Well, not really...but a few days before Christmas I was lucky enough to make a trip to Nottingham on business, and stop over there. The company I work for owns a factory in Beeston, so first port of call after finishing work was a visit to the Victoria Hotel there. It's a mighty fine Victorian establishment, serving around ten or twelve different ales. It's a pretty decent sized pub with some well-kept ale and a total ban on the use of mobiles, which is okay in my book. I had a pint of Harvest Pale 3.8% from the Castle Rock Brewery. This beer is nectar of the gods. Now, I measure all golden ales against my all time favourite - the near legendary Exmoor Gold - and nothing has yet bettered it but Harvest Pale comes pretty close. In the UK there used to be a wine critic on the telly by the name of Jilly Goulden, she was very keen on strange metaphors for tastes of wine which included "rubber tyres" or "Wellington boots" for certain full bodied reds, well I've got one for the sort of straw type taste you get with golden ales. Hamster bedding. I shall try and use it whenever I can from now on, as it sort of puts a handle on the taste sensation you get with this style of beer. Harvest Pale is simply oozing with corn ears and hamster bedding. I'm sure you know what I mean.
Our stay at the Victoria was over far too quickly. We made our way into Nottingham to our hotel, the Rutland Square Hotel, idiosyncratic but charming, with terrible beer but great malt whiskey, as my head vouched for the next morning. But enough of whiskey, that was our night-cap, we had serious ale drinking to do, and in Nottingham there is only one place to do it. Reputed to be the oldest pub in the country Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem is probably one of the best pubs you could ever hope to drink in. Dating from around 1189 it's more like a cross between a pub and a troglodyte cave dwelling. Built into the walls of Nottingham Castle it's a mix of caves and higgledy-piggledy stone work on several levels. A veritable warren of a pub. First pint up was Frog Island Shoemaker, a 4.2% copper-coloured ale that, whilst being a well brewed, was a bit too bitter for my taste. I switched to Hardys and Hansons Mild, a brew that I'd had there before in the summer, a well above average mild that ticks all the boxes. They were a rather poignant two pints of Mild, the last I shall ever drink from that brewery. Hardy and Hanson had brewed there last brew the week before, having been bought up by the ever expanding Greene King, who have now transferred the brewing to my home town of Bury St Edmunds. Now I have shares in Greene King, and I've enjoyed their beers all my drinking life, but I do think that it is an act of vandalism that they have closed this great Nottingham brewery. Anyway the atmosphere in the Trip was great, the beer was great, and on a number of levels it made for a memorable evening.
A few days after my trip to The Trip, I was drinking in the pub that serves the best-kept beer in Bury St Edmunds, the all too commonly named Rose & Crown. I was drinking Greene King Mild, thinking it wasn't as good as Hardy and Hanson's, when I discovered that they had Rocking Rudolph as a guest beer, 5%, from none other than the afore mentioned H&H. It was a velvety, warming malty ale that was perfect for two days before Christmas. I shed a small tear as I supped my very last pint of genuine H&H ale brewed in Nottingham.
Robin Hood, where are you when we need you?