of the ’70s (that’s me). Shame the Ryder Cup was on really.

3pm opening for professional drinkers, of which there were none at 3.15, so I can’t really comment on the atmosphere.  It’s a proper pub though, with all the CAMRA symbols except food, which is the best one for a pub not to have. The yellow curtains were not to Mrs RM’s taste, though the pub itself was spotless, and much to mine.

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The Tydd Steam was cellar cool and clear as a bell, whatever that means. All of my Peterborough ticks have scored very similar marks for quality (NBSS 3.5 here).

Sadly, I was too early for the Gourmet Chinese takeaway on this dining occasion.

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26 thoughts on “JOHN SMITHS IN PETERBOROUGH ESTATE PUBS

  1. Great estate pub interior there. Struggling to think of the last occasion when I even saw cask John Smith’s – I always thought it was a pretty decent beer.

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  2. That looks pretty smart for an estate pub.

    Saw JS Cask in the Britannia in Darlington yesterday, although the rowdy regulars were mostly drinking the Strongarm, which was the best I’ve ever had – so the JS it went untried, as did the 3 or 4 untouched guests.

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    1. Brit best pub in darlo Used to drink Stongarm there when a lot younger still drop in for a pint (or three) when up in darlo still a superb pub & long may it remain so!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Martin, we should have gone in the pub directly across the road from my house when you called in. They still have a passable (but not brilliant) pint of John’s. They used to do a cracking pint of Magnet too, once. I saw a reference to 10 years ago in the post or comments, that would be about right for when they stopped brewing John’s at Tadcaster, it’s never been the same since. It first went to Burtonwood and I think Cameron’s brew it now. As I said in one of my posts – Terroir! Very important, and in my mind, the reason why many once excellent beers become a shadow of what they were the very minute they stopped brewing them in the town/brewery of origin and take them to be contract brewed or brewed en masse with other multiple brands in a beer factory. NB when I refer to Johns, I refer to JS cask, nothing else under the brand qualifies as ale, cask magnet is long gone. You always saw John’s in two of the tied pubs in our village and Sams in the other. Only cask ales would be tolerated as a lot of the local people worked in the breweries in nearby Taddy, the discerning would always go for John’s, whose pubs were always the busiest.

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    1. Johns is an interesting case study. Some of the beer I’ve most enjoyed over the years has been cask Bitter and Magnet in packed smoky pubs.

      You’re probably right about beer going downhill when it moves. That said, I had a pint of JS Bitter a year or so ago in Hyde that took me back 10 years. Volumes count for a lot.

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  4. Good little article that. Heron is now my adopted local, being as it’s only a ten minute walk from the Cardea estate on the opposite side of the Whittlesey road. Meri has done a tremendous job keeping the place open in the face of adversity and long may it continue. These days the closest you’re going to get to JS is the occasional cask of Landlord. Demand from the ale drinkers is generally toward the 4% paler stuff – sign of the times?? BTW in my spare time I admin for the PBF twitter (which brought me here 😉)

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    1. Thanks. I did a piece on PBF (my first, fantastic). Guessed the PBF Twitter closest to a ‘boro CAMRA tho could be wrong.

      Heron is a lovely looking pub, hope it survives, along with Boring Brown Bitters !

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      1. Glad you like the beerfest. Are you returning next year? If so I’m sure we can accommodate more beer judges if you’re up for it … drop us a line @borobeerfest nearer the time or give us a shout if you want tickets for trade session.

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    2. The Heron is a fantastic pub. They have such a fantastic range of beers all in superb condition. The bus stop is right outside so PLEASE try it. You wont be disappointed

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  5. Thanks for the mention, I run The Ploughman with my Brother and untill April 2016 we also had The Dragon both in Werrington.
    Due to the lack is brewery support from Charles Wells and hike in prices forced us out in favour of a poorly managed pub co.
    In The Ploughman I stopped selling John Smiths when Heineken increased the price, so had Theakstons Smooth installed at 3.8% abv and a better price.
    I’m a former Home Ales pub (Only surviving on in Peterborough) that has had a demolishion order on her for some seven years now !
    In that time I saw my pub sold from The Howard Property group to Tesco.
    We like The Heron are a last of a much loved estates pubs who wrongfully and sadly people see as being troublesome.
    We have been CAMRA branch pub twice and raised thousands for charity at our events.
    Our last beerfest held every July we had 60 beer available to sup. 🍻
    If only more people would would suppport local estate pubs.
    Thanks
    andy & Stu

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  6. Newark continues to be a bit of a stronghold of JS cask. I must say I was surprised to enjoy a pint of it in the Royal Oak and have added it to my list of ‘beers I’m happy to drink’. Tell that to some of our more enthusiastic beer enthusiasts and they can barely conceal a snigger…

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    1. That’s a very good point Mark; Castle & Falcon used to be very good and still has the cask. Might try Royal Oak myself, we often stay in Newark.

      Beer drinkers discounting JS, 6X, Bass etc because they’re old hat is no different from Fosters drinkers who never try cask. Each to their own.

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      1. I would’nt bother Martin,
        I went in the Royal Oak with my wife on the 6th of August 2016 and it only had John Smiths smooth crap on the bar,there is still the two separate rooms but the front room looks to modern for my liking.
        I though the barman came across as gay,but may be not and my wife commented he looked like the sort of person who could kick off at any time.

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  7. RM <>

    You can’t mean the Old Vic in Darlo, surely? The beer’s ok but maybe we can call the pub itself an acquired taste!! There was a very large dog (with the landlady, not her) roaming loose behind the bar, a drunk landlord, shabby furniture, a grim smell, and no other customers when I was in on Saturday teatime. Beer pulled through for me and a cool NBSS 3, though.

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