Pints and Social Bubbles Part 1
It’s post lockdown and I'd sampled my first pint of Weetwood Cheshire Cat in a pub for nearly four months at the Royal Oak in Kelsall after a delightful six mile circular walk, This prompted a social bubble experiment with a few CAMRA colleagues to keep to social distancing and see how some of the pubs in Chester were managing.
Late afternoon and it’s still pleasantly warm along City Road for the starting point at the Cornerhouse. The first thing you realise is having to wait at the door to be seated as there is no vertical drinking at the bar anymore. At the Cornerhouse, a mock Tudor building featuring lots of bare brick walls and wood flooring, we were welcomed with sanitised seats and tables, contact details were taken and then we were told of the beers available; Salopian Oracle, Mobberley 1924 and Arbor My Little Sabrony. I chose the latter American Pale Ale as I’d not heard of it and looking up the brewery based in Bristol, the beer names are somewhat bizarre – I Speak for the Trees, Blue Sky Drinking and Why Kick a Moo Cow!! . Contactless payment was the order of the day.
Moving across the road to their sister establishment the Cellar, we were welcomed by mine host Aki who found us some suitable seating from the quirky non matching choice available. Although space was reduced affecting numbers to be accommodated it didn’t affect the beer choice though I do know some pubs have reduced their range. There was a great beer from Chapter Brewing called Puck at the Helm and I quote from them “A new golden ale, available in Cask Only as a celebration for all our lovely pubs and bars that are beginning to open their doors. Dry hopped with Simcoe and Citra, Puck At The Helm is bright and bold!” and so it was. We also tried Brewsmith Comet Session IPA. Sadly the regular Marble Pint was not available much to the dismay of our chairman. It was also great to hear that the Cellar has got back to a measure of normality with their Beer Without Fear (BWF) monthly tastings on Mondays. We had some fun paying again on contactless with Aki’s machine confirming a payment of £143,000!!. That’s tech for you.
A quick cross over the road and down the steps to the canal brings you to the Old Harkers Arms, part of the Brunning and Price group. This upmarket pub was converted from the ground floor of a former Victorian canalside warehouse. Timber flooring, traditional wooden furniture and cast iron pillars provide an insight to its former use. We were met at the door by friendly staff wearing plastic face shields and were led to a table. Blackboards list the real ales with tasting notes, usually nine are available with a reduced selection to five we couldn’t grumble. Two Weetwoods (Eastgate and Cheshire Cat), Ludlow Blonde, Timothy Taylor Boltmaker and Big Hand Bastion.
A quick right turn down the canal towpath brings you to the Artichoke, a popular bar on the ground floor of the Steam Mill. Four handpumps usually dispense beers from micros in and around Cheshire, Shropshire, Manchester and North Wales. True to form they had on Beatnikz Republic, 2 am Poet. Plus Tatton Best, and Red Willow, Weightless all in top form.
So there you have it, a small insight to see how pubs are coping post lockdown. Although the beer range may be less than normal due to reduced numbers, the quality remains good. The pubs are trying hard to keep customers safe and following Government Guidelines with sanitisers at the ready. OUR ADVICE: Read any rules outside the pub before entering / follow instructions / expect to be seated, not standing at the bar / Enjoy your socially distanced beer. Your pub needs you! Look out for part 2 coming soon.