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County Stat Attack Week 9 - Hertfordshire

Week 9 takes us into Home Counties territory. It is the county immediately north of London partly within the M25 as well as stretching up to Cambridgeshire in the north. Whilst not being the largest town in the county Hertford remains County Town. There is one designated city in the county, which is St Albans, which draws its name from the first British saint, St. Alban. The settlement goes back to the Iron Ages, named as Verulamium but was vastly increased under Roman occupation becoming the second largest city behind Londinium. Verulamium was sacked by Boudica’s troops in 61AD, never really returning to same importance as at its height.
Hertfordshire came under the influence of the Anglo Saxons after the Roman withdrawal, Hertfordshire really coming into being during this time. Power transferred initially to Mercia but it became the front line during the Norse / Danish attacks then to Edward the Elders Saxons after his victories. The Normans received the surrender of the English lords at Berkhamstead, completing their initial conquests. The county grew in importance along with the growth of London.
The Chiltern hills are the dominant geographic feature, while the River Lea runs through the county, south to its confluence with the Thames in London. The largest towns are Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage, Watford and St. Albans.

Ratebeer has 22 Active and 14 Closed Breweries in Hertfordshire, totalling 36, of which 6 are client / commissioner’s including both Tesco’s and Ocado.

The oldest active Brewery we have is McMullen (Est 1827) which is by quite some distance. The brewery is very traditional in its products and still holds 23 pubs through the region and into London, some very famous like The Nags Head and The Old Bank of England in London.

The Brewery that we have with the largest range is Tring Brewery with 238 beers on our site, made up of many one off special beers and seasonals.

Mad Squirrel Brewing were named as the Best Brewery for Hertfordshire in 2019 on here and their Mad Squirrel Bust Le Nut named as best beer. There was no new brewery award made.

The Top 10 beers overall for Hertfordshire on Ratebeer are –

  1. Mad Squirrel Hold Your Nerve
  2. Mad Squirrel Roadkill
  3. Mad Squirrel Bust Le Nut
  4. Mad Squirrel Triumvirate
  5. Mad Squirrel Saturation Point
  6. McMullen Stronghart
  7. Mad Squirrel De La Creme Stout
  8. New River Blind Poet
  9. Pope’s Yard Creme Brulee Stout
  10. Mad Squirrel Sumo

The Top 5 Places for Hertfordshire (pubs / bars) are –

  1. Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty, Heronsgate – 83
  2. Rising Sun, Berkhamsted – 81
  3. Mermaid, St. Albans – 79
  4. Lower Red Lion, St. Albans – 77
  5. Tring Brewery Tap, Tring – 73

There are 3 Beer cellars high in the list for Hertfordshire –

  1. BEER:Shop, St. Albans – 87
  2. Brewery Shop Berkhamsted (Mad Squirrel), Berkhamsted – 84
  3. BEER:Shop, Hitchin – 84

The Top 5 Raters of Hertfordshire Beers are –

  1. @mR_fr0g
  2. @Beese
  3. @ThirstyBird
  4. @Theydon_Bois
  5. @fonefan

You will require just 36 Hertfordshire Ratings to get into the top 50 at present.
The person who resides in Hertfordshire with the most ratings on Ratebeer is –
@mR_fr0g – very active

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Hertfordshire, another county I know very little about. St Albans is home to CAMRA HQ and the Beer Festival is/was supposed to be good, but I have never been.

I have somehow managed to rate 43 beers from the county, putting me equal 42nd in the top rater’s list; mostly because one of my local pubs often stocked Tring beers.

My top beers:
McMullen Stronghold
Tring Bock Bitter
Tring Mansion Mild

Six breweries sampled, one closed (Private Brewery of BoB).
Tring @ 21
TESCO @ 9
Mad squirrel @ 8

No place reviews, although I know ‘The Comet’ at Hatfield very well (never set foot in it though). I have stood outside that place hitch-hiking many times in the 1970’s when it was on a roundabout for the A1 before it was by-passed.

EDIT I just might review Tesco for a new county tick; cheers Glen for choosing Hertfordshire!

<*))))))><

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196 Hertfordshire rates for me which makes me joint 3rd (not 4th !).

Interestingly under my own stats page on RB it shows as 197 Herts rate so something not quite right!

3.29 is the average score I’ve allocated to a Herts beer which places it at a respectable 15th place overall in my list of English counties … just knocking on the door of the UEFA cup places!

Bordering county to Bucks but you don’t see that many Herts rates making it over county lines, aside from Mad Squirrel of course who have a number of taprooms in Bucks, including High Wycombe a little over 3 miles from my front door.

MS account for 103 of my Herts rates as I rarely miss a release since they opened their tap room in HW.

Tring is probably the only other Herts brewery you’ll see on a semi regular basis in my neck of the woods, easily spotted on the bar by their distinctive triangular beer clips.

I used to play 5-a-side football in Berkhamsted, circa 2005-12, and this has lead to the bulk of my not so many place ratings for the county.

Top of my head the excellent Rising Sun, a canal side pub that featured on the front of the GBG back in 2012/13/14 time.

Spoons at Hemel, Berko, Watford and Ricky (probably haven’t rated all of these).

Tring brewery tour also worth a mention … when I did it 10 years ago it was something like £12 with a fish and chip supper and all you could drink off the cask lines during a 2 hour period. 7 pints was certainly getting my monies worth !!!

I did an afternoon out in St Albans back in the day, when I lived in London so we’re talking 2002/3 … I recall the Farmers Boy which was then host to the Verulam brewery and spending some time there ticking the range.

Should make an effort to revisit St Albans one day … maybe for the beer fest.

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Despite this county being relatively close to where I live, and on the way to London by road, it’s not one I have visited that often unfortunately. We did go to the St Albans Beer Festival once but because we have no direct public transport links to the county we had to hire a coach and when we arrived the beer was in such poor nick, it was the last day of the festival, that we did the pubs of St. Albans instead, which were very good on the day. Other than that I have had a day in Tring and in the distant past, Hertford. I have been to Vicarage Road a couple of times as an away supporter but just driving in and straight out again after the games.
Some of the Chitern Way runs through Hertfordshire, so I must have walked the highest point in the county and visited a couple of pubs but little of it registers, it feels like that sort of county to me. Looking back at some old notes it looks like I have recorded beers in the Tally Ho, Barkway, Woodman Inn, Nuthampstead and a Spoons in Letchworth, more than I expected.

Apart from the ubiquitous Tring Brewery, Hertfordshire beers are somewhat rarer where I normally drink, that’s if you ignore Tesco’s as a brewery, which is a shame as I’d like to get hold of more Mad Squirrel beers. I have 146 ratings for the county placing me in 7th place overall and 200 ratings behind mR_fr0g, that’s really hard to type! Hertfordshire is 40th in my list of English Counties ratings and carries an average of just 3.08, that’s quite a few bland beers in that lot.

I have rated beers from just 12 Hertfordshire Breweries, a rather poor return, so I may have to revisit St Albans Beer Festival one day to push that up. My most rated Breweries are –

  1. Tring Brewery – 57 beers
  2. Mad Squirrel Brewery – 25 beers
  3. Tesco – 21 beers
  4. Buntingford Brewery – 14 beers

I only have 2 beers with a rating of 4 or over, my top 5 are –

  1. Buntingford Boadicea – 4.1
  2. Tring Tea Kettle stout – 4.0
  3. Buntingford Highwayman – 3.9
  4. Alehouse Balance and Poise - 3.9
  5. Tring Walters Winter Ale – 3.8

The beer that I have had with the highest rating is Mad Squirrel Roadkill, it averages 3.81 but I gave it 3.5
.
My top 3 Hertfordshire Breweries by average rating are (min 5 ratings)

  1. Mad Squirrel - 3.34
  2. Veralum (Closed) – 3.20
  3. McMullen & Sons – 3.17

Although I have visited at least 14 different pubs in the county I have failed to review any on here. From my own records my top 3 would be The Kings Head in Tring, Lower Red Lion in St Albans and the Farmers Boy, St Albans.

My take out from this would be, get back to St. Albans for a trip and have another go at The Chiltern Way but take more interest in the boring bits.

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Well it’s a big fat zero from me! I did have a couple of Mad Squirrel beers on cask at the beginning of last year, but that was before I was rating properly, so not on here. Last time I visited the county must be getting on for 10 years ago, helped move my step-sister from Watford to Stevenage and had a couple of beers there, but no idea in which pubs - they were not memorable (the beers or the pubs). As a CAMRA member I suppose I should really make some kind of pilgrimage to St Albans, once the pubs re-open, and raise a glass or two to the founding fathers. In the meantime, I shall have to keep my eyes peeled for a Herts rate, I have challenged myself to complete the England counties by Easter, this being one of the eight I still ‘need’

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Congrats Fergus!

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@Leighton , is that your only input for Hertfordshire?

<*))))))><

3 rates for me, but at least they’re from 3 different brewers! One of them (a Pope’s Yard porter) was at the 2nd Cotteridge beano and was pretty grim looking at it.

Another area I’ve travelled through a fair bit (following the East Coast Main Line out of King’s Cross), but I don’t think I’ve stayed over down there, and definitely haven’t rated any places.

Also I’m thinking I need to tick a Rutland beer very soon as that stands at a fat zero…

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Just 6 for me. All from Mad Squirrel, three were from when they were called Red Squirrel. As I’m seeing with a number of these threads so far, most of this county’s brewers are traditional leaning so I’ve little to no input to add sadly. I should really make an effort to drink far more cask, but that’s obviously not going to be possible for some time.

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My Hertfordshire rates, like those for many counties on RB, are a snapshot in time. Herts was a neighbouring county to me from 2013-17, and while it’s not a true beery destination there were enough places to go to keep me occupied.

I currently sit 38th in the table with 49 beers. I used to be a lot higher up, but I’ve not kept up my Herts ratings (only one rate in 2018 and none since then). 11 Herts breweries have been rated - sadly 4 of them closed. Tring (13), Buntingford (12) and Mad Squirrel (9) are the most-rated.

Many of my Herts beer rates were early on, so some higher rates probably wouldn’t clear 3.5-3.6 nowadays. But I stand by them. My top 5 beers are:

Red Squirrel Redtail Citra (Cask) 4.1*
Tring Death or Glory 4
Tring Old Wisent 3.9
Mad Squirrel De La Creme Stout 3.9
Tring Fanny Ebbs Summer Ale 3.9

*This was a Mad Squirrel beer when they were still called Red Squirrel - before the rabies I guess.

I’ve not done so badly with 22 place rates, although again nothing since 2017. There don’t seem to be any areas large enough or beery enough where you can get loadsa rates in one or two days (except maybe St Albans, and possibly Watford if there’s more there than is represented in our directory). Top 5 beery places (3 are primarily shops but have drink-in facilities):

Bishop’s Cave, Bishops Stortford 86
Blacksmiths Arms, St Albans 84**
BEER:shop St Albans 82
BEER:shop Hitchin 82
Orange Tree, Baldock 78

**I understand the Blacksmiths has gone downhill since. Shame as it was brilliant.

Loads more places I would like to visit in Herts but it was awkward to get to even pre-COVID. Again never a kraft destination but you’d get little surprises here and there. I had a good time when I’d go there. A quiet time. A simpler time. A Hertfordshire time.

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9 rates (10th in stock) for me, not a county that I’ve prioritize. I do like Mad Squirrel beers. I do want to visit @mR_fr0g flat sometime post lockdown COVID restrictions.

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25 for me.

Barely a handful of breweries / cideries tried, but Tring Death or Glory bags the top spot. Tried a few from Mad Squirrel but nothing from them that scrapes the upper echelons of the rating system just yet. Strangely, I have a couple of Tesco beers only available in Eastern European Tescos such as Bratislava and Hungary. Clearly the brewery couldn’t be found so they were just added to the UK Tesco listing.

A few ciders have found their way in there, some from Millwhites, Apple Cottage but also Tesco again. That’s about it.

This county series is really showing that despite my extensive travelling around the UK I really have a lot more exploring to do once Covid effs off.

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In theory I should have more than my 13* Hertfordshire ticks because a small local restaurant chain was bought out by McMullen. I used to go to both of their restaurants. However I’ve been to neither since signing up for this place.

*11 is the true number. The 2 McMullen beers are pre-RB Protz 300 ticks I added as rates. In fact the AK was the beer that really led me to question the book as it is such a piss poor twiggy bitter.

5 breweries in total:

Tring @ 6
Mad Squirrel @ 3
McMullen @ 2
1 each from of Paradigm and No Heroes

All beers scored 3.4 or lower, other than Tring Moongazer/Moongazing at 3.6.

I’ve been to St Albans a few times to play Pesäpallo - Finnish baseball. The British Championships used to be held there. And I have been to Stevenage for football. However I was under the impression that I’d never been to a ‘Place’ there. Turns out I have made a couple of visits to Bury Lane Farm Shop on route to East Anglia so have a single Hertfordshire place rate. Although they have quite a few beers I don’t believe any were actually from Herts.

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BTW - I think one ‘brewery’ could be closed. I stand to be corrected but I’ve never seen any own brand beer on Ocado so suspect they’ve ceased commissioning the two beers they used to get brewed at McMullen.

Well, following Reidyboy’s honesty, I feel duty bound to own up that I have zero ratings for Hertfordshire as well [ one of three such counties for me ].

Even in my own records I only have 15 Herts beers - mostly from Tring. And I think the only time I have ever drunk in Hertfordshire was at Wetherspoons in Watford about 10 years ago ! I need to pull my finger out …

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126 Herts rates puts me at #8. 21 breweries sees me at #2. Both greatly helped by visits to St. Albans beer festival in 2017 and 2018 and Watford beer festival in 2018.

Tring are my most rated brewery with 27, and other than Farr and MS at 10, the others are all single digit and includes 7 now defunct breweries, most of which seem to have closed in 2019.

Have only rated 6 places. The 2 BEER:shops and the 2 Bishop’s Caves have scored highest.

Most of my visits to Hertfordshire have tended to be for beer festivals with no time for pub visits. Haven’t really visited the county for much else either, apart from a fair few visits to Rye House speedway in Hoddesden. Did see Mostly Autumn live at the Green Room, Welwyn Garden City back in 2005. Curious place I found Welwyn to be. Quite apt that it should have featured in The World’s End. Really enjoy watching that film.

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Hertfordshire is a county that I have been to or had many beers from. I did work for a client in Hemel Hempsted before my Rate Beer days. I remember driving round the magic roundabout in Hemel and getting really confused.

hem

From a beer perspective Hertfordshire is my 38th highest county, and below Rutand. I have tried 46 beers which puts me into the top 50. No beers were scored over 4. Top rated beers are:

I have had a few No Heros beers through lockdown and one or two from Mad Squirrel. I wouldn’t say I have focused on this region, but have that was one reason I tried a few No Heros beers.

I have tried beers from 10 brewers, which again is low for an English region. The three with the most rates are:

Brewery Count
Mad Squirrel 11
Tesco 9
No Heros 7

The top rated brewery (with over 5 rates) is:

No Heros - 3.49

Only two rated places for me and one of them is Tesco. The other is Six Bells in St Albans:

https://www.ratebeer.com/p/six-bells-free/48038/

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I’ve had 56 beers from Herts, which makes it my 16th most rated county, and also makes me joint 24th highest rated - one of my better performances! My rates have gone up a lot since Mad Squirrel rocked up in Wycombe.

My top five are dominated by MS:
Mad Squirrel London Porter 4.1
Mad Squirrel Triumvirate 4
Mad Squirrel Indulgence 4
Mad Squirrel Native Tastes III 3.8
Tring Death Or Glory 3.7

I’ve only rated 7 breweries; the most rated is unsurprisingly Mad Squirrel (30), followed by Tring (12) and McMullen’s (8).

I’ve rated 3 places. The best was BEER:Shop in At Alban’s which I scored at 3.7.

I spent quite a lot of time in the pubs of St Albans and Stevenage in my pre-rating days as I had quite a few friends there. Saw in the millenium at a huge & brilliant house party in St Albans. Sadly they’ve all moved away & got families, otherwise my Herts place & beer rates would no doubt be much higher!

Away from beer, the highest geographical point of the county is an undistinguished point on a roadside near Pavis Wood, south of Tring. I don’t have happy memories of that - I tripped and fell in stinging nettles whilst wearing a baby carrier - having to save my daughter meant I took the full force of the ground and nettles myself. :face_with_head_bandage:

Other highlights of the county include part of the Ridgeway (nice trail!) and the stuffed animal museum in Tring. In addition to the tourist hotspot of St Alban’s, Hertford & Berkhampstead are lovely little castle towns (Berkhampstead’s castle is in ruins). I wouldn’t recommend the Lea Valley long distance path though; that’s one of the most boring walks I’ve done.

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Didn’t know Hemel had one too. Grew up near the infamous and terrifying one in Swindon, now live near the rather more sedate Wycombe one (which seems to work ok).

I’ve been based in Watford for the last 10+ years and although Watford is terrible for beer venues it does allow me easy access to St Albans, Tring, Berko. A good proportion of my Herts ticks would have been from the excellent St Albans Beer fest, which i sorely missed last year, as well the perfectly adequate Watford Beer Fest.

I’m a little surprised that one of the Mad Squirrel joints didn’t make it into top 5 places. Makes me think i need to bash in a load of local place rates.

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