Pub/Bar of the Month June 2012: Chapter, Cardiff, UK
Great beer can be found in the most unlikely of places, as I keep discovering.
On a recent visit to Cardiff, I made it my mission to check out a place I’d been aware of for a number of years. It wasn’t a pub. It wasn’t even a bar in the conventional sense. It was an arts centre, but I’d heard its beer provision was a major part of its attraction.
Chapter celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. A hippy project born in the can-do days of the late 1960s, its founders envisaged a location where creative skills and entertainment danced hand in hand.
They acquired a defunct, red-brick high school as the home premises and, to raise awareness of their project and some funds to make it happen, they staged a live rock concert in the city’s Sophia Gardens.
Pink Floyd topped the bill and Black Sabbath were one of the support acts. Awareness was achieved, but not much money. Nevertheless, Chapter flung open its doors in 1971.
Today the centre offers three theatres, two cinemas, an art gallery, a shop and various studios and workspaces. It’s a vibrant centre for performance and creativity and, like many such venues, it also offers refreshments – in Chapter’s case all-day long.
In the airy, open-plan ground-floor space, you can indulge yourself in that mix of coffees and scones, soups and hot dishes that are favourites in theatre foyers and museum cafeterias the length and breadth of the land (here’s it’s a popular fusion of Welsh and continental creations), but you can also partake of one of the finest selections of beers in Wales.
Students on laptops, pensioners reading papers and parents reining in restless toddlers may not seem like the ideal backdrop for a session of connoisseur drinking yet that’s what makes Chapter so different.
The tables are long, white and functional, and it’s hardly an intimate setting, but that matters little when you can choose from a beer range like this.
Centre-stage on the bar stands a bank of six handpumps, each dispensing an ale of character. On my visit, they included brews from Arbor Ales, Celt Experience and Bryncelyn.
Flanking the cask beer choice are numerous keg fonts, bringing German treats such as Veltins Pilsner and helles from both Kaltenberg and Fischer.
Behind the counter is a small fridge, well stocked with bottles. Trappist and fruit offerings from Belgium are now overshadowed by an impressive range of German beers, with the likes of Rothaus, Andechs, Simon and Hacker-Pschorr represented.
In May 2012, the German theme was extended with a Maibock beer festival. Really, if you can’t find a beer to turn you on here, you must be very picky indeed.
Understandably, Chapter holds a place in the Good Beer Guide and has collected numerous other honours, mentions and plaudits.
The artisan nature of its beer provision, of course, fits seamlessly with the art and crafts that form the core of the enterprise. Wouldn’t it be great if other such venues were just as enthusiastic?
Chapter, Market Road, Canton, Cardiff CF5 1QE
Tel. (029 20) 311050
Opening Hours (bar): 12 noon–11; 12 noon–12.30am Friday; 12 noon–midnight Saturday; 12 noon–10.30 Sunday