Last weekend, our friends Lee and Becks took us on a mini tour of the Stroud area on the western edge of the Cotswolds.
The first stop was Stroud itself. We spent a short while looking around the weekly farmers’ market then popped into the Stroud Ale House for a drink (or several, as it turned out).
What a place! Located in what used to be a large bar/nightclub, this venue could be described as a “macropub” if such a thing exists. Essentially, it’s exactly what you’d expect from the micropubs that have taken over small shop and industrial units around the country, but on a much bigger scale.
As soon as you walk into the building you’re reminded that this used to be more than a humble ale house, with its tiled hallway, large staircase and spacious dining area with floor to ceiling windows. The main room is even bigger, with a large fireplace and a glass ceiling letting in natural light. There’s a small patio garden to the side nestled in the middle of the surrounding buildings. A hotch potch of new and old furniture fills the room and there are plenty of comfy chairs and sofas to sink into if you want to really relax.
Now to the important stuff – the drink selection. Geared to real ale and cider, there are a grand total of 12 hand pumps (two for cider and 10 for beer). The chalkboards above the bar give an at-a-glance view of what beers and ciders on offer – the majority of drinks are from the local area. Lager is available for the less-adventurous and there are a variety of bottled drinks and spirits behind the counter as well.
The pub also sells homemade food, such as roast dinners, chillis and curries. Plus there was a water bowl for dogs – always a bonus when Tilly’s in tow, as she usually is. A few other punters were taking advantage of the dog-friendly policy. I’m sorry to report though that the landlord’s dog recently passed away – Finbar the Irish Wolfhound was a local dog celebrity, apparently.
Luckily, third-of-a-pint glasses are available so there’s no excuse not to try most of the beers that are on offer. (Unless you’re driving of course – I wasn’t, but I think Becks was regretting offering to ferry us round for the day.)
In our first round of drinks, Lee and I plumped for one each of the “Avocet” from the Exeter Brewery and the Riverhead “Orange Wheat Beer” – both light ales and both delicious. Lee – a staunch lager man – particularly enjoyed the Orange Wheat Beer. So did I, come to think of it. Tiff went for a half of the Wilkin’s “Farmhouse Cider” but found it a little dry, so I helped her out.
After that, Lee and I decided to look for another pub while the girls looked round the shops. However, after a fruitless search (including walking into one pub then straight out again after we scoped out the tawdry beer selection) we returned to the Ale House to try a few more drinks. And, thanks to those trusty third-of-a-pint glasses, I got to try eight ales in all – that’s only one short of the amount I sampled during the course of the night at the Southampton Beer Festival.
Here’s what I had:
- Exeter Brewery “Avocet” – 3.9%
- Riverhead Brewery “Orange Wheat Beer” – 4.0%
- Stroud Brewery “Budding” – 4.3%
- Dark Star “Hop Head” – 3.8%
- Brass Castle Brewery “Snow Eater” – 4.8%
- Hanlon’s “Firefly Bitter” – 3.7%
- Great Heck “Amish Mash” – 4.7%
- Cotswold Lion “Golden Fleece” – 4.4%
My favourite was a toss up between the Firefly Bitter, which was a classic amber bitter much like London Pride, and the Orange Wheat Beer, which was surprisingly refreshing and not at all citrusy.
It’s also worth mentioning that the pub does takeaways in two-pint and four-pint containers – perfect, if like me, you don’t like the taste of beer from bottles.
Overall, I loved this place for it’s atmosphere, ale selection and unpretentiousness and wish that there was somewhere like it a bit closer to home in say, Southampton or Winchester. I’ll definitely be persuading Lee and Becks to take us here again next time we visit the area.
Info: The Ale House is situated at 9 John Street, Stroud, Gloucestshire, GL5 2HA. Telephone 01453 755447. No website but they do have a Facebook page that they keep up-to-date.