Back in February owner and MD Colin Brown raided the copper pot and thanked us all for our hard work over the past year by taking us on a jolly round a few real ale pubs. This year’s Belvoir Brewery on Tour took us to the home of Robin Hood…no, not Doncaster…Nottingham!
We dropped on again with the weather as we rendezvoused at Castle Rock HQ for the first pint and a bacon sandwich…that said, half the team had met up slightly earlier and already had a couple of pints, one of which was in an unnamed American sports bar where driver big Dan got more than he bargained for at 11:30 on a Monday morning!
It did feel a bit strange knowing that at 12:45 on a Monday lunchtime you were drinking the first of many pints…but half a pint in that feeling had disappeared and with everybody fed and watered we pushed on to the second pub (another Castle Rock)…The Canal House.
It was lovely and quiet (as you’d expect on a Monday afternoon!) and it’s not every day you enjoy a pint inside a pub standing next to a couple of barges.
As always Colin had come up with a couple of challenges to keep us entertained, one of which was guessing (in advance…obviously) the distance of the furthest brewery away from the pub which was serving it’s beer…and the overall winner would be the person who had the closest combined mileage to the overall combined total of the furthest away breweries from each pub…are you still with me?! We finished our beers (a mild for me) and with our heads spinning pushed on to the next watering hole…The Nottingham Legend.
Jennings ‘Sneck Lifter’ was the beer of choice and it got even better as there was a dart board. Brewer Rory (aka Shanghai Rory – see last year’s tour blog) was the defending champ but it became clear early on he wouldn’t be defending his crown…possibly due to the fact that at this point he was downing halves like they were going out of fashion! Ed wisely sat out and watched on as the competition heated up and the arrows started to fly…all over the place!
Big Dan took an early lead and after 6 darts he was the clear favourite on 95…but the question was could he hold his nerve…and could Sean (who was on 29 after 6 darts) manage to get over 40 with 9 darts??
Despite a gallant effort from Danny (who normally wins every pub game) it was Dan who took the trophy by 6…and as for Sean…he scored a whopping 4 with his last 3 darts giving him a new record low of 33 (room for improvement there). Dan was having a great day and he collected his prize before we supped up and moved onwards to Sneinton and The King Billy.
We were meet with a good selection of ales and the conversation was now flowing about all kinds of nonsense, but the brewery distance challenge was really making us think…especially Colin himself who took a moment to plan his strategy for the final couple of guesses.
The beers we going down fast and before long it was time to make the short walk to the next port of call…The Fox & Grapes (another Castle Rock pub).
As you’d expect there was a good range of beers on but the Mild got the nod again for me (you have to watch those percentages on an all dayer!), especially as I’d never seen it in a pub before. It went down well (as expected) and with everybody else ready we walked round the corner to what would be the highlight of the tour…The New Castle.
This was a pub with a difference – not only did it have a good choice of real ales, a pool table, & some food in the oven for us…it had a recently discovered cave underground…and Judy was going to take us down and show us!
Down we went…past the cellar…and further still until we were in the cave! It was fascinating stuff, and what made it all the more interesting was the fact that Judy was down there with us telling us all about it. She was a great, and her enthusiasm was something else…if only everybody in life was like her.
She filled us in on the progress before we made our way back up for some serious action on the pool table…but before we got back up she kindly showed us her cellar and the array of homemade wine that was fermenting away.
We ordered another pint and the serious business of killer commenced…but in all truth the standard on the pool table was well below average, and the pub pool team (who had a match on later that night) could do nothing other than laugh at how bad we were…apart from driver Ian, who was always in control and won easily.
7 pints in (more for others) and we were in desperate need of some food…and Judy came up trumps again as she provided us with a fantastic meat and potato pie, served with a great selection of vegetables, and stack of gravy. It really hit the spot and was exactly what we needed ahead of our next destination…the MFA Bowl. We said our goodbyes to the incredible Judy and pushed on.
Everybody likes a spot of ten pin bowling although we’ never had a game before as a collective, so it was going to be interesting to see how we all faired against each other. We split into two teams of four…got a round of Guinness in…and away we went…with big Dan trying his best to look like “The Dude” (minus the White Russian!).
The competition was intense and there was an interesting range of bowling techniques on display, but after an entertaining hour or so (and another round of beers) it came down to the last two bowls of the whole game…and it was down to yours truly!
I needed 8…but completely messed up my first bowl and only knocked 1 pin over! I collected another ball and carried out my usual pre-bowl technique (which was basically to bowl before I had time to think about anything) before sending the ball on its way. We all watched with bated breath…for a moment time stood still…then the ball smashed its way into the pins knocking the required 7 down! We celebrated like never before…and it meant I pipped Sean to the title by one point…next time Sean!
With that the Melton Mowbray contingent said their goodbyes (their taxi had arrived) and the three of us remaining made a beeline straight for the Air Hockey arena. As expected the competition was fierce and the puck was flying around at such a rate of knots that at one point it ended up yards away from the ice and finally came to rest behind the Pepsi Max drinks dispenser!
It was a close fought battle but it’s fair to say that brewer Rory took the honours with myself and brewer Sean battling it out for second (I just pipped Sean again!). Tiring fast we headed into the final drinking establishment of the tour (and fourth Castle Rock venue)…the Barley Twist.
We enjoyed a final pint before going our separate ways. Thankfully I wasn’t in work the next day…but brewers Rory and Sean were and there were doing what they do best…brewing star quality beers for you all to enjoy.
That just leaves me to thank Colin for organising and paying for another fantastic Christmas do/Belvoir Brewery on Tour away day. It’s fair to say this one will take some beating.
Just for the record the breweries competition was won by two people as Colin had always intended for the distance to be ‘as the crow flies’ and not ‘road distance’. So congratulations to big Dan (as the crow flies)…and me, who won the road distance crown of 670 miles by beating Colin by a mere 0.2 miles! You couldn’t make it up.
Until next year…Cheers