In my line of work, the firm I work for gives us the opportunity to go on some good quality training courses, which is great for personal development and keeping up to date with issues. But the usual location of these courses is often a hotel slap bang in the middle of nowhere. Last week I visited such a place on the outskirts of Daventry. For those that don’t know Daventry, beerwise its very much your standard local small town, the beer scene there is your usual array of pubs all of which serve the same standardised generic beers and you could literally be anywhere in the country when inside the pubs. The hotel pub is similarly uninspiring, the nearest you get to a decent beer is the small number of bottles of Marsden’s Pedigree which are kept in the back of the fridge and you have to know they’re there like some sort of secret club.
Things change however, the beer map of great Britain is slowly developing small sprouts of top quality beer growths to change the scene is places such as Daventry. The sprout in this instance comes in the form of the town’s first ever micropub, Early Doors. In true micropub style, the owners Neil Hawkey and Caroline Langlands have taken over a former mobility shop and turned it into a snug and cosy little watering hole. There’s no fancy jukeboxes here, no need, the clientele all feel like part of the club. I visited Early Doors after a Twitter recommendation from a local brewery, namely the Gun Dog Brewery who so far as I know are the only brewery in Daventry. Naturally, the power of Twitter meant I could tweet Early Doors and find out where they were and they guided me in.
The first thing you see as you walk in is the array of casks all stillage-d up ready to be tucked into. The pub is a lovely solid wood topped affair with cut off wooden doors beneath. Really smart finish and all the owner Neil’s handywork. The welcome I got was warm and welcoming, I was immediately offered tasters of the four beers that they had on offer on the night. The pub had been open for 2 and a half weeks (opened 6 March 2015) and the stocks were depleted, all signs that it is going better than expected. Even so, they still were able to offer me a choice of 4 cask ales to choose from. So after abit of a chat and the initial tasters, I opted for an American hopped 4.2% pale ale called Tiffield Thunderbolt by Great Oakley Brewery. Now here’s the difference, when a kegged beer is described as hoppy you should expect your tastebeuds ripped off, but cask has a greater maturity to the flavour and whilst the hops are a strong flavour in the beer, the hops aren’t sufficient to put off the non-hopheads amongst us. This was a good quality fresh tasting beer with a nice smooth maturity to it.
Next up, I opted for a Springer by Gun Dog ales which was fresh and brewed to a very good condition, light brilliant white head loose around the edge of the glass. This is an infinitely accessible beer. Nice easy going blonde ale, not too dominant on the palette. Light fresh summer beer you could easily drink a gallon and still think you were relatively capable….until you stood up….
Next beer was a Becketts ale by Phipps brewery, a 4.5% amber ale brewed with Northamptonshire honey. Bags of flavour in this, real good sweet malts with the honey flavour evident but not dominant. Quite a dry finish too to keep you thirsty for another gulp. For me this is exactly the sort of local beer I wanted to try. The style felt right in the surroundings and with the beer itself made with prominent local ingredients. Really enjoyable. Caroline explained that they’re pretty well served by breweries within a 30 mile radius of the pub great for out of town visitors like myself, but I would imagine that area will slowly creep as the locals crave more new beers.
Finally, I had the Gun Dog ales Lord Barker, a stout of 4.1% which had the rich roasted malt flavours just right in my opinion. The sweetness superbly offset by the bittering hops giving a nice rounded flavour, but every inch a stout. The mouthfeel was good and smooth in texture, not quite the thick velvet of an imperial stout which I prefer but still had good body for its abv, made it very quaffable and more accessible for people trying it for the first time. The brewery use the word moreish to describe this beer and I would have to agree with that. Its certainly a million miles away from the generic mass produced ales that plague so many unambitious pubs in this country. I would say that it’s the beer that most represented what Early Doors is all about when I visited. They’re bringing new flavourful ales to a local market which doesn’t currently offer anything like it.
Early doors is about great cask ales in true Camra style. They aren’t trying to do craft, why complicate things with chilled beers and CO2 lines? They still quote that one of their best selling beers to date was a black IPA, so no fear about new styles here. Instead they’re set up to make things as simple as possible and focus on good quality beer served in a relaxed welcoming environment.
Daventry does have its own wetherspoons, The Saracens Head Inn and I called in here on my way back to the hotel. Now don’t get me wrong I like the presence of wetherspoons generally. As a mass market set up they offer a good standard of beer, not necessarily all brilliantly kept or knowledgably served, but that’s an improvement on no offering at all which many small towns have to put up with. I think Bengali Tiger is a great beer to have readily available, but there’s something missing with the set up for me. I know they cater very much for the eating public and the tables and chairs reflect that, but I much prefer the casual relaxed home away from home feel that a micropub such as Early Doors offers. I think there’s a great future to be had. The mushroom cloud of microbreweries could well be replicated by the growth of micropubs and that’s alright by me! Now does anyone have a small retail unit on tyneside they’d like to rent out to me……