Feb 4 2017
(The remains of the Keep at Bridgnorth Castle – that lean is 4 times that of the “Leaning Tower of Pisa”!)
Going out has been a bit difficult recently. Just leaving the house and getting on public transport has been a challenge (actually getting half way to Manchester once before turning back). So it was going to take something exceptional to get me out.
That, or something exceptionally sneaky. Which – in all likelihood – is probably how I found myself in a car, with 3 friends, heading south on the M6 on Thursday morning. Towards the pretty Shropshire town of Bridgnorth.
This town holds quite a special place in my heart as a place where we would visit when camping the kids at beautiful Hampton Loade on the banks of the mighty River Severn. Every time we went, we’d jump on the Severn Valley Railway (steam, natch) to its terminus at Bridgnorth to do a little shopping, have lunch, go on the country’s steepest funicular railway…..happier (and simpler) times.
It really is a beautiful town. Technically in two parts, Bridgnorth has a “High Town” and a “Low Town” with the ruins of its castle perched atop in the “High Town”, a castle destroyed by Parliamentarian forces in 1646. It also seems to have retained a vibrant “High Street”, refreshingly undominated by chain stores.
It even has a half decent ‘Spoons – The Jewel of the Severn.
But I was here to stroll around a few pubs with friends. On a mission to find some local beers – in particular Hobsons. I got more than I bargained for.
I let my buddies find the first pub. It took a phone call to find them. And they found me a nice surprise
The Stable Bar (Whitburn Street)
Initially, I thought they’d gone into The Kings Head – which is located on the street itself. Hence the phone call “We’re in a brewery…..”. And they were. Kind of.
The bar was located via an alley immediately to the rear of the Kings Head and is the home of the Bridgnorth Brewery. The bar is on two levels with upstairs seemingly dedicated to eating. Downstairs is modern and bright. Single roomed, with a long bar and a large selection of wines racked behind the bar, there is a feature log burning fireplace at the end punting out tremendous heat.
Outside there is a standalone open air bar with lots of seating. The place had the look and feel of a modern Brewtap, which is precisely what it is.
The main bar was fully stocked with 6 hand pulls all bar one featuring beers brewed on site. I opted for a Pale Ale (Kings Escape) which was US hopped and very tasty – once it warmed up, it was served way too cold and needed more warmth for the flavours and aromas to develop. Once they had, it was a lovely juicy and refreshing beer.
The bar would fit in easily within the Manchester Beer Scene – the biggest compliment that I can pay.
We move on… Back up onto the high street and to another brewery tap… This time being the Hop & Stagger brewery located within…..
The White Lion (W Castle Street)
A proper pub. And no mistake. And with (joy of joys) a Bar Billiards table!!!
Dating from the 18th Century, this pub has 3 distinct drinking areas – with one of those being outside – and two separate bars. Almost “vault” and “bar room” in traditional pub speak. This was another pub to have a roaring real fire, but we couldn’t get close with that room being fairly busy. So into the rear room we went.
And that Bar Billiards table….. And also the best beer of a day full of good beers. Hop & Stagger “Bridgnorth Porter”. I’m drooling now just thinking about it. It was that good, we returned to the pub later. Twice.
This pub had an old soul. It felt like I’d kicked off my DMs and put on an old battered pair of trainers. Somewhere you could just decompress. Relax. It felt cosy. Later on we came back into the front room with that fire. And that was even cosier. If I lived near this pub, I’d be a happy bunny. And no mistake.
Now. That Porter. Yum. Lots of choccy roast, hints of coffee. A little residual sweetness. Almost Porter Perfection for me. I couldn’t get enough of it. All 4 of us drank it. All 4 of us loved it.
But we moved on. It’s not a crawl if you don’t….
The Old Castle (W Castle Street)
Just a couple of doors down, comes this. Another old pub.
The front room looked warm and welcoming, but we just went straight to the rear room which felt a little like a conservatory (not a criticism). This pub (for us) was about two things. Bar sports (darts, bar football and pool) and Hobsons. Something I’d hoped to find I found here. A pint of Town Crier. And very nice it was too.
Friendly pub (as were they all to be fair), two main roomed with a side room off the “conservatory” room that looked like it may have been used for dining. There was a feeling about this place that it might be food led at times and reviews online seem to confirm that impression. There was also a bit of building work going on. One to come back to next time I think.
Next, a walk. Down towards Low Town.
The Black Boy (Cartway)
The pub’s name – judging by a former signage – appears to refer to chimney sweeping. The pub itself is located on a steep section of this road leading up to the High Town from the main road bridge over the Severn.
The pub is two roomed and again (speaking from an outsider’s point of view) was warm and welcoming. The barman/landlord seemed a decent sort and changed a beer for me without question when returned as “off” (he even pulled me aside later to tell me that he appreciated me telling him. He tried it himself and turned the clip)
Lots of wooden furniture in both rooms with the main bar room bustling that evening. The pub boasts a roof style terrace with bloody fabulous views over the Severn (at a very high water mark). Had a really juicy Pale Ale (Windmill Pale) from Wimbledon Brewery, fruity and full-bodied for a low abv beer.
Considering the unusual location, this was justly busy and is certainly a pub I would return to. Excellent service, pretty pub and good beer. Win.
We continued into Low Town into a forgettable pub (which, strangely, I’ve forgotten) with loud TV and bland beer (a tired Banks Sunbeam), but then turned around and went firstly to the ‘Spoons for a can of Sixpoint Resin DIPA (nice, but overrated) then back to The White Lion. That Porter was like a Siren call onto the rocks of drunkenness. I had an emotional wobble at this point. Shit needs to come out occasionally. And I was with good friends. And in good hands.
So. Four excellent pubs. A rather good ‘Spoons (nice Lemon Dream by Salopian earlier) and excellent beer. With an early draught “Beer of the Year” contender in that Porter.
Bridgnorth is a lovely town with a rich history. Great pubs. It’s even got a bloody steam railway for crying out loud! What more could you ask for???