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Great Gloucestershire Pubs: The Salutation Inn, Ham, near Berkeley

By RupertJ  |  Posted: April 04, 2012

  • Great Gloucestershire Pubs: Salutation Inn_Don Dubabin

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You could ask 100 people what makes a good pub and get 100 different answers.

Some might say the quality of the music, the food or the baize on the pool table is key. Others might place most importance on the chances of finding a suitable life partner.

But for real ale drinkers - beer aficionados, connoisseurs of the malted grain - one thing rises above all others. That's the taste of what comes out of those handpulls.

But it's unfair and wrong to say that real ale – "proper beer", as my dad used to call it – is only for the stereotypical eccentric, bearded oddball drinker. It's recently become a broader church frequented by anyone who appreciates taste, quality and natural produce.

It's a change Don Dunbabin has noticed in just the four-and-a-half years in which he and his wife Sue have owned the lease at the Salutation Inn in Ham, near Berkeley.

"We get more younger people drinking real ale now than we did even when I first came here a few years ago," he said. "So we try to keep a good range of beers on tap.

"We have focused on being a real ale pub - we hardly do any food - and it's working out well. We get customers who are walkers, cyclists and motorbike riders, as well as a lot of CAMRA enthusiasts who are drawn here by the recommendations they see in the Good Beer Guide. We have a lot of trade from residents of Berkeley itself and a lot of the farming community come here too."

By Don's own admission, the food at the Salutation Inn isn't anything to write home about. There's nothing wrong with it if you're looking to have a couple of pints over lunch, but the Salutation certainly makes no claims to being a gastro-pub.

What's important to Don is the beer. And because the freehold is owned by the Berkeley Castle estate it means Don is untied to any brewery and is free to serve beer from anyone he chooses.

That's why behind the bar and all over the walls you will see badges from dozens of breweries and beer brands, as well as several certificates and awards from the Campaign for Real Ales.

The Salutation has won the society's Gloucestershire Pub of the Year award for 2010, 2011 and 2012. It even came runner up in CAMRA's national Pub of the Year award for 2010, losing out by a single vote to a pub in Covent Garden, London.

Mainly on offer are beers from local brewers - this week's guests are from Severn Vale, Bristol, and Chipping Sodbury in South Gloucestershire as well as a darker stout from slightly further afield in Herefordshire.

And down in the cellar are the barrels currently waiting to be opened, from breweries in Devon,

You'll always find something to your taste at the Salutation – whether it's a dark stout, or a lighter pale ale.

And when you pitch yourself as a pub which prides itself on the quality of its pints, as the Salutation has, it's important to make sure that this quality is maintained.

So Don cleans his lines every week, makes sure that all the equipment is kept clean and that the cellars are maintained at the correct cool temperature.
And it shows, it really does. I sampled a pint of mid-range Dursley Steam from Severn Vale, a spot of Guv'nor stout by Cotswold Spring and a cheeky half of Harvest Pale by Castle Rock brewery in Nottingham.

All three were delicious, really tasty, and the kind of drinks you could happily spend a cold March afternoon sitting in front of the log fire and supping a few, or several, whiling away the hours with some friends and good banter.

"We go local as often as we can," said Don. "Either that, or it's anything we can get our hands on that's a bit of a treat."

A treat indeed. The Salutation's very different to the North Cotswolds pub and restaurant I visited last week but no less worthy of praise. Especially if you're a lover of good beer, in which case a visit is essential.

Salutation Inn

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