yesterday I made a late start of my trip to Derby. I usually aim to be there for dinnertime if am planning some drinking but I was preoccupied, mainly with holiday plans, so didn't leave the house til 15.50. I was quite impressed then to arrive at Derby station at just gone 5PM.
I had left Sheffield amidst thunder and lightning but on the journey down all I saw was sunshine so I studiously hid away my coat in my bag before I strode off for the Station on arrival. Unfortunately, it wasn't open (I know the doors are shut when its open as well, but there was no sign of life) so I walked back round to the Brunswick and caught the bus into town. By now it was monsoon rains all the way. Time to unpack the bag.....
Potfest at the Flowerpot
The weather was foreboding as I crossed the market place with the streets running with water and a biblical cloudburst sheeting down gallons of rain in minutes, but it had stopped when I reached the Flowerpot. Inside it was very busy, but that was what I expected, and I quickly sought out a programme and thought about a drink. I started with a half of Shottle Farm Shottle Cock, 3.6%, and a Black Iris Black Mountain at 5.9%, a single hopped dry hopped black IPA. Overall that's a pint at 4.3% so not as daft or reckless as it sounds. Instead, that description applied to my standing under a parasol between the soaked seats in the beer garden - on the presumption that there would be nowhere to sit inside.
This quickly became a cheerless undertaking and with no sign of a sunny spell I headed inside to scan for seats and to photograph the Black Iris pumpclips. I like the artwork style on them and their effective black and white motifs (although the first time I spotted one it was like where's wally trying to locate the ABV) and they remind me a little of a friend of mine's artwork which is based on books he has read. This may be a shoehorned and unapologetically biased plug but if you like the below pumpclip you may also like what you find at cloudpine illustrations .
Anyhoo, on with the beer, I found myself somewhere to sit with a couple from Derby and chewed my way through the imposing, black, billow cloud topped lake that was Black Iris Great Eastern Transatlantic Porter. This is only 4.6% but had the characteristics of a much stronger beer and my lengthy tope helpfully applied the brakes o my winged horse to insobriety.
Soon I had the table to myself (the above descriptions do not serve as an explanation for this!) and I went on supping my way through a very good list of beers, including :
Truefitt Ayresome Angel
The Northstar was a very unimpressive one dimensional beer, and was notably 5p a half cheaper than the others which sold for £3.00 a pint (with the very strong ones £3.20 which isn't bad) but that was the only let down on the Flowerpot list, and it wasn't off, just poor.
I finished on what turned out to be the two best beers of Potfest for me, Black Iris West Coast IPA (6.2%) and Scarborough brewery Scarborough Stout, which at 4.6% was more than a match for the fruity citrus bitterness of the excellent IPA. I had hoped to bump into one of the Black Iris folks but alas they were yomping about the Peak District, but I made the effort to try some of their beers and was well rewarded. I also tried a massive burger (£3.00, cooked on the barbecue (despite the rain) which was fantastic and filled a hole very nicely.
Next I walked to my next festival, stopping en route in the Old Silk Mill. The beer range was OK, but nothing really caught my eye except the Burton Bridge Damson porter. I remembered that the Damson gave a slightly sour sweet edge to the beer but half way down I realised it was not how it should taste, and was in fact grim, especially the aroma. For reasons unknown I took about a third of my half back and explained that having drunk most of it I didn't require a replacement but that the beer was off. The barman smelt it and pulled a telling face but I didn't hang around to see if the beer was taken off.
Exfest at the Exeter Arms
I arrived at the Exeter Arms, home of Exfest (which sounds like a rather unfortunate gathering of former partners) to find the pub heaving with every handpump in use on the inside bar, and an outside bar serving a range of about 20 on stillage. I had halves of the fabulously rich Dancing Duck Dark Drake, and an excellent new offering from Blue Monkey - Rhesus to be cheerful (groan) but the pun belied the beers excellent taste.
Whilst outside I noticed the new addition to the Exeter, that being the 19th century dwelling adjoining the pub which has been opened out to provide extra seating, and is only open at weekends. The Cottage is apparently an original size early 19th century cottage that stood on Exeter Place. Its minus artefacts which makes sense since its pub seating, and also there appears to be no access to the upstairs but its a unique spot to enjoy a drink.
I tried 3 more beers in here from 3rd pint measures (3 for £3.00) which I had carefully selected from a list and intended to photograph the board advertising them so as not to forget the beers names. Well, the best laid plans and all that, I loved the somebody's California bitter, and the dark one, and the really light one but having forgotten to take said pic am afraid that's literally all I know!
Off back to the Station next to find out the time of the last train. Surprisingly, and frustratingly, its 22.38, which, arriving to check at 22.08 gave me only 30 minutes for a last pint. I rushed round to try out the recently reopened Crown and Cushion on Midland Road, after reading an advert in Derby Drinker, to find friendly staff and two Marstons beers including their 5 hop which I had a ridiculously swift half of, before allocating 15 minutes to race down a delicious pint of Bass from the jug in the excellent Station, much to Dave's dissatisfaction I am sure, but I didn't want to miss my train.
All in all I had just over 5 and a half hours in Derby and managed to visit 5 pubs and two beer festivals. Not a bad evenings work if you ask me!