Nottingham; Pale Ale and Pale Imitations

Heresy it may be for a Beer Blogger, but when I think of Nottingham, I think of the Football Club – Forest*, that is. A team I have massive respect for, given their pedigree and our tenuous link with Brian Clough – a man who was as disastrous a manager Leeds United have ever had as a Genius as Forest ever had. A man who they could do with at the helm now as they flounder in the lower reaches of The Championship.

Maybe it’s because I have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to beers from Nottingham. One brewery that I had a fleeting encounter with a few years ago was Nottingham (as simple as it gets, no?) – their Rock Mild proving to be a home run from the left field at a beer festival a few years ago. Picked on a total whim, Rock Mild stunned me and my drinking partner (in the circular nature of this tale, A Forest fan, as it happens) into reverential silence; smooth, satisfyingly dark and with a massive burst of Blackcurrant to finish it off. Nottingham, brewing out of The Plough Inn, went into my mental vault of ‘Great Beers’.

Fast forward to this year, and a Christmas present from a relative, now a native of Nottingham – behind enemy lines, flying Leeds United’s Peacock flag over the River Trent. In his quest to grab me a ‘local beer’, a bottle of Extra Pale Ale is unwrapped – and it made my day.

Extra Pale Ale (4%abv) is one of those beers that we’ve all had a thousand times, yet still maintains a distinct identity. My bottle tasted so fresh, so spritzily full of life, that the aroma practically leapt out of the glass. Peaches, all peaches – a fruit-basket of sunshine on Christmas day. Drinking further, the beer’s sweet, digestive-led body sweetened up with a honeyed note that gave it a supremely long finish. Peaches and Honey. If that’s not going to work in a Pale Ale, then…

Yes, it’s uncomplicated. It’s basic. But it’s done well, and the whole thing just works. Two beers tasted, two knockouts from a small Brewery operating out of a pub in Nottingham. No buzz-words, no marketing. In fact, their gorgeous labels hark to times past rather than crowded futures.

It seems that the next time I visit, I need to go to The Plough and try the rest of the range. As for Forest, well…maybe doing the basics -but well – would pay off for them this season. I hope so. One thing’s for sure, however – the next time I think of Nottingham, a pale imitation of a European footballing giant won’t be the only thing that will spring to mind.

* Sorry, County supporters. Nottingham drinkers- where should I go and what should I drink when visiting? 


About leighgoodstuff

Blog: I'm Leigh Linley; born and bred in Leeds, and writing about it since 2005. TGS exists solely to highlight the great beers that are out there; brewed with passion by Craft Brewers around the World. I also edit the 'Tavern Tales' section of Culture Vulture, which looks at Pubs and Pub Life rather than the beer in the glass.

Posted on 20/02/2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Gareth beeradvice would be a good one to ask as he lives there (or thereabouts)
    Ye Olde Trippe is worth a visit just due to the character of the building (despite it being a GK pub)
    new Brewdog bar due to open soon too of course

    I went to a number of other decent pubs whilst there but that was a good three years ago so buggered if I can remember the names of them! I do recall a castle rock owned pub that had el cheapo filled rolls and 12 cask beers on plus a dingy rock pub with some proper dirty burgers

  2. As Steve says, the Olde Trip has to be visited even though it isn’t fantastic as a beer pub – though it does usually have a couple of local ales on tap.

    The Canalhouse is excellent – as a place and for beers. Though I can’t really recall the ales on tap because I was as seduced as ever by the presence of Rauchbier in the fridges. (

    Next door to the Canalhouse is the Fellows, Mortons and Clayton. They have a good range of real ales. (

    I’d also recommend the Malt Cross. Reasonable beer selection and a beautiful building – it’s a converted music hall. (

  3. Neil Parkes

    You need to try The Organ Grinder, the first pub by the Blue Monkey brewery it has excellent pork pies.Brewdog are opening a bar, not too far away is The Keens Head and Cock & Hoop. The Canalhouse and Vat & Fiddle are near the train staion and are Castle Rock pubs

  4. I loved the Magpie Bitters my sis brought back from Nottingham for me, seems like there’s some really nice breweries down there.

  5. Hi Leigh.

    Slightly biased since I used to work for them but Castle Rock pubs are worth a look. Kean’s Head is quite close to BrewDog, The Broadway next door to BD is worth a look in too. Vat & Fiddle (Castle Rock brewery tap) is right by the station and Canal House is a good one, although not much else of note around there. Most of the best places are slightly away from the town crowds. Mansfield Road; Lincolnshire Poacher (very trad.) and The Forest Tavern (live music), The Golden Fleece is also good along that stretch. Canning Circus has Blue Monkey’s Organ Grinder among others and is worth a visit, out of town in the other direction though (maybe check it out on the way to the plough).

    I second Steve’s vote for the Trip. Beer was nothing to write home about last time I was in there, but it’s an unmissable tourist spot for a beer fan…

    GD: Magpie’s beers are great now, they’ve really made progress from when they first came out. Most enjoyable!

    Give me a shout (@gareths121) on Twitter for any further tourist info – enjoy Nottingham when you do come!

  6. Navigation, Trent Bridge Inn, Stratford Haven, VAT & Fiddle, Fellows Morton & Clayton, Canalhouse, Olde Trip, Salutation, Bell Inn, Keans Head, King William IV, Brewdog, Lincolnshire Poacher.

    That should keep you busy 🙂

    Notts is my old stamping ground and where I’d spend my time if I wasn’t in Sheffield so much.

  7. Love that label. Looks like something from the archives used to illustrate a post on Ron Pattinson’s blog. Time for a return to the mid-20th century oval label, I think.

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