10th what? Well, it was the 10th anniversary of landlady Mary taking the pub on. Every year since she has held a beer festival weekend to celebrate. This was my 4th year running.
And she has good reason to celebrate as the Coopers Tavern has been voted CAMRA Pub of the year 2015 and holds several other CAMRA awards for pub of the season in both beer and cider categories. There is always a good selection of ales and ciders on offer, usually chalked up on boards on the back wall. The beer festival this time had no less than 30 real ales and 10 ciders available, many served from the main bar at the back of the pub which has both hand pumps and a selection of beers on gravity serve, direct form the tap to your glass. Mary prides herself on having Draught Bass available by this method - "as it should be". Many more were available direct from the cellar, which is around the back of the pub, between the rear entrance walkway and the beer garden and is actually on the same level. We didn't have to go down any steps to the cellar, put it that way.
As often happens on my travels, I met up with David at the pub. He had arrived half an hour early and had to find his own way into the pub as it was not open when he got there. I was told to use the back entrance so soon joined him in a refreshing pint after the train journey. Dave and Tony arrived a short while after, Tony's wife providing transport there and Dave's wife collecting them later. David and myself were on the trains. At least I managed not to end up sleeping through to Scunthorpe on my way back from this trip to Burton.
The pub itself is not only in the Good Beer Guide but is also listed in 'Britain's Best Real Heritage Pubs'. Originally built for Bass Brewery storage purposes, this classic, unspoilt, 19th-century ale house became a pub and the Bass Brewery tap in the mid-1800s. After several other owners since 1991, it is now part of the Joule's estate. A square, squat 19th-century brick-built building hidden down a side street, it was once a sampling house for the beers of the mighty Bass empire. Brewers would come here to taste, ensuring that their products were up to scratch. Not that much changes, except now it’s discerning punters who come to sample great beer straight from the barrel and drink in the Coopers’ unique atmosphere.
My first pint was Ossett Brewery 'Jester' at 4.0%. Through the course of the afternoon I enjoyed several fine condition ales including Brampton '1302', Amber 'Barnes Wallis', Bathams 'Best bitter', Tudor 'Sugarloaf', Old Swan 'Bumblehole', Elgoods 'Double Swan' and, of course, Draught Bass. I lost my list, but had popped a few scores onto Whatpub and was able to back-track a little using that on my return home.
We sat outside in the small beer garden, taking it in turns to fetch more beer. We soon learned to check the chalkboard outside the cellar door to find out which beers were on there and which were at the main bar. Although I started on pints, my first three were, I dropped to halves or I'd probably still be there, fast asleep on the bench ! My beer of the day was the Old Swan 'Bumblehole' as it had the most satisfying flavour to me. The Ossett 'Jester' was second, although many Ossett beers seem very similar and maybe that's why I didn't rate it the best.
There was some talk about the Whatpub system and how some branches are not as quick as others in updating information. I was told of one pub the others had visited which had been closed for six weeks and it took longer than that to get the information updated, despite reporting back online using the Whatpub feedback form tool. I'm happy to report that Doncaster Branch react very quickly, I entered a correction about one pub and within a couple of hours it had been updated.
Still more Travels to come, the Great Central Railway beer festival in September and the Independent Brewers Festival 2016 at The National Brewery Centre in Burton in October, not forgetting our very own Doncaster Town Beer festival 22-24 September.