I was warned that Northampton was a bit of a disappointment – and this by someone from Bolton so presumably without particularly high standards – and a grim railway station seemed to back her claim up. But then I stumbled upon the Church of St Peter, a real gem, and my opinion of the place was immediately revised. But no time for culture, this trip was for pubs and football.

The good people of Northamptonshire CAMRA speak highly of the Wig & Pen, a recent (2012) local pub of the year, in the Good Beer Guide. Whilst undoubtedly the ale selection was decent I was left deeply disappointed after my visit. A good pub ruined by inane background music and huge (silent) televisions I can cope with but a member of bar staff who seemed entirely unfamiliar with mild as a form of beer entirely ruined it for me.

‘Have you got a mild on?’
‘Erm… mild… erm… probably London Pride is the mildest’

I don’t even know why this means. And this during CAMRA’s Mild Month.

I drank a pint of Elgood’s Black Dog Mild, quietly seething in a corner, and left. The mild was served excessively cold.

Hardly the worst place to drink if you know your ale but a pub that doesn’t even bother to educate its bar staff is clearly not a pub that gives a shit about real ale. I hoped for better in the Malt Shovel Tavern.

What a difference! Another member of staff unsure as to what mild is but this time with the confidence to ask a colleague who then went to the cellar where they had a barrel tapped containing the same black dog mild and a glorious pint was brought to me – and 18% less expensive too.

For this and any number or reasons this is a champion pub. If you are ever in Northampton then do come here. It is outstanding.


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