Victoria Hotel Beeston 26th Sept 2010.
7.30pm on a Sunday evening the 2 mile walk in a South-West direction starts from University Park. It is is a well trodden path which helps build up an anticipation and appetite for what awaits. As I walk into Dovecote lane I see the Victoria at the end of the road and a train pull into Beeston station next to it. The Vic is traditional 19th century station hotel opposite the old Beeston brewery. On entry to the Vic I take a right turn into the cosy taproom. The interior obviously has a ‘classic pub’ feel to it, but the walls are covered with ancient brewery paraphernalia.
Next to the bar is the list of drinks available, which includes 13 real ales – decisions, decisions. In the end it is quite an easy decision for the first drink, as I am a big fan of the Blue Monkey brewery from nearby Ilkeston.
Drink 1. A half pint of Blue Monkey 3.6% Original. Blue Monkey started brewing in 2008 and I have always been a fan of everything they have produced. This combined with the relatively local nature of the brewery meant a half of Original was an obvious starting point for the night. Colour-wise Original has a dark amber or aged-oak look to it. It is wonderful session ale, with warming malts along chestnut tones balanced beautifully with a slight hint of citrus. It has a great length which leaves you wanting another sip immediately. Hop-wise it contains Pilgrim and Styrian Goldings. It is an extremely satisfying drink for any occasion. A finer bitter as you will ever find. 9/10.
Drink 2. A half pint of Nottingham Rock bitter (3.8%). Wanting to keep to local breweries it was to the Nottingham brewery which is based in Radford at the back of the Plough Inn. Rock Bitter is a different beast than what most first time drinkers would expect from a bitter. Rock bitter was first brewed in the 19th century as an easy drinking ale for Nottingham factory workers. It is a light gold in colour and was a forerunner to an IPA (Indian Pale Ale) style of beer. Upon tasting the Rock Bitter is drier or greener and more bitter than the Blue Monkey Original. It has very little nose at it is first served. It is very drinkable, but doesn’t have the cosy nature that would want to make you drink it on a winter’s day sat by a roaring fire with a steak pie – what a good bitter should do. Flavour-wise, you get hints of caramel and floral notes. It is a solid easy drinking beer, but I feel it lacks character. One point to note that as the drink warmed up it improved remarkably. I feel it was served at too low a temperature. As it warmed a sweeter nose came to the fore which made it a far more enjoyable drink. 6/10.
Drink 3. A half pint of Oldershaws Regal Blonde (4.4%). The Oldershaws brewery is Grantham based and has been running for nearly 15 years now. Regal Blonde is very light in colour with a hint of a floral nose. It is brewed with Czech German hops to make a larger style of beer. I very much liked the beer when first tasted, but was left slightly disappointed as I would have hoped for some hop excitement at the end. It is an uncomplicated larger style beer, which would be a great introduction into real ale. 5.5/10.
Drink 4. A half pint of Hopback GFB (3.5%). The Hopback breweries history goes back to 1986. I normally associate drinking beer from Hopback with my trips to the New Forrest normally within a few miles of their Downton brewery. GFB stands for Gilbert's First Brew and was first made in 1996. GFB is a very golden beer. It is blonde but with bitterness. It has that very distinctive Hopback character, which I associate with a dry finish to their beers. In GFB’s case, it comes from the use of Kent Goldings hops. The beer has an unusual slightly smoky character to it. 5/10.