North Notts and Derbyshire

In a new series our beer correspondent reports on his journeys in search of beer festivals, all reached on public transport in a day from Sheffield.

After the rigours of the highly enjoyable Sheffield Beer & Cider Festival, a review of the excellent RURAD (Rural Real Ale Drinkers) In The Sticks publication revealed a wealth of accessible pub beer festivals in North Notts and Derbyshire over the Halloween weekend.

After studying various travel and pub websites, the CAMRA Good Beer Guide and the weather forecast, a day out was planned for Friday 28th October and all without a free travel pass in sight.  Leaving home at 8am for an early morning shopping trip to Crystal Peaks, I boarded the 9.20 TM Travel service from there to Kiveton Park rail station for a train to Worksop. Arriving about 10.20 allowed ample time for a healthy fry-up in the Railway Café on the platform.

The Mallard public house on the opposite platform opened promptly at 11am. This is a lovely pub with a micro bar feel to it with just six tables in the bar, except that in addition to the four hand pumps a full drinks menu is available. For their quarterly festivals the cosy downstairs bar is also open serving beers on both hand pump and direct from the cellar. In total 16 beers and four traditional ciders were available and I tried beers from Mad Dog, Drygates, Reunion, Wylam, Hopstuff and one from their own brewery, Double Top.  Quality was very good throughout. Their next festival is scheduled to start at 11am on Thursday 26th January – go to it!

There then followed a short walk to the Grafton Hotel who were also advertising a Halloween Beer Festival starting the previous day, but unfortunately (unlike the Mallard), they had chosen to adhere to their normal Friday opening time of 2pm, so were closed when I visited.

Back on the train to Sheffield now and a quick change for a Cross Country service to Derby using the invaluable Derbyshire Wayfarer ticket. There was then a quick bus ride from the station into Derby Bus Station to pick up another service to Milton for a short walk to the Holly Bush Inn at Makeney, a Grade 11 listed 17th century inn of great character and significance and one which I had not visited before.  A separate stillage in a normally closed off room housed the festival beers and the breweries I tried were – Hairy Brewers (a new brewery from a nearby village), Oakham, Dancing Duck and G2 (from Ashford, Kent).

Time was pressing on so another bus ride was needed into Belper to visit Arkwright’s Bar Halloween beer festival.  In addition to the main bar, a stillage had been erected behind it and beers sampled were from Manning, Abstract Jungle, Dhillons, Brewshed and another from Hairy Brewers.  Unlike the Holly Bush, this is a fairly new and modern smaller pub nestled in the centre of Belper and was very popular with drinkers.

On leaving the pub, a short cut brings you to Belper rail station in 2 minutes, just in time for the hourly service back to Derby.  No time for a drink in Derby on this occasion as a Sheffield bound train was just approaching.  As often seems to be the case with evening trains that terminate in Sheffield the controllers seems to take great pleasure in putting the train at the very end of platform 8 and as far away as possible from the way out and today was no exception, even though the station was devoid of other trains.

Anyway, there was just enough time for a quick drink in the Old Queen’s Head before the bus home.

Andy Morton


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