It was raining yet again as we arrived in Richmond. We found a parking place on the very precipitous town square and had a wander. The inside market had a tourist map which revealed that the former station, now a tourist complex, had a new micro brewery. "That'll do" we thought. While deciding which way was what, we were accosted by the local nutter, this time the female of the species. She was hard to shake off and though she seemed harmless enough, someone had given her a fat lip. We beat a hasty retreat while she looked around for her next victim.
The Station was at the bottom of the hill in a valley and was a pleasant affair with a cafe and various craft stalls. A delicious smell of baking pervaded. Richmond Brewery was in a unit inside and we had a pleasant chat to the brewer, Andy. A Scot, he had done time with Tennents, Websters, John Smith's, Theakston, Newcastle and other breweries. He did one beer, Richmond Station Ale, which was on sale in the cafe and also in the local JDW, where a Yorkshire Ales Festival was going on. For those who like to know these sort of things, the brewery is a six barrel plant, commissioned on 2 June 2008. Continuing my theme of unhappy endings, the beer, a darkish, malty affair was bit hard to get down. Hopefully it will improve in time. We didn't go back and tell him. Should we have?
Returning up the hugely steep hill, we called in at the JDW, the Ralph Fitz Randal. The festival was in its dog days, but had all beer at £1.59 a pint, available in thirds. We set to. The chatty female manager was brilliant. She told us she had been there only a few weeks but has increased cask ale sales by several hundred percent. Her husband is an enthusiast. It showed. Superb beers from Outlaw, York Brewery, Hambleton, Clarks and Wentworth were supped. The Outlaw Yorkshire Pale Ale was stunningly good, with tropical fruit flavours, but was still pipped by York Pure Gold which was full bodied and grapefruity. I could have drunk a lot of either.
Our hostess happily discussed the usual Wetherspoon's issues with us. She firmly believes that Wetherspoons can be good pubs. She also believes in being "hands on", which she feels not enough JDW managers are. As she put it, "it's all down to the manager. Get a bad manager in any pub and the pub will be no good. Get a good one and the pub will be good." She has a free hand to get what beer she likes, though she must sell Pedigree and Directors. She gets a lot of micro stuff in as they attract interest and they sell well.
If all JDW managers were like her, the company would have a better reputation. She is a good 'un!
Always look on the bright side - In their new book 20th Century Pub, Boak and Bailey reached the conclusion that “we feel unfashionably optimistic for the pub”. Now, in my usual role as ...
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