GLUE POT – SWINDON

Glue Pot
Emlyn Square
Swindon
SN1 5BP

NINTH VISIT: THURSDAY 18 DECEMBER 2014

I was a little bit surprised by the number of people in the pub. It wasn’t exactly rammed but it was doing a reasonably brisk trade for 5.30 on a stormy Sunday evening. A group of men were congregated by the table the door. They seemed a little downbeat. It later emerged that one of them was leaving. I’m not sure if he was heading off to war or just moving away but it was obvious that the other folk didn’t expect to see him again anytime soon and they were very sad to him go. I was the only person in the pub who didn’t say goodbye to him. I’m a total outsider. Anyway I had a pint of Entire Stout than headed back into the storm to go catch a bus home.

EIGHTH VISIT: FRIDAY 12 DECEMBER 2014

It was the night of the work’s Xmas Do. I didn’t see the point of heading across to West Swindon to get changed to then head back across to town so I headed straight from work to the pub. The pub was busy. As it should be on a Friday night in December. I secured a pint of Entire Stout then secured my favourite table. I was halfway through the pint when someone asked if they could sit at my table. I’m a nice guy so I said ‘of course’. The guy sat down and began tapping away it his phone and every tap was accompanied by a beep. WTF! You ask to join someone’s table then you invade their solitude with beepbeepfuckingbeep. Not classy. Fortunately he only stayed for a couple of pints then he phoned someone and told them to come and pick him up.

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SEVENTH VISIT: SATURDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2014

I’d spent most of the afternoon in the Beehive with a mate. Then I’d done a bit of shopping in town. Then I decided it would be daft not to visit the Glue Pot for a pint of Entire Stout. Most tables were occupied but I managed to secure my space of choice. Someone over in the opposite corner was boasting that he was the current pub chess champion. Everyone with him looked a bit embarrassed. Apparently, he had defeated the true pub chess champion when the true champion had been absolutely trashed and since then the ‘current’ champion had refused to play the previous champion. I once beat a mate at chess then refused to play him again. I don’t think our relationship ever truly recovered. When my pint was finished I fancied another, as is often the way. When my second pint was finished I fancied another, as is often the way, but the place was too noisy so I headed home.

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SIXTH VISIT: SATURDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2014

I had an hour to kill in town and it doesn’t take an hour to buy some bike brake blocks so I popped into the Glue Pot in the hope they’d have Entire Stout on. Doors had been open for 15 minutes but on stepping inside I discovered I was the only customer on the premises. Entire Stout was on so that’s what I ordered. I took a seat at my preferred booth then banged the table leg and spilt about a tenth of the pint. I looked back over towards the bar but on noticing that the staff hadn’t clocked my indiscretion I soaked up the offending ale with a couple of beer mats. The pub stereo was playing what I do believe was the Song Remains The Same version of Dazed & Confused. The barmaid went through the door that leads to the corridor that leads to the Gents and returned with a little set of stepladders. She placed them beside the tasting notes board then clambered up. After she’d neatly written the name of the next beer to arrive the manager told her what to write as a description. When he said straw coloured I decided it was time to leave.

The shop I’d planned to buy my bike brake blocks from was shut. Not just shut but completely closed down. From the state of the window and the faded and neglected sign above the door I think it has probably been closed down for quite a few years. Oh well. I had a quick look in Waterstones but still had twenty minutes to kill so I returned to the Glue Pot for another pint of Entire Stout. This time there were other customers present but no Led Zep on the stereo.

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FIFTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 8 OCTOBER 2014

After a couple of pints of Devils Backbone IPA and a couple of cans of Bengali Tiger I was already experiencing a nice little beer buzz but it felt like it could do with an upgrade.

Before I hit the bar I’d noticed that Entire Stout was on – sorted – but out of courtesy I had cursory glance at the clips on the other seven handles. Five of the cask beers were by Hop Back and the other three were from Downton. Hmmm… there was a Hop Back beer called Hopfest. I didn’t think it would live up to its name but I had to give it a go. Yup, as I suspected, Hopfest failed to live up to its name.

The place was quite. Only myself, the bartender, the manager and three other drinkers were present. The bartender was having a conversation with one of the punters about the forthcoming Swindon Beer Fest. Apparently, they both go every year but only drink cider. Another guy joined in and said that he collected the Beer Fest glasses but he was missing a couple to complete his set. The bartender said she had a few doubles and would help him out if she could. The guy then announced that he doesn’t actually go to the Fest, he just collects the glasses. The look on bartender’s face suggested that her offer of help had just been withdrawn.

Anyway, I had three pints of Entire Stout then left.

Glue Pot ES

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FOURTH VISIT: THURSDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 2014

I just scored the new New Model Army album from an actual shop – an actual shop made of concrete and metal and glass, an actual shop where someone was standing behind a counter and took my money and placed my purchase in a little carrier bag – what crazy times we occupy! I felt such an occasion warranted a celebratory pint or two, Admittedly, if I hadn’t managed to score the new New Model Army, which was the reason for venturing into town, I would’ve had to drown my sorrows with a pint of two.

I sat on a wall just round the corner until a couple of minutes after opening time – I don’t want to look too desperate – but I was still the first person through the doors. Six of the eight beers were from pub owners, Hop Back. The two guests were from Downton and St Austell. I decided to start with a pint of the Hop Back Mosaic. I’ve had a few beers that are brewed entirely with Mosaic hops and they have all been pretty fine – the ones from Arbor and Kernel are especially good examples. Sadly, the Hop Back version wasn’t up there with the best. There was nothing particularly wrong with it. It just lacked that little extra something that magician brewers coax and cajole into their beverages. Between gulps of Mosaic I wondered if anybody goes to a pub where there are eight different cask beers but decides to order a pint of St Austell Trelawney. My unspoken question was instantly answered when the barmaid apologised to the three men looking at the beer board then popped a ‘Just missed’ sign next to the listing for Trelawney. Much madness.

Even though I was pretty certain that it was going to be a disappointment I decided to buy a pint of Downton’s German Pale Ale. Brewed with four ‘different’ German hops! Like the Mosaic before it there wasn’t anything wrong with the GPA but it lacked that secret ingredient that lifts a beer into the upper echelons. I suppose you can’t be disappointed when you know something is going to be a disappointment but, yeah, it was disappointing.

There was no Entire Stout so I decided to leave and go to the supermarket to buy a 4-pack of McEwan’s Export then go home and listen to the new New Model Army album…

Glue Pot

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THIRD VISIT: FRIDAY 1 AUGUST 2014

For a Friday evening the place wasn’t exactly doing a brisk trade but it was busy enough that the only available seating was outside, so that’s where I sat. But before sitting outside I ordered a pint of Downton’s Route 66. As the name suggests it is brewed with American hops – don’t know what ones – but as the name doesn’t suggest it is an English Bitter. It was alright but I doubt I’ll bother drinking it again. I popped back to the bar for a pint of Entire Stout, which was fundamentally the reason I’d headed to the Glue Pot. As I sat outside and gazed at the architecture of the Railway Village a realisation dawned on me: It sure as fuck ain’t the best place on the planet but I do actually quite like living in Swindon. With that thought sitting happily in my head I knocked back the last of the stout and left. I was tempted to have another pint but I was starting to feel a little drunk and had a holiday bag to pack when I got home.

At the bus stop I met a woman who announced, without any prior introduction or explanation, that she was ‘going to kill her’. A couple of minutes later I’d discovered that ‘her’ had stolen the bus stop woman’s man. Another couple of minutes later I’d discovered that the bus stop woman had actually dumped her man 6 months ago because he was a drunk and a loser. I didn’t really want to speak to the bus stop woman but I felt I had to ask: No, ‘her’ hadn’t been seeing bus stop woman’s ex for long, in fact she’d only tried to pull him that very evening and hadn’t even been successful. But ‘she still knows he’s my man so I’m going to kill her’. I got the impression that ‘kill her’ meant nothing more than shout at her loudly in the street and maybe throw a packet of crisps at her. Ah, Swindon, I do love you and the crazy folk that you are home to.

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SECOND VISIT: THURSDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2014

I’d scanned the taps of two Spoons but only found boring shite so I traipsed off to the Glue Pot safe in the knowledge that at the very least I’d be able to down a pint or two of Entire Stout. It was a pleasant surprise to be greeted with a pump clip for Saltaire’s Cascade Pale Ale. Saltaire never used to appear in Swindon but over the last few months I’ve seen them crop up in at least three of the town’s pubs. I ordered a pint and took up residence at the post table. The Cascade was on good form. Very good form. Such good form that the rain stopped and sun started shining. I went back for a second and decided to pair it with a Glue Pot Brunch – sausages, bacon, fried eggs, mushrooms, HP beans and chips (made from real potatoes!) £9.40 for the two. Bargain.

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FIRST VISIT: THURSDAY 30 JANUARY 2014

Once upon a time the Glue Pot was owned by Archer’s (who brewed less than a mile away) but nowadays it is part of the Hop Back stable. It’s a small place: six tables/booths line the perimeter and an additional table has been fashioned around a post that is situated near the centre of the room. There are a few tables outside for when the sun is shining or you need a nicotine hit. The place has a weird almost timeless feel. It doesn’t look like it has had a makeover since the early 80s but it also doesn’t appear rundown or neglected. Simple and understated. A place you can concentrate on beer and chat. The walls play host to framed certificates proclaiming the success of Hop Back beers at CAMRA festivals up and down the country. A big board lists the guest beers (Current, Coming Next and Just Missed) and provides brief tasting notes. There are eight cask lines: four or five of them are reserved for Hop Back beers; a further one or two for fellow Salisbury brewers Downton; the final one or two are for other brewers such as White Horse, Gundog and Dancing Duck. Those who need a lager fix can choose between Staropramen and Holsten, which always makes me smile. The fridge contains Duvel, Leffe Blonde and Chimay Bleue & Blanche. The man behind the bar is more often than not the landlord. I find him to be friendly without actually being friendly but I have heard he’s thrown people out for suggesting his beer isn’t in good condition. I’ve only ever had beer in good condition when I’ve been in the Glue Pot.

I was sitting across the road in a Spoons wondering if the man staring at me was staring at me because I was staring it him or if he was planning to steal my bag when I had a hankering for a pint of Entire Stout. I like Entire Stout – it is very possibly the best sub 5% everyday drinking stout in the UK. Spoons didn’t have any Entire Stout so I decamped to the Glue Pot. Thankfully it was on. I ordered my pint and took a seat at one of the table/booths by the top window – the tables down the side always seem a bit ‘local’ for my liking. My pint of stout was as good as always. Good enough for second. Except I didn’t have a second. At the last second I changed my mind and ordered a pint of Hop Back’s Red Ember, which is brewed with coriander and ginger. It was okay. It was better than I remembered it being. But I should’ve had a second Entire Stout. Live and learn.

SIR DANIEL ARMS – SWINDON

Sir Daniel Arms
Fleet Street
Swindon
SN1 1RQ

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.

Sir Dans DBIPA

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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.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

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.