I’d always thought the real sign of a craft breakthrough would be a bar with keg fonts on the back wall in the North Hertfordshire towns of my youth.
And now, from possibly the lowest starting point of all, Hitchin has trendy café bars (the Hermitage), a newish Spoons, and a ” Beer Shop and tasting room”. Even more incredible, Club 85, the pub I never dared ventured in when I lived there, has cask. Possibly Websters Green Label.
Not much changes in Hitchin, including the view from the top of St Johns Road where we lived for a decade. Mrs RM wouldn’t approve of the “improvements” the current owners of No.22 have made since we left.
The big transformation since the heady days of the ’90s are strewn along Hermitage Road, always the least attractive of the town streets.
Gone are the old fashioned Hi-Fi, hosiery and household stores, replaced by places called Fabio’s, Sukawatee and Gatefold.
If I didn’t know it by heart I’d probably stay over in the new Premier Inn, another sign that it’s joining Stockport in the 21st century, for better or worse. The curry houses and Chinese takeaways were always a strong point, though Mrs RM was a sucker for the bottle of chianti in a wicker bottle in Pizza Express.
Beer Shop is a brand new venture, with a sister shop in St Albans, that will look awfully familiar to anyone that travels the country visiting new Beer Guide pubs. If such people exist.
This reminds me of the Falmouth craft scene, more MONO than HAND, perhaps, Nothing says “grown-up” craft as much as staff wearing the “Football Pub” T-shirt, of course.
I met Hitchin/West Sussex half-pint fiend John for a liquid lunch; John seems worryingly addicted to the flavoured ciders at the moment ! He was his usual interesting and random self, producing CAMRA magazines to add to my pile for Dick and Dave.
Top marks for very cheery, intelligent service and tasty Siren beers to wash down the Snyders, plus a takeaway range that would have impressed me if I was daft enough to drink at home rather than in the company of pub eccentrics.
Your view on the prices will depend on whether you live in Highgate or Heaton Chapel.
If I still lived in Hitchin I’d use the Beer Shop more than Mrs RM would think sensible. If the Beer Shop was in Cambridge it would probably get lost.
We were the only customers on Thursday lunchtime, which says a lot about the death of lunchtime drinking. When I worked at Hitchin Hospital 25 years ago the sole bloke who popped in the John Barleycorn for a lunchtime pint was a pariah, even then.
Solid progress in Hitchin, and no doubt by the time I get back from my week in Copenghagen those Mikkeller folk will have opened a bar in Stevenage. Perhaps.