Beer festivals aren’t killing pubs, Richard, it’s evil CAMRA members who do visit pubs but don’t put NBSS scores into What Pub (guilty), thereby devaluing the whole Beer Guide selection process and the promotion of quality over quantity. That and beer festivals.
I’ve just submitted my score for the Tiny Rebel Beat Box at the King’s Head in Stamford. While I like to tell you about opening hours disasters, it’s only fair to tell you when real ale is magnificent, the absolute height of the brewer’s art.
As at Hendon recently, I couldn’t fault this pint, but scoring a 4.5 rather than 5 means it won’t be discounted as the work of a madman. “A seasoned drinker will award (a 5) very rarely.”
With all respect to Hendon, Stamford is a less surprising place to find near perfection.
Even before you get to the pubs, it’s a close-to-perfect little town. I reckon the best view in Cambridgeshire is the one you get driving south down the A1, just before the A43 junction. I don’t advise stopping dead on the A1 to admire the view of the churches though.
I thought I must have been in all the Stamford pubs (even the scary estate one) over the years, but clearly not.
Perhaps the King’s Head looked a bit too smart on previous crawls/karaoke sessions in town.
But a look through the venerable 1994 CAMRA Guide suggests I missed out on a corker way back when.
What I’d give for a pub with Bass, Pedi and Flowers Original in decent form now !
Nothing wrong with Tiny Rebel, Jaipur and Black Sheep though. 3 beers would have been more than enough, but of course we’ll never get those days of minimalism back.
No-one else around mid-afternoon on a Tuesday, but at least it was open. Stamford has some of the best pub opening hours of any significant town, even though the tourists were in cafes and chocolate sellers masquerading as bookshops.
So on the face of it, a pint of Welsh beer in a Lincolnshire pub with no customers and too many beers on the bar. Not very promising.
But as you know by now, it was nectar. I actually said “Ooh, that’s gorgeous” as I took a first sip. Cellar cool, silky and providing some of the year’s best lacing.
I was joined by a lady with a large 4pm glass of Chardonnay who would not have appreciated my purring over lacing, or the hooks on the bar to hang your GBG. It felt an adult drinking house, cosy and sophisticated but not posh, a bit of a gem.
Now Tiny Rebel clearly make excellent beers, their bars in Newport and Cardiff proved that, but I’ve had dull samples too, often in rural pubs with far too many pumps.
So give the credit to the licensee at the King’s Head, for providing superb ale, a top soundtrack (King Creosote) and we’ll excuse the scatter cushions.
And if that’s not enough, there’s a Sam Smiths round the corner…