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.

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BREWDOG (SHOREDITCH) – LONDON

BrewDog Shoreditch
51-55 Bethnal Green Road
London
E1 6LA

EIGTH VISIT: FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 2014

SEVENTH VISIT: FRIDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2014

I was meeting a mate for lunch but I’d arrived in Shoreditch slightly too early. Two choices: go straight to the Well & Bucket (our lunch destination) or nip into a BrewDog for a swift two thirds of something. I’m always eager to grasp at every opportunity to flash my Equity For Punks card so BrewDog it was. After an initial read through of the beer board I had a shortlist of three: the Russian Doll Pale, IPA or DIPA. I decided to go middle of the road and ordered am IPA. It was good – decent mouthful of chewy hops with a nice oily bitterness but it’s not quite the taste sensation that Jackhammer currently is.

A customer approached the bar and ordered some drinks. The barman gave him a price. The customer asked if the shareholder’s discount had been applied. The barman apologised and said ‘you’ve been coming here for months so I really should remember that you’re a shareholder.’ The customer replied ‘you served me ten minutes so, yeah, you really should have remembered.’ The barman gave a nervous laugh. The customer remained stoic. I was tempted to see if the barman remembered I’m a shareholder but decided that it would piss me off too much if he didn’t.

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SIXTH VISIT: FRIDAY 15 AUGUST 2014

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FIFTH VISIT: THURSDAY 19 JUNE 2014

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FOURTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 2014

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THIRD VISIT: SUNDAY 4 MAY 2014

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SECOND VISIT: WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 2012

So here I was back in BrewDog Shoreditch on a Wednesday but it wasn’t quite the afternoon as I had planned and hoped for. The place was reasonably quiet. Most of the tables were occupied but a few were still devoid of people. I went straight for a pint of Punk. My friend paid for the drinks. The server remembered him from previous visits and remembered that he was a shareholder, which is a nice touch. I can’t think of any beer – in the craft beer world – that is debated and discussed and dissed and dissected as much as Punk. Sometimes it is great. Sometimes it is rubbish Thankfully, this was a quality pint of Punk. When the Punk’s were dead I returned to the bar. The place was getting busier. There were two folk working behind the bar and they were both serving. A third member of staff appeared with glasses in his hands. He put the glasses down but instead of asking what I would like he started chatting to a woman at the end of the bar. It was apparent from their body language that they were a couple. After a minute or so he asked what I would like. I was tempted to say ‘someone who serves customers before they chat to their girlfriend’ but I merely asked for two Gonger IPA. I’d never had a beer by Stronzo before. I’m not even sure if I had heard of them before. The Gonger was good in a slightly weird way. Chewy and brown leafy was what I wrote for my Untappd check-in. We were sitting by the door. For some reason whenever anybody came in they left the door open even though it was closed when they got there. It wasn’t exactly freezing but it was still an annoying development. At the table next to us a member of staff was conducting a mini beer school and she kept getting up and closing the door, which saved me having to do it. I returned to the bar for a final beer – Blitz! Raspberry. This time it was a painless transaction. But I shouldn’t have bothered as the beer tasted dangerously close to vinegar.

I’m still not in love with BDShoreditch.

BDShore

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FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2014

I’ve visited every BrewDog bar south of Burton-upon-Trent and Shoreditch is the only one I’ve not entirely taken to. It’s the only one where the other customer’s seem to think they are more important than everyone else in the bar. It’s the only one where the staff have seemed more concerned with flirting with their colleagues than providing the excellent service that is prevalent in other BrewDog bars. But, hey, we can all be a bit of dick on occasion and we all like a bit of an ego boost every now and again. Perhaps I’ve just been unfortunate in the past. Perhaps this visit would be different… Oh! Hold on. I would be arriving at the same time that all the trade session attendees would be getting booted out of Craft Beer Rising.

I arrived shortly after five thirty to find the place busy but not uncomfortably rammed. I snaked through the throng and found a spot at the bar. A cheery and attentive member of staff sidled straight over and enquired about my beer based needs. So far so good. I ordered a pint of Punk and a couple of Lumberjacks (order them at 5.30pm and they are just about warm enough to drink when breakfast rolls around). I flashed my EFP Card and didn’t have to remind him to apply the discount when he returned from the till and quoted a price. Even further and still good. I slowly supped my Punk while I awaited the arrival of my cohort. There was no way I was going to fight my way back through the swelling crowd with three drinks and reasonably sized bag without spilling a drop so I held court at the far end of the bar. It was a silent court but I held it well. The bar staff served new arrivals promptly and explained and chatted when that course of action was required. In those rare moments that no beers required pouring and the bar was clean and tidy the staff chatted amongst themselves but no backs were turned to the audience and whenever service was required they stopped mid conversation and happily stepped forward, which was good to see.

My drinking companion for the next few days arrived and relieved me off a couple of glasses then vanished into the melee. The place was getting full towards bursting and I was now swimming against a crowd a drunken craft beer enthusiasts. It always saddens me that people trying to get to the bar don’t realise it makes more sense to let people away from the bar first. Sadly I was saddened by such a scenario in Shoreditch. But I made it to my destination with my beer and my anger intact. The world is generally a better looking place when viewed from a booth table in an busy bar. We sat and chatted for 90 minutes or so. I happily worked my way through a Libertine and an 8 Wired Rewired before, finally, the Lumberjack was at an acceptable drinking temperature… it was worth the wait. Before leaving the premises I politely pushed my way to the gents where I encountered a couple of guys taking photographs of the record sleeve artwork that adorns the walls. Weird but preferable to folk shagging or snorting coke. As I departed I gave the bar a brief examination. People were queuing two or three deep. The staff appeared to be serving with speed and compassion. Nice.

I still wasn’t totally won over by BrewDog Shoreditch but my previous problems with the staff were fully exorcised. And I know I will return. Perhaps I’ll see how they cope with a Wednesday afternoon visit. Maybe then I can declare my love to the world.

POMMELERS REST – LONDON

Pommelers Rest
Tower Bridge Road
London
SE1 2UN

FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 31 JANUARY 2014

By the time I rocked up here I was already pretty trashed so I can’t remember a great deal about the place… it was large and busy and vaguely reminiscent of the majority of Spoons that are dotted throughout the capital city. We made our made to the bar and were greeted with a pump clip for one of the Stone collab brews. But not the one that is only allowed to be sold in half pints because it is sooooooooooooo super strong. The clip on display was for San Diego Session IPA, which I wasn’t aware had made a reappearance. I asked if it was definitely that beer that was on sale and was told it was. Two pints of San Diego Session IPA (4.5%) were ordered but by the time we had found a seat they had mysteriously morphed into Double IPA (8.5%). A pint. I’d been served a pint of Double IPA. And for only £2.59. Nice.