The picturesque Shropshire market town of Bridgnorth has much of interest to the real ale tourist, including two microbreweries and no less than six entries in the 2014 Good Beer Guide.
The River Severn runs through the town separating High Town from Low Town which can be accessed by the town’s unique funicular Cliff Railway for the princely sum of £1.10 return. Over the course of our week’s stay, we had the opportunity to visit the best of the pubs in the High Town and visit many other local tourist attractions including RAF Cosford, West Midlands Safari Park, the ‘as featured on BBC2’ Victorian Farm at Acton Scott and the nearby towns of Shrewsbury and Much Wenlock.
Having arrived late on Friday afternoon, we took a short walk into town to eat and made the splendidly named the Jewel of the Severn our port of call. Handily placed on Bridgnorth’s High Street, the pub offers the usual Wetherspoon’s experience although we did manage to catch the penultimate day of the Spring Beer Festival. I ordered a pint of Bateman’s Springtime Oatmeal Biscuit Beer (3.6%) and a Norwegian Brown Ale, Nogne 0 (4.5%) which was brewed for the festival at Bateman’s Wainfleet brewery by a Norwegian brewer. Pity I left by vouchers at home!
On Saturday, after returning from the obligatory point-to-point meeting at nearby Bitterley, I ventured into town to visit more of Bridgnorth’s pubs. Situated at the bottom end of the steep and delightfully old fashioned, Cartway, the Black Boy is now the last of over twenty pubs that stood on what once was the only route linking the High and Low towns. Signs around the town explained that the pub had only opened the previous night after a refurbishment and on tonight’s evidence, with no less than ten ales on offer, this pub is surely a shoo-in for the GBG 2015. After a pint of Mild (3.2%) from Hobson’s of Cleobury Mortimer, I headed back into town. Next up was Friars on St Mary’s Street, just off the main drag, a lively, narrow bar in which a band were sound-checking at the far end. The first of the five or so ales on the bar to catch my eye was Sheffield’s own Kelham Island Pale Rider but being on my holidays, I plumped instead for Hobson’s Best (3.8%).
After this, I made the short walk along High Street to the Bear where veteran blues quartet, The Salopian Dudes were becoming irked by the presence of a somewhat worse-for-wear lady, intent on interrupting their interpretations of Muddy Waters and BB King standards. After witnessing her increasingly outrageous antics over a pint of Salopian Shropshire Gold (3.8%), I headed back to our guest house via the GBG-listed, King’s Head on Whitburn Street. This 16th century coaching inn is very much a place to enjoy a meal although it does have a comfortable bar area in which to sample real ales such as King’s Escape (4.2%), a blonde beer from the town’s Bridgnorth Brewing Company.
Another strong contender for best pub in the town must surely be the Railwayman’s Arms at the town’s Severn Valley Railway Station at which you can catch a steam train to Bewdley and Kidderminster which are an hour or so away. The quality of the beer here was excellent and the pub was doing good business when we visited on Wednesday evening. Eight real ales (including Abbeydale Moonshine) and two Jack Ratt ciders were available from which I chose Hobson’s Town Crier (4.5%).
On our final night in Bridgnorth, we visited the remaining GBG-listed pubs in the High Town, beginning with the Golden Lion on High Street, a traditional two-roomed former Mitchell & Butler’s outlet. Pale Rider was once again available on the bar along with beers from Hobson’s, Wye Valley and the Three Tuns brewery in nearby Bishop’s Castle. The chosen beer here was XXX Pale (4.3%) from Three Tuns. After calling briefly at Banks-owned Shakespeare, we moved quickly along on West Castle Street, to the Old Castle, a popular all-rounder serving bar food, with a games room at the rear and a friendly bar area serving four real ales including Hobson’s (them again!) Town Crier (4.5%). The final pub of the night, and indeed the week was the White Lion, just along from the Castle and home to the Hop and Stagger brewery. Needless to say, Hop and Stagger beer was available in the form of Tangerine Dream (3.8%).
We really enjoyed our time in Bridgnorth. From a pubs and beer perspective, I can’t recall many towns of it’s size with quite so many good pubs serving real ale. And at just over two hour’s drive from Sheffield, Bridgnorth is well worth seeking out.
Dronfield & District CAMRA