Another Midlands catch-up with my old work colleague Charles last night. I finally found a decent guesthouse in Stourport, the Victoria having that delightful combination of cheery welcome, clean bedlinen and cold milk. A gem.
In January the Bird in Hand was one of the dozen pubs “shut when they should be open“, but after a presumed winter hiatus it was back looking like a classic all-day opener.
It might be a pleasant canal-side dining pub by day, but by 5pm the tradesmen of the parish had assembled, and it was a proper boozer (albeit a very blokey boozer) of the first order. You can tell by the surprise that greeted my request for a half (Government Guidelines and all that).
Charles observed that canal-side pubs are generally more basic and homely than their riverside counterparts, which is an argument with some merit. As he’s Scottish, I rarely argue with him anyway.
A Hobsons and a Holdens on the bar made a change from the ubiquitous Wye Valley, and were a good NBSS 3.5. The cheery landlord clearly adds a 3rd beer when it gets busy, rather than starting with six on a Monday. As you can see, proper pub seating and a multi-roomed layout in the classic Midlands style. Smoking out by the Stour.
I raved about the town centre’s canalside Black Star on a lunchtime visit last year, and it needed a return trip to test its Monday night credentials.
Verdict: As good as ever. Half a dozen locals, half a dozen beers isn’t a great equation, but they and we were sticking to the Butty Bach it seems, and it was a great advert for Hereford’s finest, with a real kick and a tight head.
Charles rather let the side down by asking for a taster of the Stout. Apparently that’s still acceptable behaviour in Norfolk. I apologised on his behalf, but still drank the generous sample while Charles dithered.
The Star is a long, narrow pub built for beer, banter and black pudding pies. We skipped the latter having feasted on Pie Night earlier, but I nearly took one home. Over an hour we came up with a plan to conquer the GBG pubs of the Lothians, and admired the pub dog.
The barman was a cheerful young soul, who became noticeably animated when we decided to finish on a pint of Robinsons Flagon (top). I’m not saying this is the new Caffreys/Perroni/Punk, but I’ve seen a fair few youngsters drinking this gem in Worcestershire, and it seems to have acquired a cult following amongst Norfolk-based Scottish auditors too. Smooth, brightly coloured and alcoholic.
No headache the next morning either, so one up on Old Rosie.