However, for all this yin positivity, there has to be a yang and just like my Nottingham trip last summer, it's the people. I wouldn't say they are unwelcoming, and it's not "League of Gentleman" syndrome, but in true East Midlands fashion, it was all nervy glances and an air of "we don't give two hoots for your presence" for want of a better phrase! To think that on some BRAPA days, I'm complaining about how sociable I have to be (like that outer Northallerton day for example), but people here (and most damagingly, the staff) barely registered my existence. At least this allowed me to 'observe', which as a pub blogger, I guess is an important part of the day out!
594 - SMITHFIELD, Derby - After a pleasant sun-drenched riverside walk, I found my first pub looking a bit lonely, very much the only building not to be demolished in this particular part of town. I was greeted by the strange smell of dog biscuits on entering, and maybe it was pre-emptive, as a large hungry Alsatian soon arrived to try and devour any food it could get it's paws on! As usual, I had forgotten to take advantage of the CAMRA discount but to my relief, the local Smithy Ale was £2.80 so they hadn't included it in the scheme. The landlord/barman was the first of many underwhelming characters I encountered today, he looked like a scrawny ex-biker, perhaps the type who'd stab a rival gang member without sanction, never admit it, and leave his burly gang leaders to suffer decades of consequences. Perhaps(!) He made a good job of polishing the silver (cutlery) but then let the Alsatian lick his face. The blackboard claimed "enter as a stranger, leave as a friend" and despite an enjoyable pint, there was no real warmth or atmosphere on show here. Tuesday lunchtime might not be the time to do pubs justice in this respect however.
|The Smithfield from across the river|
I then followed the canal path round past Pride Park (sorry, the iPro stadium) to my Travelodge (surely also needs renaming the iProLodge), checked in, had lunch and was ready to crack on with some serious pubbing.
595 - EXETER ARMS, Derby - 2013 Derby pub of the year, so highly recommended, and I could see why. It is the main outlet for Dancing Duck brewery and the full range was showing, I think I got one of their bottles for Christmas. Today, conscious of my alcohol intake, I stuck to light ales (though I came to be hankering for a porter or stout before long). This pale ale, "Ay up" was one of the nicest. The pub itself was wonderfully old skool, with many rooms and a fantastic settle snug, very rare to see nowadays. As I was getting served, a Brummie couple of visitors declared to the landlady "we've got gas!" and as everyone was about to put their hands to their noses, explained it is Brummie for "we really love it and we don't want to leave!". Hmm, well it takes all sorts. The main boss of the pub seemed to be a very characterful West Highland White terrier, ultra characterful and friendly. Glad I didn't stand on him now. The pub was friendlier than most, the old music added to the ambiance but my one criticism would be it was too foody and sitting right next to the kitchen didn't help. As a very multi-racial family came in for an after school pint in the settle, I wondered if I'd felt less like an outsider if I'd been in the snug and not just outside it!
|Great Dancing Duck ales in the impressive Exeter Arms|
|Excellent proper pub at the Peacock, didn't feel very Marston's!|
597 - FURNACE INN, Derby - Current pub of the year now, and in Derby standards, that's really saying something. So whether I'd done the usual "build it up in my mind too much", I'm not sure but despite being very good, it fell a little bit short of 'best pub in Derby' in my increasingly sozzled eyes. The local brewery represented was "Shiny" and the New Zealand hopped ale was powerful but very flavoursome. I'll be looking out for their beers again. The pub itself was quite spartan, very much a serious drinkers pub with a games/function room, and a big group of local CAMRA men sat around discussing village pubs in Derbyshire, so I tried and failed to make notes for future Derbs trips. Also, I quite secretly hoped they'd ask "why I was in their pub?" but no chance of that in the East Midlands! I missed the CAMRA discount as well, and they had a no shrapnel policy, meaning all beers were rounded up and down to the nearest 10p. The customary crazy dog was on display, a growly black lab but most visitors got more of a growl than me, despite the crazy red jacket I had on!
A beer delivery was going on too, something you don't normally see in the afternoon but made me think the beer was probably fresh! I got an urge to wheel a barrow into the pub so I could make a very bad "barrow in furnace/furness" joke. It was time to move on.
|The Furnace and beer delivery on Tuesday arvo in Derby|
|Five Lamps : A very different type of Derby pub as dusk falls.|
|Great local pale ales were the theme of a great day (this pic was taken in Smithfield)|
I drank water throughout the excellent gig, felt fairly sober by the time I walked back (but not along the river just in case!) to the iPro Travelodge, had an okay night sleep, back at York today. Six more pubs done, Probably should have eaten more through the day but successful on the whole, and still EIGHT more Derby pubs to achieve. Return trip in 2015/16 perhaps? Great place for an ale day out.