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A Gander at Gloucester....

The M6 was in unforgiving mood as I drove south on my way to Gloucester. Torrential rain, coupled with roadworks at regular intervals, made for an unpleasant driving experience, which was further compounded when I hit the M5 in Birmingham, where there were further roadworks between Junctions 1 and 2, and the odd high-powered, souped-up boy racer lane-hopping once we cleared the roadworks. So when I eventually pulled into the car park of the Premier Inn at Gloucester Quays I was not in the best of moods.

I got checked in. Newish hotel, nice room. OK, the view over the flyover wasn't the best, but then again I wasn't planning to stay in my room and stare out of the window all evening. Washed and changed, I went down to Reception and was told it was about 10 minutes walk to the city centre. I had already listed the pubs in the Good Beer Guide for the city, and so I set off walking away from the 'leisure park' - horrible phrase, that - passing a couple of disused warehouses.
Seen better days.....
Just beyond, further old buildings had been developed, with restaurant chains like Wagamama, Bella Italia, Bill's, Carluccio's, and Nando's, all jostling for business and trying to avoid being the next Jamie's Italian. I spotted some water through a gap between the buildings, so I wandered down to have a look. The water belonged to the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which runs for  a total of 16 and a half miles, and was built to avoid a nasty bend in the River Severn which made it difficult for ships to navigate, whilst the building on the right turned out to be the first place on my list. This was Brewhouse & Kitchen, which I hadn't realised was so close to my hotel!
By the canal...Brewhouse and Kitchen
This was the first of this group's bars I had visited. They started out in Portsmouth in 2013, and they currently operate in 23 locations, mainly around the South West and South Coast, but with others in London and the Midlands. Currently they are only present in the North in Wilmslow and Chester, but they are expanding, so don't be surprised if you come across one sometime. As the name suggests, they each have their own on-site brewery, augmented by a solid food offering where each dish is matched to a style of beer. The Gloucester Quays branch was a modern, glass-fronted building affording views over the canal, light and airy with plenty of light wood and the inevitable exposed ducting. A small brewery was located in one corner, with tables pretty full with most people tucking into their Sunday evening meal. The bar had a number of taps, with several hand pumps, all featuring B&K beers. A decent soundtrack was playing as I ordered a pint of Shedhead, 3.8% American style, pale dry and hoppy, which I liked, awarding it a 3 on the NBSS scale. It was about 7 when I was ready to go, I asked what time they finished serving food. The guy behind the bar said 9, but last orders needed to be about 8.30. No problem, I said, and I meant it. I liked Brewhouse and Kitchen.
Brewhouse, Kitchen round the back....
I walked out and turned right on the towpath. A few moments later I came to a road, with a bridge over the canal. Across the road to the right was Tank, the second pub on my list, and still a mere 5 minutes from my hotel. There was a traditional white-painted part which looked like it could have been a pub at one time, with a more modern-looking brick building at the side, where the entrance to the pub was situated.
I walked down some stairs into a long narrow room, with the bar on the left and a separate alcove to the right. The room was light, with exposed brickwork and windows on both sides. It was a lot quieter than B&K, with just the odd individual and couple dotted around. The bar featured a bank of hand pumps featuring beers from Tank's owners, Gloucester Brewery, whose beer I had enjoyed on my only previous encounter with them, at - bizarrely - Millers in Brighouse! Another bank featured a range of guest beers, and there were several taps featuring a range of GB beers. I ordered a pint of Session Pale, an easy-drinking unfined beer which was a most enjoyable NBSS 3. According to the friendly guy behind the bar, Tank is so-called because they used to make parts for tanks there, rather than having any connection to the docks. He also told me that the brewery are looking at expanding their taproom at the brewery. I liked Tank, and I liked the beer, and it is well worth checking out.

I finished my drink, and headed off into the city centre to try and track down the other two pubs on my list. On the way I passed the Whitesmiths Arms, an attractive-looking pub belonging to Swindon family brewers, Arkells, whose beers I haven't come across in decades. Closer inspection revealed it was a shut, which was a shame.
The Whitesmiths Arms...sadly not open this evening
Over to the left, there was more evidence of the extensive area covered by the Gloucester Docks, with several old warehouses now restored as flats and offices. Gloucester is the most inland port in the country and is a fascinating place to wander around. The old mills all have their names painted on them, and have a solid beauty of their own....
I headed into the city centre where I was keeping an eye out for Westgate Street, which I spotted going off to the left after a few minutes walk. As I walked down this attractive street, I was looking for the Fountain Inn, which announced its proximity with a chalkboard A-sign on the pavement beside a narrow covered alleyway....
I walked through, emerging into a walled beer garden, with several tables, each with a large purple umbrella. The Fountain was a lovely white-painted building, which is believed to have been in existence since the early 14th Century, and which prompted me to take a few pictures. I walked into the pub, there were a couple of guys sat at the bar enjoying a Sunday evening pint. I spotted Independence Day from Bristol Beer Factory on one of the hand pumps. I ordered one from the lady behind the bar, who promptly told me she had lost her bet with the guys at the bar as they had spotted me taking pictures and she had thought that I was an American tourist! I laughed and apologised, saying I hope she hadn't lost too much money. We got talking, I told her I was from Yorkshire, and it turned out she had been born in Hull, but moved away when she was young. She was called Ella, after Ella Fitzgerald, explaining that all her family had been given musical names, and she gave me a tour of this attractive pub, which was very nice of her. She gave me a brochure detailing the city's historic pubs, and marked on the best ones to visit. She was a beer fan, especially fond of beers from the local Hillside Brewery, and also recommended the Jail from Dartmoor Brewery that was on the bar, so I tried a half before I left. It was a delicious malty premium bitter, which I rated 3 again, like the BBF I had had when I came in. It was time to go, this was another top pub which I can highly recommend.
The Fountain Inn...a warm welcome assured
The final pub on my list was also one highlighted by Ella, this being the Pelican, which was situated a few minutes walk away beyond the cathedral. I stopped by to look at the cathedral, which is a stunningly attractive building, and whose cloisters were featured in several Harry Potter films...
A few minutes later, I spotted the unusually named - for a pub - Pelican. White-walled and set on a corner in a quiet street, it oozed tradition, and as I walked in to a simply-decorated room with a bar which has been offering a range of Wye Valley beers on hand pump for the past 7 years. I ordered a pint of HPA, which I rated as a - you've guessed it - NBSS 3. I had a pleasant chat with Gina behind the bar in yet another friendly pub in this attractive city. And why the name? Well, according to the brochure Ella had given me it claims to have been constructed using timbers from Sir Francis Drake's ship, the Golden Hind, whose original name was...The Pelican!
The Pelican...decent beer and a friendly pub!
My evening's meanderings meant I had seriously missed Brewhouse & Kitchen's food curfew, so I made a rare visit to McDonalds on the basis that at 9.30 on a Sunday night not many places would be serving food. I walked back through the quiet streets, and as I approached the Quays I spotted one place that would still be selling food, Wetherspoons, which was situated round the back of Tank, next to the National Waterways Museum at the edge of a square. This particular Spoons must have one of the grandest names of them all, answering to the Lord High Constable of England. It is a low, sprawling building, which as I discovered when I went for breakfast the following morning, has a pleasant view over the canal. This time, I settled for a half of another local ale, Battledown Pale Ale, which was a refreshing NBSS 3, before I called in to Brewhouse & Kitchen for a final half of Shedhead and then headed back to the hotel.

I enjoyed my evening in Gloucester, it is an attractive city with some great pubs, lots of history, and plenty to see and do next time I find myself there....

Follow me on twitter: @realalemusic


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