BEDFORD – BUNYAN, BREWHOUSE & KITCHEN

 

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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*.

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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.

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Only Bunyan provides a touch of class, sneering at the offerings at Bedford “Rugby” club.

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I can, at least, vouch that you’ll get a better pint in the Brewhouse.

IMG_20170907_122353.jpgBedford’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.

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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.

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They leave me a bit cold, mainly because they all look the same. From Islington to Sutton Coldfield to Bedford. These photos could have been taken in Bristol last month and you’d be none the wiser.

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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.

27 thoughts on “BEDFORD – BUNYAN, BREWHOUSE & KITCHEN

  1. I had a suspicion that all the B&K brews were the same, just with different names in the various branches. Having compared Bedford with the one I visited recently in Dorchester, there does seem to be quite a variation in styles. It’s possibly worth some internet research (all the brews are on there under the respective branch). It’s possible they just swap them around and then it’s equally possible they encourage a little local character to develop? Which would be nice. If you read my account https://beerleeds.co.uk/2017/09/09/brewhouse-and-kitchen-dorchester/ you’ll see I quite liked the American IPA which I would have been quite happy to drink all day. The English Pale Ale on the other hand was a bit meh!

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      1. I’m wondering where the proposed Leeds opening will fit in? It’s certainly not ‘Tapped’ in style, range or quality (their in house brews are looking good now Dave Sanders is brewing for them). It certainly won’t get the ‘North Bar’ types neither. Mind you, will they go for the centre or somewhere like Headingley, Horsforth, Meanwood, Chapel A?

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      2. You know what I mean by that, don’t you. An enamel wall with keg taps selling Asahi, a fizzy cider, Amstel and (possibly) Gamma Ray, as many people associate a back wall of taps with “craft”, whatever craft is (CAMRA working group reporting back in 2025).

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  2. Loving the Whatpub map variants! I agree that the beer quality varies in B&Ks. Sometimes their lower gravity beers in particular can be quite bland. I presume they operate as, or similar to, franchises and that their brewers will often be at relatively early stages of their careers. They seem to be popular, based on numbers of people seen on my visits, and the brisk expansion of the chain. Are they the modern equivalent of the Firkins?

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    1. It’s amazing how dangerous you can be when a 16 year old shows you the Snipping Tool !

      I was going to mention Firkins, it’s a good call. Weren’t Firkins quite cheap or am I dreaming.

      As you say, the higher ABV beers are often quite good. A 6% IPA in Islington was superb.

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      1. I was thinkiing Firkin when I visited the Bristol one last year; a bit more foody, but that might just be the fact they’re a 21st century equivalent, I’d have thought. Will they be stepping stones for a future generation of independent brewers (and their kit)?

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      2. Quite correct. You can have the one which will brew Bass, and you can then travel the country dropping off a cask to each GBG pub, every year. This will come along with their annual jug, which they can then use to serve you a pint.

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    1. Just reading a magazine piece bemoaning the loss of Cardiff (Brains) locals in which the author then tells us they stopped going to them because the new Spoons has a wider choice of beers. Do what you like but don’t moan about the consequences !

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