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Ok so as I’m sure your all aware, St Paddys day has just passed. hopefully everyone enjoyed a Guinness or three, and had a fun-filled enjoyable celebration!
It also happened to co-inside with the Wetherspoons famous ‘Worlds biggest Real Ale and Cider festival’. So what an opportunity to see why it’s classed as the worlds biggest, and visit a few Wetherspoons pubs.
Jon, Dan, Ellie and myself set out to sample the ales on offer at the spoons, and then to see which pubs served the best Guinness on St Paddys.
Now I’m sure at some point in time, you have all been in a Wetherspoons pub. they have cheap beers, and cheap food. Now over the last couple of years, they have been bringing in more Real Ales, but they still obviously advertise to the masses and offer the usual lagers/ciders and bottled alcopops, for much cheaper than independent pubs. There are three Wetherspoons in the heart of Ipswich; The Cricketers, Robert Ransomes, and The Golden Lion. During the day each are very similar, however at night the Robert Ransomes turns into a night club with a large downstairs dance floor, and is not the nicest of bars. Being a night club, there are only plastic glasses, even during the day, and it is usually packed full of very drunk, not the nicest type of people. The Cricketers is seen as a stop off point at night, for a few cheap drinks before heading into town, but does have a quite a few older gents enjoying a pint in there. The Golden Lion is usually packed full every evening, with a much younger client base which is odd, as they serve almost identical drinks and food, at similar prices. Anyway, we decided to try the ales available at the beer festival at each of these, even though being the evening St Patrick’s day, it may of not been the best time to do this. But we gave it a go anyway.
Their beer festival is advertised as the largest in the world, and this is down to I believe, the variety of beers and ciders they have on. However, each pub only has around 4-8 different ales on at a time, depending on the number of pumps, as it seems they can’t remove regular ales to make space for guest ales unfortunately. But every time one is finished, a different ale is brought out. So if you frequent at the right times you could certainly try a wide variety. They also differ from pub to pub, but not as much as we had hoped. Each Wetherspoons in Ipswich had almost the same ales on, which was a shame.
The pricing can’t be beaten, all guest ales are £1.99, with premium ales being £2.19. They also have a deal where you can order three 3rds for £1.99, which are served on a tray, on a sheet numbered with what they are, so you can reference them to their beer festival booklet to keep track of what you’ve tried. They certainly cater for people who come to try a wide variety of ales and who want to keep track of what they get.
I can’t remember which pubs served which, so I will just list all the drinks we tried, along with the tasting notes Jon documented on the night. I personally was in no great state and everything I had tasted remarkably like rusted tin. Here are the beers we sampled;
Murrikan Mild, from the Smuttynose brewery in New Hampshire. It was 4.2% and was rather bland. No distinct flavours, quite a light ale and easy to drink but nothing special in this ale.
Snake Slayer, from the Elgoods brewery. A dark ale at 4.5% with a slight hint of coffee on the aroma and in the taste. No overwhelming flavours however was quite pleasant and easy to drink.
Nøgne ø Bitter, from the Nøgne ø Brewery in Norway. AT 4.3% this ale has a standard copper colour like many good bitters, however smells flowery like a plant, and is to sum up is rather ‘meh’.
Coffee Porter from the Caledonian brewery, Much thicker than previous ales tried, comes in at 4.3% and has a strong coffee taste. Very nice, good beer!
Wolf in Sheeps Clothing, from the Wolf Brewery. Another great ale, black, dark, and delicious.
APA Special from the Moorhouse brewery was rather a disappointment. Basically it has everything that wrong with light beer, smelled like flowers, and tasted like grass.
Scullion Irish Ale, from the Hilden Irish Brewery. The oldest indepedant brewery in Ireland! This ale was smooth, easy to drink, but bland. Completely flat, and not too exciting.
Unfortunately we didnt get a chance to sample any more ales, as we moved on to the Guinness challenge.
While we sampled the ales, Dan was on Guinness duty, tasked with the very demanding role of rating each bars Guinness on a range of factors, and scoring them out of 10, to see which was the best prepared for St Paddys. Each bar was rated on the pour (was it poured authentically?), the presentation (In a Guinness glass, shamrock on top?), the taste, the price, and the service (what were the bar staff like?)
His results are as follows.
Cricketers – Reasonably busy Wetherspoons pub, managed to get a good table.
Pour – Quick, maybe too quick. 6/10
Presentation – Sloppy, standard pint glass. 4/10
Taste – Not that cold, good taste. 7/10
Price – £2.50 . 9/20
Service – Moody, appalling. 4/10
Total – 30/50
Robert Ransome – Very busy, very loud, found a seat upstairs at the back.
Pour – did not wait long enough. 6/10
Presentation – Plastic ‘glass’, no shamrock. 3/10
Taste – Not very fresh, odd taste, not cold enough. 5/10
Price – £2.55. 8/10
Service – Nice and polite, and quick. 7/10
Total – 29/50
The Golden Lion – Also very busy. Managed to grab a seat up at the back.
Pour – Not bad, not great. 6/10
Presentation – Simple plain glass, no shamrock. 6/10
Taste – Standard, but not the best. 5/10
Price – £2.50. 9/10
Service – Nice, polite quick service. 8/10
Total – 32/50
McGintys – Branded an Irish Guinness pub. Very busy, band on, no seats to be found!
Pour – Good pour. 7/10
Presentation – Guinness glass, no shamrock. 5/10
Taste – Good taste. 7/10
Price – £2.95. 6/10
Service – Nice friendly, but slow due to how busy it was. 6/10
Total – 32/50
Overall McGintys came out as the favourite for Guinness, but that shouldn’t be a surprise as it’s a Guinness pub! Slightly disappointed that the new owners didn’t have a clue of the Guinness black list however.
But that was our St Patricks evening out.Check out our podcast from our night out here.
Also, check out our new Pubcask Facebook Page, for updates on what were up to in the world of Real Ale!