Travel

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Beer Adventures in the Far East

I’ve just returned from 6 weeks travelling around East Asia. After landing in Tokyo I travelled the west of Japan for two weeks before flying to Busan in South Korea to continue my exploring. After a strenuous start climbing Mount Fuji I dedicated the rest of my holiday to sampling all the local delights and of course the beers.

One of the first stops on my adventure was the Japanese city of Matsumoto – famous for its five-tiered castle (and being home to the best Indian restaurant in Japan!). A highlight of the city was a visit to their local brewery. The range of beers at the Matsumoto Brewery were not too dissimilar to what I would expect to see in any Yorkshire pub! Their range included a Castle Stout, Pure Blonde, Smart Wheat and a Traditional Bitter. I opted for their Awesome Pale Ale, and was pleasantly surprised with how hoppy it was in comparison to British pales.

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After travelling to South Korea, I ventured up the west coast to Daegu where I attended the Chimac festival, the national festival of chicken and beer. It was here I discovered Somaek. Somaek was lethal. It involved using the national lagers Cass and Hite as mixers for Soju, a strong rice wine. Rarely drunk for its taste and well known for getting you intoxicated quickly there’s no more explanation needed as to how this evening progressed!

Venturing further north I eventually reached Seoul, the final destination in my travels. Seoul had a surprisingly vibrant beer drinking culture. Upon recommendations from other travellers I visited Itaewon an area of town that housed what the locals refer to as craft beer valley. I was surprised by not only the range of beers but also the range of establishments: pubs, microbreweries, tap houses and bars. Also notable was the balance struck between local and import beers. I found myself jumping between Korean brewed IPAs and bottles of Brewdog and Thornbridge. The craft beer valley was a definite highlight in terms of beer and I happily spent a day meandering in and out of the bars sampling over 12 different beers as well as local street food.

Toby Hayhurst

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A Grand Bank Holiday Day Out

Being a Bank Holiday weekend, a more local day out was planned with the intention of doing a few pubs around the Chesterfield area and then stopping off in Mosborough on the way home. With the exception of the last port of call, all were visited by using a Stagecoach Explorer ticket costing £6.30 from the driver of the first bus caught.

Catching the service 70 from near the Halfway Supertram terminus there followed a quite enjoyable journey through Eckington, Renishaw, Staveley and Brimington before arriving in Chesterfield at about 10.45. A quick change of buses was needed for the 20-or-so minute ride to the Arkwright Arms at Sutton-cum-Duckmanton (a CAMRA Good Beer Guide 2017 entry). Here, all 18 hand pumps were in use for their Bank Holiday Beer Festival, which this year was featuring Derbyshire breweries. I sampled halves from Dancing Duck, Whim, Amber Ales and Landlocked breweries, but the pick was a very black, smooth and easy drinking Ashover Brewery 10th Anniversary Raspberry Stout at 8.5%. Buses to and from this large and imposing Tudor-fronted free house are frequent and convenient.

Back in Chesterfield and a walk through the Market Place to the somewhat smaller micro bar by the name of the Chesterfield Alehouse (GBG 2017 entry). This weekend the 6 hand pumps were dispensing beers from Brinkburn Street and Three Kings breweries. I sample Canny Sculler 11 (3.8%) from the former and Billy Mill (4.0%) and Silver Darling (5.6%) from the latter. A short journey then, courtesy of service 50, to Whittington Moor and The Beer Parlour (another GBG 2017 entry). Although only just having opened at 4pm, there was already a steady trade and from the 8 cask ales available I sampled King Clipstone King John EPA (4.4%) and Jolly Collier Porter (5.0%). The porter was another good example of the style with dark beers certainly taking the edge so far today.

Just around the corner is the Derby Tup, now operated by Pigeon Fishers Brewery and I sampled their own House Pale at 3.8%, which was a nice contrast to the previous porter, before getting on board another service 50 to Mosborough. First stop was the George and Dragon which offered three ales, from which I chose Timothy Taylor’s Golden Best (3.5%). Next up was the Alma. They offer one cask ale which recently was Bombardier, but today it was Sharp’s Doom Bar (4.0%). The third Mosborough pub visited was the Queens, whose sole cask offering was Marston’s EPA (3.6%). Last up in Mosborough was the British Oak, which is now a True North Brewery run pub. My choice was Dark Star American Pale Ale (4.7%).

Another journey on Service 50 followed by a short tram ride and a short walk took me to the New Inn in Gleadless. From a range of 8 cask ales I chose Welbeck Abbey’s Sleeping Beauty (5.3%), which was clean, crisp and dry and a fitting way to end the day.

Andrew Morton

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The Town on the Hill

A spell of particularly clement weather during a recent trip home to visit family offered the perfect opportunity to sample some of the pubs under the remit of the East Lancashire branch of CAMRA. The trains weren’t running for some reason so we caught the rail-replacement bus to Colne at the end of the East Lancashire Line. Colne is known locally as “The Town on the Hill” and with good reason, but fortunately there were plenty of pub stops so we never had to walk too far at any one time!

First off, we called in the Crown Hotel just outside the railway station. The pub usually offers four real ales, including ones from local breweries such as Moorhouse’s, but on the day only John Smith’s Cask (3.8%) was available, which was a bit of a shame. Nevertheless, the beer was well-kept and palatable enough. The next stop was just across the road at the Venue, where I tried Worsthorne Packhorse (3.7%), a traditional English bitter brewed just down the road near Burnley.

Our third stop of the afternoon took us to the newly opened Tubbs of Colne. When I was growing up this had always been a furniture shop, so it was something of a surprise to see the place in its new guise and we felt compelled to try it out. I was pleased to see three cask ales available and opted for Bowland Brewery’s Bowland Gold (3.8%), a hoppy and zesty golden bitter that was very refreshing on a summer’s day.

We deviated from the main road briefly for a stop at the Cask ‘n’ Keg micropub, which despite showcasing a fantastic selection of all styles of beer was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday afternoon. Here I sampled another locally brewed ale, Reedley Hallows Griffin IPA (4.7%), a really well-balanced IPA and my favourite beer of the day. I would definitely recommend this pub if you are ever in the area.

Back on to the main road, we headed to the Wallace Hartley, a Wetherspoon’s pub named after the bandleader of the Titanic who hailed from Colne. The craft cider festival was taking place so I tried a half of Mr Whitehead’s Toffee Apple Cider (4.0%), which was drinkable but a little too sweet for my taste. My sojourn into cider territory was short-lived and before leaving I ordered a pint of Peerless Tectonic (6.2%), a dry-hopped golden ale with an intense, almost peaty, flavour that I couldn’t decide whether I loved or hated.

Our final pub of the afternoon was the Duke of Lancaster at the top of the hill, where I tasted Moorhouse’s White Witch (3.9%) and Lancaster Blonde (4.0%) before heading home. One thing I did notice on the day was that the drinkers of East Lancashire seem to have a penchant for golden ales, which were available in nearly every pub we visited and were often the only option. Overall, Colne proved an enjoyable day out and it was encouraging to see local breweries featuring so prominently on the pumps.

Dominic Nelson

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A Grand Day Out Under the Arches

Today’s main intention was to visit Wigan Central, located in two arches beneath Wigan North Western rail station. Arriving in Manchester my plan was to use the buses, rather than the trains, to get around so I purchased a Greater Manchester Any Bus Day Rover ticket, which is available from any bus driver, for £5.60. The first leg of the journey was to take the First Bus service V1/V2 via both the East Lancs Road with its designated bus lanes and the Guided Busway to Atherton and then on to Leigh. Once there another bus was required to get to Wigan. Not the quickest journey to Wigan, but still pleasant enough.

Arriving at the festival at Wigan Central around 12:15, the festival bar had been set up in the adjoining arch to the main bar. The pub is in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide 2017 and is owed by Prospect Brewery. Outdoor seating was also available at the front and the pub was very light and airy. Beers sampled were from Chapter, Manchester Brewing Co, Vibrant Forest, Abstract Jungle, Shiny and Northern Monk. I also tried a very distinctive and opaque Cucumber and Juniper Saison keg beer (version 01/03) from Brew By Numbers Brewery.

After a pleasant stay here a short walk took me to the Tap ‘n’ Barrel micro-style bar (GBG 2017 listed), a long and narrow pub with a pleasant beer garden out back. Five Martland Mill beers were available and I sampled the D-Day Dodger (4.1%) and a very smooth and tasty Arctic Convoy (4.5%), a chocolate oatmeal stout. A quick walk back to the bus station to enquire about buses back to Leigh found the information centre just closing at 4pm – obviously people don’t stay out late in Wigan! Anyway, a bus was found and half an hour later we arrived back in Leigh.

A short walk to the White Lion (GBG 2017 listed), a cracking Allgates Brewery traditional boozer that I have reported on before. Here I sampled their own Industrious Bee (3.8%) and Green Mill Gold (3.6%). Back now in to Manchester via the Guided Busway again. Only one pub visited here and that was the Café Beermoth near to the Arndale Centre. Being a Friday evening, the place was vibrant and a hive of activity but the service was very efficient. Beers here (both cask and keg) are served through a wall behind the bar, with the cellar also visible. Two Torrside cask ales were sampled – Awaiting Collection (4.0%) and Yellow Peak (4.2%) – very enjoyable.

Back to Piccadilly station and the train home, but not before disembarking at Stockport. Just at the top of the station approach (Edgeley entrance) is the Olde Vic (GBG 2017 listed). Now a community-run pub, it looked closed as I approached it with no visible lights on, door closed and a boarded-up window. However, on entering there was the usual cheery hello and a quick half of Raw JR Best Bitter (4.2%), before catching the next train back to Sheffield.

On the way for my bus home I stopped in the Old Queen’s Head in the hope of sampling one of Thwaites seasonal/monthly specials which are often available here, but not today. The pub now has six hand pumps, three were dispensing regular offerings from Thwaites and three were guest ales. The one I tried was Leeds Brewery Yorkshire Gold (4.0%). It would be a shame if the guest beers have replaced the more unusual beers brewed by Thwaites.

Cheers,
Andrew Morton

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Westport, County Mayo, Ireland: Walking, Cycling and Pubs

A group of friends, including Liz and myself, hired a cottage in Westport for a week in May 2017. Our first port of call: a pub in Westport Quay, the “Helm Hotel”, where fresh Clew Bay Clams were washed down with pints of Guinness.

Pubs in Ireland are renowned for their convivial atmosphere, friendly locals and the “craic” Irish expression of fun. In Westport Matt Molloy’s, named after and owned by the flautist from the Chieftains, is a must visit. In pubs in Ireland you place your order, bar staff start to pull your pint(s) then take orders from the next person, and the one after, then after a period return with your pint(s) perfect, no spillage, and then you pay. Some locals leave their wallets on the bar. Most of the pubs in Westport had musicians playing, some local, also from other areas in Ireland and from other countries.

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Walks included the wild Atlantic Coast and Croagh Patrick Ireland’s Holy Mountain.  The ascent of 2,510ft was very challenging; scree, boulders and a rough path (penitents often make the pilgrimage barefoot, we had boots on). The view from the summit was fantastic.  The descent was really difficult but as we walked across the car park, yes “Campbell’s Pub” alongside.

We hired cycles and rode 42 km along the “Great Western Greenway”, which follows an old Railway Track from the Island of Achill to Westport Quay. It is fantastic trail, moorland, alongside lochs, views of mountains (including Croagh Patrick across the Bay), and wonderful café en route. A mini-bus to the start of the trail, on returning the cycles at Westport we were asked if we need transport to our accommodation,  we said no thank you but “can you recommend a really good pub?“ The young lady said the nearest of many was just across the road.

We hired mini-buses to take our group to the start of walks and collect us at the end and travelled with Ryanair from East Midland Airport to Knock.  Thanks to Gerry for organising the trip.

Glyn Mansell

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A Grand Festival Day Out

The purpose of this month’s trip was to sample 3 previously unattended beer festivals in the Nuneaton and Leicester areas.

A sunny and quite warm Saturday morning allowed for a nice steady trip to Nuneaton via Leicester and a leisurely stroll around Nuneaton open market before the noon opening of the 5th Nuneaton and Bedworth Camra Beer Festival in the wonderfully air conditioned Co-Operative Hall in the city centre.  A fairly small affair but with plenty of seating and with around 30 beers on stillage. I sampled Church Farm IPA (5%), Stewart Brewing 80/- (4.4%), Byatts West Coast Baby (4.6%) and Charnwood Blue Fox (4.2%).

Mention must be made here of the excellent hot dog sausages served with cooked and fairly hot red chillies. Whilst here the nearby Lord Hop (a CAMRA Good Beer Guide 2017 entry) micro pub was awarded its Warwickshire Pub of the year certificate.  Being only 50 yards from the festival venue I popped in on the way back to the station and had a half of Falstaff Curse of Omen Mild (3.8%).

Changing trains back in Leicester was required for the seven-minute journey to Syston and the festival at the Syston & District Social Club, which is about a 10/15 walk from the station.  A stillage had been set up in a room at the back of the pub and one of the beers sampled here was 4T’s One Man 2 Sticks at 4.7%, recently brewed as a celebration of the life of Peter Collins.  Other ales sampled were Shakespeares Bard’s Best (4.2%), Buntingford Templar Gold (4.5%), Church End Gottle O’ Geer (4.2%) and AJ Ales IPA (4.6%).

Catching the hourly service back to Leicester and a first visit to The Exchange for some Framework Centennial Wheat Beer (4.6%). After this a short walk brought me to the third festival of the day at the Broood (which is a sister pub to one of the same name in nearby Hinckley).  Here too a stillage had been set up in the pub, from which I sampled Hubsters Hop on the Good Foot (3.8%) and Greenodd Caskade (4.5%).

On arrival back in Sheffield the final drink on what had been a very hot day was in the regular Queens Head where I sampled Thwaites Once Bitten, Twice Shy coconut pale ale (3.8%).

Andrew Morton

Another Grand Day Out – Stockport and its Slope

The trip this month was the relatively short one to Stockport, about 40 minutes away on the train. Arriving mid-morning and armed with a Stockport Plus-Bus ticket the first journey was to Cheadle Hulme where I had to purchase an off-peak day return to Wilmslow.

On arrival, turn right out of the station forecourt and a short walk brings you to the Brewhouse & Kitchen.  Six of their in-house brewed cask ales were available and I sampled an Easter Chocolate Stout (4.5%) and the Unite Local Saison (4.3%).  The Saison was not to my taste but the Chocolate Stout made up for that. Less than 5 minutes’ walk away on the main pedestrianised area is the Old Dancer (a Camra Good Beer Guide 2017 entry).  Five cask ales were available and I chose Track El Capitan IPA at 5.7%.  Train and bus took me back towards Stockport where I then made a detour to visit David Wild.  Some of you may remember David as a regular Thursday visitor to Sheffield, where he enjoyed his Steak Pie in The Fat Cat.  Unfortunately David is now virtually confined to his bungalow in Bredbury following a stroke, but still enjoys hearing about the local beer scene.

Back into Stockport now and to Wellington Road North, which is known as the “Stockport Slope”.  I must say though, compared to some of the hills of Sheffield, I would liken it more to a slight incline rather than a steep hill!  The pubs in this area are, however, very good.   My first stop was The Magnet (GBG 2017 listed) where from their extensive range I sampled Fixed Wheel Single Speed Cluster (4.5%), Manchester Brewing Co Some Might Say Session IPA (4.4%) and Track Valpo Red Ale (5%).  Further up the “Slope” is The Hope (GBG 2017 listed and the home of Fool Hardy Ales).  A couple of their own ales were sampled here, Retro Chique (3.9%) and Ritual (4.7%), followed by Cocksure Brewing Company P’Ale (4.5%).   Other pubs in this area could have been visited but I chose to travel across Stockport to the Market Place area and started at Robinson’s Bakers Vaults (GBG 2017 listed).  A range of Robinsons and guest beers are available and I had Box Steam Soul Train (4.7%).  Crossing the Market Square brings you to the Remedy Bar and Brewery, a relatively new pub which recently held a very successful beer festival.  Among the guest beers, only one brew from their own in house plant (which is clearly visible from inside the bar) was available and duly tried. It was a very smooth and drinkable Laevis Dark Mild (3.7%).

Heading back towards the station is The Calverts Court (Wetherspoons) where Wolf Woild Moild (4.8%) was sampled.  The final call was to The Petersgate Tap, a relatively new establishment in the micro pub style.   Rammy Craft Liquorice Root Stout (4.6%) was sampled which was a smooth tasty end to my visit to Stockport.  On arrival back in Sheffield, there was just time for a swift half of Thwaites Nutty Black in The Old Queens Head.  Beer quality throughout had been very good and there are still plenty of pubs to visit in Stockport on a future Grand Day Out, maybe even next month.

Cheers.

Andrew Morton

Grand Days Out: The Road to Wigan Beer Festival

A trip into Greater Manchester this month to sample the delights of a multiple pub beer festival organised by Allgates Brewery and based around seven of their pubs in the Wigan and Leigh area.

The unavailability of cheaper advanced tickets meant a slightly later start to the journey.  The 10.11am departure to Manchester was on time, but our fragmented rail system did not allow me to buy a Greater Manchester train/bus/tram Day Rover in either Sheffield or on board my train to Manchester, so a quick dash to the station ticket machines in Manchester was required, before the 11.15 Glasgow bound train via Wigan North Western station.  Alighting at Wigan in overcast, cool and breezy conditions which lasted all day there was a short walk to the bus station for a regular Diamond Bus service to Crooke Village and The Crooke Hall Inn (Camra Good Beer Guide 2017 listed).  Had it been nicer weather a pleasant time could have been had sat in their garden next to the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, but not today.  Half of Swanney Running Beer was sampled which was a good none too hoppy start to the day.  Back on another Diamond Bus to Wigan bus station and the adjacent Anvil (GBG 2017), a bustling city centre boozer.  Only one festival beer on, North Riding Equanot, but pleasant and refreshing.  Heading back to Wigan Wallgate station this time, a quick half of Butcombe Union (4.8%) was had in the Moon Under Water, a town centre Wetherspoons pub.

Having first walked straight passed Wallgate station as it was shrouded in plastic sheeting and scaffolding, a swift U-turn took me back to the station for the short ride to Hindley and the Hare & Hounds (GBG 2017). A small welcoming pub on the short walk into town, with a new landlord just getting himself organised.  Allgates Pepper Lane Pale Ale (4.1% and £1.10 a half) was sampled here.  Back on the train for another ride to Atherton. The station here is slightly out of the town centre but it didn’t take very long to reach the Jolly Nailor (GBG 2017) and a half of Serious Brewery Evergreen, a maltier 4.5% bitter.  A bus ride then to Leigh town centre not far away and the White Lion (GBG 2017). The bus passes this pub on the left on the way in to town so it is easy to find.  Another friendly boozer. Three halves were sampled here – Errant Comanche Porter, Doghouse (from Darwen) Ultra Pale Ale Cascade and Five Towns Day at the Races, which was appropriate as racing from Aintree was on the telly.  Another Diamond Bus journey to Tyldesley and the Union Arms (GBG 2017). Allgates Dry Bones was sampled here, also £1.10 a half.

I had visited 6 of the 7 pubs on the festival list.  Beer quality was very good throughout, all the pubs were comfortable and welcoming with prices ranging from £1.10 to £1.35 a half.  From there it was time for a ride on the First Vantage service along the Guided Busway back in to Manchester.  I alighted near to Manchester Town Hall and visited the Sawyers Arms (a Nicholson’s pub) for a very pleasant Black Wolf Florida Stout at £2.05 a half. Next up was The Gas Lamp which offered Drygate Seven Peaks, followed by the Waterhouse (a GBG 2017 listed Wetherspoons pub) for a fruity full bodied Bridgehouse Rum Porter at 6%.

Walking back towards Piccadilly I was tempted by the Grey Horse Inn, a very small bustling Hydes pub offering their Warrior Venture Ruby Red Ale (5%) and Yeaster Red (3.8%).  A very pleasant end to the day.  The Allgates pub festival runs for twelve days.  None of the pubs had a separate stillage and the beers come on in rotation through their existing hand pumps, but I would revisit this festival again, but maybe not on its first advertised day of opening.

Cheers,

Andrew Morton

Another Grand Day Out

In his latest voyage of discovery our beer correspondent goes to the Capital in search of some London brewed beers.

The main reason for my trip was to visit the London Drinker Beer & Cider Festival held in the Camden Centre which is virtually across the road from St Pancras/Kings Cross stations so is very easy to get to. I had pre booked my train ticket and it was cheaper to go via Doncaster on Grand Central Trains rather than on East Midlands Trains direct from Sheffield. Maybe East Midlands Trains should look at their advance pricing policy.

For the first time this festival featured only beers from London, but given the diversity and range of London breweries these days, I was not spoilt for choice. I sampled cask ales from Beerblefish, Barnet, Alphabeta, Bexley, Three Sods, Wimbledon and Kew breweries, with probably the pick being Kew Petersham Porter at 4.3% and full of dark chocolate overtones.

Shortly before the planned 3pm afternoon festival closing time I set off on a fairly lengthy walk to the Brewhouse & Kitchen brewpub in the Highbury area. I have visited other brewpubs belonging to this chain and have enjoyed their beers and general ambience and today was no exception. Having sampled The Goalscorer and a black IPA called the Illustrator I retraced my steps calling first in The Taproom on Upper Street in Islington.

Eight casks were stillage behind the bar in a type of chilling cabinet, although only 3 were available today. I sampled a light and refreshingly Wild Weather Serendipity at 3.5%. Next up was another Brewhouse & Kitchen brewpub in Islington, near Angel station. Again, two of the in house brewed ales were sampled from the six available. These were Vlad Harvest Ale and Watchmaker.

Continuing my way back towards Kings Cross I called in The Scottish Stores. The welcome from both the bar staff and customers was in contrast to that I received in the two Brewhouse pubs earlier. The bar person didn’t utter a word whilst she served me and the ignorant customers sat on stools in front of the bar did not offer to move whilst they supped their lager and wine. Why do pubs insist on having bar stools in front of the bar at busy times? Fortunately the Franklins Conquistador Stout was the highlight of my visit to this pub.

Time still permitted a further pub visit so I continued along Euston Road to the Euston Tap (East Lodge), a small bar in the gatehouse next to Euston Station. Here, another Wild Weather beer was sampled, this time Big Muddy at 3.8%. It was then time for a brisk walk back to Kings Cross and the train back to Doncaster. No time for a drink here, before boarding the Sheffield train and then the bus home.

Cheers, Andrew Morton.

Another grand day out

This month our beer correspondent goes in search of multi pub beer festivals in Newark by bus and train.

From Woodhouse station it is only a twenty minute journey to Worksop.  There was plenty of time for a cooked breakfast in café on the platform before crossing over the line to the Mallard for opening at 11am.  The occasion was their 14th Winter Beer Festival.  Nineteen beers were available from both hand pump and cellar together with four traditional ciders. I sampled halves from Mallinsons, Oldershaws and Jolly Boys as well as a very tasty Chocolate Stout from a local home brewer whose beers go by the name of the Shed Brewery, one of which is usually available at the Mallard festivals. The next festival there starts on Thursday 27th April.

Seventy five minutes later it was time to take the short ten minute journey to Retford station followed by a leisurely walk into town to find Retford bus station, the purpose being to catch the hourly service 37 to Newark operated by Marshalls of Sutton on Trent.  A return cost £5.60 and the return element was valid for three months.  The journey took around 50 minutes and I disembarked at Newark bus station, which was only a couple of minutes from my first pub stop there.

The 6th Newark BeerMuda Triangle Beer Festival was hosted by seven pubs in the town and Just Beer was my first point of call. A 2017 Camra Good Beer Guide listed micropub, it is long and narrow with the bar at one end and arriving there at about 2pm, the pub was quite busy. Seventeen beers were available via hand pump and gravity and I chose beers from Almasty, Framework, Odyssey, Ferry Ales and Fallen breweries.

Next up was the Flying Circus (2017 GBG entry) and beers from Pentrich and Reunion were sampled.  There was only time for a quick Hopshackle Jaramillo in the Prince Rupert (2017 GBG) before the final visit in Newark to the Fox & Crown for beers from Maregade and Castle Rock. Time did not allow visits to the Castle Barge, Organ Grinder or Vaults, but all pubs on the festival circuit had additional beers available for the event with no duplication.

Furthermore, all pubs were within an easy walk of one another.

The reason for my haste was that the last service 37 back to Retford left at 18.15.  Arriving back just after 7pm allowed sufficient time to visit a couple of pubs in Retford before a train back to Woodhouse.

The Idle Valley Brewery Tap offered a very robust Idle Valley Trouble Maker at 8.4% and the nearby Rum Runner a pleasant Batemans XB.  The train back to Woodhouse was on time as were my buses back home.

Cheers.

Andy Morton