An amazed Barry Pearson investigates how Smiths can offer such “sparkling” variety of beverages.
WHILE holidaying in Skiathos, I read of Dave Leigh’s award in recognition of his contribution to an arrest.
I was delighted and, if one were needed, it gives me an excellent opportunity to look more closely at what I have made clear is my favourite Ashbourne pub.
So what is Smiths or more, accurately, Smiths Wine Tavern?
Built in the late 18th century of red brick, it is unusual in having double box bay windows.
The bar room is heavily beamed and welcoming but, just look at the counter and its back fitting – it literally sparkles.
I am constantly amazed at both the quantity and variety of beverages on offer and this in a tied house – one which is owned and supplied by a brewery, in this case Marston’s.
So let me start with the beers – how on earth can Dave offer such variety?
At the time of writing, there were seven ales on tap.
Dave explained that Marston’s offers 19 permanent ales across a wide range of strengths and styles.
In addition, there are four special brews a month and a couple of specialist ales, so Dave has a range of 25 available to him weekly.
Owing to Marston’s various takeovers and amalgamations, you will see the familiar names of Ringwood, Mansfield, Jennings, Brakspear, Banks and Wychwood proudly attached to the pumps.
This is, of course, in addition to Guinness, lagers and cider – beat that.
I have referred before to Dave’s total commitment to ensuring that his ales are served in perfect condition. My taste buds can vouch for that in my consumption of Pedigree and Sunbeam.
Knowing a little about the licensed trade, I know that quality is linked to the care in, and of, the cellar and the pipes that bring the beer to us. I also know that a cask badly handled can be an ale ruined.
It is no exaggeration to say that Smiths’ cellar is Dave’s pride and joy. Nothing leaves it until he is satisfied that it is in optimum condition.
His dedication is reinforced by the fact that the pub does not sell food, there are no fruit machines nor intrusive music.
Back to the sparkle – his range of spirits is incredible, with the collection of whiskies probably the most extensive in the town.
Smiths offers more than 30 malt whiskies not only from the Scottish regions but from Ireland, Wales, England and Japan.
The collection has been built up over the years since Dave arrived and included are some particularly rare and unusual examples – try the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban finished off in port barrels – just look at the colour.
If whisky is your thing, Smiths holds tastings three or four times a year so you can learn as well as taste.
The sparkle comes from the fact that these bottles are kept immaculately clean and present a tempting display.
Please don’t get the impression that non-beer-or-spirit drinkers are not made welcome. In addition to the bar, there are two further comfortable rooms. Smiths hosts darts and backgammon.
You may think that I have focused on alcoholic drinks – I make no apology as this is an honest to goodness pub, an integral part of the town’s great food and drink scene.