Real Ale Train, Alton to Alresford, 24th June 2017

What could be more English than taking a journey on a steam train through the old green and pleasant, while drinking real ale? That’s the proposition of the Real Ale Train (or RAT, as it’s affectionately dubbed). It starts from Alton, and chugs to Alresford and back, twice, on the Watercress Line, a picturesque and very pastoral part of the country. The stations have been painted to look like stations of yore, all fresh green paint and old-fashioned adverts. Easy to believe you’ve stepped into a time-warp.

The bar features six casks of ale from two local breweries (a different pair on each trip). Our selection was:

  • Hammerpot Red Hunter (4.3%)
  • Hammerpot Shooting Star (3.8%)
  • Hammerpot Summer (3.7%)
  • Itchen Valley Hampshire Rose (4.2%)
  • Itchen Valley Pride of the Valley (3.8%)
  • Itchen Valley QED (4.1%)

For any beerophobes who had been roped into the journey, there was a cider option (Mr Whitehead’s Cirrus Minor, 5%), or red or white wine. There was food too, served in not-quite-period-correct polystyrene containers, and other nibbles such as crisps and biscuits.

I don’t know if we were a typical gaggle of passengers, but we managed to drink the train dry. No matter – an emergency delivery of bottles made its way on at one of the stops, so we drank all of that too.

Our trip was a social organised by the Friends of the Fox, a club for people who contributed to the community restoration of the Fox and Houndspub in Denmead. This means we had the all-important minibus to ferry us to and from Alton. Otherwise it would have meant kipping on a platform in an undignified sprawl beneath a Pears Soap sign. And that’s just not English.

Written by Richard Salsbury

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