Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Tale of Brewery Taps - or Beer Hunting in Derby

The day dawned bright and early as two intrepid travellers (well Robin 'The Train' and myself) set off to sample the delights of one of Britain's foremost ale cities. Derby is easily accessible by rail, via Sheffield from Huddersfield, and not overly expensive if you split and rebook in Sheffield (less than £30 ). The trip took about 2 hours and we were soon in a sunny Derby. Rob was chuffed (excuse the pun), that he scored a new train and I was well suited with the activity around the bus station, but I digress.

For those unfamiliar with the city, Derby's station is about 1/2 mile from the centre so a long walk is in order to reach it. On the way we passed the 'Brunswick' and the 'Alexandra' both beer guide listed but more of them later. Soon we were in the hub of the city and after a short walk through the pedestrian precinct we arrived at our first pub, it was just past 10 am but was a joy to behold. It is not often I say that about a Wetherspoons pub but 'The Babbington Arms' is a must visit place.

On the bar were 16 beers, displayed on a big screen for all to see, with colour coding to point the drinker in the right direction. I needed no help, coming across four offerings from a new brewery to me, Quercus from Devon. Armed with the first beers of the day and a good breakfast we set about ticking. The bar had the usual 'Spoons beers on but additionally had stuff from Wyre Piddle, Cottage and a couple of local beers from Falstaff. I could have stayed all day but suitably refreshed and having found a map that made life a bit easier we set off into the Cathedral quarter.

After an easy walk of about 10 minutes, guided by the spire of the Cathedral, we found another 'Spoons. This was a massive place, 'The Bankers Draft' gave a clue as to its previous identity, however the beers here were not too interesting so we continued our way towards the 'Olde Dolphin'. This is on Queen Street just up from the Cathedral and has a history dating back to 1530.
The interior showed this with quirky little rooms and oak panelling and with its timber framed exterior it's a pub not to miss. The house beer here is brewed by Nottingham and rubs shoulders with another seven decent, but more common beers. So the 'Dolphin 1530' it was and a pretty good beer it was too.

We knew there was a pub called the 'Flowerpot' close by so off we went again. Up to the end of Queen Street and left, finding it on the main road. And another revelation! This is the 'Headless' brewery tap and on the first bar we found three of their beers with others from 'Buxton' and 'Gargoyles' - so a couple of halves and a quick regroup seemed the least we could do. However on a wander around the pub to find the gents I found even more rooms, and even more bars, including a stillage bar with 24 barrels behind glass and with some of them linked to a back room bar. This explained the list which offered over 20 beers available. We stayed a little longer than anticipated as all the beers, especially the home brewed stuff , were on top form.

As a result of a chat with a local in the pub he directed us to the 'Silk Mill', reopened around a year ago which apparently also sold decent beer. He was not wrong. The pub is easy enough to find - at the back of the 'Dolphin' cross the road and look for the building with the mural on the side. The beer was good and the craic likewise, (Blue Monkey 'Cathedral Quarter' being the order of the day here) but the pub itself was a little too modern inside for my taste, all light polished wood and very unlike the last two we had visited.

This theme continued in the Derby Brewery Tap, 'The Royal Standard', which was a short walk away over the river. The beer here was average too, surprisingly for a brewery tap, and the range somewhat uninspired. I did note that 'Heiniken' was £3.10 a pint here, serves them right for drinking lager!

Time was beginning to catch up with us now and we still wanted to visit the Alex and the Brunswick. Well to tell the truth, I wanted to visit the Alexandra and I wished I had listened to Robin. It is a pub in need of a makeover, or at least a good clean. Here we selected a couple of halves from a list that was disappointing and we suffered while the regulars watched the opening of the World Cup. We soon drank up and were on the move to the Brunswick. Our third brewery tap, and home of the brewery of the same name. The pub was taken over by Everards a few years ago but nothing seems to have suffered by that.

This is a pub I have always called in when in Derby, being just down the road from the railway station and it seems just the same a I remember it from years back. There were five home brewed beers on the bar in a range of ten or so. The pub is another with plenty of rooms off the main bar so if you want some peace and quiet it is easy to find somewhere to hide. All dark wood and nooks and crannies was again the order of the day here.

It was soon off for the train, and after missing one which would have given us our connection in Sheffield, we made do with the next. (Why is it when you don't need a train, they run every 15 minutes, when you do, they are every 30 minutes !). As a result we had to spend half a hour in the Sheffield Tap sampling a new Thornbridge beer 'Pollards' which is allegedly a milk stout, I think.

All in all Derby is a great place to spend a day. No problem finding decent beer, no problem finding interesting pubs, and for the tickers the range is overwhelming. Its just a case of what you have to fore go on the bar of one pub to sample the range in the next. Add it to your list of places to visit.


Reluctant Scooper said...

My home town and a good beer town. The stroll from the Flowerpot to the Brunswick via the river path is fantastic on a sunny afternoon.

Although if I start in the Flowerpot, it's difficult to tear myself away...

Jibber said...

Why the need to rebook at Sheffield? I've just put in Hudds-Derby return and get £21.60, with no restrictions on time.

Anonymous said... sure which search you used but must have been better than mine, I was offered over £31 for the through ticket..on trainline when I tried...but that was for a ticket booked on the day, not in advance..Timbo

Jibber said...

Go onto and go through the system. You'll find all the return fares are £21.60 - and that's on the day, not advanced purchase. Or am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

Tim Tim Tim,

had I of known you were in the Derby vicinity i'd've met you along the way.

Tom - formerly of the Rat/Ossett, now of BLUE MONKEY!

Timbo said...

Jibber - thanks for the advice, will check it out next time.

Tom - it was a very last minute decision, but will certainly get in touch next time I come down