The problems of getting a drink in Amersham

I wrote something for the Oldie earlier in the year (I’ve just put it up on my blog) about how my home town of Amersham (on the Hill, the old town is a different matter) which had been dying a slow death by estate agents and hairdressers has got a bit more life to it. One of the problems was that for a long time there was nowhere decent to get a drink. Oddly for such a prosperous town the local pubs when I was growing up were all very rough:

The Boot and Slipper – the snug bar was ok but on the whole this was a pub for people who drove souped-up Vauxhall Astras to nightclubs in High Wycombe in order to brawl in the car park. It’s now a Chef and Brewer – a bad chain restaurant.

The Iron Horse – the notorious Iron. Frequented by bikers, metallers and school children. Famous for its £1 a pint night on Wednesdays and the smell of rare herbs coming from the garden. No real ale. In fact all the beer was usually revolting. This is where I spent most of my late teen years. Closed in 2004. Demolished to make way for flats.

The Red Lion – aka the Dead Red. This was just outside Amersham in the village of Chesham Bois. A real smoking and drinking locals pub. The pub was one of the few places where you would hear the old Bucks accent before it became all estuary. It sounds a bit like a West Country burr, Chesham is pronounced Chess ‘um. My brother used to work here. He thinks the smoking ban must have hit them hard. Knocked down in dodgy circumstances in 2012.

Earlier this year, a local brewery, Red Squirrel, opened a shop in Amersham. I’d already seen their shop in nearby Chesham and was mildly interested. Both sell beer to drink off and on the premises. The difference is that Chesham still has lots of pubs so the shop is generally very quiet. In Amersham, the locals have taken to it with gusto. This summer the outside area has been packed with enthusiastic drinkers.

What was so nice about it is not only how good and cheap the beer is, £2.80 (!!!) for best bitter, but what a heterogeneous crowd it attracted. On my last visit, there was a group of elderly cyclists, families, young couples and a rowdy group who looked like they’d been wandering the streets since the Iron Horse closed in 2004. I recognised a couple from my misspent youth. One was telling me that he had once been barred from the Iron Horse which considering what was allowed to go on there must have been something.

Basically it’s a Kent-style micro pub come to Amersham. It shows that Amersham really wanted somewhere to get a good pint of beer and have a chat. Previously nobody had managed to make it work financially or even perhaps even tried. It means that when I’m at my parents house, I make lots of important errands so that I can have a sneaky pint. Which is what having a good local pub is all about.

Normally these seats are crowded with drinkers. 



About Henry

I’m a drinks writer. My day job is features editor at the Master of Malt blog. I also contribute to BBC Good Food, the Spectator and others. You can read some of my work here. I’ve done a bit of radio, given some talks and written a couple of books (Empire of Booze, The Home Bar and the forthcoming Cocktail Dictionary).
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