SANDFORD PARK ALEHOUSE – CHELTENHAM

Sandford Park Alehouse
High Street
Cheltenham
GL50 1DZ

FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2014

I’d long heard tales of how great the Sandford Park Alehouse is so it was nice to finally make it’s acquaintance.

From the outside it looks like someone’s house – a nice old house but a house nonetheless. Inside it’s a spacious multi-room affair with an equally spacious garden out back. When I approached the bar I thought the place was cask only as I failed to notice any keg taps. But that wasn’t a problem as they had Oakham Citra. The place was packed full of older well-to-do folk and younger guys in suits (it would appear that young men in Cheltenham like to get dressed up when they go out on a Saturday night – I didn’t know that was still a thing) so we had either had to stand or take a seat outside. We took a seat outside. From my seat I noticed all the keg taps lined up against the back wall. Doh! But hey! It was no real disaster as a pint of Oakham Citra is always an enjoyable experience. When my pint was dead I popped back inside to sample something from the keg line-up. I very nearly almost ordered an Ultimate Stout from Bristol Beer Factory but I at the last moment I decided to go for a Southville Hop – one of the very beers to be created in the UK (and beyond). It was getting cold outside and there sit wasn’t any seats available inside but I fancied another beer regardless. This time I decided to go for a bottle. The previous two beers had been long-time favourites so I decided to stick with that theme. I ordered a bottle of Rochefort 10. The barman (possibly the owner) gave me a look then place the bottle and a standard half pint glass on the beer. I couldn’t see any Rochefort glasses but there were plenty of far more suitable glasses available. I didn’t feel in the mood to complain so I paid my £6.00 and took my beer and its highly unsuitable glass outside. Too add to my discontent some dodgy looking characters had took up residence at the table beside mine. One of them was so trashed that he was falling asleep (been there!) and the other two were joyously recalling the days when the Sandford used to be a Working Mans Club (there are still loads of them in Cheltenham). I gulped the Rochefort down far quicker than a beer of such stature deserves then left.

Despite the fact that the visit was slightly sullied by the fact that the barman must have though I looked like a glass thief I will happily return to the Sandford. I might even keep returning until the I get the chance to steal a Rochefort glass.

FAVOURITE BEERS – CHELTENHAM

Favourite Beers
Hewlett Road
Cheltenham
GL52 6BB

FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2014

Favourite Beers is a beer shop. It is an excellent beer shop. It stocks more than 500 different beers and those beers come from the UK, Europe and beyond. It also stocks and impressive array of cider and perry. CAMRA members get 10% discount if they pay buy cash and 5% it they choose to use plastic. Recently it’s started selling a couple of draught beers that can be consumed on the premises or taken home. You can also drink of the bottled beers while you are in the shop. The beers on tap today were Vedett Extra Ordinary IPA [6%] and Palm Sauvin (4.6%) – both were £2.50 per half. I opted for the IPA. It was good. Not extraordinary. But way better than I was expecting it to be. It helped with the browsing.

My takeaway list: Æther Blæc, Beer Geek Breakfast, Hercule Stout, Milk Stout Nitro, Old Rasputin, Sadako.

REGAL – GLOUCESTER

Regal
St Aldate Street
Gloucester
GL1 1RP

FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 18 OCTOBER 2014

We were in Gloucester for a bit of cinema tourism. The Equalizer had departed Swindon cinemas before we managed to get it together so we decided to pop up to Gloucester to see it there (and have a general mooch about town). The film was great, especially the scene in the DIY store which was like an episode of the A-Team but with actual fatalities. But with movie out of the way our thoughts turned to food. As is often the case when I’m in Gloucester I was tempted to give Chimichangas a go but as is always the case when I’m tempted to give Chimichangas a go I discover that the place deserted and I immediately change my mind. We wandered through the docks…

SALUTATION INN – HAM

Salutation Inn
Ham
Berkeley
GL13 9QH

FIRST VISIT: SUNDAY 25 MAY 2014

I’ve visited the Salutation Inn (affectionately known as the Sally) once before. August 2013. I’m not even sure how I discovered that the place existed. It probably involved a click and run job on the CAMRA Gloucestershire website. But discover it I did and I am glad that I discovered it.

A tweet sent today alerted me to the fact that I’d just missed a Kernel beer that was being poured from the recently installed ‘craft keg’ tap. It’s always a bummer when you miss a Kernel but it had been replaced by Gloucester Brewery’s Chinook so it wasn’t exactly a disaster. When we pulled up there was a group of folk sitting outside the entrance door – I’m pretty sure they were the same folk who occupied that position last August, which is nice.

When you get through the main entrance you have a choice to make. The best choice if you are a newcomer is to take the right hand door as that is the door that takes you into the room that houses the main bar – a bar that’s stocked with five reals ales and eight real ciders. There are other keg offerings but the only one that’ll grab the majority of beer geeks is the aforementioned craft tap. The bottle selection is relatively modest in size (a dozen or so) but hosts some great beers from the likes of Arbor and Bristol Beer Factory and Thornbridge (Imperial Raspberry Stout).

The Sally is a great community pub. On Mondays the guest chefs (a couple of locals) whip up a storm in the kitchen by creating such culinary delights as slow roasted pig’s head and lamb’s heart & red pepper goulash. The last Tuesday of each month is Ham from Home where folk bring and share and swap food that they’ve created in their own homes. There’s also regular games nights and meet the brewer evenings. And the organise regular away days to breweries and cider farms. It’s a great place for a one off visit but I’m sure if you made repeat visits you would be suitably rewarded.

As it was the Gloucester Chinook that had brought me here I decided it should be my opening choice. I’d had a couple of pints of it on Friday in the Bristol’s Seven Stars but that was on cask so it was good to have the opportunity to try it from the keg. It could’ve done with a little bit more fizz but it was still a good tasting beer. Is the keg version as good as the cask version? Hmmm… perhaps but I need to conduct more research to be certain. The sun was shining so we took our drinks outside. The garden is a decent size and has six big picnic benches dotted around – they are well enough spaced that if you want some space to discuss private matters you’ll be able to do so without letting the other occupants of the garden know you are plotting the downfall of the civilised world or that your fav TV prog is Britain’s Got Talent. The garden is a lovely spot to pass some time. When my pint was dead I returned to the bar and bought a bottle of Arbor’s Greenhorn Rising, which is a beer that I’d only previously had on cask so it was good try it from the bottle – it was as good as hoped. The Greenhorn went down nice and quick. I was out of beer. I was out of cash. During my previous trip to the bar I’d noticed a card machine by the till so it was apparent that being devoid cash was not too much of an obstacle to securing another beer. But I only really like to use plastic in big and shiny metropolitan cities or in places where I’ve witnessed other folk go cashless. So, with reluctance, I decided to depart. I will return. And when I do I’ll make sure I have a big pile F-‘oldin’ Money.

If I lived local I would be very happy to call the Sally my local but as it is roughly an hour’s drive away it will have to remain an occasional treat.

FOUNTAIN INN – GLOUCESTER

Fountain Inn
Westgate Street
Gloucester
GL1 2NW

FIRST VISIT: SUNDAY 25 MAY 2014

According to online sources, the Fountain is the place to go to if you fancy a decent beer in Gloucester. It’s located down a little side alley but there’s an A-Frame board on the main street to help you find the place with the minimum of fuss. Inside it feels a little run-down and local but the staff greet you with a smile and a glad word and nobody gives you daggers. The bar was home to seven ales and one cider: Tribute, Jail Ale, Otter Ale, Butcombe Bitter, Purity Saddleback, Cotleigh IPA, Black Sheep Bitter and Orchard Pig’s Navel Gazer cider. Pump clips one the wall suggested that sometime in the past the Fountain had served Arbor and Bristol Beer Factory. I ordered a pint of the Cotleigh IPA, primarily because they have crafted up their pump clips. It was an acceptable enough beer but the hop hit and the 3.9% ABV means it doesn’t really warrant being called an IPA. It was lunchtime so we ordered food. My lamb roast was decent and the pint of Saddle Back I had to go with it was also decent.

The next time I visit Gloucester there’s a fair chance I’ll return to the Fountain but I won’t return to Gloucester just to visit the Fountain.

GRAZE – CIRENCESTER

Graze
Gosditch Street
Cirencester
GL7 2AG

FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 10 MAY 2014

Graze pitches itself as a ‘Bar, Brasserie & Chophouse’. It seems that plenty of people treat it as a bar but it’s not the kind of place I would choose to go to if I was merely out for a drink. But if you add food to equation it is very much a place that I would choose to go to. Décor is classy but not overly fussy: big wooden tables, leather seats and banquettes, burnt-orange walls that are complimented with artwork of cattle (and probably other things). The staff are attentive and informative but in a way that feels relaxed, unforced and natural. Cask are all from Bath Ales (who own the place) and will usually be Spa (Special Pale Ale), Gem and a couple of seasonal offerings. The keg taps were home to, among other lesser selections, Dark Side and Steenbrugge Blond. I had a look in the fridges but didn’t spy any bottles of beer, which I found a bit weird and perplexing. I opted for a pint of Wild Hare (5%)), which is pitched as ‘a golden organic pale ale’. It was refreshing enough and had a decent citrus tang but it wasn’t astounding. But it was more than good enough for a second pint. My food, however, was astounding. Calves liver, caramelised onions and potatoes with a red wine jus. It all tasted great but the calves liver was cooked absolutely perfectly. I would happily eat that dish many many many times again. As it is, I like Cirencester’s branch of Graze but if they up the beer selection I might just fall in love with it.