A night of IPA at The Dove, Bury St Edmunds

This is an attempt to divert my attention from photography for one moment, and to recall that FR is actually a blog concerned with all manner of good things, including cycling, beer and travelling as well as taking pictures.  In this spirit, I am pleased to post a short account of my Saturday night, which was very enjoyably spent in good company at The Dove, Bury St Edmunds’ finest beer house

The Dove is one of a rare breed – a ‘proper’ pub which is run by a beer enthusiast, the impressively bearded Roger Waters.  Dating back to the mid-1800s, the pub has, probably by virtue of its rather out of the way location,  managed to remain unaffected by the march of lager, jukeboxes and fruit machines, remaining a basic, bare-floorboarded two room bar which does not have gastro pub pretensions, but instead concentrates on serving six real ales at all times.  In recent years there have been a few ventures in the town that aim for a similar purpose – The Old Cannon being one, The Beerhouse being another.  Both of those pubs are also micro breweries as well, and the Cannon is very firmly in Gastro Pub territory.  But they both just miss the ‘real pub’ ambience – they just seem to be too self conscious in their attempts to be the real thing, and end up looking like they are trying too hard.

Our arrival saw the pub in a nice, half full state, with locals already enjoying the available ales. We were sharp enough to bag one of the scrubbed wooden tables, which was a shrewd move because the bar soon filled up with drinkers.  The ales that were ‘on’ constituted an interesting choice.  Woodfordes Wherry and Crouch Vale Brewers’ Gold are always available as the staple beers, but in addition we also noted Nethergate IPA at 3.5 percent and a very interesting 5.2 percent bruiser from Lowestoft, Green Jack Mahseer IPA.  One for later, I thought.

We began almost unanimously on the Nethergate.  All the beers here are kept fastidiously, Roger being apparently something of a font of beer related knowledge.  The pint was clear, amber-coloured and had a lovely frothy white head.  At this relatively low strength, it didn’t pack much of a punch, but had a nice, malty flavour and a reasonable finish of [apparently fuggles] hops.  As somebody who used to live in Huddersfield, now the apparent real ale capital of the UK’, you do get somewhat used to a certain style and the northern hop-monsters do make you a little blase when tasting anything else.  In order to have something to wash down with our beer, we also bought a pint of pork scratchings from the bar – not the plastic bags of Black-Country rind you often get in pubs, but big, majestic bits of salty crackling which were ideal for producing a continued thirst.

The problem with a sessionable beer such as the Nethergate is that you are tempted to drink it very quickly and then want another one.  This was the case and so I suggested to my fellow drinkers that we move on and try a pint of the Green Jack, a much more formidable beer.  The bar, although now full, was being served efficiently and waiting doesn’t seem to be a problem like it is in some pubs.  The other thing that I noticed, first with surprise, but then delight that such a reactionary step could be taken, was that The Dove has no lager taps on the bar.  Now I did not trouble myself to look into the fridges behind the bar, but I am sure a meagre supply of bottled lager may be available.  However, what a statement, and what a great one at that.  If you want to ensure that your pub is kept free of the kind of person who quaffs Carling habitually, then here is your template.

Now as I mentioned, The Dove does not ‘do’ food.  However, a short chat with landlord Roger later on revealed that a bespectacled stranger sat at the bar was, in fact, also a local butcher, and his pork pies were available from the bar, wrapped individually in greaseproof paper and with a little mustard sachet included.  We felt we had to continue our beery patronage of pork in its many, manifest forms, and so a pie each was procured.  They were quite excellent – firm, meaty, with good short pastry and little jelly to distract from the taste.  What a great drinking accompaniment – and luckily the Green Jack Mahseer IPA was strong enough to cut through the fatty pork.

Mahseer is a really great pint.  It tastes like all of its 5.2 percent strength – you feel a sense of respect for it in the mouth.  It is a strong, amber coloured pint with a creamy, tight head and a very long, almost American IPA kind of finish – probably because it has both English and American hops in the brew.  I would place it close to Adnams American IPA for taste and strength.
And so the evening carried on – although we were generally sensible enough to swap back to the sessionable Nethergate after one Green Jack.  Full marks to Roger and his team at The Dove.

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