Sopwell is one of the oldest and most characterful areas in St Albans and is packed with historic pubs, each with their own personality. For the first time, the six pubs within the “golden triangle” are joining together to host “The Sopwell Festival” over the August bank holiday, with special events all weekend.
The six pubs taking part are The White Hart Tap, The Hare and Hounds, The Goat, The White Lion, The Garibaldi and The Beehive, which are all within a three-minute walk of each other. There is no entry ticket price; you can wander between the pubs listening to live music, trying the food on offer, and discovering new beers. All the pubs have outdoor areas, and some have large pretty pub gardens so families are very welcome.
I spoke to Andrew Meredith, landlord at The White Hart Tap to find out more. Andrew explained that the pubs have held their own music and beer festivals over the years but this is the first time they have all got together to organise an event. There is a lot of new energy in the pubs in the area; The Hare & Hounds and The Beehive have both been through stylish refurbishments, and the Hare’s garden is now lovely and very popular with families. Punch Taverns plan to refurbish The White Lion in the next couple of months; it already has one of St Albans’ best-kept secrets in the large garden hidden between the two rows of houses and is well worth a visit.
Each pub will be running beer and cider festivals so you can discover something new. They are also offering events on each day of the bank holiday, including live music and BBQs.
On the Saturday, the Hare are planning a family day, with face-painting and puppet shows in the garden. On the Monday, they are planning a smokehouse BBQ with live music from the Ver Players. The Garibaldi have a country music theme for the weekend including Kevin Clynes on Saturday and Caution Horses and line dancing on Sunday. The food on offer sounds great, with spit-roasted lamb and pork, fried chicken, spicy potatoes and bbq beans. You are invited to wear your checked shirts and relax on a hay bale! It will also be a fundraiser for Watford Peace Hospice as a tribute to recently departed local musician Pete Waters.
The Beehive will also have live music, including DJs and a Rockabilly band, with world beers for sale in their garden. You can visit them all and find the band you like the most! Over at The Goat, Kate and Mick will be hosting a Thai buffet, and a carvery on the Sunday.
The White Hart Tap will have food tents all weekend in their pretty garden, with something different each day. Andrew is thinking of trying shawarma-style kebabs, so look out for those. Over at The White Lion they will have a BBQ each day, with sausages, steaks and salmon, and US-style food.
Andrew had news about The White Lion for us; he has just taken over running it and has introduced a new menu to complement what he is already doing at the White Hart Tap. The Tap will continue with its good pub classics (the fish and chips are fab), and The Lion will feature more “gastro pub” dishes. Look out for the rack of lamb with dauphinoise potatoes, and chicken cooked three ways, which sound amazing. I think this is a pub to watch; Punch plan to spend a lot of money on it, and with Andrew cooking it could be a new foodie destination pub, along the lines of Dylans on George Street.
This is a good opportunity to tell you about some new events planned for this year’s Food & Drink Festival. I am very excited about The Village Green on finale day (Sunday 4th October) in St Albans in front of the Town Hall. This will be a grassed area, with hay bales to sit on, and ten pubs, bars and local brewers have been given a licence for the first time, to sell drinks outdoors at the festival, and you can sit in the garden or walk around the festival trying the food stalls and watching the cookery theatre. Look out too for the Pubs of St Albans Walking Tour on 22nd September and The Fancy Dress Pub Crawl on 24th September; the idea is to go dressed as your favourite pub!
It is great to see so much creativity and energy from the St Albans pubs. We are lucky to have a wave of new, talented landlords locally who are working together to bring decent food, beer and events to the community.