- Published: Sunday, 15 November 2015 21:38
This is a visit I was going to do last year, but plans fell through. The SIBA Independent Brewers Beer festival at the National Brewery Centre.
The day didn't start out very well as the wayfarer ticket I had ordered didn't arrive in the post so I had to re-arrange my trip to stop off in Sheffield to buy another. My original plan had been to take the 1059 Southampton train from Doncaster to Derby and change there for Burton, arriving at 1221. I actually took the 1042 so I could nip out to the ticket office at Sheffield.
These trips never run smoothly, the train I was getting to Derby from Sheffield was swamped with people heading to London, due to a cancellation. Thankfully I got a seat as I made sure I was one of the first on. It was crowded, people stood in the aisles, not good. Almost everyone got off at Derby so the platform was heaving, I waited until most had gone before crossing to the next platform for my connection.
I met David at Burton station and Dave came to pick us up in the car. No Tony this trip as he was away on his (many) travels. We got to the museum and found our way in. Very quiet for a beer festival, not a lot of visitors but plenty of brewers. Entry was via the museum entrance but the festival itself was way up the other end of the yard in a marquee. They even had a full blown carvery meal going in the food area.
All told there were about 50 beers, ciders and keg beers on offer. The one thing that let it down for us was a lack of a list of some kind, you had to go to each stand and see what they had on. Not so good for Dave, trotting about with his oxygen tank. Thankfully we were there on the quiet afternoon, most other sessions had some form of 'entertainment' on, which spoils it for me. I go for a drink and a chat, not to have to put up with some racket being belted out from a stage area.
I decided to start with Spire Brewery (Chesterfield) and their Whiter Shade. That was an easy decision as they were one of the few stands who had proper glasses, beer was being sold throughout the event in plastic. I paid £4.50 for a branded pint glass, marked in half and third as well, and for that I got the glass and a pint. Beer was being sold at £3 a pint, £1.50 on all bars.
My next brew was Hales (Worksop) and ‘Pasha Pasha’, a passion fruit infused beer that I eventually drank but had had enough of the fruity taste after the first few mouthfuls. I actually took it to have with my lunch, so treated it as a fruit juice. To say the catering was in a tent they did a good job of providing a full meal, Yorkshire pudding and all. I could have gone into the pub and had a bar meal but this was more fun.
Back to the beer and next up was Burton Bridge Draught Burton Ale. Probably my strongest ABV of the day at 4.8%, I was trying to keep to the lower end of the range as I knew I had the trip back to Doncaster to do at the end of the day. The Burton was quite reasonable, a bit of a bite and the strength showed through. But, not quite what Burton used to be in IndCoope days. We all had a try and agreed on that point.
I visited the Intrepid (Hope Valley) bar next and had St Bernard, a darker oak tinged beer that I personally wasn't keen on. I had a bit of a chat with the people there, said I’d probably see them at Three Valleys next year and moved on. They had a couple of keg beers on, which I avoided. I got a quick half of Tudor (Abertillery, Wales) IPA and back to the table. Nice but, as with many others in the tent, a bit on the warm side. Not that it was blazing hot outside either.
By now our party had decided we preferred to move on. The majority of the beers on offer were higher strength and we prefer to pace ourselves. We called in the pub on site, the Brewery Tap, and had a half of Draught Burton off the pump, it was much better than in the tent.
We have a liking for a traditional pub in Burton upon Trent called the Coopers Tavern. Situated opposite the old Bass, now Coors, Brewery the Coopers is a tiny little place with several rooms and a small beer garden area. The Landlady, Mary, has been there 9 years now and I'm happy to say I've visited the pub quite a few times.
So that’s where we finished our day.I went with Great Heck Washington Red, amber coloured and hoppy. That was followed with Holdens Golden Sunset and I also squeezed in a Nene Valley Bitter before heading for the train home. As always at the Coopers, spot on and no complaints. I spotted a clutch of Ossett Brewery pump clips behind the bar, seems Mary had a delivery of four in the cellar and they would be on in the coming week. I quickly decided I should make another trip to the Coopers for those.
The trip home was going OK, I had a train from Burton to Derby more or less straight away but then the one to Sheffield was delayed and I missed my connection there. I got the next one, a Cleethorpes TP Express, and must have nodded off as I woke with a start just in time to see that I was pulling out of Doncaster! Nothing else to do but wait for Scunthorpe and get off there, just missing one back and having to wait for half an hour. I got home two hours after I should have done, but no time to drop into the Corner Pin for a pit stop.