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County Stat Attack Week 44 - Bedfordshire

This week we are back into the East of England and the historic county of Bedfordshire. Bedford was centred around a crossing point of the River Great Ouse, Beda’s Ford. The southern end of the county reaches high into the Chiltern Hills, the remainder of the county is a broad drainage basin into the River Great Ouse. Made up of clays and sandstone in the basin it has always been a brick making centre. I’m struggling here to come up with interesting stuff about the county, the company Autoglass is based here, how about that?

The largest towns in Bedfordshire are Luton, Bedford, Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard. Crikey this is hard.

Straight into beer stuff then. On Ratebeer we have a total of 17 Breweries for Bedfordshire, 10 still active and 7 closed. A rather large percentage of these are commissioner / client brewers with 6 of them. We also base Unknown Origin – Uk here which throws up a few oddities. Talking of oddities, the many named and rather confusing brewery that is now called Eagle Brewery has the largest range on here with 142 beers.

Eagle Brewery, was Charles Wells, now owned by Marston’s, Carlsberg UK is also the oldest, if you are just going by Brewing on the same site. Established in 1876 on a site adjacent to the River Ouse in Bedford. Up until 1902 the water for the brewery was extracted from the river itself but it was finally realised that it would be better to pipe the liquor in from a spring away from the town. The Brewery was moved in 1976 to a new site in Bedford and thus the Eagle Brewery name came into existence. In 2006 the company became Wells & Youngs after Youngs Brewery closed down their brewing operation in London. In 2011 Wells purchased the Youngs share of the company spurring a sequence of name changes, Wells & Co., Chas Wells amongst many. In 2017 the Brewing operation was sold to Marstons and Eagle Brewery became the trade name for beers produced on the site, though this is not guaranteed.

In the 2020 Ratebeer awards the Best Brewer was awarded to Eagle Brewery, the Best Beer award went to Courage Russian Imperial Stout (2011+), brewed at Eagle Brewery. No award was made for New Brewer.

The Top 10 beers for Bedfordshire are –

  1. Courage Russian Imperial Stout (2011+)
  2. Youngs Double Chocolate Stout
  3. Mackeson XXX Stout
  4. Youngs Double Chocolate Stout (Cask)
  5. B&T Shefford Porter R
  6. Youngs Old Nick R
  7. Youngs Oatmeal Stout (London Stout)
  8. McEwans Scotch Ale
  9. Youngs Special London Ale
  10. Youngs London Porter

The Top Bars / Pubs in Bedfordshire are –

  1. Wellington Arms (B&T), Bedford – 84
  2. Albion (B&T), Ampthill – 82
  3. Brewhouse & Kitchen, Bedford – 73
  4. Three Cups, Bedford – 72
  5. Bricklayers Arms, Luton – 70

There is also a highly rated Beer Store –

  1. Beerfly, Bedford – 83

The Top 5 Raters of Bedfordshire Beers are –

  1. @imdownthepub
  2. @Grumbo
  3. @fonefan
  4. @hughie
  5. @jjsint
    You will require 39 beers from the county of Bedfordshire to get into the Top 50.

The top rater who hails, allegedly from the county is –
@DonMagi Legend and famously a Scotsman and it’s doubtful has ever lived in Bedfordshire! We haven’t had a rating from Tom since 2010.

@hughie was a very popular rater who actually did live in the county but ceased rating in 2013, although a rogue rating appeared in 2019

I’m afraid I cannot find anyone still rating who genuinely live in the county.

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This is a really strange county for me, I have rarely visited over the years and yet I find myself as top rater of Bedfordshire beers. I must have walked some of it with the Ridgeway in the Chilterns, but it didn’t register. I have been to Kenilworth Road, Luton’s ground several times, but again the pubs don’t register. The only pub I have reviewed was a deliberate stop just to get somewhere in the county onto my records.

So, I am number 1 rater for the county, this is because in the past B&T, or Banks and Taylor’s as they were then used to do the new beer a week thing and some local pubs stocked them also Charles Wells own quite a few pubs round North Oxfordshire after swallowing up the last Banbury Brewery, Hunt Edmunds, and shutting it down. Any ill that falls on Wells is well deserved imo. But we did get loads of their specials in the hard times. It feels like I am number 1 not for anything I have done but just because no-one else fancies it.

I have had 156 beers produced in Beds, my 38th highest county, or 9th bottom, whichever. The most relevant thing to say is that it is by far my lowest average rating for any county at a feeble 2.74. Oddly I have only tried beers from 9 Breweries making me equal 5th in that chart.

The Breweries I have had most beers from are –

  1. Eagle Brewery (Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Co.) – 82
  2. B&T Brewery – 32
  3. White Park Brewery – 12

Only 1 Beer has deserved a mark of 4 or over, and that wasn’t brewed in Bedfordshire at the time. My highest rated beers are –

  1. Young’s Old Nick – 4
  2. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (Cask) – 3.9
  3. B&T Golden Fox – 3.8
  4. Young’s Special London Ale – 3.8

As for best breweries, not a single on averages over 3.2 for 5 beers or more. No point in charting them.

I have reviewed just 1 place in Bedfordshire, as described above.

  1. Woburn Ale House, Woburn – 74

I have no real desire to improve on my Bedfordshire stats except maybe dig out some better beers or brewery.

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Visited Luton airport and Kenilworth Road many times, but I usually just drive through the county on the M1 as fast as I can; Bedfordshire isn’t a county I ever actually think about stopping at, or going too. So no plaice reviews from me as yet.

59 rates though (including Diamond White) at an average of 3.11, 6 breweries used so far, 2 of which have ceased brewing.

Those 59 rates get me to equal 23rd on the Ratebeer Richter Scale and is my 29th highest rated county by volume.

TOP BEERS (all old rates)

Young’s Special London Ale 4.3 3.52 5/17/2012
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout 4 3.73 5/11/2012
Mackeson XXX Stout 3.9 3.66 5/11/2012
Courage Russian Imperial Stout (2011+) 3.9 3.85 4/7/2016
B&T Santa’s Slayer 3.8 3.04 4/7/2012
Young’s Bitter (Bottle) 3.8 2.91 5/2/2012

Worst rating is Tennents Super.

The breweries I’ve had the most from are:
Eagle 42 and B&T 6.

Dunstable and Luton have always been rough in my eyes, don’t know Bedford or the rest of the county really, so would be unfair to rip into it. I hope to review a pub or whatever one day, but I’m not busting a gut to get there in the near future.

Just to prove there is nothing exciting about the county: Fun facts about Bedfordshire - Experience Bedfordshire

<*))))))><

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15 ales sampled; mostly from the commissioner/client sector and none of them worth a second visit; hence the average of 2.93. Bedfordshire is the UK equivalent of a “flyover state.” I note that the dread of having to write this one led imdownthepub to rename it Befordshire. Before-shire might be a better name since it comes before the counties that have some interest as counties. But you never know, there may be a new microbrewer out there to give us a reason to go there.

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HI,

I’m still living in Bedford, though sadly no longer actively rating after my doctor suggested I ought to give up beer. Since then I have shed 3 stone!

I allow myself a beer on special days: birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas. I think the rogue rater might have been me!

I very much miss the camaraderie of Ratebeer, and the fascinating visits to beer festivals all over southern England.

Do pass on my best wishes to anyone who remembers the long-gone days when I was still rating.

Cheers,

Hughie

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I assumed I’d have nothing to say here but I’ve apparently managed 22 ratings, making it my 10th most rated county! Looks like Young’s Bitter was the only one consumed in England - they are mostly Young’s and Wells and other imports to Canada. Young’s Double Chocolate is my highest rated. Interestingly (to me at least) my Courage Russian Imperial Stout rating was for a cask imported to Canada for a festival that disappointed so it ranks lower in my ratings than I would have guessed.

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I lived in Bedford for 9 long years of my life that I will never get back. It is pretty dull but not as bad as people say (the countryside in the north of the county is really pleasant, and there’s enough to do in Bedford to keep you from going mad). I find it slightly more interesting than some counties but I wouldn’t go so far as to advocate a holiday in Bedfordshire.

I’m 5th in the table (just), with 97 rates. Looks like I’ve had 11 breweries but the number is actually listed as 9 - perhaps some beers brewed elsewhere? - so not too shabby. Most rated breweries are Eagle (41), B&T (15), with Brewhouse & Kitchen (Bedford) and Brewpoint at 8, followed by Kelchner and the now-defunct White Park at 6.

Feels like so many Bedfordshire breweries aren’t really proper outfits, from Eagle-Marston’s-Carlsberg and actually-Charles-Wells Brewpoint to AB InBev UK and Brookfield (Kestrel), not forgetting Unknown Origin - UK. A bit like a dumping ground for everything the other counties don’t want… although still some decent beer to be found.

Bedfordshire beer rates have benefitted from the fact that I started rating when I lived here, so lots of meh beers got scores like 3.6. Even still, it’s my fourth lowest-rated beer average with 3.17 (only 'beaten by Surrey, Wiltshire and Dorset). And my top beers include my top English rate (and in the top 5 overall):

Plus a lot of Young’s and another B&T at 3.7.

I remember when Tesco were selling Courage RIS as part of their 4 for £6 deal one Christmas (2013/14), had quite a few of them that year!

Places… well, there are a few, but nothing too exciting. Mind you Bedford is so much better than it was even 5 years ago. I’ve rated 40 across the county, the top places being:

The Wellington - where I’ve been drinking on and off for 20 years - is looking a bit tired these days, and the cask selection is safe, but still a good place to hang out. Beerfly is the ‘craft’ place in town and doesn’t disappoint. I recently tried the Brewpoint bar for the first time, expecting to be thoroughly disappointed, but the beer was quite good. Their core range is pedestrian but the one-offs at the bar were solid.

If you want an example of a great village pub, you can’t do much better than the Engineers Arms in Henlow. They’ve kind of been off the radar on RateBeer but it’s a fantastic little boozer.

There are still places I’ve not managed to try across the county, but I don’t get to drink there so often now.

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  1. Courage RIS is of course my top rated.

And now to have my Rutland ticks before next Tuesday.

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12 Bedfordshire rates for myself.

Top rated being the Youngs Double Chocolate Stout which I gave a 4.

Worst rating being Diamond White cider which is almost as bad as Frosty Jacks. Yes, I’ve tried all the good’ens! Looking at Brookfield Drinks’ itinerary of white industrial ciders and 9% super strength lagers they probably should be shut down on public health grounds!

Its not a county I have visited but there are a few of those.

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It might be Somerset!

Just the two to go before Glen takes a sabbatical.

<*))))))><

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I will forever associate Diamond White with a highschool rugby tour to the UK. Also those lemon alcopops that were popular at the time.

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A fabulous four rates from Bedfordshire for me - all from the same ‘brewery’, Eagle, whoever they are these days. The Youngs Double Chocolate Stout was very nice, their Bitter not too shabby (how many versions of that are there?), the Wells Banana Bread Beer was alright for a novelty offering, and the Burning Gold, well, least said about that the better quite frankly! It’s Luton that springs to mind when I think of Bedfordshire, (after a little chuckle about the RSPB at Sandy Beds :grinning:), as it’s the only place I reckon I’ve visited, but not for beer, long before that demon infected my soul, it was football on the plastic pitch at Kenilworth Road, one of the pokiest grounds I’ve ever been to. Nothing is inspiring me to return if I’m honest - sorry Beds

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24 rates from Bedfordshire for me, the highest at 3.5 is Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

There are only 3 active cideries listed for Bedfordshire, with Potton Press having the most listed with 9 ciders

The top 5 raters for Bedfordshire cider and cideries are shown below, and for once I don’t feature in them!

BedfordshireCider Ratings

BedfordshireCideries

Cheers!

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Firstly, welcome back @hughie - I do remember you from my early days on the site. Sorry to hear you’ve had to give up beer; maybe you can become our top rater of alcohol-free beer though (there must be some good ones out there… somewhere!).

Bedfordshire is mid-table in my league of counties, with 41 rates - which for once gets me into the top 50 for the county, at no. 45. Sadly it’ has the second-lowest average rating for any county at just 2.71.

My top 5 Bedfordshire beers are rather dominated by Wells/Eagle (which doesn’t say much given as 7 out of 9 of my worst ones are from them too):

My 41 rates have come from 9 different breweries, with by far the majority of them (24) coming from Wells/Eagle (Weagle?). No other brewery has more than 4 rates (very thankfully in some cases, yes I’m looking at you AB-InBev UK!).

I’ve rated 3 places in Bedfordshire, with the picture-postcard Plough Inn at Wingfield and the Bedford Brewhouse & Kitchen tying for top place (albeit for very different reasons).

As others have noted, Bedfordshire is a far from a pre-possessing county, and I’ve heard it said that the best bit is the M1 which (on a good day) allows you to escape to nicer counties very quickly (sorry Hughie!). However, on my visits I’ve found there are some bits that are actually quite nice:

  • Whipsnade tree cathedral is possibly the most unusual place, and is well worth a visit.
  • Ampthil Great Park was a very pleasant place for a stroll;
  • the UK’s largest zoo at Whipsnade (make sure you go outside of peak season though!).
  • The riverside parks in eastern Bedford are actually quite attractive (certainly compared with the grim town centre).

I’ve done a couple of long distance trails through the county, The Icknield Way is essentially a lower-grade continuation of the Ridgeway (@imdownthepub, the Ridgeway doesn’t quite reach Bedfordshire - was it the Icknield you did here?). The Lee Valley Walk runs from Luton to London and is one of the dullest long distance trails I’ve done (with the bit through Luton being pretty unpleasant as you’d expect).

The highest point of the county is on the Dunstable Downs, at 243m. It’s one of the easiest county high points as there’s a car park right next to it; it also has very impressive views and (on our visit) unintentionally bacon-flavoured ice cream.

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Late to the party here.

Can’t believe all this abuse for my home county :neutral_face: :rofl:.

I was born in Bedford and grew up in a village a few miles outside the town. I left in early 1996, only destined to return to visit my folks every few weeks. I’ve no desire to return to live there.

A mere 8 rates for me, my highest rated is the wonderful Courage RIS. Kestrel Super is my lowest.

Slightly odd that I’ve rated more places (9) than beers. Can’t think that would happen anywhere else. Beerfly & The Welly are my favourites.

Cheers
Simon

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