I've been meaning to make a proper fist of The 3 Valleys Beer Festival for quite sometime. But for some reason I've only made a ham-fisted attempt at the Dronfield based event before. Perhaps it's been a mixture of my inept planning, unforeseen events or a labyrinthine bus schedule which might tax even the seasoned London Underground traveller.
I missed the traditional festival date in June but on Saturday I was determined to make amends and made tracks to the edge of Derbyshire for an unexpected part two. The format was a dozen pubs connected by a free bus service split into three routes. All started at Dronfield, blue route took you as far as Unstone, green to Dronfield Woodhouse and yellow to Appleknowle.
I didn't have time or the stamina to do all 12 so I concentrated on the yellow route, walking a short distance from the railway station to The Dronfield Arms. A nice open-plan pub on three levels. The bar was at street level, with a restaurant downstairs and a beer garden and large car park out back.
The main bar featured three permanent beers: Abbeydale Moonshine, Bradfield Blonde and a house Best Bitter. There was room for some guests too, notably Great Heck's tasty Powermouse (3.6%). But my focus was on the pop -up bar in the beer garden.
My eyes alighted on Black Jack Brewery's Mosaic beer (5.2%). Probably not the wisest choice by volume for my first of the day, but it turned out to be beer of the day.
Also on were Great Heck's Navigator, Oxford Ales' Festival, Doncater Brewery's The Plant Porter, Scarborough Brewery's Cascades, Slater's Haka (war dance optional) and some cider boxes. After a pint I was joined by my tour guide, fellow blogger Wee Beefy http://weebeefyspubblog.blogspot.co.uk
We then set about tackling the back bar in earnest and meeting up with his vast entourage of friends.
The band struck up at the far side of the car park and we adjourned to sit on some hay bales to listen to some Irish tunes and a fiddle player. A good time was had by all, especially a Pug who seemed to be enjoying his dog chew as much as we were enjoying our beer. Now bales of hay created a bit of an occupational hazard when the wind got up a bit, but I didn't mind picking the odd bit of straw out of my beer, it just added to the atmosphere.
Now with time running out fast, we decided to hop on the festival double-decker along the yellow route. We were destined for The Travellers Rest at Appleknowle amid reports of a good list. But en route Wee Beefy pointed out the pubs in between like The Coach & Horses (Thornbridge beers), The Royal Oak, and The Inn at Troway.
There was a big tell that we'd alighted on a good pub in The Travellers: when we disembarked from the bus nobody was getting on for the return leg from picturesque Appleknowle. The car park was full to brimming of people enjoying music emanating from the trailer of a HGV.
Meanwhile just inside the pub, in the cloakroom so to speak, was a bustling pop-up bar, mainly with Blue Bee beers on. Wee Beefy joined the queue while I ventured inside the pub and stumbled across two new Abbeydale beers. I went for Oxymorton (4.1%) which, unbeknown to me, contained the "trial 366 hop. Assurance for mango, grapefruit and pineapple" with low bitterness. And marvellous it was too. I was just off back inside for another or its stablemate Profundity when sadly it was time for the long and winding road home.
Although we only managed two venues out of 12, I was more than pleased with the trip and aim to tick off the rest of the pubs when next summer's festival or festivals rolls around.