|The old Spirit Merchants|
Burton...the home of IPA and Burton Ale. Its also home to a number of pubs and the National Brewery Visitors' Centre which played host to the British Guild of Beer Writer's Ingredients symposium (more on this later perhaps).
I want to focus in on that pub heritage that makes Burton a great place to visit. Everywhere you look around the town are clues to the towns once mighty brewing status. Alas most of the buildings are no longer used for brewing...the once famous grain warehouse is soon to become a Travelodge! Its still among the greatest brewing cities in the world today with both Marstons and Molson Coors being based here, alongside a slew of micros including Burton Bridge Brewery and The Burton Old Cottage.
Its to the site of the first of these, The Bridge Inn that we all amass for our evenings revelry. Its a traditional boozer with two separate rooms, bare floors, plenty of brass and a roaring wood fire to make everyone feel at home. There's a goodly range of beer to choose from and I make my way through 6 halves from the Burton Bridge Bitter a slightly fruitier session bitter with that clean snap of bitterness at the finish through to Burton Bridge Festival a strong mild/ best bitter with toffee and fruit sweetness.
It was here that we met our capable host for the evening, Andrew Griffiths, the local MP. He seems to know the decent boozers in town like the back of his hand and after a couple of pleasant hours in The Bridge we head to another of the brewery's outlets, The Devonshire.* This is a large single room pub that has a smaller range of Burton Bridge Ales plus a guest or two. Its homely and comfortable and I sup another pint or two whilst Andrew nabbed some of my Cheese Moments.
Our final pub of the evening was the Burton Old Cottage Tavern, brewery tap of the eponymous brewery (though now owned by a local labour councillor). Upon hearing who we're in town with the landlord promptly buys everyone a round and I enjoy a pint of the fabulous stout. Its a session strength and quite buoyant and fruity as compared the dry stouts I'm used to in Northern Ireland. There were plenty more beers left to try; so I will certainly have to return again.
The local Wetherspoon is also a good beer guide pub and whilst my Pint of Cask Bass was great, there was nothing inspiring on the pumps. A word of warning however, if you do find yourself in town of a Monday lunchtime it may be the only watering hole open!
*Tradition has it that the Coopers should be the next stop on any tour of Burton's watering holes, but it was unfortunately closed for refurbishment. What a shame, I now have to go back to Burton again...not that I needed an excuse!