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.

QUIZ TIME – What is this ?

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.



14 thoughts on “HALSTEAD’S BEER HEROES

  1. Cornish Knocker isn’t that prevalent even in its home county, it’s more prominent in bottles at Waitrose.
    Mine host didn’t sound like he was from the Duchy by any chance?


  2. The quiz photograph is a window of a tat shop (I can tell it is a shop from the labels with barcodes), with a laboured fish theme that the shopkeeper hasn’t managed to quite keep to. Given that the teapots appear to be suspended from suction pads (or am I missing something obvious), the shopkeeper is either very brave or an idiot. Or both.

    Children should be encouraged into pubs, it’s the only way that they’ll learn about their wonders. However, those that riot or otherwise cause disruption should be drowned without warning.


      1. Assuming you mean the shop window, no it is not art it is complete bollocks. If you mean drowning children, then yes I suspect there is an art to doing it efficiently, though I have never tried myself.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The first Good Beer Guide (1974), listed the brewery of G.E. Cook & Sons Ltd, who brewed at the “Tidings Hill Brewery”, in Halstead. They didn’t own any pubs, but sold their beer either in the free trade, or for home consumption. They also had a small chain of off licences, selling their bottled beers.

    The company closed a long time ago, but I was wondering whether any traces of the brewery buildings remain in the town?


    1. The old brewery was based on Tidings hill, Halstead and was derelict until about 10 years ago. They’ve since built houses in its place. However, the old brewery copper mash tun is on display by the river close to the mill. Furthermore the Griffin was a brewpub in the mid -1800s and was the original home,of,
      Cooks brewery until the late 1890’s I believe.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Two other fine pubs in the town, namely the Dog, still reliable as ever, and the White Hart just down the hill from the church who intends to start brewing in early 2017. Test brews so far have been very promising


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