MITRE – SHAFTESBURY

Mitre
High Street
Shaftesbury
SP7 8JE

FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 9 AUGUST 2014

We decided to end a week in Dorset by visiting Shaftesbury and paying homage to the scene of Ridley Scott’s finest moment. And we arrived pretty much bang on lunch time so it would’ve been rude not stay for a pint or two and a bite to eat.

The Mitre is an impressive looking building that sits proudly on Shaftesbury’s High Street. I’d guess it was built sometime in the 70s. The 1870s. But is possibly a year or two older. Inside there is the air of recent revamp but it’s been done sensitively and retains a good sense of its past. The bar was home to three cask pumps but one was out of action leaving folk with the choice of Young’s Bitter or Special. Interesting keg choices were Young’s London Stout and the Wells & Dogfish Head collaboration DNA IPA. As most beer geeks will be aware DNA IPA is the most maligned beer of 2014. Back in November 2013 I had a cask pint of it at the Red Lion in Cricklade. It was dull but not unpleasant. I wasn’t even aware that it was now available on keg and assumed that all the abuse was aimed at a new batch of cask beer. But despite the abusive grandstanding I would’ve happily ordered a pint of it but sadly the tap had a DNA IPA branded glass placed over the top of it signalling that it wasn’t for sale. Instead I went for a pint of Young’s Special. Young’s is one of the breweries that I tend to avoid, which is daft. Every time I have a pint of Young’s I can’t help thinking that they are surprisingly tasty and well constructed beers. And the landlords of Young’s pubs seems to know how to look after cask beer. We took a seat outside on the multi-levelled wooden balcony garden, which commands a grand view over the Blackmore Vale. Food wise I decided to go for the Mitre’s take on the Ploughman’s: three mini pork pies, a huge chunk of mature cheddar, two large slices of beautifully juicy ham, two toasted baguettes, an apple and a generous serving of piccalilli – very very tasty. For desert I ordered a pint of the London Stout. It’s served in its very own poking fun at the hipsters themed glass. It’s a good keg stout with a lot more about it than the likes of Guinness and Murphy’s. The next time I find myself in a Young’s pub I must remember that the London Stout is a perfectly agreeable pint. And so is their cask beer.

Mitre Shafsbury

MARTYRS INN – TOLPUDDLE

Martyrs Arms
Main Road
Tolpuddle
DT2 7ES

FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 8 AUGUST 2014

After visiting the Martyrs Museum and the Martyrs Tree then next logical step was a pint at the Martyrs Inn.

The Martyrs Inn is a slick place. Its the kind of establishment you could take your gran when you are trying to prove to her that you’ve achieved more with your life than you actually have. Three cask beers were available: all from Badger – Tanglefoot, First Call (previously known as First Gold) and Brewer’s Bee. I know the other two and I’m not really a fan so I ordered a pint of Brewer’s Bee, even though the name suggested it would be brewed with honey and I’ve yet to find a honey beer that is much use. Yup, Brewer’s Bee contains honey. It tastes like a standard Golden Ale but with a strong lick of honey in the finish. Thankfully, the honey wasn’t as overpowering as some brewers make it but it’s still not a beer I want to drink again. The staff were friendly and efficient and well presented. The food menu looked like it was designed by the same team who design menus for Wetherspoons – both in style and content – but the prices were obviously created by someone who feels they are more worthy than Spoons. The food prices all seemed a few quid more than I’d want to pay. The £7.80 I paid for the drinks – one pint of beer, one pint of lemonade, one half of lime & soda – seemed high compared to other places I’ve visited in Dorset. We sat on the front patio and used the free Wifi. When our glasses were empty we headed to Dorchester in search of better beer and a better deal.

Tolpuddle

ROYAL STANDARD – UPWEY

Royal Standard
Dorchester Road
Upwey
DT3 5LA

FIRST VISIT: THURSDAY 8 AUGUST 2014

The Royal Standard brews its own beer, which is primarily why I wanted to visit the place. When I arrived I was greeted by the sight of four handpulls: Beach Blonde by Sunny Republic, Stargazer by Yeovil, Dartmoor by St Austell, the fourth was clipless. I ordered a pint of the Sunny Republic. It’s a beer I’ve had before and found to be reasonably decent and much much better than their weird veggie tasting Hop Dog. I asked if food was being served and was handed some menus and given a run through of the specials. The inside of the Royal Standard is nice – clean and tidy, old but not neglected looking. A very pleasant local. We took our beers outside to the patio area. Once we’d decided what we wanted to eat – a burger, gammon & chips and venison chili – I went back inside to place that order and score another pint. I asked the landlord if he had any of their own beer (DT Ales) on as I hoped there might be a gravity barrel lurking somewhere but unfortunately they were DT-less. I decided to go for a pint of the Star Gazer purely because it had a slightly higher ABV than the St Austell – 4 v 3.5%. It was a decently constructed pint and it went down fine. While I was at the bar the landlord told me that he recently got a craft beer tap installed. The first beer on it was Butcombe’s Brunel Atlantic IPA. I felt there were countless better beers and breweries to start off his craft tap but I felt it would be rude to say so. The landlord undoubtedly knows his customers way better than I ever will and it seems unlikely that a keg of Kernel London Sour would be a sensible introduction. I’m not a huge fan of Butcombe but as the landlord had taken the time to point it out to me and give a brief and balanced outline of the differences between cask and keg I felt I should order a pint when the Stargazer was finished. It was pleasant enough. I wouldn’t be upset if I couldn’t ever drink it again but should we ever cross paths in the future I certainly won’t be beating it off with a shitty stick.

The Royal Standard is a nice little boozer and if you are visiting the Jurassic Coast it is certainly worth popping in for a beer or three and, if you are hungry, a bit to eat. Hopefully, you’ll be lucky enough to sample their own beer.

SWAN – WEYMOUTH

Swan
St Thomas Street
Weymouth
DT4 8EH

SECOND VISIT: THURSDAY 7 AUGUST 2014

Adventure golf is thirsty work and especially so when you emerge victorious. Admittedly I was only victorious thanks to a single shot and I was a disappointing seven over par but I was still the Champion. Although, arguably, my girlfriend was the true Champion as she got a hole in one at the 19th hole and therefore gets her next game for free.

Today, once again, the majority of the Swan’s clientele were elderly people but this time it was mostly couples tucking into plates of deep fried food. Perhaps Thursday afternoons at the Swan is OAP Date Afternoon. The Modo’s Midden has been replaced by a beer that I’ve forgotten and didn’t think was interesting enough to buy. I went for a can of Bengali Tiger. When I was paying my girlfriend plonked a straw in my glass. I decided I may as will sup my beer through the straw – an IPA Day treat.

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FIRST VISIT: MONDAY 4 AUGUST 2014

If you are one of those folk, like me, who primarily use Twitter to chat about beer I’m sure that you’ll be aware that Spoons have come in for a bit of stick (and defence) over the last few days. It was effectively started when Matt Curtis released THIS blog post and was then advanced when Boak & Bailey composed THIS follow up. As is often the case when someone unleashes a blog post that is mildly controversial, loads of folk decided to wade in with comments . Some folk contributed to the discussion in a positive manner, some just used it as an excuse to fling some thinly veiled insults. But without those blog posts and follow-up rage and fury I very probably wouldn’t have visited a Spoons today.

The Swan is very similar to the majority of Spoons: old fashioned country pub but without the old fashioned country tat. There were quite a few cask handpulls – at least eight – but the majority of them housed boring stuff from the GK stable, Doom brain – only one of them had something that slightly piqued my interest. Sadly, there was no sign of John Kimmich or his beer. I ordered the one beer that had slightly piqued my interest: Modo’s Midden by Brecon – it’s one of a number of beers brewed in honour of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books and characters. One of things I love about Spoons is the fact that they do Contactless Payments. Contactless makes you feel like you actually do live in the 21st century. It makes so much more sense than handing over a grubby bit of paper and then keeping your hand held out so someone can drop bits of metal into it. The future is now. The future is Spoons! I’ve never read any Pratchett books – although I did once borrow Mort from the library – but I can only assume, and hope, that he delivers far more than Modo’s Midden does. It wasn’t an especially bad beer, just pretty much a nothing beer.

The majority of the Swan’s clientele were elderly gentlemen who looked like their finest days were behind them but they also looked like they didn’t care if their finest days were behind them as long as they had a pint of Abbot in their hand. There were a smattering of folk whose facial expressions and clothing choices suggested that they may still have their best days ahead of them. There were no children – I don’t know if that is a policy of this Spoons.

Modo’s Midden had been vanquished. It was time to order food. I was tempted to go for a burger. Spoons burgers are decent enough. Not up there in the realms of Byron but way better than the Tesco Value shite that some detractors like to claim. I decided to go for a Philly Steak Sandwich: slices of steak, caramelised onions and montjack cheese. As with the burgers it comes with a free drink. Time for a can of Sixpoint. Despite the POS material still being in full affect the Sixpoint stock was pitifully low. I’ve been in Spoons where they’ve had an entire fridge dedicated to craft cans and most have at least a full shelf of Sixpoint. The Swan only had a couple of rows in a fridge that was proudly displaying pristine and welcoming bottles of Punk and Goose Island and Brooklyn Lager. I could only see cans of The Crisp but thankfully there were still a couple of Bengali Tigers lurking at the back. And it was served in the specially commissioned craft glasses, which is something that hasn’t always happened during recent visits to other Spoons. Sadly, the steak sandwich was a bit of a letdown. Fortunately, the Bengali was a good as ever.

With the food and beer despatched I departed. As I left I heard a group of elderly gentleman discussing how different their lives would be if John Kimmich had never existed. I might have misheard. They might have just been chatting about the weather.

GIANT INN – CERNE ABBAS

Giant Inn
Long Street
Cerne Abbas
DT2 7JF

This seems to be the local pub of Cerne Abbas. But not in a dodgy way. No threats were made on my life while I was here. Everybody in the Giant seemed to know everybody else but they were still happy to give a greeting and a smile to strangers. The New Inn down the road looks like it has some major work done in recent years but the Giant looks like it hasn’t bothered doing anything cosmetic for many a year. It used to be called the Red Lion, as can be ascertained from the reasonably ornate exterior. It is Cerne Abbas’ only freehouse. The New Inn is tied to Palmers. The pub directly opposite, the Royal oak, is a badger pub but it closed in mid July and doesn’t look like it has any plans to reopen.

The bar was home to four handpulls but only two were in action. One housed Doom Bar and the other played host to Lyme Gold from Town Mill who are based in (Viva) Lyme Regis. Naturally, I ordered the Lyme Gold. It was good and in perfect condition but I couldn’t help hankering after just a little bit more. I didn’t really fancy a second pint of Gold and I sure as hell didn’t want a Doom Bar or any of the mass market keg so I headed back outside.

If I lived in Cerne I’d imagine I’d spend a fair bit of time in the Giant drinking beer, shooting pool and chucking things at skittles. It’s good to be local.

Giant Inn

NEW INN – CERNE ABBAS

New Inn
Long Street
Cerne Abbas
DT2 7JF

FIRST VISIT: WEDNESDAY 6 AUGUST 2014

This place feels new. The building is obviously old but I get the impression that the pub has recently gone a major refit. And very probably a refit that was undertaken after the place had remained dormant for a number of years. It’s nice. Perhaps a little too nice. I’d imagine it is the eating and dining – guinea fowl is on the menu – venue of choice for the upper middle class of Cerne Abbas. Yeah, it’s nice place but it’s sure as hell not the kind of place you’d feel overly comfortable getting totally trashed while sitting at the bar. I’d imagine that after you’d sank three pints in 20 minutes the staff (and patrons) would be looking at you nervously and they’d ask you if you’d like to view the tapas menu. I like tapas. The beers are supplied by Palmers. Yeah, they know how to brew a good beer but all their offerings are much of muchness. They need a crazy hoppy beast or a reasonably high ABV stout in their arsenal. I ordered a pint of Summer Ale (3.9%). It was pleasant enough. I could tell it was an expertly created brew but I couldn’t help wanting something with a little more pizzaz!

In truth I can’t really fault the New Inn but ultimately it isn’t my kind of place. Oh! It does have free wifi (that you don’t even have to give your email address to), which in a corner of the world where 3G can be extremely flaky is almost worthy of a second pint.

BANKES ARMS – STUDLAND

Bankes Arms
Manor Road
Studland
BH19 3AU

FIRST VISIT: TUESDAY 5 AUGUST 2014

A reconnaissance mission to scope out the location of the Bankes Arms Beer Festival, which oddly enough takes place at the Bankes Arms. It’s a straightforward enough place to find. But it is along roads that are often travelled and clogged up by sightseers, especially those keen to gaze upon the impressive ruin of Castle Grayskull… um, I mean Corfe Castle. And when you get there the only place to park is a council carpark that charges £.150 an hour.

The pub itself is a fine old building with an impressive view out over Poole Bay. As soon as I stepped inside I was greeted with the greasy odour of deep fat fryers in full fat frying action. Lots of folk were tucking into hearty plates of grub, which I must admit looked pretty tasty.
The bar was sizeable and home to nine handpulls: two were out of action; one housed Deer Stalker from Wiltshire brewery Ramsbury, which I don’t even drink when at home; the final five contained Isle of Purbeck beers, the owners of the Bankes Arms. I was disappointed by the selection but I suppose as the beer festival is only a couple of days away they’d want to save the most exciting guest beers for Thursday‘s Festival opening. I wouldn’t go as far to say they staff were unpleasant but they seemed slightly harangued and harassed and certainly wouldn’t win any ’Most Welcoming Staff’ award. The guy who came out of the kitchen with a huge tray of food and repeatedly shouted a table number until someone claimed their meal was particularly annoying. I ordered a pint of Purbeck’s American Pale – it’s a beer I’ve had a couple of times before and found to be quite decent. All indoors table were fully occupied so I went outside to gaze upon the bay. It was a touch too windy for outside drinking but you can’t blame the pub for that. The festival marquee was in the process of being set up. There was a load of beer casks and associated items sitting on the ground and the sound of banging suggested that the bar itself was still under construction. To my untrained eye I wouldn’t think they’d be ready for opening at 11am on Thursday but I’m sure they know what they are doing and everything will be completed before the first punter turns up. When my pint of APA, which didn’t taste as good as I remembered, was finished I didn’t have any desire to re-enter the pub. I’m not even sure I can be arsed coming back for the festival.

Purbeck Van

BADGER TAP ROOM – BLANDFORD ST. MARY

Badger Tap Room
Hall & Woodhouse
Blandford St. Mary
DT11 9LS

FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 2 AUGUST 2014

The reason for stopping of at Blandford was to pick-up a case of Roaring Roy Dog. In 2012 Badger released a limited edition one-off brew called Wandering Woodwose – it was one of my favourite beers of the year. Roaring Roy Dog was the 2013 follow-up and, although I didn’t know until I arrived at the brewery, 2014 also has limited edition beer – Shapwick Monster. As we pulled into the carpark I noticed there was a couple of folk sitting at a picnic bench drinking a beer. On previous visits there was no opportunity to buy a pint. You could buy bottles and merch to take home and you could go on a brewery tour but you couldn’t buy a pint to sup in the sun. I entered the building and gingerly followed the signs for the bar and restaurant. I made my way downstairs to the basement. Nobody came running after me to ask what I was up to. I approached the bar and ordered a pint of Hopeful Hop and even as I did I expected someone to say that pints were only for people who had paid for the tour. My pint was poured with a smile and the price of it and a can of soda pop was only £3.20, which made me smile. Hopeful Hop is a single hop beer. I don’t know what hop it is but if you can be arsed looking I’m sure then internet will tell you the answer. It was okay.

The restaurant and bar space is actually quite pleasant. Despite effectively being a basement it is still bright and airy. One corner has leather couches and low tables – the place to gouge out if you only fancy a beer or six. The rest of the space is given over to (posh) refractory style tables. The menu looked quite decent. But nobody was eating so I couldn’t see how the food appears when it is served. There’s a display case which houses ancient and unopened bottles of Badger, which was greatly appreciated by the beer geek in me. I popped to the gents. It was clean and fresh smelling and very modern looking. There was a couple of signs stating how important good hand hygiene is and there was a seven point plan detailing how to clean your hands properly. I assume these are the same signs that are in the toilets of the actual brewery as it seemed slightly over the top for someone just popping in for a Ploughmans. My lass and bladder was empty so I headed back upstairs to purchase a case of the Dog and a case of the Monster.

This was a far more interesting visit than I expected it to be.

SIXPENNY TAP – SIXPENNY HANDLEY

Sixpenny Tap
Waylands Sixpenny Brewery
Dairy Building
Manor farm
Sixpenny Handley
SP5 5NU

SECOND VISIT: 2 AUGUST 2014

We were heading down to Weymouth so the Sixpenny Tap seemed like the logical place to pick up some supplies.

I arrived just after a group who were there for a tour. As much as I love beer I find brewery tours rather dull… until you get to the end and get to sample the beer. As I waited for the blokes in front of me to score their pre-tour libations I perused the merch cabinet. There was a decent array of stock in there: t-shirts, baseball caps, glasses, earthenware beer mugs and a shopping bag. The shopping bag made me think of Melissa Cole. Well, the shopping bag didn’t but the piece of card sitting on top of it onto which was written the words ‘For the wife’ did. She’d love it. Not.

As with my previous visit I started with a pint of IPA. The barman wasn’t sure if the IPA was on but a quick shout into the back room (probably the brewery itself) revealed that it was. It poured a little flat looking but felt and tasted just fine. We sat outside and soaked in the surroundings. I noticed a few admonishing signs dotted around the place: One stated that credit or bar taps were not available; one said that drinking up time was 20 minutes after last orders; one said takeaway beer was not for consumption on the premises, breaking this rule would lead to you being asked to leave and not return. I hadn’t noticed those signs on my previous visit so I assumed that some ignorant visitors had lead to there creation, which is a shame. When I scooped the last of the IPA I returned to the bar and got a half of Rushmore Gold – pleasant enough in low ABV summer drinking kind of way – and a two pint takeaway of the IPA.

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FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 29 MARCH 2014

If you are cruising down (or up) the A354, which runs from Salisbury to Weymouth, and you fancy a pit-stop, a detour into Sixpenny Handley might be just the ticket.

The Sixpenny Tap is the most micro of microbars – there’s not even enough room to swing a key keg. But it is a fully formed pub – there’s a proper bar that houses 4 hand pulls and there’s even a few places for folk to plonk there arse. It’s a quaintly impressive little place.

I ordered a pint of their IPA (5.2%) – it’s the only Sixpenny beer I’d encountered before arriving at their base of operations. It’s not as hop forward as the majority of IPAs are these days but it has a beautifully clean tasting and has a lovely bitterness that lingers and lingers and lingers, but welcomingly so. Although I could’ve squeezed myself onto the indoors bench I decided to go outside. It seemed a bit local inside. Not bad, dodgy, stab you local. Local in the sense that everyone seemed to know each other and a stranger would make them feel uncomfortable bad mouthing that family who have recently moved to the village from a big city. But there’s plenty of covered space outside so even if it’s tipping it down, which it wasn’t, it’s not great disaster having to go outside. When the IPA was dead I returned to the bar and ordered a couple of halves: a Jack – brewed for a local radio station – and a 6d. Both were perfectly palatable but not at the same level as the IPA. The place was certainly doing a brisk trade. Some folk, like myself, were hanging around to sample the wares but even more were popping in to score some takeaway beer. It seems to be a bit of a community asset. I returned my glasses to the bar and bought a couple of pints of IPA to go.

Sixpenny