Chaplin’s & Cellar Bar
Christchurch Road


Two drinking dens for the price of one!

Chaplin’s and, perhaps more importantly, its Cellar Bar have recently been crowned East Dorset’s CAMRA Pub of the Year for 2014. As you’d expect from a CAMRA POTY there is a decent array of cask ales on sale. But you wouldn’t think so if you paused at the upstairs (Chaplin’s) bar where the only cask ale available was something called Zoo Brew, which I later discovered, by really squinting at the super small print on pump clip art, was brewed in collaboration with Downton Brewery. If you want a cask choice that is greater than one you need to get your ass down to the cellar bar, which, some might say, is where CAMRA members belong.

We walked in and with a perplexed look I stared at the beer offerings. This was definitely the pub I was looking for but it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. I almost ordered a pint of Red Stripe but decided to opt for the Zoo Brew. There was a nice spring nip in the air so we decided to take our beverages outside. I sat down. I was a bit bewildered. Had the pub won an award for their beer and then decided on a complete change of direction? I wasn’t really sure what was going on…

The beer garden of Chaplin’s is great. Truly great. I won’t do it the injustice of trying to describe it but suffice to say that if I was still the guy I was a couple of decades ago I would be spending most weekends in there bombed out of my head on Lysergic acid diethylamide. It’s nice to encounter a pub that thinks about the ambience of their beer garden in the same way they think about it indoors.

When I’d finished my Zoo Brew (dull but not unpleasant) I popped downstairs to explore the Cellar Bar. My initial impression was that the folk hanging out down there seemed a bit more dodgy looking than their compatriots upstairs. But nobody threatened to shot me or asked if I wanted to buy a stolen telly so I can’t complain. My second impression was what a great little live music venue it is and how much I would love to see the Auto Club play there. My third impression was Ah-ha! This is where the full range of cask beer resides. There were several on hand pull and a couple more on gravity. I didn’t bother counting or paying too much attention to what was on sale as I fancied a Sunny Republic Hop Dog. Perhaps I should’ve took a little longer making a decision as Hop Dog has a weird nutty veggie taste that is interesting for the first few gulps but after that it’s a quite hard going. I believe it is brewed using, the much maligned, Dana hops. Time was taking ticking away and we wanted to eat in the Chicken Shack a few doors along and then we had a 2+ hour journey home. But there was still time for another. I decided to check out their little collection of ‘craft’ bottled beers: Camden Hells, Flying Dog Snake Dog and Raging Bitch, Goose Island IPA, Schneider Weisse number-something-or-other. I opted for a Raging Bitch – £4.25 a bottle.

I need to return and have another explore.