Down in Ipswich in Suffolk between Monday and Wednesday for a course. Flew down to Stansted from Glasgow and was met off the flight by a chum who was also attending the same event, so didn’t have to struggle with public transport to Colchester and on to Ipswich. We were booked into a rather cheap B&B and were not encouraged when, as we checked in, to see the ceiling above reception slowly collapsing to the ground. The rooms were pretty grotty, but at least the linen was clean. No evening meals, so we resorted to studying Tessa’s Good Beer Guide to find somewhere (a) where we could get some food and (b) get some good beer – it being my delight to find myself in the company of a lass who drank the stuff by the pint. We settled on the Dove Street Inn, which was about three-quarters of a mile’s walk through the town centre.
It being a Monday evening, the place was pretty quiet and we had the non-smoking lounge all to ourselves. Food was okay, but they admit that they concentrate on the beers, which they do in great style. We found ten real ales on hand pumps on the bar and, even more delightful, not only were they all in fantastic condition but served in generous measure in oversize glasses. I have, all my life, resented paying beer prices for froth and here, not only do you get full measure because of the oversize, but you generally get a wee drop more for good measure. It’s a small thing, but very important as far as the customer experience is concerned.
Suffice to say, I can’t remember the specific beers we tried, but they were all four excellent and we resolved to come back the following evening.
The next evening, after the first day of the course, there was another chum, Dave, staying in town overnight at the Golden Lion, a Wetherspoon’s hotel which you access via a chinese restaurant. Tessa and I collected Dave and then retired to the pub next door, the Mannings(?), for a drink while we decided where to go and eat. We ordered three pints of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, which is one of the best beers in the country, or at least it can be. Here, the beer was unaccountably darker than Landlord normally is and was in very poor condition, indicating bad cellar management and, possibly worse. Disappointed, we wandered off down a street with a good selection of restaurants and decided on the Thai offering, which turned out to be very good indeed for a set dinner for three. Mind you, I’ve never heard a Thai waitress swear before, so that was a novelty.
Anyway, back to the Dove Street Inn with Dave where we found the place heaving, bearing in mind this was only Tuesday evening. We managed to get a table in the heated marquee out the back where we settled back to continue our exploration of good ales and good company. The craic was mighty, as they say, and we had an uproarious evening between ourselves. After a few pints, we moved on to the malts and, as we were getting ready to buzz off, Karen, the landlady, came and joined us for a natter.
Karen is a lady with an astonishing knowledge of beer and manages to make keeping beer in good condition seem so easy. Their website even has live information from the cellar to let you know what beers are ready and how much is left! It was then, as we were ready to leave, that we discovered this pub not only had the main bar with ten ales on hand pump, but a tap-room with another eight drawn straight from the wood! couldn’t really be disappointed; we’d thoroughly enjoyed our two small sample visits to one of the great pubs of Suffolk, if not the country.