Sir Daniel Arms
SEVENTH VISIT: FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 2014
I’d caught an earlier bus than planned so I had a few minutes to kill and I either had to do that killing at the train station or in a Spoons with a beer. I chose to kill it with a Bengali Tiger. The barman, who I think was the manager, asked if I wanted a glass. I replied that I did. He replied that he thought I would say that, which made me wonder why he’d bothered asking. I had no desire to engage him in conversation so I merely smiled in response. I took my beer in a glass to a vacant table. I took a hearty swig then gave the pub a quick sweep to see how many other folk were having a pre-10am alcoholic beverage. A load of men dressed in hi-viz jackets and steel-toecap boots were just finishing off their breakfasts. Most of them also had a pint glass containing beer. A couple of pints with breakfast then a couple more with lunch – it’s no wonder that the majority of construction projects in Swindon never get completed on schedule. I glugged down the last of the Bengali then sauntered off to catch the train to London.
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SIXTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 8 OCTOBER 2014
Downstairs was busy. There was barely an unoccupied table and the tables that were occupied were occupied by dodgy looking reprobates. I ordered a pint of Devils Backbone IPA and a can of Bengali Tiger and took them up to the next level. Upstairs was busy. There was barely an unoccupied table and the tables that were occupied were occupied by OAPs.
I sat down on a couch and swigged my Bengali Tiger while I waited for the DBIPA to gain just a little bit of warmth. I hadn’t planned to visit Sir Dans today. The only pub I was going to visit was the Savoy but when I encountered a bad tasting pint of DBIPA there I decided I needed to visit Sir Dans and see what their DBIPA was tasting like. There are four Spoons in Swindon. The DBIPA tastes pretty damn fine in the Dockle, it tastes okay in the Groves and, as just mentioned, it tastes bad in the Savoy. And now I was sitting in Sir Dans with a pint of DBIPA. It tasted good. Not as good as it tastes in the Dockle but way better than the pint I’d recently had up the road in the Dockle. How can the same keg beer taste so different in four branches of the same pub chain in the same town? Odd.
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FIFTH VISIT: SATURDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 2014
Aye, I was very drunk but I really should have known better than go in this place at such an advanced time on a Saturday. I was surprised the door staff let us in especially after I asked ‘Can we come in, please?’ I didn’t bother looking at the beer pumps, I just ordered a can of Bengali Tiger. The place wasn’t very busy for a Saturday night. Men outnumbered woman by about 6 to 1. The atmosphere wasn’t nasty or violent but it certainly didn’t feel like a nice place to be. I was almost drunk enough to be tempted to start dancing but I felt that wouldn’t be fully appreciated by the folk already on the small dancefloor. I looked at the sleazy guys sleazing at the women half their age and I was struck by the sad realisation that a lot of the people present were probably thinking that I was a sleazy guy sleazing at woman half my age. Time to go.
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FOURTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 3 APRIL 2014
The continuing quest for Yeastie Boys…
For this visit to Sir Dans I did something that I don’t normally do. I went upstairs. There’s a whole new world up there. Different beers on the bar. And slightly more respectable looking customers. Apart from the people out on the balcony. They are well dodge. Don’t go out there unless you are looking for a fight that ends in death.
There was no Yeastie Boys on so I opted for a Nøgne Ø Brøwn Ale. I’m not usually a big fan of brown ales but I am fan of this beer. It must be the best thing to come out of Wainfleet. I fancied another but my presence was required at home. But only because I was buying chinese takeaway for tea.
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THIRD VISIT: THURSDAY 13 MARCH 2014
I departed London on the 1536 to Cheltenham. Smooth running meant I touched down in Swindon the correct side of quarter to five. I couldn’t be arsed with the hour long walk home so I decided to get the bus. Fortunately, the route from train station to bus stop goes right past Sir Dan’s… well, it does if you want it to. I rocked up to bar and ordered two cans of Bengali Tiger. I didn’t even bother scanning the taps. The bartender made a well-mannered complaint about having just finished facing them up. I asked if they were selling well and she said ‘yeah’ and smiled and nodded. One can was part-poured into a ‘craft beer glass’ and a second glass was then picked up. I quickly interjected and said I only required one glass. Thankfully the second can was presented to me unopened. Nice. One for the pub and one for the garden when I got home. The place wasn’t busy but all the comfy couches were taken. I selected the seat that allowed me the best opportunity of slipping the unopened can into my bag without being seen by anyone. I doubt anybody would actually bother about me sneaking out a can but I’ve been informed by a staff member of a different Swindon Spoons that all purchases must be consumed on the premises – strictly no takeaway. I’m a nice and thoughtful chap so I wanted to do my best to ensure nobody was embarrassed by my actions.
The actions of two women at the table nearest to mine forced me to drink up quicker than I had initially planned. One of them went to the bar. Then she shouted that she’d ordered the drinks but needed to go pee so her friend would have to go stand at the bar and await their booze. The friend duly obliged. They were both pretty plastered. That’s fine. I have on occasion been plastered in a Spoons. But never when I have been responsible for a young child. I was also pissed off that they didn’t want their drinks to be left unattended but they were happy to leave a child unattended. The child was asleep in a buggy. It was too big to be in a buggy but too young to be left alone. And from the bar it would’ve been impossible to see the child. I waited until the women were reunited with the sleeping child then left. I should have said something. But, ultimately, what would it have achieved? A mouthful of abuse for me and the child would still be left alone the next time the women needed a drink at the same time as one of them needed a pee. Sad.
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SECOND VISIT: SUNDAY 9 MARCH 2014
Today I became a statistic. Today I scooped Sixpoint in Spoons.
Since Wednesday Twitter has been buzzing with tweets about beer geeks drinking cans of Sixpoint. Most of those beer geeks don’t normally dirty themselves by stepping over the door of a Spoons (or so they so) but for a can of craft USA beer they’ll happily comprise their standards and integrity (and, if they are a fan of Beyoncé, their xtianity). In a bid to justify just how evil Spoons is there has been countless horror tales of the sinister characters that folk have encountered while procuring their can based beverage. Whenever I read those tales I can’t help thinking that those sinister characters are exactly the same folk who have always frequented ‘local pubs’, which perfectly reinforces my belief that Spoons is the new ‘local’. As a famous poet once told me: ‘If you’ve been to the pub and at least one cunt hasn’t threatened to stab you then you haven’t been to a pub.’
As I awaited my turn to purchase a slice of history a guy standing beside me was informed that he wouldn’t be served unless he put on a top. Despite the fact that he had a t-shirt tucked into one of the belt loops of his jeans he politely said ‘Okay, fair enough’ and left. Before he received his ultimatum I thought he was a bit of dick but after he departed I couldn’t help having a strange and grudging admiration for him. He was still a dick but he was a dick who wasn’t prepared to compromise his integrity (perceived or otherwise).
I ordered a can of The Crisp (No one gets to see La Crisp! … Nigel…) and a can of Sweet Action. It would appear that the two for a fiver deal doesn’t truly exist in Swindon as both cans rang through the till at £2.50 each. Same result different formula. I was given two glasses and two unopened cans. Nice. I retired to a comfy couch to record my findings.
The Crisp is a lager/pilsner that clocks in at 5.4%. Due to my former life where I consumed a lot of Stella and Staropramen and Lowenbrau, being Scottish, Tennent’s and McEwan’s lager I still have a soft spot for lagers. Sadly, this wasn’t for me. It was certainly an improvement on the predominant UK brands but it still had next to nothing on the nose and next to nothing on the palate except a slightly oily finish. No. I won’t be drinking it again.
Sweet Action checks in at 5.2% and is described as a cream ale. It smells lovely: like a Thursday afternoon session in the Mikkeller Bar. The flavour is a decent blend of malt and hops but they both get on too well together and I couldn’t help feeling that I would’ve liked one of them to take control and push the beer onto the next level. It’s good but it feels a little too safe and friendly. I’ll possibly have it again but only as an occasional oddity.
Bengali Tiger is the big boy of the threesome and boasts a reasonably impressive 6.4% ABV. After I’d received The Crisp and Sweet Action unopened I decided to buy two cans of BT. The plan was to scoop one in the pub and have one in the sunshine of my garden. Unfortunately, as my eyes were turned towards the rugger both cans were part poured into rather stylish tulip glasses. Bummer. Bengali Tiger is the best of the three but even before we’d tried any of them we all knew that would be the case. It packs a decent juicy hop hit but nothing that several British brewers aren’t already doing and to a better standard. Will I have it again? Yeah, probably. But only if there’s nothing on draught that I fancy. And even then I’ll be more likely to opt for a bottle of Goose Island IPA.
I was only planning on having one of each of the cans but when I noticed that the Sixpoint/Adnams collab was on I thought it would be a gross injustice if I went home before having at least a pint of it. Ah, it was alright. It’s not going to inspire you to write a long and detailed letter to you granny proclaiming its merits but it’s certainly not the kind of beer that makes you feel that western civilisation is an steep and terminal decline. Decent enough.
And then it was time to go home to drink Courage Imperial Russian Stout and listen to cover versions of David Bowie songs. No. Really. It was.
FIRST VISIT: THURSDAY 30 JANUARY 2014
The Sir Daniel Arms is the only of Swindon’s four Wetherspoons that at the weekend turns into a discotheque. So, unless you like that kind of thing, it’s best avoided at those times. Arguably, Swindon town centre is best avoided at those times. I always find Sir Daniel Arms way too dark, which, admittedly, is occasionally a good thing. And more often than not I’ll see someone lurking in a corner who makes me think of the strip club scene in Beverly Hills Cop. No! I don’t mean the woman who Billy Rosewood kindly gives some money to. And there’s often a load of mothers who think it is acceptable to leave their empty prams and buggies in the middle of the main walkways. It’s a strange place. Even for a Spoons. But sometimes the quest for a certain beer means you have to venture into places you usually avoid. This time I was on a quest for the semi-mythical Stone/Adnams Double IPA. I’d already been into the other two town centre Spoons but had failed to find the DIPA (and subsequently left both places without having a drink) so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Sir Dans had the beer I desired. And they also had Saltaire Blonde and the Sixpoint/Adnams Righteous Ale. Not too shabby at all. Naturally, I ordered a DIPA. I’d heard the stories of it only being sold it halves so I decided to save everyone’s embarrassment and just ordered a half. Subsequently, the barman asked ‘Just a half?’, which suggested he would’ve happily sold me a pint of it but I sensed a trap and decided to stick with my initial sizing. It’s a good beer. I’m not sure I’d be happy paying the standard Stone in the UK price of 4-5 quid a half but at less than £2 for a half I thought it was a reasonable bargain. It has a nice fruity and juicy hop hit but it does finish with a rather annoying lingering sticky dryness. I think a half a time is more than enough and then it’s best to get a pint of something else to perk your palette back up. Half dispatched I returned to the bar and ordered a pint of the Saltaire Blonde. I like Saltaire beers but, although they are starting to make inroads, I don’t find them in my little corner of the world very often. Thankfully, it was another Saltaire success. I was tempted to grab a pint of the Righteous but I’m not especially fond of red ales so I headed to Glue Pot on a quest for Entire Stout.