I was reading the Morning Advertiser and noticed the finalists in the Great British Pub Best Beer Awards;
- Bunch of Grapes, Pontypridd, South Wales
- Purecraft Bar & Kitchen, Birmingham
- The Craft Beer Co, Leather Lane, Clerkenwell, Central London
- The Griffin, Halstead, Essex
- The Grove, Huddersfield
- The Sheffield Tap, Sheffield
Hard to argue with the five of those I’d been to, though Purecraft wouldn’t be to the taste of all. The Bunch of Grapes is probably my favourite, having shared a birthday pint there with a wake that sounded even more fun than I was having. They know how to enjoy death in the Valleys.
In years past Halstead would have meant the Dog; now it has three good all-rounders in the Guide, two of them with exceptional beer.
I’d never heard of the Griffin, and Mrs RM did some work in Halstead for a while so I must have walked the town a few times. New in the Beer Guide, and obviously on a rapid rise, the Griffin is tucked down a residential lane parallel to the High Street, and is pretty much the archetypal back street community pub.
I was slightly disappointed I managed to pick the only beer not on gravity, but to be fair a flat and cool Ghost Ship (NBSS 3.5) could easily have been from the barrel. I treat flat as being an adjective of honour by the way.
Mid-afternoon Sunday saw the pub with more children than adults, a mixed crowd, and no Sunday lunch nonsense. Not the alehouse atmosphere I expected, and all the better for it.
Personally I like children in pubs, better than being stuck at home playing games on the PC or watching Bargain Hunt. It probably wouldn’t meet Pub Curmudgeon’s perfect pub test though.
Halstead is a cross between Saffron Walden and Haverhill on the Essex Gorgeous Town scale, and the best area is around the Mill, while Factory Terrace is an urban gem. The High Street is functional in the extreme, appropriate given its most famous resident;
Toby Curwen-Bingley (born 27 October 1998), better known by his stage name Curbi, is a British producer and musician. He is best known for the tracks “Discharge” and “Rubber”, which both reached the Beatport Top 10.
Despite the drizzle, we enjoyed the stroll up to St Andrews and the Bird in Hand, an Enterprise Inn that was just saying goodbye to a decent lunch trade.
Despite some quirky character (a touch of Calne about it), the pub didn’t look like a Beer Guide cert, particularly with just Cornish Knocker on the bar, served in a Doom Bar glass. Less than trad seating too, though a very rural pub atmosphere that I warmed to.
But it was near-nectar (NBSS 4.5). And I would have told the Landlord that, but he came over to my table anyway with a sampler of an Adnams Porter he was serving from a polypin. That was just as good.
Two of the beers of the year here, and the joy of visiting Beer Guide pubs at its fullest. You never know what you’re going to get with the Guide.
The third pub is the most traditional, and the beer in the Three Pigeons was fine, but the highlights of MK Dons v Port Vale weren’t quite enough to make it brilliant.