County Stat Attack Week 29 - Dorset

Apologies again for this week, I had to drive down from North Yorkshire to home this morning.

This week takes us down to the South West of England and the beautiful county of Dorset or Dorsetshire. The county has borders with Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire, in the reorganisation of boundaries in the 70’s the county gained Bournemouth and Christchurch from Hampshire.

The area has been settled since Neolithic times with Celtic tribes which were finally conquered by the Romans. It was part of Saxon Wessex and suffered the first of the recorded Viking raids on the British Isles. The Black death entered England at Melcombe Regis in 1348. The Tolpuddle march started in Dorset and during the Second World War the county was heavily involved in the preparations for the invasion of Normandy.

The geography of Dorset is of high cliffs, chalk downs, low valleys and steep limestone ridges. Over half of the county is designated Area of Natural Beauty. Most of its coastline is part of the Jurassic Coast Natural World Heritage Site.

On Ratebeer we have a total of 36 breweries, 28 currently active and 8 closed. 3 of these are Client / Commissioner brewers. As will be highlighted later it is very much cider territory.

The oldest breweries we have on Ratebeer are Hall & Woodhouse (Badger) of Blandford St. Mary (Est 1777) and Palmers of Bridport (Est 1794). Hall & Woodhouse was set up by a gentleman farmer Charles Hall who built his brewery in Ansty. Charles won the contract to supply the British troops during the Napoleonic Wars, late 18th Century, each of the soldiers had a daily allowance of 5 pints! The brewery was passed to his son Robert who brought Edward Woodhouse into the business as a commercial partner. The name Hall & Woodhouse coming when Edward married into the family. The surviving family invested back into the business now running around 180 pubs. The brewery is still family owned and run now running the Badger beers as the principal brand. Palmers is a similar story, situated just a mile from the Jurassic Coast it runs a beautiful old brewery using water from its own spring. The brewery was started by the Gundry family next to the river Brit, the Palmer family not taking over until the late 19th century after the original family went into insolvency. The Palmer family still own and run the brewery to this day.

The Dorset brewery with the largest range on Ratebeer is Badger Brewery with 78 beers.

In the 2020 Ratebeer awards the best Brewer award went to Eight Arch Brewery of Wimborne (Est 2015), their Eight Arch Dainty also won Best Beer.

The Top 10 Beers for Dorset are –

  1. Eldridge Pope Thomas Hardy’s Ale (up to 1999) R
  2. Eight Arch Layer Cake
  3. Mighty Hop Black Pearl Porter R
  4. Gyle 59 The Favourite
  5. Gyle 59 Pale & Bitter
  6. Gyle 59 Starstruck
  7. Eight Arch Corbel
  8. Gyle 59 Elderbeery Stout
  9. Palmers Tally Ho! (Cask)
  10. Badger An American Venture – Amarillo, Cascade & Mosaic

Top Bars / Pubs in Dorset are -

  1. Castle Inn, West Lulworth – 84
  2. Goat and Tricycle (Wadworth), Bournemouth – 80
  3. Poole Hill Brewery, Bournemouth – 77
  4. All Hail Ale, Bournemouth – 77
  5. Bankes Arms (Isle of Purbeck), Studland – 74

The Top 5 Raters of beers from Dorset are –

  1. @imdownthepub
  2. @fonefan
  3. @downender
  4. @Grumbo
  5. @Theydon_Bois

Currently you will requite 35 Dorsetshire beers to enter the top 50.

The top Rater who resides in Dorset is –
@Panda_brewmaster who appears to have ceased rating earlier this year, hopefully to return, I cannot find anyone currently rating regularly.


I have to say, I love going to Dorset, I have always thought that if I were to move elsewhere in England it would be Dorset, however the prices of houses might be somewhat off putting. Lots of visits with the various vans over the years and a planned stay coming soon too, although I am still somewhat surprised to have stayed out in front in the county for so long.

I have criss-crossed the county on various walks over the year, the coastal path being particularly special here, I love the grind up to the top of Golden Cap and the sea views from the top. Midlanders always particularly appreciate the sea. The only football would have been a trip to Bournemouth in the 70’s, when it had the proper name of Dean Court and the team were just called Bournemouth and had about half a dozen fans. I remember a monster game of football on the lawns on the front between Blues fans and all comers after the pubs closed, so we must have made a weekend of it. I think my favourite part of the county is The Isle of Purbeck.

So I am top of the ratings for Dorset with 193 ratings making it my 34th highest county with an average of just 3.1. I have rated beers from 27 different breweries, equal top with the ever present fonefan. I have only managed to get hold of 5 beers through the whole Covid period, another difficult county on that front.

The Breweries I have had most beers from overall are –

  1. Badger Brewery (Hall & Woodhouse) – 41
  2. Dorset Brewing Co. – 25
  3. Gyle 59 – 15
  4. Piddle Brewery – 11
  5. Isle of Purbeck, Palmers & Sunny Republic Brewing are all at 10.

I have only rated 3 beers at 4 or over, they are –

  1. Eldridge Pope Thomas Hardy’s Ale (up to 1999) – 4.2
  2. King and Barnes Cornucopia – 4.1
  3. Palmers Tally Ho Ho Ho – 4

The Dorset Beers with my highest averages are –

  1. Eight Arch – 3.46
  2. Wayland Sixpenny Brewery – 3.371
  3. Gyle 59 – 3.353
  4. Isle of Purbeck – 3.28

I have reviewed 18 places in Dorset, my favourites are –

  1. Castle Inn, West Lulworth – 82
  2. Blue Raddle, Dorchester – 70
  3. Brewhouse & Kitchen, Dorchester – 68

Hopefully I will get to try many more places on my forthcoming visit.


Dorset, one of those counties that I keep telling myself I should visit, but one that rarely sees me within it’s borders. I’ve been to Bournemouth a few times, football mostly, but my Union held it’s AGM there every year, so I also went down for that to speak/pontificate on occasions (and therefore got a free trip, time off work, etc, etc.). Looks like I might have to hit Weymouth next season with my team and I retired in 2012, so my Union membership has lapsed so can’t get a freebee anymore. I do want to see the Jurassic Coast, so we will be going to Dorset again one day.

My stats are pretty unimpressive to be honest, only one place reviewed (the excellent Goat & Triangle); surprised I haven’t written about more pubs in Bournemouth to be honest.

44 Beer rates @ 3.08. It’s my 12th lowest county in ratings, but gets me to =38th on the leader board.

Badger An American Adventure - Amerillo, Cascade & Mosaic. It is also the longest named beer I’ve had from Dorset!
Eight Arch Bobolink
Badger Tanglefoot (Cask)

Badger Pumpkin Ale

Seven different breweries sampled, one of which has closed, no Cider, Mead or Sake taken from the county.

25 from Badger
7 from Dorset
4 from Palmers

Semi-interesting Fact:
In 1985 when I was in The Falklands I used to frequent the live Radio broadcasted ‘Folk Club’ in Port Stanley (every other Friday). They sold cans of Tanglefoot (it was the main reason I went actually). You couldn’t get it anywhere else on the islands and it was my fortnightly treat.



This came slightly too soon for me. 96 rates. 4 more in the cellar and I was planning to order some more Dorset beers next week. As it is I am 7th on the beer ticking table and 5th in terms of breweries ticked. Then 3 ciders from 2 cideries.

My grandfather used to holiday in Swanage when he was a kid in the early 1930s (maybe even during the 1920s?). That tradition continued with my father and ended up with my grandparents buying a house there. When my grandfather was still working a couple of days a week they used to spend long weekends there. However once they retired there permanently they realised how dead the town was out of season and promptly moved back to Farnborough. In 2018 and 2019 my wife and I started up the family holidays there again.

One of my earliest beer memories is of asking my grandfather why he had a badger on his jumper. His response, “It’s from Badger. My favourite brewery.” Recalling that was what kick-started my Dorset ticking and why I suggested going to Swanage back in 2018.

Now - the one thing I do plan to do is go to Poole and Bournemouth at some point due to all the micropubs. I did go down to New Milton for a beer festival but only a out 25% of the advertised beers were actually on.

As it is, Swanage is lovely but the pubs are all a bit boring. Of course the Square and Compass in Worth Matravers is a great country pub. Even though we weren’t allowed in the pub the garden is so unusual. The main issue is that my wife does not like driving so I only had a couple of halves and none of the cider. Also need to go back to the Bankes Armes for the first time in around 37 years. Because we only went into

There are two Hall and Woodhouse pubs near me in Surrey - the one in West End (part of Woking) was a shit hole and only had the two beers on. The Anchor in Pyrford is extremely popular but is more of a restaurant benefitting from its location more than it’s fare and only has 3 or 4 of their beers on.

Top Rated Beers:


Badger - 16

DBC - 15

Eight Arch - 13

Palmers - 9 (possibly all at PoW in Farnborough)

Hattie Brown’s/Way Outback - 6

Isle of Purbeck - 4

And then between 1 and 3 from Barefaced, Brew Shack, B&K (Poole), Cerne Abbas, Drop the Anchor, Free From Beer (worst name ever?), Gyle 59, Knight Life, Piddle, Poole Hill, Sandbanks and Sixpenny.

Ciders from Dorset Nectar and Purbeck.


81 rates from Dorset for me, highest at 4.1 for Eldridge Pope Thomas Hardy’s Ale (up to 1999) which was a 1977 vintage bottle.

Dorset has a fair number of active cideries with 27 listed, and the most prolific is Purbeck Cider Co. with 20 entries. The top 5 raters for Dorset Cideries and Ciders are:

DorsetCider Ratings



Only 11 ratings, and two place ratings but some enjoyable memories for this one!

My 2007 rating for Badger Fursty Ferry includes the unattributed quote “Somehow I cloned a batch of monkey frogs,” about which I now have several questions. (It was a tradition of mine and Mabel’s to include funny quotes from group tastings in our ratings for quite a while.)

We attended a family wedding in Bournemouth, at which I got a rating from Isle of Purbeck, and a selfie with a bacon buttie and the father of the bride who was very confused by my sandwich excitement. (Why are bacon butties not a thing at North American weddings?!?!? :slight_smile: ). The trip included some cheeky ticks at the Goat & Tricycle, ratings from Piddle (with associated silly commentary), a walk to Old Harry Rocks and a lovely pub lunch in the gardens at Bankes Arms in Studland.

Unrelated to Dorset, I had coincidentally won a well timed trip to Paris and Brussels so we continued on to Paris. I was quite excited for the chunnel. Less so with having our journey take close to five hours when our train broke down shortly after entering France.


This is potentially my only chance to get into the top 50 of an English county… Might have to get my parents to chauffeur me to a few more Dorset breweries on my next visit home.


A lonesome, solitary Dorset rate for me - Badger Tanglefoot from H&W - and no places. Used to see numerous different Badger beers in Morrisons, and tried many of them, but that was years back, before I even considered rating them anywhere, so guess I need to revisit them, for completeness sake! Not many trips to the county, truth be told, most memorable was a cricket tour to Bridport, involving a couple of games of actual cricket, beers in country pubs, with games of skittles thrown in for good measure. These days our cricket tours involve zero cricket (unfortunately), but plenty of ale - although it’s been a couple of years now :frowning_face:

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Totally unrelated to beer, but there’s a folklore podcast called Loremen, which has a running joke whenever one of the pieces of folklore being discussed comes from e.g. Poole:
“In Dorset?”
“Of course I do, I bloody love the place”

As you were.


Oh, Dorset, how I have failed you.

On paper, it’s a beautiful and historically important county. In reality I’ve found it to be a big old pocketful of meh. Maybe that’s because I’m an urban boy at heart, maybe it’s because I haven’t found the right areas. I have 24 Dorset rates, just outside of my bottom five and not really too close to threaten the places of those in the top 50. And at an average rate of 3.16, it’s my third worst-rated county.

No Dorset beer has made it past the 4.0 mark, although there were some good ones. Top of the lot are as follows:

I’ve tried 8 Dorset breweries, of which 7 are still going. Hall & Woodhouse (Badger) top the group with 8, followed by Gyle 59 (6) and Dorset Brewing Co (3). Gyle 59 is a decent brewery although I’ve not seen them around for a while, and I have high hopes for Eight Arch from what I have had.

I’ve been in and around many places in Dorset but that was when I lived in Devon (1998-2005), well before I ticked beer on RB. So my 7 place rates come from a few days spent in Bournemouth, a town that was surprisingly pleasant. There isn’t much of a beer scene but there are quite a few micropubs dotted around the area (I only made it to a couple but they were worth visiting). Top pubs are:

I’ll probably dip into Dorset again at some point, maybe combining West Dorset and East Devon in a single trip. But there are plenty of places that excite the senses a bit more.


8 beers sampled. Most of them (5) Isle of Purbeck which is down to the fact that the pub round the corner had them intermittently. I have extremely distant memories of a childhood holiday in Bournemouth but no beer drinking expeditions to report. I also seem to have missed the more interesting beers from the more interesting breweries. Well, another “must try harder” report card.


Eight Arch seemed like the most interesting Dorset brewery so I have picked up a few an am now #1 rater on 13.

There are a few smaller craftier breweries that have popped up. Knight Life seem to be the mosting promising one. A few of their beers were available on Left Field Beer at one point.

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Yay, Dorset - one of my favourite counties. However, at present I have just 28 rates from there, putting Dorset mid-table in my counties league and leaving me a little way outside the top 50.

My top beers from the county are not all that top, and one of them’s actually a perry:

Golden Glory is about the only Badger beer I actually like - overall Badger are in my bottom 10 scoring breweries with an average score of just 2.6.

I’ve rated 11 breweries there (2 sadly closed) and 1 cidery. My most frequently-rated brewery is Badger, with 10 rates, most of which were supermarket bottles in my early days on the site.

I’ve only rated one place - the Dorchester branch of Brewhouse & Kitchen, which I quite liked. I’ve been to many, many more places though before I started regularly rating places on here - one of my best beery memories was a game of chess on the giant chessboard outside the Castle Inn in Lulworth. My brother & I played out a long stalemate there whilst walking the coast path, and bizarrely half the pub ended up watching us, offering advice & buying us free drinks. Very definitely the liveliest, most fun game of chess I’ve ever had!

The bit of the south west coast path from Swanage to Weymouth and around the Isle of Purbeck was the first bit I did, and is still one of my favourite bits. There’s some amazing things to see on it (mostly free access):

  • Durlston Head with the giant stone globe, fossil museum and Tilly Whim caves.
  • The abandoned village of Tyneham, in the middle of a military range with burned out tanks all over the place.
  • The obvious attractions of Lulworth Cove, Stair Hole and Durdle Door.
  • The amazing Portland - the coast path around here is chock full of bizarre and interesting stuff, of which my favourites were the slightly terrifying Pulpit Rock and the unexpected Tout Quarry Sculpture Park.

Obviously there’s lots in the rest of the county too like:

  • Seeing the free-roaming New Forest cattle & ponies wandering through the middle of Brockenhurst.
  • The lovely, forgotten countryside around the county high point, Lewesdon Hill (279m high) in the west of the county
  • The amazing old fossil museum in Lyme Regis (this is the private one inland up the hill that’s stuffed full of stuff, not the rather bland modern one on the seafront).

I realise that I’m starting to sound like a tourist brochure for this (admittedly lovely) county, so I’d better balance that by warning you it can be dangerous there too. For instance, my wife managed to fall into the Roman amphitheatre at Dorchester and spent the next few months limping around in a clanking metal leg brace, like a budget Terminator!

I’m hoping to get back to Dorset later this year (Covid allowing), so should up my rates a bit then.


Ahem… the New Forest is in Hampshire.

Oops… well, I’m invading on behalf of Dorset. You can have Poole Pottery in exchange (bad memories of being dragged around there on a primary school trip).

We want Bournemouth back !

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Dorset is a favourite of mine. I have only had 40 beers from Dorset. One of my lowest

No beers over a 3.8, most of the top ones are from Gyle 59.

14 Breweries for me. With the most beers from Badger.

My stand out place isn’t a pub or a bar, but a restaurant.

I do like their whole crab (comes with a hammer and everything)… They have two house beers one is a Oyster Stout the other a Best Bitter.


It looks like I am a week behind again :wink:

Dorset - This is a lovely, lovely county and one of our favourites in the UK for holidaying. I guess that we have been there an awful lot over the years, camping in the camper and before that with a tent at the likes of Lyme Regis, Wareham, and stopping in cottages throughout the county most recently just a couple of months before we left the UK, we stopped at a wonderful National Trust Cottage, it was really old and on a nature reserve and also close to the RSPB reserve at Arne. It is a lovely county for scenery and walks, I would highly recommend the aforementioned RSPB reserve if you want to try and spot some wonderful birdlife, you will almost certainly see Marsh Harriers and maybe if you are lucky on the nearby heathland Nightjars or Dartford Warblers. The ride down the hill to the Bankes Arms is exhilarating but not so much fun cycling back up. I like Warham as well and you can get some good fish in and around the county. Many years ago I stopped for a few nights in Poole and Bournemouth with the old job that I have mentioned before.

Onto beer, I have rated a total of 50 beers and I am in 29th position. It’s fascinating to see a 15-year-old rating still my top rating for the county, particularly interesting is that it’s Badger Golden Champion with a 3.8 😳, if I were to rate that again now I am sure it would slip out of my top ten. Having said that there are a few of my friends on here including Glen who have been similarly generous with a 3.6.

Dorset Ratings

Dorset Beers

I have to say for the many positives about Dorset, it’s beers are lagging a little. I know that I have also given Gyle 59 and Eight Arch 3.8’s but for there to be nothing with a 4.0 is telling. It is crying out for a really top-notch producer I think, don’t get me wrong many of those that I have mentioned and also the likes of Palmers of Bridport are solid breweries but they don’t have a really great next level brewery in my opinion.

Brewery Totals

I have also one now closed brewery with 3 beers (Sunny Republic) pretty poor choice of name and I cannot remember what the beers were like.

I don’t think that I have been to a game of football in the county, I know that for many years Dorchester Town were a Southern League club like Worcester but even though I have seen their ground I haven’t attended a match.

I have only rated one place (The Square and Compass) but I have been to quite a few other places that I am quite surprised that I haven’t rated.

Ok I see that it is Leicester next, lets see if I can do that without being late this time!


I’ve been to Dorset for a day. My wife’s grandfather was mayor of Blandford Forum about 40 years ago and they had some memorial service for him, organised by my mother-in-law who is originally from Blandford too. It was the sort of bollox you’re happy to go along with when you’re in your first couple of years of dating.

My general impressions are that Dorset is likely to be the most twee county in England. There are rivers called Piddle and it all makes me think of Famous Five adventures with lashings of lemonade rather than anything triple dry hopped. Anyway, probably an unfounded prejudice there!

I got into Dorset top 50 for the 2nd time (at least) about 2 years ago, and although the threshold only moves very slowly, I will need to think of a plan to cling on in there. I have rated 37 beers from Dorset with only 4 counties having fewer, which gives me 47th place (but equal with 48th and 49th and only one ahead of 50th).

As @wheresthepath implies, Badger are one of the blandest and samey breweries in the UK. And as @BeardedAvenger mentions, Eight Arch would be a safer way to cling onto top 50 in Dorset. Also Gyle 59 if they’re still around, were pretty decent. I suspect that with their being no current native rater in Dorset, there are literally dozens of beers that never even get stumbled upon by Ratebeerians.

It would be good to have a proper holiday down there - the issue I have is that it might not happen as we may be cajoled into going to Devon instead, where my sister-in-law is.

Dorset based online shop.

Although every time I go on they have less choice from local breweries. Should have ordered a while back when the had 10+ Dorset ticks.