Dorchester musings

On a recent trip to Cornwall our committee member Paul Manning and his wife Bev called into Dorchester for a short two day stay.

Dorchester is the county town of Dorset with Roman roots and location of the Tolpuddle martyrs trial. We stayed at the Kings Arms hotel, a lovely hotel and before venturing out around tea time just after arrival we sampled Summer Luvin a 4.2% session brew from Piddle brewery in the hotel bar. Just across the road on Church St was the Blue Raddle free house. Built in 1850, this has been West Dorset CAMRA Pub of the Year three times and the beer and food quality showed why. We had a few pints of St Austell’s Tribute and Proper Job beers – both very well kept and popular.

Blue Raddle free house

The next day we ventured further into town and after a visit to the Tutankhamun museum found a great little micropub called the Convivial Rabbit. This was very popular and we sampled King St Pale: a 4.2% hoppy pale from Wild Weather brewery, Ernie’s Milk Stout: rich and malty with coffee and chocolate flavours from Settle brewery, a Cheltenham Gold APA from Cheltenham brewery and a real cider, Dorset Nectar Sweet Maiden at 5%.

Bev enjoying the Convivial Rabbit micropub

We then headed to the Brewery Square redevelopment project, a relatively new mix of retail, cinema and offices on the site of the original Eldridge Pope brewery which brewed in Dorchester from the mid 1800s to its closure in 2002. It was probably best known for its Thomas Hardy barley wine which won awards in the late 1970s. The first place we found was a great brewery, bottle shop and tap room called Copper Street brewery across the road from the train station. We sampled their Egbert’s Stone session bitter and Dark Ages vanilla porter. Being the day before the Euros final, the owner had renamed many ales including Egbert’s Stone becoming Sweet Caroline! He also had closer to home Little Critter brewery cans in stock.

Copper Street brewery tap room
Copper Street’s rendition of Egbert’s Stone as Sweet Caroline ahead of the Euros final

Our final call was into a pre-booked beer tasting masterclass in the Brewhouse & Kitchen which was also in the Brewery Square complex. This had an onsite brewery and the masterclass turned out to be just Bev, me and the brewer, Ian Gosney.

Ian took us on a fabulous journey of eight different beers, some brewed onsite and other speciality beers – 5% Legend Craft Lager, 5.4% Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier, 4% B&K Best Bitter, 4.8% B&K American Pale Ale, 6% La Chouffe Soleil Belgium beer, 5.5% B&K Traditional IPA, 5.1% Schlenkerla Smokebeer and finally a 5.2% Tailgate Peanut Butter Milk Stout. Some fine beers and the last one was a pleasant surprise as we have previously been to the Tailgate brewery in Nashville, Tennessee and what an excellent place that was but that’s for another day’s article. 

Tasting masterclass at Brewhouse & Kitchen

After this we called again into the Convivial Rabbit for a beer I can’t recall before calling it a day. Dorchester is a great place for a stop off on the way to the south coast with a good choice of real ales.

Paul Manning

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