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Previous Pint Pleasures - March 6, 2011

guinness eileen

Millstone Inn, Sheffield Road, Hathersage, Derbyshire

Late last summer, after I'd returned to Yorkshire from my pub-filled visit to Southern California and Seattle, I spent a day in and around the Derbyshire village of Hathersage. Located on the north bank of the River Derwent between Sheffield and Glossop, this Peak District village is a popular destination for walkers and rock climbers. Overlooked by Stanage Edge, Higgar Tor, and the undated hillfort at Carl Wark, Hathersage was once a small agricultural village known for making brass buttons and wire. By the early 1800s several wire mills were in operation producing the needles and pins for which the village became famous. Although no longer in operation a few of those mills still exist, including Dale Mill, Atlas Works, and Barnfield Works. Charlotte Brönte was so impressed by her visit to Hathersage that she based the village of Morton in her novel Jane Eyre on it.

It took my friend Olly and me 18 minutes on the train from Sheffield, passing the famous Grindleford Station Cafe on the way. In Hathersage we joined our friend Dave and his two dogs, one of them a mad Lurcher, for a walk along the river. We hiked through lush forests and across peaceful meadows, passing by grazing sheep, stopping to admire a carving of a face in a stone cluster, and finally walking past discarded millstones at the base of Millstone Edge.

Back in Hathersage we dropped the dogs at Dave's house and ended up at the Millstone Inn for a late lunch and a richly deserved pint. Located on a bend in the main road, this old coaching inn offers 4-star accommodation, free Internet access, six handpumps, and a front garden where we sat. My first pint was Moor Top (3.8% ABV, Buxton Brewery, Buxton, Derbyshire) which I selected because the beer menu's mention of Chinook hops attracted me. This is a sensible traditional pale ale for the end of a brisk sweaty hike. Halfway through my pint I discovered I really did like this, especially because it offers a nice crunchy hoppy finish. Having just recovered from my wildly wonderful superhop-IPA-yay-yay American holiday, I found this to be a most definitely English pint. And it was appropriately named, as we'd just walked on top of the countryside.

For lunch I had a pleasant tuna melt. Dave's sausage was very good, as was Olly's "surf and turf". When we finished our meal we decided to have a second pint away from the busy road. We took our pints over to the pub's secluded tables across the road at the far end of the car park. This time I had a pint of Alchemy (4.2% ABV, Abbeydale Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire), which was nicely crisp and citrus, but more like lemon than the usual grapefruit. This was an easy-to-quaff-after-late-lunch pint.

As we sat enjoying the spectacular view of the valley below we wondered about the feed and handwash dispensers mounted on the fence. We discovered why they were there when three friendly goats suddenly appeared on the other side of the fence, fully expecting us to lavish attention on them. An elderly man and his young grandson pulled into the car park and headed for one of the dispensers and began giving the goats their expected treats. At this point Dave and Olly and I wandered over to investigate the piglets we spotted peeking shyly at us from behind a barn.

I learned later that the goats and pigs are owned by the pub. What a lovely added surprise to a pleasant day in the country. I've always appreciated pubs that have a resident dog or cat, and occasionally I've met a pub parrot and even some pub chickens. But these are definitely the first pub goats and pub piglets I've come across, and we had a great time. Perhaps I should have bought them a round...