Tuesday, 26 March 2019

BRAPA - Derbyshire III : The First Cutthorpe is the Steepest (Pt 1/2)

I'm progressing nicely with Derbyshire at the moment, leading me to wonder whether I could actually finish 'ticking' the county and its mainly wonderful GBG pubs before the 2020 edition drops through my letterbox in late Aug / early Sept. 

Six more pubs today took me to 53, edging into 9th place ahead of Dorset (51) in the BRAPA league table.   It was an 'international break' for Hull City, so I persuaded Dad (well okay, he didn't need much persuasion, my company is obviously amazing) to join me on a 'car' day as I had a particularly tricky one on the agenda.

The kind of area we'd be in today

We started though in Cutthorpe, just west of Chesterfield which was rural enough (it'd have been a ten minute walk from the nearest bus stop at (Gary) Linacre Reservoir.  It might not be that high up in truth, but my blog title demands it.

Cue the first moment of confusion of the day, as Dad had thought the pub was opening at 11am, but was actually 11:30am.  Explains why when we pulled up into the car park at 10:57am, he was concerned there was no light on or signs of life.  And I'm thinking 'jeez Dad, they've got 33 mins, give them a chance!' 

Nice rural views
So we went for a little walk in the sunny but cold bracing air, where we said good morning to a lady hanging her washing up, who Dad described as a 'witch' but he meant it in a positive way.

We were back at the car park for 11:15am, but we thought it'd do no harm to see if the pub was open 15 mins early, and gadzooks, it only bloody was! (a door was open anyway.....)

1549 / 2518.  Gate Inn, Cutthorpe

"You go in first with your happy positive demeanour" says Dad, thinking tactics, "you are more likely to get us served!" making out he's some kind of sour faced old trog which of course isn't true.    "Hiiii, you ARE open ain't ya?" I say to the barmaid, which sounded almost like a threat, and he admitted she was open early and had seen us lurking around outside and wondered what our beef was.  She was very much a people person, and to be honest, I'd rather someone was curious about what had brought me to their pub that someone who barely registers the presence of other human beings as happens in pubs in, say, bits of London.  For a first pulled pint of the day, the Chatsworth Gold was glorious quality, as good as anything all day, but I told Dad that as we were the only customers, he might have to exhibit some weird behaviours to give me something to write about in my blog!  For that's the problem, all you could do was sit in the fairly cosy bar area around a corner, relax and enjoy your drink, like what normal pub folk do.  Ugh.  At least Martin the Owl came out for an airing.  On the way out, we returned our glasses and I made a point of saying it had been a quality pint.  "She's marked you down as a CAMRA type!" says Dad.  Okay father, no need to be offensive.

Black Sheep glass, London Pride beer mat, but quality local ale

Martin is back from his 'suspension'
 Our next pub wasn't far off, just north of Cheaterfield, home of the crooked spire and Luke Beckett's Jacobs Cream Cracker tin stuffed full of bank notes #NeverForgiveNeverForget and I think a new GBG entry. 

It seemed far from 'new' as we arrived just before 12 noon, buoyed by our early opener in Cutthorpe, we pushed a few doors to see if we could get in early.  An overgrown garden and chipped paintwork and stuff, this was either going to be a mini-classic or a bit of a shithole.  Both perhaps? 

I'm there somewhere!

1550 / 2519.  Nag's Head Inn, Newbold

At a side door, we saw a local hovering around like a North Derbyshire moth.  "I'm glad we aren't the only ones waiting" I say with a smile, and he tells me that last week, he found two blokes from Glasgow waiting here for opening and he thought 'couldn't they find a nearer pub!'  "Perhaps they were visiting every pub in the Good Beer Guide?" I suggest and he replies "yes, that is EXACTLY what they were doing!"  Did he not think that is why two strangers like us might be here?  At that second, the door springs open, bang on 12 noon, and we are in.  The barman is a proper stoic old skool lad, "There you go duck" he says to Dad as we get our pints.  Sadly, my ale was too warm (and I'm not particularly fussed about it being majorly chilled!) , exactly the kind of 'first pulled through of the day'  I was glad we hadn't suffered in Cutthorpe.  Wonderful pub though, lovely soothing old fashioned lounge style, that kind of 'smoking ban never happened' feel to it.  And it wasn't long before a healthy throng of locals had joined our friend from outside at the bar.  If BRAPA was a drama and you were a casting director casting the perfect dog for this pub, you couldn't have done better than the huge breathless bulldog that bound in shortly after, dribbling from every orifice, I couldn't get a good pic for the table and watchful owners but trust me, he/she was a legend.  In conclusion, nice to see pubs like this getting their place in the GBG amidst the micros and kitchens.  North Derbyshire, keeping the pub scene real! 

If everything seemed a bit too easy today (a nice linear route from pub to pub, early opening, time on our side), it was always likely BRAPA was going to do what it always does when you relax and let your guard down, and give you a good firm bite in the bottom.

For next on the agenda was Staveley, a place know to me and Dad from our early days of travelling by car to away Hull City matches down the M1.  We'd take one smell of the chemically air around this point, and Dad would say "Staveley!"  so that's what it means to me.  Reassuringly,  the smell was even stronger and more disgusting in the town itself as we parked up - it's a wonder the locals don't have six fingers on each hand.  Oh, hang on ...... 

But worse was to come.  "It doesn't look very open to me!" says Dad, as he mysteriously runs back round the corner towards the car in a manoeuvre I never questioned at the time.  I step towards the pub, but with shades of Gidea Park's micropub, the awful truth is revealed ......

Cruel new opening times

Agh!  I'd be back.  All we could do is crack on, and now time for today's 'key' pub.

How can you be so close to the M1 but so utterly rural?  Yes, this was the one Derbyshire pub I just couldn't work out how to get to without the aid of a car!  And there were just too many mind bending features at this pub which I just mentally could never come to terms with.......

1551 / 2520.  Pebley Inn, Barlborough

The pub font and talk of restaurant and accommodation marks this out as your typical rural dining venue, and I think that is how Dad saw it, but to me there seemed to be so much more going on.  I think I'm the first pub ticker to do this one, I can't think its been in the GBG before but I could be wrong, but that makes me feel an added pressure to do it justice, though having said that, I'd probably rate it the weakest of the six pubs we did today.  I ordered an ale called 'Fudge!' and the perky squashy faced barmaid tells me its an ale that has really divided opinion, but what I loved about her, she didn't say any of that "do you want a taster?" bullshit.  She'd heard me say 'pint',  I'd made my fudgey bed (so to speak) and now I had to lie in it (urrghh).  I saw what people meant, it smelt glorious but the fudge taste was a bit thin and lacking.  It was a bit like opening a new box of Quality Street at Christmas, only to find not one of your favourites within.  Just call me Somellier Si (Simellier?)  And before this, two pork chopped rural bar blockers (they looked like farmers from the Charles 'Turnip' Townshend era) had already growled in unintelligible tones that we'd be better looking at the blackboard than the pump clips.  Something I never agree with, I need to see the pumps to get a proper idea.   Despite impressive old clock and pool table, we had no alternative but to sit on low leather settees in a raised area with no beer mats, which lacked true pub integrity, a shame cos there were so many subtle nods to an older unspoiled rural pub hidden if you really squinted hard enough!

This was too nice to be a plant pot and it freaked me out, like everything else here

Dad's ticking game is strong

Man in the mirror (not MJ despite my red leather jacket)

And with a slightly sinister scene of an abandoned twild bike visible from the pub car park, it was time to get back on the road for pub 4 which I'll tell you about next time. 

Sweet dreams,


Wednesday, 20 March 2019

BRAPA - Taking Shelter in Belper on my Drunken Helter Skelter

"When you take the 'beer' out of Belper, what are you left with?  An L.P., that's what" as the famous phrase goes across Mid-Derbyshire (which I've probably just made up).

But before we get on to that, I was still in Matlock where I'd done the Thorn Tree (wowwww) and the MoCa (yehhh, okayyyy) but there was still one more to do, as I escaped the clutches of a friendly train driver brandishing a nit-comb, and I'm not even joking.

The rain was still coming down as I crossed the road for another modern style bar with a rubbish frontage and a vintage name that pre-dated the micropub boom by, oh, at least one year ......

1546 / 2515.  Twenty Ten, Matlock

I squeezed past the three doorway ladies you can see above to allow me to get inside, where I was immediately confronted by a friendly bar blocker who seemed happy I'd selected the 4.9% local porter (why did I keep choosing stronger ales today?) so I explained I was craving one after the MoCa / Mocha Choc/Coffee mix up and that was it then, he reminded me to get my 10% CAMRA discount and then pulled me up stool so I could sit with him.  In doing so, his walking stick went crashing to the floor and I apologised and went to grab it.  "Don't mind him, he's a right nuisance!" he says.  ''He?'  Fancy humanising your own walking stick!' I thought to myself, and then wondered if Martin the Owl was crying on my kitchen window sill for not being included today.  Weird bunch these pubbers!  Well, you can't deny Phil was a font of all local pub knowledge, nice chap too, passing the ultimate BRAPA customer test of being allowed to highlight the GBG entry in green, which he did tentatively but accurately (8/10).  Under the circs, it was hard to gauge the bar as a whole, but had an eclectic mix of clientele, most noticeable when two ladies from a hen-do came over and asked him if he'd pose topless with them they needed to tick it off as part of their hen-do challenge.  Felt a bit sorry for them when he declined, as ticking things off a list of a challenge really speaks to me!  I hid behind him all the time this was going on.  They were sat in a raised area where a pool table and the gents were.  Had I been sat alone to observe, would I have liked it more or less than MoCa?  I suspect perhaps less, but very hard to sat when you are in the midst of the action!

Time to hop on the train a few stops down to Belper.  I seriously needed some sustenance but I suspect that ship had sailed and it was too little too late as I was very unclear in mind as to exactly which station was which, and when I'd actually get to Belper.

Scotch Egg sustenance 

Still, I remembered Phil's directions and realised both of the GBG 'pubs' were quite central.

It had actually been quite a late decision to do Belper today.  I'd flirted with Cromford and Birchover as options, but the weather made them a bit unappealing.  Hell, I'd even researched getting aboard the steam railway at Ecclesbourne Valley and doing Wirksworth and Duffield, but again, it just didn't seem right.  And with Belper being 'early alphabet' and having two ticks, it was a no brainer in the end.  

Anyway, the first of two modern efforts came into view .......

1547 / 2516.  Arkwright's Real Ale Bar, Belper

Okay, so my increasingly hazy state didn't help, at least my Brampton Terminus was my least strong pint of the day at 4.2% but that was one of few positives I took from the experience.  Beer was great, barmaid fine, but it was oh so dull.  Just a modern drinking space full of blokes on their own staring up at the football scores filtering through on Gillette Soccer Saturday.   One bloke did try and make conversation with a stranger, expressing surprise at a 4th minute sending off for Harry Maguire, but that was as animated as anything got.  I nursed my drink towards full time, safe in the knowledge Hull City were still 2-0 up, but the other team (can't even remember who, someone wholly unremarkable) unbeknownst to me must've pulled one back when I was in the bogs, for when it flashed up 2-2 with a late equaliser, it was my turn to be at my most animated and I knocked a Punk IPA beermat gently onto the floor and said 'oops'.  And that about summed things up!

Back out into the rain, around a corner, time for my last pub then, and says a lot about my current slowness that I initially thought the below sign meant this pub opened at 12:10pm. 

Which reminds me, I've still not done the Rat Race in Hartlepool (hope you understand what I mean!)

Weird mini tree suffers from erectile dysfunction

1548 / 2517.  Angels Micro Pub, Belper

So, I calculated that this was the most drunk I'd been in a BRAPA pub since the Old Sun in St Neots, and that had an amusing twist at least when I found myself suddenly stood in the middle of the floor looking for the loos I'd visited 20 minutes before.  I walked in, immediately aware this place had more character than Arkwrights.  It felt a bit like a sixth form common room crossed with a vegan cafe in Hebden Bridge, but had a nice mural and some happy smiling patrons.  You got served through a hatch like you were buying a toffee crisp.  It is a simple micropub concept here - fail to open Mon - Wed, bang on 6 ales and 6 ciders on the Thursday, and watch them dwindle slowly towards Sunday evening and start again the following Thursday.  I ordered a Titanic Plum Porter.  It had to be done.  I took one glorious sip of this gloriously kept drink, and then I can't remember anything apart from hearing myself humming the 'Green, Green Grass of Home' (the superior Uke-Hunt cover version) on a train back towards Derby!  I have a vague memory of chatting to a friendly middle aged couple, she had dark hair, but this might've not happened.  Picture evidence shows there could be a couple fitting that description, a bloke in baggy trackie bottoms must've amused me, and I was quite taken with the corridor to the bogs.  But who can really say?  

Looks like I've even 'missed' the beer mat.  Uh oh!

Straight lines on the carpet but did I stick to them?  Probably not.

Note to self : you are not a young whippersnapper anymore Si, stick to the boring sessionable 3.8%ers if you are out for the long haul.   I changed at Derby but was clever enough to remember my Sheffield train went all the way through to York, and I was back for about 8:30pm which wasn't too bad.  

Not decided if I'm going for a rare Derbyshire Friday night tick yet, but football-wise, its a international weekend for top European clubs like Hull City, so Father BRAPA will be with me on Sat to help me get around some of the northerly Derbys pubs.   

See you then, Si

Monday, 18 March 2019

BRAPA - Matlock, Taking Stock and Two Smoking Beer Barrels

(Adopts Gary Lineker voice ....) "Derbyshire started the day in 14th place in the BRAPA league table, but a six pub victory could see it climb as high as 10th by the end of the day.  Your commentary team for this one is Si Everitt and no-one else...."

"Thanks Gary.  Martin the Owl serves the last of a three game suspension following his poor conduct in the Standing Order Wetherspoons in Derby a fortnight ago, but the Green Highlighter starts for a 542nd consecutive game....."

Sorry, I can't keep this up.  It was back to Derbyshire then for my final "A" tick having done Apperknowle and Ashbourne already.  I based myself in Matlock, a nice friendly town I'd never been to before, which had three ticks to 'enjoy'.  I had a few options for where I could go for my remaining two ticks, but was undecided at this stage.

Derbyshire at the start of play

Despite another Derbyshire Wayfarer ticket purchase, train and bus times were unkind so I taxied it up the hill out of Matlock into the surprisingly (to me) rural village of Ashover where my jolly driver suddenly, and totally of context, started talking about this crazy old lady who'd fallen out with her best mate.

Making a good start here would set me up for the rest of the day, so when we arrived at 11:50am, I fully expected to have a ten minute wait, but to my surprise the door on the left was very open.  Dare I try going in?  Is the Pope a Spirite?  I mean, 'yes'.

1543 / 2511.  Old Poets' Corner, Ashover

Of course, I half expected to be confronted by a Henry Hoover and some stern looking staff screaming "WE'RE NOT OPEN YET!" despite the evidence to the contrary.  But to my amazement, the pub was throbbing with Derbyshire's old folk, walkers and potential diners.  It was in full swing.  I'd been told this pub did its own Ashover beers, but despite about 10 ales being on, none were Ashover ones.  Thank goodness for bar blockers eh, as the delay getting served at the main bar allowed me to spot a kind of 'side bar' with all the Ashover clips on.  So I got a 'Zoo', 5.5% for starters, the first of several unwise beer decisions today which'd lead me to have little recollection of Belper's micropubs!  A great pint though, and I found a smoky wood fire to perch by.  But it soon became obvious I'd chosen my seat badly (just as I did in Thorpe and Ockbrook on my last Derbys outing) as it was on a walkway to an outdoor smokers patio area, and near a couple of dining tables soon to be inhabited by families.  Worse still, a boilerman was Skype calling a lady and getting quite irate with her.  "YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO ME, THIS IS IMPORTANT!" he bellows.  Finally, she listens.  "NOW, PRESS THE NOB TWICE, YES, TURN IT CLOCKWISE .... YES .... YES .... EUURGGGGGH! YESSSSSSS!" he concludes, and puts the phone down.  I think he was a boilerman anyway.  But it was too much for me, I moved to a quiet dark side room.  Piped Six Nations was also coming through by now, it haunts mi BRAPA days that competition, I tell ya.  At least now, I could admire the beauty of the dark woods and stained glass.  Not long after, two yahoo types sit down.  His first line .... "Probably my favourite matches to watch are the varsity matches ..... wall to wall army n navy, yessss!"  What was it with this pub and weird sexytime talk?         I was just about to bemoan the lack of Titanic Stout beermats in this section of the pub, when a bloke plops some Barrowhill Beer Fest ones on my table.  I went once, wasn't impressed, cold, expensive and busy, but my friends loved it and said I was harsh.  Oh, and it was now time for t'bus. 

Encouraging entrance

Good chatty staff at the Ashover bar

Nice fire, poor location

I thought I was pretty bloody clever getting off the bus at the top of the hill, near a GK pub called the Duke of Wellington.  Well, that was until I saw the bus turn right down the road I needed to be on anyway.  Oh well, only a ten minute walk or so ......

Yes, pub two was high atop Matlock centre, looking down with an aloofness at the more modern offerings in the town. 

As is so often the case in recent BRAPA outings, I thought "I'll do well to top that first pub all day", only to find the second one even better!  The erroneously named 'Storm Hannah' was whipping up a reet gale, and I was glad to get through the door, where the Red Dwarf crew were enjoying a cigarette outside .......

1544 / 2512.  Thorn Tree Inn, Matlock

This is the kind of reason why I'm enjoying 'ticking' Derbyshire more than your average U.K. county.  A small two roomed pub, I squashed in at the bar where a slightly harassed and little bit manic barmaid who seemed to be in the midst of some mini-crisis serves me a Bass, the only time I saw this famous ale today.  I didn't get a glass with a red triangle on it like the locals did.  It's hard being an outsider sometimes.  I took my pint into the quieter right side, where three old men barely batted an eyelid at my arrival.  They just sat stock still, drinking Bass, and staring glumly into the centre of the room.  But I think they were smiling inside.  Six Nations was on a small TV above my head, it made no impression on anyone.  The only noise came from two other men perched on the side, laughing and rattling their dominoes, which lasted the entire time I was here.  One had Bass but one had something orange in a Bass glass.  Orange juice?  Or Craft Bass Mango DIPA?  I could see through into the kitchen.  Two microwaves that looked like original 80's models.  If this was an Antic pub, they'd be on some fucking wall display like "Ooh look how funny technology was in the olden days?" , but here they were fully functional probably serving slightly warm Rustlers burgers.  Where were the gents loos?  I offend a woman walker with short hair by asking her.  "I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA!" Jeez, I was only asking, like if you'd SEEN them!  Of course, they were outside, as is the case in so many great pubs.  No sign of Rimmer or Kryton now, but Chubbier Dave Lister (how's that possible?) and Alfreton Cat were sheltering from the wind having an intense conversation.      Top pub, a MUST visit. 

Craft Bass

A hairy downhill walk through the wind and rain into the centre of town followed for my other two Matlock ticks.  I came to the first, but my phone started going on a bit of a weird 'stop start go slow' then crashed totally so I was a bit discombobulated when I entered.

Amazed this photo even took!

1545 / 2513.  MoCa Bar, Matlock

It was always going to be something of a come down (in more ways than one) coming into a knowingly more modern real ale bar ..... well, I couldn't really call it a pub.  The name had me craving a chocolate or coffee stout or porter (Mocha) but I was told it is pronounced Moe-car and is a combination of the names of the people who opened it.  Possibly Moe from the Simpsons, it wasn't clear.  But a BRAPA rule is always be suspicious of a GBG entry with a capitalised letter in the middle.  Entries such as the PieBald Inn in Hunmanby, the Round RobINN in East Leake, and of course, the TwatFace Tavern in Maidenhead are good examples of this.  But the longer I spent here, the longer I felt myself nodding and going "this is decent actually".  Barman was a good geezer, and I got some weird high percentaged New Zealand hopped monstrosity, enjoyable, and I could do a sombre tribute to Christchurch (the one near Bournemouth for having two peculiar pubs, I mean).  I sat near a load of faceless musicians at a high table and got my phone back working again, but weirdest moment of the day was upon me, in some style.  It started when I saw three middle aged blokes peering into a buggy (never a good sign) imploring this green beaker wielding youngster to look at this phone screen, where an Asian lady (possibly called Giff Gaff) was waving back saying 'miss you darling'.  He was more interested in getting back to Peppa Pig on his tablet.  Then, a lady who'd vaguely been hanging around them started combing said toddlers hair.  Perhaps she saw my curious expression, for she walks over.  "Nit comb!" she says, brandishing it far too near my left lug 'ole.  "He's had them on and off for ages now!" Lovely lady, but incredibly random, she's an East Midlands train driver if that explains it, bemoans the fact he won't even have a bite of her cheese sandwich (neither would I), and soon we are chatting BRAPA and local pubs!  A bit bewildered, I said goodbye and with an itchy scalp, made my way to pub number four.  

Well, this had been an enjoyable start to the day it must be said.  Three pubs to go.  I can't remember much so here's to a vaguer blog tomorrow!  Cheers.