CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 2 Chesterfield Pubs
The Royal Oak, 41-43 Chatsworth Road, Brampton, Chesterfield, Derbyshire
The Rutland, 23 Stephenson Place, Chesterfield, Derbyshire
My first visit to Chesterfield, Derbyshire's second largest city, was a brief one to visit a sofa manufacturer. Although I wasn't in the market for a sofa myself I remember being disappointed that although they sold all manner of sofas, chairs, and lounge furniture there were no actual chesterfields in the showroom. On the way home, to alleviate my heartbreak I did manage to catch a brief glimpse of the top of Chesterfield's famous Crooked Spire.
On the recent Bank Holiday Weekend a friend invited me to a festival in Chesterfield. Since I couldn't afford to fly to my former home of Seattle and attend Bumbershoot, my favourite music festival, I jumped at Ali's offer to experience OakStock.
Held annually on the August Bank Holiday Weekend, OakStock is a 4-day music and beer event held at the Royal Oak in Brampton. As Ali, Jane, and I drove past the Crooked Spire and pulled into the car park of the nearby B&Q and walked past a group of elderly gamblers entering Mecca Bingo, we could hear the strains of "Sweet Home Alabama" blasting from the Royal Oak's car park. We made our way into the crowded, steamy pub and wormed our way through various rooms, all packed to the gills, past the long queues for the toilets, until we emerged into the car park which was so solid with bodies we could barely see the tops of the performers' heads under the marquee.
Since the music was being piped into the pub we went in search of a place to sit inside. We finally managed to locate a small table in the front room, but it took another 20 minutes of inching our way to the bar before we could see the beer clips to decide what we wanted. Normally the Royal Oak features 9 handpumps, but since the festival was in its fourth day they had already run out of quite a few beers, and our options were Theakstons Best, Theakstons XB, and Hartington Bitter. We chose the Hartington Bitter (4.0% ABV, Whim Brewery, Buxton, Derbyshire) which is very very nicely bitter! Not too hoppy, but just pleasantly bitter in a "Rrryowllll, yesssssszzzss!" sort of way. It's a pale coloured beer and mightily, sharply satisfying, even when served in the plastic glasses they were using for the duration of the festival.
As band after band ran through their sets, which all seemed to include a cover of the latest Darkness hit, we sipped our pints and surveyed our surroundings -- the top half, that is, because the place was so packed I couldn't really tell you what the bottom half looked like. The crowd was very friendly and pleasant, a surprisingly congenial mix of bikers, punks, regulars, old people, and parents with children. Along the front wall are shelves displaying various pig items. The pub features regular music nights -- jazz on Sundays, blues on Mondays, "bands" on Wednesdays, and monthly Jam Nights, and along with the hand pumps they offer a large selection of single malts. But what's with the pigs, anyway? Cutesy pigs, I might add -- yes, they're all definitely cutesy cartoonlike pigs. Must be an in joke (or an inn joke, as Ali would so punningly put it).
Just as the second version of "Sweet Home Alabama" was starting up, we took off in search of a quieter pint. We walked a short distance east, past the location of Chesterfield's famous open-air market, to the Church of St Mary and All Saints. Viewing the church's Crooked Spire this close is truly impressive: as you circle around the church the spire keeps changing its appearance. Apparently the spire was straight when it was built in 1349, and there are many different explanations as to why it is now 9 feet 5 inches out of line and leans a tiny bit more every year. Along with various legends and stories, one of the more plausible explanations is that the timber used may have been green, and the sun-baked lead casing would have caused the timber to warp. Whatever the reason it's rather irresistible.
Directly behind the church was the quiet refuge we were seeking: the Rutland. The pub was warm and inviting, there were 6 handpumps and more selections on gravity, the landlord seemed like a pleasant, knowledgeable old guy, and there was not a trace of Lynyrd Skynyrd or Darkness to be heard. Although we were a bit peckish and Ali had said the food is excellent, they'd stopped serving for the day, so we settled for pints of Leveller (4.0% ABV, Springhead Brewery, Sutton-on Trent, Newark, Nottinghamshire). Brewed in the style of Trappist ales, this beer is quite unique. The landlord described it as tasting like leather. Yes, it's definitely leather; it brought to mind my cherished Crayola Scented Crayons from the 1990s. Introduced in July 1994 in various fruit scents, Crayola soon decided to change all the edible scents so that children wouldn't try to eat the crayons. So they ended up with an eclectic mixture of scents; my favourites were Leather Jacket, Lumber, and Dirt. And this Leveller definitely tasted like Crayola Leather, although it's more of a leather sofa -- or perhaps even a leather Chesterfield -- rather than a leather jacket. "It's got that uncertain something," Ali remarked in his unique way. It quite enjoyable for one pint, but I don't think I'd want to drink two leather jackets in a row. That's just my personal taste...
(Last updated 8th October 2006)