Wednesday, 30 October 2013

First, less, and (mostly) always

Now then

     over the last week there has been a definite beer festival flavour. That's not going to change as tomorrow Shakespeares are having their beer festival, which promises to be excellent as usual - including a special from Arbor ( a collaboration black saison) and specials from Blue Bee. I mean, really, why would you want to be at home answering the doors to felt-tip covered urchins when you could be out boozing* at the best pub in Sheffield?

However, my post wasn't supposed to be just about that, it was mainly about a trio of visits to pubs...

Saturday was a family birthday and we were whisked off to Matlock. As it was a family affair I wasn't off round Moca and the Fishpond and the Thorn Tree et al, instead I was studiously following orders. In doing which, our venue for the meal turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Barringtons at Darley Dale is a hotel and restaurateur with a bar. Granted plenty of pubs now fit that description but this place markets itself as a restaurant. thereby managing drinkers expectations. Approaching from Darley Dale station you can take a pleasant walk through Whitworth park, then round to the front of the building which is on the main road near where the Two Dales road joins the A6. Inside is a room on the left purely for diners, and a room on the right that whilst housing plenty of tables, also boasts a bar with three real ales.

Prices are about normal for Matlock at £3.10 a pint and they had Doom Bar, Pedigree and Peak Ales Swift Nick on when we visited. It was a no brainer as to what I would have of course, but I wouldn't have said no to a Pedigree if the LocAle hadn't been on. There appears to be a changing guest and I suspect the Doom and Pedi are permanent. The food was also reasonably priced and very good. Although its not strictly a pub, it reckon would be worth a stop off if you were wanting real ale and a meal.

Friday lunch saw me in the Riverside on Mowbray Street for the first time in ages. Initially we were a bit surprised arriving en masse about 10 past midday to find only three beers on - Krakken, Riverside Pale and Golden Salamander - but more came on as we were there, attending a mass leaving do. I had a pint of the Golden Salamander. It was a fairly average beer with few distinguishing flavours apart from a bitter finish. Luckily whilst we sat chatting and eating the other beers that arrived included the Great Heck Five, a former Sheffield beer festival award winner with plenty of lovely hops that went down alarmingly well.  Both beers were around the £3.10 mark but the Heck was far and away the better of the two.

Finally, a round up of the attractions at the triumvirate of tremendous pubs which comprises the Tap, the Rutland and Shakespeares. Saturday night saw me and Miss N at the Rutland Arms. She opted for a pint of the Gorlovka, marginally less expensive there than at the Tap, and I two pints of the excellent Otley Oxymoron Black IPA. This was a good black IPA because it remembered it could show off the finer points of the dark malts used - if that means they should have put in more hops I could have my arm twisted but it certainly tasted well rounded and was very enjoyable.

Meanwhile the Sheffield Tap had a decent choice as seems normal these days - alas the star of the show had run out so I had a half of the Bristol beer factory Bitter Kiwi - the small measure supporting my theory that despite thinking I should, I wouldn't really rate it - and a pint of the Wild Raven. Miss N followed suit with the Raven as well. As ever this was on fine form and provided a very enjoyable end to a great night out.

Shakespeares also had a few beers on as you'd expect. I stuck mainly to pints of the Arbor Motueka which was on great form, whereas Miss N started on the latest dark Dr Morton's offering from Abbeydale. I finished on that, and in between times tried a slightly perfumed Revolutions Brew Super Creeps, a pleasing if slightly odd IPA at 4.9%. All sensibly priced under or just at £3.00, and still a decent range available just a couple of days before the beer festival (link to the FB page here with the beer list posted 25 October).

Detail of that to come in the next few days.


Wee Beefy

*for boozing, read "sampling different ales responsibly" If yer like..... 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

A rather good beer festival


       I've been going to the Sheffield or Steel City beer and cider festival since 1994. I've been to the Nelson Mandela building, the Philadelphia WMC (I think!), a tent near a graveyard, Darnall Social Club and Ponds Forge. This year I went to the first three sessions it was so good. But why was it good?

I started on Wednesday because I now know that Wednesday is a public not trade only session. Wednesday is also a quiet session, and no-one seems to know you can go so there was loads of seating to choose from. The absence of turgid covers of "rog" classics also made Wednesday an excellent day to turn up and chat. It was already looking like this was going to be a good fest.

Further evidence came when I tried some of the best beers i've had in a while on the first night - after which it seemed daft not to go back and have then again. How the impeccable North Riding and Steel City CC was still available Friday night I'll never know - it was one of the beers of the festival.

The Tynebank Rauchbier was another stand out ale - the first time I've tried a cask Rauchbier and apart from being a little sweeter than a Bamberg version this was a very accomplished brew. Great Heck didn't disappoint as always, especially with their Black Jesus black IPA and their Jigsaw IPA. Binghams and Bad Seed both supplied impeccable stouts, Ashover an award winning Citra, On The edge a truly original Crystal Black, Abbeydale their redoubtable Black Mass, Magic Rock impeccable Dark Arts and Sinpleton at 2.6%, and I was pleased to get to try some of the Stod Fold Blonde. Stod Fold is a new brewery based on a farm hundreds of miles from surfaced roads or electricity in deepest West Yorkshire....

There is a price advantage to going Wednesday - it was, I think, £2.50. And Thursday wasn't too expensive if you got in early - so my flexi time was used to do just that. Even Friday was affordable arriving when I did before 5. Although, by this time it was obvious I was at the edge of my tolerance of luvverly beer - it was a very very slow start indeed!

It was also good, even though I didn't make it Saturday, to see  a reduced price for the later sessions - making sure this happens by announcing at the beginning is much more honest and fair. And, I hear the Ponds Forge cafe was doing excellent food - enough people told me that it was good value for me to consider including it in my praise. I just wish I'd thought to go on the Wednesday....

There were gripes - the pasty stall sold pasties with almost no filling  at way over the odds, one low gravity beer was expensive (and a couple of the stronger ones), plus the Saturday day session seemed a little more expensive than normal. Yet none of those issues had any impact on my enjoyment, nor stopped me racking up 20 hours over three nights "assisting" with the supping of much ale. Your'e welcome.

Oh and two session were a bit warm....

The interesting feature here though is that the bits that were good were sufficiently excellent to mean the gripes didn't make any odds. I did hear someone complain that because Dave Unpro had done the beer list (I'm not sure that's true - Unpro?) there were only really hoppy IPAs and Black IPAs but personally I thought a smattering of more sessionable trad bitters and hopless southern ales ensured there was a good balance. It just so happens the hoppier ones were amongst the best on offer at the festival.

So, overall, I say congratulations to all involved for a rather good beer festival.

Wee Beefy

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Cash Machshame?

         Sunday dawned bright and developed sunny so myself, Wee Keefy and Miss N embarked on a yomp in the country, ending at a public house. Tonight, Monday evening dawned dark and wet so myself and Miss N embarked on a yomp to the pub. Two very different pubs were encountered. Two very different outcomes prevailed.

Sunday saw us park up near Surprise View on the way to Hathersage to hike up through the woods and up to the top of the rocks overlooking Hathersage, Ringinglow, Burbage and Fox House. A scrabble and a cross country clamber later, with daunting grey skies over Padley Gorge, we headed out on to the road and then back through the woods to the car. We then decided to drive to the Millstone in Hathersage.

This was my first visit and I was pleased to see local real ales on the bar. I figured, being a food venue, I could pay on my card. I could perhaps have scraped together the pennies to buy Wee Keefy a pint and myself and Miss N a half each but that wasn't ideal, and besides, WK was driving, so would only be supping one. As it was I was informed on asking they did accept cards and our round included a pint of Deception for me, a pint of Batemans Autumn Red (or Haze!) for Miss n and a pint of the Yorkshire brewed Millstone bitter for WK. It came to £9.50, which is commensurate with the average £.3.15 a pint cost. It was rather nice, and we sat outside to sup the beer.

Guzzler I then went back for two more pints intending to pay with cash. Having got there, I decided it was probably better to pay by card. This time the bar staff stated that purchases under $10.00 attracted a surcharge of 50p. So I looked bewildered, as any rational person would, and paid with almost all of my change. So why the £10.00 minimum?

Having worked in an off license I know the sort of prices you could expect to pay the card machine companies. About 22p for credit cards and about 10-15 for debit, albeit in 2008. Any retailer already  familiar with the benefit of allowing card payments would factor this into their prices but set a limit around £5.00. This isn't taking the piss, and is  a legitimate expectation. I asked whether at £9.50, having not had the surcharge communicated, my first bill would have been subject to it and was informed that bill totals near £10.00 would have the fee waived. When I asked how I would know this, I was told there was a sign round what looked like the other side of the bar. There is no way, having just had an eye operation, I would have been able to see this. So why create this annoyance and potential deceit by making the rule ambiguous?

Tonight meanwhile, I arrived at Shakespeares and had a pint of Pixie Spring Prince of Bombay IPA at 5.5% which was only £3.00 a pint, plus a pint of the Salamander Spectre Porter for Miss N, who also tried the latest Dr Morton's special.. I also had a couple of pints of the Pixie Spring plus myself and Miss N shared a very inexpensive bottle of Nogne O Imperial Brown at £5.0 a bottle, plus halves of the Lowenbrau  (or!) Paulaner Oktoberfest.. Throughout I paid by card, except where I got money back, allowing me to pay with real cash thereafter. The limit was £5.00 which it is almost everywhere on Earth, and I and the pub derived benefit form the cash withdrawn.

There are many pubs I go to which don't allow you to pay by card and that's fine. As a connoisseur of old and unsoilt pubs the existence of such venues is a great relief to me. However, if  a pub does allow such payments that is also fine,  not least because it furnishes the desirous spontaneity of a surprise pint after work, and encourages punters to buy more ale. The details of that arrangement have to be conveyed, and make sense, however.

I;m not suggesting that all pubs should allow card payments, but if your establishment does,. I'd suggest you make the rules clear, advise of them, and make them logical. Otherwise, you leave yourself open to looking a bit pernickety and like you haven't thought the process through properly....

Wee Beefy

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Bolehills, boozers and bourbon aged bliss

Now then,

         after a week of crap rain and cold, the appearance of some rare sunshine warranted a trip to Crookes for a wander on the bolehills. Somehow, by pure chance, after a 1 hour 10 minute journey (why would you need a car when you could pay to travel at walking speed on retarded public transport?!) we managed to find a half hour window of glorious chilly sunshine to wander round Crookes, and admire the view over the valleys. Luckily, all this walking made us a trifle droughty. But what to do?

Down Newent Lane we took the Jennel onto Cobden View Road and popped in the Cobden View. Along with the regular beers the guest was Sheffield Brewing Co Crucible Best so I went for a pint of that, whilst Miss M, partially in protest at my suggestion of how bad it was, opted for a pint of Hobgoblin. We sat outside in the smoking shelter - it was warm enough to not sit under cover but everything was drenched - and set about having some very much needed alcohol after our Methodist style Saturday....

Soon the rain started to pour so we headed on down the hill to the Closed Shop. Paultous was manning the bar and there were a handful of customers, some of whom were asking about our choice of beer - the Lincoln Green Quarterstaff Stout. This was a robust and satisfying stout with not too much bitterness that was reassuringly black - no silly reddish or brown hues to this, just black, with a muddy white head. We had a couple of these, whilst emptying the pub of customers entirely (sorry Mr Stephens),  before moving onto the Hallamshire House.

Here we continued the dark beer theme with pints of Thornbridge Pollards Stout, beautifully balanced and well kept as usual, this was just what we needed to protect us from the cold as awe sat in the inside outside downstairs room with a band of hardy smokers.

Our final port of call was the York in Broomhill. Miss N hadn't been in for a decade or so and was pleased with the new look - although it would have been nice to have spent enough money (i.e. bought food) to have been allowed to sit in the left hand side of the pub...

As it was we repaired to the right hand room and supped a couple of pints. Miss N initially opted for the Slaters Autumn Red but this was a disappointingly flat malty concoction that didn't really inspire so as I had done, we both had pints of Bradfield Pale ale next. This was on good form and was exactly what we needed to finish off a night of dark ales in Crookesmoor.

Tuesday saw me at Shakespeares celebrating with Christingpher on his new job. We started on pints of the excellent Otley 04 Boss red ale, after which he had a half - his only other drink since he was on his bike - whilst I had a pint. We were joined by Miss N next, who also enjoyed the Otley - its a frustration of Otley that their beers always promise so much but only half of the time deliver. This occasion was one where they did, and it was a cracking beer.

However, as the night wore on we got hungry and opted to order curry from the West Bar Tandoori over the road - so a slightly more heavyweight ale was required. This was Raw's 5.9% IPA - alas no-one was clever enough to think to make a note of the actual name of this beer - which is a problem, since they brew at least four 5.9% IPA's! Whatever it was, it was very very easy to drink and tremendously hoppy. Raw done good, as per almost always.

Finally in this round up, Thursday saw me in the Sheffield Tap with Mr Devden and Miss N supping, initially,. a pint of Acorn Opal. There had apparently been a meet the brewer type event on the other night and there were Acorn a plenty to sample. To my delight, the time I spent delayed standing behind some beer twats with no bar etiquette allowed me to discover that the bourbon aged Gorlovka Imperial Stout was on. Its fairly bloody obvious what we had next!

The bourbon aged version was almost the stuff of legend. Time and again I saw it mentioned on Faceache and Twatter but I was never able to get to try it. Interestingly, Gorlovka has never stopped being an excellent ale but for one reason or another I don't seem to have had it much this year. Now I was having the most talked about version of the beer, which at £3.80 a pint, although steep, was the same price as ordinary Gorlovka. I didn't see many people turn down the aged version I have to say...

Since I was in hospital having my eyes pulled out with a barbed wire spoon on Friday this was a fitting end to a week of great beers - and although the aged Gorlovka has now gone, Acorn inform me that there is an aged version of Old Moor Porter on the way as well. If I get to find out where it's on sale I'll put the details on here.


Wee Beefy

Blue Feather Brewery launch Iintergalactic brew


         as mentioned in my previous post, I was off to a beer launch on Wednesday.  Straight from work, accompanies by Mr P, we headed for the Closed Shop on Commonside to relish the first tastes of an intergalactic beer brewed by "stellar" brewers. And other dire puns.

Before plunging into the collaborative kaleidoscope of hops we started on pints of the Welbeck Harley. It's perhaps testament to the quality of the Intergalactic that whilst I am certain that I enjoyed it, as did Mr P, I can't recall much else about this pale beer. I think session beer would be the fairest description. We were, however, there for the star of the show (etc)...

The Intergalactic is a gloriously hoppy beer brewed by Blue Bee Brewery and Welbeck Abbey Brewery - hence the name Blue Feather, Welbeck brewing Red Feather, and erm, Blue Bee, well, having Blue in their name.  Yet why no Bluebeck?  The beer is very well balanced, with lots of citrus and bittering hops but there is also that distinctive Welbeck base - the beer was Brewed at Welbeck's  premises, so maybe they used their particular strain of yeast (alas I forgot to ask).

The hops used are all space themed - Galaxy, Pilot, Stellar (a?) and Challenger. A beer made entirely of pun ingredients is a winner as far as I'm concerned - maybe they used maris otter malt, since it sounds a tiny bit like Mars? Either way, and in spite of any space theme, the blend works really well, and brewers James from Welbeck and Jon from Blue Bee can be proud of their creation. The return leg will see James and Jon creating something  a little bit different at Blue Bee in the coming months.

As the beer started flowing we were joined by Wee Keefy and Jambon and Mr Stephens, and the lovely Dave was behind the bar, amongst other things helpfully reading the dry monotonous passages from a student's text book on aviation engineering, in an attempt to make it seem interesting. As always, culture and education was clearly at the forefront of the attractions on offer at the Closed Shop. Along with the beer of course.

I had about three pints of the Intergalactic during my investigations into how good it was, and also decided to get one of the Shop's fab chip butties in an attempt to diminish the impact of yet more alcohol - am not sure this worked.

Possibly as a result of the above failure, on my way home I skipped off the 52 to drop in on the Bath Hotel for the first time in a good while. Mr E was behind the bar offering excellent beery advice as ever, but the beer of choice was a no-brainer - Hardknott Azimuth, 5.8% and £3.80 a pint. I'm starting to come round to the Hardknott style now - initially in a flurry of fan boy fawning it was implied that Hardknott were the future of brewing and there seemed to be very little bad press - not that you have to have bad press, but its omission creates a concerning lack of balance.

The recently enjoyed Infra Red, tried both on cask and in bottle, gave notice of the sort of flavours I could expect and the Azimuth did not disappoint. Even after the out of this world hop line up of the Intergalactic, Hardknott still managed to excite the taste buds with a biting but not unpleasant bitterness in a deceptively easy drinking pale ale. The Azimuth was perfect end to a night of great beer from some of the better brewers around at the moment.


Wee Beefy

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Quality ale in cask and bottle.


    after the mad roller-coaster of the Rutland's birthday bash, and the orgy of overindulgence that was last weekend, I wasn't drinking Monday Tuesday or Thursday to give my body a much needed rest. Luckily, pre bash and Friday and at other times in the last week or so, I was. Hence :

En route to the Rutty I was in Shakespeares having a "warm up". This is both sarcastic and euphemistic - it wasn't like I needed a warm up for the sport of drinking, and it wasn't as if Shakespeares was warm - in fact it was chuffing freezing! Luckily I had a dark beer to shield me from the frost - A pint of Dark Star Original. This tasted a lot thicker and less balanced than I remembered. It seemed to have a slightly black treacle theme running through it and was much sweeter than I was hoping for. It was still enjoyable, but not what I really expected. I also had a a half of the Mallinsons Brewers Gold to cleanse my palate, which it did enjoyably and effectively.

Friday night myself and Miss N were in the Sheffield Tap. Forgetting that here is a board listing the beers and importantly (hopefully?) the prices (not that I can really see it well enough to read it) I relied on spotting a beer from a brewery I liked. I did just that having spotted an Oakham pump clip (two dumplings were stood in front of it with no way of seeing between them without coshing one over the head) so without knowing anything else, I asked for a half of that - it was £2.40! (cue feigned surprise) The beer in question was Oakham 20. According to their website it is 5.8%. So how in the name of Satan does it manage to be £4.80 a pint? Especially when compared to a 7.0% stout which they had on at £4.00.

No doubt Oakham will be described as " a very expensive brewery" like Dark Star were claimed to be. The extent to which that is a disingenuous explanation forms most of the reason why I didn't bother asking why it was so overpriced. It is a matter for concern that they no longer seem to warn customers of the impending damage either - perhaps my closeness to the handwritten board made it seem like I had already considered the price acceptable. Obviously I checked the other prices thereafter....

Miss N was dispatched to find the next drinks and we went Tapped for safety - the Growler Citra beer was on and it was very palatable although I didn't find out how much it was. This was followed by two astonishingly good pints of the Anarchy Brew Co Breakfast Stout, the 7% one at £4.00 a pint. Not over the top, and the beer was absolutely exceptional. I really can't think of  a bad Anarchy beer I've had and it was great getting to try the first of theirs that I encountered at SIBA BeerX once more, this time on cask. Indeed, it was so good that I forwent the opportunity to try some Fyne Ales Vital Spark that I'd had my eye on.

Yesterday was a day of staying in, apart from nipping to the shops. Asda has got rid of the only interesting beer brands it stocked, namely the Ilkley range and the BrewDog Punk. Seems we Handsworth folk don't like beers with flavour, brewed with aplomb. Either that or not even BrewDog can afford to sell their beers at a loss to the Walmart behemoth. However, in a rare positive development, they have started selling the Shepherd Neame IPA, a 6.1% recreation of an old recipe with a really pleasing vintage style label. These are on offer at 3 or £5.00 so it seemed silly not to get a few.

The aroma is noticeably Sheps yeast and Kent Fuggles. It has a very warming mouthfeel, and its not really particularly pale, more a pleasant caramel orange, of which there are hints in the flavour. It is very hoppy but not citrussy, and easy to drink probably due to the balance of malts. I love a hop monster pale ale any day but this was a pleasant change, especially on a cold Autumn night, and it stood up well to the slow cooked Moroccan chicken stew which we were having.

 Later we had a bottle of the 2007 Fullers Vintage Ale. This is the tenth anniversary brew and it had weathered well. Very well in fact. The surprising feature of this magnificent brew was the extent to which you couldn't detect that signature orangey taste. I have been drinking the Vintage Ales annually since 2000 and although there are subtle differences that orangey yeasty base has always been prominent. This time there seemed much more hops than I recall previously, which after 6 years in the bottle is quite good going.

The hops used in the Anniversary Brew were Fuggles, Target, and Styrian (it says "super styrian" but I wasn't sure if this was a compliment by John keeling or an actual styrian variant!?) and without an older bottle to hand to compare I'm not sure what difference that should make to the overall brew. Whatever the explanation, this was a very accomplished beer that was well worth the lengthy wait to try.

More news to come next week, when I might see some of you at the Blue Feather Brewery Intergalactic launch - the beer brewed in collaboration between Blue Bee and Welbeck Abbey will be launched around 19.00 at The Closed Shop on Commonside. Well worth a trip over.


Wee Beefy

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Every four year old's dream - a 12% stout, jelly, and pirate lego


          four years ago on Wednesday a pub reopened in Sheffield. A worrying headline had appeared on the front page of beer matters proclaiming the imminent closure of the Rutland Arms not long before, and it all looked pretty grim. Luckily a little thinking outside the box saw the pub leased from the owner (note - myself and Mr Stephens only discuss factual pub related business stuff when beer is involved, so you might be better making your own story up...), and the pub reopened with some secrecy, and some allegedly undrinkable cider.

Mr Stephens has now moved onto the Closed Shop although he oversaw some of the year since the 3rd birthday and was there on Wednesday night to join in the celebrations. The pub probably has a manager or something now and is run by Joe. I realise that doesn't make sense since that makes him the manager, but I doubt the Rutland who is a person actually worries about such trivialities. Its open, it sells great food and excellent beer.

On Wednesday I had a cold so announced, when leaving work, that I would have to drink strong beers, yer know, since I had an impaired smell and sense of taste. I was therefore quite pleased to find several of such beers on offer at The Rutland, and a chilli stout, Blue Bee Lustin for Chilli. This was my first beer of the night, along with a half of the 12% Arbour Goo Goo G'joob Maple Imperial Stout, which was rather fantastic. I had a half of that, and mixed a little with the chilli stout to create a third even more impressive option.

I met up with Christingpher, Ade, Matt and Miss N and had a bacon sandwich (well, what else would I eat in the Rutland?) before having a pint of the rather more sensible Blue Bee Light Blue and another half of the excellent stout. I then went to the Crucible for a couple of hours, leaving a serene scene of subdued lighting, free pint tokens and music...

On my return there were balloons and streamers everywhere, jelly and ice cream on the tables, numerous edible snakes, cake, party hats, rambunctious revelry and more beer than you could shake an outdoor candle holder at . Soon, everyone migrated out the back to get the sweets from the Pinata.

This year I feel the Rutland slightly cheated by making it out of something bloody tough. It was a good half an hour, even with the efforts of some notable heavyweights (I'll count myself in this category on account of having a beer belly), before the pinata finally gave up its treasure. Absolutely bloody kilo's of sweets of all kinds, which Mr Stephens, wielding an outdoor candle holder as we had broken the first two sticks, launched into the air to shower down over the beer garden - a pleasingly reckless and silly act. Cue chaos.

Meanwhile, I had dropped down from the dizzy heights of the Arbor Imperial Stout and was now supping their Yakima IPA which is at least 7%. Don't get me wrong, I still found time to have more of the 12% stout, but I convinced myself that the IPA was akin to sensible drinking. I'm not sure if this decision shortened or lengthened our repose at the celebrations, but to be honest the beer was too damned good to care.

Later, with the crowds thinning out and Matt studiously creating a complex structure from pirate Lego beside me, I was to become a climbing frame for Josh Jepson, and was to witness some quite excellent tunes on the jukebox being replaced by the worst music imaginable in an attempt to shake off those customers who seemed to be unwilling, or unable, to go home.

Congratulations to the Rutland for a quite fabulous party, which was every bit as good as last years, and apologies to all those of you whom I might have vigorously squeezed to death in my drunken, happy, social rampage through the pub.

Roll on another 12 months at the Rutland Arms


Wee Beefy

Monday, 7 October 2013

Ecclesbourne Amber - the final six pubs

Hello again

        day two dawned with mist and a chill in the air, quickly dispersed by a fantastic breakfast with a huge amount of food options to tempt us. Being the only guests we were free to have a leisurely (well over an hour) munch before heading off out in bright sunshine to walk along the Derwent.

The only downside to this was that we ended up missing the somewhat infrequent 6.1 to Wirksworth - so, dragging my titty lip along the floor, we "had" to storm along the A6 into Belper to plan how we might get to our intended first stop - having already, for a second day running, ditched plans to go to Buxton. Sorry Buxton. The solution was to catch the TP to Cromford and catch the 6.1 coming the other way to Wirksworth. Something of a fanny about but well rewarded with a trip to the Royal Oak.

This redoubtable old pub is tucked away on St John Street near two of Wirksworth's churches. You'd be very unlikely to complete the combination of happening across it by chance, and finding it open - it opens 12-15.00 Sundays and from 20.00 to 23.00 during the week as I understand. Luckily its been in the GBG for many years, which is where I found out about it.

Bass and Landlord are regulars and there is nearly always something from Whim - this time Hartington IPA, complimented by Blue Monkey Ape Ale. Miss N went for the latter and I the Hartington IPA, and we decided to sit in the beer garden. I think yard is a more accurate description - but whichever you use - what a fantastic spot. Sat in glorious sunshine beneath a cloudless sky supping pale hoppy real ale, after all the tribulation of getting there it felt like we'd got chance to relax. First pints quickly dispersed, we got sandwiches and both had a further pint of the Blue Monkey (£2.80, 5.0%). And then we repeated the round, before we set off once again.

Back on the 6.1 we alighted near The Tavern in Belper. I'd never been before but heard it sold real ales often including ones from Shottle Farm Brewery. None on offer this time but there were pints of Bradfield Northern General appeal brew to be supped, from a range that included Grafton brewery Jazz. The Jazz was really poor with almost no taste to it so we were glad of the Bradfield, and once again the drinks came to £5.60. Here we sat in the sunshine in the beer garden before heading up the road to find a bus stop with a timetable on it.

With no Sevens to get us to Openwoodgate, we caught a bus to Ripley. Here we went to the Pear Tree, and from a range of four predominantly Greedy King beers, I went for their mild (it doesn't count if you drink a beer they wish they could discontinue) and Miss N a Pale Ale from Dark Star.  Once again the beer was £5.60!

A quick walk took us to the Talbot Tap House where there were five Amber Ales on offer, and a guest. I went for a pint of the Revolution, as did Miss N, which the barman told me was the eighth version brewed, and which the blackboard proclaimed featured Special B Malt. Whatever taste that might impart, the Revolution remains a favourite Amber Ales beer, so when the second round came I had that again, and Miss N something that was about 6.0%. Despite confusion about its name at the time, I didn't think to look at the clip, even when returning the glasses to he bar. There's journalism for yer...

A yomp followed to our penultimate boozer, the rather excellent Thorn Tree at Waingroves. Two good quality beers were sampled after a rather lengthy walk to get to it -  4T's Brewing face the hops, at 5.5%, and a Hopcraft Fleur D'Alsace which was slightly less strong but delicious nonetheless. Alas this was a short visit since we had no idea when the "nines" ran from the bottom of Pease Hill (both phones dead, locals lacking confidence in the idea we'd get home!) so we restricted ourselves to one pint before scaling the hill and walking down past the Beehive - to wait 40 minutes for a bus to Derby. Doh.

Once there we headed for The Station Inn but either it closes early Sunday or doesn't open at all - I probably ought to know this, in fact its probably on my blog. Either way, no amount of standing hopefully outside the door was going to make the lights come on. Round the corner the Brunswick was serving til 23.00 so we had chance for a quick last pint and a half - Railway Porter for Miss N and  half for me, along with a pint of Brampton Griffin - and a pork pie.

So ended an at times hectic traipse round many excellent pubs in the Derwent and tributary valleys, memorable for great beer, fantastic scenery and lovely Autumn sunshine. We'll just have to do that ball ache journey to Buxton and Elton another time...


Wee Beefy

Ecclesbourne Amber - five unspoilt Derbyshire pubs.


      I returned late last night from a trip to the Derbyshire. The idea was to head for Buxton, and then out to Elton and finally into Derby. Only one of those destinations was achieved. Luckily, a Derbyshire Wayfarer meant that it was still possible to visit some very good pubs.

Wayfarer to hand myself and Miss N caught the train to Derby and then the Swift to Ashbourne. Ashbourne is now missing the Green Man and Black's Head, since its being turned into a clothes shop. How vital. Mind you, it appears there are plans to install a bar in another part of the premises. Quite what was wrong with retaining the old bar on the right and turning the newer side over to retail is beyond me. Luckily up the road is the Smiths Tavern.

A good range of beers were available and having found ourselves somewhat hungover from a Friday night out at Shakespeares we discussed having halves. Obviously all thoughts of this went out the window when we realised the magnitude of our having to seem like lightweights, and two very agreeable pints of Castle Rock Harvest Pale at £3.10 were purchased. We repaired to the upstairs room to the strains of classical music and slowly started to adjust to the reintroduction of alcohol. The tone was set for the day ahead.

Catching the bus to Kirk Ireton involves comprehending the Cretan style Ashbourne bus station in joke - that is, all buses arrive and leave at exactly the same time. Most buses arrive and change destination, thus leading to "an hilarious" back and forth sprint from one end of the line of five vehicles to the other, many of which don't have numbers or destinations on. Eventually we found the 103 to Kirk Ireton and hopped on board. This bus serves two places, and basically covers most of the same part of the route a bus that leaves at the same time does. Except now there are two buses doing one route with an extra leg. That's called public transport planning that is. Well done.

The Barley Mow was quite full when we arrived, and there were six beers to choose from. We started on pints of Storm Bosley Cloud, and it was OK, £2.80 a pint, but a little tired. Next we had pints of Whim Hartington IPA, until time was called - at 13.50. Gripped by fear I rushed into grab two more pints of IPA. Excellent beer, which considering we had two pints in 25 minutes, was probably a good job.

We walked down to the main road and through Idridgehay past the closed Black Swan (note - turning a pub into a restaurant means you have to be really ace at being a restaurant - since you lose your drinkers trade). From here we went and caught the train from Idridgehay to Wirksworth, for a much needed bite to eat, and then finally back down the Ecclesbourne Valley railway to Duffield. Not a bad price for a restored railway, and a relaxing, gently rocking, scenic journey.

Duffield saw us in the Pattenmakers. They still serve Bass form the jug but their guest ale range seems to have increased slightly since I was there last year. I had a pint of the Nutbrook Black Beauty and Miss N a Magpie IPA, from a range that also included Leadmill and Springhead.

A short hop on the bus and we were crossing the Derwent and walking up to the Holly Bush at Makeney. This National Inventory of unspoilt pub interiors listed pub features a magnificent walk in snug comprising two huge settles which gives access to the bar. Anyone can sit in this small snug but to all intents and purposes its like being sat in a private bar, a little like the one at the Bridge in Topsham, Devon. Here we both had fantastic pints of Pedigree from the jug, and settled down to watch the dark, cosy bar fill up, and to get chatting to some locals. We soon realised that waiting three hours for the next bus to Buxton, having secured nowhere to stay, was probably a bad idea. Having decided that accommodation could be secured in  nearby Milford or Belper, we chose to throw caution to the wind and have a couple more rounds.

Usually my every visit to the Holly Bush requires a clock watching race, but now I was afforded the opportunity to  have a good few beers. So whilst Miss N studiously kept to Pedigree, I went for a pint of the 7.0% Blue Monkey Fat Ape, at a rather reasonable £3.40 a pint. Not an especially subtle beer (unsurprisingly), but it was worryingly easy to drink. Our final round saw more Pedigree and my drinking Thornbridge Raven at 6.6% - and £3.80 a pint. I hadn't realised it was on Keykeg to be honest, but given the mark up the containers seem to attract I don't think that's a bad price.

Down the hill and the King William was doing accommodation, so having secured that we headed over the river to the Mill House which, mercifully, does food til 22.00. Slightly tired after a pint or two the food was just what we needed - obviously accompanied by more beer. Two halves of Pedigree came to £3.10.

Our final beers were in the long homely bar of the King William in Milford, pints of the Whim Flower Power, a lovely hoppy beer to cleanse the palate at the end of a very long day. Details of day two to follow.


Wee Beefy

Friday, 4 October 2013

I really must try to go to Shakespeares more often....


         before I get down to "valuable" details about beer and pubs, I must clarify that Miss N does not like Wham - the concept of doing so was merely introduced into my previous post as an example of a heinous crime. However, she does like Hobgoblin. That's a SCIENCE FACT. I don't want to alienate anyone, but as far as I can see, that simply serves to strengthen my point - liking Hobgoblin is tantamount to liking Wham. Hope all this helps.

Anyhoo, this week, I have been paid and accidentally went to Shakespeares a lot. In fact, I'm off there tonight for Chris and Tom (AKA Allan)'s flat warming party in absentia. Don't worry if you didn't get invited, the pub is still open as normal. It promises to be a great range of beers as well, including a certain porter from Blue Bee.....

Tuesday was a day of celebrations and so myself and Miss N repaired to Shakespeares after work. First up was a pint of Loch Ness Darkness, a sort of mildy thing. I had this at Star Fest in Huddersfield and loved it but it was a little sweet this time round. Luckily we bumped into Dave U who politely reminded us that other beers were available - as long as they were his. In respect of which "topical" Royal baby themed Black IPA Rankle Biter was on, so we had several pints of that whilst chatting to Jules from the world of journalism. Along with a North Riding punch the clock, and something very silly indeed from Revolutions which was 7.9%. Obviously it was that last half wot did us...

Wednesday I "had" to go back to Shakespeares to pay my bar tab. So it seemed rude not to invite Miss N along for a quick refresher. I had a pint of Pixie Spring/Hopcraft Darwin's Paradox and she the Abbeydale Honey beer that has a name. She switched onto the Hopcraft afterwards since the Abbeydale was a little over-sweet. We then decided to head to DAda for a change (ahem - my two most visited licensed premises in the last two years!) and had excellent pints of Pollards and a couple of bottles of Hardknott - the Infra Red, which somehow tasted better from a bottle than even the excellent cask version tried at the Broady, and Dark Energy, a deceptively smooth dark beer which wasn't quite what I expected but was really good nonetheless.

Last night saw myself and Middlemarch escaping from work at a frankly ridiculous time to have a frankly ridiculous amount of boo-har at...Shakespeares. For contrast.

The Hopcraft was my choice once more and trainee real ale lass Middlemarch went for a pint of Abbeydale Deception. Soon, however, news came about that the Pilcrow Porter - the people's porter, was available from the cellar. So we had a pint of that, and while insisting it wasn't bias, Middlemarch said she really liked it. I'm a sucker for compliments  - I was chuffed to bits.

The rest of the evening (when it became evening that is) comprised more pints of Pilcrow (hopefully it will appear on the bar tonight) along with a a pint for me and a half for Middlemarch of the Raw/Trulla/Steel City/Shakespeares collaboration "4 Horsemen of the Hopocalypse" a gloriously bitter fruity IPA that probably needs a day or two to clear. It's also quite strong, possibly 6.9% (it aint on the board to check!) and in some way contributed to Middlemarch having a lemonade. In between which events, we had a fabulous curry from the West bar Tandoori over the road.

This is a service I haven't used more than once but am so glad I did - and it makes perfect sense for Shakespeares to allow it. Have more food, feel less drunk = buy more beer. Ingenious!

So, do try and get to Shakespeares to try the Blue Bee Pilcrow Porter over the next few days, and if you can't make that, don't forget it's the Rutland 4th birthday on Wednesday.

Cheers me dears

Wee Beefy