Unusually, the past couple of weeks have seen me in a position to accommodate a couple of trips in quick succession, with the most recent of these seeing us back over the border into Leicestershire. Amy and I had long discussed a revisit and reappraisal of Loughborough, ostensibly to see how much things had improved, or not, since 2015 when it last featured in these pages. Time and circumstance were finally on our side last weekend. With a Saturday off and Amy scheduled for a hair appointment in Loughborough on the same day, an opportunity had at last presented itself. The aim was to explore some venues that we'd neglected last time or, as with the recent trip to Nottingham, were relatively new on the scene. There would be a couple of returnees but the majority would be new experiences. From our home in Clifton, we find ourselves in the handy position of being directly on a bus route between Nottingham and Loughborough, making planning our trip significantly easier than it might otherwise have been. I was very eager to see what the day would bring and it would already be much enhanced by having Amy alongside me.
We arrived in Loughborough shortly after 11am. Amy's appointment was scheduled for around 11.30 so, whilst she made her way over, I was left to my own devices for around 40 minutes or so. This time was spent wandering around the market, exploring a couple of shops, generally refreshing my memory of where things were and, at one point, paying 20p to use a public toilet. The weather was warm, calm and very pleasant so we had definitely picked a good day on which to explore Loughborough's pubs. Around 12.30, Amy got in touch to confirm that she was all done and we reconvened to begin our day proper. The location of Amy's hair appointment is situated just off the central market place and our first port of call was only a short walk away. Turning left onto Derby Square, we continued on for a few yards until we reached the junction of Market Street and Ashby Road. In the centre of this, on Ashby Square, is where you'll find our first stop: The Griffin.
Located just north of the town centre, The Griffin is a heavily student-oriented pub operated by Marston's. The inside is large and open-plan with lots of seating throughout as well as a more secluded snug-type area to the left of the entrance and a large rear garden that features picnic bench style seating as well as a wall-mounted TV. The bar sits along one side and is decorated with fake ferns and palm leaves. The decor throughout is bright and colourful. There are a number of TVs around the room with an emphasis on showing live sport. There is a staircase in one corner that leads to an upstairs corridor where the toilets are located. On the bar, which is very well-stocked in general, sits a solitary handpull on the very end. This features a rotating beer from the Marston's range which, on the day of our visit, is Wychwood Hobgoblin IPA. We both opted for this and headed to a comfortable looking sofa in the aforementioned snug area which allowed us a prime view of a large TV showing the Liverpool game. We drank our beers in relative comfort here. The pub was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday which led us to speculate as to whether a number of students are adhering to the old stereotype about them not getting up before mid-afternoon. The beer was very good and perfectly drinkable and the match wasn't bad either. We decided to use the half time interval to make our way to pub number two.
Leaving the Griffin, we turned left and made our way up Ashby Road, heading further away from the centre of town. After only a couple of minutes, our next destination hove into view on the right hand side. Crossing over, we approached The Generous Briton.
Converted from an old electronics shop that had been closed since 2008, the Good Beer Guide 2022 listed Needle & Pin opened in 2016. The door leads into a split level layout with the ground floor featuring bench seating and tables and a small flight of steps leading up to a bar in the top corner. Beyond this is a small corridor wherein lie the toilets. The 'cellar' is a specially adapted cold room accessed from behind the bar. A flight of stairs leads to an upper level which features more extensive seating as well as board games and music. The interior is very bright and clean. The bar features 4 handpulls as well as a bank of 4 keg taps. The Needle & Pin was awarded CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year for 2018. The 4 hand pumps offer a choice of both local beers and those from further afield. At the time we visited, the following were available: North Riding Imperial Stout, Mill Hill A Man is not a Camel, Stancill Barnsley Bitter and Mill Hill In Capable Hands. Whilst I went for the In Capable Hands, Amy was drawn to a cherry and plum gose on keg from Polly's Brew Co. Having selected our beers, we went and took a table by the window. Amy's beer was delicious with all the fruitiness and subtle sourness you'd expect from the style. Personally, I was equally as enamoured with my choice. In Capable Hands is brewed by Mill Hill in nearby Enderby. It's a hazy, New England-style pale ale with big hop notes, underlying bitterness, and a very clean and refreshing finish, all at 4.7%. I love finding beers I love from breweries I'm not familiar with. The Needle & Pin is, in every sense, the epitome of everything that's right about a micropub. The only discernible issue was that the pub was devoid of background music during our visit. We'd arrived not long after they opened and were the only customers which made the long periods of silence slightly awkward but it's a small quibble in what is otherwise an excellent little place.
Now a freehouse, the White Hart reopened in 2013 following an extensive refurbishment and is now part of the Benjamin Pimlico Pub Company. There is a secluded patio and beer garden to the rear, with the interior radiating a cosy, relaxing ambience. The lighting is low and subtle, creating a comfortable atmosphere with wooden tables and chairs arranged across the floor with a bar to one side. Candles occupy the majority of tables to further enhance the mood lighting. The pub is Good Beer Guide 2022 and was CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year for 2017. The pub operates a 21 and over policy for individuals but young children under 5 are still welcome as part of a family group. The White Hart has built up an excellent local reputation for good beer and features live music on occasional Friday and Saturday evenings. 6 handpulls occupy the bar with a mix between local and not so local beers. At the time of our visit, the choices were Timothy Taylor Landlord, Shiny Disco Balls, Arbor Mosaic and 3 beers from Charnwood, in the shape of Blue Fox, Vixen and Salvation. I immediately went for the Blue Fox, Amy went for a pint of Beavertown Neck Oil and our guests repeated their previous drink choices. We took a table a short distance from the bar and remarked on the general feel of the pub. Amy and Laura had been here in the past but not for many years and discussed how much it had changed, evidently for the better. I enjoyed my beer here too. Charnwood are a family-run Loughborough brewery and it's rare to see their beers outside of the town so it was nice to be drinking it where it was meant to be drunk. Blue Fox (4.2%) is a refreshing golden beer brewed with Mosaic hops that give it a tropical fruit and blueberry aroma and finish. It was ace!