Thursday, 15 September 2022

Craft Republic at The GoodSheds

I’m sure my wife thinks I do this deliberately, because more often than not, when we have stayed somewhere away from home, there mysteriously happens to be a really good pub or brewery tap in the immediate vicinity. This phenomena has occurred so frequently that It’s worthy of its own blog, but for the time being let’s have a look at the latest example of Paul’s “lucky streak,” and how I hit the jackpot in the most unexpected of places - Barry Island!

You would expect me to have taken a look on What Pub, just to check on the pubs and bars in the vicinity of our hotel, and that is exactly what I did. Whilst not listed as stocking cask, Craft Republic was described as an excellent craft-beer bar, with 14 taps, which included one for cider, plus another for alcohol-free beer. Barry Craft Gin, produced on the premises, is also available, for those who enjoy something stronger.

A look on the bar’s website, sent out all the right signals, so let’s take a closer look at Craft Republic’s credentials. Owned and run by, husband-and-wife team Tim and Claire, who are Barry residents. The couple pride themselves on being totally independent, with no investors, and no tie-ins with breweries or distributors. The location they chose was the GoodSheds, which is the brainchild of a local developer whose vision was to create a modern, urban development, with a strong community at its heart. This matched the ethos of what Tim and Claire wanted to achieve with their new bar.

The couple conducted most of the fitting out of the bar themselves, with the lion’s share of the work taking place during the Covid lock-down. Craft Republic opened to the public in August 2020, but was then subject to the various, and restrictions that followed, from the autumn of 2020, right through to spring, the following year. Remember the hapless Health Secretary, Matt Handcock, with his totally illogical “tier system” that mystified and frustrated drinkers and business owners alike?

Thankfully, these restrictions are now just an unpleasant memory, although there is still a need for vigilance. Fortunately, the health service seem well prepared for a potential increase in Covid cases this winter, with a new Covid booster vaccination being rolled out, as I type. For the record, Mrs PBT’s and I are due our shots at the beginning of next month, along with a flu vaccination at the same time – one in each arm?

Returning to Craft Republic, the good news was the bar was less than 5 minutes’ walk from the Premier Inn we were staying at, so what not to like? On the second night of our stay in Barry, we took a stroll along to the GoodSheds – spoiler alert, Matthew and I had already taken a peep after breakfast that morning. As the name suggests, the complex is housed in some former railway storage buildings, and these have been supplemented by what is described as a “container village.”

As most of us know, shipping containers can be adapted for a wide range of uses – two of the building contractors that Eileen does book-keeping work for, operate from fully-fitted offices, housed in such units. Continuing the railway theme, there are a number of former train carriages said to be former Gatwick Express rolling-stock. They have been painted black, in common with the majority of the surrounding buildings, and look quite striking in their new livery.

Upon arrival, we were shown to a table, and after a quick run through the beer selection, the food offering was explained. Craft Republic doesn’t offer food, but the owners are more than happy for customers to bring food in with them. For those wishing to order from one of their GoodSheds neighbours, an App was available which, after scanning a QR code, enabled customers to select, order and pay for their food, and then collect, when ready from the takeaway point outside the main GoodSheds entrance.

The food was best described as “street food,” and there was a good selection of different options available. The Bailey family went for the burger option, and the friendly bar staff member, guided us through the process. 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my payment to go through, so he directed me into the labyrinth of different food stall, inside the containers, where I was able to order and pay in person. Not long afterwards, I received a text, advising my order was ready for collection, so I popped along to pick it up. So, with everything we needed, served on compostable cardboard trays, with wooden knives and forks, the chicken burgers, served with lime-pickle dressing and chilli-jam, plus fries to die for, it was “finger-licking good,” as the Colonel would have said, and the perfect accompaniment to the craft beer offerings on tap.

I started with a pint of DEYA Steady Rolling Man, a 5.2% New England IPA, and followed it with a brew, with a rather long name, from Cloudwater. It was certainly extremely cloudy, and not particularly enjoyable. Fortunately, I only ordered a half, but “The Interior Life and the External World," reinforced my view that Cloudwater are seriously over-hyped, and matched the premonition which led me to order a half in the first place. I fully expect now, to received hate mail from Cloudwater fans, and whilst I should perhaps have known better than to order a NIPA, brew I started off with from DEYA was fine, with just the merest hint of “murk.” This was in stark contrast to the turbid-looking Cloudwater offering! If you don’t believe me, check out the photos as “pond water” would be a more apt name.

A beer that was not to my liking is no reflection on Craft Republic, but fortunately my last beer of the evening, came up trumps. Much like I knew I was on potential dodgy ground with Cloudwater, I somehow knew that Night Swimming, a 6.8% coffee stout from Tenby Brewing, would come up trumps. It certainly ticked all the right boxes, as did Craft Republic itself. During the course of our stay, the bar started filling up nicely, with a good mixed crowd. There were a couple of families we could see sitting outside, complete with children and dogs.

Speaking of our canine friends, Darcy the pub dog made a beeline for our table, as soon as he smelled the food. He hovered around, under our feet, waiting for the occasional chip to be dropped – as invariably happened.  All in all, our visit was an extremely positive experience, made all the more enjoyable by the helpful and knowledgeable staff. As we left, we were thanked by owner Tim, who was sitting at a table, tapping away on his laptop, whilst enjoying a beer.

To sum up, I can thoroughly recommend a visit not just to Craft Republic, but to the entire GoodSheds complex itself. The same recommendation applies to Barry Island, as the Bailey family found the town a lot nicer than we thought it would be. With sandy beaches, a High Street with plenty of independently owned shops, attractive looking and affordable houses, plus friendly Welsh people – I would say that, given my ancestry. I would also say that Barry Island is well worth a visit, even if you’re not a fan of Gavin & Stacey!


T'other Paul. said...

"when we have stayed somewhere away from home, there mysteriously happens to be a really good pub or brewery tap in the immediate vicinity".
We just stayed in Good Beer Guide pubs, about thirty of them from Penzance to Berwick. That's when I bought the GBG.

retiredmartin said...

This will upset T'other Paul, but £6 a pint for Deya isn't bad at all, is it ?

I missed Craft Republic when I was in Barry this summer, only visiting the Butterfly Collector, a micro themed on The Jam.

I'm glad you had such a positive experience in Barry, a place often ridiculed I rather liked.

T'other Paul said...

If customers will pay £6 a pint then I don't blame any venue for charging that.
I've better things than that to be upset about.

Paul Bailey said...

Stafford Paul, staying in Good Beer Guide pubs, is always a good strategy, and you may also remember, quite a few years ago, CAMRA publishing their own guide to pubs offering overnight accommodation. I can't recall the name of the book now, but it was probably something along the lines of "Room at the Inn." Given the constant changes, affecting the licensed trade, I wonder how long it was before the publication became out of date.

Martin & Paul. I didn't notice the prices at Craft Republic, as Matthew got the beers in. I bought the food, so he had the better deal. Looking again at the prices, I noticed that No. 2 on the list, House Party IPA, from Stavanger-based Lervig was selling at £4.90 a pint. I nearly went for this beer, having bought a few Lervig cans back with me, following our visit to Stavanger. It was also somewhat surprising to see a Norwegian beer on sale in the UK.

Looking at the range of prices, on the bar's website, it very much looks like they are determined by the wholesale price charged by the individual breweries.

Matthew had a pint of Craft Republic's house beer, On Track Lager, priced at £4.70, whilst Eileen went for the alcohol-free Promises I Made to Myself, also priced at £4.70.

T'other Paul. said...

At least one edition was titled 'Beer, Bed and Breakfast'.
We often visited Kent in the spring as it was earlier down there and stayed in the Bull at Benenden, Dering Arms at Pluckley, Green Man at Shattering and Chequers at Smarden.
In all I've spent about 225 nights in 79 pubs ( no, not a total of 48 years ).
"Determined by the wholesale price charged by the individual breweries" is probably common practice, like my nearest pub buying bottles of King Cobra for £8 and selling them fot £12. I remember when I could get a firkin of Owd Roger for £12.

Paul Bailey said...

Stafford Paul, there are some really good pubs in that list, although I don't think the Green Man is trading any more. I suppose that with the advent of What Pub, there is no real need now for separate guides to pubs that offer accommodation.

I'd never really thought of spring arriving earlier, in this part of the world, as it's not something you notice when you actually live in a place. It might have something to do with Kent's proximity to the main continental landmass. I was reminded of this yesterday, when I took a walk up on Dover's Western Heights, from where the coastline of France was clearly visible. On the train journey home, and with the westerly sun, shining on its shores, the French beaches and cliffs were even more prominent.

This proximity does have its downside in winter, when Kent, and the east of the county in particular, often experiences severe wintry weather, and heavy snowfalls.

T'other Paul. said...

I hardly used my 'Beer, Bed and Breakfast' guide mainly because the "accommodation symbol" in the Good Beer Guide worked perfectly well in all but one of dozens of pubs I stayed in, and I put that down to that if a pub took the trouble to keep beer good enough to then get in the GBG it would also take the trouble to make its accommodation, and meals, equally "good" and often 'excellent'.
I avoid guest houses like the plague. I was too young to remember the one in Southampton back in 1973 but both the Southport one in 1985 ( and that was for TWO nights ) and the Welshpool one in 1987 were both absolutely dreadful. I know of other people who find guest houses perfectly acceptable, and even use them regularly, so maybe I was just unlucky.
I have spent over 500 nights in Youth Hostels but that's another story.
Yes, WhatPub is excellent, especially with being able to click on symbols such as for "accommodation" ( or "return tray" ). It's the third place I look after the Heritage Pubs website and family brewery websites.

Paul Bailey said...

When you talk about "guest houses" Paul, I'm assuming you are referring to bed & breakfast establishments. I've stayed in quite a few B&B's over the years, mainly as an overnight stop whilst walking trails, such as the South and North Downs ways. I've also stayed at quite a few pubs, especially in Norfolk, which I used as a base when visiting my now, sadly-deceased, elderly parents.

Apart from the odd horror story (Winchester springs to mind), the vast majority have been fine, but I do now get the feeling that by upping their game, many are chasing after the high-end sector of the B&B market, and consequently charging (silly) prices to match.

T'other Paul said...

When mentioning "guest houses" I'm referring to bed and breakfast establishments that look like ordinary large private houses except for the "Copplehouse Guest House" and "Vacancies" or "No Vacancies" signs or similar on the front. Inside I find being made to feel as if I'm intruding in an actual private house most unwelcoming. Then it's either an insalubrious bedroom with pink net curtains or at breakfast Mick from Northampton on the next table's "Could I have some more toast please ?" getting an abrupt "No". And there were no doubt other things I've thankfully been able to forget over the years. Two establishments over three nights during forty years might not be much to go on and maybe I was just unlucky but I've never risked it again, hence one pub, five Youth Hostels and NO guest houses on the Offas Dyke path in 1990 and six pubs, six Youth Hostels and NO guest houses on the Coast to Coast path in three stages from 2004 to 2007. I expect not "upping their game" wouldn't be an option for the two I knew.