Monday, May 30, 2022

Gone for a Burton

I don't know how it happened but somehow, over the course of the years since this blog has existed, I've committed an egregious error. In the near decade of this thing's existence, I've never made it out to the home of British brewing; a place where IPA came into being; a place that is synonymous with the growth and development of real ale, not just at home but worldwide. Those in the know will know that I speak, of course, of Burton-upon-Trent and last week, on my day off, it was finally time to correct my longstanding mistake. Not only would this tick a significant destination in beer history off of my ever-growing pub trip bucket list, but it would also see this blog make its first foray into the county of Staffordshire. The excitement was palpable.

Burton upon Trent, also known as Burton-on-Trent or simply Burton, is a market town in the borough of East Staffordshire, close to the border with Derbyshire. In 2011, it had a population of 72,299. The demonym for residents of the town is Burtonian. Burton is located 11 miles (18 km) south-west of Derby, 27 miles (43 km) north-west of Leicester, 28 miles (45 km) west-south-west of Nottingham and 20 miles (32 km) south of the southern entrance to the Peak District National Park.

Burton is known for its brewing. The town grew up around Burton Abbey. Burton Bridge was also the site of two battles, in 1322, when Edward II defeated the rebel Earl of Lancaster and in 1643 when royalists captured the town during the First English Civil War. William Lord Paget and his descendants were responsible for extending the manor house within the abbey grounds and facilitating the extension of the River Trent Navigation to Burton. Burton grew into a busy market town by the early modern period.

The town is served by Burton-on-Trent railway station. The town was also the start and terminus of the now defunct South Staffordshire Line which linked it to Lichfield, Walsall, Dudley and Stourbridge.

Rykneld Street, a Roman road, ran north-east through what later became the parish of Burton, linking camps at Letocetum (Wall), near Lichfield and Derventio (Little Chester) near Derby.

Between 666 and 669 Wilfrid, the pro-Roman bishop of York, exercised episcopal functions in Mercia, whose Christian king, Wulfhere, gave him land in various places, on which he established monasteries. Burton was almost certainly one of the sites: the name Andresey given to an island in the river Trent near the parish church means "Andrew's isle" and refers to a church there dedicated to St Andrew. The island is associated with the legend of St Modwen or Modwenna, an Irish abbess. It is likely that any surviving religious house would have been destroyed during the Danish incursion into the area in 874. Place names indicate Scandinavian influence, and several personal names of Scandinavian origin were still used in the area in the early 12th century. In 1003 a Benedictine abbey was established on a new site on the west bank of the Trent at Burton by Wulfric Spott, a thegn. He is known to have been buried in the abbey cloister in 1010, alongside his wife.

Burton Abbey was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it was said to control lands in Appleby Magna in Leicestershire, and Mickleover, Winshill, Stapenhill, Coton in the Elms, Ca(u)ldwell (in Stapenhill Parish) and Ticknall, all then in Derbyshire. The monastery was the most important in Staffordshire and by the 1530s had the highest revenue. It is known that there were frequent Royal visits to the abbey, including those by William I, Henry II and Edward I. In the 12th and 13th centuries, streets were laid out off the west side of High Street, the earliest being New Street, which stretched from the abbey gates towards the line of Ryknild Street. Horninglow Street at the north end of High Street was part of a major east-west route using the bridge over the river.

A royal charter was granted on 12 April 1200 by King John to the Abbot to hold a market in Burton every Thursday. This charter was later renewed by King Henry III and King Edward IV. There were four annual fairs for trade in horses, cattle and produce: on Candlemas Day, 5 April, Holy Thursday, and 29 October (the feast of St Modwen) although as in other British towns this practice has died out.

While Burton's great bridge over the Trent was in poor repair by the early 16th century, it served as "a comen passage to and fro many countries to the grett releff and comfort of travellyng people", according to the abbot. The bridge was the site of two battles, first in 1322 when Edward II defeated the rebel Earl of Lancaster and also in 1643 when the Royalists captured the town during the First English Civil War.

Under Henry VIII the abbey was dissolved in 1539, to be refounded in 1541 as a collegiate church for a dean (who had been the last abbot) and four prebendaries. It was again dissolved in 1545 and granted to Sir William Paget. Paget began planning to expand the Manor House within the abbey precincts, known to have existed since at least 1514, into a grand mansion. To provide the materials for this project, the old abbey buildings were to be cannibalised. There were major alterations to the house over the next three centuries. Sir William died in 1563.

In 1585 it was suggested that Mary, Queen of Scots might stay at Burton while Tutbury Castle was cleaned, but it was said that it was "a ruinous house, the buildings scattered and adjoining a very poor town, full of bad neighbours". The Paget family was implicated in Catholic plots against Queen Elizabeth I, the manor house along with most of the family estates were confiscated, with the Manor House leased to Richard Almond in 1612. Parts of the abbey church may have been retained for parish use, however these were demolished and replaced by a new church in 1719–1726. Some fragments remain of the chapter house nearby, but little of the rest remains. Two buildings were converted to residential use—a part known as the Manor House and the former Infirmary. The Infirmary became known as The Abbey and is now an inn.

The Paget family's lands and title were restored to them by James I in 1602 and they owned considerable estates around Burton for over 150 years. In 1699, William Lord Paget obtained an Act of Parliament to extend navigation on the River Trent from Nottingham up to Burton, but nothing was immediately done. In 1711 Lord Paget leased his rights to George Hayne, who in 1712 opened the River Trent Navigation and constructed a wharf and other buildings in the precinct of the old abbey. This led to the development of Burton as the major town for brewing and exporting beer, as it allowed Burton beer to be shipped to Hull, and on to the Baltic Sea and Prussia, as well as to London, where it was being sold in 1712. A number of breweries opened in the second half of the 18th century. The Napoleonic blockade badly affected overseas trade, leading to some consolidation and a redirection of the trade to London and Lancashire via canals. When Burton brewers succeeded in replicating the pale ale produced in London, the advantage of the water's qualities, in a process named Burtonisation allowed the development of the trade of Burton India Pale Ale (an ale specially brewed to keep during the long sea voyage to India). Burton became a centre for the brewing industry due in part to the quality of the local water, which contains a high proportion of dissolved salts, predominantly caused by the gypsum in the surrounding hills. This allowed a greater proportion of hops, a natural preservative, to be included in the beer, thereby allowing the beer to be shipped further afield. Much of the open land within and around the town is protected from chemical treatment to help preserve this water quality. New rail links to Liverpool enabled brewers to export their beer throughout the British Empire.

Burton came to dominate the brewing trade, and at its height one quarter of all beer sold in Britain was produced here. In the second half of the 19th century there was a growth in native breweries, supplemented by outside brewing companies moving into the town, so that over 30 breweries were recorded in 1880. However at the beginning of the 20th century there was a slump in beer sales, causing many breweries to fail; the industry suffered from the Liberal government's anti-drinking attitudes. This time no new markets were found and so the number of breweries shrank by closure and consolidation from 20 in 1900 to 8 in 1928. After further mergers and buy-outs, just three main breweries remained by 1980: Bass, Ind Coope and Marston's.

The town is currently home to eight breweries; Coors Brewers Ltd: formerly Bass Brewers Ltd, and now the UK arm of Molson Coors Brewing Company – which produces Carling and Worthington Bitter; Marston's, Thompson and Evershed plc, bought by Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries now renamed Marstons plc. The Marston's Brewery produces its own brands, draught Marston's Pedigree, draught Hobgoblin and also draught Bass under licence from InBev. Burton Bridge Brewery is based in Bridge Street, with six pubs in and around Burton. It produces a number of traditional beers including Bridge Bitter, Stairway to Heaven, Damson Porter and Golden Delicious. Tower Brewery is a microbrewery off Wharf Road. Old Cottage Brewery is based in Hawkins Lane. Its beers include Oak Ale and Halcyon Daze. Black Hole Brewery is based at the Imex Centre. Gates Brewery microbrewery is in Reservoir Road. Burton is also the corporate headquarters of the pub operators Punch Taverns plc and Spirit Pub Company, which were spun out of Bass in 1997. In addition, the White Shield microbrewery remains open alongside the National Brewery Centre (formerly the Bass Museum of Brewing).

A by-product of the brewing industry is the Marmite factory in the town. The original Marmite factory (now demolished) was at the corner of Cross Street and Duke Street before they moved to the current factory on Wellington Road in the 1960s. The production of Marmite has in turn generated the production of Bovril. Both are owned by multinational company Unilever.

Burton is also home to CAMRA's National Breweriana Auction that takes place each October in the Town Hall.

Burton was home to the Peel family, who played a significant role in the Industrial Revolution. The family home is still visible in the town as Peel House on Lichfield Street. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited the town on 3 July 2002 during her Golden Jubilee celebrations.

Following a 40 minute train journey, and a slight delay caused by a freight train, I arrived in Burton around midday on an warm and slightly breezy Thursday. I had a simple plan in mind and a route that, due to the staggered opening times of a number of Burton's pubs, would involve lots of toing and froing across town. If nothing else, this would allow me to immerse myself more completely in the town whilst exploring as much as possible and keeping an eye out for the pubs on the itinerary. I was hopeful that, all being well, I'd be able to tick them all off of my list and arrive back at the station in plenty of time for my return journey. However, as will become clear, things didn't quite pan out that way. 

Leaving the station, I immediately turned right and headed down the slope of the railway bridge. At the bottom of this, the road becomes Station Street and, a few feet away, on the right hand side is the pub that would be my first port of call. My introduction to Burton would begin at The Roebuck Inn.

Dating back to the 19th Century, the Good Beer Guide 2022 listed Roebuck is a three-storey corner terrace, situated opposite the former location of the Ind Coope Brewery. The pub took on its current appearance when it was rebuilt in 1956 during the widening of Station Street. The Roebuck effectively operated as the Ind Coope Brewery tap and the legendary Draught Burton Ale was launched here in 1976. Subsequently the pub has been owned by Punch Taverns and, since 2007, Admiral Taverns. Internally, the pub is basically a long, single room with entrances on both Station Street and Mosley Street. The flooring is bare wood and the decor is mostly dark wood panelling, with the bar along one side of the room. Old photos of the town and old brewery adverts and memorabilia are displayed throughout. There is a TV and dartboard at the far end of the room with a corridor to one side leading to the toilets. There is a small concrete patio area at the rear for outside drinking. The furniture is scrubbed wood tables and chairs with some banquette seating around the perimeter. 8 handpulls are located on the bar, 6 of which happened to be in use during my visit. One of these held Weston's Old Rosie cider with the remaining 5 given over to real ale, on this occasion offering Theakston's Old Peculier, Bass, Gates Burton Ale, Marston's Pedigree and Greene King Abbot Ale. One of my goals for the day was to drink Bass, on draught, in the town were it was born and is still brewed. I had in my head that this would make the perfect farewell drink before my train home so, for now, I skipped it and went for the Gates Burton Ale (GBA), another locally brewed beverage. This is a 4.8% amber ale that is based on the original Ind Coope recipe for Draught Burton Ale. Made with premium hops and dry hopped in the cask, it has a floral aroma and a sweet finish. I have to be completely honest: this is an absolutely cracking beer. The depth of flavour really resonates throughout the whole drink and it's clear that Draught Burton Ale lives on in all but name. I was genuinely gobsmacked at how good this beer was. Well done to all involved. My day in Burton had started with a definite bang!

Leaving the Roebuck, I turned right and continued down Station Street, identifying some locations that I would be returning to later in the day. I passed the hulking titan of the Molson Coors brewery on the left hand side, lamenting the fate of Doom Bar as I did so, and admired an ornamental fountain made of recycled metal beer casks on my right. After a few minutes walk, I found myself in the town centre proper and made my way down a pedestrianised area between two rows of shops. Reaching the end of this, I turned left onto High Street where my next location resides, next to the local branch of a certain, cheap, well-known national pub chain. Next up, the Prince of Brewers.

This pub is built on the site of the much-earlier Star Inn, which dated back to the early 1800s and had its own on-site brewery from 1845-1870. While the original Star Inn was believed to have been demolished, a pub of the same name appears to have existed in 1960, and a sketch of the pub from 1952 looks remarkably similar to a 1984 photo of the Galaxy, this pub's name at the time. Despite the murky and uncertain history, the pub went through a number of names and incarnations, including as a struggling nightclub, before being bought and refurbished by Amber Taverns and reopened in 2016 under the current name, which is an oblique reference to Michael Arthur Bass, the first Lord Burton and great grandson of William Bass, the founder of Bass Brewery. The pub is much bigger and longer than it appears from the outside. A narrow single room stretches back from the entrance with access to the beer garden at the far end. The decor is largely wood and wood panelling, including on one side of the bar which is along part of the right hand wall. Furniture ranges from standard tables and chairs to 4-seater booths and higher tables and chairs. A large map of central Burton, with transport pictures, is on a wall near the entrance. Some drink-related sayings and Bass Brewery memorabilia complete the decoration and there are a large number of TVs throughout, including 2 in the beer garden. Live sport is one of this pub's specialities. I was confident that, even though this pub was something of a wild card, that it would continue the strong start. After all, a pub called the Prince of Brewers, in a town famous for its brewing heritage, wouldn't let me down, would it? Alas, I was incorrect. Three handpulls are on the bar here but, when I arrived, none of them were pouring anything, with all 3 pump clips turned around, a sure indicator that no real ale was available. Being someone who breaks out in hives if I go into a pub and don't buy anything, I instead settled for a Guinness and used up some time charging my phone in one of the aforementioned booths. As disappointed as I was, the presence of pump clips, albeit turned around, suggests that the pub does cater for real ale at some point. Perhaps Thursday lunchtime is not the time. Still, I was hopeful that this would be my only disappointment of the afternoon. 

Phone charged and negativity shaken off, I left the Prince of Brewers in search of my next stop. Turning right, I continued down High Street, where pub number 3 soon hove into view. Situated at a crossroads, is the aptly named Crossing.

This large, two-storey building occupies the spot where an 18th century pub called the Blue Posts or Blue Stumps, which incorporated Yeomans Brewery once stood, not to be confused with another pub/brewery called the Blue Stoops which existed nearby at the same time. Marston's acquired the Blue Posts around 1890 and it was sold to Worthington's in 1925, before being demolished and replaced by a new Blue Posts two years later, the same year that Worthington's merged with the Bass company. The building remained in Bass hands until sometime in 2002/03 and was then a privately-owned freehouse before Enterprise Inns took ownership in 2006. The pub has been renamed several times in the intervening years and suffered intermittent closure until being taken over by the current landlord. The current name comes from the 1961 L.S. Lowry painting 'Level crossing, Burton-on-Trent' in which the pub features. The Crossing is comfortably furnished throughout, with an L-shaped bar area to the front and a dining area to the rear which overlooks the garden. The dining area contains a small, more luxurious, raised section which is partly partitioned off from the main area. The bar itself is very well stocked and modern and, when I entered, had been festooned with Union flags in preparation for the Jubilee. I'd also managed to arrive at the same time as members of a wedding party so felt significantly underdressed as I made my way to the bar. 5 hand pumps are in residence here. Two of them were taken up by ciders from the Lilley's range, in this case Peach and Mango respectively, whilst the remainder offered a choice of beers in the shape of Dancing Duck Dark Drake, Dancing Duck Ay Up and Marston's Pedigree. I plumped for the Dark Drake and retreated to a small, round table in a corner opposite the bar, trying to look inconspicuous in a room full of wedding guests. I was shortly forced to return to the bar though as the Dark Drake was off and was tasting vinegary. This was replaced very swiftly by Ay Up as the next cask of Drake wasn't quite ready and besides which the line would need to be cleaned. I have to commend the staff at the Crossing for being so efficient and professional in dealing with the issue. I don't like to complain but it was handled with consummate skill. The Ay Up, from Derby's Dancing Duck, was excellent. This is a thoroughly drinkable session ale, at 3.9%. Subtle malt and floral notes match perfectly with citrus hops and the whole thing ends in a dry finish. It was very enjoyable and the Crossing is a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere to enjoy it in. I thought some of the decor rang a bell and it turns out that the current landlord also owns the Exeter Arms in Derby, the Refectory in Chesterfield and the Devonshire in Belper, all of which are cracking pubs which I'm fairly positive have all featured in these pages at some stage. 

My next stop was a bit of a walk away but I was determined that I wasn't going to miss it out as it was very much a bucket list destination. Leaving the Crossing, I turned right and then immediately right again onto a nearby side road. I followed this until I reached a nearby retail park which I then cut through. Emerging on a main road, I followed this straight down until the first signs of my next stop started to appear. An old copper brewing vessel. A long line of large casks suspended from a rack in an outdoor shed. A pair of shire horses contentedly munching grass in a paddock. I reached the end of the road and turned left onto Horninglow Street where signs welcomed me to the National Brewery Centre and its adjacent Brewery Tap. 


The buildings that now house the National Brewery Centre were formerly occupied by the Bass Brewery engineering, craft and maintenance workshops. The premises opened in July 1977 as the Bass Museum but became the Coors Visitor Centre and Museum of Brewing in 2003 following the Molson Coors acquisition of the site, including the entire brewery. Alleged financial issues forced the closure of the Coors Visitor Centre in 2008 but a persistent campaign led to its reopening in 2010 as the National Brewery Centre under the current management. The site includes the White Shield Brewery, which is England's oldest microbrewery and the new 25-barrel William Worthington's Brewery which opened in 2011. Whilst the main museum requires a ticket and opens at 10am, the Brewery Tap can be visited, free of charge, without the need to visit the museum and is accessed through a separate entrance through the beer garden. The bar is in a comfortable L-shaped room with an adjacent restaurant and mezzanine floor. Both areas are bright and airy and furnished in a modern style, despite the sheer abundance of brewery memorabilia on the walls and hanging from the ceiling. The cellar that serves the bar can be viewed through an adjacent window. There is an L-shaped conservatory space that overlooks the garden and children's play area as well as a part-covered patio for outdoor drinking. Sadly, I didn't have time on my trip to visit the museum proper but, rest assured, that's an adventure that will be saved for another day. Instead, I was here to explore the bar. It features 6 handpulls, perhaps unsurprisingly offering Bass and other beers from the William Worthington brewery, marketed under the Heritage Brewing Co. name, as well as one guest beer. The Heritage offerings were Happy as Larry, Masterpiece IPA, Oatmeal Stout and HPA (Heritage Platinum Ale) with the guest beer taking the form of Goffs Lancer. Whilst I'm familiar with some of the Heritage range, I'd never come across Happy as Larry so it seemed like a good choice to partake here. I took my beer to a table off to one side to enjoy not only the drink but the brewing history that surrounded me, as well as an excellent, if eclectic, inhouse playlist (No Doubt, Britney, Paramore, no complaints here!). Happy as Larry (4.6%) is a pale bitter with hop sweetness, a balanced character and a well rounded finish. I was indeed happy as Larry that I had finally made it here! With a little bit of time to kill, I settled for another beer, this time giving the HPA, a Jubilee special, a try. This is another pale ale, albeit a tad weaker at 4.2%. This time, the aroma is fruity and there is a clean hop flavour that develops throughout the mouthfeel. As limited edition beers go, it's certainly a decent one. I would have loved to have stayed here all day and dosed up on beer history but time was moving on which meant that I had to as well. 

Retracing my steps back through the retail park, I had a brief wander down to the river to bask in the view and sunshine. I also inexplicably bumped into the same wedding party from earlier on and gave them a much wider berth to avoid an accidental photobomb of the happiest day of someone else's life. Heading back down High Street, back onto Station Street and successfully negotiating some roadworks I arrived at the next location shortly after opening. The first micropub of the day would be Brews of the World. 

Built on the site of a former police station, the building was formerly the Burton Museum & Art Gallery which opened in 1915 and closed in the late 1970s. Located in a double-fronted shop unit, next to what is now a nail salon, the ground floor premises where the pub resides was previously a bookshop and a hairdressers. Self-styled as Burton's 'premier bottled beer shop and tap room', Brews of the World opened in November 2017 as an off-licence offering beers and other drinks from around the world, before obtaining an on-licence in May of 2019. The interior consists of two rooms. The large, slightly spartan room to the front features the bar counter to the right, adjacent to two fridges that house an array of bottled and canned drinks as well as bag-in-box ciders. Memorabilia from Burton breweries can be found throughout the space. 20 keg fonts dispensing craft beers and ciders are mounted behind the bar with boards above listing what is available. The second, smaller, room to the rear features more brewery memorabilia, including what is allegedly the world's largest Double Diamond flag, additional seating and toilet access in a nearby corridor. As well as the 20 keg fonts, the bar also boasts 4 handpulls featuring locally brewed ales. On my visit, all 4 of the offerings were from the town, specifically Gates Burton Ale, Heritage Masterpiece, Heritage Massey's Original Mild and Heritage Oatmeal Stout. The Masterpiece seemed like an excellent choice so this is what I opted for. I drank my beer sat at a high table opposite the bar. I had a brief chat with the landlord about how business was going and was very pleased to hear that things were picking up and business was starting to boom again post-pandemic. It's always good to know that pubs are doing well, especially in a town with so much brewing in its industrial blood. The beer was great too. I've had Masterpiece before and it's always a good drop. Masterpiece is a 5.6% IPA that carries a full, luxurious mouthfeel and a subtle, peppery character. It always goes down well. If only there was a word to describe a beer this good.......

More retracing of the steps would be required now. Tearing myself away from Brews of the World, I turned right and continued on my way back down Station Street in the direction of the station. Going over the railway bridge, with the station on my left, I took the next right onto Derby Street. A short distance down this road, on the left hand side, sits the next stop of the day. Time to investigate the Alfred Ale House.

Built in the 1860s, this double-fronted terrace pub is located in the middle of a row of houses. It was the Truman's Brewery tap until the brewery was closed in 1971, although an original Truman's mirror and pictures remain. The pub had various owners until Burton Bridge Brewery purchased it in 1996. Inside, two rooms are served by a central bar counter. Each room features wooden partitions topped with leaded stained glass. A raised seating area can be found in the left hand room (the lounge). A small snug to the rear features a charity book stall, some unusual barrel seats and photographs and memorabilia related to submarines. The local Submariners Association meets at the pub on alternate Fridays. As well as real ale, the Alfred is also known locally for its selection of English fruit wines. I was slightly confused by the bar layout to begin with and mistakenly thought there was just a single hand pull to meet my needs. In reality, there are 6 handpulls present: one on each side of the bar, with a further 4 mounted in a bank on the back bar, facing outwards. This being a Burton Bridge house, their beers take pride of place. 5 of the hand pumps were in use giving me a choice of the following beers, all from the Burton Bridge range: Burton Bridge Bitter, Draught Burton Ale, Stairway to Heaven, Festival Ale and Top Dog Stout. Having initially panicked at only seeing one handpull, I had ordered the Burton Bridge Bitter. I didn't mind as it was one of the Burton Bridge beers that I'd never previously tried. The brewery's flagship beer, Bridge Bitter (4.2.%) has been brewed to the same recipe for over 30 years. Reddish brown in colour and with aromas of earth, nuts and malt, it is brewed with Challenger, Target and Northdown hops, with Styrian hops added at the end of the boil. The end result is a lingering, dry bitter finish. I can absolutely see why the recipe for this particular beer has remained unchanged for so long. If it ain't broke and all that! The Alfred is a nice, traditional little place which, whilst quiet on the day, I have no doubt has its fond admirers locally. 

Once again, I found myself turning back on myself. Once again passing the train station, this time on my right, I made my way back down Station Road to a place that I had located earlier on but which I knew didn't open until later in the day. It was time for another micropub now: The Last Heretic.

Set in a terrace of commercial properties, the Last Heretic opened in May 2016. It comprises a comfortable single room with wooden flooring and furniture, a small bar counter to the rear with the stillage visible through a glass door and window beyond and a short corridor, up one step, that leads to the toilets and rear garden. A picture of historical and drink-related pictures adorn the walls. The unusual name of the pub comes from that of Edward Wightman, a Burton resident, though born in Burbage, who was the last person in England to be executed for heresy when he was burned at the stake in Lichfield in 1612. Despite his demise occurring in a neighbouring city, Wightman's shade is believed to still appear in the town in which he lived and has been sited many times around Burton in the centuries since his death. Beerwise, 3 cask ales are offered at a time, served on gravity direct from casks behind the bar counter. A board near the bar displays current and pending beers. A selection of keg beers is also served. The trio from which I had to choose were Dancing Duck Dark Drake, Old Sawley Two Rivers Oxbow and Purple Moose Elderflower Ale. It seemed unusual to see Purple Moose in this neck of the woods so that was an easy choice. It was at this point however that my visit, and my day in general, started to unravel. I had somehow missed that the board on which beer information was displayed also clearly stated that there was a minimum spend of £5 in order to pay on card, something that I had been doing all day without an issue. As I had only ordered the one drink, and intended to stay and drink it, I had no choice but to order an additional pint in order to reach the required amount. The landlord explained that this was due to the charges he faced from accepting card payments lower than this, although I had not encountered this in any other venues thus far. More annoyingly, this was one of the few occasions where I hadn't thought to bring a little bit of cash with me as I sometimes do when I visit smaller towns where not all pubs may take card. Still, willing to ignore a niggling issue in favour of tasty beer, I contented myself with enjoying just that. The Elderflower Ale (4%) from Porthmadog's Purple Moose went down swimmingly. Golden straw in colour and brewed with Cascade hops, the beer gives a floral aroma and a sweet citrusy finish. The elderflower is subtle but contrasts well with the sweetness. My second beer, Old Sawley's Two Rivers Oxbow (3.9%), is a completely different beast. This is a modern take on a classic amber ale. Brewed with a combination of darker malts and fruity hops, it's a well-rounded, slightly sweet amber bitter. 

My additional time at the Last Heretic had waylaid me somewhat but I was still confident that I would be able to conquer my complete list of pubs in time. Conveniently, the next stop was only just down the road at the Devonshire Arms. 

This Grade II listed and Good Beer Guide 2022 featured pub was originally built as a house around 1830 and converted into a pub during the 1850s. At some stage, probably during the late 1800s, it became an Eadie's property until that brewery was taken over by Bass in 1932. It then became an Ind Coope pub as the result of a 'pub swap' in 1978, was bought by Burton Bridge in 1998 and was then sold to the current owners in 2019. Now a free-house, the pub contains a smart public bar at the front, with a larger, split-level lounge to the rear, which also features an unusual curved wooden ceiling and a framed 1853 map of Burton. Brewery and drink-related items are prevalent throughout, including framed lists of Burton breweries (1870-1880) and licensed premises (1911). The Devonshire has developed a good reputation for real ale, as evidenced by its GBG inclusion and the 10 handpulls that occupy the bar. Of these, 4 were doubled up with Bass and Burton Bridge Stairway to Heaven respectively. The remaining 6 offered Burton Bridge Bitter, Gates Burton Reservoir, Burton Bridge Top Dog Stout, Ashover Font, Anarchy Blonde Star and Purity Mad Goose. After a moment's deliberation, I passed over the local offerings for the Font, a guest beer from Clay Cross based Ashover. Font is a 3.8% session pale ale brewed with Chinook and Cascade hops, giving floral grapefruit and subtle spice flavours. It's also apparently named after an ornate font at All Saints Church in Ashover. So there's that. It's a very good beer though and a perfect palate freshener after the bitterness of my last choice. I sat and enjoyed it in the lounge bar, enjoying the ambience and listening to regulars complaining to the landlady about the taste of the new rose wine. 

It was another gallivant across town now, as my next stop was at the far end of High Street, past the Crossing and further on. Once again a micropub took my fancy. This one was Beeropolis. 

This micropub opened in May 2021 on the ground floor of a Grade II listed end-terrace building that was previously occupied by another micropub called the Fuggle & Nugget. The building itself is believed to date back to the early 18th century but the shop-front is more recent, dating from the late 19th-early 20th century. Previous incarnations of the building include both an estate agents and a hairdressers. This is another comfortable single room layout with upholstered bench seating around the periphery and low tables with a short raised area under the windows. A small bar counter is located to the side and towards the rear with the stillage room located behind. Current and upcoming beers are listed on a TV screen above the bar. As well as a pair of hand pumps, the bar also features a bank of keg fonts mounted on the wall behind, offering a choice of craft beers and ciders. On the cask ale front though, two choices awaited me, Allsopp's Pale and Heritage Oatmeal Stout. I opted for the Allsopp's, local to Burton. Due to my earlier hold up, I was already in a little bit of rush by the time I arrived here. That's my only explanation for missing the sign on the bar that once again advised me of a minimum £5 card spend. That meant I had again found myself in the position of having to order two drinks at once and therefore spend more time than intended in this location. I was more annoyed with myself than anything, as well as slightly baffled that 2 of the last 3 pubs had had the same rule in place despite there being no issues anywhere else on the day. It soon transpired that both this pub and the Last Heretic are under the same ownership which goes some way to explaining things. I was now in a difficult situation. With me now having to take root at Beeropolis for longer than planned, it was increasingly unlikely that I would complete the route I had devised. It was either: finish my beer, rush to the next pub and hope I don't miss the train; skip the next pub and head straight to the train or, continue as planned and get a much later train, not knowing exactly when I'd get back, and also sacrificing funds and phone battery in the process. I had a beer to drink first though, which would at least help me to decide. Allsopp's Pale (4.4%) is a golden session ale. It's crisp, sessionable and refreshing and very balanced through the use of three types of malt and Aurora and Cascade hops. It's definitely drinkable as both my first and second helpings will testify! 

Ultimately, Beeropolis ended up being the last pub of the trip. I decided that, with time escaping me, discretion was the better part of valour and I couldn't really afford to miss my return train. I was a bit frustrated and disappointed that I'd missed out on completing my route due to a not entirely legal rule in a couple of the pubs. I also blame myself a little bit as I normally do take some cash with me, however, none of the research I did into the pubs I had lined up suggested that I would have any issue paying with card, even in small amounts, and this was certainly the case for the vast majority of the venues I visited. Despite the late snag, was my trip to Burton worth it? Absolutely! I'd waited far too long to visit the real ale mothership. I don't think I could really have continued to call myself a real ale drinker, let alone a beer blogger, if I hadn't deigned to make that pilgrimage. The variety and quality of the pubs impressed me and that's even saying that I didn't manage to make some of the most iconic and vaunted ones. Nevertheless, that's given me fuel for next time. The only advantage of missing out the final trio of pubs is that it gives me an excuse to come back. Besides which, I never did get around to having any Bass. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

When the Going gets Lough

Unusually, the past couple of weeks have seen me in a position to accommodate a couple of trips in quick succession, with the most recent of these seeing us back over the border into Leicestershire. Amy and I had long discussed a revisit and reappraisal of Loughborough, ostensibly to see how much things had improved, or not, since 2015 when it last featured in these pages. Time and circumstance were finally on our side last weekend. With a Saturday off and Amy scheduled for a hair appointment in Loughborough on the same day, an opportunity had at last presented itself. The aim was to explore some venues that we'd neglected last time or, as with the recent trip to Nottingham, were relatively new on the scene. There would be a couple of returnees but the majority would be new experiences. From our home in Clifton, we find ourselves in the handy position of being directly on a bus route between Nottingham and Loughborough, making planning our trip significantly easier than it might otherwise have been. I was very eager to see what the day would bring and it would already be much enhanced by having Amy alongside me.

We arrived in Loughborough shortly after 11am. Amy's appointment was scheduled for around 11.30 so, whilst she made her way over, I was left to my own devices for around 40 minutes or so. This time was spent wandering around the market, exploring a couple of shops, generally refreshing my memory of where things were and, at one point, paying 20p to use a public toilet. The weather was warm, calm and very pleasant so we had definitely picked a good day on which to explore Loughborough's pubs. Around 12.30, Amy got in touch to confirm that she was all done and we reconvened to begin our day proper. The location of Amy's hair appointment is situated just off the central market place and our first port of call was only a short walk away. Turning left onto Derby Square, we continued on for a few yards until we reached the junction of Market Street and Ashby Road. In the centre of this, on Ashby Square, is where you'll find our first stop: The Griffin.

Located just north of the town centre, The Griffin is a heavily student-oriented pub operated by Marston's. The inside is large and open-plan with lots of seating throughout as well as a more secluded snug-type area to the left of the entrance and a large rear garden that features picnic bench style seating as well as a wall-mounted TV. The bar sits along one side and is decorated with fake ferns and palm leaves. The decor throughout is bright and colourful. There are a number of TVs around the room with an emphasis on showing live sport. There is a staircase in one corner that leads to an upstairs corridor where the toilets are located. On the bar, which is very well-stocked in general, sits a solitary handpull on the very end. This features a rotating beer from the Marston's range which, on the day of our visit, is Wychwood Hobgoblin IPA. We both opted for this and headed to a comfortable looking sofa in the aforementioned snug area which allowed us a prime view of a large TV showing the Liverpool game. We drank our beers in relative comfort here. The pub was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday which led us to speculate as to whether a number of students are adhering to the old stereotype about them not getting up before mid-afternoon. The beer was very good and perfectly drinkable and the match wasn't bad either. We decided to use the half time interval to make our way to pub number two. 

Leaving the Griffin, we turned left and made our way up Ashby Road, heading further away from the centre of town. After only a couple of minutes, our next destination hove into view on the right hand side. Crossing over, we approached The Generous Briton.

Known locally as 'The GB', the pub reopened in 2011 as a freehouse. The two room layout has been retained with a main entrance on Ashby Road and a side entrance, that leads directly into the bar, on Regent Street at the side. The decor is homely and welcoming with banquette seating in the bar and more traditional tables and chairs in the slightly larger lounge. TV sport is shown throughout. The bar, into which we enter, features a dartboard and old photographs of the local area. The lounge contains a pool table and a jukebox. The interior has been maintained to a high standard with a light and airy feel and the pub's name branded onto some of the windows. The bar is central and serves both areas with two banks of hand pumps divided between the two. Closer inspection confirms that the lounge bar contains 4 handpulls which feature the pubs regular beers: Timothy Taylor Landlord, Sharp's Doom Bar, Draught Bass and Charnwood Salvation. The bar area holds the remaining 3 and these are given over to guest beers. It is in this area that we now find ourselves. The guest beers on the day were Brains Rev James, Castle Rock In Bloom and Navigation Eclipse. I was surprised, although probably shouldn't have been, to see Castle Rock in The GB so it made sense to give it a try. Amy followed suit and we retreated to a table opposite the bar where we could watch the opening minutes of the second half of the Liverpool match unfold. In Bloom is a Castle Rock seasonal beer. At 4.5%, it's brewed with Loral, Citra and Sabro hops. This provides floral aromas and subtle earthy and herbal notes followed by a delicate hit of lime and coconut, all ending in a rounded mouthfeel and refreshing bitterness. It's a delicious beverage indeed! The GB had surprised us. The interior is at definite odds with the first impressions from outside and it's a welcome addition to Loughborough's beer scene, as evidenced by it being awarded Town Pub of the Year in 2011 and 2013 and Pub of the Year 2012 by the local branch of CAMRA. The choice of beers is wide and varied and the service is good, if slightly pushy when trying to persuade you to buy another. 

We neglected the offer of a second beer here. We had arranged to meet Amy's sister and her partner at some point later in the day and were concerned about being pushed for time so we made the decision to move on. Our next intended port of call was the Paget Arms on Oxford Street but, despite what the Internet would have had us believe, we arrived too early. Concerned that we might be forced to rush if we waited for opening time, we decided to head back towards the town centre, which offered the next string of pubs in fairly close proximity. Retracing our steps slightly, we headed left down Regent Street until we emerged near a retail park. Crossing through this, we emerged on a road known as The Rushes which runs into the main shopping area of the town. A short way along this road, from our perspective, is the Swan in the Rushes.

The Good Beer Guide 2022 listed Swan is a traditional three-roomed pub, owned and operated by Castle Rock. As of 2022, it is the oldest surviving pub across Castle Rock's managed estate. Originally built in 1932, when it was known as the Charnwood Inn, the pub gained its current name in 1986. The glazed stone frontage is original but the original leaded windows that once said 'Vaults' and 'Smoke Room' respectively, have been replaced with modern versions. Left of the entrance lobby is the smoke room, which has retained a 1930s tiled and wood surround fireplace, fixed seating, leaded glass panels and parquet flooring. The lower part of the back bar is also original but the upper part is more modern, possibly from the 1960s. The right hand bar still contains the original bar counter with a rare shallow copper trough running around the base and original fixed seating, although the bar back dates from the mid-80s. A smaller room to the rear was formerly part of the living quarters and most of the doors throughout the premises are original and remain in situ. The pub is recognised by CAMRA as having a a regionally important historic interior. As well as its wealth of original features, there is also an upstairs function room, the Hop Loft, and a first floor outside terrace. A large beer garden with marquees and bench seating has been incorporated into what was once the car park. A recently refurbished games room features darts, pool, table football and a vintage arcade game. The Swan has undergone a revival in recent years and was awarded CAMRA branch Cider Pub of the Year for 2019, 2021 and 2022. The central bar serves both of the front rooms and features 10 handpulls, divided into two banks of 5, one in each room. 8 of these were in use when we arrived. As well as offering Castle Rock beers, namely Elsie Mo, Harvest Pale and Preservation, there were also guest ales available, in the form of Shiny Glamour Muscles, Charnwood Salvation, Littleover Taj and Backyard 1898. Another pump was taken up by Seacider. As strange as it sounds, I often won't drink Castle Rock in a Castle Rock pub if there are guests available as it allows me to expand my palate. So, on this occasion, I opted for the Taj from Derby-based Littleover. Amy went for a craft beer this time and we decided to sit outside in the expansive garden so we could enjoy the warm weather, albeit from the shade of a marquee, and watch one of the employees tighten bolts in all of the picnic benches. I wasn't familiar with this particular beer from Littleover before but I was pleased to make its acquaintance. Taj (4.6%) is a gluten free IPA with refreshing tropical and citrus hop notes and a subtle, dry bitter finish. It went down very well indeed in the sunshine of a beer garden! I'd enjoyed properly visiting the Swan again. It has certainly improved in the 7 years between appearances in the blog and I'm not even being biased. Confident that we now had more time to kill before we met Amy's sister and her partner, and emboldened by confirmation of a Liverpool win, we were well and truly in the swing of things by now.

We left the Swan the way we came in and had but yards to go to find out next location. The first of two micropubs to make an appearance on the itinerary, had we not been looking for it, we would have missed the Needle & Pin. 

Converted from an old electronics shop that had been closed since 2008, the Good Beer Guide 2022 listed Needle & Pin opened in 2016. The door leads into a split level layout with the ground floor featuring bench seating and tables and a small flight of steps leading up to a bar in the top corner. Beyond this is a small corridor wherein lie the toilets. The 'cellar' is a specially adapted cold room accessed from behind the bar. A flight of stairs leads to an upper level which features more extensive seating as well as board games and music. The interior is very bright and clean. The bar features 4 handpulls as well as a bank of 4 keg taps. The Needle & Pin was awarded CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year for 2018. The 4 hand pumps offer a choice of both local beers and those from further afield. At the time we visited, the following were available: North Riding Imperial Stout, Mill Hill A Man is not a Camel, Stancill Barnsley Bitter and Mill Hill In Capable Hands. Whilst I went for the In Capable Hands, Amy was drawn to a cherry and plum gose on keg from Polly's Brew Co. Having selected our beers, we went and took a table by the window. Amy's beer was delicious with all the fruitiness and subtle sourness you'd expect from the style. Personally, I was equally as enamoured with my choice. In Capable Hands is brewed by Mill Hill in nearby Enderby. It's a hazy, New England-style pale ale with big hop notes, underlying bitterness, and a very clean and refreshing finish, all at 4.7%. I love finding beers I love from breweries I'm not familiar with. The Needle & Pin is, in every sense, the epitome of everything that's right about a micropub. The only discernible issue was that the pub was devoid of background music during our visit. We'd arrived not long after they opened and were the only customers which made the long periods of silence slightly awkward but it's a small quibble in what is otherwise an excellent little place. 

It was time to venture on again. Our next location would see us venturing back into the town centre proper. Turning right down a side street, we emerged within sight of the Griffin where our day had begun. Approaching it, we this time turned left onto Market Street, which is effectively a traditional high street with shops and cafes along either side. Halfway along this, on the left as we were walking, is Cask Bah.

The second of the duo of micropubs scheduled for the day, the Cask Bah's emphasis is on beer, music and good times. This is very much reflected in the interior. Music memorabilia and lyrics from punk songs decorate the walls. Even the name of the pub pays homage to a song by the Clash. There are musical instruments throughout, portraits of music icons across the walls and the toilet is accessed through the front of an old red phone box. Real ale is available and is served via gravity from taps mounted on the back bar. The rock music aesthetic extends to the beers which are all provided by Nottingham Brewery but are rebadged, with permission, and renamed after music icons. Even the pump clips are customised vinyl records, a theme that continues throughout the venue. The decor and the vibe come as no surprise as soon as I realise that the landlord is Craig, former landlord of the Tap & Tumbler in Nottingham. During his time at the helm, the Tap also sold rebadged Nottingham Brewery beers and incorporated vinyl into their interior decoration. What of the beers? Well, there are 7 pumps here, 6 for beer and 1 for cider. As mentioned, each beer is renamed for a specific musical theme, but all are from Nottingham Brewery's range, meaning that there are a range of styles on offer. The beers, at least during our visit, are Rebel Reb'ale (Dreadnought), Pitcher This (EPA), Strummerville (Bullion), Lemmy Legend (Legend), Blockhead (Reel Ale) and Mellors Mild (Rock Mild) with the available cider being Lilley's Apple & Blackcurrant. It took a little while for my head to stop spinning so I could focus on the job in hand but I was eventually able to select the Rebel Reb'ale and Amy the Pitcher This. We sat in a booth, resplendent in its punk decor, and absorbed the atmosphere of the place. I have to say, it's very, very cool. Whilst I was making the requisite notes,  Craig came over we had a chat about the place and how things work with the beers and the dispense. We briefly chatted about his time at the Tap and he said that he'd recognised me from somewhere which would, in all likelihood, be from his previous place of employ. The beer was great. Nottingham Brewery don't get enough credit, in my humble opinion, for the quality of their ales. The Dreadnought is excellent! It's a 4.5% amber coloured bitter with full malt flavours and hoppy bitterness. I would absolutely recommend this place to anyone who enjoys beer, music and the good times that encapsulate both. I have no doubt that I'll be coming back. 

As painful as it was leaving Cask Bah, we were now eager to get to an old favourite from our last time in Loughborough. Continuing down Market Street and through the market place, we emerged on Leicester Road. Continuing down this, we reached Wood Gate, where we turned right and crossed over at the traffic lights. A short distance away is the Good Beer Guide 2022 listed Organ Grinder.

Previously a coaching inn known as the Pack Horse, the pub was bought by Blue Monkey in 2012 and underwent a thorough top-to-bottom renovation which uncovered lots of original features. The main bar is slightly to the right of the entrance, serving a bar space with wooden furniture and repurposed barrels as seating. A corridor runs alongside this which leads to an outside space, to the rear of which a beer garden, with picnic table seating, can be found. Directly behind the bar, the lounge bar area has been converted from the old stable block. The stables themselves have been repurposed into booths for drinking with the dividers being left in place to reflect the pub's original incarnation. Opposite this, is a tiny enclosed seating area with a single table and a handful of chairs. This is a situated in a separate room called the Ostler's House, which is filled with firewood and old photos and still retains the original stove and sink. An ostler was someone who would look after horses for visitors of coaching inns. Keeping these features and allowing the public to utilise them is certainly a nice touch. It's always good when pubs give a nod to their history. This being a Blue Monkey pub, it should come as no surprise that their beers are prominent. 8 hand pumps sit on the bar and 7 of these were in use, with the vast majority from the Blue Monkey range, specifically Jungle VIP, Chocolate Guerrilla, Guerrilla, Primate, BG Sips and Infinity IPA and another pump reserved for a guest beer, in this case Goffs Jester. It would be rude not have one of Blue Monkey's excellent beers and so we both went for the Jungle VIP (4.4%) a delicious golden ale. It's fruity, easy drinking and very refreshing. We sat in the Ostler's House whilst we sunk our beers. I didn't remember all the unique details of this place before and I'm very glad that we made the effort of a return visit. It also reminded me that I really need to revisit the sister venue in Nottingham at some point in future. That's for another time though!

By now, we finally had an ETA for Amy's sister Laura and an agreed upon destination. With two pubs left, it looked as if we would have company for the last leg of the trip. Leaving the Organ Grinder, we headed slightly back on ourselves, and made our way over to Church Gate, where we arrived at almost exactly the same time as Laura. A few minutes later we were joined by Laura's partner Yasmin as we congregated outside our penultimate stop: The Three Nuns.

This Everards pub takes its name from an unfortunate spelling error. During its naming, the original name, the Three Tuns, was misspelled as Three Nuns and the name stuck. Colloquially known as the 'Nuns' it boasts an open plan interior arranged around a central bar with traditional wooden furniture and banquette seating and a beer garden to the rear. The bar holds two banks of hand pumps, 6 on the front bar and 5 on the back bar, usually with beers doubled up across both sections. The decor is traditional with breweriana, local photographs, whitewashed walls, wooden beams and horse brasses. Everards beers take centre stage here. Only one of the 11 pumps wasn't in use and the others were all doubled up, featuring 5 different beers from the Everards range: 4 x 4, Sunchaser, Old Original, Beacon Hill and Tiger. It had been a very long time since I'd had an Everards beer, let alone in an Everards pub! Amy and I both went for the Tiger whilst our guests went for lager and vodka and lemonade respectively. We sat on a table just inside the door, enjoying our drinks and generally catching up. The Tiger, as you'd expect, was in cracking form. Copper in colour with aromas of malt and toffee, it's a very well balanced drink with a delicate spiciness from Fuggles and Goldings hops. I'd forgotten how good a beer it actually is. 

We had one final venue planned before our day would draw to a close and, luckily enough, it happened to be just next door. So, with Laura and Yasmin in tow, we made our way to the White Hart.

Now a freehouse, the White Hart reopened in 2013 following an extensive refurbishment and is now part of the Benjamin Pimlico Pub Company. There is a secluded patio and beer garden to the rear, with the interior radiating a cosy, relaxing ambience. The lighting is low and subtle, creating a comfortable atmosphere with wooden tables and chairs arranged across the floor with a bar to one side. Candles occupy the majority of tables to further enhance the mood lighting. The pub is Good Beer Guide 2022 and was CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year for 2017. The pub operates a 21 and over policy for individuals but young children under 5 are still welcome as part of a family group. The White Hart has built up an excellent local reputation for good beer and features live music on occasional Friday and Saturday evenings. 6 handpulls occupy the bar with a mix between local and not so local beers. At the time of our visit, the choices were Timothy Taylor Landlord, Shiny Disco Balls, Arbor Mosaic and 3 beers from Charnwood, in the shape of Blue Fox, Vixen and Salvation. I immediately went for the Blue Fox, Amy went for a pint of Beavertown Neck Oil and our guests repeated their previous drink choices. We took a table a short distance from the bar and remarked on the general feel of the pub. Amy and Laura had been here in the past but not for many years and discussed how much it had changed, evidently for the better. I enjoyed my beer here too. Charnwood are a family-run Loughborough brewery and it's rare to see their beers outside of the town so it was nice to be drinking it where it was meant to be drunk. Blue Fox (4.2%) is a refreshing golden beer brewed with Mosaic hops that give it a tropical fruit and blueberry aroma and finish. It was ace!

And with that, our time was up. Our glasses were empty and our bus was nearly due so we bid farewell to Laura and Yasmin and headed the short distance to Baxter Gate to embark on the return journey. The day had been a successful one. I hadn't been entirely sure what to expect from our Loughborough revisit but it had delivered. It's clear that, whilst the town does certainly have its share of 'locals' pubs, the new additions to it's drinking scene are perfectly placed to attract visitors from further afield. It definitely feels that the choice of both pubs and beers in Loughborough has changed for the better in the last few years, and it's nice to see things moving in an upward direction as opposed to the alternative. The more that the beer scene in this part of Leicestershire trends towards the positive, the more inclined I'll be to schedule in a return trip. It had certainly been a worthwhile day and we'd both thoroughly enjoyed it. After all, if you don't end a pub trip by falling asleep on the sofa at 8.30 during an episode of Ghost Adventures, have you even been on a pub trip?  

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The more things change.......

Greetings! For my recent trip, I once again took advantage of a bonus day off from work and also elected to stay much closer to home than I have for a while. It had been quite some time since I had properly evaluated the drinking scene of this fair city of Nottingham that I now call home. In the years since my last survey, things have changed. New venues have opened, many have changed hands, some have been refurbished and some, unfortunately, no longer exist. With things feeling as close to normality as they have done for quite a while, what better time to head out and explore the newer and more recently revamped locations amongst Nottingham's hundreds of pubs? Some of the locations will have featured in the blog before, in one form or another, but there are a few that make their debuts by virtue of having sprung up over the last few years. It's a tough job.

The day of my trip was an unseasonably warm and sunny Thursday. I had planned a route that would see me circumnavigate the city centre, both starting and ending at a bus stop adjacent to Nottingham station. I arrived in the centre just before 12.30pm, getting off the bus on Carrington Street, and immediately made my way to the day's first stop. In the shadow of Nottingham Station is one of the city's newer micropubs. The day's adventures began at BeerheadZ.


This Good Beer Guide 2022 listed venue is a conversion of an old Edwardian cabman's shelter and restroom that is part of the station buildings itself. Dating from the time of the station construction in 1904, the interior still retains some of the original features such as drivers' benches and coat hooks. The station is a Grade II* listed building meaning that the renovation has been minimalist and keeps with the overall architectural theme. BeerheadZ are a small Midlands-based chain with other premises in Grantham, Lincoln and, until fairly recently, Retford. The pub is a single ground floor room with an adjacent door that is the rest room. Painted wooden panelling and window frames have been retained from the original shelter. Seating is on wooden stools and beer barrels with wooden tops as well as low, tongue shaped tables. The majority of the seating is directly opposite the central bar but there is additional seating outside on both sides of the walkway to the station concourse. The colour scheme is two tone cream and lime and there are also power sockets for charging devices but no WiFi. BeerheadZ was awarded Nottingham CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year for 2018 due to its cider and perry range. The bar is well equipped with cask and craft beers as well as a range of bottles and cans. 5 chrome hand pumps sit pride of place on the bar. At the time of my visit, 4 of these were in use, offering a choice of Goff's Lancer, Magpie Coat Tails, Liverpool Syren's Call and Heritage X Porter. With fond memories of our recent trip to Liverpool, I was instantly drawn to the Syren's Call (4.1%). I decided it would be remiss not to make the most of the sunshine so took my beer outside and sat on a metal chair facing into the station. I must admit that this was my first ever trip to BeerheadZ. I have no idea why it's taken me so long! Syren's Call is described as a 'modern bitter'. It's golden in colour with less toffee flavour and more leafy, hoppy notes. It's very drinkable and certainly starts the day off on a good note! BeerheadZ is in the perfect spot for those requiring a beer before, or after, a train. Be aware when visiting though that the capacity is only 36!

I now retraced my steps, heading back down Carrington Street and turning left onto Canal Street. My next location is immediately next to a coffee shop and is a fairly imposing building right on the pavement. I was now at Fellows, Morton & Clayton.

This red brick pub is a Grade II listed building and was formerly a Victorian office building for the eponymous coal carrying company. Built in 1895, the building was converted into a pub in 1980/81. Designed by architect W. Dymock Pratt, who also designed nearby Via Fossa, the pub is also notable for being on the site of Nottingham's first successful balloon flight in 1813, commemorated by a green plaque on the exterior wall. Inside, the pub is split level. A ground level bar area leads through to a lower drinking and dining space and also to a spiral staircase that leads to the toilets. There is a rear, two-floored room that can be used for functions. To the front, a raised snug type space occupies room behind the front window. The bar is L-shaped and faces both the front door and the main seating area. A small outside seating area is accessible through glass doors to the rear. I've been in the Fellows on the odd occasion in the past but I cannot for the life of me remember whether or not it's ever featured in a blog entry. I do know that the available real ale choice has been reduced though. During previous visits, albeit years ago, 8 handpulls were present, in two banks of 4. This has been reduced to a single bank with the second set replaced by a T bar offering keg beers. The 4 available hand pumps were all occupied when I arrived. The choices here were Hollow Stone Oligo Nunk, Sharp's Doom Bar and Thornbridge Astryd with the fourth given over to Lily the Pink cider from Celtic Marches. I decided on the Oligo Nunk but this ran out as it was being poured so instead I swapped to Astryd, from the ever-reliable Thornbridge. At 3.8%, this is a juicy, hazy session IPA brewed with Mosaic hops. This gives big flavours of berry and stone fruit and also lends a nice cleanliness to the finish. It definitely has a kick for a low strength beer! I took a seat at a high table almost opposite the bar whilst I enjoyed this delicious beer. It gave me time to take in the decor, which is primarily themed around beer and brewing. There used to a be microbrewery upstairs on this site but it has been out of use for many years. The pub also shows live sport and there are a couple of TVs throughout the premises. The pub was relatively quiet during my time there but was just beginning to pick up for the lunch rush. 

It was time to move on again. Leaving the Fellows, I turned left and continued down Canal Street, crossing the road at the traffic lights and then turning left onto Wilford Street. Passing an Irish Centre on the right, my next location is just nearby, perched on the bank of the canal. Next stop, The Navigation. 

Not to be confused, as it often is, with the Trent Navigation on Meadow Lane, the Navigation has previously been both a Whitbread and Banks's tied house. Formerly known as the Lock & Lace, it was a fully licensed pub from at least 1879, when the landlord was T. Smith. Located on the canal side, the pub has been through a number of owners in recent years and is now under the ownership of Marston's. When the pub last featured in these pages, myself and Matt visited when it was home to Annie's Burger Shack before that business scaled up to its own premises. That was the day we learned that I didn't understand how canal locks work. Anyhow, following an extensive refurbishment in 2017, the pub appears to have been given a new lease of life. Internally, the bar sits along the right hand wall with some seating opposite, A larger room, with more tables, is to the side and this leads through to a canal side access with outside seating right on the canal side itself. There is also a small beer garden and smoking area to the rear of the pub, accessed through a door next to the bar. The decor is music themed with murals, framed photos of music legends, classic film posters and, my favourite, an entire drum kit repurposed as a light fitting. Cool or ridiculous? You decide! Beer-wise, there are 4 handpulls on the bar. One of these is a permanent outlet for Timothy Taylor Landlord but there are also 3 guest beers, on this occasion Ashover Indian Pacific, Dancing Duck Dark Drake and Oakham JHB. I was suitably impressed to find such a collection of guest beers in a pub that I had assumed would be steadfastly tied to the Marston's range. After some swift perusal, I selected the Ashover and made my way around to some sofa style seating in the larger room, next to the canal side entrance. Indian Pacific (3.9%), is a hoppy session IPA, originally brewed especially for Brownhills Beer Festival in Chesterfield, but clearly popular enough to be shipped further afield. It's a very nice beer indeed! All the expected IPA hoppiness and bitterness are there without the expected strong alcohol hit. Cracking stuff!

My day was going well so far. The weather was holding, the beers had been good and the first trio of pubs had exceeded expectations. Onwards and upwards! Leaving the Navigation, I turned left, made my way back up Wilford Street and crossed the road. I then turned left again and continued down Maid Marian Way before crossing over again. I had now intended to visit the Royal Children but, despite what it said online, they weren't opening until later in the day. I made a vow to swing back this way later. Unperturbed, I continued down Hounds Gate, emerging on Friar Lane, where I crossed over to my next destination. My next stop would be somewhere rather different in the context of the pubs I'd hit so far: Southbank Bar.

Starting life as a department store, the premises was previously known as The Approach until 2016 when it was refurbished into its current incarnation. Originally known as Southbank City until the rebranding of its Trent Bridge sister site, Southbank Bar is a large, open-plan sports bar that prides itself on excellent entertainment and ability to show live sport across a vast number of TV screens. The bar is on the right hand side as you enter with a raised stage area for live music to the left. Seating takes the form of booths to the sides and rear with more conventional seating in the central space, which becomes a dance floor at weekends. As well as a large projector style screen, there are numerous others throughout, both on the walls and in the booths. The pub has featured once in the blog before, back when it was the Approach. I tend to normally visit about once a year, usually in February, for the Superbowl but have popped in on other occasions and, as some of you may remember, I used to work for the company that owns it for a while a few years ago. Whilst definitely a sports bar first, Southbank does supply real ale and there are 6 handpulls present. On the day that I popped in, half of these were in use, with a choice between Fuller's London Pride, Navigation New Dawn Pale and Oakham Citra. Obviously I went for the Citra. It still remains one of my favourite beers and it's in great condition here. It's a rather surreal experience being in here in the daytime when I'm not willing anybody but the Patriots to win the Superbowl. 

Leaving Southbank, I turned left, continued to the end of Friar Lane and crossed Market Square. Reaching Market Street, I continued uphill with the Theatre Royal in front of me at the top. This would actually be my next destination, in a round about way. When I reached the top of the hill, I crossed over Parliament Street, walked past the entrance to the theatre on my left and began heading down South Sherwood Street. A few yards down, on the left, is the entrance to Yarn.

Previously known as the Green Room, Yarn is part of the Theatre Royal complex and reopened in its current state in November 2017, following a major refurbishment. Whilst still owned by the owners of the theatre, the bar is operated by Castle Rock and would be the first of 3 establishments of theirs that I would visit throughout the day. The bar is long and narrow with two entrances, one to the rear, through which I enter, and one inside the theatre foyer. There is bench seating outside whilst inside the seating is more functional tables and chairs and a wooden floor. 10 handpulls are on the bar are there are also 9 taps for keg beer which are mounted on a wall behind the bar. Of the 10 available pumps, 9 were in use on my visit. Unsurprisingly, some of these were Castle Rock beers, namely Elsie Mo, Harvest Pale and Preservation, with Elsie Mo and Harvest Pale doubled up. The guest beers were Mallinsons Waimea and Salopian Lemon Dream with the remaining two pumps reserved for real cider, in this case Broad Oak Moonshine and Cockeyed Bonobo Banana. There would be more Castle Rock beer later on so I avoided that for now and, instead, opted for the Lemon Dream (4.5%) from Shropshire's Salopian Brewery. I've had Lemon Dream more than once before so knew what to expect and I wasn't disappointed. This is a golden ale with zesty aromas and a citrusy finish. It's brewed using organic lemons but the lemon isn't overpowering with the sweetness rounding out the flavour of the hops and the delicate bitterness. It's a bit like a beer digestif! Yarn is a venue I've been in fairly regularly, normally with Amy prior to the cinema, and it's a welcome addition to the pub scene in this area of the city. It certainly gives a more interesting choice of pre-show drink to the casual and seasoned theatre goer!

It was time to continue on now but I didn't have far to go. Leaving Yarn the way I came in, I continued down South Sherwood Street until I reached the junction with Shakespeare Street, with my next location already in sight. Crossing over, I made my way directly into The Playwright.

Officially known as The Playwright at 38, this is a pub that has been through various incarnations throughout its history. Originally the Clinton Arms, it became Russells in 1983 and was most recently known as the Orange Tree before a refurbishment in and a change of name in May 2019. Whilst under the Clinton Arms moniker, is was fully licensed in 1868 under C. T. Baxter and was also the location where Nottingham Forest FC was officially founded in 1865 by a group of shinty players, who also settled on Garibaldi Red as the club's colour. Following Notts County's relegation from the football league, Forest are now the oldest football league club and, at the time of writing, are well in the running for a return to the Premier League for the first time since 1999. But enough about that. The Playwright's location on Shakespeare Street has given it it's current name. Internally, the layout is open plan, with plush sofa seating and retro decor. The atmosphere is generally relaxing throughout. A pleasant garden is to the rear and there is a room towards the back that can be reserved for functions. Photos of bygone Nottingham and local history decorate the walls. The pub is now under the ownership of Charles Wells as part of their 'Pizzas, Pots & Pints' brands and offers stonebaked pizzas alongside other morsels. I'm here for the beer though. The central, J-shaped bar has 4 handpulls, 3 of which were being utilised when I was there. All of the beers are from the Charles Wells stable, under the names DNA, Legacy and Origin. All the beers are brewed under the Brewpoint label. I decided on the Legacy (4.1%), a citrusy golden ale with notes of orange and peach, hopped with Admiral, Olicana and Citra. The body and bitterness are moderate and the whole thing is refreshing and easy drinking. I took my drink to a round table in the window that was catching the sun and watched the world go by for a few minutes. Prior to this visit, I'd only been here once since the refurbishment but had come here a few times when it was the Orange Tree, when it also featured in the blog. I have to say, I do like what they've done with the place.

It was further into the city centre now. Continuing down Shakespeare Stree, I turned right, walked past Victoria Centre, turned left down Parliament Street, right down Thurland Street and left again onto Pelham Street. Walking up the hill towards the Hockley area, I reached my next stop: Faradays.

Situated on the corner where Pelham Street and Victoria Street converge, Faradays was previously known as Cape and underwent a refurbishment and renaming in 2016. The current eponym is apparently to commemorate the location of the old Raleigh bicycle works on Faraday road. The site on which the pub stands was once known as Swine Green and was referenced in the first work of poetry written by Lord Byron, back in 1798, which is commemorated by a green plaque above the door. Faradays is operated by Stonegate and consists of a large downstairs area with the bar to the back, and seating throughout. An upstairs function can be hired and is accessed by a metal spiral staircase in the middle of the pub. A doorway to the right of the bar leads to a staircase that goes down to the toilets. A section of pavement to the front of the pub is cordoned off for outside drinking and dining. This is another pub that featured in the blog years ago under its previous incarnation. Real ale has recently been reintroduced after being temporarily discontinued during the coronavirus restrictions. A bank of 4 handpulls occupies the bar with 2 of them being in use when I arrived, giving me a choice between Doom Bar and Little Critters Malty Python. I went for Malty Python (4.3%), a best bitter from Little Critters, a brewery based in Sheffield. I decided that I'd like to sit outside this time and was lucky enough to find a spare table with just enough sun on it that it wouldn't be too hot or too cold. The beer was good. It's well balanced between bitterness and sweetness and carries hints of caramel and hedgerow fruits into a smooth finish. The outside space was fairly busy during my time here, unsurprising given the weather, and more than a few workers had taken the opportunity for a liquid lunch. Who can blame them?

My next destination was a literal stone's throw away and another new location to the blog, though it has now been open for a few years. Time to officially investigate Six Barrels Drafthouse.

One of two such venues in the city, Six Barrels Hockley opened in 2017 in a building that had been closed for many years after previously serving as the Lord Nelson and, more recently, Image Bar. The Lord Nelson was previously a John Smith's tied pub and, in 1874, was a fully licensed establishment under A. Richardson. It once had a viewing panel that allowed the old (very deep) well to be seen but this is no longer visible to the public. A meat cellar and barrel thrall are still extant in the cellars. Now operated by Pub People, the modern conversion has seen bare wood and comfy furniture installed, with a central bar and large windows overlooking the street. The decor is part pump clips and beer can labels, and part nerd chic with an abundance of Star Wars decoration and theming. I'm definitely not complaining! The pub is managed by a good friend of mine and I always enjoy a warm welcome when I visit. Six handpulls sit on the bar, alongside a great selection of craft beers in keg and a very well stocked can and bottle fridge. On the day of my visit, 5 of the 6 handpulls were in use, with an interesting array of choices. I had to choose between Pentrich Confetti Moment, Marble Export Mild, JW Lees Bitter, Bombardier and Old Sawley Little Jack. I don't see Old Sawley beers very much so the presence of Little Jack was a nice surprise that I couldn't pass up. Named after a horse, Little Jack is a 4.3% pale ale that is crisp and refreshing with big citrus flavours from the use of 4 American hops, specifically, Amarillo, Citra, Simcoe and Cascade. It's a cracking little session beer, made even better by the surroundings I'm in. I sat in a booth, drank my beer, charged my phone and said hello to Ginny, one of the two very cute and very sweet pub dogs. It's hard to find fault with this place and I really do need to visit more often. Great beer? Check. Great atmosphere? Check. Dogs? Double check. What's not to love?

As much as it pained me to leave Six Barrels, there was work to be done and beer to be drunk. I turned right upon leaving, making my way down into Hockley and approached Stoney Street, where I turned right. Next on the list was the Angel Microbrewery.

For many years known as the Old Angel, during which time it was one of Nottingham's premier alternative pubs, this pub has stood in the Lace Market since at least the 1600s and has a long and colourful history.  Grade II listed, it was the site of at least two murders in the 1700s, that of a prostitute and a policeman respectively, and served as both a brothel and a chapel. Caves lie deep underneath the beer cellar and were carved out in the shape of a crucifix. The cellar itself still contains a barrel thrall and was used as an air raid shelter. The old chapel, which has a double height ceiling, is a famous gig venue that witnessed early shows by bands such as Oasis, Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys. Equally famous,  under its old guise, was the ceiling covered in gig posters and the puddles in the gents toilets, all now sadly (at least in the former case) gone. The old church pews, from the days of the chapel are still preserved and lie upstairs. The pub underwent a major refurbishment in 2016 and is now in the vein of an organic gastro pub with an on-site microbrewery, which supplies beers to the pub and other local venues. The interior layout is largely unchanged with wooden floors, two rooms with the bar in the middle divided by a corridor and another, smaller room to the rear, where the toilets can now also be found. A small garden space to the back is an effective sun trap on nice days. The pub certainly didn't look like this when it last featured here! The 8 handpulls are divided up into smaller banks on both sides of the bar and 6 of them were in use when I arrived. Unsurprisingly, the pubs own beers take centre stage, but there are some other local guests. Available on the day are Angel Revelation, Angel Hung, Drawn & Portered, Navigation American IPA, Navigation Rebel and Brass Castle Elvis Impersonator, with another pump given over to Seacider Black Cherry. I am instantly drawn to the Elvis Impersonator, from Brass Castle brewery. At 6.7%, it is a peanut butter, facon (that's fake bacon to you and I), and banana stout. Erm, yes please! It was totally worth going for the stronger beer. It was delicious. Sweet, nutty and smooth but with an underlying smokiness, all wrapped up in big malty flavours. I would have had another if I'd had the time. This is absolutely an early candidate for beer of the day at this stage! It was nice being back in the Angel. I remember it from years ago when the aesthetics were certainly different and, whilst it's not the same, it has kept some of the character whilst generally improving the whole place. Even if the gig posters are gone. The character may not be the only thing remaining though. The ghost of the murdered prostitute has long been said to haunt the premises and there were many tales of a ghostly female singing at the end of the night and messing around with the fruit machine when it was still here. These accounts were from when the pub was in its previous form. Whether the tragic girl is still in situ since the revamp, nobody knows for sure.

The next stage of the afternoon would take me down into Sneinton Market, an area that, for some years, was a bit of a pub and real ale wasteland. However, over recent years, significant investment and rejuvenation has begun and continues to go on, improving the area and facilities for locals and visitors. A number of pubs have sprung up too, creating a very nice little circuit with the venues situated at the bottom end of Hockley. The next trio of pubs are new arrivals in these pages. After leaving the Angel, I made my way down Hockley, crossed Huntingdon Street and walked up into Sneinton Market, in the direction of the Victoria swimming baths. On the corner of Handel Street is a recently reopened pub that is the newest addition to this part of town, The Bath Inn. 

Don't let the Egyptian Art Deco exterior fool you. There's a much older building underneath. The Bath Inn was built around 1820 and refronted between 1920 and 1930 in an exotic style inspired by the national interest in Egyptian culture and styles, and also in keeping with the nearby Turkish baths. A Grade II listed building, the Bath Inn was a fully licensed establishment in 1871, under W. Harvey. Formerly a Shipstone's house, the Bath at one stage operated as both a pub and a chip shop before a lengthy period of closure which finally came to an end when it reopened in December 2021. The new owner is Piers Wheatcroft-Baker, local garden centre magnate and son of Doctor Who actor Tom Baker no less, who has continued the Egyptian Revival facade both inside and out. Internally, the chip shop counter has gone, replaced by sarcophagi and other Egyptian style artefacts. A mannequin of a diver in a bathing costume is suspended over the bar, which is tucked into the back of the room. There is a piano, branded candle holders and lots of seating throughout. To the left of the entrance is a snug with an enormous mirror and soft lighting. A smaller area with settles and small tables is to the right. A large open room sits between the two entrance doors which makes a perfect spot to observe the local area. Another smaller room with upholstered seating is located near the stairs, which lead down to the toilets, with a kitchen beyond, though this is currently not in use. I've heard mixed things from locals about what it's like in here so I'm glad to be able to check it out for myself. Luckily, unlike it's former self, real ale is available and there is a choice of beer from 4 hand pumps, with my options being Vocation Bread & Butter, Dancing Duck Ay Up, Doom Bar and St. Austell Proper Job. I was served by Mr. Wheatcroft-Baker himself (don't mention his dad) and selected the Proper Job, taking it with me to sit in the room with the large mirror, just as the Beatles came on over the sound system. So far, so good. The beer was well kept and reasonably priced for the area, contradicting some of the reports I'd heard. The decor is the star here though. Where else in Nottingham, nay the country, could you sup a beer and make eye contact with a slightly unnerving Egyptian sarcophagus at the same time? Exactly.

It was back into the market proper now, to the second Castle Rock venue on the itinerary and a place that, since September, I've been proud to call my place of work. Located on Southwell Road, on the very edge of the market, is the Fox & Grapes.

Regarded as a heritage pub, the Fox & Grapes is literally a pub in two halves. The front portion that faces the street dates from 1905-06 and was designed by Evans and Son, masking the remains of a much older 19th century building of the same name, located to the rear. The join between the buildings can be seen from the Avenue C beer garden side. The pub was renamed Peggers, from a local poacher's act of 'pegging' his catches to railings at the front of the pub, and owned by Banks's until a long period of closure. Ornate windows led to the local nickname 'Pretty Windows' although no trace exists of what led to this name, with research suggesting that now absent frame tracery from the Edwardian refit may have been responsible. The pub also has rather grisly claim to fame. On September 8th 1963, the then landlord, former miner George Wilson, was brutally stabbed to death just yards from the pub. Nobody was ever brought to justice and the case remains Nottinghamshire's oldest unsolved murder. Castle Rock reopened the pub in September 2017 spookily, and completely accidentally, on the anniversary of the murder. The previous two roomed layout has been opened up into a single L-shaped room with two raised areas on either side of the front door. A high ceiling and large windows give a light and airy feel. The bar occupies one side of the room, built partly around a load bearing pillar. The old Peggers sign from the time of Banks's ownership hangs above the bar. My workplace boasts a lot of choice for the connoisseur. 11 handpulls, 8 craft keg taps and an extensive choice of bottled and canned beers mean there is something for everyone and I'm not just saying that! Being a Castle Rock pub, there are a few of their cask beers on namely, Harvest Pale, Preservation, Elsie Mo and Screech Owl, alongside 4 guests, on this occasion Deya It's All Linked, Castle Rock Army of Me, Siren Jiggery Pokery and Thornbridge Market Porter. The remaining 3 handpulls serve real cider, currently Weston's Old Rosie, Lilley's Mango and Ampleforth Abbey Medium Dry. On this occasion, as I tend to do when I have a beer after work, I went for the Elsie Mo. It wasn't for brand loyalty reasons or anything. I just happen to really like it! If you're unfamiliar, Elsie Mo is a 4.7% golden ale which is both hoppy and bitter and, if I do say so myself, very well kept, reflected by the pub's inclusion in the Good Beer Guide 2022. I can also say that we are the proud recipients of a Pub of Excellence Award from Nottingham CAMRA. It is a joy working here and it was about time that it featured in the blog, especially as I had a reason to be in the area on my day off. It seems that everyone locally knows the story of the 'Pretty Windows Murder' that lends the pub a hint of notoriety. Has it left an impression on the pub? It's a strange one. I'm not saying the pub is haunted. I am saying that, more than once I've come in to work to find a window open that I know I closed the night before and that can only be opened from inside. Add to that, the occasional cold breeze, strange sound, knocks and the bizarre time that a tap behind the bar turned itself on and it's safe to say the jury is out. 

I was approaching the end of my day now but I still had a few venues to tick off. Next up was the third pub in what I've decided just this second to call the 'Sneinton triumvirate'. Virtually opposite the Fox & Grapes, all I had to do was cross the road to reach the Partizan Tavern.

Nottingham's newest micropub opened in July 2021 in a premises that was formally a betting shop. Run by a local CAMRA member, the pub is named after Partizan Belgrade, a Serbian football team that the landlord regularly visits. The interior is bright and airy, with an L-shaped bar and two large windows that look out onto Manvers Street. 4 handpulls are located on the long arm of the L and there are two fridges stocked with both soft drinks and craft beer. Real ciders are available direct from the box and the range and quality of these have led to the Partizan Tavern being awarded CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year for 2022. Wall decoration is primarily Partizan Belgrade football programs. I'd heard there was always an interesting choice of beers on here and that turned out to be pretty accurate. The 4 options available to me were Totally Brewed Into the Portal, Little Critters Malty Python, Lenton Lane Very Iggy and Lords Brewing Co. L.A. Speed Check Mountain IPA. The slightly long-winded and confusing name of the latter instantly attracted me so it was no contest really. I wasn't familiar with Lords Brewing Co., but it turns out they're from Golcar near Huddersfield and, if this beer is anything to go by, I'll be looking out for their stuff more often. At 4%, L.A. Speed Check Mountain IPA, is a hazy, session pale ale, brewed with American hops. It's very juicy, hoppy and citrusy and very refreshing. The landlord is a very nice bloke and I enjoyed a chat with him about the local area and how it's improved in leaps and bounds from a few years ago. The Partizan is definitely one to come back to. 

I headed back towards the other end of town now as I had two more destinations left before calling time. Firstly, I wanted to revisit to a place I'd bypassed earlier as it wasn't open. Heading in virtually a straight line from Sneinton back to Hounds Gate, it was time to reassess the Royal Children. 

The current building is believed to be a 1920s or 1930s rebuild of a pub that stood on the site, with the previous building being first referred to as an inn in 1799 when the landlord was John Clayton. The name stems from a popular legend that Princess Anne (later Queen Anne), the daughter of James II, took refuge in Nottingham in December 1688 when the king's reign was failing, and her children were given refuge at an inn that stood on this site. However, given the dates given for the building's construction and the fact that none of her children born before this visit were still alive, and her next son was born 8 months later, this very much seems to be based on legend and not fact. For whatever reason though, the story persists and the name of the pub has remained unchanged. Although, the presence of children on the site would certainly explain the childlike footsteps that have been heard on the upper floor of the building at night, most recently by the former manager, and the number of other reports of strange activity, although this could also be explained by the fact that the pub backs onto Ye Olde Salutation Inn, renowned as one of the most haunted pubs in the city and possibly the country. The Royal Children has had something of a reputation over the years that I've lived in Nottingham, usually an unfavourable one. It's never really been known for beer and has relied on a very specific clientele that don't tend to be particularly welcoming to strangers. Despite this, it did previously stock real ale
and featured in my very first blog entry, 9 (!) years ago. Amy and I also came here once, in the middle of the day, and witnessed a man try and start a fight with a complete stranger in the virtually empty pub. It was good news then when Pub People announced that they'd bought the lease and were taking the pub over, overseen by another good friend of mine. Gone was the jukebox, the TV and the fruit machine and in came a craft beer fridge and the return of real ale. My friend is no longer the manager there but I didn't think much would have changed in the couple of months since he'd left. How wrong I was. The TVs and fruit machine have returned, the latter in place of the aforementioned beer fridge, and a pool table has been put in what was previously a seating area. Worst of all, real ale has gone. Not one of the 5 handpulls had anything to offer. I've since discovered that Star have reacquired the lease from Pub People so at the moment, things have taken a backward step as far as this pub is concerned. I have to say, it's a bit of a disappointment. 

I had one destination left for scrutiny and that meant making my way back to where my day had started. Down Maid Marian Way, left onto Canal Street and right back onto Carrington Street. A few yards from where my bus would later be departing, is the Barley Twist.

The third and final Castle Rock property on my tour, the Barley Twist is located in a former sweet shop, from where it takes its name. Primarily a craft beer bar, it is spread over two floors with a ground floor that features original brickwork and high ceilings along with a small number of tables, as well toilets to the rear. Downstairs is a rustic cellar bar which is perfect for a quiet drink and can also easily cater for functions. Train departure times are displayed on a board to help quell any nagging anxiety about missing the last train back to wherever. The bar is primarily craft beer oriented with a number of products in key keg. There are also a couple of large, very well stocked, bottle and can fridges against one wall in case anyone is in need of train beers. Two cask ale pumps also feature on the bar, offering Castle Rock beers, in this case Harvest Pale and Preservation. The latter seems like the perfect way to round the day off. This is a 4.4% best bitter, that carries a strong malty character and is slightly sweet with hints of caramel. A pint of it, whilst perched at the bar chatting to the bar staff was certainly a good way to finish. 

What a day it had been. Nottingham had been long overdue a reappraisal of its drinking scene, especially in the wake of the pandemic. All in all, I found my adopted home city's beer scene to be in rude health, barring one glaring disappointment. I'd certainly been able to compare and contrast the current state of play with how things were a few years ago when I last explored it in depth. Have things improved? I would have to say yes. New and/or improved drinking venues that continue to offer delicious beer can only be celebrated. Nottingham is certainly growing its reputation as a beer destination and it has to be said that it is richly deserved with each new venue offering something different and a reason to keep returning. But things are still developing. More venues are on the way. Nottingham is in the midst of a development boom that promises to bring more good things our way. I'm already aware of more premises in development or opening imminently and that can only be promising. In time, it will certainly call for another survey. I'll try not to leave it as long next time.