Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Hampshire Bowman, Dundridge, 28th November 2012

Since our last visit to one of our favourite local pubs,  The Hampshire Bowman, there has been mounting consternation among Pie Club members since we heard that the pub had closed. You will doubtless recall that when we visited there on 21st April 2011 the pie was rated very highly indeed, and in fact went on to win the coveted Pie of the Year award for 2011. So when we heard that the pub had reopened under new management, we felt obliged to pay a visit as soon as possible, but there was a problem.

After the wettest summer in a million years it still hasn't stopped raining, and conditions underfoot are really bad, making it virtually impossible for us to walk there. It's a delightful walk when conditions are good - not too far, but far enough to allow the walker to work up a decent thirst and a bit of an appetite - but under these conditions we decided for once to abandon our principles and go by taxi. So we met up outside The Bishops Waltham Tandoori (a fine curry house, by the way, but unfortunately they don't do pies there) and waited patiently for the taxi to arrive. Having ordered an 8-seater, a 6-seater came; the driver offered to do 2 trips instead of one, so some of us had a wait a little longer.

This was the first occasion on which all Pie Club members were present.

On arrival, things looked reassuringly unchanged:

 And as you walk into the pub the first thing to see is a sight to gladden the heart of any serious ale drinker:

A glance at the beer board confirmed that the ales available here are up to the usual high standard that we've come to expect from this pub (or at least most of them are):

When faced with such a choice of beers it was difficult to know where to start, so some of us took the easy option and decided to work our way down the list from top to bottom. Those who tried it all agreed that the Bushy's Ruby Mild was poor, probably getting near the end of the barrel, and had been reduced in price for a good reason. The other ales were all excellent, with special commendation for the South Sea Spice 3.9%, which has a subtle touch of ginger in it. The Guinness drinker remarked that the Guinness tasted a bit metallic.

We spoke to Mark, the new landlord

who did his best to allay all our concerns about the future of this pub by telling us that the only thing he plans to change is the service and staff morale, which seems fare enough. He confirmed that there will always be at least 5 ales available, and, being a free house, he intends to introduce new beers on a regular basis. And  there was evidence for this:

We'll see. He looks a bit young to be a pub landlord.

The menu looked very interesting, although smaller than we're used to, but allowances should be made for this being mid-week in winter:

 There being only one pie on the menu, Lamb & Leek, we all chose to have Lamb & Leek Pie. When it arrived it looked magnificent:

Short-crust pastry all around, holding a filling crammed with vegetables and succulent pieces of lean tender lamb and plenty of tasty gravy. The only slight criticism was that the gravy had been pre-applied, whereas we prefer it to be served separately in a jug. The accompanying vegetables, chips, and mashed potato were very nicely cooked, and there were plenty of them:

Judging by all the empty plates at the end of the meal, we all found it very satisfactory. Some of us even had room for a pudding, but there was NO CUSTARD! We had to make do with ice cream instead:

(Strictly speaking, puddings do not form part of our assessment as we are concerned only with pies and ales). 

The ambience of the pub was generally very good, although it was a quiet mid-week lunchtime so there weren't many other customers around. Mark gave us a nice welcome when we arrived; the pub was busy but not too crowded; it was easy to get served at the bar; the table service was excellent; the pub was clean; and there were still no unnecessary distractions such as music or fruit machines. A  problem for some is that this pub is a country pub and therefore attracts a number of people with dogs. In fact the new landlord owns dogs himself. On this occasion the dogs were all well behaved - no barking, scrapping, begging for food, and no dog mess on the floor. But all the same, some people don't like there being so many dogs in the pub, and our score for ambience reflects this.

On value for money the score was good. The pie was only £9. The beers are all very reasonably priced.

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
  • Pastry 4.16
  • Filling 4.28
  • Beer 4.03
  • Ambience 3.72
  • Value 4.41
  • Overall 20.6
Congratulations to Mark. This was a very enjoyable outing for us all. The score of 20.6 is not far off our previous score for the Bowman, which was 21.5, and is highly commendable. Some of us were surprised with the final outcome, which is that the Bowman ranks only 4th in the pubs we have visited this year. With a score of 22.7, the winner of the prestigious Pie of the Year Award for 2012 is The Wheatsheaf Inn, Shedfield, which we visited on 29th May.

Congratulations and thanks to all Pie Club members for another year of devotion to the cause. There will be no formal Pie Club meeting in December because of something called Christmas, but Pieman expects that there will be a number of informal gatherings, and reminds all members that Mince Pies are actually a form of pie and expects you all to do your duty.

The next meeting is arranged for 31st January 2013.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Dog and Crook, Brambridge, 25th October 2012

For this outing it was Si's choice of venue, and he allowed himself to be lured by sound reviews on Tripadvisor, and the prospect of a choice of several types of pie, including, for the first time, a fish pie. Si was joined by Nick, Trev, Joe and Paul T on the No. 69 bus bound for The Dog and Crook, which is a fine looking pub in the hamlet of Brambridge, between Colden Common and Otterbourne. 

We successfully managed to get off the bus at the correct stop, which is just a few hundred yards from the pub, although judging by the way that several of the gentlemen complained about having to walk so far anyone would have thought it was a major hike. As we arrived we noticed that there was a No. 8 bus stop just outside the pub, and someone observed that we could all have caught the No. 8 instead of the No. 69, thereby saving ourselves quite a long walk. At this point Si was duly contrite, and apologised for failing to carry out adequate research before organising this outing. 

As we walked in we were warmly greeted by Paul E, who had just driven back from Wales especially to be with us, and by Louise, the lovely landlady, who (seeing the state we were in after such an arduous trek) immediately offered us refreshments.

This being a pub tied to Enterprise Inns, the choice of ales was limited, but nevertheless quite satisfactory: There was Ringwood Best 3.8%Sharp's Doom Bar 4%, and Fullers HSB 4.8%. Knowing that we might possibly have a long session ahead of us we mostly opted for Ringwood Best or Doom Bar (apart from the confirmed Guinness drinkers among us), and we found these both to be very satisfactory.

From the extensive lunchtime menu there were 3 pies available. Two of us chose the Steak & Kidney Pie, two chose the Chicken Leak & Mushroom Pie, and two chose the Fish Pie (all at £9.95, and all with a choice of new, chipped or saute potatoes, and mixed vegetables or salad). Whilst our meals were being prepared we had another beer or two, and discussed important matters of the day. 

When the food was served we were surprised to see that the pies were rather unconventional, being in the form of a puff pastry bap, sliced in half horizontally, containing the filling. To be fair to Louise, she had described to us exactly what form the pies were in, but the idea was so unconventional that we all failed to fully comprehend it. 

The Fish Pie had loads of filling, and plenty of sauce (although this was not altogether to Trev's liking):

The Steak and Kidney Pie was served in a similar style, with lots of filling and plenty of gravy:

Likewise the Chicken, Leak and Mushroom Pie:

The vegetables (carrots, broccoli and red cabbage) and potatoes came in huge portions, and were served separately:

By the time we had all helped ourselves to the accompaniments, there was certainly a good-sized plateful for us to get through. The vegetables were very nicely cooked, and there were lots of them. This shows just how much filling there was in the Fish Pie:

This also shows the curious nature of the puff-pastry case, which some of us thought was more like a bread bap, made from the sort of bread that the French use to make croissants. Not everyone was very impressed by this, as it sort of melted in the mouth and didn't add very much to the meal. Call us old-fashioned, but we really do prefer short-crust pastry. Still, we all finished our meals with gusto, although we didn't manage to finish off the potatoes and vegetables. Then Louise sprang a surprise on us by offering us free puddings! We were mostly so full that we couldn't face any pudding, but noblesse oblige and some of us forced ourselves.

This was the Apple & Rhubarb Crumble with Ice Cream:

Afterwards, we all felt replete. The bill came to £30 each, which, considering the number of drinks we had, is good value for money. The bill was presented to us with some accompanying mint chocolates (always much appreciated). The service throughout was very good. The ambience of the pub was also generally very good - we were particularly impressed by the array of items for sale in the Gents toilets (Louise had to explain to us what some of them were for). Unfortunately the pub closes at 3.00pm, so we had to leave before we were ready. When it came to assessing the scores for this outing, there were some heated discussions and differences of opinion. Regrettably the unusual pastry cast a long shadow over the whole proceedings, and as a result the final scores were low.

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall): 

  • Pastry 1.39
  • Filling 3.43
  • Beer 3.75
  • Ambience 3.57
  • Value 3.97
  • Overall 16.11
As we left the Dog and Crook someone suggested catching the No. 8 bus back to Bishops Waltham, as the bus stop was just outside the pub. Thus started another adventure: The No. 8 bus does a tour of the whole of southern Hampshire, taking forever to get to Bishops Waltham via Colden Common, Fair Oak, Horton Heath, Moat Park, Hedge End, Grange Park, Marks & Spencer Hedge End, Botley, Curdridge, Waltham Chase, and Swanmore before arriving at Bishops Waltham. This was despite a lot of encouragement from us to the driver, urging him to go faster and take a few short cuts. The driver did his best to oblige, but really, we could almost have walked home more quickly. When we arrived in Bishops Waltham after more than an hour on the bus, obviously some of us were close to bursting and felt the need to make full and immediate use of the facilities offered by The Crownso in we went. And then some of us went on and made full and immediate use of the facilities offered by The Bunch of Grapes.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Black Dog Inn, Waltham Chase, 27th September 2012

In a rare break with tradition we decided to re-visit the scene of one of our earlier outings,  The Black Dog Inn at Waltham Chase.  Our previous visit on 28th July 2011 was not altogether unenjoyable and the pies scored a commendable 19.65.  We'd heard that the pub had gone through a recent change of ownership, employed a new chef, and had a new menu, so we thought it was worth a return visit.

It being a pleasant autumnal day we thought that a good walk there and back would help us all to work up a good thirst and a healthy appetite, so off we all went.  Joe and Paul E met up at at  The Crown (if they had a quick pint there first they're keeping quiet about it) then set off at a brisk pace on the 2.1 mile walk to The Black Dog. Nick & Si set off from their homes at about the same time, saw Joe & Paul a few yards ahead, and struggled to catch up with them as they seemed to be doing some power-walking. Or were they just thirsty? Certainly they seemed to speed up as we got closer to the pub. We all walked straight past  The Chase Inn without any hesitation as it seems to be a particularly uninviting pub. We met up with Doug near his home in Swanmore, and met Paul T joined us in the Black Dog.

This is still a very pleasant pub, with large well looked-after gardens, two covered heated gazebos for the smokers, lots of beautiful hanging baskets, and a warm welcome inside from Peter, the new landlord, who has obviously made a considerable effort to improve the place.

This being a Greene King pub, there was, of course, Greene King IPA 3.6% available on tap. Tempted as we were by this fine ale, we couldn't help noticing some other interesting ales on offer.   There were two another Greene King ales, Abbott Ale 5%, which we felt was probably a bit strong for a session ale, and Bonkers Conkers IPA 4.1%, a seasonal ale. The guest ale was Everards Equinox 4.2%. The ales were all priced at around £3.40/pint, which is reasonable. 

We decided to start by sampling The Equinox and the Bonkers Conkers out in the garden, then, as we were getting a bit peckish, we moved indoors and had another one while we waited patiently for the food to arrive.

As we were waiting, and without any asking, the delightful waitress, Chelsea, brought us a warm baguette with butter for us a share as an appetiser. We thought this was a nice touch.  As there was only one pie available on the menu, we all ordered the same food: Steak & Stilton Pie with chips, watercress garnish, and mixed vegetables, at £7.95 each. Again, the price seemed very reasonable.  When the food arrived, the pie looked very appetising.

The pastry was a lovely golden short-crust on top, with a thin layer underneath that was perhaps a bit too thin as it had gone a bit soggy, although some people like it that way. There was plenty of filling, with large pieces of lean tender steak, plenty of juice with onions and mushrooms, and a thin layer of Stilton on top. Some of us felt that there could have been more Stilton, but there was just enough to add a subtle extra taste to the filling - any more might have been over-powering. Instead of the usual salad garnish, there was a generous helping of watercress, which was much appreciated: Pie Club members are well-known for their liking of healthy foods, and watercress is certainly good for you.

We were presented with two large platters of assorted freshly-cooked vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, mangetout) and chips. These were ample for the 6 of us, nicely cooked, and tasty. We were also given an extra jug of gravy, just as we like.

We all managed to clear our plates with gusto. The servings were generous, but we felt we still had room for a bit more - maybe it was the walk that did it, or maybe we felt we needed to build up our strength in readiness for the long walk back home, or maybe we were just too easily tempted by the pudding boards:

We chose a selection of puddings, all brought to our table by the delightful Chelsea:

Afterwards, we all felt replete. The bill came to £30 each, which, considering the number of drinks we had, is good value for money.

Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall): 

  • Pastry 3.7
  • Filling 4.55
  • Beer 4.31
  • Ambience 4.15
  • Value 4.27
  • Overall 20.98

Our congratulations go to Peter, the new landlord. Compared with the scores from our previous visit, these scores show a considerable improvement, and we wish you well in your new venture.

Unlike our previous visit, this time we all managed to walk back home without resorting to public transport. We walked straight past The Chase Inn without any hesitation again, but stumbled at the next hurdle, The Barleycorn. Then some of us went on and stumbled again at The Crown. And then some of us went on and stumbled again at The Bunch of Grapes.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Bunch of Grapes, Bishops Waltham, 26th August 2012

To help us celebrate the first anniversary of  the founding of the Pie Club we invited spouses, friends, and hangers-on to join us at a very special venue, our favourite pub of all time, The Bunch of Grapes in Bishops Waltham.

As usual, we were warmly greeted by Stuart, the landlord, who immediately offered us a choice of Goddards Ale of Wight 3.7%, or Sharps Doom Bar 4%. Two very acceptable ales.

 This was also the first occasion on which all members of the Pie Club managed to turn up for a meeting, and here is (very nearly) the proof (Doug was present, but too busy chatting with some ladies to make himself available for this historic photo). Here we (nearly) all are, proudly wearing our Pie Club badges:

The Bunch of Grapes is well-known as a beer-drinker's pub, but not so well known for its ability to serve up food. In fact they don't serve food at all, generally. But we Pie Club members are a resourceful lot, and Trev ordered a special delivery of pies from the Manydown Butchery, an award-winning butchery and farm shop near Basingstoke. Not just one pie, but two. For starters we had a Traditional Pork Pie, recent winner at the recent Butches Q Guild Awards Ceremony:

This was an excellent cold pork pie, very tasty, though maybe a little on the large side, as it didn't leave a lot of room for what was to follow. What could possibly follow a pie starter? Well obviously, a pie main course.  This was a hot Beef & Burgundy Pie (also a recent winner at the recent Butches Q Guild Awards Ceremony), served with delicious mashed potato and peas:

This was a very tasty pie, and the mashed potatoes were very good too. In a pub which doesn't normally do any catering, it took a lot of effort and organisation to serve more than 40 hot pies out all at the same time, so our thanks go to Mandy, the lovely landlady, and her helpers, who did an excellent job. In recognition of her efforts, Mandy was duly elected an honorary member of the Pie Club, and here she is proudly showing off her badges:

To round off the evening there was a pie-themed quiz, in which, contrary to expectations, the Pie Club members seemed to do very badly, but at least that shows that it was all fair and above-board, which is more than can be said, perhaps, for the raffle, in which some Pie Club members did very well. In spite of that, the raffle raised a substantial sum in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital. 

Trev expressed the thoughts of all of us when he thanked Stuart & Mandy and all the other people who helped to make this a memorable evening. And finally Pieman (who had been  observing the evening's proceedings from his secret bunker somewhere in Bishops Waltham) got in touch to give special thanks to Trev, who had organised the whole evening.

As we made our weary way home amid the gathering dark, most of the guests seemed to be quite pie-eyed, showing that they had had a good evening.

As the Pie Club members seemed to be among the most pie-eyed of them all, it proved to be impossible for them to formally score the session in the usual way. In any case, this was so different from our normal outings that the normal scoring system probably shouldn't apply. But an informal poll undertaken later by Pieman showed the following scores for The Bunch of Grapes, Bishops Waltham (Max 5 in each category - total 25 overall)

Pastry - 5
Filling -  5
Beer   -  5
Ambience - 5
Value  - 5
Overall  - 25

Monday, 6 August 2012

Wickham Festival, 3rd August 2012

Pieman  was at the Wickham Festival this weekend. Always on the lookout for pies, he happened to notice a fine-looking Chicken Balti Pie, which he couldn't resist trying. It was not bad for a £5 festival pie.

The vendor also does a good-looking range of other pies.

These pies are recommended. If you see them, try them!

Please note that Pieman visited the pub without any other members of the Club, so opinions expressed above are purely personal and not representative of the Club.

The Brickmakers Arms, Swanmore, 25th July 2012

Those of us who still have functional memories often look back on the early days of the Pie Club with some degree of rose-tinted nostalgia. It may be a trick of our memories, but many of us have been heard to observe that pies today are not as good as they used to be in the good old days. So, by way of a trip down memory land, and to put this hypothesis to the test, we decided to return to  The Brickmakers Arms, Swanmore, the historic site of the very first Pie Club outing on 20th January 2011. It is only fair to point out that the pub has undergone a change of ownership since our first visit, and so was ripe for reassessment.

It being a fine sunny day, some Pie Club members chose to walk to the pub. For some this was easier than others. It was easiest for Doug, obviously, as he lives in Swanmore and counts The Brickmakers Arms as his local. Others chose the road route and a few hardy individuals chose the cross-country route. Needless to say, by the time we all arrived at our destination we had all worked up a fine thirst. We were greeted warmly by the landlady, who proudly showed us what she had to offer:

The excellent range of beers available included several of our favourites, including Bowman Swift One 3.8%
Bowman Wallops Wood 4.0%Hammerpot Woodcote Bitter 4.5%. At this point something struck us - we've grown (in more ways than one)! There were 3 of us present at the inaugural meeting, and now there were 7 of us. Only one member, Paul T, was absent.  On a fine sunny day, such was the allure of our favourite beer, the Swift One, that even the hardened lager and Guinness drinkers succumbed to its attractions and we ordered 7 pints of Swift One @ £3/pint. The landlady suggested that we might like to wait in the garden until the pies were ready, so off we went, to debate the important matters of the day.

There was only one type of pie available on the menu - Pork & Vegetable Pie, served with buttered vegetables and a choice of thin-cut fries, fat chips, or champ mash. All for a reasonable £10.95.

After our 2nd pint (or was it the 3rd?) we were shown to our table inside, and without much delay the food was presented to us. First to arrive was the pie with thin-cut fries:

The pie had the fully-approved home-made short-crust pastry (not Jus-rol!), and was filled with an interesting mix of shredded pork with carrots, peas, sweet corn, apple, onions and peppers. The accompanying vegetables were a seasonal mix of freshly-cooked steamed courgettes, mangetout, and cabbage, with a touch of butter added. The gravy was served in the approved manner, with a small portion pre-applied to the pie, and a larger portion served separately in a jug. We found the taste of the gravy very interesting - we had to ask to find out what the ingredients were, and found out that they included rosemary, calvedos, and ginger! All things considered, this was a very original pie and a far cry from the ubiquitous Steak & Ale pies, which, frankly, we're starting to get a bit bored with. It's a shame we don't award points for originality.

Next came the pies with fat-cut chips:

And finally came the pies with champ potato (again, an unusual offering):

We all agreed that all varieties of the potatoes very very good, and that the whole meal was very nicely cooked, very tasty, and well presented. The portion sizes were ample, but, unusually, we all managed to eat up what was put in front of us, and several of us still had room for puddings.  This is no reflection on the portion sizes, but rather reflects the ease with which we were all led astray by the sight of a tempting pudding menu:

We felt obliged to sample a selection of different puddings:

The puddings were all very good, but perhaps Doug made the best choice - The Love Puff Pastry Slices:

The ambience of the pub was judged to be very good. There was a TV and piped music in the bar area, but we couldn't hear the music in the (separate) dining area, and the TV was switched off. The pub is very clean and comfortable - there are even 2 sofas available, which is a very nice touch. The service was excellent. Another nice touch was that when we were presented with the bill we were also presented with a dish of home-made chocolate sweets, which were very tasty:

Scores for The Brickmakers Arms, Swanmore (Max 5 in each category - total 25 overall)

Pastry - 4.21
Filling -  4.57
Beer   -  4.13
Ambience - 4.32
Value  - 4.55
Overall  - 21.78

This was another excellent afternoon - another fine traditional pub, recently refurbished, with attentive staff, good beer, and another exceptional pie.  Surprisingly, despite having such a fine range of ales available, when it came to the scoring we had to mark the beer down slightly as it was served slightly too chilled (OK, it was a hot day, but anyone would have thought we were in Australia!). As it is, this score is sufficient to ease the Brickmakers Arms into 2nd place in our rankings, ahead of the Brewery Bar, and second only to the Wheatsheaf. But the competition is close, very close.

On our first visit to this pub in January 2011 we also had a Pork Pie, although the recipe was completely different. On that occasion our score for the visit was only 16.4, and yet, according to Pieman's recollection, it was a very impressive pie. Pieman imagines that as that was our first outing, perhaps we hadn't calibrated our scoring system correctly. Does this mean we're going to have to revisit all the pubs we've been to before?

Our normal monthly outing for August has been cancelled, in order to make way for our special first anniversary celebration, at a secret location on 26th August, when, for once, friends and wives will be invited. Look out for the full report in due course.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Brewery Bar, Botley, 28th June 2012

On a hot, sunny and humid day in June a large gathering of excited gentlemen (Nick, Trev, Paul E, Paul T, Si, and, after a long absence, Doug) assembled outside The Crown in time to board the No. 8 bus to Botley, heading for The Brewery Bar. Having successfully managed to get off the bus at the right stop (with some help from the driver) our unfailing instincts led us to the pub without any further difficulties.

On entering the pub we were given a warm welcome by the landlord and staff.

Our initial impression of the pub was somewhat off-putting as we noticed the TVs, background music, fruit machines, dogs, pool table - all things which are normally anathema to discerning gentlemen such as us. And we were disappointed that there is no actual brewery in the pub, although we were told that there used to be.  And we also immediately noticed the fine and unusual selection of ales on offer.

We all had our eye on the Green Jack Orange Wheat Beer 4.8%, but at 4.8%* we felt it was a bit strong to start with. Most of us opted for a pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord 4.3% @ £3.70/pint, although as usual  Paul E preferred lager, and Paul T preferred Guinness). 

We sat in the garden and started discussing important issues of the day while our pie was prepared. As we were halfway through our 2nd pints the landlord came to tell us that our pie was ready to be served, so we went in and waited with baited breath. On the table next to us were about 14 women who had obviously had a good lunch - their chatter was so noisy that we could scarcely hear ourselves think - but never mind that, the pie when it arrived was fabulous. The landlord and chef were understandably proud.

It was a splendid Chicken, Ham and Leek Pie, which had been prepared especially for us.** 

It came with plenty of beautifully prepared home-made chips, made from new potatoes,

a fine selection of nicely-cooked fresh vegetables,

and beef gravy served just the way it should be, in a separate jug.

The portions were very generous. In the judging that followed some gentlemen thought that the filling was so good that it was perfect, and awarded it 5 out of 5. But some other gentlemen are harder to please. After the meal we were all so stuffed that nobody fancied any pudding, even though there was a fine range of reasonably-priced puddings available.

Instead of having a pudding, we sampled the Green Jack Orange Wheat Beer 4.8%. Being a wheat beer it has rather an unusual first taste, but it grows on you, and we all agreed that was a fine beer. Our only criticism of the beers we had was that they were served slightly too chilled. Notwithstanding our initial impressions, the ambience of the pub was good. The distractions noted above were not too distracting when we were there, although it's possible that the pub might be crowded, boisterous and noisy in the evenings. It's clean, tidy, and the service was excellent. Our final bill for the food and 4 rounds of drinks came to £25 each, including service, which we thought very good value for money.

Scores for The Brewery Bar, Botley (Max 5 in each category - total 25 overall)

Pastry - 4.08
Filling -  4.5
Beer   -  4.25
Ambience - 3.42
Value  - 4.25
Overall  - 20.5

This was another excellent afternoon - a nice traditional pub with attentive staff, good beer, and another exceptional pie.  Perhaps it is unfortunate that this visit came so soon after our visit to The Wheatsheaf and the exceptionally good pie that we had there. The Wheatsheaf has raised the standard to such a high level that it will be very difficult for any other pub to beat it. Sadly for The Brewery Bar, despite such a good effort, they will have to be content with coming 2nd this year (so far).

On our return to Bishops Waltham we adjourned to The Crown, and it was there that we noticed Paul E's dress sense. Should we agree a dress code for future outings?

* According to the brewer's web site, the Green Jack Orange Wheat Beer 4.8% is only 4.2%.

** There is some dispute among Pie Club members as to whether or not it is a good thing to tell the pub in advance that we are going to pay them a visit. If pre-warned then (as in this case, and at The Wheatsheaf) they can make a special effort to impress us with a made-to-order pie. We like this because we get to enjoy a very good pie. But if we turn up unannounced then our experience will be more typical and a truer reflection of the pub. Whatever we do, we should be consistent so as to be fair to all the pubs. Pieman senses a schism developing.