The 2016 Beeston Pub Crawl
THE MARINA BAR
We start at 3pm. Five of us meet by The Trent under glorious sunshine. It’s not possible to get closer to the edge of Beeston than at the Marina and it’s a bit of a gem. This is the only pub in Beeston in which you feel like you’re on holiday. It might be something to do with being surrounded by mobile homes and static caravans, or its proximity to water. Its décor is nautically themed; ship’s wheel mounted on the wall, the bar studded with port holes. The weather tempts us out onto the waterfront terrace, to look over at Clifton Grove and the fields. This bucolic joy lasts all of thirty seconds, before a hail-storm appears and forces us back inside, but the barmaid runs out to dance in it. Respect.
GOOD FOR: bhajis, cheap ale, raffles, great location.
BEST QUOTE: “I did a Beeston pub crawl once. Ended up stopping traffic outside the Charlton Arms”. – Barmaid
BOAT AND HORSES:
We’d heard a lot of good stuff about here: renovated after being a bit tired for years. Sunday roasts are to die for apparently. But this is Saturday, and we’re here for beer, and a good choice is presented to us. Another great summer pub: the hail eases into sun so we sit in the beer garden. An indie band rehearse in the spacious function room. The staff are really welcoming, there is a huge heap of vinyl to browse and buy, and the beer is decent. We’re almost tempted to stay for more than one half, but time is moving on, and our mission can’t slacken off.
GOOD FOR: Beer, food (so we hear), rehearsal space, people with kids: the vast garden can distract them while you focus on drinking the ace beer.
BEST QUOTE: “There is a real problem right now, and the reason that I refuse to buy balloons. That problem is a paucity of helium”. – Tom Roberts
We’ll be honest. We were a bit nervous going here. We’d heard rumours it was a bit rough, a bit unfriendly. But journalism has to be fearless, so we ventured in, Bernstein and Woodward watching over us. And we’re glad we did. The beer was decent, the welcome friendly and the place a smartly turned out, light and airy surprise.
GOOD FOR: Football fans, especially Forest; the 18 bus (between every hour and every six weeks, depending on the vagaries of Trent Barton).
BEST QUOTE: Our notes don’t show any, but we all recall something amusing was said about crisps.
THE PLESSEY CLUB
We’re joined by another, ahem, surveyor, Chris at this point. We were enthusiastic about it in our 2012 survey, and do like to drop in when we can. A sprawling venue with snooker rooms, meeting rooms and a full on bar. Talking of fans, a massive one hangs from the ceiling, making you feel in a bizarre cross between a 1970’s Working Men’s Club, and Singapore Raffles Hotel, about a century ago. Dead comfy, warm, utterly unpretentious, with cheap beer. It’s a shame we have to move after a single drink. We urge you to give it a visit.
GOOD FOR: Value, space, lack of pretension, fans of fans.
BEST QUOTE: “I want to get a mollusc hip-hop band together, and call it the Wu Tang Clam’. You had to be there.
Victoria! So sang the Kinks after a brief visit to Beeston in the sixties. Over the years many more have sung its praises. Traditional décor, sublime food and a colossal range of beers, whiskies and obscure New Guinean pineapple liquors (probably). It was seen as the only really decent pub in Beeston, and attracted people from miles around to try its burritos and beer. The Vic continues to do great business and good food, which we sample (journalism is tough, we indulge so you don’t have to). Its success has spread through Beeston: the stripped down focus on good beer/good food has travelled well and changed Beeston boozers for the better.
GOOD FOR: Train spotters (engines hammer constantly), foodies, CAMRA types, good staff.
BEST QUOTE: “I work in Philadelphia sometimes. A really good place” – Chris. “I like Philadelphia. Well, the cheese” – John
It’s Possibly Beeston’s remotest pub (apart from The Nurseryman that doesn’t count). We arrive at 6:50. The A-board outside proclaims “DISCO: 7PM”. Ah. Karen, our teetotal correspondent, and Ric our foot-blistered distribution chap and anagram wizard join us. It’s a small compact pub, well priced and, being on the first floor, has a pleasantly detached quality. It was bombed in WWII after the Luftwaffe got it wrong and missed Boots, but was swiftly rebuilt, and has steadily gone about its business since. To our surprise we have another drink. This might be down to the hammering rain that has appeared, and the seemingly huge distance to our next pub. Or it could be down to the disco starting, and the older members of the party finding Sabrina’s ‘87 classic ‘Boys Boys Boys’ is provoking some beer-inspired toe-tapping. But into the evening, and the monsoon, we must go. ONWARDS!
GOOD FOR: Disco fans; nostalgia, mountaineers.
BEST QUOTE: During a heated discussion on how this might be the highest pub in Beeston, Prof J (co-founder of The Beestonian and geography academic) decides to settle the matter once and for all “Right. I’m off home and getting my GPS’. He doesn’t.
THE MALT SHOVEL
We arrive soaked and drunk. Will this dampen our critical faculties? NEVER! Roopam, our correspondent on all things parenting, joins us for a night off from parenting. Tom is effusive about the burgers here, but we’re still too stuffed from the Vic to try them. It’s a decent pub, handy for the town centre and the beer is good. Chris is particularly complimentary of the American IPA. The wallpaper, a giant ancient map of England, particularly pleases Prof J.
GOOD FOR: Burger fans, map fans, being near to Sainsburys.
BEST QUOTE: When Roopam arrives, and walks over, Prof J gives her a startled double-take. “You look after my kid.” Roopam runs a local nursery. She replies, “Not tonight I don’t.”
There has been a lot of uncertainty about the Greyhound over the past few years. However it recently was taken over by the dedicated Rob Balmer who is working hard to bring it back to its past glories. It looks like he’s off to a flying start: the place is busy. We’re fittingly joined by our music editor Lulu. She is a massive fan: while we have a good amount of places putting on live music, no one does it quite as loud, so rocky, as The Greyhound. We salute you, Rob, and all that rock hard with you. Especially the bloke in the denim jacket at the bar, which has the word ‘FISTULA’ stitched on the back.
GOOD FOR: Rock Fans, live music fans, people who would see watching X -Factor as less preferable than eating their own feet.
BEST QUOTE: “WHAAAAT? WHAAAATTTT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU. WHAAAATT?”
Is the erstwhile Belle and Jerome really a pub? Since its new incarnation last year, with a stronger focus on the evening market, we reckon so. Plus, we’re on the menu. Yes, really. A piece about the etymology of Beeston that our history editor Joe wrote a couple of years ago now adorns the menu and the walls. We like that. We don’t like the realisation that we’re only half way round the survey, and are having difficulty pronouncing words of more than three syllables. Craft beers and good wine mean this place isn’t cheap, but you’re drinking quality here. It’s well lit, the DJ spins some decent choons, and the staff are cheerful. I pass my notepad round for everyone to write a comment in. The following comes back: “Classy” “Aye yai lai Rye” “FEELS LIKE LONDON” “I like bricks” “DJ TASTIC” “I‘m underdressed” “I feel WEIRD”. That and a drawing I can’t describe, but is elaborately attempted nonetheless.
GOOD FOR: Sophistication, good booze, late nights (license until 1am); you can go back in the morning and try the Eggs Hemingway.
BEST QUOTE: “Craft ale. Craft ale. What is craft ale? Until that question is answered, I will have another.”
POTTLE OF BLUES
The last thing we expected when planning this survey was a new pub. Refurbs, yes. Closures, definitely. But an actual NEW pub? That bucks all trends. Admittedly, it’s a micro-pub, and right now only fits a couple of dozen. It is the ultimate pragmatist in what a pub should do: the beer drops straight from the cask, the staff are ace and it’s more like someone having an open-house party than a pub. The tininess encourages chat and before long you’re all pledging lifelong friendships. It has been only open a week when we visit, but is rammed. As we’re now a burgeoning party of 9, our collective entry is tight, but somehow we manage our halves and pottle on to the next pub.
GOOD FOR: Ale fans, friendly people.
BEST QUOTE: “Oh hell. I best get the jugs out” – Jen the landlady upon seeing us all enter
THE LAST POST
Ah, the Past Lost, where you can easily lose all memory of your prior existence after a few ales. It’s a Wetherspoons but perhaps the one closest to the heart of ‘Spoons Head Honcho Tim Martin. He was once a resident of Beeston and according to local legend, came up with the concept of Wetherspoons after an unsatisfactory night at The Durham Ox. “I could build a better pub!” he apparently exclaimed. I relate this tale to the straggled army of Beestonian surveyors as we nurse our admittedly cheap drinks. By now, nobody really knows what we are drinking. It’s bizarrely quiet, but a member of staff reassures us: “You should see it at breakfast”. We collectively know that won’t happen, especially tomorrow. We’re late in the day, well behind schedule, and taking casualties: designer Dan, who makes our mag look pretty, and draws The Beest, has to retire. This is not good.
GOOD FOR: Cheap stuff. It’s a chain, but it’s reliably ok. Early-door drinkers. Ah, it’s a ‘spoons. You know.
BEST QUOTE: “Tim Martin came up with the idea of Wetherspoons to build the best pub in Beeston.” “When d’ya reckon that will happen?”
Like supine royalists, we bow down to The Crown. Once such a chaotically mad pub, it threw out its brewery and crap landlord and replaced them with just what Beeston needed: an indie that gave a damn about its clientele. While the Vic gave Beeston inspiration to make pubs better, the Crown stuck a rocket up its arse. A success from day one, it has never not been anything other than excellent. It’s packed when our team stumble in, and it’s hard to read the subsequent notes we took. But if we need to convince you to go down to The Crown, then you’re probably not really into pubs anyway.
GOOD FOR: Come on now. If you like pubs, you’ve been to The Crown.
BEST QUOTE: “Muaghh. Arghhh. Ahhhh bah hum gahhhh” (according to our notes).
THE WHITE LION
Our notes are sparse now, as holding a pen became too challenging. Yet we salute the White Lion for many reasons: it is the most excitingly diverse pub in town. Under the exuberant stewardship of landlord Sergio, it has become a pub like no other: part art-gallery, restaurant, grill, cinema, story-telling centre, Hungarian night club, poetry venue, and much more. Things are looking tight. Prof J has deserted us just 7 hours after he first threatened to do so. The rest of us are by now decidedly shaky. Cocktails are ordered, despite our rules to just have a half in each pub. It’s late. We have to press on. Yet as we suck on our straws and let fine tastes flood our gobs, we seem to forget this.
GOOD FOR: You name it. It’s both cosmopolitan in outlook – where else can you get a Hungarian starter, a Brazilian main and a Portugese custard tart in one meal? Sergio is one of the nicest people in Beeston, and the staff are similar. Just go there, ok?
BEST QUOTE: “What’s Portuguese for ‘help I think my liver just melted’?”
It’s nearly midnight. We have four more pubs to do. We have failed, but manage to cross The Star off, by a whisker, ordering a round just on the clang of the bell. Numbers are hazy now. I try a head count but find this isn’t ideal when you’re seeing double. After a huge refit The Star became very much a fixture of Beeston. Damien, the guy behind its rebirth, has a knack of taking old pubs that have long stumbled by, and turning them into something ace. Fans of Stapleford’s Horse and Jockey will know what I mean. We’re big fans.
GOOD FOR: Ale, beer gardens (claims to be the largest in Beeston), the Tardis (it’s similarly massive inside); Austin (Beeston’s most prolific barman: he’s wowed the crowds at The Vic, The Crown and now here, over the years).
BEST QUOTE: “So let’s all set up an off-shore tax haven on Barton Island.”
….and that’s it. We simply can’t finish off, so The Cricketers, The Bar, The Chequers* and The Hop Pole can’t be surveyed.
We are a ragged bunch as we are turned out onto the cold streets. Someone suggests further drinks at their place, and some hardy boozers obligingly follow. However I have a book of notes to get home and transcribe and I can barely feel my legs. The one thing we do all agree on though is that we are dead lucky to have so many pubs and of such diversity and quality. We failed to get to four pubs. Many towns feel lucky to just have four pubs, let alone four more than can be visited in a nine hour trip.
As for the missing pubs? Well, we’re just going to have to soldier on and do them for our next issue. I know, I know. This journalism thing is just dedication and hard work, isn’t it?
The Beestonian does not condone irresponsible drinking. No animals were hurt in the making of this survey. If anyone has seen the bits of our party we lost between The Crown and The White Lion, please bring them back to Beestonian Towers after giving them a good hose down.
*The Chequers is in Chilwell, we know. However we decided to use it to replace The (technically in Beeston) Nurseryman, as it has more contiguity with Beeston. And we’re lazy.