I need a break from writing about keg Scandi-pubs, so here’s a quick immediate report from the Cask Mecca that is Milton Keynes.
I’m always keen to do justice to our underrated towns, as long as they’re not Maidenhead. MK has the benefit of open spaces, canalside pubs and iconic sculpture, but the central shopping/business districts (cunningly called MK Central) remains an acquired taste, even for Mrs RM. It really is a giant surface car park.
As a new build, the area know as H5-H6:V6-V8 has to be content with a collection of virtually all the possible chain pubs, though it deserves special credit for resisting the march of the Ember menace.
Arguably, MK has had more chain pubs in the Beer Guide over the years than any comparable city, ranging from the Beefeater,
to the Slug and Lettuce ,
to this historic Wetherspoons.
I don’t know what the Harvester at the Snow Dome did wrong. Apart from being keg. But the neighbouring Spoons in Xscape has been in the Guide recently, a handy tick when you’re entertaining a party of twelve year old boys at a birthday party who don’t fancy Revolution.
For the first time in memory, MK Central lacks a pub in the 2017 Beer Guide, whether due to inconsistency of quality or management (a feature of the average chain pub).
But first I had an hour to explore the cultural highlights close to the station. Here they are.
If you work for one of the accountancy firms round here, you get fountains, fourteen different chain restaurants and FUN !
Accounting software and recruitment firms who try to glam up their horrific office jobs in Milton Keynes deserve their Banana Trees, Turtle Bays and Zen Gardens.
I didn’t expect to see suits in the Spoons at 11am, but there they were, along with a healthy number of professional drinkers and mobility scooter racers.
A queue had formed (wait till you see what I saw in Bath), the suits taking turns to order their morning pints from an unusually wide cask range.
In fact, one of the widest beer ranges in a Spoons anywhere, no doubt the reason why it’s MK CAMRA’s Pub of the Year, after a while in the doldrums. Seven craft keg taps (I counted), but of course you don’t get 50p CAMRA discount on those, something that CAMRA Discourse will surely turn its attention to once the Autovac furore dies down.
The Phipps was decent (NBSS 3), but aggressive chill gave it a bit of a haze. I chose the posing table that looked like it had seen most fun since 9am. Certainly the best use of shot glasses this year.
I got to hear snippets of conversation that sounded straight out of Management Textbooks;
“They have a culture of “them and us” we must break down”
“We’re not working as collaboratively as is necessary”
Where’s the acronyms in those ?
If the Spoons has upped its craft game since Draft House opened last year, that’s a good thing. “We’ve got a Win-Win here“, as Mr Suit would say.
Draft House lacks the coffee and shots trade of a Spoons, so noon on Thursday isn’t a great time to assess its appeal. You’re hardly going back to the office after two pints of Animal Marmalade Saison, are you ?
But a half of Burning Sky Aurora is ideal. I even got offered a choice of handle or chalice. I also got offered a taster, but I’ll let them off. The barmaid was a cheery gem, the sort of staff you want in all pubs..
A shady character came in (probably from KPMG) and mumbled “Just give me a beer“. After one of those exchanges where Draft House ask what your beer preference is, he somehow ended up with a Stiegl. And then pestered me for a lighter.
It’s not very MK, but it’s very good. All MK needs now is a micropub in the Winter Gardens, if that even exists.