Next weekend will see hundreds (perhaps 1000s) of CAMRA members descend on Nottingham for its annual conference. I was there last weekend, where every half-decent pub was preparing for this beer-binge. This was a bit of luck, but most local brewers appear not to favour the fruity American hop, which was a small disadvantage.
Over three days of sampling, here are my favourite moments and beers. The Hand and Heart on the Derby Road – like so much in the city it has rooms built into the bedrock, but also has the best beer I found: from Brewster’s and its a dark IPA style beer but I cannot recall the name given to it by brewster Sara Barton. The brewery is in Grantham, its good to know that there is a socially valuable women from there, and not just the milk-snatcher.
Only a hundred yards away is the Organ Grinder, belonging to the Blue Monkey Brewery, which is just NW of the city. A pleasing ordinary bitter called Infinity (4.6%), and a premium version at 5.6% nicely named Infinity + 1. But best of all is their deeply delicious chocolatey stout called Guerrilla.
The Crafty Crow (tap house for the Magpie Brewery) is a trendy new bar offering a good range of beers and a view of the castle entrance. Found a good fruity hop beer here – 4T’s APA in addition to Magpie’s Hoppily. Just behind it is The Roundhouse, a circular bar based in what was once a ward of the General Hospital. The barmaid said several customers have told her they were born in the bar, so she thinks it was a maternity ward. Had two beers from Springhead Brewery – Robin Hood and Roaring Meg. They also brew Leveller, named after the Civil War radical group who are described as a thorn in the side of Charles I what with demanding better representation in government. I guess he might have settled for a thorn in the side, instead of an axe through the neck. The Roundhouse features a portrait of Chas I because he started the Civil War just a few yards from there, waving a Royal Standard from the battlements of Nottingham Castle.
Just a bus ride west is the suburb of Beeston where I sampled beers at the Victoria beside Beeston station, Castle Rock’s Harvest Pale, Oldershaw’s Blonde Mosaic and (another fruity hop one) Willow’s Mirthless, as well as a big blue stilton and raw onion sandwich. Then up the road to find the Crown, a pub with more rooms inside than seems to make sense from the outside. The bar was staffed by a group of young men all with very neatly trimmed beards – the beard is clearly back as a fashion statement.
Tried two from Blue Monkey (Infinity and 4 wise monkeys) plus an Orkney beer, Nimbus Blonde. 20p off a pint after 4pm, for 2 hours, but no CAMRA discount. I got CAMRA discounts in three of the other pubs mentioned above.
Finally I should mention the excellent Canalhouse, a bar with a bit of canal inside it, complete with floating narrowboat and handy bridge to make the trip to the bar easier. Castle Rock Red Riding Hood (a red ale with trace of NZ fruity hop), Quantock Sunraker (golden ale with bitter bite) and tasty Castle Rock Sherwood Reserve Stout.