Beer Blog

The Oddfellows Arms, Bridport

Oddfellows-1

It isn’t a pub, it’s a boozer!

That’s what Anne told me, and she should know because she’s run the Odfellows Arms for the last 31 years. Anne and her husband took the pub on in 1987 and she’s been here ever since, raising all her children here; sadly her husband passed away in 1992.

What a wonderful lady Anne is, a proper Landlady, the sort you don’t see too often these days, which is sad. She was even Miss July in a Palmers Brewery calendar one year!

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Further down the page I’ll tell you the beer was excellent, but it really didn’t matter, it was the experience, the ambience, the … I’m finding it difficult to put into words exactly what it was? Whatever, you will find it in abundance in the Oddfellows and I’m really glad I walked out of the town to find it.

You might miss it as you passed by. There’s only a single sign to distinguish it from the rest of the red brick terrace. It’s quite plain inside too, nothing fancy, everything clean and tidy. The till is a drawer sat on the back of the bar. A pleasant rambling beer garden and a small outdoor seating area. Some would say it’s nothing special. I’d disagree because I was brought up in a similar sort of boozer and they are few and far between nowadays.

An old lad walked in before me, ordered his pint and went to the table skittles for a bit of a practice. Soon as he finished his pint he wandered out.

‘Going for his tea,’ Anne said.

Another older chap wandered in and asked for a coffee. He sat chatting to Anne; their bets had come in, and then chatted to me, as we watched the end of Celebrity Pointless on the TV behind the bar. I’m not a fan of constant TV’s in pubs, but it was only a small one and it sort of worked here.

You don’t have to watch TV, you could try your hand at the skittles or darts or crib. They have teams in the local leagues for all these games, although the skittles league is confined to Bridport Anne told me, adding that there are two leagues with twenty teams though.

A couple walk in. Cider and a wine, everyone’s on personal terms. As Anne explained, her customers are all locals. The pubs too far out of Bridport for tourists to walk, mind you she did say there were once two further pubs along North Allington to tempt them.

The pub is a Palmers house and all their pubs are tenanted. I asked Anne what she thought about them? I’ve heard mixed reviews over the years. She said Palmer’s had always been very good to her and she found them easy to do business with. That was comforting because a Pubco could never have a pub like this, just ticking over nicely providing a family with a living, a brewer with an outlet and a place for the community to thrive.

So the beer? I tried the Best Bitter, now badged as IPA in an attempt to jump onto a bandwagon that’s probably not passing through here.

‘It’s a brand new barrel, it should be really good,’ Anne proclaimed as she pulled it. She was right, an easy 4+ on NBSS and one of the best pints of Palmers I’ve ever had. £3.85 a pint which was 5p dearer than I paid in the excellent Ropemakers in the centre of town an hour before. I reckoned theirs was NBSS 4 -.

There’s only three Bridport pubs in the Good Beer Guide (2018); Oddfellows, Ropemakers & The Tiger Inn. The first two are dead certs, the latter has waned somewhat since I reviewed it (2015) and I only went once this summer; beer quality was average and the range would have supported the tastes of Retired Martin, Life After Football and other members of the Pub Bloggers Alliance, but a choice of five similar well known Bitters doesn’t appeal to me. I’m tipping the excellent In Pursuit of Hopiness to be in GBG 2019 and it was where I spent most of my drinking time in Bridport this summer..

Before I left, Anne said I had to go into the Gents to view the Trevi Fountain of Allington. Apparently it all started when a gentleman pulled his handkerchief from his pocket whilst stood at the urinal, ejecting all the small change from his pocket. Not wanting to extract it from the pool of piss, he left it there and others added to it. They donate the recovered small change to a local charity.

It’s only a small locals pub on the edge of Bridport with two Palmers real ales on. Many people would walk in and walk out again, preferring the parallel universe of the chain pubs of the big brewers. Forget the beer if you can, it’s people that make places and Anne’s brilliant, but like all of us she’s not getting any younger, so go now while you have the chance.

21 replies »

  1. A cracking boozer for sure, affectionately described. I missed In Putsuit of Hoppiness (amateurishly) when there earlier this year and only partially rectified the error by going to the sister pub in Exeter. Looks like another long trip will be required again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Exeter branch is the second one, I haven’t been yet. I went for a pint with Al McNab who owns and runs them, he said the new branch was going well. Just shows what bit of Yorkshire enterprise can do for the south!

      I’m predicting IPOH to be in next GBG. It’s all frequented by active CAMRA people and I managed to meet up with some super blokes from the Crewkerne area who travel all around Dorset/Somerset in pursuit of good beer and pubs. Despite travelling across the SW, they seem to get into IPOH every Wednesday lunch time, which says a lot to me.

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  2. Appreciating “the experience, the ambience” of a Palmers, Donnington, Bathams or Holdens pub is a reminder of what a pleasure it was using pubs when the great majority of them were brewer’s tied houses before the Beer Orders.
    The brewers looked after their tenants and looked after their beer.
    The tenants were content with their lot, and so were likely to be in that pub most of their working life, and in turn looked after their customers.
    The drinkers knew the pub, its tenants and the beer to the extent that it was a home from home.
    What was “nothing special” in the 1970s and ’80s certainly is now.
    It all went wrong when we wanted a guest beer right in the national brewer’s pubs and ended up with the likes of Punch and Enterprise. If only we could turn back the clock.

    Liked by 3 people

      • ‘Unexpected consequences’ sums it up quite well from the contemporary viewpoint of the man on the Clapham Omnibus, Paul. However, with hindsight, and I see the beer orders almost as ‘De-nationalisation’ of private enterprise, there is little difference between the consequences of de-nationalising the other national companies that happened in the 80’s and 90’s. All that happened was opportunities were created for those in a position to exploit them and the public and the nation suffered in the long term.

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  3. Palmers IPA was called IPA in the 1978 Good Beer Guide – it’s certainly not a recent rebranding. Back then, the only beers brewed in UK that were called IPA were beers of that type.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I bow to your superior archive Peter. It was however badged up on the pump clips as Best Bitter, with the words ‘IPA’ in a smaller font until a couple of years ago – the words ‘IPA’ now occupy 70% of the pump clip area.

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      • As a born and bred Bridport local, I can confirm that it’s always been known as IPA. It is the ‘Palmer’s Best Bitter’, but the choice was always BB or IPA. Then 200 came along in the mid-90s. BB was replaced with Dorset Gold not long after that, much to the annoyance of the local agricultural community…

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    • Peter,
      Yes, indeed. Back in the 1970s the only beers brewed in UK that were called IPA were beers of that type.
      A well known beer writer recently mistakenly claimed that IPA is “a style that was dead and buried at the time of World War One”.
      Sales had declined for decades but India Pale Ale was still recognised early last century as a beer style with an Original Gravity of 1055 to 1070 * ( about 5½ to 7% ABV ).
      Its strength and hop rating then reduced drastically DURING the First World War. The outbreak of war prompted the trebling of duty on all beers over 1055 OG and then an Intoxicating Liquor Order of 1917 encouraged the brewing of more beer from the same ingredients.
      Restrictions continued until 1921 but by then the pre-war IPA averaging 1065 OG had dropped to 1048 and, with less hops used, IPAs were becoming standard Pale Ales.
      it should be recognised that the ‘session’ IPAs we’re familiar with, such as Greene King’s, have now survived longer than the ‘proper’ nineteenth century ones did.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Annie is a diamond, only vaguely knew her when I lived along North Allington some 22 years ago. But even then I knew what a good landlady she was and how her locals have so much respect for her and she was agony aunt to many of them. And a damn good mum too!😀

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