Saturday 29th August 2015
This is a great pub that is devoted to the cause of good cask beer. My lead to it was that it was a brand new entry in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide 2016 which arrived the day before I set off to Hereford.
Because of this I was bit surprised to find later that it is classified as a micropub. I thought it was a bit large to be one. I don’t know what the “Micro-pub Police Force” (MPPF) will say about that, but I don’t really care.
There are a number of other differences from the concept, but none of them detract in any way, and some positively enhance the experience of visiting. The Beer in Hand is the inspiration of Alison and Mitchell Evans who, in a defining moment decided to give up their professions of working in the insolvency business (Alison) and as a lawyer (Mitchell). They decided that Herefordshire would be their location and upped sticks from their Northamptonshire home.
The pub opened its doors in August 2013 in a former launderette and that date was significant in connection with my visit. I entered up a few steps into a long room. On my left were tables and chairs whilst the right side of the room had shelving for customers to rest their beers along with many stools.
About halfway down the left side wall displayed a diagram of the brewing process at the Odyssey Brewery, which is markedly different in its depiction that most similar displays, please see photograph.
The room then narrows before opening out into a much wider room. This contains the bar which is at an angle to the walls. Behind it is a most impressive construction that contains the casks at a controlled temperature. It can hold sixteen at a time.
Before that are the fridges that hold the boxes of cider, perry and foreign bottled beers. Furniture in this room opposite the bar is a mixture of armchairs, stools, normal seats and a old church pew!
Earlier I mentioned the Odyssey Brewery. This was established in a Grade II barn on a farm during 2014. The farm is on the Brockhampton estate at Bringsty near Bromyard, Herefordshire. This is owned by the National Trust and its centrepiece is a timber-framed manor house dating from the late 14th century.
The brewery is under the same ownership as the pub and on the very day that I visited was its public launch, I couldn’t have timed it better! The Odyssey Brew Co., to give it its proper title, had made a tap take-over as they say in the USA. There is a further link to that country as they use a lot of American hops in their brews.
Their beers are very full-flavoured and are a bit experimental. This is all right by me as long as they don’t attempt to create new styles. I once had a Scottish Sour 80/- Ale, and it was terrible!
Of course I wanted to try several of these beers so I asked the man behind the bar, whom I think was Mitchell, for some beer in halves. He then informed me that if I bought a pint I could have the second one free. The bargain of the century so far!
I later read that it was for the first 70 customers. I made a selection and received a ticket for the next free pint. As the beer was normally £2.80 a pint, I couldn’t believe my luck!
I then made a mistake and left to visit some other city pubs. They turned out to be disappointing and I wished I’d stayed, as this will never be repeated.
So here are all of the cask beers from the Odyssey Brewery that were on offer that day: Withnail Pale Ale (4.0%), a session pale ale; Bootlegger (4.2%), an American Pale Ale and Dream Serpent (4.5%). A golden ale made with two types of Australian and one New Zealand hop.
Then there were the IPAs which all had no finings and therefore were cloudy. Two Two IPA (2.2%) was an interesting one because of its low alcoholic content, yet it still had a full flavour. It was to have been a one-off beer but will come back again because of its popularity. Little India Pale Ale (4.5%) is a golden ale made with a lot of American hops giving a very citrus flavour. Merciless non-stop-hopped California IPA (6.2%) in US West Coast style. It had a long boil of 90 minutes and is doubly dry-hopped.
The last three on the menu were Armadillo (4.2%) which was described as a British best bitter. Yet it was made using Sorachi hops. This is a new one on me; I will have to look it up.
Just when I was thinking they only had beers that were light in colour there was Latte Stout (4.5%), a oatmeal stout made with Bolivian coffee. Finally the cask selection ended with Peer Pressure Porter (7.8%). This massive beer was brewed by two local CAMRA members on the Odyssey plant and was brewed especially for this launch.
Even allowing for the fact that we are in Herefordshire, one of the great cider counties, there is an extra large selection to be had here; normally a choice of twelve.
Helpfully they are graded here into type. Thus, I had a choice of Sweet, Medium-Sweet, Medium, Medium-Dry, Dry, Perry or Fruit. The latter had real fruit added; in addition to the apples or pears, of course!
I could have chosen Gwynt y ddraig (Pontypridd, Glamorgan, South Wales) Happy Daze (4.5%); Oliver’s (Ocle Pychard, Herefordshire) Showdown (5.0%), Shezam (6.0%), Classic Medium-Dry (5.5%) and Red Dead (4.0%) (Strawberry); Newton Court (Newton, Herefordshire) Yarlington Mill (6.4%) (Single Variety).
Also Henney’s (Bishop’s Frome, Herefordshire); Gregg’s Pitt (Much Marcle, Herefordshire) Medium-Dry (6.0%); Once upon a Tree (Bishop’s Frome, Herefordshire) Dorothy’s Orchard (7.0%) and Tumpy Ground (7.0%) and finally, Abrahall’s (Bishop Frome, Herefordshire) Lily the Pink (4.5%).
Incidentally, this pub does food in the form of pizzas which are available on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 17.00 to 21.00.
They offer pork pies, served with mustard, all the time. Naturally there are the usual packaged pub snacks and here they are nuts, crisps, pork scratchings and beef jerky in many different flavours.
Wine and soft drinks are available and there is also a small selection of single malt whiskies.
No visit to the city of Hereford should be without a call in to Beer in Hand. It will easily repay the effort of leaving the city centre.
The Beer in Hand, 136 Eign Street, Hereford HR4 0AP. Tel: 0744 348 7124
Open: Monday 17.00-22.30; Tuesday-Wednesday 16.00-23.00;
Thursday-Saturday 12.00-23.00; Sunday 12.00-22.30
The pub is around fives walk from the city centre and around twenty minutes from the railway station.