this weekend has seen me visit a few venues not usually on my radar. It wouldn't be a day with a letter A in it if I hadn't been to at least one of my regular haunts but it was nice to get out and sample something a bit different.
On Friday I had to have some important documents signed and witnessed, as did Chala, so we traipsed over to the wilds of Woodseats to have Davefromtshop perform this noble task. Obviously being an alcoholic,. sorry, genius, this important legal process also afforded us the opportunity to have a beer or two.
There were three real ales on at Archer Road Beer Stop, Concertina One Eyed Jack, Howard Town Wrens Nest and Cross Bay Zenith. I started with a pint of the Howard Town, which I haven't seen for a long time, and it was sufficiently crisp and bitter to taste to meet my expectations. Chala meanwhile was disappointed not to find any dark beers on draught, despite the tally of such a beer type being on the bar in the shop being about 2 in 30 years, so she opted for a bottle of Beowulf Smokestack Lightning Stout. A decision she admitted was based largely on the label...
The stout was bottled conditioned but didn't turn into a fountain on opening and was as smokey and roasty a stout as you could hope for. After the paperwork was dealt with, I had a quick catch up with Das Beer Man (his name's not Darren, which suggests he's missing a trick....) about London brewers and the new fashion for German Brewers to make American style IPA's and super strength Imperial Stouts. It was then time to replenish and I went for a pint of the admirable Cross Bay Zenith, which was on top form. I didn't take note of the prices but the Archer Road beer Stop has been consistently a good 50p a pint cheaper than most pubs so I expect this is still the case.
We had hoped to head for the Broadfeld next but we wanted to eat and they advised they were fully booked so we headed for the Robin Hood. However, we cleverly worked out that we could buy an inexpensive, or morally dubious, fast food product, and use the money saved on beer instead.
So we took the vile conglomerate's egast on board and afterwards went to cleanse our palates, and souls, in the Ale House on Fraser Road. Slightly contradicting my claim that its always shut, by not being, it was quite busy in the left hand side with people presumably planning on doing the quiz. Having had the questions read to me as a test before now, I considered hat even free entry was a price not worth paying. It was probably likely we wouldn't have made it to double figures. Best not to risk that ignominy.
Chala had a half of Lancaster Black, not a beer I've seen in these parts before, and I had a pint of Dark Star Hophead which was, if I remember correctly (i.e. not) a very reasonable £2.70 a pint. We got chatting to a couple doing the picture quiz and tried to help them out with answers, which am not sure is strictly the plan but no-one seemed to mind, before I went back for a half of Chantry Iron and Steel, which was very agreeable.
We headed back into town after this and Chala had to get back so I walked to Shakespeares for a last couple. I had a Half of the Grantham Dark and a pint of the Arbor "Its brown, dammit " which I had high hopes for - it was described as a traditional brown bitter coloured beer with the addition of high alpha hops. Unfortunately, having bought a pint, I realised that they had also added a slightly old nectarine and some brown fruit. It wasn't off, it wasn't unpleasant, that much, but it wasn't good. I'd have preferred a traditional brown bitter to be honest...
I finished on a pint of Otley O3 which had gone up in my estimations since I'd last had it, and was a great antidote to the fruity weirdness of the Abor.
Today I have been even further South West and attended the Ridgeway Farmers Market. Wee Fatha had invited me on the promise of their advertised real ale, which I admit I found a little surprising since its not mentioned in their online advert, but still, I figured it would make a nice change from lounging around doing nowt.
It was quite busy featuring plenty of stalls with varying degrees of desirable products, including some rather ace sausages and bacon from Moss Valley Meat, some rather tasty jerk chicken from a stall also serving fried dumplings and roast sweet potatoes, not to mention the apostrophe-gate gourmet snack makers at Kevin's Pies. Strangely there was no real ale though. There is a bar in the village hall but it just sells keg Tetley and mass produced lagers, which was a shame, since they could easily have got hold of a pin or mini keg from one of the Derbyshire breweries to pop on the bar.
What we did find though was a stall selling Welbeck Abbey Brewery products, cheaper than at the farm shop they claimed. I grabbed a Henrietta since I don't think I've ever had it, whilst WF and WK both bought a selection of 4 bottles - not bad at £2.50 a go.
We headed to old haunt the Swan next for a pint and were pleasantly surprised to find more than one real ale on offer. For years it was strictly Bass only at something astronomic. Now all 3 Handpumps are in use, 1 for Cider (Gwynt Yr Draig Happy Daze) and Courage Best and Kelham Easy Rider, at £3.20 a pint.
The "Best" was Wee Keefy's choice but am not sure even his delicate tastebuds could have found much flavour in the uber bland Courage, but the Easy Rider was fresh and and in good nick, so, whether because of the contrast or not, it was a very enjoyable pint indeed.
The pub is very old and retains quite a lot of interesting features and even though I'd guess the right hand room is extended, it does still have separate rooms, with one comprising seating in front of the bar. If it turns out the Queens Head up the road (which I've still never been in) does real ale as well, it may be worth a walk around the area sometime. You know, for the exercise. Or something.
All in all this was an enjoyable trip out which demonstrates that you can still get good beer in great pubs even if you leave the Don or Crookes Valley of beer.