It takes a particular set of skills – and a lot of hard work – to set up a brewery and restaurant in a spot very few beer people would have visited – or indeed had cause to visit – and then have people lining up for tables in the first week. But for anyone who makes the trip to Cheltenham brewpub Bad Shepherd it’s quite clear this is a project that was planned to perfection, right down to the recycled pallet walls dotted around the dining room.
Brewer Dereck Hales, along with his wife and venue manager Diti, have created a space that Cheltenham was clearly crying out for, with their menu of American barbeque food and finely curated beer list both proving popular with local businesses and those from further afield from its first days in November 2015.
The beer list makes a feature of Bad Shepherd’s own creations, including a luscious Hazelnut Brown with a cult following their Victorian Pale Ale, which uses nothing but Victorian ingredients and creates a particular sense of pride for the family-run, indie brewery. But it's a taplist that rotates often to pour the many, many limited releases that have found the brewery fans in their own backyard and further afield.
A good tap list alone doesn't make a brewpub, however; it needs a food menu to match, and on that point Bad Shepherd delivers. In developing the venue, Dereck and Diti wanted to create a space that matched their own style of entertaining at their home. That is: great beer on tap and American-style barbecue, including brisket, pulled pork and lamb ribs. Just as they make sure their beer is lovingly presented, for Bad Shepherd, the food menu is all about letting the meat shine and serving it in a way that brings people together.
One of the best opportunities to enjoy beer and meat together is through the brewpub's intimate Flights of Fancy nights that take place a few times a month. The evenings see menu items matched with new release beer with head chef Kyle Downward demonstrating how he prepares and cooks his meat while the brew crew chat about the perfectly paired beers.
With clientele going beyond beer lovers searching out new brews to encompass nearby office workers ducking in to grab a sandwich for lunch and families chatting over the hubbub of happy children, Bad Shepherd has created something of a community hub for Cheltenham. And, from the off, the suburb seems to be more than happy to be led into temptation.