When we came across the Worcester Ale Trail in the Worc Social magazine we knew we had to give it a go. As Saturday, June 2 started off more gloomy than we anticipated, we cancelled our riverside walk and set our sights on completing the ale trail.
We hadn’t seen much publicity for this around the town, so we were hopeful we would be in the first 100 to complete the trail – thus winning a special pint glass. It’s the little things.
The Ale Trail – which is the result of a partnership between The Cardinal’s Hat and the Worcester Food Festival – sends you around eight pubs with the view of ordering a pint of real ale in each. Punters have until June 17 to complete the challenge.
The recommended order of completion is you begin your adventure at The King’s Head in Sidbury, heading next to The Cardinal’s Hat on Friar Street before then stopping off at The King Charles on New Street. Then you go on to The Firefly in Lowesmoor, the Imperial Tavern on St Nicholas Street, The Paul Pry in The Butts, Tonic Bar on Foregate Street and finally finishing at The Oil Basin in Copenhagen Street.
We started a little out of kilter at The Cardinal’s, and after getting our first stamp on our card we enjoyed sitting beneath their new covered garden benches. We think they need to get some fairy lights around those to make them just perfect for a summer’s night. Anyway, we took our time over our Prescott Brewery’s Hill Climb, a low strength golden ale, while we planned our journey. Pubs are wonderfully educational if you look close enough, and have been cornerstones of communities for centuries – and The Cardinal’s Hat has been part of Worcester’s social life since the 14th century, and is known as Worcester’s oldest pub.
We then had to backtrack to go to the King’s Head, where we found another lovely outdoor area overlooking the canal that flows alongside Worcester’s Commandery, another historic building which played a key role in the English Civil War. At this point the sun had magically appeared through the muggy grey and we were regretting our long-sleeves but we knew we had to solider on. We drank up our Oxford Gold by Brakspear Brewing Company and felt suitably refreshed.
Then we went for our thirds – Cold Brew Stout by Cocksure Brewing Co and Tiny Rebel’s Urban IPA – in the Paul Pry because we were desperate for a scotch egg at this point. They never disappoint. We also found a small and sweet outdoor area here that we didn’t know existed and listened to some excellent tunes on vinyl. If you haven’t been to the Paul Pry, you are truly missing out on the gloriously ornate wooden bar and beautiful tiling.
We failed to realise you didn’t have to complete this all in one day, so when someone enlightened us with this about halfway through our odyssey it was already too late – we had set our sights on our goal and we were going to do it.
Our fourth stop was at Tonic. We had never thought to come here for a beer before – the name suggests spirits are more it’s bag. However we were pleasantly surprised with the selection of craft beer here, with offerings from Vibrant Forest, Gipsy Hill, Magic Rock and more. It was a nice venue too, and now that we know they have frequent tap takeovers, we’ll definitely be checking back in. We also got chatting to two nice lads here on a stag do and spent an hour trying to get them to like Liquor Trips on Facebook.
We celebrated making it over the half-way mark with a delicious Pieminister pie at the King Charles II and Craddock’s Saxon Gold. If you hadn’t noticed yet, (what with the Commandery, the Oak Apple, the King’s this and that…) Worcester’s links to King Charles II and the English Civil War are vast and this particular pub had a special role to play in the course of English history. King Charles II used this pub as a hide-out in 1651 after losing the war to Oliver Cromwell before fleeing to France. The pub, which was built in 1577, also has a sneaky oubliette.
Next we trotted over to the Imperial Tavern for Salopian’s 1,000 Yard Stare (and possibly a ten minute nap). The pub is now owned by Black Country Brewery and has a lovely ‘proper pub’ interior, with a respectable selection of ales and ciders on tap.
Again, messing up the order of things, we flew over to The Oil Basin Brewhouse, a recent addition to the scene, for some of the dark stuff with Burning Soul’s divine Coconut Porter and Marble Beer’s coffee porter, Uppe Hela Natten. Here we lost ourselves for a moment in the bluesy/country music (despite the noise of post-ladies’ day invaders).
Then we were on the final stretch. We headed down to another one of our favourite haunts, The Firefly, to finish on a high note with our favourite, Millionaire, by Wild Beer Co. Never a bad way to end. We got our final stamp and the elation and pride we felt must be comparable to the birth of your first child. We then had to head back to the Cardinal’s Hat, carefully navigating through crowds of completely trashed race-goers, to claim our Worcester Ale Trail glass. Worth it.
This list, while taking in some beautiful pubs rich in history and exciting venues, is by no means definitive, and we know there are some fantastic pubs that deserve inclusion. Maybe next year?
We think the Ale Trail is an excellent way of promoting Worcester’s pub and bar economy and a brilliant way of trying new beer. We don’t often go for bitters or golden ales, usually choosing IPAs or stouts, so this was a good chance to do so. And while, as you would expect from bloggers called Liquor Trips, we are vehement supporters of our locals, but the Ale Trail may well entice people in to places they don’t usually go and may just introduce them to their new favourite place.
Five Things We Learned on the Worcester Ale Trail:
- The King’s Head has a lovely beer garden over looking the canal.
- Tonic isn’t just about cocktails – it also has an excellent selection of craft beer (and super friendly bar staff).
- You definitely don’t have to complete the Ale Trail in one day – but we’re competitive.
- Paul Pry has amazing scotchers (scotch eggs) which you can enjoy whilst listening to records of your choice.
- The Cardinal’s Hat has a new and improved garden with lovely benches and canopies.