We were joined on this outing by a special guest, Mike, who immediately confounded us all by telling us that he was on a temporary Vegan diet in order to try to lose some weight. If he is hoping ever to become a full member of the Pie Club he should learn not to say things like that.
As we approached the pub we noticed that it is now called "The Brickmakers", whereas in the past we have always referred to it as "The Brickmakers Arms". We're not sure when this change took place, but we're happy to go along with it.
On arrival we were warmly welcomed by the very attractive barmaid, and confronted with a tempting choice of ales.
The ales were the very locally brewed Upham Ales Punter 4%, the also very locally brewed Bowman Ales Wallops Wood 4%, as well as Ringwood Best 3.8% and Ringwood FortyNiner 4.9%. It was a difficult choice between the increasingly-popular Upham or our old favourite Bowman, so in the end we decided to drink both of them. Both were fine beers, served well at the correct temperature, and went well with the meals.
As we were trying out the beers the landlady rushed in carrying trays of freshly-made pasties and explained to us that they were traditional home-made pasties made with short crust pastry, beef and vegetables, and they were big. We couldn't believe how big they were. But as well as the pasties we had a choice of pies: Venison Pie, or Chicken Ham and Leek Pie, all served with mixed vegetables and a choice of mash, thin, or chunky chips. It was a difficult choice for many of us, but not for Mike, who said that as he was on a vegan diet he'd have the Venison Pie. Hmmm, ... we're still not sure that we want him as a full member.
The pasties were big, packed full of tasty moist filling enclosed in short crust pastry, and much appreciated by all who had them. The mixed vegetables included Mange tout, French beans, shredded cabbage, and maybe some other green stuff.
The Chicken, Ham and Leek Pies were also very good. The pastry was so good that some people even gave it full marks.
The Venison Pie looked just as good, but was let down a bit by the filling, which was a bit dry and not very tender.
The puddings were of a good standard and very similar to what we have had here on earlier visits. After puddings, we were offered some free mints (a nice touch) presented with the bill, which came to £32 each. The pasties were £10.00 each, and the pies were £12.50 each (unchanged since last visit). The beers were slightly more expensive this time (around £3.20/pint), but still not bad value. Trev did remark that the pies were a little deer, but he was probably thinking of the venison pies at the time. The service was very good, and the barmaid was quite delightful. The pub was clean, busy but not too noisy, and overall ambience of the pub was very good, and it was a most enjoyable outing.
Scores for The Brickmakers, Swanmore (Max 5 in each category - total 25 overall)
Pastry - 4.52
Filling - 4.27
Beer - 4.49
Ambience - 4.57
Value - 4.07
Overall - 21.92
This score means that The Brickmakers leaps into first place in our rankings of the pubs that we have visited so far this year. It's also the best score achieved by The Brickmakers in all of our visits over the previous 4 years, so it represents a considerable achievement. Closer examination of the individual scores shows that the pasties and chicken pies were very well appreciated, but there was something non-quite-right about the Venison Pie fillings, which brought down the overall scores. This is a shame, but nevertheless The Brickmakers did very well and should be proud of their achievement.