Thursday, November 11, 2010

Changing Trains

With Tim having Huddersfield all wrapped up (and generally we only get to the Sportsman, Rat and Star anyway), we thought it about time to have a wander further afield. We had a little tour of Northants in summer, but apart from a couple of pubs (The Locomotive in Wellingborough and The Duke's Arms in Woodford) we were disappointed with what was on offer, and straplines such as "is this the worst rural pub in England?" weren't going to do anyone any favours, so we headed off to Peterborough to enjoy the Camra Festival.

Peterborough is a city we have been "forced" to visit quite often this year, since Ryanair stopped flying out of Manchester, we have been travelling to Stansted for our cheap flights to Italy. The train is not that expensive if you book well in advance, and it is easy to plan your journey around a 3 to 4 hour stop in Peterborough.

Once you have found your way across the inner ring road from the station it is only a couple of hundred yards to either the Wetherspoons on Cowgate or the Brewery Tap on Westgate, our intention was to start at 'spoons, do a big figure of eight and finish at the tap.



The Drapers Arms is a cracking good Wetherspoons, we often call in for breakfast, it is smaller and has a proper pub feel to it, compared to a number of their outlets we are familiar with in Yorkshire. Ten hand pumps are gathered together on the bar, with the beers normally supplied by familiar, quality small breweries - today was slightly different, as it was the second day of the Wetherspoons Festival. Thirds were purchased of Woodforde's Once Bittern, Lion Stout and Samuel Adams Blonde Ambition. The Woodforde's edged this taste battle, the presence of Nelson Sauvin hops nearly always wins with us. We then headed towards the cathedral and across the River Nene, past Charters and Peterborough United FC to reach the Coalheavers Arms.



The Coalheavers is a classic backstreet local, surrounded by terraced housing, typical of the sort of pub that has been disappearing over the past 30 years, but here we find a thriving free house, albeit with a close relationship with Cambridge's Milton Brewery. 8 hand pumps dispense 4 or 5 Milton Beers plus 3 or 4 guests, the pub is quiet enough to hold a book club meeting, yet busy enough to hold an enthusiastic Halloween party. Milton Tiki was our beer of choice (and some Gwynt y ddraig cider). Closing at 2pm on this afternoon, it was our intention to follow the figure of eight back to Charters via the Palmerston Arms and the Cherry Tree only to be informed that the Palmerston doesn't open till 3, we did not feel that diverting down Oundle Road just to visit the Cherry Tree was worth it, so we retraced our route to Charters.


Incidentally, the Coalheavers was once a Phipps (of Northampton) house, a brewery fondly remembered in these parts, and a beer worth looking for is Grainstore's Phipps IPA, a recreation of a 1930's original recipe from another excellent small brewery.



Charters is a huge barge on the river next to the bridge with a Thai restaurant at deck level and the bar down below, 12 hand pumps showcase the Oakham Brewery (we have seen 7 on at the same time) and guests from all over the country occupying the remaining pumps. We have found that you are more likely to catch Oakham's specials here, and today, alongside the 4 regular brews (JHB, Inferno, White Dwarf and Bishop's Farewell) we were treated to Citra and Warspite. Oakham's Citra is one of the beers of the year (in our humble opinion). It is possible that, hops allowing, it will become a permanent brew.

We now had an extra hour, and following the advice of the landlord of the Coalheavers, detoured from our route back to the Brewery Tap to call in at the Ostrich Inn, down a side street off Westgate just before you reach the Wortley Almshouses (a very good Sam Smith's, but only Sam Smith's of course).




The Ostrich has a half cafe bar/half traditional feel (a little like the New Oxford in Salford), 4 hand pumps dispense beer from local breweries, we chose Tydd Steam Barn Ale and Newby Wyke Kingston Topaz and sat down next to a montage of old photographs of (closed) Peterborough Pubs, one of which was the Ostrich, except it was called Bogards and closed in 2008. Bogards was a beer guide regular until 2007 and is now reopened under the original name, a welcome return, as we think Peterborough needed a smaller bar in the centre of the city.


Finally it was off to the Brewery Tap, 12 hand pumps, always include the 4 regular Oakham Beers, and on this occasion 3 specials, Citra, Akhenaten and 3 Witches (Halloween again!). Not a pub that is to everyone's liking (it IS huge), but handy for the station and our train back to Yorkshire. We finished with some classic JHB and it was time to go.

A great day out, and not a bad beer in sight, next time we change trains in Peterborough, we have the pubs we missed to catch up with and some recommended to us in nearby Stamford.
Just one thing though - why are the beers 20p a pint more in the Tap than in Charters????

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