CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 3 Newark-on-Trent Pubs


Previous Pint Pleasures - June 2, 2010

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The Fox & Crown, 4 The Friary, Newark on Trent, Nottinghamshire

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The Castle, 5 Castle Gate, Newark, Nottinghamshire

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The Mayze, 7 Castle Gate, Newark, Nottinghamshire

Over the recent spring break, during a much-deserved week off, I discovered a great city for cask ale pubs. Newark on Trent is located, not surprisingly, on the River Trent where the Great North Road meets the Fosse Way. Originally a Roman settlement with evidence of an Anglo-Saxon occupation by the 10th-11th centuries, the city was a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil Warand withstood three sieges. Although the castle ruins date to the late 1100s, the original castle was built in 1068. The dominant feature of Newark's market square is the impressive 14th century Church of St Mary Magdalene, one of the largest churches in England.

We strolled around this magnificent church on our way to our first pub of the day. Quickly changing gears from architectural photographer to cask ale aficionado, I started to drool when we entered the hallowed halls of the Fox & Crown and spotted the altar in the form of a bar with ten handpumps. Normally I would have gone for a nice hoppy ale somewhere between 3.8 and 4.5% ABV. But our spontaneous visit to Newark happened to coincide with a popular antiques fair, and as a result we had just spent a harrowing afternoon searching for what was left of available accommodation for the night. We ended up with supposedly the only room still vacant within a five-mile walk of the city centre, an outrageously overpriced and very ordinary room in a ridiculously pretentious hotel complete with an overly ornate and completely illegible font on its front sign.

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So we both opted for something good and strong and ordered pints of Screech Owl Strong IPA (5.5% ABV, Castle Rock Brewery, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire). Brewed not very far away, this is a very nice hoppy bitter tasty brew that flapped around in my mouth and made me feel like a very delighted cat with a real prize between her teeth. Hmmm, my people will love this owl! Hope I can get it through the cat flap..... The fact that this is a good strong and very hoppy IPA made me think of the Pacific Northwest. I'm happy to see the trend for brewing powerful knock-your-socks-off IPA is growing in Britain.

The Fox & Crown seems like a friendly pub, with snugs here and there, good sounding food (especially for often bored pescaveggies like myself), and our pints were perfectly kept and sparklingly good. This pub, one of 22 owned by the Castle Rock Brewery, has got to be one of Newark's gems, if not the gem.

But we were on a mission to explore more, so we headed on to the Castle. On entering we were greeted by 6 handpumps featuring local and national beers. The lady who served us loves offering tasters and seeing the delight on the faces of real ale drinkers when they discover one to their liking. She poured Andrew a pint of Leveller (4.8% ABV, Springhead Brewery, Sutton-on Trent, Newark, Nottinghamshire), a black coffeebeer with a lovely porter appearance which smoothes the thoughts and cures the stress. I had a pint of Odyssey (4% ABV, Hopback Brewery, Salisbury, Wiltshire), a hoppy medium-coloured brew. We sat in the next room that was dark like the inside of a ship but comfortable and inviting, especially with the big musical notes and clefs on the walls and an abundance of mirrors. Mirrors are good, I always think. As I sipped my Odyssey the taste complemented the dark cosiness and wood, bringing to mind a dark brown leather armchair with wooden arms and dark rose-coloured pillows. I could sit in it all night, I could, chatting with friends or curled up with a good book, relaxing, dozing...

I jerked myself awake from my reverie. I can't fall asleep, I told myself, because we're on a cask ale mission! We stood up, walked outside, made an immediate U-turn, and walked directly into the adjacent pub, the Mayze. Both the Mayze and its neighbouring pub are part of the Yard Glass Pub Company. The Mayze consists of lots of little rooms, making it a virtual maze of a pub. There were 2 cask ales on, and as we were getting quite hungry by then we went for half pints of Roaring Meg (5.5% ABV, Springhead Brewery, Sutton-on Trent, Newark, Nottinghamshire). The beer was potentially good, but we got the impression they hadn't served a lot of Meg that day. I was a bit relieved that with our empty stomachs we had chosen half pints, because Roaring Meg is potential headbanging material. We started to wonder what band Roaring Meg sings for.

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On the wall above our heads was a long explanation of mazes and labyrinths that provided interesting reading material. On another wall was a quote from Winston Churchill that seems very applicable to me and everybody I know who hopes to make a living from their creative talents: "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." Ah, yes, that's what I seem to excel at...

Sadly an evening lasts only so long, and with the strong brews we had been sampling we found our quaffing stamina was starting to wane. But there's always a next time, and Newark on Trent is definitely a pub town which warrants further investigation.







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