A recent foray across the border into mid Wales brought us to Newtown in Montgomeryshire. Newtown is a small town nestled along the valley of the River Severn. It is home to several historic pubs, three of which have made their way into the 2012 Good Beer Guide. In the spirit of high adventure that pervades all our outings, we decided to head for the nearest one to the parking spot we found for the car.
As luck would have it, this turned out to be the Sportsman in Severn Street. Clearly under external renovation, the pub was covered with scaffolding as we arrived, but the wonderful old wooden hunter and his horse were still to be seen.
Inside, the pub has clearly been refurbished quite recently. The main bar is warm and snug, with comfortable chairs and an excellent brick-built inglenook fireplace. The Sportsman is the first, and currently only pub owned by Monty’s brewery, which we had unknowingly driven past on our way here from Montgomery. Monty’s is one of the small but growing number of breweries run by a lady brewer (a brewster, technically).
On the bar were five pumps, all dispensing beers from Monty’s brewery. As I had not sampled any beer from this brewery before, I settled down to work my way through the bar.
The barman was friendly and cheerful and insisted on me having a taster of each beer before I bought it. This is rare, and may not be possible at all times, especially when the pub is busy, but there was time now, and the barman dutifully produced a taster of each beer for me to try.
First up was Monty’s Match, a 3.4% bitter, bright yellow in colour. This is a light, easily drinkable bitter, smooth in the mouth and with a slight biscuit flavour. At this comfortable ABV, this would make an excellent session beer.
Monty’s Manjana is another bitter, much darker in colour and with a higher ABV of 3.9 has a more complex flavour. Initially the palate is hit with a husky maltiness with upfront flavours of dry earth. There is a pleasant underlying sweetness and a hint of burnt toffee. I like to burp my beers (gently; I don’t belch like a chav) because the burp sometimes provides additional flavour. The Manjana burp provides caramel. This is a very moreish beer, and if I had the choice, I would choose this over the less demanding Match as a session beer.
Monty’s Midnight is a 4% stout. A black beer with a rich brown head. The mouthfeel is very smooth, as it should be. The taste is smoky and malty with a slight hoppy bitterness towards the finish. Lovely.
Monty’s Sunshine (there had to be one, didn’t there?) is a 4.2% golden ale. It is sweet, predominantly, with a husky hoppiness always present in the taste. Another smooth beer which is very drinkable.
The last beer on the bar was Monty’s Mischief, a mid-yellow coloured strong bitter with an ABV of 5.0%. Again the feel in the mouth is very smooth. This beer is really sweet and fruity, with a nice touch of malt and hops on the swallow.
I found all Monty’s beers to be exceptionally drinkable. The brewery has only been in existence since 2009, and already has a fine catalogue of beers to its name. Their website has information about eleven beers. Although I have tasted only five, three of these were award winners at SIBA 2011. Mischief won bronze in the strong bitters category, Sunshine won silver in the best bitters category, and Midnight won silver in the overall champion beer category. There are other award winners amongst the beers I have not yet tasted. You can be sure I’ll be on the lookout for them, and will report back when I find them!
The Sportsman proved a very pleasant spot to stop for an early evening drink. The pub is comfortable and well-appointed. The chap behind the bar, as previously mentioned, was very helpful and informative. The locals chatted freely and comfortably with us. It’s a happy place. I want to go back.
Monty’s website – http://www.montysbrewery.co.uk/
Sportsman website – http://www.sportsmannewtown.co.uk/
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