Boozy October – My Liver Hurts!
Well, after the disappointment of having our Florida trip cancelled due to Hurricane Matthew, there was only one thing to do and that’s drown our sorrows with alcohol! To be fair, both sessions that I’m going to talk about here were already planned and in the diary before the cancellation, but a good excuse is a good excuse right?
Part I – Nottingham Robin Hood Beer & Cider Festival 2016
Our friends Chris and Jen Daws invited us to join them at this years real ale festival in Nottingham, which ran from 12th – 15th October in Nottingham Castle. Now, we’ve been to quite a few real ale festivals over the years, as we try and do at least one or two a year. However, this is now officially our favourite and we will be returning in future years. Some events we’ve been to have been held in small venues, with 20-30 different beers and frequented by your stereotypical old men with beards, that probably haven’t washed all week, talking bollocks about random stuff. Nottingham is quite a bit different! Firstly, it is spread out around the grounds of Nottingham Castle and it is only when you have ventured around the whole site do you truly get an impression of the scale of this event. It started out in 1976 with just 25 beers (and the old smelly men I would guess) and has grown year-on-year to now offering around 1,200 real ales and 240 ciders and perries from all over the country…it really is a Mecca for lovers of good beer.
After a short queue to get in (even with tickets), we picked up our glass and drinks tokens and headed up to the first beer tent we saw. Don’t ask what we drank as I never made a list and could never have remembered them all to be honest. With our first of the day in hand, we met up with Chris and Jen, before plotting our way around the various tents. One big tip for beer festival newbies is that when offered either a 1/3 or a 1/2, always take the 1/3. Why? Because the event is staffed by volunteers and you always get given more than a 1/3, whereas you cannot get more than a 1/2 in a 1/2 pint glass. Value for money…simple. In addition to the beers, there is a wide variety of food to snack on throughout the day and everything we tried was lovely. One tent I have to mention is the Batemans Brewery Bar, as it’s not a beer festival unless you pay homage to the marvelous beer that is XXXB, an English tawny pale ale, with Challenger, Styrian and Golding hops.
As the day went on, the beer kept flowing, the tokens were consumed, food was enjoyed and the toilet queues grew longer and longer. We left the venue after 6 hours of drinking and decided to carry on in the pubs in the town centre. One I recall as a real gem of a place was called Purecraft Bar and Kitchen, home of the Purity Brewing Co. Check it out if you are visiting Nottingham. I’m looking forward to next year already. Mark the dates in your diary…11th – 14th October 2017. See you there!
Part II – Transpennine Real Ale Trail
We’d threatened to do this for months, but we finally got to do it on Saturday 29th October with our Leeds drinking buddies Chris and Bailey. For those that haven’t heard of it, the Transpennine Real Ale Trail is a unique voyage to a selection of Yorkshire and Lancashire’s best real ale pubs…on a train! All the pubs are within a stones throw of their respective Railway Station, so finding your way there (and back) couldn’t be easier.
The trail includes 8 stops; Batley, Dewsbury, Mirfield, Huddersfield, Slaithwaite, Marsden, Greenfield and Stalybridge. We started at Dewsbury, due to the proximitry to Chris and Bailey’s house, and hit pubs along the way, some official trail venues and some in the same town/village but a little further from the Railway Station. We alternated stops on the way out to Stalybridge and did the remaining stops on the way back, but it’s really your choice how you do it.
One thing surprised us and another simply flabbergasted us. Firstly, it was far busier than we’d expected. The first pub in Dewsbury was busy, but it was only as we got on the train you realised just how many people were doing the same thing as us. It resembled an away trip on the train to a major football match. There was standing room only on most trains. It was rowdy and noisy, with lots of hen/stag/birthday groups. You have to feel sorry for the locals using the train on a weekend as this was October, just imagine what May, June and July is like on this route!
The thing that made our jaws drop was bumping into Amanda’s nephew Martin, his wife Angela and a whole bunch of their friends on a birthday day out doing the same thing as us, on the same day, just starting and finishing in Manchester, which is where they all live. What are the chances? It was great to see them and catch up before we headed off in different directions.
As the day transitioned into the evening, thoughts turned to food and, as ever when out on the booze, the kebab/pizza takeaway beckoned. Another great day out, sinking real ale with great friends, in stunning locations, putting the world to rights and working towards the inevitable hangover the morning after…happy days!