FIFTH VISIT: FRIDAY 19 DECEMBER 2014
FOURTH VISIT: FRIDAY 24 OCTOBER 2014
THIRD VISIT: WEDNESDAY 24 SEPTEMBER 2014
The best Chinese Takeaway in the Swindon area is a four and half mile, ten minute drive from my house but, fortunately, it is only a four and a half minute walk from there to the Carter’s Rest.
We’d decided that we were having Chinese food for two so I decided I’d have a couple beers beforehand. The Carter’s Rest is always a bit hit or miss. Sometimes it’s full of boring trad beers. Sometimes it’s home to something a little bit more exotic.
SECOND VISIT: THURSDAY 29 MAY 2014
I don’t work Thursdays and my girlfriend doesn’t work during the school holidays (she’s a teacher not a pupil!) so we made vague plans to make grand plans to do so something interesting today. We slept until after 9 and then frittered away most of the day doing fuck all. Around half two we decided to try and salvage something from the remainder of the day and go for a wander around Clout Woods and Markham Banks. It was pleasant walk. The sun was shining. We saw rabbits and grey wagtails.
When we returned to civilisation I suggested we pop to the Carter’s Rest for a swift jar. It was, after all, only a minute or so away from where we’d parked the car. I walked through the entrance and took the left hand door just as I always do. There was one other person in my half of the bar but there were four people in the other half. WTF! What was I missing? Folk don’t usually hang around in that half. Most perplexing. I regained my composure and ordered a pint of Arbor S Bomb for myself and a lemonade for my designated driver. The pint went down super quick and within a few minutes I was ordering a second. That one lasted a little bit longer but it still didn’t hang around. It’s a good beer. A nice balance of malt and hops but with a good and solid lingering bitterness in the finish. I would have happily had a third and a fourth (and… repeat to fade) but I called it a day after those two.
I didn’t realise it at the time but the Carter’s Rest is the last pub I will drink in before I turn forty-one.
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FIRST VISIT: WEDNESDAY 26 MARCH 2014
A few miles south of Swindon, and on the opposite side of the M4, lies the village of Wroughton, population 6,983. Like all good villages, Wroughton is home to several drinking establishments but sadly, the number has halved in recent years. Thankfully, the town’s two best boozers still remain open for business: to the north is the Check Inn, which sells a good selection of Fuller’s beers alongside a guest or two (it also does great Thai food); to the south is the Carter’s Rest.
The Carter’s Rest is a favourite of the local CAMRA crew and has on many occasion won their Pub of the Year award. When you go through the main door you are faced with two choices: left or right. Left takes you into a room that only seems to be occupied (except by the occasional loner) when a darts game is in progress or an important football match is on the TV. Right takes you into the bar proper. It’s a modest affair and, apart from the addition of a couple of flat screen tellys, it has probably looked exactly the same for the last few decades. A collection of old beer mats, housed in frames and hung on the walls, is on display. There’s also a decent array of old brewery mirrors. A lot of the wooden beams have horse brasses tacked to them and on a shelf is set of ceramic cart horses (the kind of ornament that many a household boasted in the 70s). The Carter’s Rest usually has ten real ales for sale and a couple of real ciders and/or perrys. Keg fonts dispense something cold and fizzy but nothing that’ll quench a beer geek thirst. Rather strangely the bar spreads through both rooms so you can only see half of the beers unless you move between rooms. Fortunately, there are blackboards that list all the beers.
The Carter’s Rest often has a beer or two by Arbor on sale. I used to check the pub’s YourRound page and whenever they had an Arbor on I would pay the place a visit. After a fair few such visits the landlord asked ‘Do you only come and see us when we have Arbor on?’ Guilty as charged. Unfortunately, they have let their YourRound subscription lapse so now I have no insider knowledge that helps me decide if I should pay the place a visit or not. This visit there was no Arbor on. But a couple were listed on the coming soon board.
The place was pretty empty but a crowd of three were huddled around the bar. The Carter’s Rest is a local pub. But not one where you’ll get your head kicked in if you talk different or have a posh coat. It’s a good old fashioned local pub where (practically) everybody knows everybody else and there’s never any trouble. Outsiders aren’t greeted with open arms and hugs and kisses but they’re not treated with the cold disdain that some pubs foist upon newcomers. (Unless you make the mistake of arriving during a dominoes tournament.) The crowd were chatting about fantasy football teams. It was quickly apparent that the guy who was leading the conversation knew next to fuck all about football but as he was a man he felt it was his duty to pretend that it was his specialist subject. Someone complained that their beer was in crap condition. Rather amusingly it was Carling (or whatever macro lager it was that he was drinking). The barman descended into the cellar and banged about for a few minutes before remerging. He poured another pint but still it had next to no fizz. One of the three remarked that he should’ve have ordered a pint of Doombar. They all laughed.
I started with a White Adder by Mauldons. I’ve previously had their Black Adder a couple of times and it is a very tasty beer. The White Adder is okay but not in the same realm as its black brother. Next up I went for a pint of Wentworth’s Choc Chilli Stout (4.8%). Up front it’s all sweet but fake tasting chocolate. It’s okay. Not great but not unpleasant. The finish, however, has a brilliant chilli kick. Very probably the best chilli kick I’ve had from a beer. Hot but not stupidly so. Just powerful enough to tingle your tongue and tickle your throat. Third beer was a Partridge by Dark Star. It’s a well made beer but too traditional for my tastes. Before departing I returned to the bar for another Choc Chilli Stout – just a half this time – as I fancied another lick of chilli and I thought it would serve as a good primer for the Indian food I was about to order and devour. Time to go.
The Carter’s Rest is Swindon’s second best beer destination, although it’s not actually in Swindon. Swindon’s best beer destination is the Red Lion, although it’s not actually in Swindon. I suppose that says a lot about Swindon.