NINTH VISIT: THURSDAY 18 DECEMBER 2014
I was a little bit surprised by the number of people in the pub. It wasn’t exactly rammed but it was doing a reasonably brisk trade for 5.30 on a stormy Sunday evening. A group of men were congregated by the table the door. They seemed a little downbeat. It later emerged that one of them was leaving. I’m not sure if he was heading off to war or just moving away but it was obvious that the other folk didn’t expect to see him again anytime soon and they were very sad to him go. I was the only person in the pub who didn’t say goodbye to him. I’m a total outsider. Anyway I had a pint of Entire Stout than headed back into the storm to go catch a bus home.
EIGHTH VISIT: FRIDAY 12 DECEMBER 2014
It was the night of the work’s Xmas Do. I didn’t see the point of heading across to West Swindon to get changed to then head back across to town so I headed straight from work to the pub. The pub was busy. As it should be on a Friday night in December. I secured a pint of Entire Stout then secured my favourite table. I was halfway through the pint when someone asked if they could sit at my table. I’m a nice guy so I said ‘of course’. The guy sat down and began tapping away it his phone and every tap was accompanied by a beep. WTF! You ask to join someone’s table then you invade their solitude with beepbeepfuckingbeep. Not classy. Fortunately he only stayed for a couple of pints then he phoned someone and told them to come and pick him up.
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SEVENTH VISIT: SATURDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2014
I’d spent most of the afternoon in the Beehive with a mate. Then I’d done a bit of shopping in town. Then I decided it would be daft not to visit the Glue Pot for a pint of Entire Stout. Most tables were occupied but I managed to secure my space of choice. Someone over in the opposite corner was boasting that he was the current pub chess champion. Everyone with him looked a bit embarrassed. Apparently, he had defeated the true pub chess champion when the true champion had been absolutely trashed and since then the ‘current’ champion had refused to play the previous champion. I once beat a mate at chess then refused to play him again. I don’t think our relationship ever truly recovered. When my pint was finished I fancied another, as is often the way. When my second pint was finished I fancied another, as is often the way, but the place was too noisy so I headed home.
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SIXTH VISIT: SATURDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2014
I had an hour to kill in town and it doesn’t take an hour to buy some bike brake blocks so I popped into the Glue Pot in the hope they’d have Entire Stout on. Doors had been open for 15 minutes but on stepping inside I discovered I was the only customer on the premises. Entire Stout was on so that’s what I ordered. I took a seat at my preferred booth then banged the table leg and spilt about a tenth of the pint. I looked back over towards the bar but on noticing that the staff hadn’t clocked my indiscretion I soaked up the offending ale with a couple of beer mats. The pub stereo was playing what I do believe was the Song Remains The Same version of Dazed & Confused. The barmaid went through the door that leads to the corridor that leads to the Gents and returned with a little set of stepladders. She placed them beside the tasting notes board then clambered up. After she’d neatly written the name of the next beer to arrive the manager told her what to write as a description. When he said straw coloured I decided it was time to leave.
The shop I’d planned to buy my bike brake blocks from was shut. Not just shut but completely closed down. From the state of the window and the faded and neglected sign above the door I think it has probably been closed down for quite a few years. Oh well. I had a quick look in Waterstones but still had twenty minutes to kill so I returned to the Glue Pot for another pint of Entire Stout. This time there were other customers present but no Led Zep on the stereo.
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FIFTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 8 OCTOBER 2014
After a couple of pints of Devils Backbone IPA and a couple of cans of Bengali Tiger I was already experiencing a nice little beer buzz but it felt like it could do with an upgrade.
Before I hit the bar I’d noticed that Entire Stout was on – sorted – but out of courtesy I had cursory glance at the clips on the other seven handles. Five of the cask beers were by Hop Back and the other three were from Downton. Hmmm… there was a Hop Back beer called Hopfest. I didn’t think it would live up to its name but I had to give it a go. Yup, as I suspected, Hopfest failed to live up to its name.
The place was quite. Only myself, the bartender, the manager and three other drinkers were present. The bartender was having a conversation with one of the punters about the forthcoming Swindon Beer Fest. Apparently, they both go every year but only drink cider. Another guy joined in and said that he collected the Beer Fest glasses but he was missing a couple to complete his set. The bartender said she had a few doubles and would help him out if she could. The guy then announced that he doesn’t actually go to the Fest, he just collects the glasses. The look on bartender’s face suggested that her offer of help had just been withdrawn.
Anyway, I had three pints of Entire Stout then left.
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FOURTH VISIT: THURSDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 2014
I just scored the new New Model Army album from an actual shop – an actual shop made of concrete and metal and glass, an actual shop where someone was standing behind a counter and took my money and placed my purchase in a little carrier bag – what crazy times we occupy! I felt such an occasion warranted a celebratory pint or two, Admittedly, if I hadn’t managed to score the new New Model Army, which was the reason for venturing into town, I would’ve had to drown my sorrows with a pint of two.
I sat on a wall just round the corner until a couple of minutes after opening time – I don’t want to look too desperate – but I was still the first person through the doors. Six of the eight beers were from pub owners, Hop Back. The two guests were from Downton and St Austell. I decided to start with a pint of the Hop Back Mosaic. I’ve had a few beers that are brewed entirely with Mosaic hops and they have all been pretty fine – the ones from Arbor and Kernel are especially good examples. Sadly, the Hop Back version wasn’t up there with the best. There was nothing particularly wrong with it. It just lacked that little extra something that magician brewers coax and cajole into their beverages. Between gulps of Mosaic I wondered if anybody goes to a pub where there are eight different cask beers but decides to order a pint of St Austell Trelawney. My unspoken question was instantly answered when the barmaid apologised to the three men looking at the beer board then popped a ‘Just missed’ sign next to the listing for Trelawney. Much madness.
Even though I was pretty certain that it was going to be a disappointment I decided to buy a pint of Downton’s German Pale Ale. Brewed with four ‘different’ German hops! Like the Mosaic before it there wasn’t anything wrong with the GPA but it lacked that secret ingredient that lifts a beer into the upper echelons. I suppose you can’t be disappointed when you know something is going to be a disappointment but, yeah, it was disappointing.
There was no Entire Stout so I decided to leave and go to the supermarket to buy a 4-pack of McEwan’s Export then go home and listen to the new New Model Army album…
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THIRD VISIT: FRIDAY 1 AUGUST 2014
For a Friday evening the place wasn’t exactly doing a brisk trade but it was busy enough that the only available seating was outside, so that’s where I sat. But before sitting outside I ordered a pint of Downton’s Route 66. As the name suggests it is brewed with American hops – don’t know what ones – but as the name doesn’t suggest it is an English Bitter. It was alright but I doubt I’ll bother drinking it again. I popped back to the bar for a pint of Entire Stout, which was fundamentally the reason I’d headed to the Glue Pot. As I sat outside and gazed at the architecture of the Railway Village a realisation dawned on me: It sure as fuck ain’t the best place on the planet but I do actually quite like living in Swindon. With that thought sitting happily in my head I knocked back the last of the stout and left. I was tempted to have another pint but I was starting to feel a little drunk and had a holiday bag to pack when I got home.
At the bus stop I met a woman who announced, without any prior introduction or explanation, that she was ‘going to kill her’. A couple of minutes later I’d discovered that ‘her’ had stolen the bus stop woman’s man. Another couple of minutes later I’d discovered that the bus stop woman had actually dumped her man 6 months ago because he was a drunk and a loser. I didn’t really want to speak to the bus stop woman but I felt I had to ask: No, ‘her’ hadn’t been seeing bus stop woman’s ex for long, in fact she’d only tried to pull him that very evening and hadn’t even been successful. But ‘she still knows he’s my man so I’m going to kill her’. I got the impression that ‘kill her’ meant nothing more than shout at her loudly in the street and maybe throw a packet of crisps at her. Ah, Swindon, I do love you and the crazy folk that you are home to.
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SECOND VISIT: THURSDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2014
I’d scanned the taps of two Spoons but only found boring shite so I traipsed off to the Glue Pot safe in the knowledge that at the very least I’d be able to down a pint or two of Entire Stout. It was a pleasant surprise to be greeted with a pump clip for Saltaire’s Cascade Pale Ale. Saltaire never used to appear in Swindon but over the last few months I’ve seen them crop up in at least three of the town’s pubs. I ordered a pint and took up residence at the post table. The Cascade was on good form. Very good form. Such good form that the rain stopped and sun started shining. I went back for a second and decided to pair it with a Glue Pot Brunch – sausages, bacon, fried eggs, mushrooms, HP beans and chips (made from real potatoes!) £9.40 for the two. Bargain.
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FIRST VISIT: THURSDAY 30 JANUARY 2014
Once upon a time the Glue Pot was owned by Archer’s (who brewed less than a mile away) but nowadays it is part of the Hop Back stable. It’s a small place: six tables/booths line the perimeter and an additional table has been fashioned around a post that is situated near the centre of the room. There are a few tables outside for when the sun is shining or you need a nicotine hit. The place has a weird almost timeless feel. It doesn’t look like it has had a makeover since the early 80s but it also doesn’t appear rundown or neglected. Simple and understated. A place you can concentrate on beer and chat. The walls play host to framed certificates proclaiming the success of Hop Back beers at CAMRA festivals up and down the country. A big board lists the guest beers (Current, Coming Next and Just Missed) and provides brief tasting notes. There are eight cask lines: four or five of them are reserved for Hop Back beers; a further one or two for fellow Salisbury brewers Downton; the final one or two are for other brewers such as White Horse, Gundog and Dancing Duck. Those who need a lager fix can choose between Staropramen and Holsten, which always makes me smile. The fridge contains Duvel, Leffe Blonde and Chimay Bleue & Blanche. The man behind the bar is more often than not the landlord. I find him to be friendly without actually being friendly but I have heard he’s thrown people out for suggesting his beer isn’t in good condition. I’ve only ever had beer in good condition when I’ve been in the Glue Pot.
I was sitting across the road in a Spoons wondering if the man staring at me was staring at me because I was staring it him or if he was planning to steal my bag when I had a hankering for a pint of Entire Stout. I like Entire Stout – it is very possibly the best sub 5% everyday drinking stout in the UK. Spoons didn’t have any Entire Stout so I decamped to the Glue Pot. Thankfully it was on. I ordered my pint and took a seat at one of the table/booths by the top window – the tables down the side always seem a bit ‘local’ for my liking. My pint of stout was as good as always. Good enough for second. Except I didn’t have a second. At the last second I changed my mind and ordered a pint of Hop Back’s Red Ember, which is brewed with coriander and ginger. It was okay. It was better than I remembered it being. But I should’ve had a second Entire Stout. Live and learn.