One of the big talking points about the new Beer Guide will no doubt be the growth in brand new pubs, and whether this points to a pub renaissance or a blip on the downward spiral. I’ve no doubt the continued expansion of the family dining estate (Marston’s particularly) will go unremarked, and it will be the tiny contribution of micro pubs that is poured over in the press.
No-one who travels the country in search of “recommended pubs” can fail to have noticed the emergence of Brewhouse & Kitchen. I traipsed to Bedford on Thursday lunchtime to explore the phenomenon*.
A walk along Goldington Road into town confirms the dominance of the Toby Carvery, Hungry Horse and Meet & Eat to the east of town. Cask Marque, mark you.
Only Bunyan provides a touch of class, sneering at the offerings at Bedford “Rugby” club.
I can, at least, vouch that you’ll get a better pint in the Brewhouse.
Bedford’s B &K certainly brightens up St Peter’s Street on a glum weekday, and was remarkably busy for a town-centre pub on a lunchtime in 2017 (given they don’t do 2-for1 lunch deals). By that I mean there were six blokes in there. It was busier in Poppins, which had the benefit of the mobility scooter market.
I know many folk will be impressed by the “shiny shiny” of brewing vessels, multiple handpumps with luggage tags dangling off them, and a craft board straight out of Greene King’s recent attempts.
And the beer is highly variable across the chain. Undrinkable in Sutton, meh ! in Portsmouth, good here. Their Banker’s Draft was still distinctly home-brew, but cool and chewy and well presented (NBSS 3.5). Ember Inn with their own beer, perhaps.
On the other hand, no beer mats and posing table hell. A couple of loners and group of blokes meeting up for a liquid lunch and asking for “something hoppy” made up the custom; Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold” the musical accompaniment.
They’re here to stay, you know, and Duncan and Simon and I better save up our pennies for their overpriced homebrew. I really ought to bite the bullet and see one on a Saturday night; I imagine it’s the new T.F.I. Fridays.
*I didn’t really. I went to Bedford for a giant samosa from the market.