The Wyn­d­ham Arms, Sal­is­bury

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - The Sunday Cook -

Early doors. There’s a pal­pa­ble sense of in­dul­gence in be­ing the first in a pub just af­ter it has opened for its lunchtime ses­sion. I al­most feel de­vo­tional as I stand be­fore the brick-built, wooden-topped bar in The Wyn­d­ham Arms, watch­ing the bar­tender pour­ing me a pint of gold-flecked Sum­mer Light­ning.

The Wyn­d­ham is a his­toric place. It was here in 1987 that Hop Back started brewing in the cel­lar, and a year later when founder John Gil­bert came up with Sum­mer Light­ning. This ap­petis­ing, cit­rusy, re­fresh­ing golden ale kicked off a na­tion­wide thirst for beers that looked like lager but tasted like ale.

As I take great gulps of this mag­i­cal beer, hard win­ter sun­light streams in through the win­dows. There’s a mur­mur of tele­vi­sion news in the cor­ner. Af­ter serv­ing me, the bar­tender re­turns to his news­pa­per, turn­ing the pages slowly. The mood of the pub is tran­quil, a con­sid­er­ate con­trast to the muted noise of cars roar­ing past on the A36 out­side.

My mood of con­tem­pla­tion in the com­pany of a great pint is helped by the fact that The Wyn­d­ham it­self is a rather beau­ti­ful build­ing, a clas­sic Vic­to­rian street-cor­ner boozer with a painted plas­ter re­lief of a green man, wreathed with hops and bar­ley, above its front door.

In­side, there are three drink­ing spa­ces, their walls pa­pered with award cer­tifi­cates, framed prints and news­pa­per ar­ti­cles – plus a paint­ing of the pub.

I re­turn to the bar. Six cask beers are avail­able, all from Hop Back, which now brews in nearby Down­ton. But it’s an­other Sum­mer Light­ning for me. The slow tick-tock of the mood in the pub is height­ened by the en­trance of a lo­cal, who parks him­self on a stool at the bar and or­ders a pint of Hop Back Crop Cir­cle. He nods to me and be­gins to med­i­tate on the glass in front of him.

More en­ter: a trio of of­fice work­ers, a cou­ple and their dog, a stu­dent of beer his­tory. They’re here to enjoy each other’s com­pany, or just take some time to com­mune with them­selves over a pint.

Like I said: de­vo­tional.

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