Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Derby, Chesterfield & Staveley: 18th September 2012

I like to take a couple of days off every year and go walking around various parts of this great country that I've never been to before - this normally involves taking in some interesting pubs, visiting a few breweries, and possibly imbibing (a fair amount of) local beer as well. This year I'd decided to go to Derbyshire and The Peak District, followed by a look around some of the famous beer cities of South Yorkshire. The 'getting there' part of the journey involved a FlyBe flight to East Midlands Airport, a short stop in Derby and then overnight in Chesterfield, at the edge of The Peak District National Park.

View Chesterfield in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Plane: Glasgow to East Midlands (FlyBe)
  Bus: East Midlands to Derby (Derby Skylink)
  Train: Derby to Chesterfield (East Midlands Trains)

  Bus: Chesterfield to Staveley (Stagecoach 70/77)
  Bus: Staveley to Chesterfield (Stagecoach 70/77)

Whilst waiting for a flight at Glasgow Airport it's customary to visit the airside JD Wetherspoon, The Sanderling, and at first glance the selection here this afternoon seemed quite promising - Fyne Ales Jarl & Arran Blonde amongst a couple of Wetherspoon standards. However I was told that none of the ales were available (there was an 'Equipment Failure' - arghhh, although the cynic in me notes that this has happened before - a selling ploy ?), so instead I nursed 1 pint of quite OK keg Harviestoun Schiehallion (at £4.55) rather than a couple of ales (at £3.15) - I guess everyone loses in this situation.

After the short turbo-prop hop to East Midlands Airport, I made it off the plane, through the terminal and onto the Derby Skylink bus connection in less than 5 minutes - travelling light definitely has its advantages.

The connection to Derby took just over half and hour, so it was literally slightly less than 2 hours after leaving Glasgow Airport that I was at the entrance of the red-bricked Brunswick Inn, just across from Derby Midland Station.

This is a Victorian built Everards pub that was renovated in the 1980's after falling into disrepair, but it now has its own in-house microbrewery (6 beers available), a large number of guest ales and only a small number of Everards beers - a really nice selection.

I chose the in-house Brunswick Triple Hop (pale and hoppy, but a very slight yeastiness for the first few sips) and then the Milestone Missy Sippy Jazz Ale (spicy, sweet dark fruits, and a bit of an alcohol hit at the end - different & very nice).

There are a lot of rooms to wander about in the place (a family room, a games room, the bar area with its flagstone corridor, a number of rooms upstairs and an outside beer garden). In all of the rooms are numerous cracking black-and-white photos, green painted tiling (almost Glasgow close-like), high ceilings, beer barrels in various corners, rounded glass partitions, nice lighting, trophies and old beer bottles up on the shelves - as a pub to have beer in whilst waiting for a train connection it's hard to beat.

I found the door to the small micro-brewery open and managed to grab a quick picture. They only brew twice a week, but it's a fairly large plant (up to 10BBLs) and the barman indicated that he enjoys mucking in with the brewing process a lot.

I then headed off to Chesterfield via a short train journey. The main orientation point in Chesterfield is the Crooked Spire on the Church of St Mary and All Saints which is both twisted and leaning due to a large amount of lead in the spire - it's certainly very distinctive (and thankfully stable).

I had booked into one of the Wetherspoon Lodges for the first time - the reviews on some of the travel sites were absolutely fine and they'd dropped the price for an early weekday stay so why not? And I'd have to say the Portland Hotel was great - a spacious, clean room, they changed the flickering light-bulb in the bathroom straight-away, and breakfast was fine (although I didn't fancy a pint at 8:00am !)
(I was in the room above the 'Hotel' sign)

For something to eat that evening I had looked at the Good Beer Guide entries and decided to try The Rutland, just in the shadow of the Crooked Spire.

It's a fairly large 2-level place with the 3 House Ales (Abbot, Doom Bar & Jaipur) and Guest Ales shown on the black-board. With nothing written up in the Guest Ales section I went for Jaipur, only to notice the 3 additional hand-pulls at the opposite corner of the bar - not too smart (of me or the pub). I sat down at one of the window tables, ordered some food and looked around at the nice stained glass partition, some old pictures of Chesterfield (including one of a Whitbreads steam delivery truck). I also noticed I'd missed their Tripple Tipple promotion - 3 1/3rds of any of the ales.

My cottage pie was immense (in all meanings of the word) with most a wedge of cheese grated on top of it and I think the bitterness of the Jaipur actually helped to cut through the rich gravy quite well.

I wanted to have a look at some of the other pubs in Chesterfield at some point but decided to first head east out of the centre for a few miles to the nearby town of Staveley. My first stop was the recently renovated All Inn, which is now setup as the Raw Brewery Tap.

On entering I was slightly disappointed that there only 1 Raw beer available - Hop Pole, however this was a lovely, well balanced Pale Ale and both it and the other real ales (I also had a 1/2 of the Elland Hoptical Illusion) were available for all of £2/pint for Tuesday evenings - a ridiculously good price. The All Inn itself has been renovated as a modern place with nice comfy seats, TVs for the Champions League games and a great games room with pool & skittles (I think).

I then headed a couple of hundred yards back down the road to the Speedwell Inn (the web-site is 'different' to say the least - it even suggests visiting the All Inn before itself - so I followed their advice).
(Sorry for the night-time photo, but it was, well - dark)

This truly is a stunning traditional local pub. It may not be too much to look at from the outside but the inside is just fabulous - lots of dark wood panneling and books - masses of books, were what initially caught me eye. When I eventually made it to the bar only 4 beers were being served - Olympic IPA, Speedwell Bitter, Pynot Porter and Staveley Cross, all brewed in the in-house Townes Brewery at the back of the pub, with the Staveley Cross being an excellent light amber ale with a bit of hop kick at the end (OK - not a Cromarty Red Rocker, but still very nice).

I got talking with owner about Dundee & the Speedwell Bar (the only 2 pubs I know named this way) amongst other things and found out that he now only brews once a week - and only for the pub & some beer festivals. The pub is divided into a number of separate areas and is full of pumpclips, Belgian beer bottles, old prints of Derbyshire, quite a few umbrellas, Beatles memorabilia and I think perhaps I've mentioned the books.

Even in the corridor to the Gents there were interesting things to discover.

It's a lovely pub, but there were probably less than 10 people in the place on a fairly chilly Tuesday night - a real shame. It'd be great to go back on a busy Friday night, but I don't think that'll happen for some time.

Back in Chesterfield I popped into a couple of pubs, The Market and the Chesterfield Arms, with the latter in particular being a nice place for a beer, but neither had the wow factor of the Speedwell Inn - I'm glad I made the effort to get there.


  1. Catching up on old W&C posts Adam - I went to the Brunswick a few years ago, one of my favourite pubs. Glad to see that it hasn't changed much...

  2. Really nice place. Wish I could have spent more time in Derby - seems to be lots of brewpubs around the City Centre