on Wednesday last I undertook my first post stroke wander round Derbyshire and its pubs. I had done a very similar crawl five years before, as is shown in my post here . One thing I notice about this post from the past is there is certainly no coveting of blindingly hoppy keg ales.... actually that forms part of the theme for this visit, with at least two pints straight from the cask. Did I mention I still love Bass from the jug?
I caught the train to Derby, and then walked very quickly round to the bus station, arriving a few minutes before the 6.4. This takes you quickly to Belper, then waits before taking a tour of local housing estates before arriving at Openwoodgate at just gone midday. Noticing the Hop Inn wasn't open, and since I had come here specifically for the Black Bulls Head I headed in about 12.05 to find an unfortunate but luckily not lingering aroma of bleach. That it didn't linger, and that the pub is incredibly clean and tidy are both positives. As was my first pint, Oakham Citra, which I supped in about 8 minutes.
After having a wander round and listening to some interesting tunes, I had time to appreciate a pint of Oakham Green Devil, also on cask. Two excellent, well kept pints of cask beer served in excellent nick and at the prefect temperature. Having got directions for Bargate, I headed off two pints heavier after 35 minutes. An excellent start!
Up Sandbed Lane you reach Bargate, and the White Hart. Alas being mid week this pub doesn't open til 17.00 so I wandered on past in the fleeting rain. Soon I was in Holbrook and in the Dead Poets Inn. Still a wonderful boozer, and the Moonshine had recently run out to be replaced by Blue Monkey BG Sips. Nothing against the shine, but BG is my favourite Blue Monkey beer.
I supped that sat in the lending library near the bar. Alas the cellar steps had just been painted so there was no ale from the jug, so I had another half of the BG Sips before heading off down to the Spotted Cow on Town Street.
I have been coming to Holbrook for approaching 20 years and had never been to the Spotted Cow. Its a lovely old pub set back from the road which had been closed for a number of years. Its now community owned and serves a range of about six real ales, with one or two available on pump as well as straight fom the cask. I went for a pint of Pedigree, straight from the cask, accompanied by a plate of black pudding and greens, and sat near the bar and the roaring fire drying off. A very pleasant stop.
Heading back up the hill I visited the Wheel Inn. I have visited about four times now and for whatever reason, I have never really liked it. Why is this? I don't know, since there have always been a selection of well kept real ales on, and a real fire. This time, whilst the beer was very nice, my gripe was the incessant chirping of a small bird in a large white cage in the room on the right. Shrill, and never ending, its charm quickly wore off, and in the end I was happy to be heading off for the excellent Holly Bush in nearby Makeney.
Its a bit of a walk by road from Holbrook - due to my unsteadiness, and having had about 5 pints, I opted not to follow the path through the fields which comes out opposite the pub, but instead risked my life walking down the narrow road to the junction just down from the pub.
The Holly Bush is rightfully on the National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors, has three rooms including the impressive snug behind the bar, serves excellent ale and food, has real fires. and recently has expanded its considerable range into keg beers. I had a half of the Blue Monkey anniversary beer on cask and a half of Easy answers IPA from Burning Sky on keg. This was to help wash down a giant black pudding pork pie. Absolute manna from heaven!
Whilst still chomping my way through it, and after taking many photographs of the stunning interior I went for a pint of Pedigree from the jug. I also finished, on a third of the Black Iris Lacerated Sky, a 9% Imperial Red on keg. It was very easy to drink, worryingly, although by now I was sufficiently lined by the huge pork pie.
I walked down the hill and alongside the fat rage of the River Derwent until I reached the King William Real Ale Free House at Milford. Here, finally, I was able to get a pint of Bass from the jug. A glorious, easy drinking, flat, reddish ale which I supped slowly sat near the fire. Excellent.
A quick walk over the river and round the corner, found me catching the bus next to the now closed and fenced off Strutt Arms. About six or seven years ago this pub was selling Bass from the jug and a few guests, but now looks set to become important, critically needed, expensive apartments. Sad news.
My penultimate stop was in the Town Street Tap micropub in Duffield. Never having been in before I was surprised on entering to be unable to find the bar, until a customer pointed out that there isn't one. You simply sit down and a bloke comes over and takes your order. Although more modern and perhaps continental in style, this is the same arrangement as my friend Dimpled Mug's Grocers micropoub in Cadishead. My only complaint was I was sat where I couldn't see the beers written on the beam directly above me. I ordered from a list of about six beers, a lovely pale pint of....beer. Alas, the amalgam of bose has made me forget what it was I had....
Back in Derby I walked slowly from the bus station to the train station and popped in the Alexandra. This has changed hands since my last visit, or at least managers, but the furore and reported horror on Faceache when the new management had just opened, complaining about a lack of pies and waiting ages to be served, seems over-exaggerated. The beer was excellent, one keg and once cask, with "names" and the cheap crisps and black pudding pork scratchings filled me up perfectly, whilst continuing a vaguely porcine theme.
This trip was a perfect reintroduction to a walking crawling and supping expedition, and featured some fabulous pubs, including two new to me, and some frankly sparklingly perfect ales en route.
I look forward to venturing out further over the coming months!