Pub/Bar of the Month April 2016: The Wyndham Arms, Salisbury, UK
The Wyndham Arms, Salisbury, UK
First impressions of the Wyndham Arms bode well, especially if you look closely above the old front door. The figure wrought in iron there is of Dionysus, a Greek god who knew how to have a good time.
The Romans knew him as Bacchus, the god of wine and ecstasy. It’s a promising start.
The red-brick building sits on the corner of a residential terrace at the edge of Salisbury city centre. It’s not the most picturesque setting, facing out onto the ring road, but it does make it easy to spot if you’re driving through.
It’s been a pub since the 1880s – known as the Wyndham Hotel when it was owned by Folliott’s, a local brewery that was taken over by its Wiltshire rival Ushers in 1919.
In the 1980s, the pub was acquired by John Gilbert, formerly a brewer in London, as an ideal home for a brewery, thanks to its handy cellar and backyard.
It was here that Hop Back Brewery began life. John put together a four-barrel system and started turning out pints of GFB, the letters standing for Gilbert’s First Brew.
This was soon joined by Hop Back Special and, while that beer is no longer in the brewery portfolio, GFB most certainly is, although it is also sold under the name Golden Best.
Those early beers were also sold at John’s other pub, the Waterloo Arms in Southampton, and increasingly through beer festivals and wholesalers. They soon attracted a demand that could only be satisfied by moving the brewery to a new site, just south of the city at Downton, in 1992.
Hop Back now has a number of pubs across the south of England but the Wyndham Arms is its spiritual home, as might be inferred from the fact that the face of Dionysus above the door is also used as the brewery’s logo.
Internally, although open-plan, the pub divides into four areas, and has the feel of a converted house, an impression helped by the burgundy carpeting throughout.
The two, light and airy areas at the front are separated by a fireplace, while the one at the rear features a TV for sports and a dartboard.
Framed Hop Back posters, old maps and CAMRA awards line the walls, there’s plenty of light wood in evidence and pews provide much of the seating.
Good Beer Guide Regular
Over to one side is a cosy snug with just a couple of tables, while the main focus is on the central bar area with its brick-built servery where six handpumps dispense the full range of excellent Hop Back beers, from GFB to the famous Summer Lightning.
Bottle-conditioned versions are available, too. The pub entered the Good Beer Guide in 1988 and has remained there ever since.
On my most recent visit, a Saturday afternoon in winter, the pub was typically teeming with locals. It wasn’t offering anything in particular to draw in the punters: it was just there, welcoming and comfortable, a hospitable social centre with top-quality beers that are brewed locally.
Really, there’s not much more you could want, is there? I only wish I lived nearer to take more advantage.
The Wyndham Arms, 27 Estcourt Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP1 3AS.
Tel. (01722) 331026
Opening Hours: 4.30–11.30; 12–11.30 Thursday and Sunday; 12–midnight Friday and Saturday