Prior to our recent trip to Derby we wondered whether the Real Ale capital measured up. The answer is yes! A good range of ales, craft beer and tripping over the odd Pub-based beer festival provided a good beerweekend. The winner for us was The Furnace. Ok it was holding a small scale beer festival but it had a good range at the bar and in the fridges.
A knowledgeable and friendly group of staff welcomed us to the bar. In fact we felt so welcome we went back again to finish off the weekend and it was well worth it!
If you are judging a city on it’s welcome and range of beer then you’ll not go far wrong to start here on your visit to Derby.
We have more to report back on our visit with a full pub list, ale trail, more pics…
Really? Have those who proclaim this never been to Norwich! Norwich, the City of Ale is the beerweekenders benchmark, our spiritual home with more pubs than days of the year. Can Derby outperform Norwich? We are about to find out as we prepare for our Beerweekend away…
The plan…a man-plan! Get off the train and start walking. Of course that would be sheer madness so we have on the back of a fag packet a list…
The Alexandra Hotel
The Furnace Inn
The Olde Bell
The Golden Eagle
The Five Lamps
The New Zealand
The Silk Mill Tap
Ye Olde Dolphin
It’s a start. If you can recommend any then please let us know. Let’s see how you measure up Derby…watch this space…
From Westfield Stratford, the Tank Bar is just over a 10 minute walk… longer depending on how much we have ‘enjoyed’ Tap East. There a couple of ways to get there; One route taking you directly along the road and the other route across the Olympic Park and then along the canal. Choose the most picturesque or the one which quenches your thirst quickest. Both carry the hazard of cyclists but perhaps more so on the narrow canal path!
You’ll find the difference between the industrial warehouse of the Tank Bar, the Howling Hops brewery tap, and the modern retail unit of Tap East quite a contrast. As you walk in you can’t miss the towering shiny tanks which light up the shaded warehouse. As you walk towards them goggle eyed be careful you don’t end up behind the bar!
With the four of us having a range of preferences we can split the beer tasting nicely. Ruby, Porter, Pale, IPA…and more…six more to be exact! Initially, there’s a deposit for the glasses presumably to account for the clientele who are a little forgetful. How many times have we all wandered off with a lovely branded glass in our pocket after forgetting to place it on the bar on our way out! Maybe that’s just us then?
If you need some soakage as you quench your thirst there’s a food bar which sells burgers and meat platters. Sat on the long wooden tables it felt like a mediaeval battle celebration not that the remaining West Ham supporters know anything about victory! Like Tap East be mindful of the extra drinkers which match days bring.
So 30-35 minutes travelling time we’ve managed Tap East followed by Howling Hops Tank Bar. Not far at all! In fact there must surely be time for another…
Unit 9A Queen’s Yard, White Post Ln, London E9 5EN
This will always be a difficult one to conclude especially when describing it to a beer civilian after all we are essentially looking at two bars within a chain…aren’t we? You would anticipate that walking into a Brewdog bar would be the same wherever you are, however, what they have maintained is their individuality.
The context of each is obvious to see. Shoreditch located in the self-professed hipster area of East London and Norwich within the city of ale and a pub on every corner.
Walking into the Shoreditch bar after passing along the stretch of window which gives full view of the bar itself my eye was caught by the large coolers holding the in house range plus guests. If you are not able to have your fill then there’s always the take out! Coming out of the wall on the left is the bar and on the right American diner style booths. As always the lists of the current offerings hang above the bar which in this case is almost bigger than the bar which is where my first comparison starts. At Norwich you are presented with a long substantial bar with taps along the wall whereas at its counterpart fonts separate the bar staff from the punters…perhaps that’s an East London defence method! But size can’t be the only criteria and in any case Shoreditch comes up trumps with a downstairs bar albeit with an edited version of the beer list upstairs. So they seem to be sizing up so far.
Food is available in both with Norwich providing a an area with tables which seems to lend itself to eating although games were being played around me quite skilfully despite the thirst quenching going on. If food is your thing then Norwich may be nudging ahead.
This is where we start getting down to the bare bones. What really discerns these two bars?..the customer experience. Yes, the very thing which fills Operations Directors, Marketing Departments and bar Managers with dread. That often intangible element which marketers love to use but companies fail to live up to. Sounds dramatic but it actually comes down to two simple things: the bar service and the bogs! Here is where Shoreditch manages to get one up on Norwich which is perhaps down to experience. Norwich is the baby opening this year against the elder four years ago. Bar service is critical to the punter. Nobody likes to wait too long and definitely not feel as if they have been ignored. Despite the length of bar available Shoreditch operates well with staff darting behind each other eager to serve working as a team. It is simplicity itself.
Now I’ve thrown that grenade in I’ll walk away and let them fight it out! Don’t rely on my criteria. Go visit them yourself!
If you are wondering where I sit with Brewdog bars? I love them. Jet Black Heart all day long!
In our previous blog we made reference to the Romford area being a barren wasteland when it comes to good beer. Harsh but fair. So, finding places to go within the constraints of daily working life, kids and interests outside of beer (yes, we do have interests outside of beer…just!!) is a challenge. Distance, travel links, ease to find are all considerations to make the most of time. So how far is far?
We are lucky enough to be on the Southend-Liverpool Street mainline so you can clock up some beer miles very quickly…leaves on the line, train strikes and engineering works permitting. It’s a five minute walk to the station so the determining factors…train time and the walk to the nearest bar.
The beer compass pointed towards Stratford and after just 15 minutes on the train we strode off to Westfield where Beer shopping would start in Tap East. Could we reach anywhere else within 30 minutes door to door?
This brewpub is tucked away near Waitrose or opposite Stratford International entrance in an open fronted shop unit. Despite being situated in a shopping mall you soon feel comfortable lounging back in a comfy sofa. There’s plenty to choose from, all listed on a TV screen above the bar. In house brews are rotated as well regular guests. In addition, there are very well stocked fridges.
Losing track of time here can be so, so easy. One thing to be aware of is that West Ham Football team now inhabit the Olympic stadium so beware of match days!
From here….we walked to The Tank Bar…join us in Part 2 of How far is far?
7, International Square, Montfichet Rd, Westfield, Stratford City. E20 1EE
If you have any awareness of the Romford area you’ll know that it’s a barren wasteland as far as real ale and craft beer is concerned. The same could be said for other things but let’s not wander off topic. When it came to our attention that a Taproom was opening in Upminster we had to check the facts. A Taproom? …in Romford?(or as near as)… really?! So, weeks went by before we assembled and off we went. A train into Romford station and then a change on to the Upminster line…thirty minutes door to door.
The Upminster Taproom is perhaps not what you expect as it’s located in a side street within an ex-commercial property. Entering through the door you find yourself straight in the thick of things. Now, there’s no bar…mmmm…so how does this work? We didn’t have to wait long at all before Bob appeared and explained all. Basically you catch his eye or his daughters, who help out, and they’ll bring your order out to you. Simple. All of this adds to a slightly quirky but very comfortable and friendly place which Bob certainly conveys when he stops (he was actually able to that day) and tells the story of how it all began.
Generally, the beers are locally sourced with the most popular making regular appearances. A cider or two along with a small selection of wine is also on the menu. We look out for the weekly Facebook postings providing visual notifications of what’s on that week. You do have to be quick though…some go fast!
Do drop in and enjoy the experience. It’s become the Beerweekenders local go-to!
1A Sunnyside Gardens, Upminster RM14 3DT.
Nearest station: 5 min walk from Upminster station
A typical Autumnal day but then again it could have been summer according to the British weather. Off we set for Norwich. Our destination of choice was proposed by Ian who had studied there in the dark ages and convinced us that every corner had a pub and the streets were awash with ale… we were not disappointed.
Our first stop was the Adam and Eve, a 17th Century building with a small bar. A good place to start just for the quaint, albeit small interior serving great pub food. Essential lining for the day ahead. Without describing each stop, every pub had real ales and offered something for everyone.
The Fat Cat and Canary and the Coach and Horses are further out from the rest of the pubs listed so you might want to figure this in to your route. Perhaps as you arrive or leave via the main rail station. For us, the walk to The Fat Cat and Canary allowed a mid-trail break just to catch our breath…and let’s face it…empty the bladder too! None of us are getting any younger!!
Our list of pubs which we recommend are:
Adam and Eve: Quaint 17th Century building serving hearty food.
Wig and Pen: Another 17th century building with half a dozen ales
Ribs of Beef: On the river with a range of up to a dozen ales
Norwich Tap House: 20 taps!! Watch out for the higher strengths!
St Andrews Brew House: Five house brews should keep you busy!
The Belgian Monk: Yes, a menu of Belgian beers…and food!
Vine Tavern: Quirky café style with small offering. Serve Thai food!
The Sir Garnet: Interesting multi level building.
Murderers: Happened to have a beer festival on our visit.
Kings Head: Half a dozen beers here.
Golden Star: Conveniently next to the hotel. One more for the road!
Micawbers Tavern: At least five ales…watched the rugby here!
Fat Cat and Canary: Mouth wide open at the choice of kegs!!
Coach and Horses: Own brews which don’t disappoint.
Our list is by no means definitive but it will give you somewhere reliable to head for. Apologies for the brief description and to those pubs not mentioned. Norwich is full of them!!
With bags-a-clinking we assembled and stored the 72 bottles (that’s four sets of the beers) in Ian and Steve’s fridges (they live next door to each other) and ice water buckets. Warm enough to sit outside we commenced tasting. Now, we are not trained tasters but between the five of us we thought we would be able to come up with a consensus on taste and more easily an outright winner.
The beers were the 18 featured in Aldi’s Summer Beer Festival at £1.25 a bottle. Couldn’t go wrong…could we?
White Witch (Moorhouse’s 3.9%)
Unicorn (Robinsons 4.3%)
Strongarm (Camerons 4.3%)
Maple Gold (Joseph Holt 4.3%)
A-hop-alypse Now (Camerons 4.3%)
Velo (Black Sheep 4.2%)
Wizard ( Robinsons 3.7%)
Golden Bolt (Box Steam 3.8%)
Wet Your Whistle (Box Steam 4.5%)
Wadworth 6X (Wadworth & Co. 4.3%)
The Rev James Rye (Brains 4.3%)
Double Dragon (Felinfoel 4.2%)
Hop Bomb (Sadlers 5.0%)
Surrey Nirvana (Hogs Back 4.0%)
Two Tribes (Everards 4.5%)
Mid Atlantic (Titanic 4.5%)
Castle (Arundel 3.8%)
Mellow Yellow (Sadlers 4.1%)
So after an afternoon/evening/night of tasting the outright winner was Robinsons Wizard! We thought it had a mellow maltiness with an underlying fruity vein and consistent taste throughout.
There weren’t any particular clangers as we tasted them all in equal measure and refused none. I’m not sure what that says about all of us. The least liked was Camerons Strongarm, a ruby red ale which left a metallic taste in the mouth. Not entirely unpleasant but not for us.