yesterday it was my 4th annual trip out to the Three Valleys beer festival. Here are the details of what I got up to - bearing in mind that ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING WAS NORMAL.
I met Miss M in town and we got the train tickets (cheaper if you come back together) and popped into the Sheffield Tap for a quick pint. Miss M had a rather optimistic half of Timmermans Kriek whilst I had a pint of Tapped brew co Lupolo Galician Pale Ale, which was lovely. In the end though, it was I who was dispatching the last of my drink before we left. Miss M's cherryade had disappeared long before.
We arrived at the station in time to get the bus. We were intending to go to the Coach and Horses but instead since the bus takes a rather odd route past the Green Dragon we got off there instead. This was my first trip to the Green Dragon and to be honest I was rather impressed. Wye Valley HPA, Black Sheep Gold, and three Peak Ales beers on, from which I had a pint of Chatsworth Gold and Miss M a bottle of Rose cider. We grabbed a table in the bright sunshine and undertook a very lengthy debate about what food we would eat and where.
Next stop was the Three Tuns, where I started with a pint of the Liverpool Organic Kitty Wilkinson vanilla chocolate stout, and Miss M a half of the Glebe Farm elderflower cider. Once again we parked ourselves outside and started to feel very hungry faced with the choice of fresh pizza from the wood oven, and hot roast pork sarnies. In the end we both caved in and had the sarnies, but this wasn't our only food of a rather long day of drinking.
Service at the bar was as fast as it could be based on there being four staff and half of the beers and all of the ciders in the cellar. With the bus service running regularly (for the first time ever) the bar was frequently flooded with hoards of punters all at once - like a slightly less mental version of the rail ale trail. Next up was a half of Glebe Farm Perry for Miss M and a pint of Spire Amarillo, as personally recommended by Dave the brewer, for me. It wasn't quite as zesty and pale as I was hoping but it was still a refreshing drink.
We bumped into Tim and erm, you know the other guy (sorry other guy. If you had made the effort to be called Dave, like what everyone else is, this ,may have looked better...but you may well have been called Rich) and we were catching up with them for a bit before more beer was called for. This time I secured us a soda water for Miss M (how very sensible of her!) and a half a naked brewing Maiden Over for me (how much less sensible, at 6.0%). There was also pizza ordered as we weighed up the bus options and planned where to go next.
Our final drinks in here, accompanying a rather terrific pizza, were a pint and half of Growler Brewery Lemonhead, a refreshing strangely darkish bee that did the trick nicely, before we crossed the road and got onto the bus to travel at about 2mph up the hill towards the Miners! There was loud applause when ever we reached a flat bit. It was quite worrying at times....
Having jumped off at the Miners we walked round the corner to the Hearty Oak where there was more food available, but we'd had our fill for now, so we stuck to beer. Miss M was back on water and I was on a half of Thornbridge Jaipur from a slightly disappointing selection (it turned out there was at least one Toolmakers beer on which you couldn't see on the pumps). We grabbed a table in the sun and waited to catch up with Patrick, the lovely Dave and their friend Joan. It turned out, based on their choice of drinks, that in naturally assuming there as no merit in drinking any Wentworth beers I had denied myself a rather tasty chilli chocolate stout. Luckily a lady nearby found it too much and donated her half to us to share.
By this time it was clear that I wasn't getting to the Dronfield Arms again, which is a shame, because it looked like having one of the best beer ranges available. But we wanted to head to Barlow, via the Horns. In the end, the Dronny Arms wasn't the only pub we didn't get to...
The Horns was rammed once again, as was the Rutland which we decided to give a miss, if nothing else to let the rather raucous crowd outside die down. From the back bar at the Horns I had a pint of Acorn UK Cascade, a lovely fruity hoppy beer that went down perfectly, whilst Miss M was on zoider of some kind (alas I have contrived to forget which). Sat outside, alas now out of the sun, we also got a sausage sandwich - £2.50 - from the Moss Valley Meats stall at the side of he pub. Absolutely spot on.
It was at this time that rumour spread by mobile round the gathered throng that the buses at this end of the route had been cancelled. There were easily a hundred people at the Rutland, probably the same at the Horns, and Barlow Brewery gets pretty damn full as well. Although the only confirmation came from a lass at the pub as we sat in the sunshine over the road waiting for the bus to Barlow, it soon became obvious that this was true. An aggressive simpleton had punched one of the route B bus drivers in the face, and after sending a bus to Barlow to pick up at least some people they cancelled the service in protest.
Which is pretty ironic because this year the bus service was conspicuous by its efficiency! Last year I waited so long at the Horns for a bus the service it may as well have been cancelled. This year it ran like clockwork, until some knuckle dragging moron decided to take action in the only way his shrivelled brain could understand. How very limbic* of you Mr Simpleton.
So, we weren't going to Barlow or the Castle, that was clear, and having heard (and this is not provably factual) that the perpetrator of the spasm of violence was bragging about their exploits in the Rutland, we decided to knock that one off our list, and walked down Carr Lane into Dronfield. After a pleasantly sunny if slightly long evening walk we were at the Coach and Horses. (we were told at the Miners that the other service was cancelled as well. By this time it was impossible to separate fact from fiction, since we did see other buses running from the Coach but none on our walk back to Dronfield).
Anyhoo, I digress. At the CnH we bumped into Vinnie, Mark, and Dan from the world of music, as well as John M who I hadn't seen since the Steel City fest (and hello to T_I_B who we spotted at the Horns) and set about securing ourselves a table and some boohar.
I had a pint of the rather fantastic Welbeck Abbey Brewery Henrietta, and Miss M some more apple based refreshment. We sat chatting with Vinne et al until they had to rush off to the Closed Shop, before securing further drinks in the shape of a pint of Jaipur (not watery this time) and under duress/via gentle persuasion from Adam behind the bar, a half of the Belgian Blonde from Thornbridge. Having declared it was rubbish, I was beaten into submission by it being rather pleasant after all actually. Silly I.
Our final act was to catch the bus to the station and the train back home, via a lot of people becoming irate and indignant at the idea that the guard had unreasonably expected them to pay the fare from Dore (even though they got on in Dronfield, the Monster!) an outlook which, as a paying customer, I had absolutely no sympathy with. Having waved Miss M off at the Station it was virtually obligatory to visit the Sheffield Tap. So I did. And it all got a bit weird...
I got a half of the 7.0% Oakham Alpha and a fantastic half or pint (it was getting tiring, but I think it was a pint) of the Mallinsons Oatmeal Stout. This was every bit as tremendous as I'd hoped. After all, if you are consistently excellent at making pale hoppy beers there's a good chance you could turn your hand to an excellent dark offering Mallisnons can.
Sat in the dining room talking to two guys called Keith and Martin I suddenly realised I couldn't find my phone. A rigorous if cack handed search of my bag and clothing was repeated until I realised to my horror that it was no longer with me. After another search, and having spotted Blue Bee Rich, I went and asked him to ring it - and my Brother answered. So he had my phone. But it took another call for my brain to comprehend that he was also in the Sheffield Tap!
It gets stranger as well. Apparently, a lady in the Sheffield Tap found the phone in her SHOE. I shit you not! She handed it into the barman who called the last number I'd done, which was Wee Keefy, who then drove down to the Tap for a pint and to collect it, all the time during which I was sat in the other room drinking! So I got reunited with my phone, and caught up with my Brother, and Carlos, who he brought with him for a quick one.
So, the Three Valleys Beer festival 2013.
Despite the rather unfortunate cancellation of the buses the Three Valleys once again did not disappoint. Pub of the festival was a toss up between the Green Dragon and the Three Tuns, beer of the festival was a dead heat between Welbeck Henrietta, Acorn UK Cascade and the Liverpool Organic Porter.
Well done to the organisers for putting on anther great event, enjoyed responsibly by 99.9% of attendees, and a special mention to the four barmaids at the Tuns, tirelessly running between bar and cellar to serve a tide of thirsty punters.
Here's to doing it all again next year!
*The limbic brain is the primitive "ug" part of the brain which reacts rather than analyses. To be honest, reading this blog post on the subject I suspect I may have given the assailant too complimentary an assessment. And based on stories I've heard today, it was potentially worse than I thought. I hope any readers who went, got back OK from Barlow and indeed elsewhere. Yan