A rather nice review appeared a couple of days ago on one of the beer groups, proof that the festival has quite a draw and entices discerning drinkers to travel some distance to visit the fest and bring money to the town. It is reproduced here in a slightly edited version (just to correct some spelling and grammar).
After enjoying the views from the train of snowy scenery all the way across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, I arrived in Nottingham with an hour before my connection to Newark. It is quite some time since I last visited the Vat & Fiddle and so, from a choice of a dozen Castle Rock beers, I had a relaxing half of Snowhite, 4.2%. Having read about a new micro pub in the town I made enquiries and the very helpful young lady behind the bar went on the Internet for me and came up with all I wanted to know about the Doctor’s Orders. It would appear that not only do they not like mobile phones but they haven’t set up a website either. As they appear to be only open for a couple of hours at lunchtime, and then again in the evening, that didn’t fit in with my day. The Vat & Fiddle; friendly locals, helpful bar staff and good beer.
Arriving in Newark, a town I have only visited a couple of times previously, I had intended to visit the BeerMuda Triangle pubs but I soon spotted a sign pointing me towards the Canal Barge. I was the only customer. The lady behind the bar informed me that they usually had three cask ales in summer and two in the winter. Today, a Lincoln Green pumpclip was turned around leaving just Full Mash Manhaton Pale? (the question mark being part of the beer name) 5.2%. The beer was good and great rock music was being played, I left during Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’; if there had been another beer I would have stayed longer.
Nearby, the Castle pub was adorned with BeerMuda Triangle posters as well as ‘Blue Cross Sale’ signs, though I’m not sure what they meant. I saw a sign mentioning CAMRA discount and asked if it applied to halves, the answer was affirmative. Have you ever thought, if you don’t know what the beer costs, how do you know if you are getting a CAMRA discount? – I know one or two licensees who would probably apply a CAMRA surcharge! Anyway, I am sure that the friendly bar lady gave me discount for my decent enough Oldershaws Castle Ale 4.3%.
The Fox & Crown also had plenty of reference to the BTfest. My beer here was another decent one, Hop Kettle North Wall 4.2%.
The fest list had 6 new breweries for me, one of those being Newark which was showing for the Prince Rupert. The young ladies behind the bar were pleasant and welcoming and asked me what I was looking for and, in response to my Newark beer please, told me that it wouldn’t be ready ’til the weekend. Moan, whinge, I’ve travelled over 3 hours on the train etc… One of the young ladies was very accommodating and went down to the cellar for me, unfortunately it was definitely not ready. In addition to the beers on the bar there were 6 Milestone beers on stillage ’round the back’ from where I chose Sherwood Pale 3.9%, another decent beer.
Just Beer. When it was announced that Asda would be opening a store locally I spoke to ‘our’ greengrocer about it expecting him to say that it would drive him out of business, what he actually said was that he welcomed Asda as it would bring more customers into the area. I would imagine that Just Beer had the same effect when they opened in Newark, I certainly wouldn’t have travelled all that way to visit the other pubs, even though I enjoyed all of them. There was a very friendly atmosphere in Just Beer and I spoke with people who regularly travel in from the ‘wilds’ of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire to enjoy the beers and ambiance of the pub. I checked the beer list for my 5 new breweries and only 4 of them were showing. Luckie was not ready yet, and I could have had it last night in either the New Oxford (Salford) or Micro Bar (Manchester) – you know where I’ll be tomorrow. Shiny, Austendyke and Tom Smiths beers all went down well and then it was on to one of the Bexar County beers. Both were 6.5% and someone recommended the Black Gold to me. Very enjoyable and easy drinking. I was then introduced to Steve from San Antonio, Texas, the Bexar brewer. This is what it is all about, chance meetings, good company, friendly and knowledgeable staff behind the bar, and tip top beers. As I was leaving there was a chorus of shouting, I had forgotten to pick up my backpack, that 6.5% was making its mark!
I wandered back into town and called in at Wetherspoons Sir John Arderne, not a great selection but the Wychwood Skinflint 3.6% was perfectly acceptable. I sat down with my beer and looked at my watch, 14 minutes to my train. I asked which way to the station, the complex directions had me setting off to my left. Not sure where I was I asked again, and was pointed in the opposite direction! Starting to shift from a fast walk to a jog I noticed that I was passing the Prince Rupert, a quick look at my map, and my watch – 3 minutes to the train. My jogging became a bit of a run. I could hear the crossing gates alarm near the station and reached the platform as people were boarding the train – that was a close one.
The combination of forgetting my backpack and only just catching the train made me realise that I probably didn’t want too much more beer. I decided not to have a look around Nottingham but got off in Sheffield for a quick one in the Station Tap. Harbour Brewing Porter No.1, 5.5%, was my choice, and very good it was to.
Two more trains and I was back home. It had been a very enjoyable day. I am sure that others will be visiting Newark over the next couple of days, there are good beers and pubs waiting for you but, what stood out for me today was the friendly people that I met, both behind the bars and those enjoying that great atmosphere of our pubs.