In contrast to Coventry which I wrote about last week, Rugby has more going for it. Famous for its school and the birthplace of some sport whose name escapes me, it is worthy of a visit for historical reasons. However I tend to go to places just for the beer, and in The Merchants Inn they have one hell of a pub.
For those who know The Malt Shovel in Northampton and are impressed by the breweriana on display, The Merchants actually puts it to shame. It's a veritable feast of old advertizing boards, posters, pump clips, mirrors and collectable old beer bottles (all of which I think are full). It's pretty much a museum of old beer memorabilia.
On an average day the pub sells nine real ales on handpump together with a pretty decent range of Belgian bottles. However I was here for the Joy Of Six Beer Festival week long festival featuring 66 beers, all of which have a 6 somewhere in the ABV; a bizarre theme if ever there was one.
Stillage space in the back bar is limited so of course not all 66 beers are available at once. There was actually a choice of 28 which should, though, be enough for anyone. I worked my way through eleven of them; and found them a mixed bunch in terms of quality. I was pleased to see Wickwar Station Porter, but was very disappointed in it, finding it to have an odd sweetness and no roasty flavours which Wickwar promise.I also tried Cauldron Snout, now brewed by Darwin, and a good beer, but not as nice as I remember it from its High Force days.
The best beers I tried were No Bully Dozer from Oakham, brewed with reference to the campaign to save The Brewery Tap, typically hoppy well brewed beer, and Lancaster Black, a nice tasty roasty stout.
Prices were reasonable for this part of the World at around £2.50 a pint, and the festival fish and chips looked bloody handsome. There will be another beer festival in the Autumn, and other pubs in Rugby have ones lined up for the Summer. Rugby CAMRA are having their festival in three weeks time, so right now it's a pretty good town for beer, and with it being less than a fiver on the train for me, life is sweet.