Coopers Tavern – Burton on Trent
Having spent a couple of hours walking around the excellent Museum of Brewing I was keen to discover some of the best pubs that Burton on Trent could offer. Recognised nationally as the centre of the British brewing industry the town still has some of the best drinking holes in the country. I was recommended The Devonshire Arms and The Coopers Tavern. The Devonshire was closed so I decided to visit the Coopers Tavern which was a short walk from the Brewery Museum.
The Coopers Tavern has appeared in almost every edition of the Good Beer Guide for many, many years. The Coopers Tavern is a no nonsense, no frills, real ale tavern located close to the railway station and a five-minute walk into the centre of Burton.You will not find a television screen on any of the walls, there is no jukebox or streamed music playing and dont bother asking whether they have wi-fi!
The pub has won many national and local awards for both its beers, character, original décor and sense of tradition. As I soon discovered The Coopers Tavern is a unique pub which has been unspoilt by modernisation or fancy drinking trends. From outside the pub is a fairly- nondescript building. Brick built with four small windows and a large white sign `Bass & Co The Coopers Tavern` above the central door. Two small wooden boards either side of the door complete the look but its inside that its real treasures are revealed.
The Coopers is a small pub with a series of small rooms and a couple of small open fires. Off to the left is a small cosy `snug bar` with a tiny fireplace and a couple of tables and chairs and to the right is the front room complete with an assortment of brewery mirrors and portraits of worthy locals. A well- trodden tiled floor, ageing wooden furniture and leather clad settees surround the walls of this slightly larger but still quite small central room. The rooms are still decorated in a traditional style and the Bass colours of red and brown.
As I went deeper into the pub I found an even smaller snug next to the `bar` with a few old barrels as tables and some slightly raised seating around the edges. In the tap-room I found a range of ales being served directly from the cask, straight on to a barrel top. There is no bar as such, the `bar` is suitable for resting a few beer glasses but nothing more. The casks are lined up and there are several shelves laden with bottles and glasses. It is like taking a trip back in time. I cannot remember visiting a pub quite like this for many, many years.
The Coopers Tavern was originally owned by William Bass having been a brewer’s house and a malt store during its two hundred – year history. There is a plague on one of the pub wall`s which describes how in the early 1800’s the Tavern had become the store room for the Bass Imperial Stout.
The brewers from across the road would pop over from Cross Street and regularly stay and sample the stout. Over time the store room became the brewers tap for the Bass brewery and it was not long before it opened its doors as a pub but still served it`s ale as they did in the sampling cellar – direct from the barrel. The Coopers has served its ale this way ever since – at least four casks are always available out of the tap from the back bar.
The pub is now an independent pub managed by Joule’s Breweries of Market Drayton, Shropshire which has over thirty of England`s most iconic `old English style pubs which have served communities for centuries`.
The current landlady Mary Bagley recently celebrated a ten- year tenure at The Coopers Tavern having arrived with her two children Cassie and Dale in August of 2006. It was her first role as a landlady having served her apprenticeship working in various pubs for Bathams Breweries of the Black Country. Mary has won many CAMRA awards based on her proven philosophy of keeping things at the pub `real` and constantly changing the range of casks and ciders available to her customers. It appears to be working!
The Coopers is a listed building of special interest and is an important part of the brewery story of Burton on Trent. Despite being a Joule’s brewery house Bass is still served direct from the barrel as recognition to the Coopers Tavern`s place in the history of Burton brewing and to the nation. The Coopers Tavern sells a variety of fine ales straight from the barrel or hand pulled alongside the host Joule`s beers and guests beers.
The Coopers looks directly across to its huge multi-national neighbour Molson Coors, its tall brewery tanks dwarfing the tiny Tavern. The Tavern has always had a good relationship with its `noisy` neighbours. Pub business is still sometimes carried on in the small snug bar much as it did in the beginning.
The Coopers does not serve any food except home-made Pork Pies with an accompaniment of pickle or cheese but you can take in your own food if you want to. I can personally recommend the pork pies – one large pie is more than enough for two people with a little pickle or cheese. I opted for a pint of Joule`s Slumbering Monk a full bodied premium beer with a malty and nutty fullness with hints of caramel. It had a beautiful soft and satisfying smoothness to it. A wonderful pint.
There is also a fantastic curry house next door called Apne which also allows you to take your beer in from the Coopers so you can eat superb curry and drink the finest ales in either of the establishments. How many drinking establishments do you know that allows you to take in your own food?
The Coopers Tavern is a charismatic pub that should be on the trail of all ale lovers. Next time you are in Burton make sure you visit the Coopers Tavern – you will not be disappointed!
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For more information please visit www.cooperstavern.co.uk
Monday 4pm – 11pm
Tuesday 4pm – 11pm
Wednesday 4pm – 11pm
Thursday 12noon – 11pm
Friday 12noon – 11pm
Saturday 12noon – 11pm
Sunday 12noon – 10pm
43 Cross Street, Burton-Upon-Trent, Staffordshire DE14 1EG
T: 01283 532 551