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.

Well, Letchworth suddenly has a modern brewery tap and a bottle shop to rival anything in Glossop.

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 Snydersplus 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.

Great unisex toilet sign

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.





  1. I think this is spot on as you say: “in the company of pub eccentrics.” It seems to me more and more we spend time with types familiar to us. Yesterday we took my brother in law to the bar we frequent. He was affected by being around types he doesn’t normally interact with day to day. One person is not a study, but I can’t help but think not wanting to deal with what is different is affecting bar\pub attendance. Over here there is less willingness to interact with those who are unusual or different than ourselves. I find it rather sad. Home is a lot safer for many.

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  2. Sod Mikkeller, if in Copenhagen you have to lead the counter-attack and see how well the cask is keeping in Charlie’s Bar in summertime. A day trip to Malmo to go try both Bishop’s Arms and the Green Lion highly recommended as well. Although even people from Highgate might quibble a bit with the prices.


      1. Both nice and flat and easy to walk around. More likely to get Adnams or Crouch Vale in Charlie’s. Lots of places doing tasting flights in Copenhagen and you should be able to get lots of high gravity for Mrs, RM. Fermentoren and the Lord Nelson are probably my favourite bars there.

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      2. In Charlie’s now. Didn’t expect much, particularly with Cask Marque, but the Harvey’s is just wonderful stuff. Gorgeous looking pub better than Harvey’s or Adnams estate too 😱

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      3. Almost forgot, you have to visit Jernbanecafeen just outside Copenhagen station, not really a beer place, but does have an exclusive beer made for it. Full of characters, very smokey and old school. Think you’d feel at home. Also opens from 7am every day. http://www.jernbanecafeen.dk/?lang=en
        Always had a preference for Tuborg over Carlsberg. First visit to Copenhagen, went on a pub crawl and ended up in a backstreet locals bar. Danes were playing a home qualifying match against (I think) Malta, bar was giving away a free bottle of Tuborg per customer for every goal the Danes scored. At Danish prices, any free beer is good beer. Ended up 5-0, was cursing when they missed a last minute penalty.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. 3 tips, 3 winners. Jernbanecafeen everything I’m after in a pub. There’s a place near Nuremberg station like (Express) thats similar. Like a bit of Blackpool as well though !


  3. I went to Hitchin for the first time two weeks ago on the 17th June 2017.
    I thought it was a very nice town with quite a few early openers pre 11am,i had done four pubs before 11am so i was well pleased.
    I did the Beer Shop and Hermitage Road,but i avoided the St Albans Beer Shop a week later.
    Bar 85 did have a real ale on which was Thwaites Lancaster Bomber.
    I also went in a crap bar that charged me £3 for a half of Estrella,a bloke at the bar was on his second pint of it,after i got up off the floor the place was not even that good,one to avoid if in Hitchin is Los Reyes.


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