Crawling #2: Stratford
I didn’t intend this to become a pub crawl as such but seeing as it did (I have a five pub minimum limit on what qualifies as a pub crawl) here it is. The backstory is that Maria (my wife) and I went to Stratford for our wedding anniversary and it just turned into a bit of a piss up. I’d like to point out that Maria didn’t actually drink anything as she was driving but don’t look at me like that. We had a nice time together, I just happened to drink some beers.
PUB #1: The Encore
We’re in Big Bill Shakespeare Country so everything is named after him in some way, shape or form. This was where we went for lunch. They do decent food but it’s overpriced, as you’d expect in Stratford. It’s a tourist trap. As you enter the small bar is directly in front of you. The restaurant is around the back. We were seated by the window, which overlooks the river slightly. If you get seated upstairs that’s where the money shots are. I had an UBU in here. It’s from the local Purity brewery in nearby Alcester. It doesn’t travel well, at all, but if you can get one in the area it’s a nice beer. ***¾. The staff were really pleasant but as far as beer goes; it’s either UBU or Doom Bar. Nothing more exciting on offer.
PUB #2: The Pen & Parchment
The Shakespeare references continue unabated! We went for a stroll after lunch, down by the river and I was tempted by the Barge and Quarterdeck, which is a pub on a boat that does wood fired pizzas. We crossed the river and almost went into the Boat House, which has an outdoor bar. I should have gone into the Bear, which was the CAMRA pub of the year for Warwickshire in 2019. We returned to the west side of the river and considered Cox’s Yard, which is another big outdoor venue.
Instead we dropped into the Greene King pub; the Pen & Parchment where I had a pint of Poet’s Ink. Yes, POETS INK. Pretty sure they don’t sell this anywhere else. It’s not a dark beer, which is sickeningly stupid. It’s also made by Greene King so it’s not great. **¾. One of their better own label things though. Maria had her dessert in here; a chocolate brownie with chocolate ice cream. I had a bite, it was nice but stodgy. We sat in the beer garden for a while, which is quite close to a main road so not ideal. Inside it’s a Greene King! The toilet was tiny and was also the staff bog. I can’t imagine this was any use during Covid times. One in, one out.
^ William Shakespeare’s birth place. A historic attraction in Stratford-Upon-Avon.
PUB #3: The Old Thatch Tavern
After dropping into Shakespeare’s birth place I wanted to find Ya Bard, the only Stratford pub on Untappd as a verified venue only to discover they don’t open on Mondays. Instead, it’s the Old Thatch Tavern and what a beautiful old boozer this is. Licenced since 1623 cry the beer mats.
There’s a bust of Shakespeare on the bar, because of course there is. It’s an old fashioned pub. Cramped, low ceiling, black & white wooden exterior with a restaurant in the back. I loved this gaff. What the UK has, that many other countries don’t, is these old historical boozers. They’re great. I had a Gales HSB, which was delicious and bitter. ***½. We sat in a little corner table with no leg room and just soaked up the vibes.
PUB #4: The Stratford Ale House
Having missed out on the hipster locale of Ya Bard, we pop just down the road to the Stratford Ale House. It’s a tiny pub and everyone is sat outside. Inside there’s a stage and five tables. It’s cramped and there’s barely room for the barrels behind the bar. Speaking of the bar, you have to walk through it to get to the toilets. So it’s all open. The walls are covered in beer mats and beer nostalgia stuff. It was a pleasure to sit in there for a couple of hours, just whiling the time away. Chatting and enjoying a few tasty beers. I had a Honey Porter from Milestone, which was surprisingly good. The honey giving it a sweetness without taking an overwhelming honey flavour along for the ride. ***¾. I also had a Screech Owl from Castle Rock. It was an American IPA. I thought it was decent. **¾. Not much going on though. As we were in the Ale House it started raining. Everyone came inside and it got really crowded. A geezer from a neighbouring pizza place dropped off some free samples! This felt like a great place for friends to hang out and socialise with the gaffer and his sole bartender. I had a lovely time.
Overall Stratford is a tourist trap. It’s expensive but it’s nice. Which is an ok combo but not ideal in this economy. The parking was fucking £17.75 for 6 hours in an NCP, which even by their standards is expensive. We had a nice day though. The Old Thatch is a lovely old boozer and the Stratford Ale House was very welcoming. The bar staff in all Stratford’s pubs were delightful. We’ll have to go back some day and check out a few of the other pubs like Ya Bard and The Bear.
PUB #5: The Turks Head, Alcester
Bidding adieu to Stratford we headed to nearby Alcester to get our fifth and final pub in before going home. It’s on the way and the parking is free so it’d be rude not to. The Turks Head is a nice little pub with a large front room with nooks and crannies. We sat out the back in what is basically their restaurant seating. There was a lot of room and people weren’t yet arriving for their evening meal. A bonus of daytime drinking on a Monday! I had a Deya Best Foot Forward, which I’ve had before and it’s decent. I should have gone for the beer where the name was scrawled on with a sharpie (Drop Project’s Railed IPA). As we sat in the back we shared a nice conversation about what a pleasant day it had been, and we should do it all again someday soon. My wife, an angel, is happy to just spend time with me while I’m sinking beers. She enjoys going to new places and hanging out, which is why she likes going to football games because it’s different cities and towns she’s not experienced before.
Drinking and football have become excuses for me to go and see places I’ve never been. I live about 35-40 minutes drive from Stratford and have never been there. This is patently ridiculous considering people travel from all over the world to see Stratford. My aim for 2021 was to go back to football and I got in over 40 games during the season. My aim for the rest of 2022, and beyond, is to simply go to places I’ve not been before and see more of my world. Lockdown had me sat in front of my computer playing Football Manager day in, day out for 18 months. We just booked tickets to go to Sweden in early July. Why? I’ve never been there.