following trouble caused by simpletons at the last Three Valleys Festival in June, I can't pretend I wasn't surprised to almost immediately read about the Ridge beer festival - essentially the Three Valleys but with some pubs that weren't included or couldn't participate in the event in June, taking place in August. The dust had barely settled on what actually happened when the promise of another round of bus linked venues was announced. How would the Ridge match up to the wider crawl?
Well, in the end I only made it to two venues! Time restrictions meant I was only able to get as far as the Travellers at Apperknowle (which I understand now has no bus link to Sheffield thanks to Tin-pot Travel's withdrawal of the bus service) having started, and lingered, in the Dronfield Arms.
The last three years has seen me somehow bypass this venue despite it having perhaps the best beer range both this time and in June. So I put that right - but not before I "warmed up" sat in the sunshine outside the Sheffield Tap supping a rather pricey Otley Colombo t 4.0% and £3.30 a pint. Damn! Ignored my own rule again! Always stick to the Tapped beers.....
The Dronfield Arms had a bar outside featuring six beers, 4 or 5 in the pub, with beers replaced when they ran out. On the outside bar all beers were £3.00 a pint of £1.50 a half. Plastic glasses, mind,but judging by how quickly it became busy it's very unlikely they could have afforded to hire in enough real glasses to keep up with demand.
My first drink was a half of Scarborough brewery Cascade, a pleasing pale bitter with a good balance of hops. I then tried half of the Blackjack Mosaic, at the suggestion of the A.A, who I had met up with at the Arms after he'd sensibly caught the 12.05 train. You can read his review of our short crawl here. This was probably the beer of the day for me, in fact I had two halves in the end, a lovely well rounded hoppy beer, nicely showcasing the mosaic but with a curious yet satisfying creamy malt background - trust me it tasted better than this sounds!
By now I'd been joined by Ally and Malc, along with Rod, the lovely Dave, Patrick, Daves 1 through 5 and Brian. The last 6 folk had real names to be fair, but I wasn't planning on remembering any of them, so simply gave them my own monikers. Much easier. Eh Dave....
I tried some of the Doncaster Porter but it was a little dry if anything so went inside for a glass of water and a half of beer - and immediately uncovered a pricing mystery. Notwithstanding that I could have accidentally been overcharged, I had a half of Great Heck Powermouse at 3.6%, and a glass of water. It came to £1.70. Now, I don't expect to pay a chuffing penny for water, even if it had been in a glass, nor do I expect to pay a 20p surcharge for a half. So assuming neither dubious practice is enforced, the only other explanation is that this weak beer (not in flavour though) was £3.40 a pint. Which is ridiculous, not least because all the beers outside at higher strengths, were clearly cheaper.
Granted I should have queried this but in fairness after 3 aborted attempts to leave the last thing I wanted was to tarry further en route to my next destination. During which time I also bumped into Rupert and James the Hat, tried a halves of Raw Apollo and the excellent Slaters Haka, sat on some hay bales and endured some country and western tinged Irish music. You can't win em all it seems.
Next up was the bus to the Travellers, although had I been more blessed for time I'd have popped in the Royal Oak at Coal Aston, en route to which I bumped into John and Mozza, before alighting at the bustling busy and brilliant Travellers Rest at Apperknowle. Set in fantastic countryside, overlooking the Moss Valley, the Travellers had a selection of beers on in a makeshift outside bar and about 6 inside. I tried a half of Blue Bee Octothorpe which was just as crisp and hoppy as I'd hoped. A perfect light beer on a hot summers day.
Alas all too soon I was heading back to the Station to catch the 17.05 train back with the AA, before I met up with Feasty and friends in the Red Deer. Our Saturday night shindig consisted of food and beers, but I was taking things significantly slower than normal on account of my earlier efforts. In the end, along with an orange juice, I had a pint and a half of the Green Jack Golden Ale, which was very nice at £2.95 a pint, to wash down my meal. I can't say I was impressed by the dry sun dried tomato pesto linguine, but my companions seemed to enjoy their choices, before we moved on.
A "classic" WB shortcut brought us to Shakespeares where I started on a pint of Blue Bee Light Blue, and where we also met up with Jules and Will. I moved onto the Pheasantry DA after that, following a catch up with straw-master Dave, and we stayed there for a good few hours supping copious amounts of this pleasant dark ale, until it was really time to go home.
So, not a thorough investigation of the Ridge festival but what I encountered was really good - obviously the buses initially excelled themselves by leaving the station 3 minutes early at the sight of passengers arriving - with only two passengers on board, but other than that the service was good, and crucially the beer range and quality was excellent. A very enjoyable day out in short.