I’m grateful to Swansea CAMRA for remind me to put my NBSS scores in. Remembering the beer names, when there’s so little consistency of range on the bar, is the hardest task.
That reminded me I’ve a bit more of Gwent tell you about. The bit you’ve never been to.
There’s nothing better than a clutch of Beer Guide pubs waiting to be ticked, all in different villages but accessible by decent public transport. That’s what Newport has just to the north-west of town, heading into the honeypot towns of Ystrad Mynach and Abertillery in Ebbw Vale.
Those four pubs between Pontyminster and the one above Junction 29 (M-y-F for short) have been staring at me out of the GBG for some years. Collectively, they’re a curate’s egg, if you get my point.
The Tredgar Arms in Rogerstone is very much my sort of pub. Multi-roomed, flagstoned, proper seating (red settles in the back), lively and unpretentious. At 4pm on Friday there were as many blokes in their 20s as old boys at the bar, most drinking Guinness and Thatchers.
The first three words I heard were “Blondes“, “Lovely girl” and “Legs“, and those aren’t Welsh words for sheep.
I won’t claim it’s a match for, say, the Railway Tavern; the Rhymney beer wasn’t quite as good (NBSS 3) but it was as cosy and cheery. Unlike Mrs RM, I have a predilection for scruffy loos, and this was a winner. Old-school basket meals, too.
A mile away in Pontyminster (not to be confused with all the other Ponty- places), the Commercial has a similar group of regulars in a rather more modern club-style setting,
The most modern looking beer line-up of the night too. Hard to choose between those, but the old chap before me went for the Milk Stout and said “Mmmmmm” (in Welsh, obvs), so that was an easy choice, NBSS 3.5.
This wasn’t your typical “CAMRA” pub though, most people were still drinking Worthy Smooth and asking for Stella “in one of them women’s glasses“. No takers for some interesting craft keg, even as an ideal accompaniment for the faggots and chips (£5.45). The conversation here was even more exciting than in the Tredegar, set to a perfect soundtrack of “Dirt Deeds Done Cheap“.
If I was Simon Everitt I’d pack in Bucks and start doing Gwent now.
Outside the two industrial village locals, the two unpretentious dining pubs suffered a little. The Ruperra provided the joy of the landlady singing along to “One Love”, but little else to entertain diners looking for a cosy place to drink.
There was Brains in that glass, but it could just as well have been Doom Bar (NBSS 2).
Beer quality was similar in the most remote pub of the four, the Cefn Mabley Arms, but then Wye Valley often has that honey hue. The barman was cheerful though, and top marks for a fire that would have warmed you up from your seat in the previous pub.
Marks docked for the inane mottos on the beams, and a soundtrack of Whitney (not that one) and Lisa Loeb (yes, that Lisa Loeb).
Plenty of pubs of all sorts in rural Gwent, not all of them selling enough to keep quality as high as you’d hope for on a Friday session. Plenty of hills to walk off the beer though.