Just outside Lichfield in the village of Whittington is the parish church of St Giles where I once attended the wedding of one of Mrs RM’s Uni friends. It cost about a zillion times more than our own wedding; I think her Dad owned the salt mine. I’m sure Mrs RM wants to tell me off for something I did wrong there 24 years ago, like leaving before the final whistle.
If I’d been visiting Beer Guide pubs back then I could have done a pre-emptive tick of the Bell, but probably I’d have avoided the Bass. It was the mid-90s before my own conversion to the Red Triangle.
The Bell would have looked a great pub at any point in my pub career. The autumn leaves certainly brighten the exterior, and inside it’s a three roomer separating a modest dining trade from its proper function of serving beer.
“A friendly village pub” is all the website offers up, which I like it a lot. It really was friendly as well. Half a dozen locals sprawled the public at 2pm drinking pints acknowledged my entry cheerily. A pub offering bench seats, small tables and bar seating is rare these days, and it was easy to feel involved without feeling intrusive.
The lady behind the bar was otherwise engaged in lengthily determining the exact constitution of the potatoes. It all seemed a bit unnecessary, but exciting at the same time. Trip Advisor shows other visitors have had similar potato-based obsessions.
There’s been a fair bit of love for Bass this year on blogs like Pub Curmudgeon and Tandleman, and it’s still available in much of rural Staffs. It’s reputation relies more on the care invested by specialist beer places like the Black Lion and Wellington though.
This was classic creamy Bass, only slightly impaired by the use of an Old Speckled Hen glass. There were Bass glasses, but pleasingly they were all in use. So here’s one I made earlier.
It was a superb accompaniment for the ghost scratchings*, a guest scratching put on especially for Halloween. I’m thinking of asking my Mum to get me a case of those for my birthday this year, instead of a jumper. But it’ll never happen.
QUIZ TIME – Where did I have these before (I’ve forgotten).
An attractive dog made my acquaintance but I resisted offering a scratching. Her owner was a sprightly 79 year old holding forth on triple heart bypasses and the joy of going “Back to Butter” now it was OK again. Simon will be in heaven here.
Entertaining toilets* were the icing on the cake, if that isn’t mixing metaphors.
Sometimes when I visit gastro nonsense like the Trooper I wonder why I’m doing this (or wish I’d stayed in the shops with Mrs RM), but the half hour here was just wonderful. I’m already planning a return visit; this is an immediate Top 100 Pubs contender. I’ll take my own Bass glass though (please don’t ask me where it came from).
Rural Staffordshire has some fantastic unheralded pubs. The main cluster of them are north of Stone, and of course there’s a classic by the canal that sells 6X.
*PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING – After consuming chilli scratchings, wash your hands thoroughly before visiting the Gents.