Here is your Talking Bull – Good Pub Guide to our next opponents on the road – Chester.
Oh no! Not bloody Chester again. We got absolutely stuffed the last time I went there in August 2019. More recently we had the Paul White fiasco, which did at least provide a silver lining with the return of the since departed Brandon Hall as our regular ‘custodian’.
At least we usually have a good day on the beer in Chester even if the football is invariably disappointing.
Deadline pressures mean that I’m shamelessly going to delve into my back catalogue and reproduce my Chester beer guide from 2019, a process that I like to call ‘Hop Will Eat Itself’. So sampled, looped (and the rest) here it is, but bear in mind that I’ve done no recent research and things might have changed quite a bit since then. But then it’s a midweek match and most of us probably won’t get the chance to go the pub anyway given the shitty location of Chester’s ground.
I recall several visits to Telford’s Warehouse, at Canal Basin, Tower Wharf, CH1 4EZ a large and impressive concerted Victorian warehouse by the Shropshire Union Canal. Occupying several floors the pub provides food and drink and I recall the beers from the local Weetwood brewery as being particular favourites. Weetwood is still stocked alongside Salopian, Thwaites and three changing guests with Derby, Tatton and Three Tuns breweries often represented. Real cider is also available. Reviews for both the food and the ale are very favourable so a return visit might well be considered.
The Pied Bull Hotel at 57 Northgate Street CH1 2HQ is home to the only micro-brewery within the city walls and brews a range of ales with names reminiscent of the kind of puns that regularly grace this magazine – Sensibull, Quaffabull, Bulls Hit and so on. It sounds like must for Hereford fans! Other beers include Adnam’s Broadside and two changing guests, often from the Blackjack, Ossett and Waen breweries. No real cider but there is food, although reviews for both this and the hotel accommodation are decidedly mixed.
Staying with the micro-brewery theme the Brewery Tap at 52-54 Lower Bridge Street, is the primary outlet for the Spitting Feathers brewery which is situated on a farm at Waverton, just outside Chester. The pub has been converted from an old Jacobean hall and has received several conservation awards. It serves up to seven beers from the Spitting Feathers range accompanied by guests from other micros, plus real cider. The pub serves food too, mainly from local ingredients. Reviews for this are almost universally positive and the building itself sounds fascinating too, so this may well get the nod.
Other Chester pubs include the Cellar at 19-21 City Road, CH1 3AE, which is actually at street level despite the name. Six changing ales are sourced nationally with Burning Sky and Hawkshead often represented. Three real ciders are also available. Food is limited to snacks, pies, paninis, Scotch eggs etc.
Back in the day I seem to recall that the Cross Keys at 2 Duke Street, CH1 1RP was a Boddingtons pub before the celebrated Manchester brewery was taken over and ruined by the dreadful Whitbreads. These days it is part of the estate of the Joule’s brewery of Market Drayton selling three permanent Joule’s beers plus a seasonal and one locally sourced guest. There is one real cider too. The pub also serves food, for which the reviews are generally favourable. This actually sounds pretty good but I have always found Joule’s beers a bit bland and ‘samey’ so may end up giving this a miss.
The Old Harkers Arms at 1 Russell Street, CH3 5AL is another warehouse conversion, this time on the ground floor only. Close to the canal it serves a house beer from Phoenix brewery, a couple of brews from Weetwood and six changing guests with Derby and Hawkshead breweries often represented. Real cider and perry is also available. The pub has an enviable reputation for its food with extremely positive reviews, but it is rather upmarket and expensive. Might be worth a visit if you are making a weekend of it, and probably best to book. The Old Harkers is owned by the Bruning and Price pub group, who also run the Armoury in Shrewsbury.
Rather more basic is the Olde Cottage Inn at 34-36 Brook Street, CH1 3DZ. This is an old fashioned community boozer, a declining breed in Chester one suspects. Owned by the Admiral pub group it serves nationally sourced beers from Otter, Sharp’s, Taylor’s and Robinson’s but also finds room for guests from smaller breweries such as Moorhouses’s and Spitting Feathers. The beer is very competitively priced for the area and reviews suggest that it is always in good nick. No real cider and no food offering. The Olde Cottage may not be as exotic as some of the places elsewhere in the city, but if you want a good honest pint at a sensible price it sounds a pretty good bet.
The Bear & Billet at 94 Lower Bridge Street CH1 1RU is part of the Market Town Taverns pub group, owned by the Okell’s brewery from the Isle of Man. The chain has a number of pubs throughout the North of England and these are usually a pretty good bet for decent, reasonably priced ale and food. The Bear is Grade 1 listed 17th century timber framed building, spread over three floors. Up to five beers available with Okell’s brews supplemented by guests, often from Salopian. Real cider is also available. Reviews for food are mixed, but generally favourable. There are large TV screens throughout the pub, which may not appeal to some.
The Cornerhouse at 4-8 City Road, CH1 3AE is a mock-Tudor building with exposed brick work and wooden floors. It offers Salopian Oracle and Taylor’s Landlord plus two guests, often from Hawkshead, Titanic, Purple Moose or Marble, one of which is usually a dark beer. Meals are of the sharing platter variety, usually meats or cheeses.
The Deva Tap at 121 Brook Street, CH1 3DU is an open plan pub with five changing beers and there is also a small courtyard with picnic tables. Recent reviews speak highly of both the beers and the food.
The Goat & Munch at 52 Garden Lane CH1 4EW is Chester’s first micro-pub and is situated in a former electrical appliance repair shop. The bar is made out of old pallets and serves four real ales plus a real cider. The beers are sourced regionally and often include Salopian, Peerless and Oakham. It all sounds pleasantly quirky and Bohemian and the reviews for the beer quality are universally good. However it doesn’t open until 2.00 pm making it difficult to visit prior to the game.
The Lodge Bar at 8-10 Hoole Road CH2 3NH is on the edge of town and is a lounge style bar forming part of the Bawn Lodge Hotel. Three hand-pumps supply a range of constantly changing beers with Salopian, Abbeydale and Rudgate breweries frequently represented. An extensive food menu is available, reviews for which are generally good, and which seems to offer good value by contemporary standards.
By Ian Mann – The Hereford Hophead