Friday, July 12, 2013

A Survey of Sneinton

This week I set my sights on the Nottingham suburb of Sneinton with the aim of further investigating the delights of its hostelries. Once again, Matt was my right hand man and what followed was an interesting afternoon that took in everything from good pubs, surprises and, more unusually, cricket. But first, the historical part............
The original district of Sneinton was built around the brickworks, founded in the 19th century at the eastern end of Sneinton Dale, which is the main road running through the area. Most of the existing terraced houses date from the 19th and 20th centuries but the brickworks has long since been demolished to make way for modern housing. In 1801, Sneinton was a small village roughly a mile from Nottingham town centre, standing on a high ridge overlooking the valley of the River Trent and with a population of only 588. This had grown to 8440 within the next 50 years and as is continued to increase, it was officially incorporated into the borough of Nottingham. During World War II, Sneinton was the target for air raids with the industrial units on Meadow Lane suffering direct hits. The name 'Sneinton' may have originated from 'Notintone', a street in the area, and a link to the Norman name Nottington for the area away from the city centre. From the mid-20th century onwards, there was a large influx of immigrants to the area, mostly from the West Indies, India and Pakistan, Bangladesh, Poland and Africa and this multi-cultural flavour remains to this day.
Currently, the area is best recognised for the windmill that stands on Sneinton Hill and incorporates Green's Windmill and Science Centre. Nearby, there used to stand the now-demolished Nottinghamshire County Lunatic Asylum, later a  boarding school known as King Edwards' and now the location of King Edward Park. The school was run by famous headmaster Albert Tanner and his wife Mary and was the scene of many deaths of children in industrial accidents. The school itself stood for 117 years before it was eventually demolished. Famous residents of Sneinton include the infamous murderer Arnold Booth (who also worked at King Edwards'), Salvation Army founder William Booth and bareknuckle boxing champion Bendigo.
Our first stop on our latest investigative adventure was The Moot located on Carlton Road.
This unusual looking building was formerly a chapel as evidenced by the unusual layout, and it was once upon a time the brewery tap for Medieval Beers until this relocated to The Old Angel. Inside, there is a small row of booths on the left hand side with a pool table and some small wooden tables opposite. There is a small staircase in one corner that presumably leads to living accommodation and the bar is small and situated in the far left hand corner. The bar includes 4 hand pumps, none of which are being used at the time we visit so, not wanting to be rude, we settled for a pint each of Theakston's Mild, available on smooth flow. Too late, I realised that there was a small selection of bottled ales available, in this case Harvest Pale, Thwaites' Wainwright and Badger Golden Champion. Taking our pints and retreating to a booth near the door, we discussed the absence of ale, which is made all the more curious by the presence of a large number of pump clips across the walls and staircase and a list of breweries written in chalk pen along one of the ceiling lintels. After much chatter, we decided that perhaps this is one of those venues that prioritises ale during busier periods so as to make sure that it gets sold. We'd certainly heard good things about it prior to our arrival and they advertise real ale on the boards at the front so this seems like a likely explanation given the evidence. The Theakston's Mild was in good condition too so that, at least, made up for it slightly.
For next stop, we intended to visit the Queen Adelaide on Windmill Lane back in what I call 'proper Sneinton'. However, the proverbial spanner ended up in the mechanism when we got there and found it closed despite it being far past opening hour. We even tried a return attempt a bit later in the vain hope that we'd got our timings wrong but, sadly, we were disappointed. Not to be deterred though, we moved on to another of Sneinton's pubs that I'd heard promising things about, the Lord Nelson.
The building that now houses the Lord Nelson is approximately 500 years old and has previously been some cottages and a coaching inn called 'Hornbuckles'. This is a rare breed of venue in an aesthetic sense, resembling a country pub in the middle of a city suburb, with its traditional brasses, original beams and low ceilings. The pub is divided into individual snug-like rooms with the bar a small, square, slightly raised structure more or less in the centre. The ales on offer are fairly standard. The pub is owned by what appears to be a combination of Greene King and the Pub People Co., so Greene King IPA is (un)welcome by its presence. Also available are Olde Trip and 2 from Nottingham Brewery (EPA and Supreme Bitter). I opted for the EPA, whereas Matt went for the stronger Supreme Bitter. The EPA was in good condition and we headed out to the beer garden, which happens to be the only one in the nearby area. At this juncture, conversation turned to Matt's trip out to see the band Clutch the night before. This was made even more interesting by the pub employee haphazardly trying to erect a large gazebo behind us. It was tempting to offer to help but it was more entertain to watch him try to figure out which way up the support posts were supposed to go.
Moving on, we next headed to a place we'd both visited before and instantly liked, despite Jade not being overly keen until she'd seen the inside. Heading back towards the city centre, we made our way to the King William IV, a street corner pub on the junction of Manvers Street.
Despite the slightly suspicious looking exterior, there is an awful lot to like about this traditional Victorian pub. The bars on the windows are more to do with the area the pub is in than the clientele and the wall on one side proudly proclaims micro-ales from near and far. Inside, it's as if someone has turned their living room into a bar. There is a lot of wooden seating, and the walls are decorated with Victorian scenes, artwork and pieces of breweriana. The bar is central around four wooden pillars and rectangular in shape with 9 hand pulls on show, one of which has Old Rosie. Ale-wise there really is a fantastic choice with Newby Wyke Banquo; 2 from Derbyshire's Whim Ales (Hartington IPA and Snow White); Ossett Blonde; Rat Brewery White Rat; Abbeydale Moonshine and 2 from Oakham (Bishop's Farewell and JHB). I was instantly drawn to the Moonshine as it is one of my favourite ales. Pale, 4.3%, and very hoppy with a nice fruit tang and undertones of citrus and a smooth and tasty finish. Eagerly clutching my pint, I followed round to the seating at the other side of the bar, which is positioned in front of a large TV showing Day One of The Ashes. Whilst somehow managing to get Matt into cricket, we engaged a few of the regulars and the barman in conversation. This is the kind of pub where you can easily have a nice comfortable chat with people without feeling out of place. Following our disappointment at the closure of Queen Adelaide, we compensated with a second pint here. Second time around, I opted for Hartington IPA from Whim Ales. This is a micro-brewery based just outside the Derbyshire village of Hartington with a rearing stag as the mascot for its pump clips. This was a good choice for a follow-up. At 4.5%, this is another that is pale and hoppy with a nice fruity aroma and strong flavours of citrus. Cricket conversation was in full flow by this point and both myself and Matt were very surprised by how much he got into it!
After watching Jonathon Trott more or less dismiss himself, we decided that another pub was in order. Admittedly, the final 2 on this trip aren't technically in Sneinton but they're close enough geographically that I felt that it was worth including them. First up was Bunkers Hill, which is technically in Hockley but has a strong reputation for live music and good ale and decent discounts during ice hockey matches as the Ice Arena is right next door.
Bunkers Hill is a 3 storey building with lots of high tables and chairs and a small outside smoking area. The live music is usually hosted in an open brick room upstairs and I've seen a couple of bands here, one of whom was Jade's brothers band Three Thirds Below (shameless plug but check them out). The bar is C shaped and located at the back of the room, There are 6 hand pulls, 1 of which is out of use, and 5 of which contain a mixture of ales and cider. The cider is Cheddar Valley from Somerset and the ales are Pedigree; Nottingham Brewery Sir Blondeville and Foundry Mild and Cottage Brewing Advantage. There is also Thornbridge Jaipur on a smooth flow tap and American-style wheat beer Blue Moon. First up, I went for Advantage. This was a good choice. At 4.4%, this was golden and bitter with hints of hops and a rather sweet flavour. Matt went for the Blue Moon, which was served with a slice of orange and was rather tasty, although more his thing than mine. The cricket was still on and we ended up staying for longer than planned, having 2 more pints each, both of mine being Sir Blondeville which, as always, was perfectly kept. As England started making their way through the Australian batting order, we made our final stop of the day. On Lower Parliament Street, the other side of the arena from Bunkers Hill, sits a rather non-descript looking 2 storey building known as The Castle.

 I've been intrigued about this place for a while, mostly with regard to how awful it might be. However, upon seeing that it advertised real ale on its signage, I then turned my attention to deciphering it's unusual opening hours. This was a bit of a stab in the dark on my part but, with our timing coinciding with its opening, it ended up being a pleasant surprise. I couldn't find out an awful lot about the place other than what they say about themselves but they're open from 5-close Mon-Wed, with additional opening periods between 12.30-3 the rest of the week. Their food is standard pub stuff but they also advertise Sunday lunch. Inside, there is lots of seating, mostly low tables and chairs, as well as a pool table and a surprisingly cute Chihuahua which I'm fairly sure was also in Bunkers Hill (with its owners on both occasions obviously). The bar is off to the side of the main room and is roughly horseshoe-shaped. The bar tender is a very nice, very sweet older lady with a slight limp and the ale selection consists of Landlord or Doom Bar. One of the 4 pumps is not in use but the 3rd includes Rosie's Pig cider. We opt for Doom Bar which ominously runs out as the second pint is being topped up and head out the back to a conservatory like area which opens out into a beer garden that is actually rather nice. This is another place that, like The Moot, probably holds out for busier periods as I imagine it gets a fair bit of evening trade from arena crowds and the like. Sadly, the Doom Bar is very vinegary, indicative of the barrel having gone but that doesn't mean that it isn't worth a return visit. These are the kinds of community pubs that deserve continued support from their regulars in order to ensure their continued survival. With that, and the decision to leave our sub-standard pints, we venture out to be picked up be Jade and head to a friend's BBQ well and truly full of ale and knowledge, and happy with our experience which, against the obvious assumptions, has shown that pubs in and around Sneinton have more to offer than first glance would indicate.

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