29 June 2008

Having a Blast at the Victoria Inn

This weekend (Thursday 26th – Sunday 29th June) saw the Victoria Inn at Rugby host its Summer Beer Festival and, with Rugby being only a short hop from Leicester, I naturally decided to take a mosey over and check out the action.

The pub is the brewery tap for Rugby microbrewery Atomic Ales, who brew behind the Alexandra Arms in a brew plant shared with Alexandra Ales. Although relative newcomers to the brewing scene (Atomic was established in 2005) they have already scooped awards at CAMRA festivals and can justly take pride in their brewery motto “Never Knowingly Under-Hopped”.

The Victoria is a classic Victorian corner pub, sitting like a huge wedge of cheese on Lower Hillmorton Road; the cheese impression is heightened by the creamy yellow exterior paintwork with beautifully contrasting blue frames and detailing … stilton, anybody?!

Inside there are 4 distinct rooms; a saloon bar accessible from the front and first side doors – a fairly basic affair with a pool table and dart board, equipped with 4 handpumps; the larger and more comfortable lounge bar can be accessed from the second side door and offers classic red leather seats and what look to be period furnishings. Moreover this bar sports a superb TEN handpumps, giving the pub a proud total of 14 – a local record.

The pub always offers at least four of the Atomic range alongside six guest ales, a level of dedication which I find highly admirable; it was also nice to find one of the brewery partners, Keith Abbis, working behind the bar and happy to chat about the pub and the brewery - my sincere thanks for the polo shirt!

In addition to the two bar areas there are two further rooms with seating, one to the rear which also offers access to the beer garden and one adjacent which is much lighter and brighter and looks out onto the street.

Working commitments had meant I couldn’t get over to the festival until the Saturday afternoon, and I had arrived with some concerns that the selection might be somewhat diminished; fortunately these proved unfounded with all bar two of the 30 ales still available.

Alongside ten Atomic brews on handpull from the bar were twenty guests outside on stillage, sourced from around the country and ranging in strength from Ashover Light Rale at 3.7% all the way up to an impressive 9.0% with Alehouse 9 Above Zero.

Through conversation with Keith I learned that all of the guests had been obtained through swaps with other breweries; no mean achievement given the quality of the selection.

A quick peruse of the list revealed 15 required scoops, but alas! They included the two already sold out in the form of Atomic Festival (a one off and unsurprisingly the first to go) and Fernandes Solstice. Ah well, c’est la vie as they say en francais – thirteen ticks at a pub fest is still pretty good going so I duly started my supping...

Working steadily I kicked off with three of the remaining five Atomic offerings I wanted, namely Half-Life (5.0%), Bomb (5.2%) and Reactor (4.5%). All were in excellent condition and went down an absolute treat; I have yet to sample an Atomic beer that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed drinking.

I had decided to hold off for a while before sampling the new Atomic brew Chilli Haze (a 4.0% golden hoppy concoction, brewed with real chilli and supplying a serious yet strangely pleasant heat) and was determined to keep their Blackout (6.0% sweet, dark, roasted stout-type brew) until last in a bid to preserve my palate; accordingly I made my way out to the garden to enjoy the sunshine, stillaged ales and wonderful aromas from the barbecue which was catering to the culinary needs of the drinkers.

Over the ensuing couple of hours I worked through brews from Cheddar, Nailsworth, Jollyboat, Taunton, Great Western, Festival and Alehouse – a fine selection in generally very good condition, although the Alehouse and the Oldershaw were both still rather hazy. On the whole though I cannot fault the quality of the beer, especially the fact that with the stillage outside the ales were still being served at the correct temperature on the evening of the third day.

In all then a most excellent visit to a cracking little festival; I look forward keenly to the next event at the Victoria, and to the forthcoming Summer Festival at the Alexandra Arms – Thursday 10th – Sunday 13th July.

It's also well worth mentioning a new and very valid undertaking by the Atomic chaps - a new Real Ale review website called Quality Ales, similar to Rate Beer but dedicated solely to English ales. This site also allows registered users to keep a complete record of the beers they've sampled online, instantly accessible to them - effectively a virtual scoop list. I've had a look and will certainly be contributing myself as soon as I've finished converting my handwritten notes over to XL format.



  1. I was there Thursday. Yet to do my write up. I tried both the two beers you missed and they were both good. The Chili Haze, I have to say, was excellent.

  2. I thought so too - cracking brew, only the second chilli beer I've tasted (the other being Fallen Angel's Black Death)

    Very envious of the two you were able to sample on Thursday; sadly I was pulling pints for punters!

    I was very surprised to find that Keith is only 31 - so good to see young people getting in to the brewing game.


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