The first time I encountered Gyle 59’s beer was last summer (2015), in The Tiger Inn, Bridport, a place I spend quite a bit of time in during our annual pilgrimage to West Dorset. I really enjoyed the IPA and the Toujours Saison, not so much the Ginger IPA; purely on personal preference rather than quality.
They’re a relative newcomer to the beer scene and brew their beer at Sadborrow, near Thorncombe, where they have a brewery tap; open every Saturday 11 till 4. Although I hadn’t seen any Gyle 59 beers since I was last in Dorset, I’ve been following their development with keen interest, and when I saw they’d opened Cellar 59 on Broad Street, the main thoroughfare in Lyme Regis I couldn’t wait to visit.
As suggested, Cellar 59 is in a cellar. Quite a nice one actually, flagged floors, bare stone walls in a sort of modern spartan style. There’s plenty of room to stand in front of the bar, a few tables and seats if you prefer to sit. There’s even a couple of windows where you can gaze out at, the knee only view, of passers by. The background music was, I thought, very good and at one point I wasn’t sure whether they were actually streaming direct from my i-pod. If I had to catalogue it, then it’s a bar, rather than a pub, but with a definite pubby feel to it.
There is an upstairs, reached from separate staircases within and without, depending on your line of attack. From within you would probably be heading for the absolutely spot on toilets. From without, your approach would be into the excellent bottle shop, which a little research tells me is the only decent one around these parts, with the exception of the one at the nearby Gyle 59 brewery. You could of course run around in circles, up, through shop, out, down and out onto the street, back down into bar, up, etc. Children would love to do that, I would have revelled in it as a kid. They allow children in (and dogs), I seriously hope they don’t let them do this though, because this just isn’t that sort of place, and is my friends, a serious drinking emporium, beer for the consumption of, on or off the premises.
If I’m honest, I’m not a bottle shop groupie. I had a look in though, and if you couldn’t satiate yourself here then you must be pretty extreme. Maybe there weren’t any rarities or unusual finds, excepting Gyle 59’s own fare, of which there was the full complement, but there were some decent bottled and canned beers.
This got me wondering. Faced with a choice, stood on the street outside, which steps would you take – down into the bar or up into the bottle shop? The thrifty might say never go into a bottle shop after you’ve had a few, sort of the opposite of going shopping when you’re hungry. There’s some would immediately fly into the store and pore over everything, mentally cataloging, categorising and comparing. Which one are you? I’m definitely a straight into the boozer person, only realising there’s a shop upstairs when I visited the lav half an hour later.
As advertised, there were fourteen draught beers OTB, four cask and ten on keg. The cask ales included three of their own; Pale and Bitter, Maracana & GIPA all unfined and unfiltered, plus Dorset Pearl, an offering from the nearby Lyme Regis Brewery. Oddly the latter was also unfined and unfiltered, something I hadn’t encountered when I visited the brewery tap a couple of hours before (this anomaly will be subject of a future post).
I’d been drinking the Pale and Bitter (5%) back in Bridport, and I can tell you it is both. It’s a cracking drink too, so it seemed a good idea to do a comparative of the cask version in what in effect is the Gyle 59 Brewery Tap (Mk II) with what I remembered from drinking it the night before elsewhere. Now I’m not sure where CAMRA stands in relation to hazy unfined and unfiltered ales on NBSS – cloudy/hazy/bright? I’ve simply put 5 in my note book, it really was a 5 and it just shows what pubs can do to beer, even supposedly good pubs. Prices were £3.60 a pint for the cask ales, in an area where you won’t come across many pints of beer for less than £3.30 I was happy to pay the small premium for something of this class.
Whilst I stood at the bar chatting with the bar staff, as though we’d known them for years, trying to decide what to have next, my first thoughts were maybe it could have done with some bar stools? My second thought was, I was definitely going keg this time, only thing was, I was un-familiar with the brewers on offer. Vibrant Forest ? I thought that finished with the decline of Brian Clough? They politely told me it was actually Lymington in the New forest where Vibrant Forest and wild ponies come from.
You sort of know you’re getting screwed when the prices are in halves; £2.20 for both on this occasion. I’m not getting at anyone here or getting into the debate about keg pricing, but they were £4.40 a pint for average to middlin’ strength ales; Citra (5%) and Cydonia (4.7%). They were however jolly good beers and I enjoyed them, just not as much as the Pale and Bitter. There wasn’t that much info on the beers on the tap list behind the bar, there was however a more detailed beer menu floating around the premises, a copy of which is regularly updated on the Cellar 59 web site, so you can see what you’re going to have before you set off. When I read into things a little more I was very surprised that Cydonia was a Martian red ale, no wonder it was nearly four and half quid a pint Ziggy!
It was nice to see local, or relatively, brewers being showcased and the next one I tried was Parabolic (4.5%) by Eight Arch of Wimborne, also £4.40 a pint. To finish off, I went all Starstruck (6.6%) on Gyle 59’s own Porter, which at that strength should have been priced in the £5 bracket. I guess it shows where the added cost is because their own brew was a reasonable £4.20/pint for this very strong accomplished dark beer. It was sort of chocolate mint chip at first, and as it warmed in the glass, as most keg beers need to, it became pure Pontefract cake liquorice. I know it was their own bar, but to my mind Gyle 59 had the edge over the other two breweries I tried. Not just on price neither.
The appointed hour for the carriage soon arrived and carrying a pint bottle of Gyle 59 7.3% DIPA (£2.85) we climbed back on the X51, only for it to break down just outside the town, requiring us to either wait an hour for the next bus or summon Craig’s Taxis to rescue us. I got a little depressed on the way back, and no it wasn’t the £15 fare! It was more a thought, even a prayer, that Cellar 59, and the other micro-breweries whose beer we tried, who both have their own tap house, continue to thrive. I really hope they do, the visit to Cellar 59 and Lyme Regis Brewery was a well needed breath of oxygen in what is essentially a Palmers vacuum. You just wonder whether there are enough punters for them to survive in a sparsely populated rural area full of retired folk, empty second homes, holiday cottages and seasonal trade. I sincerely hope they do, because I want to go again next summer.
Verdict: Go to Lyme Regis, the addition of Cellar 59 to the existing excellent Lyme Regis Brewery, and the presence of a GBG listed boozer have made it a proper beer drinkers destination town now.
PS The bottle of Gyle 59 DIPA (7.3%) safely found it’s way back to LS23 and was found to be very, very nice.