Pub Clips are the most recent submitted, plus those from the latest issue of "Worts & Ale" (ie: 6-9 month's worth) - any comments older than that are probably out of date anyway!
Feedback on the availability and quality of real ale in the area's pubs, clubs and hotels is always welcome, but before compiling a pub clip, please talk to the publican.
We would like each clip identified with the name of compiler and date of visit.
Please send pub clips to Paul Hawley (for Worts & Ale) and to Mik Potter (for this website) - see 'Contacts'.
Here is a dynamic map of the pubs in our East Hampshire area : Our Branch pubs
OR click on the "What?ub" link on the left and type in "East Hampshire" in the search box.
East of Alton walkabout (8 October - TD)
Following a report that Greene King planning to close around 80 pubs, I took a walk down to the Queen's Head on the edge of Holybourne where the ever-upbeat Anna assured me that this would be directly managed pubs and outlets like Loch Fyne restaurants. I had (from the Isle of Wight) a very decent Goddard's Starboard, 4%, a very drinkable golden ale dry-hopped with Minstrel. I followed that with the ever reliable St. Austell Tribute. Greene King Abbot was also available here.
I was told that the Triple fff beers, usually the local guest, were being given a rest during the present difficult times as they were readily available just down the road - where I went on my way home the Railway Arms providing me with the usual very drinkable Alton's Pride with Moondance and We'll Meet Again also on.
Local Alton walkabout (26 September - TD)
I took a walk to see how a couple of our local Alton area pubs are coping with the new Covid restrictions. The Queen's Head in Holybourne has been the most assiduous locally in applying previous rules but in a way that does not appear onerous and continues to take temperature and details on entry. A one-way system in and out is clearly marked and now a QR code option for checking in as well plus table service only - and of course you have to keep a mask on except when sitting at your table. A few people in on a Saturday afternoon and it all seemed convivial enough in the circumstances. I had a pint of St. Austell Tribute 4.2% and a half of Goddard's Fuggle-de-Dum 4.8%, both good to very good with GK Abbot also available.
Similar rules applied at the Railway Arms opposite Alton Station Approach, except no temperature check or one-way in and out system. Again it did not seem to dampen spirits in the bar or on the terrace. Seating is a little more restricted than previously but I found space late on a Saturday afternoon and shared a table, suitably distanced, towards the end of my visit. Here the beers were also in good order, had the Alton's Pride 3.8% and Moondance 4.2% with We'll Meet Again also available.
From my experience the previous day with the Woking Wetherspoons where there was a queue to get in caused by checking on the door(and a long wait for table service for those without the Spoons app), I think the smaller pubs may be better suited to applying the new rules as they can quickly sum up availability of seating and can probably react more flexibly to changing circumstances. There was actually quite a lot of room in the Wetherspoons but there just seems to be more of a bureaucratic process I suppose inevitable in a large venue.
Medstead and Four Marks walkabout (19 September - TD)
I walked from Four Marks to the Castle of Comfort, Medstead for my first post-lockdown visit to this attractive village centre pub which was taken over by new tenants, Steve and Tracy last November. They have overseen extensive refurbishment both inside and out while retaining a village local feel particularly in the right hand bar with its impressive fireplace. The pub also operated a well-regarded food takeaway service during lockdown. Three ales are on offer and I had Courage Best and London Pride both in good order. Doom Bar is also available and I understand that and the Best are fixtures with the Pride likely to be rotated with other guests.
Walked down into Four Marks to the Offf the Rails Triple fff Brewery tap at Four Marks which is still awaiting an East Hampshire Council investigation into the noise complaint. However the outside area remains open and both that and the bar had a small but steady clientele during the mid-afternoon. I saw or heard no grounds for complaint and I understand that local residents are overwhelmingly supportive. The bar manages to provde a wide range of Triple fff ales on cask. I had tasty halves of Alton's Pride, We'll Meet Again and Old Dray: Moondance and Goldfffinger were also available. The brewery shop also operates afternoons and you can get a nice line in local rivals Red Cat bottled beers" as well as more exotic fare to take away. Both pubs were exercising sensible track and trace, sanitary and social distancing measures.
For those Alton residents of an energetic frame of mind the 64 bus route offers the opportunity of a brisk four mile plus walk out from the Telegraph Lane bus stop along the western edge of Chawton Park Wood and across fields into Medstead and then pretty direct along Roe Downs Road, a brief stretch of Five Ash Road and Stoney Road to cross the Watercress Line at Medstead and Four Marks Station with the brewery just a few yards down off Station Approach.
Alton walkabout (15 September - TD)
Took a walkabout in Alton yesterday with a friend from outside the area. Started at the Ivy House where two beers from Loddon - Hoppit and Ferryman - were available alongside the usual suspects. Both in good order.
At the Market Hotel just Otter Bitter was available but that was also in good form.
In the Eight Bells I sampled the three on the bar, Flack's Double Drop, Perridge Pale and Flowerpots Bitter, between us. Today the Perridge Pale came out on top for both of us, it's always topsy-turvey which is best here but as ever nothing less than very good condition.
The best beer of the day was sampled at our final port of call, the Ten Tun Tap House and this was the quite exceptional Reunion PIA Porter, a 4.4% dark wonder with a surprising citrus hit from the NZ Waimea hop which was unusually available in cask form. Three ales on today with the Marble Pint and Longdog Red Runner also on good form.
The Bakers Arms (5 September - TD)
The Baker's Arms on Alton High Street re-openend on Friday 4th September and I popped in on Saturday to sample a decent pint of Sharp's Atlantic, 4.2% at the reasonable price of £3.50. Doom Bar was also on but I was told by the manager that this would change shortly, probably to a Timothy Taylor offering and when trade permits the third handpump will be brought into use.
The pub is being managed by JT Taverns under a lease from Punch. Track and trace is in place and capacity is currently 50: numbers steadily built up during the early afternoon and an ex-regular sitting near me said he was happy to be back and would spread the word about re-opening.
Alton town centre pubs (29 August - TD)
Thought I would look out the two remaining Alton town centre pubs not visited since lockdown, the White Horse and the Crown Hotel but looked first into the Ivy House where there were two decent guests on - Bowman Wallops Wood at 4% and Ascot 5/4 Favourite, a light golden ale at 4.6%. Prices have reverted down to the pre-lockdown £1.99 from the £2.05 for recent weeks.
Interestingly £2.05 was what I was charged for a pint of Fuller's London Pride, 4.1% across the road in the White Horse, so it looks as though price competition the name of the game in this corner of the town. Not sure if it is a good thing for the brewers in the long run but the pub was certainly busy and got one of the last remaining seating areas. The Pride which was the only cask ale available was in good order: previously here I have thought the cask beers were served too cold but that issue appears to have been resolved.
Next port of call was the Crown Hotel which was also busy but had only Sharp's Doom Bar on, so I did not linger and moved on to the Eight Bells where I stayed longer than intended as I fortuitously ran into friends visiting from Woking who were working their way from the Ten Tun Tap House to the Railway Arms. I had three of the four ales on offer, Flack's Double Drop 3.7%, Flowerpots Bitter 3.8% and Crafty Brewing which Phil had overwritten as 4% instead of the 3.9% on the clip. The Crafty website is silent on this beer so I remain uncertain. Flowerpots Perridge Pale is the other beer on as usual and it is a measure of Phil's quality control and loyal clientele (unlike the other pubs visited, most of the beer drunk is cask) that he is able to go against the trend and maintain four handpumps in use. Prices here between £3.40 and £3.60 per pint.
Winchester and Alton (22 August - TD)
Shopping in Winchester on 22nd August and first pub visit outside of East Hants CAMRA area since lockdown saw me at the Albion near Winchester railway station prompt at noon opening time. I was a bit concerned that with no pre-booking it might be difficult to get in on a Saturday but in fact I was the first and only customer for a few minutes. However after about an hour the place looked to be close to its capacity of 15 with its usual if slightly muted buzz so I'm glad I got in early. Like most establishments some reduction in the cask ale choice in present trading arrangements but only from four to three made up of core Flower Pots Brewery ales, Perridge Pale 3.6%, £3.60; Flowerpots Bitter 3.8%, £3.60 and Goodens Gold 4.8%, £3.80. All very drinkable indeed as is usually the case in my favourite Winchester pub and competitively priced too. Sadly none of the excellent artisanal pork pies available until restrictions on numbers are relaxed but crisps and nuts to be had and good to see the pub doing what appears to be comparatively well in the circumstances. WhatPub shows reduced hours closing between 3 and 5 in the afternoons and there is sanistising and reduced seating capacity to allow social distancing. Only the Stockbridge Road entrance is in use.
Looked into the Railway Arms in Alton after getting off the bus home. Here still just three ales on, all from Triple fff as you might expect, Alton's Pride 3.8%, the new session bitter We'll Meet Again 4% and Moondance at 4.2%. Again all in good order and competitively priced although only took note of the Moondance at £3.50. On a bright afternoon it was pretty full on the roadside terrace but plenty of space inside on a Saturday mid-afternoon.
Local walkabout (13 August - TD)
Visited the Swan Hotel, Alton High Street for the first time since the end of lockdown. No booking required and plenty of room early afternoon, one way system, tracking and sanitation arrangements in place and table service for drinks or food. I had couple of decent halves of Greene King IPA (3.6%) and Abbot (5%) at £3.90 for two halves. Old Speckled Hen was also available.
Moved on to the Ivy House where similar arrangements were in place except you can be served at the bar, where I ordered a pint of Bowman's Swift One (3.8%) and a half of Loddon Dragonfly (5.2%), a dangerouly drinkable very pale golden ale. Both £1.99 a pint and were good bordering on very good as the only guest ales currently on the bar alongside the usual Greene King suspects and a couple of ciders on handpump, Thistly Cross and Green Dragon.
Hanger Free House (11 August - TD)
I went with a small party to the extensively refurbished Oakhanger village pub previously the Red Lion and renamed the Hanger Free House. While it is largely geared to being a dining venue with a separate restaurant area featuring a striking high window wall at the rear, there is a substantial open plan bar and snug (with an open fire in the winter months) running along the Oakhanger Road side of the pub. There were plenty of people there for lunch and booking, as we did, is recommended. There was spare capacity outside - but very few sun umbrellas - and also some room in the bar and snug. Walk-ins for drinks could probably be catered for at least during the working week.
Two local ales, both in very good order were sampled, Crafty Brewing's LBB and Triple fff Moondance.
I chatted to the new owner, local builder Matthew Young, who said that the third handpump will be brought in to use when trade permits and he intends to contune concentrating on local breweries. The food from the varied menu was good and we were grateful for Rishi's 50% off. Well situated for walks out from Kingsley, served by the 13 and 23 buses, across Shortheath Common. For the really energetic it is not too far from the route of the Hanger's Way between East Worldham and Selborne.
Offf the Rails (8 August - TD)
As the Offf the Rails had had it's outside seating restored (subject to noise monitoring by EHDC) a couple of days before, I caught the 64 bus down to Four Marks to check it out on Saturday . I arrived around 3 pm and in fact there was nobody sitting outside at all. There were three groups inside (it was a very hot day with outside shade very limited) but plenty of room for me to fit in to one of the "American Diner" booths where I enjoyed a couple of pints. First up was the new session bitter We'll Meet Again - a light bronze 4% session beer with a pleasant fruitiness. The fruitiness was notched with the next offering, the 4% Old Dray with a mash up of five malts and two hops including dry hopping. Both went down very well and were reasonably priced at £3.60 per pint. Alton's Pride, Moondance, Citra Sonic and Goldfffinger were also available. When I left for the 4.50 pm bus there were a few more people outside but nothing to frighten the horses by way of noise levels. Fingers crossed things will work out for Triple fff and their lovely tap.
Ten Tun Tap House (6 August - TD)
The Ten Tun Tap House in Market Square, Alton is currently only using two of its four handpumps because of capacity problems in the current situation but I was actually able to sample three cask ales the other day. I started with the Crafty Brewing LBB (3.9%) which was quite drinkable but coming to the end of its life. Next up was New Bristol Brewery Heyday, 4.8%, a dry hopped, unfined IPA, very moreish, and my luck held with the splendid Red Cat Mr. M's Porter (4.8%) replacing the LBB. I took a further excusion to the dark side with, from the craft keg selection, Hammerton Crunch from a small family brewery in Barnsbury, North London. At 5.4% this is a big beefy, cheesecake of a peanut butter milk stout which I suspect in the words of the late lamented Kegbuster 'you could walk a dormouse across.'
Cask ales are comptitively priced around £3.50 to £3.80. Expect to pay more for the craft keg offerings. My Crunch came in at £5.20 for a pint. Bottles and cans are also available plus a draught cider from Tutts Clump.
The French Horn (31 July - TD)
The French Horn came through lockdown running a valued takeaway service for food and drink and this continues after re-opening. Booking is recommended, but while it was busy on a sunny Sunday afternoon I had no problem with a walk-in with tables free both inside and out in the two extensive garden areas.
Just two ales on today - the regular Timothy Taylor Landlord (very drinkable) and a fresh cask of St. Austell Tribute (very good indeed). Sharp's Atlantic was waiting to come on and three handpumps will be in use when trade permits.
Bus trip (31 July - TD)
Caught no. 13 bus over to the Cricketers in Kingsley on the afternoon of Friday 31st July. Two ales currently on - Hog's Back TEA, which was on good form, and Ruddles Best which is not to my taste although I did try a half. It seemed in good condition, and for people who like that sort of thing I'm sure it's the sort of thing they like. Landlord Tony's beer policy is to have one from the Greene King stable (which can be brilliant - on my last pre-lockdown visit it was the elusive Greene King Mild) and a local brew - often Hog's Back or Triple fff. We discussed Hampshire breweries and he might be following up my tip-offs regarding the likes of Red Cat and Flowerpots.
At the moment the pub is only open from Thursday through to Sunday and with no food service (which should be back in September). There is no need to book as there is plenty of room inside and particularly outside with a marquee added in the extensive garden for inclement weather.
One final warning: if you travelling on the 13/23 bus route please check the online timetables for the currently somewhat truncated service; those on at least some of the bus stops are very much out of date.
Bus trip and walkabout (28 July - TD)
Took a bus trip out to the Star Inn at Bentley to check out what is available. Currently just two handpumps in use with two Greene King offerings, Ruddles Best and Old Speckled Hen. I was told that the landlord does like to get hold of local beers and a further handpump should shortly come on with the likes of Andwell or Flack Manor. Had a decent light lunch - probably a good idea to book ahead as numbers steadily built up from noon. Good Covid-19 measures in place with oneway system, hand sanitizer on entry etc.
By chance met up with some acquaintances from Surrey Hants Borders CAMRA branch who were walking the St. Swithun's Way to Alton, and I joined them later at the Ten Tun Tap House micropub in Market Square. Here there were two interesting ales on and I started with Deal Hop Farm Bitter, 4% brewed by Time & Tide of Eastry in Kent. This very nice traditional bitter was followed by the intensely dry and citrussy Hopadelic at 4.3 % from By the Horns. Both beers reasonably priced at £3.70, and there was also a selection of eight craft kegs available. I went to the dark side here trying a 6.2% Milk Chocolate Stout from the Overtone Brewery in Glasgow. This was over £5 a pint but good value for what it was. Again it is a very good idea to book here as our party of six took up most of the outside space from 4pm opening time.
Personal walkabout (25 July - TD)
I went on a walkabout in Market Square on Saturday afternoon. Could not book into the full Ten Tun Tap House - which of course is good news for the venue which at the moment usually has a couple of regularly changing guest ales on handpump.
Did get into the Wheatsheaf (first time since end of lockdown), where only Greene King IPA was available - a decent enough session beer if misnamed. The other handpump was shut down for line cleaning. Booking here is recommended.
No problem with a walk-in at the Market Hotel where out of a choice of Otter Bitter (3.6%) and Wadworth's 6X (4.1%) I opted for the former, which again was a decent pint.
After that I walked up Amery Hill to the Eight Bells where a choice of four ales was on. I had the very tasty Crafty Brewing LLB (4%) and the equally good, and fresh on, Flowerpots Bitter (3.6%). The two other regulars, Flack Manor Flack's Double Drop and Flower Pots Perridge Pale were also available and with a delivery from the brewery arriving while I was there, supplies are assured.
The Selborne Arms (21 July - TD)
The Selborne Arms has re-openend with bookings required for the bar and first come, first served in the garden. The bus service is sparse but for a leisurely daytime session catch the 10 am no. 38 from Alton Station which gives you time for a walk around the attractive village and its surroundings before lunch and the 2.31 pm no. 38 back to Alton. The pub opens at 11 am with food service from noon.
Having booked for Tuesday lunchtime I was in fact the only one in the bar for a time although the outside was busy on a pleasant July day.
Four ales were available, all in good order - the Bowman Wallops Wood 4%, a refreshingly malt balanced traditional bitter being particularly flavoursome. Also had were Bowman Swift One; Irving Invincible, another traditional bitter at a premium strength, 4.6%, this time; and finally the regular offering Ringwood 49er. An imaginative food menuuis available both to eat in or takeaway.
Personal walkabout (18 July - TD)
One of my favourite walks today following part of the old Meon Valley railway line from Chawton to Lower Farringdon where I had a pleasant surprise at the Golden Pheasant. All five handpumps were in use and I had two very pleasant pints - Bowman Swift One and Crafty Brewing LBB (4% ABV) - the latter a delicious tribute to traditional bitters with a deep bronze colour and a strong malt kick. Also available were Hog's Back TEA, plus Doom Bar and Atlantic from Sharp's. Inside there is the usual distancing, one-way system, hand sanitizers and the need for contact details, but much of the atmosphere of a pub remains in place. I was glad to see a steady trickle of customers including takeaways from the menu which are still continuing for the present.
I returned by skirting Upper Farringdon (where the much-missed Rose & Crown is not due to reopen until the end of the month), then through parkland to Chawton, where I saw that the outside seating area with straw bales in the Greyfriar car park was doing good business.
Offf the Rails (16 July - TD)
My first visit to the Offf the Rails Triple fff Brewery tap since lockdown eased, and pleased to see that outside seating has been restored. This is important as with social distancing the interior seating is currently much restricted.
Five Triple fff ales were on offer and I enjoyed Citra Sonic and Goldfffinger. /
Alton's Pride, Moondance and Old Dray were also available.
The Greyfriar, Chawton (9 July - TD)
At the moment if you want to drink inside the Greyfriar in Chawton village you have to book ahead and are expected to have a meal. Seating is reduced and social distancing is in place.
I managed with a light but very enjoyable lunch and had the two ales which are currently on - Dark Star Hophead (3.8%, £4 pint) and Fuller's London Pride (4.1%, £4.325 pint), both on good form.
If you just want a drink the garden is available plus a temporary outside drinking area in the pub's car park with straw bales for seating and a gazebo - which might provide some protection from the rigours of a British summer.
The Ten Tun Tap House (7 July - TD)
This was my first visit to the Ten Tun Tap House in Alton's Market Square since it opened on 18th March. It had to close almost immediately because of Covid-19 lockdown of course, but owner and licensee Jason quickly established a local delivery service for often quirky craft and cask beers and quickly re-opened as soon as permitted on 4th July.
There are four handpumps and eight keg taps (one of them offering Berkshire cider Tutts Clump) and currently two cask ales on offer, which will probably change over quickly.
Yesterday I tasted two quite distinctive brews...
Northern Whisper's Blighty £3.60 - a 3.8% traditional copper coloured bitter from Cloughfold, Lancashire with a strong malt kick and hopped with Bramling Cross.
I followed this up with Siren Craft Undercurrent £3.80 - a 4.5% from Berkshire, a complex pale ale brewed with oatmeal, caramel and other malts with spicy,citrus, floral hops. Both very good.
Eight craft keg taps are also available.
First clip after lockdown (4 July - TD)
The first day of pub re-opening saw me take a walkabout visiting selected pubs in Alton. All seemed to be complying with social distancing and other requirements to a reasonable extent.
I started at the Ivy House as that was open early (and by no means crowded) where I found five cask ales on. As well as the usual Greene King IPA and Abbot there was Loddon Ferryman's Gold, Hog's TEA and Crafty Brewing Crafty One, a very palatable 4.2% golden ale which went down well as my first post-lockdown pint. Prices here are up slightly to a still very reasonable £2.10.
In the Market Hotel - also with plenty of room to sit down late morning - the only ale available was Timothy Taylor Landlord., 4.2% which also good.
Following that a walk down to the fringes of Holybourne took me to the Queen's Head where landlady Anna was guarding the garden entrance with hand sanitizer and temperature check. Seating was initially only in the garden but still with plenty of room to spread out but we we were allowed in once the rain started. Here I had a Triple fff Moondance which was probably the best beer of the day.
Finally into the Railway Arms where the moveable tables and much of the seating had been removed but once again no problem finding somewhere to sit. Here I had my first Alton's Pride for a long time which I rated good to very good. Moondance and Goldfffinger were the other available cask offerings.
A very pleasant afternoon, and I was pleased with both the way the pubs were approaching the "new normal" and the attitude of the customers who certainly from late morning into the afternoon did not appear to be behaving excessively. More reports to follow.