Nottingham’s Robin Hood Beerfest ’11, Liquid History (local dialect: Istreh) & Castle/CAMRA Notions of Tradition

Greetings & Salutations once again my loyal subjects,

Nottingham has a long tradition of conflict situations long before sensationalist demon media started over-publicising and scrutinising the city’s increasingly rare gun-related violent crime. Nowhere is this more apparent than around the castle grounds (not an actual castle but the country’s first municipal art gallery) with the raising of Standard Hill during Charles’ uprising (his standards had always been high & even by their era’s hygiene levels the peasants were revolting A-hor-hor etc).

Down the hill built into Castle Rock (still not a real castle but the name of Nottingham’s largest brewery based across the canal from the fake castle) is Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem which claims to date back roughly as far as Bruce Forsyth’s tap-dancing routine; to 1189 which also happens to be the year of Richard I: The Lionheart’s ascension to the throne. He’s that fella who returns to a jubilant homecoming at the end of every Robin Hood film portrayed by Sean Connery or an actual Lion (“And that’s what really happened folks!” according to Disney). Neither Connery nor Richie could even speak English but for different reasons – only the lion incredibly. Looking down from the castle ground walls to me it resembled a little glowing hobbit cottage carved out of nougat albeit one packed out with tourists and students every weekend.

I always suspected dusting was bad for you but here it's fatal

This was allegedly where knights drank before leaving to fight the Crusades but they probably didn’t have to choose from Greene King’s 30 gourmet bastard burger menu. Nowadays they’d set off with less of a lion’s heart & more of an artery-clogged heart so the real heroes would be their horses.

But seriously, how can an 822 year old establishment (which stands as one of 20 of the oldest surviving foundations of medieval freehouses – too many of’s) be owned & run by a brewery company (GK) which behaves nothing like a brewery & everything like a profit-maximising business expansion? Greedy King also owns the Hungry Horse & Loch Fyne restaurant chains & became the main shirt sponsor for Mansfield Town FC in June this year despite previously buying out Nottingham brewery Hardy & Hanson’s (not them of ‘Mmmbop’ fame although it did all seem to happen that fast) & moving production down to Bury St. Edmonds. The aforementioned & original ‘Green King’ Dickey Cholesterol-Ticker & his knights would be pre-hysterical.

It Takes Two Baby: After All It's UterUS not UterYOU

I dare’s ya to visit anywhere around Kimberley/Eastwood or the wider ex-H&H pubs heartland & not weep at the state of the average fallout of retaining no flagship local brew. Drinking Castle Rock’s Harvest Pale in the few pubs that are allowed it by GK must feel like swapping religion AND sleeping with your wife’s best friend. Miner’s Welfare Club members can’t even get a decent homebrew to float their liquid pensions in lamenting the passing of their only known craft 30 years ago. Mind you, if ex-miners never noticed the lack of flavour then it’s because either their discerning taste buds have been slowly dying at the same rate or Hardy’s always tasted like frothy donkey piss from the beginning.       

Peasants, Crusades, guns & buy-outs

NOTTINGHAM BEER FESTIVAL, Thurs 13th-Sat 15th October 2011

Upon meeting our friend this Friday eve at the largest CASK ale festival (over 900 this year) anywhere in the known galaxy, we were triumphantly defending the scaled-down mock castle in the adventure playground just outside the main beer tent. This had 2 accompanying though permanently fixed miniaturised steeds with nodding springback facility for rocking. Ironically this structure lays greater claim to being a true castle as it’s castle shape & to scale, made from reliable timber, provides ample visibility in all directions and thus quite impenetrable (except to slovenly beer thieves). Although a fireman’s pole & slide does limit authenticity. 

Drawbridges were a lot more metallic and uneven in them days

Volunteering at these events is always a gamble as it’s usually a safe bet most CAMRA members (other than balancing the top half of a pint upon their heads if you believe the photos) are going to be:

a) Over 40

b) Socially crippled at conversing with anyone under 40

b) Physically quite out of shape

c) Tight with money

To the exclusion of all others. Outdoor rambling gear & open-top sandles UBER ALLES! Or should that be UBER-(REAL) ALES? Alas the middle-class, middle-aged, middle-of-the-road classic rock lovers from middle England are a powerful marketing force indeed. I am anything but the lager-swilling lout who taunts their absolute rejection of anything approaching street cred. Its their obsession and preoccupation with heritage and tradition over more daring innovative artisan brewing methods which begin to rile (but I’d rather not get into their faults as I didn’t start a blog to specialise in opinionated thinkcrimes – Dacre & Murdoch knows there’s enough printed press which has me beat for experience & immorality already).

After witnessing several Robert Wyatt lookalikes in both the restricted mobility and wispy headed departments – faces like some half-chewed rusty penny dabbed around the sides with candy floss, they were hospitable and mild-mannered. Portakabin Gents toilets didn’t always cater for the more generous waistline with some mock-oak paintwork requiring considerable girth control not to become scratched after being called up for single file cubicle enlistment with urinals closer together than Aled Jones’ boyhood testes. Any closer & your pissing companion would share the same DNA (I’m growing uncomfortable with the amount of piss-based anecdotes developing on this blog).

To navigate this castle path after revellers & night descend is to earn liquid reward. Not sure what Hamburglar's doing on the far right

In what must’ve been a desperate plea to join CAMRA’s ranks I ordered my friend Matt who’s also my lovely lady’s friend to overrule her by letting himself fork out 60p to buy me a pickled ‘chilli’ egg. In my defence, there are good reasons for those inverted commas that were not apparent at the time of purchase. After unravelling the serviette which concealed my grotesque fate, I noticed specks of red chilli on an otherwise BROWN surface as if with the shell still on after boiling. I simply put this down to an extended sentence within the spicy vinegar of its glass tomb. Alas, upon a first bite, both yolk and white flesh alike revealed PINK INNARDS like an embryonic sack of horror. That’s when I de-cider-d my ciders had to become more potent in order to wipe the image of a tender pink egg centre entirely from my memory. Call it heavily delayed birth-trauma.

Valhalla on Earth: Whatever they're feeding those monkeys it's working

Peace 2 all true hopheads out there!