First there was one man with his pint in front of him, then another before the two became a group of six roistering, bantering, wise-cracking elderly pub friends who presumably meet like this now and again — every day, once a week, who knows, I’m not moving to Hereford to find out. But it was fun sitting with my glass of HPA at Barrels, in the bar where the counter rests on seven varnished wooden barrels. Big buggers they are, the barrels that is, cider or ale I’m not sure. I would say an 18 or maybe a 36 or maybe it’s cider. Someone will know. The friendly barman drops some ice cubs on the floor. ‘Sack the juggler’ shouts the man who was there first, taking a deep draught of his Wye Valley Bitter. Then the tales come forward, the stories (for what is a pub but a place where stories are told). The staccato bursts from the older drinkers, as opposed to the more leisurely drawl of the two younger guys who sit in another space at the back of the bar. ‘He had put his trousers on inside out and was trying to put his hands in his pocket,’ laughed another man, who a moment ago had been ridiculing someone else’s choice of horse for the day’s races. They all laughed, even I smirked and lifted my pint of HPA (light dusting of lemony sugar on the nose; on the palate appetising with a dry grapefruit/lemon sweetness, a crisp cracker-like mouth-watering balance and a grainy dry finish) to hide the fact that I was listening, but then I thought it didn’t matter as I’m sure that they knew I was listening. The pub is the repository of tales and a place where drinkers act out their lives, upon these wooden floorboards the thespians of the glass do tread. And the Barrels? Old hotel opened up with the bar as a hub around which all the activities act. I leave the stage after Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout (voluptuous and vinous, raisins, currants, slightly peaty, I could still taste it on the train back, perhaps the fact that Wye Valley founder Peter Amor worked for Guinness leaves a clue here), and the men are still talking and laughing and they bid me goodbye. I like this place.