having grown up on the main road in Crookes, and earned my drinking stripes in the now sadly lost Olde Heavygate Inn, its nice to get back over there to catch up with Wee Keefy and others, and to go drinking in "the old places". Here's what I've found on a couple of visits of late.
Me and Wee Keefy went to the Sportsman in Crosspool for a meal yesterday, and, erm, due to my legendary memory, a fruitless anticipation of a meal on Friday.
We walked over to Crosspool, and within 15 minutes were at the Sportsman. The Sportsman is now an Ember Inns pub, but used to be a traditional watering hole, in the sense of being a pub selling real ale as well as food, the beer being Stones, Bass and at some point I probably spotted a guest.
The thing is Crosspool is an area that basically doesn't do, and never did, wet led boozers. The Crosspool Tavern is somewhere that used to sell Bass, but I haven't graced its doors for twenty years. The Kings Head was a more regular destination for family meals (possibly a Beefeater?) but that was demolished, to much anger, many years ago and the spot is now residential buildings.
The Hallamshire on Lydgate Lane was also flattened in the last few years (and still hasn't been replaced, although work is ongoing) and the Bell Hagg was abandoned around the turn of the century. So against that backdrop, the Sportsman is the only pub in the area. And it pains me to say this about an Ember Inns pub - it isn't that bad.
Obviously there is the irritation of branding and needlessly chunky furniture in the internal decor, but overcome that and there are treats. There is a range of real ales, up to 6, consisting of a core of Tetleys and Abbeydale Moonshine. Confusingly those handpumps facing you when you walk in are beers that are on - but the other 6 round the other side are merely advertising whats to come on. To be fair the staff seem to be keen on making that clear, so that removes potential annoyance.
I had a pint of Green Jack Trawler Boys and WK a pint of Itchen Valley Dana. I think this came to £4.80. To be honest, any pub selling two unusual for the area real ales at under a fiver has really got the right idea. And, on both visits, the beer was in excellent condition, accompanied by Taylor Landlord, and the Tetley and Abbeydale Moonshine. The food aint bad as well.
Heading back along Lydgate Lane brings you to the Grindstone in Crookes. Previously a traditional Wards pub with an interesting history regarding its beer, long ago opened out but for many years retaining a separate snooker room, this pub has seen quite a lot of changes. An ill thought through stint as a Sports Bar nearly resulted in its closure but its reopened as a pub selling real ale and food, and it was busy, when we visited on Friday.
Last time I was in the interesting Brains and Nottingham Brewery guests were not ready, but at least there was the chance of a guest beer. Now, I wonder if it might have changed hands again, although still in the grip of Greedy King, as it sells three real ales form them - IPA, Abbot and St Edmunds. We went for the latter since its not that often you see it, but even then its not that different from any other Greedy King beers - as bemoaned by Wee Keefy.
Its strange to consider that the two pubs on that side of Crookes Road are both large Greene King pubs selling food, yet only one has guests. Is the lack of choice harming one pub or the other? Well , next stop, the Ball was a good illustration of which might be the case. On both Friday and Saturday night it was heaving. The food side at the Ball seems to be quite a new thing so it was an admirably wet led boozer for many many years. The branch out to nosh doesn't seemed to have impacted on its beer sales.
There's three handpumps of Greedy King beers as you enter then 4 handpumps of guests round the corner. WK, with his maltier palate, was on pints of Hooky best both times, and both times I was on the excellent Abbeydale Ships Biscuits. Both times we managed to find a seat (tip - there is a love of perpendicular drinking in the Ball, so always try and go past the swathes round the bar, you usually find a space) and enjoyed a couple of well kept pints in a busy but not overly crushed pub.
Crookes is an interesting contrast to Crosspool, not only because very few pubs have closed, but also that many still thrive on wet sales - The Cobden and Princess Royal being great examples (as well as great pubs). Its a shame that just a mile away in the leafier suburbs you have to drink in an eatery, or not at all, when Crookes has such a lot of drinking pubs, but that mainly serves as a great advert for drinking in Crookes.