as with other weekend sojourns of late I didn't plan this particularly, nor indeed did I allow myself a whole day to do it, I just wanted to go somewhere new and enjoy some great beer. What with their proximity and easy access on a single bus route, Dronfield and Chesterfield seemed a good choice, especially since I was yet to sample the delights of the White Swan in Chesterfield. Here's what happened when I did.
I set off from town on the 15.30 number 43 to Dronfield, and after some initial confusion ended up paying for a return ticket. This, after I had explained I was going to Chesterfield and then making my way back via different stops. I still don't know even now if I bought the right ticket but I didn't have a problem being allowed to catch the bus so that all worked out fine.
First stop was a new pub to me, the Victoria in Dronfield. It was lovely and warm, but there was restricted sunny space n the beer garden. That said, I didn't want to be indoors on a day like this, so bought my pint of Framers Blonde (£2.95) from a choice of that and Banks and Hobgoblin and sat in the shade.
The Victoria is an L shaped pub with an L shaped bar and a telly in the right hand corner as you come in (keeping the attention of the punters as the football was on). There's also a long room on the left with a settee at the end, and outside is a smoking shelter and some tables. The Bradfield was a decent pint, a little cloudy but not to its detriment, and a nice start to my days drinking.
Back on the bus after waiting in the hot sunshine I arrived in Chesterfield and found - warm cloud. All my concerns about awaiting my seat in the sun were allayed when I realised it was just dull, and the warmth was receding. Good job I came in shorts then...
First stop here was Coco bar on Station Approach. Its a little easier to see the seats for drinkers in daylight (although I would have felt awkward taking up a settee for 5 by myself), and I opted to sit at the bar and have a pint of Dancing Duck Ay Up.
This was a pleasant if unremarkable slightly sweet beer with some bitterness, from a choice of that and Thornbridge Lord Marples and Colorado Red. I also tried a half of the latter, to give it another go, and it was not much different to how I remembered it - too much of something not immediately obvious left a thick chewy slightly sweet beer that despite some admirable hoppiness was too poorly balanced to excite. It was also a little cloudy, which isn't the beers fault, or at least I assume not!
Off next to my intended destination the White Swan. Large bright and airy inside with a decent White Swan mosaic in the doorway, the important feature is the bar, which sits at the end of a long room with approximately 429 handpumps on it. Its immense. From the dazzling array on offer I decided to narrow it down to a dark beer so had the choice of Raw Anubis Porter, which I rate, and Buxton Black Nights, which I haven't had before. An offered taster confirmed that this was a seriously good beer, so I had a pint. The barstaff were friendly and helpful on all my trips to the bar, and given the diverse range of customers (lets just say many probably hadn't drunk real ale before) this is a great virtue for a pub to have.
I wandered outside initially but that was packed so picked a table facing the door on the raised seating area on your right as you come in. It soon became obvious I needed something to read whilst I supped, so sought out an Innspire. None to be found alas, and in an unfortunate twist, only fascist tory rags in the papers line, so I settled for a bottled beer list. This proved to be a good choice.
The first thing I noticed was Lion Stout from Sri Lanka. I haven't had it for years and had wondered if they were still brewing, so I ordered a bottle of that. Here's the next bonus - I paid on card (no lower limit) and was also able to get cash back, thus saving me a walk to the cashpoint, and encouraging me to spend more money in the pub. Are you listening pub owners? This is a radical idea!
Recently my fave pub the Rutland appeared to have set their lower limit for card purchases at £10.00. *
If I wanted a pint and a half and some crisps I could usually clear the old £5.00 limit but that's just ridiculous. Meanwhile I got a £4.00 bottled beer on my card in the White Swan and used the cash back to order a delicious meal. Everyone wins.
The menu showed there were further albeit even more expensive beers on offer from the U.S, U.K, Germany France and elsewhere (but only 2 saison? Come on!) but I noted the strength of the Lion and decided to opt fore half of water instead of more bottled stuff, before I got a half of Raw NYC Pale which was a really interesting hoppy flavour and went down really well. I could easily have tempted myself with one of the many other ales on offer but was being sensible. Overall, a very good first impression of an excellent pub.
Off next for the bus and I was soon at my second Dronfield stop the Three Tuns. Its seems the more times I visit the more I like this place. It was rammed when I got in with another bewildering array of delights to tempt. I had J W King Brighton Blonde and a Spire Deepdale Pale for under £3.00 and sat down with a copy of Private Eye I found to read. The Kings was a bit light and lacked any discernible flavours but the Deepdale was excellent. I only had half an hour here though as I needed to catch the next 43.
|J W King - an ale rarity oop ere|
My penultimate stop was to have been the Coach and Horses. Getting off the bus on Sheffield Road I asked the driver if there was another bus (otherwise I'd have got back on, obviously) and he said yes, but it was another hour - and then waited, whilst I assured him I would find something to occupy me. Perhaps his pause was recognition of my next discovery.
I walked round the corner to find the Coach and Horses shut, at 21.30 on a Saturday. I stood, stared, muttered some strong and largely Anglo Saxon words, and walked back up towards the Victoria, livid. I could have wandered in the dark to see if their was an apologetic notice on the door but I was too annoyed at the 50% failure rate of the C&H to be open when I visit. Curiously for a Thornbridge associated pub (God, don't get me started on trying to understand the link, who knows) it doesn't have a website and its Facebook page is next to useless for info. So I couldn't even find out the opening hours in advance without calling them. Except, why would you expect to call a pub to see if they were open at 21.30 on a Saturday night? Who do they think they are, the Ale House Fraser Road?(now holding a world record for never being open).
Anyhoo I used my spare time to pop in Sainsburys for supplied then settled down in the Victoria, now with the landlord behind the bar, for another pint of Farmers Blonde and the hub-ub of conversation. The beer range may not be stellar but the atmosphere is traditional and friendly, and the pub wins a great slab of points for bothering to open.
I then waited for the 43 (it was 20 minutes late, which is palpably ridiculous) but it did get me to the Rutland for 2 minutes to 23.00 so I could pop in and find myself with just enough money for a pint of the Blue Bee Light Blue. Alas this wasn't really up to its usual standard, maybe it was getting a little low, but it was still a decent pint to finish and again the pub wins points for being open - which it then loses for its new minimum card payment limit. Cest la via...
So, a good afternoon and evening out in Derbyshire with the excellent White Swan taking the plaudits, closely followed by the Three Tuns and Victoria.
*Doh! A misunderstanding. Its a fiver. So yer pint, half and crisps should see you safe. WB