Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Montgomeryshire CAMRA Mid Wales Tour

Around this time of year, ale enthusiasts under the badge of CAMRA will be diligently collating and cogitating with regards to their recommendations for the tome that is the Good Beer Guide. To be fair, this is oft a year-long process but now we're at the business end of the beer season.

I hopped on board the fun bus with 14 other fine folk from the Montgomeryshire branch of CAMRA. Now this lot are active, proactive even, in their promotion of proper pints in the beautiful heart of rural Wales but their task is a tough one. Entry to the GBG ought to be presented by Willy Wonka in these parts as pubs aplenty procure pints that are pretty close to perfection...


 I met my convivial host Jon at the branches' HQ, The Sportsman in Newtown and it was plain to see why this boozer is a no-brainer in terms of GBG entry locally. Most pubs in this town are fizz-full but this place is the shiny tap house for Monty's brewery and my MPA was van ideal starter at 11.33 am. Long day of research ahead!

There were too many pubs to write about, and do justice, to individually so here's a list for reference:-

1. The Sportsman, Newtown.
2. The Red Lion, Trefeglwys.
3. The Bluebell, Llangurig.
4. The Black Lion Hotel, Llangurig.
5. The Old Mill, Llanidloes.
6. The Stag Inn Llanidloes.
7. The Mount Inn, Llanidloes.
8. The Red Lion, Llanidloes.
9. The Crown and Anchor, Llanidloes.
10. The Royal Head, Llanidloes.
11. The Angel, Llanidloes.
12. The Railway, Newtown.

Numbers 2, 3 and 4 are quite isolated village boozers that were welcoming and warm whilst the weather whistled by, worsening the further west we went!

Llanidloes, it seemed, was the where the west was won as the task here was a tall one; this market town of less than 2000 people has a plethora of pubs, many being really well worth a visit for any beery visitor.

Who should be in the GBG? Discussion at The Mount
The Stag was fun with an amenable jukebox taken over by top bloke Beeker and some 'mood music' whilst find of the day for me was the Old Mill. Located in the building of the former United Sevices Club, this place is great. It's a cosy, cobbled-together drinking den that is recycled and completely left field. Warm and welcoming, you would never find this artisan gem without a guide and I pushed hard for it to be strongly considered.

Beer scoring cogitation
 Other pubs in Llani tend to be more traditional in terms of layout and beer choice. Welsh ale is often that bit sweeter than that found elsewhere but pleasingly the pints were clearly well kept and mostly locAle. Three Tuns brewery were spotted several times but I preferred the Purple Moose and, best of all, was the Pamplemousse at the Old Mill, one of the beers by Llani's very own Waen Brewery. Crisp, clean, citrussy and moreish, Sue Hayward is rightly receiving acclaim from far afield aswell as having the best pint about when I visited.

The Mount and The Crown are also definitely worth a visit for anyone with an interest in the heritage and historical contribution of our pubs. The latter is fondly known as 'Ruby's' locally and has been lovingly run by the same landlady for 50 years! Half a dozen pubs here all within stumbling distance of one another and all offering very good ale, I'm pleased to report.

 I bobbed back to the Old Mill for another Pamplemousse before boarding the bus back East. A tactical snooze and a final pint of Tiny Rebel's Cwtch back in Newtown were in order along with chairman Ian 'Oz' Austin and co contemplating the day's findings. The Montgomeryshire branch have a tough job, but someone's gotta do it. When's the next trip!?

Thanks to all the pubs we visited and to all the fine people that I chatted with. You are doing a tremendous job supporting and promoting pubs and that is clearly appreciated.

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