An American in Southern England

Wife and I and another couple will be touring S. England this August. with stays in Brighton, Salisbury, Plymouth and Cotswold area a couple days each. I’ve done a little reading on the subject but would like to get schooled a bit on what I will find and what I should expect. A meet up would also be great but the wives might not allow much itinerary freedom.
Would appreciate a few “must visits” or recommendations.
The 2014 and 2015 pub of the year are both not far from one of our Air BnBs in Chipping Norton and would love to visit them.
BeerMail me if you are up for a chat about it
Looking forward to some bangers and mash and a pint or 3 this summer

Given the area you’ll be going to, this might be a good read:

Sarum (also titled Sarum: The Novel of England) is a work of historical fiction by Edward Rutherfurd, first published in 1987. It tells the story of England through the tales of several families in and around the English city of Salisbury, the writer’s hometown, from prehistoric times to 1985.

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Not too far from Brighton if you like cider:

Although Salisbury is a lovely city and has some nice old pubs (try the Haunch of Venison), I’ve always found it a bit disappointing for beer choice. Lots of Wadworths pubs if that floats your boat.

In Devon, Exeter is a nicer city than Plymouth (which got bombed to hell in WW2 and was the subjected to some unsympathetic redevelopment afterwards) but I guess you’re already committed to Plymouth. There are plenty of beer options in Plymouth though.

If you want to pick up some local bottles for nightcaps in your Air BnBs, drop into Darts Farm Shop just off the motorway close to Exeter (I presume you’ll be driving). I haven’t been there in a while but they used to carry pretty much every bottled beer from Devon & Cornwall. Or Tuckers Malting (beer store & brewpub) in Newton Abbot, which also has another brewpub and an excellent bar (which also has a decent bottle shop), plus one of the few remaining old fashioned traditional cider houses in the UK.

Also, try to pop in to Totnes between Exeter & Plymouth. I’ve often heard the term “hippy town” used when I’ve been in the US but Totnes really does fit the moniker. It also has a couple of brewpubs. And, if you happen to be passing through on a Friday or Saturday, a brewery taproom too (check opening times as they can be a bit variable for breweries in the UK).

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Not too much happening in Chipping Norton beer wise although as a visitor you will pick up scoops in The Red Lion, (Hook Norton Brewery) and The Chequers (Fullers). Just outside Chippy you have the magnificent Hook Norton Brewery, a traditional 18th century tower brewery that do great tours and award winning food. The best pub in our area is The Rose & Crown at Charlbury, always well worth a visit. From Chippy you can get a bus to Oxford and all its history and pubs, there is also a bus to Stratford upon Avon for the Shakespeare stuff. I live in Banbury, just 12 miles from Chippy and can always give a tour of Banbury, Oxford etc.

Excellent. Thanks everyone.

As I’m sure you know, but primarily for the benefit of the original poster, Old Sarum was the original site of Salisbury, growing out of an Iron Age hill fort, until the “new” city was established in the 13th century and Old Sarum was gradually abandoned. However, it lived on as a parliamentary constituency until the 19th century and was one of the most notorious “rotten boroughs”. These had hardly any population but still “elected” an MP, effectively guaranteeing the local landowner a seat in parliament. This allowed the government to infate its parliamentary presence - an early form of gerrymandering if you will. You can visit Old Sarum but there’s not a whole lot to see now.

Sarum: The Novel of England has many fine details (people often fictional but the “set” seems “accurate”). Some decent views as I recall. You can get a feel for why the position was settled. Altho the geography isn’t so vertical as that of the Stirling Castle area, I found the settings similar, security wise. Not to mention the weaponry involved at both sites was of wholly different capabilities.

Thanks again. I am learning about the idea of contracted pubs vs “Free Houses”. That will be a big help in deciding what pubs to visit.

This is “the one”.

For old-school decor I’d hit a Sam Smith’s pub such as Princess Louise or Olde Cheshire Cheese.

Or a Rotherhithe duo:

That’s a decent starting point but by no means the full story, especially nowadays.

Although free houses are more likely to have an interesting choice of beer they don’t always. There are plenty of what I sometimes think of a “Doom Bar” pubs (or, I suppose, these days “Punk IPA” bars). That is, places that make a nod towards non-macro beer but opt for the lowest common denominators. A lot of food-led places fall into this category as they sell a lot more wine (and make a much bigger profit on that). Also, a lot of places are owned by large pub companies, which I guess are technically free houses, and their policies regarding beer range vary considerably.

On the tied house side of things, many brewery-owned pubs carry guest beers these days. Again, how many and how interesting will vary from brewery to brewery and from pub to pub. There are two business models for tied houses - managed and leased. In the former, the brewery operates the pub and just emplys a manager to run it. In the latter the pub is owned by the brewery but operated by a lessee. The lease will typically incorporate a barrelage clause whereby the lessee has to source a certain amount of the beer from the brewery but, often, will be allowed to stock other beers too. Some do, some don’t. Again, it all depends on the terms of the lease.

CAMRA’s WhatPub? website is an excellent resource which will usually give you a fair idea of what beers to expect at a particular place. Understandably it’s most focussed on beers that sell cask beer (which is most of them these days) but covers non-cask places too. The entries for those may be rather sketchier but that could be just because they’re surveyed by local CAMRA members infrequently for the simple reason that they’re less likely to visit them.

Brighton I think is a great beer town. I have a friend who lives there so have done many of the pubs in the area.
The Evening Star, The Prince Albert and The Lord Nelson are all within 5 minutes walk of the railway station. On the same road as the Albert and Nelson is Trafalgar Wines, the best bottle shop in Brighton. Tiny, but he fits a fantastic selection into limited space.
At the bottom of Trafalgar Street, one block south is North Laine, a brewpub where you can get a sampler tray. Beer quality varies.
Just across the green from here is Brighton BrewDog. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it.
To the west of the city centre is the Craft Beer Co and Brighton Beer Dispensary and finally my favourite interior for a pub in Brighton the Lion & Lobster. You can eat here too. The interior is superb. Keep walking back and up in the pub and find room after room.