The Boot was the first Olde Worlde style boozer we visited on the St Alban’s Proper Day Out. Positioned down a narrower lane towards the end of the broad High Street (Chequer St, locally) whose assortment of quality shops transcended the usual sad Charity Shoppe Worlde of many middle England towns.
To be fair St Albans is a very nice town (I know it’s a city but the population is less than 150k) with many interesting, individual shops and businesses and a disproportionate number of estate agents; seriously, there’s one at every verse end.
The Boots website says it’s been in the GBG for the 11th year running in 2016, without walking upstairs to look at last years guide, I’m assuming that’s now a straight 13 years?
I walked in, with high hopes, but felt a bit let down on entering Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just … a bit sparse, bare, with lots of room for standing. It feels more of a VDE than the cosy boozer my first impressions promised. There were people sat down, some dining, several with pushchairs and well behaved infants. You wouldn’t have wanted to take your kiddy in a pub like this before the smoking ban would you.
I don’t know what it was, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but this pub just wasn’t the same as the first two. The beer wasn’t as good neither. It wasn’t bad. My Oakham Citra was NBSS 3- (but above 2.5), it just tasted a bit old. Not fresh, as opposed to having been tapped to long. There wasn’t that vibrant taste to it that I’d expect. I’ve experienced this before with Citra, which raises the question pub, distributor or brewer? I can’t fault any of the Oakham beers when on form so can only assume this cask and been hanging about somewhere for a good while.
Altogether there were seven cask ales on, plus two real ciders on draught from the cellar. I can’t tell you how much the beers were as I’d still not put my hand in my pocket. I kept seeing folk pulling purple and brown ones out to pay and clearly needed a few more ales before my own wallet came out.
I think someone went for the Arkell’s Spiced Pumpkin Ale. Not me, I got put off Pumpkin beer a long time ago in a NY Brewpub. And aren’t somethings best left where they come from?
Several went for the Anarchy Guzzolene 5.4% Desert Juice, an unfined and unfiltered IPA. This prompted the usual ‘Is it meant to be like that’ comments from some of the assembled real ale fanatics. I sincerely hope they were joking/trying to be sarcastic, or hadn’t properly studied the writing on the pump clip. I tried some of Martin’s, he was pretending to like it but he gladly passed it my way. To be fair, although well kept, it was gopping, not what I was expecting and instantly resigned to the never again bin.
I took this juncture to chat with Pubmeister. It fascinates me to analyse what drives someone to complete all the pubs in the GBG (or any other similar feat). Especially considering my own take it or leave it, enjoy it nevertheless, approach.
Turns out he bought his first Good Beer Guide when he was a student in Bradford in 1981. I might have joined up myself back then, but as a young student in the same year, I thought the majority of clubs, associations and campaigns at the Freshers Fair were over politicised, in whichever direction they wanted to become polarised.
I didn’t realise it as we walked down the road, but sat here typing, I have to say this was my least favourite St Albans pub, despite the friendly and engaging staff.