Chester & South Clwyd

Campaign for Real Ale

Campaign for Real Ale


Tuesday 6 October 2020

It’s nearly a month since our last outing so time for another update on the new normal pub scene in Chester as part of CAMRA’s Cask Ale Week from 24 September to 4 October.

We started along Bridge Street Row where the quirky Cavern of the Curious Gnome is located above Paysan (peasant in French) wine bar at row level. Ascend the stairs and a colourful large papier-mâché dwarf gazes down on a Belgium beer grotto. Red-and-white spotted toadstool seating immediately catches the eye as well as school style bench seating now separated by plastic screening. Having only just reopened, staff were still assessing the impact of the about to be imposed regulations and the 10pm curfew closing time.

Despite this, they were upbeat and allowed us to view the beers on offer before taking our orders. Squawk Pavo Pale Ale and Northern Monk Essential Session IPA were on offer together with two Ciders. Having two rounds at this pub enabled us to try each of the beers and my favourite was the distinctive hoppy Pavo from Squawk Brewing Company though I didn’t quite get their description of blossom and bubblegum on the nose. Another two great beers from the many microbreweries in Manchester that I’m gradually ticking off.

A quick turn left down to Lower Bridge Street brings you to the Cross Keys. Rebuilt in 1894 this Ruabon red bricked Grade II listed building was bought by Joules brewery in 2012 and has been tastefully refurbished by them. It’s also a regular venue for our branch meetings that are held in their upstairs room the “Slaughtered Lamb”. However, it was a different view we enjoyed on the night as were seated in their spacious downstairs room with oak floors and wood panelling throughout. Notable features are the etched mirrors and stained glass windows depicting other hostelries in the Joules estate. If you didn’t know it you’d think you were looking at a genuine Victorian interior. It brought back memories of my leaving do on a Friday in February 1989 when I said farewell to my colleagues from Cheshire CC enjoying a pint of Boddingtons Beer which owned the pub at that time. Different beers now, with Joules Pale and Blonde Ales, Slumbering Monk available together with two Rosies Ciders. All beers were very good.

Just across the road is another Grade II* listed building at the Brewery Tap. You go up the steps and through the doors into a stunning former Jacobean banqueting hall. Charles I stayed here in 1645 and behind a Perspex panel part of the original wattle and daub wall can still be seen. The pub's stone floors and high ceilings offer a safe drinking environment in these Covid times. Siren beers were on offer with Breakfast Stout, Lumina and Yulu together with Goffs Jester and Lancer and Celtic Marches Thundering Molly cider. All beers very good.

Three great pubs with great beers and cider choices as well which made another enjoyable evening had by all.

However, now pubs are on reduced hours and local lockdowns not too far away it’s another blow for them having suffered 3 month closure and then been getting to grips with table service and reduced pub visitors. It’s now even more important we support our pubs but in a responsible manner so as not to allow further draconian measures to be introduced.