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Pub/Bar of the Month May 2012: The Talbot, Knightwick, UK
The Talbot, Knightwick, UK
I’ve always felt that the term ‘industry’ used in relation to beer is inappropriate. Yes, there are plenty of huge factories where, at the push of a button, a can of bland lager plops out at the end, but brewing, for me, is really an agricultural enterprise.
That’s something that is brought home with a visit to The Talbot at Knightwick.
Here, on the border of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, you really are immersed in the culture of beer making, as the fields all around are loaded with succulent, verdant hop bines which, to locals, are as important a crop as wheat or barley, potatoes or beans.
It’s a simple, wholesome part of the world far removed from the oily grind of heavy industry with which beer production, all too often, is wrongly associated.
The Talbot has stood here since the 14th century, an imposing but attractive old, whitewashed coaching inn, comfortably set back down a quiet lane just off the main (A44) road between Bromyard and Worcester.
The garden, bordered by the lazy River Teme (fishing permits available), offers fresh air and tranquillity.
For the last quarter-century, the pub has been owned by the Clift family who used to grow hops themselves in the fields that surround the pub. They sold the hops business after more than 100 years in 2000 to concentrate on further developing The Talbot as a hub of excellence that plays a major role in keeping alive the rustic traditions of the region.
Pub for Everyone
It’s a pub with something for everyone. In the simple public bar, to the right as you enter, games are provided. There’s a dartboard and a pool table on a raised area, plus a jukebox. Live acoustic music is staged here on the first Wednesday of each month.
Turn to the left of the entrance instead and you wander into a lounge bar that is bluntly divided by an enormous hearth, stacked with logs and hung with brasses.
The nearer side, with its red-tiled flooring, cosies up to the bar counter, while on the other side of the fireplace the lounge extends back towards the elegant dining areas, where local produce, much of it organic, is served.
Bar meals are, of course, available too, and, if you stay overnight in one of the en suite rooms, you’ll also be treated to what was judged ‘Britain’s Best Pub Cooked Breakfast’ a few years ago.
A pub that was already a highly-regarded place to eat and drink added another string to its bow in 1997 when the Teme Valley brewery was installed in an outhouse to the rear.
Here, using only Worcestershire hops, brewer Chris Gooch turns out beers that have the plainest of names: This, That and T’Other.
Seasonal beers add to the collection and, as well as being served on draught in the pub, they, like the regular brews, are available in bottle-conditioned form to take away. Beer from Hobsons Brewery is also on tap.
There’s always something going on at The Talbot, be it a themed dinner or the farmers’ market hosted on the second Sunday of every month, but one of the highlights has to be the annual green-hop beer festival, staged in October.
The event sees brewers from all over the UK submitting beers they have brewed with hops from the most recent harvest – but not just any old hops.
Green-hop beers are made by adding hops fresh from the bine – hops that have not been dried but are still sticky and sappy with resins and oils. Teme Valley often produces a variety of these beers based on different hop strains.
The festival is a most fitting celebration of the countryside that The Talbot calls home, and another example of produce fresh from the fields finding its way onto the table. It’s all so simple and basic, with happily no industrial complications.
The Talbot, Knightwick, Worcester WR6 5PH
Tel. (01886) 821235
Opening Hours: 8am–midnight; 8am–10.30pm Sunday