The Hunter's Column
February 2014

Biblical Imbibement

As the ‘Biblical’ waters arose throughout the Thames Valley, Somerset Levels and, nearer to home, the length of the River Severn, it became a case of all hands to the hand pumps. Sadly, our riverside pubs have been heavily hit yet again. Even if it doesn’t get into the pub, The Lower Lode, Forthampton; The Yew Tree, Chaceley Stock and The Boat, Ashleworth all become marooned islands; inaccessible, even to the wellie-heeled. ‘Twas ever thus - The earliest flood recorded at Ashleworth was the November 1770 flood. An extract from the Ashleworth Parish Register indicates: ‘In the month of November was an uncommon overflowing of the River Severn. On the 18th of that month, the water was four feet, seven inches in Ashleworth church’. The only plus sign must be the amount of press and TV coverage they receive, which hopefully will serve them well for the rest of the year.

Falling in thick, ancient, leather bound volumes on sodden fields, the Biblical Rain had ‘Noah’ to go but into the nearest pub and we decided to follow it. The water wasn’t that deep outside The White Bear in Tewkesbury, but Darren and Jackie, who have been running it since last May, had wisely taken the precaution of putting flood boards up and, thanks to the generous assistance of Travis Perkins, just over the road/rivulet, were able to pump it out almost as fast as it came in. I don’t think the locals even noticed. When we visited, to show some CAMRAderie - our place too was under threat from the river - there was a game of pool (!) in full swing and someone had put ‘River Stay Away From My Door’ on the jukebox. A big, broad banner across the front of the bar proclaimed it to be the Doom Bar, although it was far less doomy, even with the water splashing around our wellies, than many a place I’ve imbibed in with dry feet. The guest ales had obviously been selected to continue the theme of the night - Gloucester Brewery’s Dockside Dark (one of my favourites; taking few prisoners at 5.2%) and Great Western Brewing Company’s Hambrook. Even the regular ale is named after a fish! The cellar at The White Bear is at ground level, for obvious reasons.

There was much Biblical Imbibement at the Tewkesbury Winter Ales Festival with 80 ales on tap, plus a select choice of local ciders and perries. Corinium Ale’s 1 AD was voted the Beer of the Festival, although it, of course, qualifies as pre-Biblical Imbibement, as the Bible wasn’t cobbled together until the Council of Nicaea, over 300 years later. We all know how slow councils can be deciding anything (except selling car parks in Tewkesbury, apparently!) Of the ales I supped, my top mark went to Leicester’s Golden Duck Brewery’s Winter Spice; a dark, strong brown ale (5.5%), with a hint of cinnamon. The highlight of the festival must have been the spectacle of the Gloucester Cycling Club impersonating our French allies during the war, sticking on ‘Allo, ‘Allo false moustaches, whilst re-enacting the famous Wellington bomber expedition, as Eric Coates’ Dam Busters March, was played ‘Triple fff ’ by the ever-excellent Tewkesbury Town Band. Encore!

The encore came in the shape of a Tewkesbury and Cheltenham CAMRA members’ coach trip, with executive toilet please, to the National Winter Ales Festival in Derby. You don’t see one for ages, then two come along at the same time. Amongst our esteemed company were the publicans of both the Sanford Park Ale House, Cheltenham CAMRA sub-branch Pub-of-the-Year 2014 and the Red Lion, Northleach, recently bought from Punch Taverns by Carol and Kevin and now a free house. There were 414 ales available; enough to quench even the most biblical of thirsts - a thirst that could drink the Red Sea dry, let alone put a temporary footpath through it. Where do you start? There was everything from Cwrw Carw to Cairngorm’s Sheepshaggers Gold; Dr Morton's Hedgehog Resharpener ‘Britain’s favourite garden accessory’ to Corinium’s (2 Ads!) Ale Caesar and Darker Side Of The Moon to Black Sabbath, with a Winter Shade Of Pale in between. You could get High As A Kite at 10.5% or have a Baz’s Bonce Blower at 12% - why do I always get talked into it? Also discreetly available, behind the counter, was a Knee Buckler, Big Willie and Good Spanking from a Fallen Nun. One lady was seen pouring a pint of Rebel’s Mexi-Cocoa Choco-Vanilla Stout down the toilet. The lesson for us all being, be careful of what you wish for. Amen

Bill Hunt