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Previous Pint Pleasures - March 30, 2013

guinness eileen

The Castle Inn, Castle Street, Bakewell, Derbyshire

guinness eileen

The Queens Arms, Bridge Street, Bakewell, Derbyshire

One recent Saturday, when we were feeling low and let down by friends, we decided to cheer ourselves up by taking a drive in the sun out into the Peak District to have lunch. Our friend Ali had recommended two pubs in the popular market town of Bakewell, and as I had never been to the town, that's where we headed.

With a name that derives from 'Beadeca's Well', named after the Gothic hero, Bakewell was located in Anglo Saxon times in the Anglian kingdom of Mercia. Today it is the only actual town in the Peak District National Park. Situated on the River Wye, it's famous for its Monday markets, with the town's first market having started in 1254. It's also famous for the invention of the Bakewell Tart, a jam pastry with an egg and ground almond enriched filling, first created by accident at a pub in the town in 1820.

The Castle Inn is located right by the bridge over the river. On this mild sunny day tourists were milling about everywhere, popping into shops and having tea and fish and chips out on the pavement. Fortunately the Castle had a couple of tables available, so we sat at a small table on the stone floor and near the espresso machine with a view of the specials boards. We were surrounded by photos and drawings on the walls with low wooden beams above our heads.

The bar staff were very friendly and attentive. The Ruddles had just gone off, so we had pints of Olde Trip (4.2% ABV, Hardy & Hansons, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire). Our pints had a beautiful creamy head that lasted to the bottom of our glasses. The beer had that classic bitter flavour -- burnt caramel, Andrew commented -- and a strong colour. It definitely satisfied.

As we waited for our food I watched the little beige terrier across from us who was obviously a very important dog, as small terriers most often are. We had each ordered the fish and chips under the two-mains-for-£9.95 special. We also shared a very garlicky starter of garlic mushrooms, and Andrew ordered warm chocolate and caramel fudge cake for dessert. Our fish and chips were delicious, with unbelievably fresh haddock in a nice beer-and-crumb batter. It was a shame we both have such small appetites, as I could barely make a dent in mine. Andrew's dessert was very dark and bitter and absolutely wonderful as well. I can definitely recommend this pub for food.

As I looked around I noticed the gammon steak with free-range egg and chips seemed to be very popular with these traditional Derbyshire folk.

At the table where the important dog had been previously, a baby was now being entertained by its grandmother who had high arched and rangy eyebrows. She was soon joined by Grampa, who also had high arched bushy eyebrows, and obviously Dad who had inherited both his parents' features: high arched bushy and rangy eyebrows. Oddly enough the baby had no eyebrows at all.

After our lunch we headed around the corner and down the road to the other pub Ali had recommended, the Queens Arms. Dating over 300 years back, the pub has obviously been completely renovated. It was sparsely populated this afternoon and seemed quite bare in decor, and the barmaid seemed distracted by her intense conversation with a local. As Andrew had driven us here and didn't want any more to drink, I had a quick half of Boondoggle (4.2% ABV, Ringwood Brewery, Ringwood, Hampshire). Boondoggle translates as "work of little value", but this Boondoggle seemed very valuable to me. I was attracted by the words "lazy summer afternoon" on the clip, as it was a lazy sunny (winter) afternoon. My pint was light and very mildly hoppy but with a flavoursome bitter character. I could sup this while relaxing in a riverside hammock. "Woody", commented Andrew when he tasted it. "Cedar or spruce." "Evergreen?" I postulated. "No, something distinctly deciduous, like hawthorn." "What's hawthorn?" I asked, a bit embarrassed because I grew up in Los Angeles and worked in the city of Hawthorne but didn't know what hawthorn looked like. "It grows in hedgerows. It's like may." Ah yes, I nodded, not knowing what may looks like, either.

So you learn something every day. After our botanical discussion I conclude I like Boondoggle, whatever its genus and species.