I have only been to Bristol twice and both times was B.C (before craft!) and straight to the Memorial Stadium to watch Leyton Orient play Bristol Rovers. Neither times did we venture into Bristol town to sample the many great pubs and bars, it is something I have always wanted to do but never had the chance to make the short 2-hour train ride over to Bristol from London. So, when I was invited by Visit Bristol and Destination Bristol to come sample the great beers of Bristol for a day I jumped at the chance, the itinerary was pretty much the perfect tour so I was incredibly excited to be invited.
To make my traveling a more relaxed time and to have the opportunity to experience Bath Ales before the big day I spent the night in The Wellington, one of Bath Ales owned pubs. Bath Ales first started in 1995 when Roger Jones brought together Richard Dempster, who he had worked with previously worked with at Smiles Brewery, and Rab Clark, who was a pub landlord willing to showcase the beers they planned to brew. Originally based in Wincanton in Somerset, but naming the brewery Bath Ales with the forward-thinking idea of eventually ending up in Bath. Taking inspiration for the branding from the Westbry White Horse, Bath Ales created the Hare, which still now in 2017 holds strong as their branding. After a couple of brewery moves and upgrades Bath Ales made its home in Warmley just outside of Bristol. In 2012 Beerd Brewery was born, allowing Bath Ales to explore into some new innovative and experimental brews. Following the creation of Beerd Brewery, two Beerd Craft Beer & Pizza Bars were opened, one in Bristol and the other in Oxford. On July 1st 2016 Cornwall based independent family-owned brewery St Austell acquired Bath Ales, buying their brand, brewery and pubs. Bath Ales was in need of investment to expand as they were at capacity and St Austell have allowed Bath Ales to expand but still brew all their brand beers at Bath Ales brewery.
It had been a while since I sampled the cask beers from Bath Ales and their craft offspring Beerd, the last time being when I had a great time in Beerd Oxford. I had decided to walk half the way to The Wellington in the blistering heat, and although a crisp cold pale ale or IPA may have been most popular choice, I picked to try a pint of Dark Side, their kegged stout and it was perfect. Brewed with a mixture of dark roasted malts and fuggles hops Dark Side is a smooth, easy drinking stout with a nice crisp dry finish, which even on a hot summers day I found very refreshing. Gem is Bath Ales leading product, a traditional English bitter, it has a 4.1% ABV and is full of rich tea biscuit and caramel flavours with a bitter finish. Gem was inspired by Fullers London Pride and I can clearly see the link between the two.
The Wellington is a little way out of town, you are looking at a 15ish minute bus ride or an hour walk, but it is a few minutes around the corner from The Memorial Stadium making it a perfect pre-match drinking establishment, or even somewhere to stay if you plan on stopping over before a Rovers away match, prices starting from £79 a night. Away fans are welcome on a match day and if you enjoy good beer I recommend you make The Wellington your away days stop off, with a large selection of both cask, keg and bottled beers along with all other options of wine, spirits and soft drinks. With beers from both Bath Ales, including their flagship beer Gem and SPA, and St Austell Tribute, even featuring some of the Small Batch beers, there is plenty to keep you going.
The Wellington is a spacious, smart, comfortable pub, with low hanging lights and tiled walls behind the bar. There are seating areas at the front of the pub, with a few little booth style tables, leading round to the back where the pub opens into a more restaurant style table lay out. For the warm summers evenings, there is a garden for drinking and eating, with enough space to hold their beer festivals.
Staying over in The Wellington was a pleasure, large and comfortable beds assure a perfect night’s sleep and the size of the power shower will keep you washing yourself for longer than usual! The rooms are decorated nicely and even on a warm summers evening there wasn’t too much noise travelling up from the pub.
Breakfast was perfect start for me to head off on my day of drinking around Bristol, with smaller breakfast options like eggs benedict as well as a great full English breakfast. The evening food follows the same quality, a large menu with lots of tempting dishes such as fish and chips cooked in Bath Ales batter, creamy leek and mushroom suet pie and ham hock terrine. Some say you should judge a pub on its burger, so in that case The Wellington has nothing to worry about, I opted for the house burger which was juicy, flavoursome and a real handful!
Unfortunately, due to Orients terrible downfall I won’t be crossing paths with Bristol Rovers, but for any other football fan who is travelling to the Memorial Stadium next season I strongly recommend you visit The Wellington for its great food, very friendly staff, lovely surroundings and top quality selection of well-kept cask beer and keg selection.
Disclaimer – I was invited to Bristol by Visit Bristol for a press trip. St Austell and Bath Ales put me up in The Wellington the night before the press trip, although I didn’t pay for a thing, I haven’t let this affect my opinion of The Wellington, the beers or Bristol.