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.