I recently read a cracking little article on one of my favourite blogs to read THE CASUAL CONNOISSEUR were the chaps who run the blog went on a real ale weekend to the two famous Roman towns of Chester and York where they basically went drinking good ales in all the hidden gem ale houses of these two famous ancient cities. The thing I liked about the article was that they headed into a city that is fairly local for me (Chester) and basically gave me a load of tips for drinking spots that, despite spending alot of time over the years in the city, I have never been to and had a drinking experience there. So last Friday I decided to grasp the opportunity and take my ale trail to the city I once almost moved to Deva aka Chester.
I’ve always liked Chester, it’s only an hour on the train or hour and a half on the bus from mine so growing up in Merseyside I spent quite alot of time in Chester. I have quite a few close friends that live in the city, have worked a few jobs there and at one point almost moved there myself about 5 years ago. It’s a City full of history and a great layout plus it still has the famous wall surrounding the entire city that dates back to the days of the Romans.
I decided to head in with Kirsty to originally have a mooch around, walk around the famous wall and grab some lunch with her. After she headed home I decided to take in a couple of the spots recommended by the Casual Con article. So armed with a craving for ale and the newest copy of the fantastic PROPER MAGAZINE (review to come) I headed to my first spot, The Pied Bull Hotel on the cobbled King Street near to the central square of the City. Said to be the oldest continuously licensed premises in the city dating back to the 11th century, The Pied Bull is a quaint little which pub, despite the recent refurb, prides itself on it’s history with it’s old fashioned decor. There’s more than meets the eye with this place too, as well as being a CAMRA favourited pub the Bull also has a few rooms for guests to stay in as well as a micro brewery in the basement where they brew a dark ale known as “Black Bull”. Needless to say this was my sup of choice for my visit.
I’m not a massive fan of dark ales, I usually find them quite stogy and a bit too overly bitter but I figured when in Rome with this one, though I do kind of wish I hadn’t. Black Bull didn’t help change my mind of dark ales I found this stogy as usual and left an overly bitter aftertaste as well as a weird sort of liqourice-ish (say that after a few) taste that I was put off by. A nice pub granted however this particular ale let me down unfortunately.
After spending a bit of time reading through Proper I decided to head across to the other side of the town to another popular old alehouse hidden away near the remains of the Roman amphitheater and gardens named THE ALBION INN.
The Albion is famous for it’s wartime decor, it’s no bullshit attitude towards unwanted punters and it’s gastro pub menu loved by TV Chef’s Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein, needless to say it did not disappoint in the slightest. Despite the lads at Cas Con not rating this place highly compared to the other places I instantly fell in love with the place from the moment I walked into the door and saw a sign that said “Don’t bring your stag-hen or pub crawl here, we don’t need you, we don’t want you, we won’t serve you!” Brilliant, I knew straight away this was going to be my kind of ale house. The first thing you notice when you walk into one of the two rooms in the pub is the, tacky as they may be to some, war related artifacts, nick nacks and posters that decorate the walls and a roaring open fire. No jukebox, no pool tables and no fruity machines just a quaint small bar serving good ales and nice grub.
I ordered a lovely golden ale called “Titanic” which hit the spot perfectly and managed to help remove the taste of the dark I’d had in the Pied Bull. A lovely smooth golden ale full of colour and very well brewed and full of flavour and fairly strong at 5% (hence the name Titanic as you would be likely to sink after a few). After supping on a pint or two I decided to get some scran from the pub’s famous kitchen. Looking through the menu it was fairly expensive, that’s to be expected from a gastropub famous for selling Haggis and Liver dishes I suppose, so I decided to order the cheapest thing I could find on the menu. A dish that was reccomended by Rick Stein himself a ‘Tunstall Tortilla.” This amazing dish consisted of a Shropshire Oatcake filled with Bacon, black pudding, fried potatoes and cheese. Absolutely PERFECT and hit the spot just right. I certainly will be coming back here again without question and I would recommend anyone to give this place a go.
So after a few pints and a nice bit of scran I headed home feel very happy and satisfied. I’m made up that I got to try these alehouses and I’ll definitely be heading to Chester again in the near future for an ale trail as there are a handful of other pubs to try out as well as another visit to the Albion.