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Gordons Travels, Chesterfield: The Brampton Run

For those that have never heard of it, the Brampton Run takes in about 18 pubs in all that are spread along a mile of Chatsworth Road in an area called Brampton. 11 of these pubs sell real ale, according to my research. I met up with my friend Andy and his son Matt for a wander around a few.

We caught the 84 bus to a stop next to Morrisons Supermarket, just before the Walton Road roundabout. From here we took a short walk up Old Hall Road to the Brittania Inn where I had a pint of Brampton Mild. Brampton Brewery were asked to reproduce the Brampton Mild of old for the Chesterfield beerfest in 2008 as a festival special. It's not a mild as we know it, being golden in colour. Their Impy Dark is the proper 'mild' of their range. A nice start to the afternoon.

From there we crossed the road to the Rose & Crown, which is a Brampton Brewery pub so I plumped for the 'Golden Bud' this time. They had four Brampton brews on the bar plus guests. Then it was a short walk to the Tap House, which used to be the Brampton Ale House. This is a Barlow Brewery house and I had a pint of Muirhouse Summit Hoppy here as it was their special of the week. No disrespect to Barlow ales, I like their Bettys Blonde, but I fancied a hoppy beer this time.

Next port of call was The Star, and anyone who knows the trail will realise we passed two of the good ones, but we went back to them. They only had two Theakston ales on so I had Lightfoot which was nice enough. We then popped almost next door to the Peacock who had half a dozen to choose from. Sadly my pint of Abbeydale Moonshine was taken back as it just was not 'right' and was happily swapped for Butcome Bitter.

Our final stop for this trip was Real Ale Corner. Actually an off license with lots of bottles available, but also has two hand pumps in action so I opted for Elgoods Indian Summer. This was the one outlet we visited who did not use sparklers and the beer itself was quite lively and held it's head better than a couple we had had earlier.

We caught a bus back and then realised we should perhaps have visited the facilities somewhere, a dash up to the Royal Oak near the marketplace was the solution and I had a pint of Bradfield Farmers Blonde in there. Andy had to go for his bus but Matt and myself were looking for a bite to eat. I didn't note down the name of the pub we went into but it was similar to a Wetherspoons, long bar, lots of young staff, sport on the TVs...

They had some ales on, the first I got was very cloudy and one of the staff actually noticed that I was stood there with it in front of me and offered to change it. I can't remember what I had there now but had I been beer scoring it would have got a low one, compared with earlier in the afternoon.

We will go back and do the other half of the run one day.

Gordons Travels - Doncaster Beer Festival 2016

(day one)
No major travelling this time, which meant a nice lie-in before the day ahead. I headed straight for the Flying Scotsman Tap on Silver Street as that's where the CAMRA bar was, along with a lot of the CAMRA team.

I had myself a half of Ossett Brewery 'Vivienne May' (I think they're getting beer names from Eddie Stobarts trucks) to start the day, a quite pleasant tang to it but I know that I can't stay with one brew, or even brewer, as there are so many ales in the entire beer festival that I'll be lucky to sample a quarter of them over three days. I popped along to the Doncaster Tourist Information office to drop off some programmes and maps as they've had a lot of enquiries about the beer festival. We managed to get a mention on almost all the local radio stations and there was a nice feature on the Free Press website too.

From there I popped into Cask Corner where I had Thornbridge 'Lumford' followed by Roosters 'Pilsnear'. Both were light golden ales and I could have drunk either all day long. Bob Kiddle, the chairman of Doncaster CAMRA called by and had a chat with some of the other visitors. Not far to go for Ballers Sports Bar, my next visit where I was greeted with a bar of no less than 9 hand pumps, plus the one on their main bar. 'Going for it' was the expression that came to mind, while I was there there were a few visitors with beer festival booklets. I went for Tring Brewery's 'Side Pocket For A Toad' which was very much a session beer but lacked flavour to me.

Back to the CAMRA bar and the Steampunk Brewery 'Ginlic', named because it has undertones (without Fergal Sharkey) of Ginger and Liquorice. Not overpowering and another I could have happily had more of. Not to be as I was then round to The Queen Crafthouse & Kitchen, on it's opening day. I had Don Valley 'Hitchcock' and admired the jukebox, proper records and all. It was just being loaded and the index tabs were being inserted. The beer was on form and I was starting to wonder why I was sticking to half pints - then remembered, this is only the first day of three!

Almost time to head home for my tea so I called in the (little) Plough and had Acorn 'Pretty Green', another one with a distinct tang to it and I quite liked it. My final call of the afternoon was the Corner Pin where I had Stancill 'Ginger Pale Ale'. Not a heavy ginger taste my any means and by now I was looking for something with a lot of flavour - so I went home and had my tea.

After a bit of a rest and a couple of cups of tea as well I headed back to town and the Doncaster Brewery Tap, this time I went for Stamps 'Athanum'. Just what I needed to give me the taste for more so I went back to the main CAMRA bar. I have been waiting to have Jolly Boys 'Golden best' for a while, having sampled their test brews at Barnsley beer festival earlier in the year where I met the brewers. The info warned it was cloudy but OK and it's meant to be cloudy as Jolly Boys do not add finings to the beer, the stuff that makes it clear. The want to be known as Vegan brewers, so I was told.

From there I went back to the Queen and had the Don Valley 'Ribblehead', another new brewery launching at this beer festival. Fatigue was setting in by now so I started to head home, but went back into Cask Corner for my last of the evening as Cev's quiz night was on, not that I take part, I just go to watch the puzzled faces. It was a half of Dukeries 'Farmers Branch' that brought my day of drinking to an end and I went back home.


(day two)
I must be getting old as another day of drinking and visiting pubs has worn me out. Starting once again with the main CAMRA bar I had Idle Valley 'Summer Breeze' as the weather was threatening to be nice again. From there to the Marketplace Alehouse & Deli where I had Shiney Brewery 'Happy People'. I had a chat with some people outside about the beer festival itself.

Then to a pub I admit I've not been to for a while as it's not one I pass very often, the White Swan on Frenchgate. I seem to recall having Black Sheep last time and that was still on but I wasn't there for a beer I can get almost anytime so I went for Lincolnshire Brewing Co '1215' and then Lincoln Green 'Finals Countdown'. May as well make the trip worthwhile I thought. If you have not read my previous posts, I have a bad chest and can't walk very far in one go. On this weekend I was thankful for lifts and taxis between pubs, despite the programme and map making them all look so close together.

From there I dropped by the (little) Plough again where I had the Vale 'Pale Ale' and met up with some of the other CAMRA members having a wander round. May aim was to visit every pub taking part and I had one left to go as I headed homewards for my tea. The Leopard was my final target and I had the Whitby IPA followed by Whitby 'Smugglers Gold'. Yes!, all venue's visited but not quite time for the wife to pick me up so I popped round to the Corner Pin and had the Geeves 'Renaissance' red ale then Three Castles 'Vale Ale'.

I had some things to sort out at home so was a bit later than anticipated going back out. I went back to The Leopard and started there on Whitby 'Abbey Wharfe' and from there to the CAMRA bar for a drop of Chin Chin 'Vanishing Point'. The CAMRA bar was on the stage at the Flying Scotsman and it seems nobody knew there was going to be a band on, they had set up in the opposite corner and I'm not one for loud music at a beer festival so I drank up and left.

I was supposed to be heading to the Doncaster Brewery Tap but had reports that it was packed out. My poor lungs cannot cope with 19th hand air and I've had to go stand outside that particular venue in the past as I simply cannot breathe when it is really busy. Someone else then told me just how busy it was and I thought better of it. I'll go there in the daytime when I hope it's a bit quieter.

It seems that some of the CAMRA team has gone to Ballers Sports Bar and that's where I spent the rest of my evening before getting a taxi home. Some good chat, even though the place was on the quiet side, and some good beer. I had Dukeries 'Heritiage Pale' then Magpie '8 is a wish' followed by Plain 'India Pale Ale' and Milestone 'Boston Bitter'

Should I mention that I've just finished writing this at 2am and day three of the beer festival awaits in a few short hours...


(day three)
I'm getting old... I didn't even go out until after 2pm as I felt tired from the two days before, but I made the effort and called first at the Doncaster Brewery Tap where I had Tollgate 'Billys Best' followed by Half Moon 'Old Forge Bitter'.

Cask Corner was my next call as I had been told that Saturday was the day for Thornbridge 'Jaipur' and sure enough, it was on the bar so I had some. Anyone who has followed my trail of beers so far will have figured out that I don't usually go for the stronger ones but I made an exception as I've been telling my friend Dave it was coming for weeks and his favoured pub have not been able to get it.

On to the CAMRA bar again and a drop of Tollgate 'Red Storm' as I had a chat with the team there before heading to The Queen and the Brass Castle 'Northern Blonde'. The team from Don Valley brewery were there and I had a chat with them as well as the ladies they had brought with them, all wearing their brewery t-shirts. Big thanks to Katrina for the photo :-)

Starting to make my way back for my tea I called in Ballers Sports Bar and had the Welbeck Abbey 'Henrietta Grande'. Cask Corner again for Roosters 'Eight Eight' then on to The Leopard and a second go at Whitby 'Smugglers Gold' I had on Friday. Not a mistake, I found this to be one of my favourites of the festival.

Food time and the Corner Pin where I took a break, sort of. I seemed to be talking to a lot of people and only worked my way through one drink, the Lytham 'Pilsner Radler'. I didn't think Strawberry and Lime tones would go together, if anything it was more grapefruit than lime.

Finally it was back to the CAMRA bar and Rat Brewery 'Ratatonic' before putting my glass away and cashing in my beer card. It's been a fun but tiring few days and it's not over yet as several venues are keeping their mini beer festivals running on Sunday too. I'll probably pop out for a couple of hours, but not all day. I've a beer card from the Brewery Tap to use up, but guess most of that will be cashed in as I really don't have the stamina to do a lot more...

Overall it's been an interesting concept to have a smaller CAMRA bar and have lots of town centre pubs join in. Most have reported increased footfall and sales, which is good for them. From a CAMRA point of view I don't think it was as successful as hoped. We will see what opinions have been formed and what feedback has been given. Most people I spoke to enjoyed it and it was good to mingle with the hundreds of people carrying their copy of the festival programme with them. 


Gordons Travels - Coopers Tavern 10th

10th what? Well, it was the 10th anniversary of landlady Mary taking the pub on.  Every year since she has held a beer festival weekend to celebrate. This was my 4th year running.

And she has good reason to celebrate as the Coopers Tavern has been voted CAMRA Pub of the year 2015 and holds several other CAMRA awards for pub of the season in both beer and cider categories. There is always a good selection of ales and ciders on offer, usually chalked up on boards on the back wall. The beer festival this time had no less than 30 real ales and 10 ciders available, many served from the main bar at the back of the pub which has both hand pumps and a selection of beers on gravity serve, direct form the tap to your glass. Mary prides herself on having Draught Bass available by this method - "as it should be".  Many more were available direct from the cellar, which is around the back of the pub, between the rear entrance walkway and the beer garden and is actually on the same level. We didn't have to go down any steps to the cellar, put it that way. 

As often happens on my travels, I met up with David at the pub. He had arrived half an hour early and had to find his own way into the pub as it was not open when he got there. I was told to use the back entrance so soon joined him in a refreshing pint after the train journey. Dave and Tony arrived a short while after, Tony's wife providing transport there and Dave's wife collecting them later. David and myself were on the trains. At least I managed not to end up sleeping through to Scunthorpe on my way back from this trip to Burton.

The pub itself is not only in the Good Beer Guide but is also listed in 'Britain's Best Real Heritage Pubs'. Originally built for Bass Brewery storage purposes, this classic, unspoilt, 19th-century ale house became a pub and the Bass Brewery tap in the mid-1800s. After several other owners since 1991, it is now part of the Joule's estate. A square, squat 19th-century brick-built building hidden down a side street, it was once a sampling house for the beers of the mighty Bass empire. Brewers would come here to taste, ensuring that their products were up to scratch. Not that much changes, except now it’s discerning punters who come to sample great beer straight from the barrel and drink in the Coopers’ unique atmosphere.

My first pint was Ossett Brewery 'Jester' at 4.0%. Through the course of the afternoon I enjoyed several fine condition ales including Brampton '1302', Amber 'Barnes Wallis', Bathams 'Best bitter', Tudor 'Sugarloaf', Old Swan 'Bumblehole', Elgoods 'Double Swan' and, of course, Draught Bass.  I lost my list, but had popped a few scores onto Whatpub and was able to back-track a little using that on my return home.

We sat outside in the small beer garden, taking it in turns to fetch more beer. We soon learned to check the chalkboard outside the cellar door to find out which beers were on there and which were at the main bar. Although I started on pints, my first three were, I dropped to halves or I'd probably still be there, fast asleep on the bench ! My beer of the day was the Old Swan 'Bumblehole' as it had the most satisfying flavour to me. The Ossett 'Jester' was second, although many Ossett beers seem very similar and maybe that's why I didn't rate it the best.

There was some talk about the Whatpub system and how some branches are not as quick as others in updating information. I was told of one pub the others had visited which had been closed for six weeks and it took longer than that to get the information updated, despite reporting back online using the Whatpub feedback form tool. I'm happy to report that Doncaster Branch react very quickly, I entered a correction about one pub and within a couple of hours it had been updated. 

Still more Travels to come, the Great Central Railway beer festival in September and the Independent Brewers Festival 2016 at The National Brewery Centre in Burton in October, not forgetting our very own Doncaster Town Beer festival 22-24 September.

Gordons Travels - Market Bosworth Rail Ale Festival 2016

My second year running at this one. In 2015 it was pouring down all afternoon and we were stuck in the goods shed and marquee, but that's where the beer was of course. This year was much better, but we still stayed in the shed, as that's where the beers were of course. The event is held on the Battlefield Line, a heritage railway line that runs from Shackerstone to Shenton via Market Bosworth. 

Five of us this time. Myself, Dave, David, Tony and Tony's brother Ron was down from Scotland for a few days. Once again my trip down was hampered by delayed trains, some issue at Chesterfield meant that my train was diverted around a goods loop to bypass Chesterfield, getting us into Birmingham 28 minutes late, just in time to see the one-per-hour service to Hinckley going out on the adjoining platform. At Hinckley station there was a minibus to take us to the festival as Market Bosworth station is some nine miles away by road. I finally arrived about 2.15pm after leaving home at 9am. 

With it being a Friday afternoon visit we escaped the 'entertainment', I still cannot understand why we have to have our ears blasted out at these festivals when we're trying to talk about beer. We had a choice of 70 beers to go at, 28 ciders as well. As I had been delayed and was therefore thirsty I started with a pint of Ossett 'Yorkshire Blonde 3.9% (2.5). Sadly, not on form but I drank it anyway. That was followed by Pig Iron 'Blonde 3.8% (3.0) then Fernandes 'Bull Ring Bitter' 4.1% (2.5), Abbeydale 'Moonshine' 4.3% (3.5) to give myself a reference point, Rat 'Rat in me kitchen' 4.0% (3.5), Fernandes 'HBG Gold' 4.7% (3.5), Riverhead 'Rhubarb & Rosehip' 4.0% (3.0) and Leatherbritches 'Dr Johnson' 4.0% (2.5) to finish off. 

Only 3 hours at the event as I was booked on the 5.15 minibus back to Hinckley, I had lost an hour through being late. I got myself a 'real ale' pasty on the way out, probably over twice the price I would have paid in a shop for the same thing. The disadvantage of being at a beer festival a mile from the village and no shops nearby. 

Once again I didn't go out to even look at the trains, let alone take a ride. When I got there our table had our little party on it, plus a couple of other guys. No idea who they were or where they were from but I got chosen to be their bestest buddy until they left about halfway through the afternoon. Lots of random topics discussed and no doubt I'll bump into them at another festival one day, but probably will not remember them.  Yes, I know lots of festivals have individuals attending who latch on to someone for a bit of moral support. 

Apart from the beer drinking and conversation there wasn't a lot more to report. I did have a chat with the Hinckley and Market Bosworth branch chair and their social secretary as they are looking to make a trip up this way to see the Vulcan aircraft at Finningley and then head into Donny for a couple of beers. I've asked them to stay in touch and let us know when that will be so they can be given a tour around some of our pubs. 

David and myself were on the trains and had about 40 minutes to kill in Hinckley, there's a Steaming Billy pub, The Railway, just over the road from the station so we went there for a pint. I forgot to note what we had though. I got myself a pulled pork sandwich from a catering van outside, heck of a spicy sauce ! I must remember not to have that again next trip. 

Eventually I got back to Doncaster about 9.30, that spicy sauce had been drying my mouth out for too long so I called in the Corner Pin for a much needed pint - strange how many of my trips end up there. 

Gordons Travel - Derby Summer Beer Festival

Or rather the Derby CAMRA City Charter Beer Festival' to give it's proper name. Carrying the sub-heading 'The Demise and Rise of brewing in Derby' this years event was to commemorate the 50 years since Derby's Offilers Brewery closed and two of the brews in offer were re-creations of Offilers beers. It was also celebrating 25 years since brewing came back to Derby at The Brunswick Inn.

One of the trips I usually do with my friends Dave, David and Tony, except Tony was off on one of his many holidays and wasn't available so there were some pre-event logistics to take care of to get a spare oxygen cylinder for Dave to the event. This would have been achieved by taking it to a fishing day and meeting with David who would then have brought it on the train. In the end it wasn't needed as Dave sadly went down with a bad stomach bug that his grandchildren kindly passed on to him. Just a note for Tony as well, beers with an ABV above 6.5% were not being sold in pint measures.

So we were down to two of us this time. I was hampered by delayed and cancelled trains from Doncaster towards Sheffield thanks to overhead cables being damaged near Berwick and signal issues at Brough. Instead of arriving in Derby at 0951 I didn't get there until 1106. David went for a coffee as he'd arrived at 1000 from his home. Then found out he was at the wrong side of Derby railway station for the taxi rank and had to try and get back over the bridge with no ticket, it's an automatic barrier system there and he'd fed his ticket in the machine to get out.

I had used a Derbyshire Wayfarer day ticket which, alongside my concessionary pass, only cost £6.20 - it's gone up 5p from last year. That meant no reserved seat and I ended up on one of the little fold-down seats just inside the doors on the St Pancras bound service from Sheffield to Derby.

When I finally got there we took a taxi up to Market Square where the big marquee was set up and already open. A bit thanks to Derby CAMRA Chair Russ for looking out for our party arriving, expecting to be letting Dave in with his oxygen and everything to get a seat ahead of the rush. I sent him a text just after he'd been doing that. Disappointing for Dave as he had been looking forward to this one.

As always, a very wide selection of beers on offer. All in very good condition and there were very few that had already gone or were not ready. We took it in turns to visit the bar, otherwise we'd have lost our seats. As it was were missed getting a table, but that might have been awkward with there only being two of us this time. Instead we parked ourselves next to one of the big concrete blocks used to anchor the marquee down and used that as our table. Lots of little red spiders running about but they seemed to vanish as the sun came out and we had quite a decent afternoon with just one very short spit of rain.

I started out with a glass of 'pop', Dandelion & Burdock, although not as sweet as the carbonated bottled version. I'd spotted the name 'Ossett' on the end of the barrel, although the programme said it was Riverhead. Both are correct of course as Ossett Brewery own Riverhead, a small two barrel plant in Marsden, Huddersfield. Very rare to find any Riverhead beer outside the Ossett Brewery pubs themselves so I got a glass full while I could. It proved to be a popular one as it had gone not long after.

I couldn't risk missing out on Hilltop 'Classic Bitter' either so that was my second choice. I popped out to get some dinner whilst my number 4 choice attracted the spiders on the concrete block. I made sure I got a drop of the re-created Offilers Best Bitter too, I'm still trying to figure out what the distinct after taste was, perhaps dried grass or straw used in the filtering? After that we sort of played lucky dip from the long printed list. I'd really wanted to try the Fernandes 'Butterscotch & Raisin' but that had gone.

The only thing that spoiled it was the smokers. OK, so we were sat outside the marquee and it's sort of accepted that it's OK to light up once out of the tented areas. I do feel there should be an exclusion zone where people, especially those with lung diseases, could be in the sunshine without breathing second hand smoke. Many pubs have an area around the doors where smoking isnt allowed, to prevent the smoke blowing inside. There was a time where I was surrounded by six people, four of who were smoking. I bit my lip...

Had a discussion with David about the pork pies on offer and how they were making a profit. A large family sized pie was being sold at five pounds each. A portion was sold at a pound. The portion was a sixth of the whole pie but was provided with a paper plate, plastic knife, serviette and a dollop of apple chutney. Added to the fact someone had had to cut the pie up, these 'extras' seem to have cost a pound. OK, so there were six plates, six knives...

I managed to catch Russ during the afternoon and explained more about Dave's plight and being stuck at home. Hopefully he'll be back in action for the Market Bosworth Rail Ale event in a couple of weeks time.

The beers I had were
1 Riverhead (Ossett) 'Dandelion & Burdock' 3.6%
2 Hilltop 'Classic Bitter' 3.9%
3 Barlow 'Bettys Blonde' 4.0%
4 Earl Soham 'Victoria' 3.6%
5 Gaol Ales 'Jailbird' 4.0%
6 Heritage 'Offilers Best Bitter' 4.0%
7 Raw 'Baby Ghost IPA' 3.9%
8 Revolutions 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go' 4.5%
9 Great heck 'Chopper' 3.8%
10 Kelham Island 'Golden Eagle' 4.2%
11 Lenton Lane 'Pioneer' 4.3%
12 Everards 'Tiger' 4.2%
13 Derventio 'Gold' 4.2%
14 Swan 'Swan Amber' 4.4%
15 Fat Pig 'Mojo' 4.5%
16 Rock N Roll 'Berry Special' 4.2%

Beers I went for but were not available: Ashover 'Littlemoor Citra', Derventio 'Standard
Bearer', Fat Pig 'Mosaic', Littleover 'Crest', Fernandes 'Butterscotch & Raisin'

And I even managed to get back to The Corner Pin in time to have the last pint of Everards Tiger there as it ran out.