Joiners Arms, Bakewell, July 2019

Bakewell has been crying out for a decent pub for a long while. For somewhere that’s the home of the Thornbridge brewery, you’d expect something a little better than some Greene King and Marston’s houses, but that’s what you’ve had to put up with.

Until May 2019, when the Joiners Arms opened its doors for the first time, serving 6 cask lines of local and further afield beer, alongside 6 keg lines which included on opening night (and still do today) Pravha, Staropramen and Aspall’s cider. We’ll come back to them later.

The Joiners Arms is cast in the classic micropub mould, a nice minimalist design based around joinery (I love the planes inset into the bar). It’s all about the beer, which is kept in excellent condition. Food wise, there are some crisps, nuts and other small snacks around, and they have a selection of wines and smaller batch gins as well as soft drinks for those not wanting a beer. They are dog friendly too, with free snacks for your canine companions, and a water bowl for them as well.

I spent a few hours here (with a break for fish’n’chips down by the river) with regular MOFAD drinking companion Steve, and much less regular drinking companion (and friend to badgers everywhere) Andy. Our fourth member was unwell so had stayed back at base.

In different orders, we worked our way across all of the cask ales. The keg lines were ignored, as two of them were empty, one had Thornbridge Satzuma (a permanent fixture, which some of us had yesterday), and the other three contained the offerings mentioned above. On a weekend, you’d expect all of the keg lines to be in action, so it was a shame to miss out on some potential bangers. The cask line up was pretty decent though, so let’s explore what we sampled.

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I started out with West of the Sun from nearby Torrside Brewing, a lovely NZ hop profile coming through. Fruity hoppiness continued with Downdays from Rivington Brewing Co which was mellow and superbly sessionable. A more familiar name came next, Deception from the just over the border Abbeydale Brewery. A classic showcase of another New Zealand hop, Nelson Sauvin.

After our lunch break, the final three beers, all of which were familiar to me. My third encounter with Hawkshead Red, sweet maltiness and much better on cask than the bottled versions that I’d had a few years ago.

I passed on the Jaipur as I’ve had it (and variants like Jaipur X and Dry Hopped Jaipur) many times. That left one more beer, Lucaria from Thornbridge, which I had twice. I first had it back in December 2016, and remember it fondly as chocolate ice cream in a glass, a smooth, milky vanilla porter. There are now four other variants (strawberry, salted caramel, rocky road and mint choc chip, which sounds like old Thornbridge favourite Baize).

It was a nice way to round off our afternoon in the Joiners Arms, which is a pleasant micropub in the centre of Bakewell. You can’t miss it, it’s on the big roundabout on the A6, and passengers in cars can spot you as they pass.

I think the lady behind the bar was having a bit of an off day today, since she got very confused when being offered £11 to pay for £6 worth of drinks.

If I still had time to do my pub of the month round ups, this would definitely be in contention for July 2019. Given that I’m 18 months behind with that, I can’t see them coming back any time soon I’m afraid!

Church House Pub, Sutton, May 2019

We have been staying at Jarman Farm in Sutton again, with regular MOFAD companions Karon & John. It was the second outing of Mrs MOFADs shiny new camping machine. The weather hasn’t been kind this weekend, so we’ve been straight out to the pub each night.

It’s a pub that we are familiar with, having been three times in 2016 when we were staying at Jarman Farm over two weekends. It’s a lovely village pub, friendly and welcoming, and with great food and drink, so it’s a very easy choice to decide to come back, even though there are several other pubs within walking distance. If a pub is good, why risk going somewhere else that might be less good?

We came here three nights in a row, over a rather soggy and cold Whitsun bank holiday weekend. The usual drill of decent walks during the day (with the added challenge of waiting for the rain to stop on Sunday morning) and then dinner in the pub. It was not weather for sitting around chatting on the camp site, so it was a weekend of early nights.

On to the pub and the meals then. Friday night saw hunter’s chicken (a pub classic) with chips and token salad (sad iceberg), followed by a deliciously gooey chocolate brownie. Liquid accompaniment was provided by Moorhouse’s Blonde Witch (a lovely cask pint) and Silk of Amnesia from nearby Storm Brewing Co, a classic caramel bitter.

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On Saturday night, we were back at the same table, this time tucking into the classic burger and chips with token salad (sad iceberg), and a decent apple crumble. This time last year it would have been way too hot for a crumble, and we were tucking into strawberry pavlovas at The Lazy Trout in Meerbrook. A warm crumble was very welcome on a dull night.

Liquid accompaniment was provided by Moorhouse’s Blonde Witch again, and Exmoor Gold, a simple malty golden ale.

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Sunday was very much a day of rain. We waited for it to stop. It didn’t stop. We drove out to Alderley Edge (the actual edge, not the bit where all the footballers live). We waited for the rain to stop. It eventually stopped. We went out for a walk, and got a bit more rain for our trouble. The sun did eventually come out towards the end of the day.

Once again we were back at our usual table, and tonight it was the turn of my pub yardstick, gammon. I judge most pubs that serve food by their gammon, because it’s easy to get right, but horrible if you get it wrong. Sadly, it’s another pub where you have to choose between pineapple and egg. I want both. You can have both if you pay an extra £1.50, for a slice of pineapple. No thanks, I could buy a huge pineapple for that. A lovely piece of gammon, a perfect egg, chips and peas. And more of that token salad.

Once again, liquid accompaniment was provided by Moorhouse’s Blonde Witch and Exmoor Gold. Not a big turnover on casks this weekend, but they were all in good condition.

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A lovely long weekend in a lovely village pub. I’m sure we’ll be back at Jarman Farm again in a year or two, and we’ll be back here when we do return. A great place to go if you’re staying nearby.

Meet the Brewer – Three Hills – Needle & Pin – March 2019

Another lovely meet the brewer event at the N&P. Three Hills owner Andrew cut his teeth as a brewer in China, and now he is back home in the UK brewing up some sensational beers. Named after local neolithic tombs, Three Hills Brewing is a garage nano-brewery based in Woodford, Northamptonshire.

Their mission is to produce high quality, innovative and experimental small-batch beers for those who love to explore new taste sensations (that would be me). Rather than reproducing the same beers, they focus on creating a new recipe every time to keep things interesting. When they say small batch, they mean it: whether it’s IPA, saison, stout, wheat or unhopped gruit, their 225-600L batches allow them to brew with love and creativity. The result is truly unique, limited edition beers. There’s a lot of debate about core ranges versus constant evolution, but I think there’s room in the market for both.

One of the main reasons for tonight was to launch the collaboration brew between Three Hills and the N&P, a 5% Rhubarb Crumble Stout called “Giant Leap”. It was sweet and smooth with definite rhubarb notes. Paired well with a little rhubarb cakey treat too!

The other beers available were:-

Three Hills IPA V4 – sweetness, maltiness and a little bitterness. Well rounded.

Woodford Experiment Pale – smooth cask pale with a tasty hop profile and a nice bitterness.

Kveik – ooh that’s Belgian. I mean technically it’s Norwegian because it’s their word for yeast but a definite Belgian flavour profile. Very farmhouse!

Small Steps V3 – mint on the nose and some grapefruit on the finish. Light and refreshing, a lovely summer beer.

Due to having to catch an earlier bus (curse work in the morning!) I didn’t get chance to have a good natter tonight, but there’s always next time. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more from Three Hills in 2019.

Plank & Leggit, Sawley, January 2019

A #tryanuary adventure with a twist. Of lime. And soda. Another visit to this standard chain pub for some food and some chat. My #tryanuary advenure had to come to a temoporary halt with the sad sight of Greene King IPA. Another night on the lime and soda, but not a problem as there’s plenty of great beer left to sample this month. It just happens to mostly be in my fridge at home.

So on to dinner then, lots of good value food to chose from. Mrs MOFAD had the sweet potato and chick pea curry, I opted for the “chicken New Yorker” a cheese topped hunter’s chicken with a couple of onion rings, half a grilled tomato and a spoonful of peas. Decent chain pub fodder to fill your belly.

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A good evening of chat, if only they’d make an effort to get some beer into the pub.

The Lansdowne, Leicester, January 2019

The first theatre trip of the year, and we don’t have much booked in for 2019 so far. As tonight’s show was a 7:30 start, we had to opt for our “go to” dining choice, The Lansdowne. There are numerous other places to choose from, but none of them are close enough for a 90 minute turnaround. I think we came here at least four times last year, so it’s very familiar, but hopefully not too familiar.

Something that was familiar was a Framework beer on the bar. Familiar, because this is the pub where I’ve had most of their beers, and familiar because I was brewing a beer with them only five days ago. If a beer only has to travel just over a mile to get to the pub, it should be in pretty good condition when it gets there. Brewer’s Gold was indeed in good condition,  easy drinking with a nice hop profile and a good bitter edge.

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On to food, and I had what I pretty much always have, the standard burger. I’ve written more than enough words on the joy of the burger now, so you know my thoughts. Simple and tasty.

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Ever reliable pre-show dining.

Tonight’s show was Sandi Toksvig’s “National Trevor”, kind of like an episode of QI with extended anecdotes, a pub quiz and an audience Q&A at the end. Very funny, informative and entertaining.

Quiz night at The Pack Horse Inn, Keswick, January 2019 #tryanuary

Our fourth visit to the Pack Horse quiz night. On our last three visits, we’ve won every time. What happened to “My Pointless Friend Richard” tonight? Find out later.

Today we climbed Whiteside, our 120th Wainwright. It was one of the trickier ones, very much a straight up and down visit, and it took quite a bit of effort. A good feed was required, and a decent home made burger and a pile of chips was just what the doctor (me, definitely not a doctor) ordered.

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The burger was fantastic. You’ve read this from me many times already, but when properly done, a decent burger is hard to beat. Really tasty beef, extra tangy cheddar and some proper English mustard. Big fat chips which were crunchy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. A decent salad and some dressing too, not just a pile of limp iceberg (the excuse for salad that I usually moan about).

The only fly in the ointment was the lack of a plate, a silly bread board having taken its place. To be fair to them, they would have needed a decent sized plate to accommodate this tasty portion.

On to the #tryanuary bit. I was hoping to taste a new beer from Robinsons who own this pub. They have made over 150 different beers but this doesn’t seem to be a market where they are wanting to test anything new, as they always seem to have the same ones on. So it was Double Hop and Dizzy Blonde, which still hasn’t been rebranded, despite this being announced back in May 2018.

On to the quiz bit. For the first time, we lost. Beaten by our neighbours, a table of 8 which felt like a bit of an unfair fight, but we were well and truly thrashed. We shall return to reclaim our crown another day.

Thornbridge night, The Needle & Pin, Loughborough, December 2018

Oh yes it’s Thornbridge night, and the feeling’s right, oh yes it’s Thornbridge night, oh what a night.

The annual Thornbridge night at The Needle & Pin. Now in its third year, but with a new host, as Meg has moved on to Beavertown (a gentle and fairly playful boo and hiss rippled around the room from the people who hadn’t already heard this news). We met James, field sales manager for Thornbridge.

We talked all things Thornbridge. Having (between us all) been to the previous two Thornbridge nights, been on the brewery tour, and been fairly regular attendees at Peakender (just me on that one), we had a fair bit of Thornbridge knowledge (we wiped the floor with everyone else in last year’s quiz) so bandied around a few topics for discussion, including the popularity of of good cask beer, getting so many beers into Tesco and future beer plans.

And of course there was beer. One of the new variations of Lucaria, Salted Caramel Lucaria, full of toffee, coffee, chocolate and creaminess. A lovely pint to savour.

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Whilst that was going down, so was Thornbridge bingo, Sean’s latest game. Pretty much as you would imagine, bingo cards with names of Thornbridge beers on, and then beer names drawn out of a box to tick off on your card. We had time for a couple of rounds, and we won a couple of lines on our table, with prizes on all of the other tables too. Great fun.

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More chat, and then James remembered something. He disappeared downstairs and returned with two bottles of Serpent to share around. Serpent was the subject of our first Thornbridge night, so once again I think we scared James a bit with our knowledge of it. I bought a bottle that night, and we had it on New Year’s Eve last year. It had aged well.

We had some more tonight, surprised that there was still some in existence. It has continued to age well, still dominated by apple, with some bourbon smoothness in the background. It continues to be the beer that is not a beer.

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There was time to sample Necessary Evil, an absolute malt bomb full of all the malts.

Another great night out at The Needle & Pin. Great fun with lovely people, and perfectly kept beers as usual. Looking forward to the 2019 version already!