Normally I do not do posts from outside our immediate area, but yesterday I had occasion for a family birthday to travel into the East Midlands. As people who know me know, I do not do birthdays. So the opportunity was there to clear off for a couple of hours and check out the local bus and beer scene.
I usually travel from Bolsover - the scene of the birthday and a beer desert - to Chesterfield, but I had heard good things about Mansfield, and since the two towns are virtually equidistant I thought it would be good to take a look.
I was armed with the Camra 'Good Beer Guide' phone app (an excellent acquisition for £5) to guide me around. I parked up by the bus station - at least I knew I could find the car again ! - and set off down the hill.
My first call was 'Court House' - a standard 'Spoons outlet - with a disappointing beer range. Oh bugger I thought. I hope things improve. Well, they did but not quite as I expected.
My next pub was just off Church St. I found that easily enough (the Court House is in the Market Place and all the main streets seem to radiate from there) but could I find 'The Olde White Lion' - not a chance. I did fortunately look up a side road, and my eagle eye spotted some casks so made my way there. Up White Hart Street, and on the left hand side is the 'Beer Shack'. A micro pub, and a gem. Five beers on handpull, no keg, no lager except one bottled, and a vinyl record player playing old LPs. The beers were mainly locally sourced and covered most styles and were in good nick. And a long chat with Lisa (I think) revealed the pub had been open a couple of years and is part of a small chain with other pubs in Hucknall, and oddly, Burnley.The pub is closed on Sunday and Monday but despite what the beer guide says it is open the rest of the week, from 12 noon and all day.
With some better directions from Lisa I retraced my steps back to Church St and found White Lion Yard on the left hand side nestling near a Chinese shop. The 'Olde White Lion' is visible at the top and was my next surprise. It is a pub hewn out of the rock in the 15th century allegedly
, with the beer bar at the far end, with three beers available on gravity dispense. Again a locale was on offer, so I tried that, at a reasonable price and went outside to chat to the eclectic range of customers outside. Strange but decent people.
I had another pub to visit so I retraced my steps past the Shack and at the top of the road, diagonally across the road was the 'The Railway'. A pub previously owned by Batemans it had three beers on offer, but seemed to geared for a busy lunchtime food trade, so a swift half of another Locale (you can probably tell by know I have mislaid my beer notes !) and onwards.
I have had my quota by now so it was back to the bus station for a bit of bus spotting. I was here that I suddenly twigged - I had walked about 15 minutes to get to the Court House and then got clockwise round my route. If had left the bus station carpark, walked across the front of the bus station and gone anti clockwise I could have reached all the pubs within 5 minutes - hindsight is a wonderful thing !
If I have whetted your appetite for Mansfield it seems I only scratched the surface with pubs but got the better ones in the short time I was there. I will certainly revisit, and if you have a trip into the Midlands it is worth a short detour off the M1 for the unusual pubs there.