Crawling 4: Nottingham
June 4, 2022
Nottingham is a great beer city. When I was trying to plan a route for this pub crawl I had to whittle it down to a sensible number of pubs and it was hard. If I’d gone in the week, when the brewery tap rooms are open, it would have been even harder. Sadly, I went to Nottingham without getting to go to Neon Raptor as they don’t open on Saturday. The next pub I had on my shortlist was the Angel…I didn’t go there either. Also on the list that didn’t end up making the cut were Beerheadz and the Canalhouse. Both of which I’m quite upset about missing. Make no mistake about it, Nottingham is a fantastic place to get some proper decent beers.
There were some train issues so I left a lot earlier than I intended to avoid the cancelled trains. As a result I stepped out into the lunchtime Nottingham air just after noon. I came out of the side exit too, meaning I didn’t have to show my ticket. That’s £28 and it literally never got checked. I could have nipped straight into Barley Twist, as I walked past it and it was empty but I felt the need to do a bit of tourism and I’m glad I did. I walked over to the Old Market Square and unfortunately some big royalist had planted a massive crown decoration on the bloody hall. The Queen ain’t gonna shag you mate.
It is a cracking city square and there was a demonstration against the war in Ukraine going on off to the side. Then a double decker bus turned up! The tram service around Nottingham is also very cool and I was enjoying myself. It started raining a bit so I went looking for Brian Clough (the statue, not the man) and almost walked right past it. I remember looking at my phone, looking up, thinking it must be around here somewhere and then noticing I was standing next to it.
Back to the bus. I’m just strolling back down the hill when it comes steaming off the road and is this nutter going to plough into the pedestrians? He didn’t but the people of Nottingham are completely nonplussed by the presence of a double decker in the pedestrianised bit. In the picture there are two girls just hanging out as it reverses. They only moved after the bus brushed the coat of the girl on the right. Nobody gives a fuck around here mate!
PUB #1: Junkyard Bottle Shop & Pour House
I went off in search of the Tap Room because I thought it would be the hardest boozer to find. I knew it was down an alleyway somewhere and I accidentally went down the wrong one. But, as Mike Kilby says, getting lost isn’t a reason for panic…it’s an opportunity. The Gods of getting lost reward me with the Junkyard. Hidden down an alleyway and up a flight of stairs it might be the hardest boozer to find in Nottingham and I wasn’t even looking for it. Maybe you can’t find it unless it’s by accident?
It has a lovely little patio area, which it seems to share with neighbouring Belgian boozer the Kilpin Beer Café. I would have gone in there but the door was shut. The Junkyard’s door was wide open and the bar looked inviting. They do food and it’s very snug and welcoming. They also have a fridge with cans and bottles so it’s a proper bottle shop on top of being a tap room. They had an excellent range of beers on tap. I went with a Vault City “Vault Wagon” a 9.5% pastry sour. One hell of a way to kick the day off. ****¼. The barmaid in here was both a delight and knowledgeable. I was made to feel instantly welcome and a little sad she had to scurry off and serve someone else. It’s a brilliant little pub though and if I ever do a Crawling: Nottingham 2, it will definitely make the cut.
PUB #2: The Tap House
It’s not even 1pm and I’m already in pub #2. The Tap House has a self service gimmick, which is brilliant. You get a little credit card thing and everything you pour on that card is what you owe. But it’s not in set measures. So, if you want to come in and get a taster of everything…you can. You just pay for what you pour. You could get 20p of every beer on tap and rack up those Untappd check ins. Plus, it’s a badged venue so you get levels of it. If I was proper competitively serious about getting badges for the challenge we’re currently doing I could have racked up a BUNCH in here. “It’s like buying petrol” explained the barman.
It’s a nice little venue. A square area with an old bar at the back doubling as a washing area and the beer wall unobtrusively off to the side. There’s a beer garden and the access to the beer wall at the back is through a glass door so you can see the inner workings of the gimmick. I had two beers in here, while sitting in the dark reading Treasure Island. Firstly the house IPA, which I mistakenly thought was a special Tap House beer but is actually just the Harbour IPA. It’s not very good. I didn’t finish it. **. To make amends, and not pay for £1.96 on the card gimmick, I also had a What If I’m Not Like the Others, a sour smoothie from Arundel Brewery. ***¼. It had a nice long satisfying sour after taste. I settled up with the bloke at the bar, promising to return with a bunch of my mates one day. I mean, I can see the boys liking the gimmick.
PUB #3: Kean’s Head
Oh my god, I’m in love. It was a short walk from the Tap Room, across the road (watch out for trams!), up a cobbled street and hidden down an alleyway (that’s three in a row) but my word, it was worth the exploration to get here. Kean’s Head had the best beer selection of the day and maybe the best I’ve ever seen in a pub of this size. It only has seven tables in a tiny square bar area and no real room out the front. Think a truncated, slightly wider Dundee Arms. They had three stouts on in June, which I have massive respect for. I had the local Castle Rock Oatmeal, which was great ***¾, but I regretted not taking the dive into either the Three Hills stout or the Vlad the Invader.
This is where I had lunch; some wacky Indian fusion cuisine. It came out piping hot and was delicious. While I was waiting for it to cool down I had a chat with Richard, another Untapped user, who was waiting for his son. We talked about stout and just had a nice time. Eddie turned up at this point and we got moving, which is a pity because I could have stayed in there ALL FUCKING DAY. I’m not even exaggerating. If you’re ever in Nottingham, go and find this place you will not be sorry. Among my notes for the day, I pointed out they had “Pretend We’re Dead” by L7 playing in the background. If I lived in Nottingham, this would be my local.
PUB #4: Cock & Hoop
Just around the corner from Kean’s Head was Cock & Hoop. This is a wild maze of a pub with different rooms coming off a tiny little bar. There was a weird little patio bit, a few tables out front and snugs and steps and passageways winding into the back. It’s right next to the Lace Market Hotel, which was hosting a wedding and I think it’s the hotel’s attached pub. I can only assume the couple got married at the St Mary’s in the Lace church, which is opposite. This whole little chunk of Nottingham was a beautiful experience.
Cock & Hoop has it’s own sponsored badge on Untappd so my badge collecting scored huge in here with a pint of JubilAPE from Blue Monkey. ***½. A four badger! I happened to hit a load of venue related badges in one go. I’m collecting badges for charity at the moment so this was a big day for me. I clocked a staggering 19 badges in Nottingham. Nottingham Rock City? Nottingham Badge City!
Eddie wants to do some tourist shit after Cock & Hoop so off we go to the Motorpoint Arena (don’t ask), back to the Clough statue and over to the castle. On the way we go through this hipster village part of Nottingham that I’ve never seen before. Loads of tattoo shops and a place called “Sexy Mamma Love Spaghetti” that looks like the sign was drawn by a child. I completely forgot the Angel was around here or we could have swung in. Next time. I was also sorely tempted by the Pit & Pendulum, one of Nottingham’s rock pubs. Eddie was more tempted by the Kitty Café, which has actual cats chilling out in it. We head down a back street to find the next pub….
PUB #5: Ye Olde Salutation Inn
This is a very old boozer with heavy rock city vibes. The bar staff are all dressed in black with rock hair cuts. It’s the kind of pub I would have been a regular in during my teenage years. It reminds me a lot of the Black Cross in Bromsgrove circa 1995 or the Giffard in Wolverhampton. It’s dirty, it smells funny and I wouldn’t take my wife there. Let’s put it like that. We went into this one little room, which was the entrance from the main street, and it was full of flies. It only had two seats and one of those was broken.
There’s a restaurant area built into the side of the bar and I was very impressed with the actual bar, which had a decent range of beer for a non-craft style pub. I’d had most of them and the one beer I was looking for had run out. So, I had to settle for a Castle Rock Harvest Pale, which is not very good. **½. The pub was heaving at 4.45pm on a Saturday, which shows that whatever they’re doing is working. I like pubs with a bit of character but I wouldn’t go in any later than 5pm on the weekends. Who knows what satanic rituals I might disturb? This is one of the oldest pubs in the city, and indeed the country, dating back to 1240. It’s supposed to be one of the most haunted pubs in the country, so of course the rockers and bikers have claimed it.
PUB #6: Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
This pub is part of Eddie’s tourist experience! I’ve been here before and it’s one of those pubs that claims to be the oldest in the country, dating back to 1189. While there’s no documentation to support these claims the caves the pub is built out from were used as a brewhouse when the castle was built back in 1067. The current building was probably constructed in the 17th century. It’s still a very old pub and on entering they’ve kept that old timey feel. The main bar is very dark, with a low ceiling and sitting in there, alongside a suit of armour, is an authentic tourist experience for Nottingham.
If the old timey aspects don’t float your boat, it has a bigger, brighter lounge and a huge beer garden that goes right out to the road. The beer in here is usually very good too and I had a Rock Mild. ***½. I’ve been into the pub twice and I really enjoyed it. The feeling of going back in time sitting in the bar is tremendous and there’s aren’t many pubs anywhere that can transport you back in time like the Trip does.
PUB #7: Barley Twist
With time running out we headed back towards the train station, which is pretty close to the Trip. We reflected on Nottingham being an excellent destination for a wrestling company to run, or any company that wants people to travel from all over the country. It’s relatively central, has great public transport links, decent accommodation and world class boozers. I can’t fault Nottingham and it’s a better place to run than just about anywhere else in the Midlands. Especially Wolverhampton.
The Barley Twist is right by the station but is surprisingly quiet. There’s literally no one in the bar when we stroll in at around 6.30pm on a Saturday. People come in while we’re sat there but it’s a real shock how quiet it is. Hopefully they get more business because the beer in here was sensational. I kicked off with a Karleksmums Imperial Pastry Stout from Vault City. ****½. It was so good the bar staff started drinking tasters. It’s 12% and definitely not a summer beer but who gives a fuck, it absolutely rules. I followed that with a Sunslayer from Holy Goat, a fruited sour that really hit the spot too. ****.
My original intent was to slip into Beerheadz before getting the train home but the double dip in Barley Twist took me up to my limit for time, as my later train had been cancelled. Barley Twist has the added bonus of having the train times displayed on the wall like a proper train station pub. It was very helpful. So, off I jogged leaving Eddie to his Dara O’Brien comedy special. We had a brilliant day out in Nottingham and I can’t recommend it enough. Just looking at the map, and having seen stuff in person, there are so many places I could have gone on top of the seven pubs I did go to. Nottingham is a great beer city.