Friday, 26 June 2009

The Crimson Cat

I mentioned my favourite beers in the comments section of the last post, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Hook Norton's Hooky Bitter. They're both versions of the same type of beer, really: pale, dry, light, flowery-hoppy and not too strong (around 4%)*.

Like all real ales their being kept well is of critical importance. I've enjoyed them most in a small pub where, almost miraculously, they're the two beers usually available, but only one at a time. The pub - The Red Lion in Ampney St Peter - is worth writing about as it has a few peculiar features, nearly all of which I've seen in other pubs but never together in the same one.

1. There's no bar; instead there's a smallish parlour. There's a table in the middle of the room, benches and chairs around it, in one corner a real fire and in the other, on a few wall-mounted shelves, a few bottled beers, the wine and some soft drinks, the barrel (only usually the one) sitting underneath.

2. You may have noticed the shortness of the list of drinks for sale. You already know what's in the barrel; there's no draught lager. There are only two wines available: red or white, and they're only available by the bottle (less than a fiver, last time I looked). In the event that you don't finish a whole bottle in one sitting the landlord will look after it for you until your next visit.

3. The landlord, John, has presided here for as long as most people remember and has known many of his customers for decades. He's 'retired' now so works full time at the pub, but I believe he used to work at the Royal Agricultural College and do the pub part-time. I also believe him to be the fourth landlord of the Red Lion since about 1850 (I had trouble imagining that, too).

4. Food: dry roast or salted.

5. The gents always smells fresh, a bit like a wet hedge. This is not only because John runs a tight ship, it's also because year-round the door's left open (there's no way to reach them without leaving the pub and walking round, by the way). Rain doesn't get in much when it sweeps across the wolds as the entrance is underneath the eaves.

6. The pub's 400-years old, much of its decor doesn't appear to have changed for over 100 years and its furniture appears indeterminately ancient. It's wonderfully unimproved.

7. It's only open evenings Monday to Saturday and lunchtime on Sunday.

Listing The Red Lion's attributes like this makes it sound a bit austere. Nothing could be further from the truth. What with everyone sitting around the same table in the parlour and the roaring fire in winter, it's wonderfully snug. And sociable - if you want to shoot the breeze, you'll certainly get the opportunity.

In fact, if you go in there on a Friday at about 6.30pm, more often than not, you'll find my old chap. He looks a bit like a scale version of Brian Blessed but without the silly voice. He may well be smelling of sheep.


worm said...

oh're drifting into the murky waters of geography teachers and leather elbow patches...haha!

the pub sounds great - these places must be preserved!

Anonymous said...

Sounds splendid and i don't even like pubs or beer.

Brit said...

Does sound great, and just about within striking distance of my abode.

I do like pubs and beer. A lot. I'm into Bath ales at the moment. Gem, Barnstormer and Dark Hare. They're the business.

worm said...

brit - I had the bath gem the other day and it was really nice! so there's another fan here!

Gadjo Dilo said...

This is a paradise, Gaw, and makes me want to renounce my ex-pat status forthwith. But who is your "old chap"? Your father? Yourself? It appears to be a colloqualism I've somehow missed out on.

Gaw said...

Worm: country pastime enthusiasts in glass-topped fishing boats shouldn't throw lumps of terminal moraine.

Elb and Brit: I can see you both enjoying it. It's probably an hour from Bris. Bath Ales sounds familiar: I'm pretty sure I've drunk one of those brews in Bath, the weakest one probably, and it was very nice. In a pub off Quiet Street.

Gadj: Pubs just don't exist anywhere else do they? They're such a good idea, I really don't understand why. My old chap is my Dad - I wasn't actually aware that this was a colloquialism! It can also mean 'penis' so you have to take care over context.