St John’s Street
SECOND VISIT: SATURDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 2014
We’d frittered away most of the day doing bugger all so decided to salvage something from the first day of the weekend by going for a wander along the canal at Devizes then popping into the Vaults for a beer or three and some takeaway. The canal walk was very pleasant. We saw a heron, a cat who was friendly but more interested in scanning the grass for voles than chatting to us, and a boat that appears to be named after the Pink Floyd album that was released after the departure of Roger Waters.
The Vaults wasn’t busy but it wasn’t empty. I got served straight away. I didn’t know any of the beers that were on but I knew most of the breweries. I decided to start with a pint of Goldie Lookin Ale, which is brewed by Tiny Rebel in collaboration with everybody’s fifth favourite comedy rap band, Goldie Lookin Chain. Prior experience of Tiny Rebel’s lower ABV beers meant I wasn’t expecting it to be especially flavoursome but I was surprised. Goldie Lookin Ale packs a lot of flavour into a pint glass. It’s got a nice bit of low-level bitterness but that is perfectly complimented by the fruit cocktail punch flavours. A very tasty beer. So tasty I went back for a second. I was tempted to go for a third but decided to try a Toffee Cog by Kissingate instead. Sadly, this was a big disappointment. Thankfully, it didn’t tasty of oily cogs but unfortunately it didn’t taste of toffee. Perhaps it’s not meant to. Perhaps it’s just a name. A name that’s a tad misleading.
It was time to go and get something to eat but before doing so I needed to score some takeaway beer… a Sourdough by Wild Beer Co (a tasty wee sour); an IPA Simcoe Citra by The Kernel (simcoe & citra – what could go wrong? nothing); an Un/limited Double IPA by Bristol Beer Factory (my fav beer of 2014); a pint bottle of Breakfast Stout by Arbor (the perfect way to start a Sunday).
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FIRST VISIT: WEDNESDAY 30 JULY 2014
Devizes is the capital of Wadworthshire and consequently it’s difficult to discover any beer in the town that isn’t brewed at Northgate. But since October 2013 The Vaults, owned by Kennet & Avon Brewery, has been boldly trying to change that. From the outside it’s a modest looking affair. The width of the property is only approximately 20 feet so I was expecting an establishment of microbar stature. But I was wrong. It doesn’t actually get any wider but it goes back a hell of a long way and there’s also a basement, which I’ve yet to explore. The fixtures and fittings are all very craft: old doors used as tables, wooden crates used as lamp shades, agricultural artefacts uses as art, that kind of thing. Even when it’s pretty much empty it still has a quaintly upper-middle class vibe. It doesn’t seem like the kind of boozer where rowdy behaviour or even raised voices and cuss words are tolerated. Of course, that’s just an assumption but it’s an assumption that’s given some credence by the fact it closes at 9pm every night, which is the time when those crazy pre-loaders like to hit the streets and the pubs. I like the place.
The cask line-up offered two or three from Kennet & Avon alongside Fresh from Wild Beer and Cat’s Tongue from Circle Cider. I started with a Fresh, which was on top form and followed it with a couple of halves of the Cat’s Tongue. Circle Cider are based in Swindon and have been knocking out some great tasting ciders for the last couple of years. I always try the cider when I see it on sale and the Cat’s Tongue is the best yet – beautifully dry but with a decent lick of fruity sweetness. I decided to bring this little drinking session to a close with a beer from Kennet & Avon – it is their pub after all. Pill Box is good in a trad sort of way. It’s certainly a well made beer but not one I’d choose to drink time and time again.
It was time to hit the road home but not before purchasing some takeaway. The bottle list at the Vaults is pretty sizeable and home to all the greats of the UK brewing scene and some from further afield. I opted for a Nacken by Siren and Omnipollo, a Limelight by Arbor, a London Sour from The Kernel and a Hadouken by Tiny Rebel (I had to buy a Tiny Rebel beer after the bartender praised my Tiny Rebel beer carrier).
The Vaults is a very welcome addition to the North Wilts beer scene. I’ve always enjoyed having a mooch around Devizes and now there’s an extra reason to go there. Lovely.