CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 2 Pubs East of Doncaster

Previous Pint Pleasures - April 21, 2004

guinness eileen

The Steer Arms, 141 High Street, Belton, Doncaster, South Yorkshire

guinness eileen

The Paddock, Goodison Boulevard, Cantley, Doncaster, South Yorkshire

I've always had this thing for camels. I can't really explain it; I suppose it's because camels are quite unique creatures. For some strange reason I've always wanted to ride on a camel. Years ago my friend Mistah Rick told me that he and his girlfriend Jill, who were members of the Los Angeles Zoo, had taken advantage of the free camel and elephant rides there. The next time I visited the zoo, with my boyfriend Jim and my friends Gary and Eileen, I was looking forward to riding on a camel. Unfortunately neither Gary nor Eileen were interested in riding on a camel, and Jim considered it too embarrassing. Since I would have been the only person in the queue above the age of 10 I chickened out at the last minute.

I've always regretted that decision. Although I appreciate dromedaries it's Bactrian camels, with two humps, that really intrigue me. I remember reading Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, which was a novel about redheads, the moon, and a pack of Camel cigarettes. Interestingly the "camel" featured on the pack of Camel cigarettes is actually a dromedary.

Camels are very interesting creatures. For instance, all camelids have stomachs made up of 3 compartments. The average camel pregnancy last for 13 months. The earlly camelids evolved in North America and migrated across the Bering Strait to Asia, where they split up and headed for Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, and the llamas went down south to south America. As opposed to dromedaries, which are native to Arabia, Bactrian camels come from Mongolia where a few hundred of them still roam wild, and they are famous for spitting. Camels -- and dromedaries -- can go for days and even weeks with little or no food or water.

But to force a cask ale lover to go that long without a pint is very cruel indeed; so on a recent drive to the Isle of Axholme east of Doncaster we went in search of a watering hole to refresh our humps. As Andrew pulled into the car park of the Steer Arms, located north of Epworth on the A161, I felt my pulse race when I spotted the camel in the garden's play area. I admit it wasn't a real camel; but I found myself yearning to be a little girl so I could run and jump and climb on it and at least pretend I was riding it.

But alas, I am a big girl now, so I didn't embarrass Andrew by following my impulse. The advantage of being a big girl, however, is that I am allowed to enjoy a pint of cask ale whenever I like, so the thought of this helped a bit. So into the pub we went. The Steer Arms is a large pub featuring an extensive menu of homemade food. As it was lunchtime we ordered prawn sandwiches. The prices are a bit dear, but our sandwiches were excellent and came with a good salad, cole slaw, and excellent oven chips. We sat in the small room on the side and accompanied our lunch with pints of Tetley's (3.7% ABV, Carlsberg-Tetley Brewing Co., Northampton). It was very busy Sunday lunchtime, but we were alone in our equestrian-motifed room. Since we were recovering from just having provided an evening's accommodation for three teenaged girls out for a night on the town in Sheffield, we were grateful for a little peace and quiet.

As I scanned the room observing the advertisements for equestrian events, the pool cups lining the wall shelves, and the football on the TV, I decided my pint of Tetley's tasted traditional, which is probably the best Tetley's can taste: not surprising, not intriguing, just satisfyingly traditional -- which in this world of blue alcopops is not such a bad thing. (Am I getting old or something? No. I just like variety, including outrageousness as well as traditionalism.)

On a previous spin around the east side of Doncaster we stopped at the Paddock, located close to the Doncaster Racecourse. The Paddock appears to be a locals pub, consisting of a conversational lounge and a large public bar centred around a pool table, paintings of horses on the walls, and horse races on the television, with a series of regular customers stopping in for a pint or two. We enjoyed good, dark amber pints of John Smith Bitter (3.8% ABV, John Smith Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire) and wondered whether there was a horse named John Smith on which we could place a bet. After all, if there's an Olympic diver named John Smith, why not a race horse? I wonder if there are any camels named John Smith...

As we sipped our pints we noticed a sign on the wall which said FOUL LANGUAGE NOT TOLERATED. So does that mean we can't talk about football or pool games, where fouls are committed frequently? Or have they misspelled it and they really mean chickens? Would chickens commit many fouls if they played football or pool? Would camels?

Ah, well, if I don't ever succeed in riding a camel I'd at least like to watch a couple of camels playing pool. Is this too much to ask?