The trip in beer
Goodness, they like their sparklers tight up there in the East Midlands. I really don't like beer pulled through a sparkler; for me it ruins it.
I got involved in a discussion about this on CWF, where I said:
My personal bugbear is 'sparklers' that put an artificial head on the beer at the expense of robbing it of its texture and flavour (and half an inch of beer). Some beers are brewed for this treatment but most aren't (certainly no southern beer that I know of is; it's a midlands and northern thing) and you might find it interesting to taste the same beer served with and without.
To which someone for whom i have a lot of respect replied:
Sparklers, interestingly, have far more effect on Southern beers, than Northern, reducing the harshness of an inferior brew. (That was sort of a joke... I think)
And he explained:
[T]he sparkler is like a shower head, on the end of the beer engine's swan neck (the narrow pipe, through which the beer is dispensed).
It effectively takes CO2 out of the beer, reducing it's harshness but making the head more bitter.
Drinking bitter through the head is much like drinking a good coffee through the crema.
I thought this was interesting, and made sense; although I could never prefer beer this way (to me it tastes like dishwater and might almost as well be John Smiths) I can now see how some people could, especially if that's what they (poor benighted souls) are used to.
Most importantly, Carl (for it was he) confirmed that beer served without a sparkler IS NOT FLAT
On the contrary, because the sparkler extracts CO2, from the beer, the liquid underneath tends to be flatter, than the headless pint.
So we have arrived at some sort of north/south detente. It was also pointed out that if you are being served three quarters of an inch of froth on top of your pint, it ought to be in an oversized glass, so as not to loose out on the beer. I am ambivalent about this. Oversized glasses just don't look right, and if you are daft enough to want your beer to look like a Mr Whippy then frankly you don't deserve a full pint. Also it gives pubs an excuse for not taking the sparkler off. Finally, beer is cheaper up north so it all works out the same in the end.
So, having set the scene, here is my round up of the pubs we visited on the latest outing. The grand total is only eight, which I was convinced must be a misrake, but I have checked with Jim and he can't remember any others either (he probably doesn't remember the White Hart at West Stockwith, actually). This is probably because we didn't actually cover a lot of miles, spending longer periods in one or two places. Here anyway is the roll of honour:
The Coopers Tavern, Burton upon Trent
Formerly the Bass brewery tap, this is a splendid and atmospheric traditional pub, but friendly with it. A wide range of different customers all seemed at home. Beer is served straight from the barrel (iirc) and there is just a small counter, no bar as such. Although it's owned by Joules I think it's a free house. Bass is available of course, and this is where I got my introduction to Thornbridge Jaipur IPA. A good start to the trip.
The Fox and Crown, Newark
Just popped in here for a quick drink with Dave and Izzy one evening. Perfectly OK pub, but not outstanding, and certainly outshone in Newark. I didn't see any evidence of the 10 beers promised by the website, more like three.
The Prince Rupert, Newark
I'm swooning just thinking about it. A stunningly restored fifteenth century building, great range of beer served by people who really know and care about it, and to cap it all, wonderful food too. Despite being new, it had a really nice feel about it; everyone was friendly and the surroundings very pleasant with lots of nice old signs and adverts.
Just Beer, Newark
What it says, basically. People who are dedicated to serving good beer from as wide a range of breweries as possible. The staff were welcoming and friendly but there's no getting away from the fact that it's basically a shed. One for hard core real ale fiends. I'd be a regular if I lived there.
The White Hart, West Stockwith
A very ordinary looking pub hides its own microbrewery producing some potent beers (just ask Jim and Adrian!). Good food too. The place to unwind after getting into the lock. (And out of it again, obviously. Sue wouldn't like it if you left your boat in the lock and disappeared into the pub for five hours.)
The Bricklayers Arms, Clayworth
Apparently renowned for its food and packed out on weekend evenings, but not so impressive for a lunchtime pint.
The Rum Runner, Retford
Surprised this place doesn't have its own website - it looked like that sort of enterprising outfit. Regular (mini) beer festivals, an antiques market... It promised a lot, but was disappointing. The Batemans beer was nothing to write home about; there was annoying background music and maddening, soulless halogen lighting. During the 'beer festival' there was a band on so a large crowd of us were shown into another room, where there were no tables and we sat in a circle like an encounter group. Jim and I and Adrian and Linda upped sticks at this point and finally went off to check out...
The Turks Head, Retford
Which was a pleasant surprise. Tatty thirties mock tudor on the outside, on the inside it was beautifully maintained and highly polished thirties mock tudor, with a warm and welcoming feel. And Youngs Special - the sparkler was definitely coming off that!
So, for the prizes... For atmosphere and history.. The Coopers Tavern. For dedication to beer... Just Beer. But the overall winner, for beer, food, surroundings and service, by a mile - The Prince Rupert.
Hope to be back soon.