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The Organ Grinder & Canal House, Nottingham

OG NewSo; our day in Nottingham continues. Blue Monkey were another brewery whose wares we’d sampled at beer festivals and been fairly impressed with. Reminding me somewhat of the likes of Oakham, Quantum, Buxton and The Brew Co – as in producing beers at a mid-strength abv but packed with flavour – we were keen to visit The Organ Grinder, their Canning Circus home.

Expecting something akin to The Plough, we didn’t expect The Organ Grinder to be so inclusive. Yes, the bar was well-stocked with Blue Monkey’s freshest beers, but there was also an impressive range of guests on both cask and keg to tempt us. And tempt us they did; beers from Sarah Hughes, Oakham and Meantime sat proudly amongst Blue Monkey’s own bright, brash range.

Sticking strictly to plan, we dove into the beer, accompanied by a couple of very, very fine pork pies. BG Sips (4%abv) was the textbook epitome of session pale, and much like the Rock Bitter before it, was dispatched down thirsty throats (it was a 15 minute walk – uphill – from The Plough to The Organ Grinder. And it was cold. Did I mention that?) all too quickly. Marmoset – another light , zippy Pale followed, and Guerilla Stout (4.9%abv) proved a robust, sweetly smoky foil for our Pork Pies and lashings of English Mustard.

As was becoming a theme, we didn’t want to leave. Clock-watching is not a friend of the drinker seeking experience; the experience itself – be it the beer or the surroundings or both – does not materialise shackled. Stove in the hearth, fellow drinkers taking thier coats off after the first few sips of beer, deliberating over the array of pumps as the barmaid waits patiently, clean glasses in hand. The Organ Grinder was a joy to drink in, and Blue Monkey should be rightly proud of the place.

Time marched on; after the obligatory half in Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem (or as we call it, ‘cave-beers’), we headed for one of the strongholds of Castle Rock; The Canalhouse.

IMG_0103The Canalhouse got on the list purely down to the building. It’s not often you get to drink in a pub with a canal running through it – complete with boats –  and as the sun peeked out from behind the uniform grey cloud, we begun to pine for  the spring and al fresco drinking. We’re not quite there yet.

Anyway, Castle Rock are ubiquitous in Nottingham, but that’s not a bad thing. Always reliable – especially the much-decorated Harvest Pale – CR’s beers are the kind of thing you want to stumble over in their heartland.  The Canalhouse was a uniquely pleasant place to drink in. Entirely different to what I was expecting, it was fairly busy without being overbearing; decent music and plenty of laughter echoing round the brick and steel-beamed pub giving it a feel of a English beer-hall, if such a thing exists.

You see, the crux of what makes The Canalhouse work is the bar: Carlsberg and Fosters fonts sitting side by side with Real Ale from Castle Rock and beyond. Next to the burbling Jagermeister machines sit fridges chock-full of decent import bottles, from the likes of Goose Island, Freedom and The Belgian continent, to the more esoteric in Duchesse De Bourgogne. What you end up with accounts for the bustling feel; a busy pub that appeals to all drinkers without being exclusive to either. I peered about and spotted plenty of tables where bottles of wine were being shared with tall branded glasses of identikit lager and – of course – lots of Beer Drinkers.

The Organ Grinder

The Organ Grinder

The Organ Grinder pulled this trick off to a lesser extent too: Blue Monkey’s wares being offered as well as keg beer, bottles and more recognisable brands, too. What you end up with is two unashamed beer temples in the most agreeable mold; about beer without being ‘about beer’, a place with no pretense or ‘brand’, and dedication to quality without it being ‘a thing’. When you have a pub that satisfies every need, you’re onto a winner.

We were sad to go; as I said earlier, time flies and all that. A proud Yorkshireman, I have to mention the staff in all the pubs we visited in Nottingham. To a man (or woman, actually) they were super-friendly, helpful and enthusiastic. To be truthful, drinking in new places can still be a tribulation even for well-prepared drinkers like me – but a warm smile as you enter the pub and a ‘Thanks, see you again soon’ as you leave makes a world of difference.

Thanks Nottingham – you’ll be certainly seeing us again. Get the pork pies and mustard ready.

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