New Inn Cropton 2011 Beer festival
a week after my return form the above I am fully recovered enough to tell you about the festival. I went in the car with Wee Keefy, alas Paddington was unable to attend which meant we had the option of sleeping in the car - but also the opportunity to fill it full of protective blankets and the like should temperatures plummet.
We arrived late afternoon and found ourselves a pitch that didn't appear too foreboding in respect of the creaking boughs and shuddering branches of the trees round the edge of the field. This was, if nothing else, going to be a windy night. We went for a quick walk round the village with friends Kev and Sue before we entered the warmth of the pub, and queued for our £3.00 festival pint glass.
The bar upstairs carried Cropton beers and a guest, there was a further small downstairs bar offering about 6 beers, then attached to the conservatory was the large double marquee housing about 60 festival guest beers. The only slight problem was that, even though beers were more or less grouped together by brewery (but then with some of the brewers offerings elsewhere in the pub), the beers were in no order at all. Being a bit hard of seeing this was a less than helpful arrangement since most of the staff had not memorised where anything was. My quest for a low gravity pint to start was therefore quite laboured.
I eventually plumped for a pint of Itchen Valley Godfathers. This used to be a favourite beer of mine but not since I had it in Rye in East Sussex had I found a really good pint of it, and alas, this trend continued, it lacked taste and seemed very watery. This disappointing start was however wiped out by a hoppy Nottingham Knights Tale - although I wouldn't usually entertain the idea of supping a novelty named beer, this was exactly what I had expected from a Nottingham Brewery offering and was very refreshing.
As the evening went on the ale flowed and having patiently waited to grab a seat at one of the picnic tables we were soon filling up on tasty but not inexpensive food. The marquee was surprisingly warm, although it was only 8 degrees overnight so not as cold as we might have feared, and as the crowds thinned later on we were able to get a seat inside. Just for reference, there were bands on, starting and finishing a little earlier than billed, nut to be fair I can't tell you who was playing, and there were no stand out moments from the bands in the marquee, even if the guitarist in the pub was pretty good at times.
Overall including the above beers I tried the following :
Brass Monkey Tamarind Mild
Banks and Taylors Edwin Taylors Stout
Cropton Scoresby Stout
Mike Halls Dark Angel cherry porter
Mike Halls Furry Black IPA (both brewed at Cropton)
Partners Shoddy Porter
We finally sloped back to the tent in pitch darkness at gone midnight, but slept well, although i can't say I enjoyed getting up in the siling down rain at 3AM to walk to the loos. In the morning, i was delicate, but Wee Keefy went for a breakfast in the pub, before we attempted to make a hot drink using the trangier - it worked, but it was impossible to lend a description to the unusual warm and wet concoction that we struggled through.
Before returning to Sheffield we had time to sop off at the Lion at Blakey Ridge, which was cut off for a week in the heavy snow last winter. This Thwaites pub offered a couple of their beers, Theakstons including Lightfoot and Black Bull and a guest. Alas, as WK was driving and I was feeling a little delicate, we opted for a tremendously sensible pot of tea, at a not too sensible price I might add.
I would heartily recommend the New Inn beer festival, even if like us you have to camp ( booking ahead would be required to secure a nearby B&B, although there is a bus back to Pickering at Midnight if you could stabling there). Overall the beer range was good, and the food tasty, and prices weree OK, with beers typically being £3.00 a pint but more for the really strong ones.
A fantastic weekend was, I hope, had by all.
Nottingham pubs visit
Yesterday I joined Chala and Thangor the Unpleasable (the Motherinlaw) on a trip to sunny and windy Nottingham. The plan was to walk around, grab a coffee, then head up to a decent pub for a drink, then I would venture off in search of great pubs and real ale, and Waarf and Thangor would busy themselves fannying around touching things in shops.
Our first stop was the Hand & Heart on Derby road, just up past the Albert Hall. Perhaps not entirely prepossessing from the outside, the interior is a pleasing mish mash of antique period furniture and fittings, with old leather chairs, antique settees, and chandeliers. One of the best features of this former brewery is however the fact that ecxept for the front bar the rest of the pub is carved into sandstone caves. The loos have an unusual stone ceilling and what looks like a natural stone chimney to let the air out; there are two distinct seating areas in the rock rooms to the side of the bar and the whole back bar counter and the long room behind are cut into the rock.
On the bar are 8 handpumps selling mainly local beers. I had a pint of Buxton Best, whilst Thangor stayed on softs and Chala had half a Leffe. The Buxton was reliably refreshing so I quickly moved onto a Flipside brewery Copper Penny, a malty darkish beer with a taste not unlike beers from times gone by, which is an example of a rather poor journalistic practice of not being able to fully remember the exactitude's of an experience so using an unverifiable and ambiguous phrase to describe it.
Anyhoo, our paths parted here and the Heeladeeez left me at the Ropewalk just up the road. Even more unpromising in its outer appearance but showing a reassuring SIBA sticker, this turned out to be the most varied range of the day, not in number, but in the mix of local and national micro beers.
On the bar were offerings from Magpie, Cotswold Spring, Bristol Beer Works and more, I opted for halves of the Cotswold Spring Ambler which I was assured was very popular, and the, in fairness, far far better Bristol Beerworks Independence. The decor is a mix of bar and pub idioms, with a relaxing window seating area where I was sat with tables that looked primed for dining on the far left of the bar, and a pool table on the right.
All too soon I was off across the square (or circus) to the Sir John Borlase Warren, a white painted Everards pub with an exquisite bar, and a range of Everards Real ales, and maybe a guest. Owing to an injury to my digital camera I took pics with a real live old fashioned SLR, but none of this pub with my phone camera. Of the 6 or so beers on offer I opted for a half of Everards Pitch Black, £1.64 a half and underwhelming in light of its impressive sounding moniker - otherwise an enjoyable dark brew.
From here I laboured aimlessly to the Organ Grinder (having got a bit lost since I did not know the address) and was releived on entering to find a real fire and about 10 real ales, most from Blue Monkey brewery. My first somewhat inevitable beer was BG Sips which I rate incredibly highly, followed by another half and one of the Redwillow brewery of Macclesfield Wreckless, before I tried a Blue Monkey 99 Red Baboons and Guerrilla, both of which were dark. I got chatting to a couple of blokes from Lincoln who were in sampling Blue Monkey beers ostensibly on the basis of them having tried the excellent BG sips locally - I had to confess that I had gone to a beer festival and drunk almost nothing else such was the quality of the beer.
My penultimate stop was the Falcon on the circus almost. This tiny two roomed hostelry had a real fire in the bar room as you enter ( there is one other tiny room to the right) and 3 beers, the notable highlight being Castle Rock Harvest Pale which I had a half of at a reasonable £1.35.
I stopped for a last one in the Hand and Heart, which I think was the Flipside ale again, before time drew me back to the centre to meet the ladies and to get the tram back to the park and ride and thus start the drive home. I would have had a drink in the Hawksley but I could not even see the bar such was the magnitude of slow witted individuals stood in front of the bar - one guy even said excuse me and pushed past so he could stand directly in front of me so I was now even less able to see the clips or manouvre to get served. As always in these cases, you have to ask whether the staff might hjave been interested enough to have asked the obstructors to move rather than lose trade, but they didn't and I was annoyed by this silliness and left, so there you go.
So, the above excepted, this was a fantastic intro to Nottingham real ale pubs, bearing in mind that time constraints meant I could not sample places such as the Keans Head or Canal House or others. Hopefully I can get back there soon enough for more supping and to visit some of the other excellent real ale pubs that Nottingham has on offer.
That's all for now, hope I can bring you some more ale news soon.