On tour: Warwick and Leamington

Oxford CAMRA chair Tony Goulding describes a branch visit to Warwickshire

As part of our successful calendar of socials, a trip by rail to pubs in Warwick and Leamington (something I had been planning for over three years) took place in April. As a result of reduced rail schedules part of the journey, Banbury to Warwick, was standing room only.

The first pub visited was a favourite of mine for the last 40 years, the Old Fourpenny Shop. This former M&B small back street local has over the years been extended and modernised including the former stables, the most recent change 10 years ago being a complete moving of the bar. Now with different drinking and eating area, we thought it would be difficult to move on. The beers were a very tasty Church Farm (a small producer and very rare outside of the local area) Session IPA, North Cotswold’s Shagweaver and Moreton Mild, Byatt’s Urban Red and the only beer from any distance, St Austell’s Trelawny. Good food was available, very popular in the sun trap garden, and we were blessed with warm sunshine all day.

The Old Fourpenny Shop sells mainly local beers. Photo: Pete Flynn

A five-minute walk found probably our favourite pub of the day (just), the Old Post Office, Warwick’s only micro-pub and yes, a Post Office till 35 years ago and then a shop. No food is served but you can bring your own, as it’s a proper pub serving gravity beer and cider. Most drinks here change quickly but on the day North Cotswold’s Hung, Drawn and Quartered along with Cotswold Best were super. Phipps’ IPA and Abbeydale’s Hinterland completed the line-up with seven ciders and four ever-changing kegs. I have already been back.

A bit of a walk found my third favourite pub in town, the Wild Boar, the tap for the local Slaughterhouse Brewery. A small in-house micro-brewery at present only produces a limited amount of keg. Formerly the Park Tavern, a Flowers brewery house, it has always been a favourite of the nearby hospital and rather sadly visited two and 20 years ago by my family following the passing of my parents. Beers served were mainly from Slaughterhouse — Saddleback, Wild Boar, Night Rider, Isolator – along with Oakham Citra and Lacons’ Legacy from Great Yarmouth. My father would have been happy, as he used to drink gallons of their beer while waiting to travel to India to save Burma in the Second World War. Food at the Wild Boar is served evenings only, but some enjoyed the large good value and tasty pork pies in the comfortable garden.

The Woodland Tavern in Leamington is a former Ansells house. Photo: Pete Flynn

It was now time for a short train ride to Leamington Spa. After and a 15-minute walk through the gardens west of the Parade in Leamington we found a very comfortable Victorian corner local, the Woodland Tavern, a former Ansells house. After a warm welcome the two regular beers, Taylor’s Landlord and Slaughterhouse Saddleback, were served in very good condition while up to two guest ales were waiting to appear. I was served a local Napton cider and conversation replaced any thoughts of food, which is not served here being a proper pub again.

Quirky interior of the Old Post Office. Photo: Pete Flynn

Another 15-minute walk to the top of town found the White Horse, a former 1830s M&B local, now much extended and modernised with an extensive food offering in a sprawling bar and outside patio. Up to six beers are normally served with on the day Oakham Citra, St Austell Proper Job and Sharp’s Doom Bar along with two tasty ciders. Although it is a regular GBG entry, to me it has no atmosphere and is more like an up-market ‘Spoons, if such a pub does exist.

After a 10-minute stroll down the Parade we found the town’s only “sort of” micro-pub, in a former Lloyds bank, the Boiler Room, decorated as such. It is very smart and modern and not just young people are customers. Very efficient and knowledgeable service was evident here with a huge glass beer cellar behind the bar with at least eight casks, eight keg and five ciders on view. Beers served were Tiny Rebel’s Peaches and Cream (very tasty) and a rare Black Lodge, from Liverpool (never heard of them) beer, Start of the Parade, which is where we were located. Other interesting kegs sampled by Gareth Green were Brubi brewery’s Lovely Pair of Coco Nuts and First Chop brewery’s Jam mango pale – something different and quirky.

These were six good pubs, all a little different, and another great social for our branch. For those saving up for later life or family, or those with not a lot to spend, there are a couple of ‘Spoons in each town, none of which would detract you from a visit to the above venues.

Good beer, good company, sunshine….. the CAMRA group at the Old Post Office