The Bridge Inn

Topsham, Devon October 8, 2004 I've long maintained that our local Topsham pub, The Bridge Inn, is the best pub in the world.
The Bridge is quite simply a totally unspoiled, unmodernized 14th century inn by the banks of the tiny Clyst River just on the outskirts of Topsham. There are few such unspoiled pubs remaining in Britain, it's sad to say. I've been coming here for over, my goodness, a quarter of a century (since I first came to Britain as a student). The inn has been run by landlady Caroline Cheffers-Heard's family for more than a hundred years. Quite simply she keeps the place as it always has been, as her mother Phyllis, father Norman, and her grandparents before them always did. You won't find fruit machines or a juke box or cajun chicken here: what you will find is quite simply the most outstanding range of cask-conditioned ales, kept immaculately, served properly and with good cheer in a characterful and historic, rather ramshackle old Devon building. What more can you ask for in a pub?
But don't just take my word for it. I was there last night and Caroline proudly informed me that the Bridge has just been acclaimed 'Beer Pub of the Year' in the Good Pub Guide 2005. This is a wonderful national award and I am delighted. The cask-conditioned ales here are so outstanding quite simply because they are sourced and kept with meticulous and precise care. The barrels are allowed to settle and are only tapped when the beer — unpasteurised and so alive — is in its optimum condition. The ales are drawn direct from the cask (so no taint of pipes) into straight or dimpled pint glasses, bright and fresh, ranging in colour from pale copper to almost black, and exuding scents of rich toasted malt and burnt sugar, and that stinging, bitter aroma of dry hops that is the hallmark (for me) of a great pint of real cask-conditioned ale.
Caroline always keeps an impressive and ever-changing range of ales on offer, mainly from local West Country breweries, include Branscombe Vale, Exe Valley, Otter, O'Hanlons, Palmer's, Moor, Teignworthy, Blackawton, and Topsham & Exminster. There are guest beers, too, from further afield (Adnams Broadside makes a regular appearance), and now as winter approaches, there will soon be some dangerously potent high-gravity 'winter warmers'. No lager is available.
Says Caroline, "Our ale has always been kept in the traditional manner and
we are proud to have this recognition for the cellarkeeping skills that have
been handed down through the generations of my family in the inn."
Caroline's daughter Rhiannon, a talented stage designer, has been brought up in the inn and will no doubt take over one day, so it's safe to say that the
Bridge Inn will remain unspoiled for some time to come.
So here's raising a glass to Caroline, Rhiannon and Nigel, and to all the hardworking staff at the Bridge. And a fond glass, too, in remembrance of Norman and Phyllis, and of so many good times in The Bridge Inn.

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