on Friday I was due on a raucous all dayer with my friend Christingpher, however a surprising and unsavoury blight befell him and he cancelled in the morning. Seeing that I had a whole day to myself, and knowing there were a few new venues I wanted to try, I threw together an unsophisticated poorly thought through plan, the details of which follow.
Full speed to Chesterfield
Perhaps not a title to set your pulse racing but there was a frenetic feeling to my dash out to the Derbyshire brewing capital (sorry Derby, but you only have four, whereas Chesterfield, if one includes Staveley, has five, so neurgh). I was so disorganised that I didn't leave home til gone half 1 but got into town, bought my Derbyshire Wayfarer, caught the train and got a bus out to Chatsworth Road in an hour, shortly after which I arrived at my first pub of the day.
The Tramway Tavern is on Chatsworth Road, just far enough of a slog outside town to be an undesirable wander, but with the bus stops set just far enough apart to make a bus journey annoying as well, especially when the bus pulled up outside to get round a truck - then drove off five minutes up the road. And it was chuffing wazzing it down, which along with siling stair rods, is a meteorological term.
I arrived as the rain stopped (ha ha the weather....) in a rare burst of sunshine, and went inside to contemplate why I hadn't gone to the cash machine. I had five pounds. So I bought a pint, a delicious one of Brampton Impy Dark, from a choice which included their Golden Bud, a Jubilee Ale and a couple f guests from Ashover, St Austell and Peak Ales. This was a fairly exclusive pint, since I was the only person in the pub, and sitting in the left hand bay listening to a rather curious mix of tunes, I decided to try and formulate a plan.
This meant I got through my pint quite quickly (thinking makes yer thirsty see) and had to ask for cash machine directions from the barmaid before I left. I didn't fancy a half pint, since that's all I had money left for.
Rose and Crown Brampton
A short walk up Chatsworth Road and I reached the cash machines of Morro's then I walked up the road to the Rose and Crown, not before missing the turning and the guide marker of the Real Ale Corner. Clearly the persisting it down monsoon had seeped into my brain.
On the bar at the Rose and Crown were a selection of Brampton beers and a couple of guests which didn't seem to suit my tastes, but when I'm confronted with the Brampton Stout very little can match it. I sat down with a North West CAMRA mag and a local for company supping my pint in the near left of the odd shaped building. Shortly after sitting down a couple walked in and surveyed the range. The Wasps Nest pumpclip was facing the customer but had a sign on saying coming soon. Said the gent "Ow long before its going to be on, the Wasps Nest?" "Later" "Arr much later?" "Might not be on until tomorrow actually" "Orh, we'll leave it then".And off they popped!
As I remarked when I went back to the bar, its good to see a customer who knows what they like, but Christ, that's some restriction to put on your visit!
I tried a taste of the Tudor Rose but didn't really fancy it - new world hops according to the website but subdued and confused by pushy malt I found. Instead I went for a pint of the Best which was a very pleasant beer at £2.45 a pint, and dallied briefly with the idea of walking to Walton to get the X17 to Matlock, an idea my heavy soaking coat and sodden jeans quickly helped dispel.
Real Ale Corner
I headed back to Chatsworth Road and into the Real Ale Corner, my first visit. A stellar range of bottles surrounded the walls, and there were two pumps dispensing jubilee beers, Hoppy and Glorious from Kelham Island, and Leeds Brewery Jubilee IPA, but my eye was caught by the RAC's own brew, a mild, which was being served by gravity.
I made a bit of a balls up here am afraid. Listening to the helpful staff member's spiel about the beer's qualities and upcoming brews from her husband, I took a swig and noted it was quite tart. I pulled a face, and explained that it seemed a bit sharp, but persuaded myself that I would find this edge disappearing to reveal the wider and more mellow characteristics. I only had a half and taking a big swig to reaffirm my flawed premise it was well past half gone before I thought it might be off actually. So I pointed out it tasted wrong, and then bought another half. The lady behind the bar tried it, pulled a bit of a face and took the beer off, but didn't proffer a free replacement - whilst I should have said it was off and requested a replacement straight away, this seemed a bit mean - she'd just admitted it didn't taste right at all...
Grumbles aside I did stick around long enough, stood up instead of seating myself at one of the two barrel tables, to have a half of an excellent Leeds Jubilee IPA, a brilliant 4.8% fruity pale which had I been less embroiled in my adventure I would have liked to have had much more of.
I caught a bus back into town and then noting I had a while to wait for the X17 I popped into the Royal Oak for a quick half - this was a tasty Northumberland Sovereign, which went down well, amongst a slightly less admirable range than last time, apart from the allure of the Jaipur.
Soon I was in Matlock and heading for Dale Road and Matlock's newest real ale venue MoCa Bar. This is a modern spacious and airy bar in an old building with 5 handpumps and key kegs. Since the bar was showing my favourite Derbyshire beer Blue Monkey BG Sips, it was no contest what I was having. I settled down in the window, listened to some very good tunes, read my copy of Inn Spire and enjoyed my ale.
In fact, I perhaps enjoyed it a little too much, as I was soon at the bar ordering a further half of BG Sips along with a half of Abbeydale Vespers, which I don't think I've ever had before. I had only intended to stop in Matlock long enough to visit MoCa, so soon had to be off back to the Bus station, but mission accomplished, and I had seen enough to want to go back for a return visit.
Back in Chesterfield I decided to go in another new venue, to me at least, and popped in the Spa Lane Vaults for a pint. Here I got a very nice pint of Springhead Dark Tom, by far my cheapest beer of the day at £2.00 a pint, and drinking it being a nice way to spend my first trip to the vaults.
My last Chesterfield destination was Coco Bar and Bistro on Corporation street, which finishes rather haphazardly at the edge of the ring road where the footbridge to the station starts. This is really much more a bistro than a bar - there is a bit of seating at the bar in this modern shiny but tastefully decorated venue, but it seemed mostly tables for dining: unless my libations have skewed my recollections there didn't seem many places to sit for a pint.
Initially I was disappointed to find only one of four handpumps in use, with the Thornbridge Wye (Why?) which we have already established I don't like, but the barman assured me a Welbeck beer was coming on next, so I plumped for some keg instead whilst I waited. I had a half of the Freedom Pioneer or at least I started - in a bad few minutes for the bar manager (I reasoned he must have been in charge, he had a different coloured shirt on!) two ladies at the bar took back their Wye saying it tasted too vegetabley, and I asked to swap the Pioneer.
I couldn't really think of a quick way of explaining that it tasted of the worst and most astringent characteristics of Selby Brewery beer in the mid nineties without having to find other more identifiable comparisons of that strange musty taste you get from some breweries, but I got it swapped for a Thornbridge Kipling anyway (the Pioneer had been £1.95 a half), which really served only to remind me that beer which already tastes really good in cask rarely becomes better in a cold fizzy state.
Things looked up however with a half of the dry Topaz pale ale from Thornbridge, and a pint of the excellent Diamond Jubilee wheat beer (6.0%, £3.00 a pint) from Welbeck Abbey Brewery (above), which to my surprise, ended up being even nicer than the Blue Monkey BG Sips and Brampton Stout to be the best beer of the trip. Below is a picture of the bar manager gamely posing for what he no doubt mistakenly expected to be exposure in a high quality mass readership online beer guide. Sorry about that...
So, all in all this was an excellent appraisal of some of the Brampton, Chesterfield City Centre and Matlock pubs that shows the real ale "scenes" if that's the right term, in rude health in all three areas. And now that the opening of the White Swan on St Mary's Gate is imminent there is even more reason to go back for another look.