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Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
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"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor

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Beer sellers: Westholme Store, Goring-on-Thames

First published in Beers of the World June 2009

Westholme Stores, Goring-on-Thames -- not your average local Londis.

Beer writing is full of unexpected pleasures – such as finding oneself in a pretty English village interviewing the owner of one of the best-stocked beer retailers in the region over a plate of homemade Gujarati dhokra and spiced puris. My host is the genial Jayesh Patel, better known locally as Jack, and as we chat, the surprises just keep on coming.

For a start, , or simply Jack’s, a large converted suburban house in a residential street in Goring-on-Thames, looks on the surface like an ordinary convenience store, and indeed functions as such. Part of the Londis franchise, it does a good trade supplying the locals with everyday necessities and is also, in the best traditions of such places, something of a community meeting point.

Shelves at Westholme Stores, Goring-on-Thames

But examine the aisles nearest the checkout and you’ll find a dazzling range of rare and classic bottled beers. When fully stocked, there are around 650 on offer. Two thirds are British, mainly from small producers. Jayesh is proud to offer beers from local Thames Valley and Cotswold brewers such as Ridgeway, Appleford and West Berkshire but there’s plenty from all over – he deals with distributors and takes advantage of Londis’ own direct delivery arrangements, but also sources hard to find beers by personally persuading breweries to cooperate locally in supplying mixed pallets. Scotland (BrewDog, Williams Brothers) and Yorkshire (Hambleton, Kelham Island) are currently particularly well represented.

Then there are the Belgians – Trappists, abbey beers and strong specialities with tiny outfits like Alvinne, Angerik and Serafijn alongside bigger names – plus some good German lager, Kölsch and Weissbier, a couple of Czechs, US stalwarts Anchor, Brooklyn and Flying Dog and a range of world lagers that digs rather deeper than Chang and Keo. There’s a handful of real ciders too, though currently no glasses nor other beer-related items.

Jayesh Patel of Westholme Stores, Goring-on-Thames

And the next big surprise is – Jayesh is passionately interested in beer but doesn’t drink. “When I lived in Kenya I used to drink Tusker but I gave up alcohol a long time ago,” he explains, “though I do sip to taste if we’re opening bottles.” A couple of years back, having run the shop since 1988, he felt he’d exhausted the potential of the local market and was searching for ways to attract customers from further afield.

Serious gourmet beers at Westholme Stores

He tried wine but found himself struggling against supermarkets. Then he stumbled on an article on a CAMRA website asking why more corner shops didn’t stock good beer. The spark was ignited and he threw himself into research, visiting other retailers, studying books, magazines and websites and taking courses.

The strategy has worked – he’s now a destination shop for beer enthusiasts in the region. But, perhaps more importantly, he’s also winning new converts. Locals popping in for a pint of milk or a lottery ticket are fascinated by the array of unusual bottles and labels, and more than a few have been tempted to experiment, under Jayesh’s expert guidance.

Well, they say that Rochefort can sometimes develop a banana note.

He’s also taken advantage of being in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where the river Thames slices through the Chilterns to form the Goring Gap. Three popular walking trails – the Thames Path, the Ridgeway and the Chiltern Way – pass close to the shop, and there are cycle routes and good rail connections, so you can spend a day enjoying the area and go home with a few bottles of something unusual. Then there’s the traffic on the river itself – in the summer he walks the towpath handing out flyers to boaters.

Among future plans are tasting evenings in the village hall with brewers and beer writers, extended trips around the UK to source more obscure delights, and a mail order service. What he’s already achieved inevitably leads you back to pondering the original question that inadvertently started it all – why don’t more corner shops stock good beer?

Fact file

Address: 24-26 Wallingford Road, Goring-on-Thames RG8 0BG
Phone: +44 (0)1491 872619
Web: www.beersnale.co.uk
Hours: 0600-1930 (Sun 1300)
Drink in? No
Mail order: Planned

Manager’s favourites: Kenya Tusker, Ridgeway IPA, Krönleins Crocodile

Beer picks

  • Appleford Power Station 4.2%, Appleford, Oxfordshire. Tasty, complex bottle conditioned bitter with biscuity, slight burnt rubber notes, pippy peppery hops and spiced orange.
  • Hambleton Nightmare 5%, Melmerby, North Yorkshire. Excellent flavour-packed burgundy-brown stout from renowned microbrewer: blackcurrant pastilles, burnt toast, raisiny fruit and soft chocolate.
  • Ridgeway/Hepworth Oxfordshire Blue 5%, Sussex / Oxfordshire. A fine golden summer ale with a flowery fruit salad aroma, fruity floral palate and a lemon jelly and peach finish.
  • Thornbridge Jaipur 5.9%, Ashford, Derbyshire. Authentic IPA at an approachable strength, with dried apricots, spiced orange and nettly hop resins in a puckering pepper finish.
  • West Berkshire Dr Hexter’s Healer 5%, Yattendon, Berkshire. Toast, autumn fruit, citrus peel and rounded rooty bitterness in a chunky amber ale brewed for and named after a Wantage landlord.

This was the last of my Beer Sellers pieces published in Beers of the World as the July 2009 issue turned out to be the last. All have now been archived on this site, where new instalments continue to appear occasionally.

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