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Secret Drinker reviews the Carpenters Arms in Boston





A person can live or die by their decisions at the jukebox.

Stick a couple of bangers on, get the place going and suddenly you’re a starman. But get it wrong and you’re under pressure.

We’ve all witnessed people jeered by whole pubs for blasting out a dud, but a place I used to drink regularly took things to a whole new level when one local earned himself the nickname Take Tw*t for playing some boyband tosh.

The Carpenters Arms in Boston
The Carpenters Arms in Boston

As you can imagine, it went down about as well as a round of lime sodas.

The poor bloke argued it was his girlfriend’s request but the moniker still stuck around for a couple of months.

And it seems there’s even less mercy in the Carpenters Arms, a hidden gem of a back alley pub that prides itself on its brilliant rock soundtrack.

Saw above the bar are a nod to the Carpenters Arms' name... I hope
Saw above the bar are a nod to the Carpenters Arms' name... I hope

“You put any crap on and I’m switching it off,” the landlady shouted without even looking up from pouring a pint as one regular headed to the jukebox.

But it was clear the chap knew the drill - or clocked the sign saying ‘don’t put no sh*t on, staff will reject it’ - as his tunes were allowed to play out.

“You put any Cliff Richard on yet?” asked a guy propping up the bar as his mate took his turn to chuck a few coins into the machine.

A pint of Yella Belly Gold by Batemans
A pint of Yella Belly Gold by Batemans

“Not a chance. I’d have to kill myself before you did,” came his reply.

And in those moments when there was nothing but dead air, service would stop as the landlady treated us to some of her choices; Bob Seger’s Hollywood Nights, The Chain by Fleetwood Mac and All Night Long by Rainbow to name a few good ‘uns.

I became reacquainted with the Carps in December when - for reasons beyond me - I was told I’d be spending a Saturday afternoon doing some Christmas shopping in Boston.

A big screen tells you which upcoming bands to look out for
A big screen tells you which upcoming bands to look out for

Knowing I’d have more chance of finding Mick Jagger in a care home than getting the things I needed, I skulked off to the pub and bought all the gifts I needed from apps on my phone as I listened to people with similar musical tastes rib one another about not straying from the set list. A much more pleasurable afternoon.

Read more Secret Drinker reviews here.

I say reacquainted as I used to go to the place a bit around the turn of the millennium, dragged into Boston to visit the Carps and now-closed Axe and Cleaver - in its pomp a peerless live music venue - by a mate desperate for a lift so he could show off his weird Noel Gallagher haircut and latest Ben Sherman to likeminded souls.

It was great to see the place had lost none of its charm; the stain glass windows, warm inviting bar area, back room with its pool table and the private-enough elevated seating area in between were just as I remembered.

The pool room at the Carps
The pool room at the Carps

The fittings were pretty much the same too, although a big screen advertising upcoming live music, a guitar hanging from the wall and some saws above the bar (presumably a nod to the pub’s name and not an indication of some even more insane version of that five finger fillet game in Aliens) were either new or things I’d forgotten in the 20-odd years since I last visited.

And while the Carps brought back plenty of fuzzy nostalgia, it also has a welcoming vibe for the first timer or lapsed drinker as conversations were held as a forum rather than amongst groups.

Even this Secret Drinker was invited to offer his opinions on topics as wide ranging as other decent local boozers and the most offensive swear word.

Communal tables in the back room
Communal tables in the back room

The Carps had its own tragedy at the start of the year when bar manager Adi Whiting was sadly killed.

For that reason I’ve held back in writing this review, feeling that the timing just wasn’t right. But have been back a couple of times and it’s been great to see the regulars speak openly and fondly about his impact on the place on each of those occasions.

The music's always good at the Carps
The music's always good at the Carps

And I can confirm it’s still looks pretty much the same, give or take the tinsel in my photos.

The music’s loud, the language industrial and the laughs from the gut. The Carps is still a proper good rock pub.

Gus the gorilla? I presume this Banksy-esque motif on the gents' door means to say 'guys' as it reads 'dolls' on the ladies
Gus the gorilla? I presume this Banksy-esque motif on the gents' door means to say 'guys' as it reads 'dolls' on the ladies

THE CARPENTERS ARMS, WITHAM STREET, BOSTON, PE21 6PU

DECOR: A good traditional town pub with a few rock artefacts for good measure. 3/5

DRINK: I’ve a few good ones in the Carps but I did enjoy the Batemans Yella Belly Gold (ABV 3.9%). 3/5

PRICE: At £3.90 I thought this was decent. 3/5

ATMOSPHERE: The place is very welcoming and the music good enough to get you going. I can only imagine what it’s like when there’s a band on. 4/5

STAFF: The landlady was no nonsense and to the point, but has a charming way with anyone who comes through the door, be it the regulars, the guy delivering from the brewery or a bloke who brings his dog in to watch him play pool. 4/5

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Do you agree with the Secret Drinker or have any suggestions where he should go next? Where is your favourite beer garden? Email secretdrinker@lincsonline.co.uk or comment below.



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