Unsurprisingly, numbers on the Beer & Pubs Forum tour of Northampton had dwindled a bit by the tenth pub. The reality being that there was only myself, Mrs C (you can just see the back of her disappearing into the pub), Retired Martin and the veritable ‘Other Mudgie’ aka Mr Paul Mudge, who staggered into The Pomfret Arms.
My notes are a little scant and read no more than; GBG, Brewpub, Wedding and Decent ale.
I’ll start with the wedding party who had taken over the whole of the very pleasant beer garden and were enjoying the lovely early evening sun.
There’s far too many folk end up spending fortunes on overblown weddings and there’s nothing wrong with a proper do in a pub? Not only did the Bride and her guests look splendid, the pub did too, all decked out in colourful bunting. Whoever ‘J & M’ are, I wish them all the best for the future and I’m glad they got the very best of the spring sunshine for their big day.
The cleverly designed garden is one of the pub’s USP’s and a wonderful place for a celebration. I wished I could have explored it further and I’m no shrinking violet, but I didn’t want to intrude. It also houses the barn function room and Cotton End Brewery whose beers are featured on the pubs six cask lines.
I’ve no idea which beer I tried, but if I’ve written down that it was ‘decent’ then it was decent. And of course I received the obligatory Northamptonshire CAMRA discount, 10% here.
Inside the pub is well decorated in a modern style with a traditional grounding. There’s a sort of front room and a back room which are served by two sides of the same bar. Obviously with the wedding in full swing they were quite busy and apart from ourselves and a couple of RU fans there didn’t seem to be any other non – wedding customers. And even then the two Rugger blokes seemed to know everybody anyway.
All in all, Northampton was a very good day out. We thoroughly enjoyed the good company and I quite understand why there were only those staying overnight who, for obvious reasons, made it to the last pub. Mind you I did manage another one in The Olde England after a quick pit stop at our hotel.
Key points from Northampton: There’s an awful lot of CAMRA discounts going on. The beer quality is decent, but the local taste, to my mind, fairly uninspiring. Even the craft bar had Marston’s Tommy the Tank Engine, or whatever it’s called, on and I don’t think you’re going to see the likes of Weird Beard, Northern Monk, or Cloudwater on any time soon.
Maybe, in light of all the discounting going on, price is a real issue here and the pubs just can’t (won’t?) afford to pay for good gear, sticking with the cheaper, boring stuff. Having said that, Northampton wasn’t particularly cheap on the whole. I do note that Marks & Sparks have just earmarked the local branch as one of the first nationally, to get the chop, which probably says so much more about the local economy than any of my little hints could ever do.
Maybe I’m spoiled being in easy reach of Leeds, York, Harrogate and Huddersfield. Maybe our tastes are just a bit more progressive up here (and in London and Manchester, and Bristol and their ilk (but not Doncaster)), or perhaps we don’t tolerate the same old, same old and like something a bit new. Either way, nice as Northampton and some of the other places I’ve visited recently are, I won’t be flitting to Middle England in a hurry.