Beeston grew from its village status in the nineteenth century with its development as a silk weaving centre. The first silk mill was burned down (along with Nottingham Castle) in the Reform Bill riots of 1831. With the decline of the silk industry, many of the former mills moved to light industrial uses in the early twentieth century. Equipment produced by the Beeston Boiler Company is still to be found all around the British Empire. In 1901, the National Telephone Co. established a factory there for making telephone materials. This subsequently burned down in 1903 and was rebuilt and extended. The Boots campus contains some Grade I and II modernist buildings designed by engineer Owen Williams, although these are very difficult to see from any public highway. Between 1880 and the turn of the century, Thomas Humber and his partners made bicycles and eventually motorcycles at a factory at the junction of what is now Queens Road and Humber Road. At its height it employed 2000, although this came to an abrupt end in 1907 when the operation moved to Coventry. Motor manufacture returned to Beeston fro a short time in 1987 when Middlebridge Company set up a small factory on Lilac Grove and produced 77 scimitar cars. The company went into liquidation in 1990. Beeston Maltings operated until the late 20th century. The building stood opposite the Victoria Hotel on Dovecote Lane but were sadly demolished in September 2012 to make way for housing.
To get to Beeston to begin exploring, I took the slightly unusual step of getting the train, a trip which takes roughly 5 minutes, costs considerably less than the bus and gets me closer to my first desired location. But first, a cautionary tale and a little bit of a rant. Upon arriving at Beeston train station, I did the conscientious thing and through my used ticket into one of the waste bins on the platform as my journey around the town made it easier to get the bus home so I had only purchased a one way ticket. As I made my way to the exit that would take me to a footbridge over the railway line and towards the town centre, I was stopped by a member of station staff, who asked me if I had just travelled. When I said that I had just got off the train from Nottingham, she asked to see my ticket. Obviously, I was then forced to tell her that I had disposed of said item and she directed me to another member of staff, very official-looking, who was barring my route of exit towards the steps out of the station. When I repeated what had occurred, she told me that I needed to retrieve my ticket, which led to the embarrassment of me having to walk back to the other end of the platform and rummage through the rubbish bin to locate my ticket, all the while feeling like a criminal. When I found it, unfolded it and presented it too her, she smarmily told me too 'keep hold of it next time'. What, keep hold of a one way ticket, that I won't be using again and which expires by the end of the day? Really? Jog on love! Get a proper profession you bloody ticket Nazi jobsworth!
Rant over. This small, but nonetheless rather irritating, mishap aside, I finally made my way out of the station and headed to my first destination, the aforementioned Victoria Hotel on Dovecote Lane.
The Victoria is a very traditional, Victorian railway hotel situated adjacent to the east-bound platform of the nearby railway station. The character of the building has certainly been retained with signage on the frosted glass windows, old wooden doors between the rooms and framed adverts for beers and breweries decorating the walls of both the small and large bars either side of the entrance. The large, rectangular bar has an extensive spirit selection and the ale choice is impressive with 11 ales and 4 real ciders and perries on display. Ale-wise the choices are wide and varied with offerings from Castle Rock (Harvest Pale and Black Gold), Everards (Tiger), Kelham Island (Best Bitter), Welbeck Abbey (Henrietta), Caythorpe (Cocker Beck Bitter), Oldershaw (Heavenly Blonde), Batemans (Golden Swallow), Shepherd Neame (Goldings), Holdens (Golden Glow) and By The Horns (Lambeth Walk). My mind was blown by the quantity on show but I managed to keep my composure long enough to order a pint of Golden Swallow (4.0%).This is golden in colour with top notes of fruit and hoppy underneath, a smooth, dry taste and hints of citrus zest. It's a very good start to the day and certainly more than makes up for my experience at the train station. I took a seat facing one of the well-decorated walls, drinking in the nostalgia of the place and already feeling like Beeston was a good choice. The atmosphere is very relaxed and the pub also provides CAMRA discount of 20p off a pint every Sunday-Thursday.
It was hard to tear myself away from the Victoria but needs must and so I headed back the way I had come but this time headed straight on, through the labyrinth of tram-related roadworks, into the town centre to High Road, where my next destination, The Hop Pole, sat amidst the trappings of modernity.
Dating back to at least 1870, the Hop Pole has an unspoilt feel both inside and out, with exposed beams and 2 fireplaces amongst a traditional wooden interior with feature wallpaper. The pub has amassed a significant reputation amongst ale drinkers and this is due largely to the hard work of licensee Karen, a multi award winner amongst licensees in the area, and her dedication to providing excellent real ale from nearby and further afield. I arrive just after opening time and approach the central pentagonal bar with its 8 ales, Old Rosie and Weston's Traditional Scrumpy. The choice of ales is certainly varied with Harvest Pale and Doom Bar amongst some less well-known including Kelham Island Easy Rider, Reality Hop Pole Bitter (brewed especially for Karen by local Reality Brewery), Robinson's Dizzy's Dark Side, Adnams Broadside and J.W.Lees Moondance. Feeling adventurous and in the mood for something darker I went for Dizzy's Dark Side (4%). This is a captivating dark oak colour with a clean, crisp hop aroma and flavours of toffee and caramel. I was the only customer this early in the day and took a stool at the bar admiring the interior of the relatively small pub and periodically chatting to one of the barmaids. This pub does CAMRA discount too, also Sunday-Thursday and this knocks 15p off a beverage.
I was thoroughly enjoying my trip to Beeston on what had turned out to be another nice, late summer afternoon, before I even reached my next location. The Crown Inn markets itself as a 'cask ale emporium' and it certainly doesn't disappoint!
I can find nothing negative to say about this place, as will soon become clear. Formerly run by Hardy's and Hanson's, in 2009 the pub was transformed into a traditional old-fashioned ale house, with 14 ales, 8 ciders and perries, continental draught beers, Cornish fruit wines, an entire bar dedicated to whisky, no fruit machines or pool tables and an interior divided into small rooms and snugs by traditional wooden alcoves and frosted glass. They are also dog friendly so there is a danger of this becoming my new favourite place in the world ever! It also has the distinction of being East Midlands CAMRA pub of the year in both 2010 and 2011. The ale choice is certainly fabulous with the previous claim of 14 certainly stacking up with a wide variety of choices from a number of breweries. Available for the connoisseur are beer from Ashbourne's Leatherbritches (Cad, Bounder and Scoundrel), Everards (Sunchaser and Tiger), Nottingham (Rock Bitter), Milestone (Loxley Ale), Maypole (Gate Hopper), Navigation (Apus and Scutum), Harwich Town (Redoubt Stout), Fullers (London Pride) and Oakham (JHB). The 8 ciders and perries are impressive in their range as well. I was that overwhelmed by the sheer majesty of the place that I needed time to make my choice. I finally settled on a pint of Scoundrel from Leatherbritches Brewery in Ashbourne. At 4.1%, this is dark ruby in colour with a malty aroma and flavours of coffee and roasted malt. The badge also features Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist which is a plus if you like this sort of thing. If you've never been to Beeston in your life and you like real ale, I suggest you get out to the Crown as soon as possible because you won't be disappointed. And, if you've been out to Beeston to drink ale and never visited, then you really don't have an excuse. It's wonderful! It even has an additional outside bar which is in use from 6pm on Fridays and Saturdays and, throughout the summer, every weekend has featured 10 different beers from a different area of the UK taking pride of place on the beer. These people know what they're doing and they're doing it very well indeed.
I really didn't want to leave The Crown but, in the name of research, I was duty bound to do so. Heading further into the town centre, my next stop was the local branch of Wetherspoons, The Last Post.
This was formerly Beeston's main post office, built in the mid 1930s. The post office, formerly in the High Road, occupied a new building in the square early this century. In 1934, the post office was rebuilt at the junction of Chilwell Road and Foster Avenue and is now this Wetherspoons pub. More recently, in 1995, the new Nottingham District Sorting Office was built on Padge Road, with the post office itself being adjacent to the pub. The interior is much what you'd expect from a Wetherspoons with an abundance of seating and several slightly raised areas to break the whole thing up a bit. The chandeliers were interesting and reminded me a little bit of the spaceship from Close Encounters but in a more modernist kind of way. Anyway, I've spoken before of my appreciation for the effort Wetherspoons go too to look after their ale and break away from their branding and this place was no exception. 15 hand pumps occupied the bar providing a variety of tasty tipples, including Springhead Maid Marian, Adnams Broadside, Nottingham Brewery EPA and Rock Bitter, Abbot Ale, Ruddles, Jennings Sneck Lifter, Hobgoblin, Milestone Old Oak and American Pale Ale and Shepherd Neame Bishop's Finger (which I've rarely seen on draught). I still have some Wetherspoons vouchers, courtesy of my CAMRA membership so I wanted to use a couple of them up in here. My first choice here was Old Oak (4.1%). This was another dark beer, which has somehow become a theme in the past couple of pubs, with a dark red colour, a creamy head, malty aroma and an oaky malt flavour complimented by a smooth finish. Before deciding on my 2nd pint, I contemplated getting food but decided that money was better spent on ale and so went for another Milestone beer, this time American Pale Ale (4.6%). This was more or less what it suggested on the label: pale and hoppy with a fruity aroma and a flavour of citrus and lemon. Delicious enough and it gave me the kick I needed to try and find my next, and penultimate, stop.
After getting slightly confused as to my bearings, due largely to the fact that I'd been drinking and the logistics of using Google Maps on a phone and walking at the same time, I finally found what I'd been looking for: The Malt Shovel.
Whilst, both inside and outside, this appears to be a standard city centre pub, it has appeared in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide on more than one occasion, so in theory I was on to a winner. The layout is fairly standard with the bar to the left of the room, lots of wooden seating and some plush furniture. It also includes 5 hand pulls, containing Wadworth 6X, Nottingham Brewery Rock Bitter and Rock Mild and King Erik (one of their special editions, brewed for the Pub People Co., who own this and Nottingham's Bunkers Hill amongst others) as well as Kelham Island Easy Rider. I plumped for King Erik at 5.2%, copper in colour, malty in the nose, refreshingly bitter on the taste buds and cheaper than usual due to a handy CAMRA discount of around 20p (I can't remember the exact figure).
It took me a bit of time to drink this pint and I was pondering the wisdom of my decision not to have food, when I finally pushed myself on to the final destination, a pub with the added advantage of a nearby bus stop to aid my journey home. The Greyhound is a pub with a strong background in live music and good beer.
Behind, the creamy walls is a large, expansive interior with a central bar wrapped around the main room and booths and small tables around the edge. The pub was resurrected in 2006 following a period which had left it very rundown and the efforts of the team at the pub have certainly paid off. There are 6 hand pulls on the bar and although 1 is out of use, the other 5 all have something to offer with Bombardier, Hobgoblin, Harvest Pale, Doom Bar and (my eventual choice) Jennings Skinny Dog. At 4.0%, it is golden in colour with a bitter aroma and a malty taste with a strong, earthy aftertaste. I spent some time in this pub, consuming my last pint, pondering the success of the day as a whole and, unwisely, putting the last of my change in the ItBox meaning that I had to get more cash out to afford the bus home. Beeston certainly ticked all of the boxes and I can honestly say that not one of the pubs is somewhere I wouldn't visit again, especially the standout venues like The Victoria Hotel, The Hope Pole and, in particular, The Crown, all of which are doing things as they should be done and their efforts are certainly very much appreciated. Beeston has a lot to offer the drinker of proper beer and I would thoroughly endorse anyone planning to make a visit out this way. You won't be disappointed, I can promise you that!