One long bus trip later I was in Matlock Bath and thence into the hosting public house, being the Fishpond just on the southern edge of the place. The sun was struggling to shine, though it was a lovely warm day, and I, apparently, was the very first person to arrive for the day. Not at all embarrassing, no sir. Well, okay, I was slightly embarrassed. However, they were open and they did have stuff on tap and so, with a notebook in one hand and my embarrassing habit of taking photos on my phone, I began my journey of the day. Would you like to join me?
First up was a Porter by Derby Brewing Co. called Black Magic at 4.8% ABV. It was a bit of an ambitious start to proceedings for someone like me who is a lightweight but it was a dark and they hadn't tapped the Papa Jangles yet.
The aroma was strong chocolate but with no coffee despite a definite roasting sort of flavour, the kind of smokey one has with bacon rather than with barbeques. The colour was deep red, so deep it looked black until it caught the light (as I had run away to the back bar with views out across the town to take notes). Once on the tongue it was creamy, which was something of a surprise, but with a fiery underside that burned at first and then cooled over the middle of the taste, spilling into the sides of the mouth to fill it out quite nicely, which is not my usual experience with porters. This one was a bit smoother than most, putting me in mind of Plum Porter from Titanic actually. By the time it hits the back of the throat there is a dryness to it but there's a moistness remaining in the mouth and the aftertaste is definitely away from the arid dryness associated with blondes and into the kind of peaty wetness one associates with bitter. One of the big surprises was the complete lack of chocolate after the heavy aroma but this was, overall, a clear porter that augured well for the rest of the offerings.
It was at this point that I noted that they were only serving in halves and full pints, not a third measure in sight. Bugger. I was going to regret this later, I knew, but for the moment the live music had arrived, being actually rather good, and I had found a list of the ales on offer.
To that end I plumbed for Whim Ales Glacier. Having never seen this brewery before last week I was surprised to see at least four different ales from them and the IPA at 3.4% ABV seemed soft enough to go for a punt.
However, schoolboy error, I forgot to get a photo of this one, so the video above of the live act that was playing whilst I drank will have to suffice. Anyway, this poured with a bit of a head that stuck around as I wandered off again to find a table. There, in the light of the sun streaming through the window, I noted that it was extremely pale as an ale, looking like weak cordial. There was a freshness to the nose that was backed up by the faintest of faint citrus notes, so faint I couldn't decide on any particular fruit. Very pale copper hue. On the tongue there was a tropical note, putting me in mind of orange and mango cordial, but very weak and heavily watered down. Mind you, this didn't feel watery, there was a mango-like soft citrus that surrounded the tongue and despite a thin start it built afterwards and then went full mango for the aftertaste. It was almost like the ale wanted to be done before it did anything of note. The ABV played a surprisingly large role in the taste too, given how low it was, and the hops were a tad on the subtle side for an IPA, but it was single-hopped so it was probably a feature rather than a flaw. The smell gradually developed to something more soapy and unappetising but the taste remained fine. Good, but not as good as I was hoping for.
Next up was Wentwell Brewery and their offering of Hydro, another IPA at 3.8% ABV. I went for this because their brand new brew, which I could see, wasn't yet tapped and so was off-limits. Presumably they had to have something left for the third day, so fair play to them.
After watching the pure comedy of the tapping of the Papa Jangles stout from Totally Brewed I would have had it next even if I hadn't been wondering about it from the beginning. 4.5% ABV and not the 7% ABV monster advertised. Still, I thought a stout may be worth it after the paler entries.
It was downstairs then to the second, main, bar - the one that vast numbers of holiday-makers were flocking to. Here there was another good ale selection on pull, five real ales from the locality. I plumbed for the Ginger Ninja by Dancing Duck Brewery being a Pale 4.1% ABV.
After that, I thought it time to shift myself. Ostensibly to look for something to snack upon, I left the Fishpond and wandered about in Matlock Bath. Eventually, after trying some rather hot chilli jellies in a craft fair, I went straight for the Midland, a pub at the station end of the main street that I had seen the previous day, and stopped in for a half somewhere different. Because why not?
Because it was 30p more expensive a half. Oh well, I went for Welbeck Abbey Brewery's Portland Black being a Porter at 4.5% ABV because it was the only dark they had on and the place looked like the sort of place one had a dark. I'd have had a mild, much more fitting, if they'd had one on.
After that, being a bit too safe for my tastes, it was back down the lovely sunny main street to the Fishpond for more of their ales. It was a good walk, I stayed on the riverside this time, and I was back in a very short time to find the festival much busier and with a new music act that made people shout to talk to one another. Spoke to a couple up on an anniversary, she was being treated as ale was her thing, and then they left to seek out the Crow's Nest Bar whilst I was having the next one.
Next one, for me, was Swift Nick by Peak Ales at 3.8% ABV, a Pale that I'd seen on the way in an resolved to try before the day was out. It had been on tap up at the Midland as well (I also spotted that the Portland Black was on at the festival). There weren't many darks on, so another pale it had to be.
To that end I wound up ordering a Black Mass from Abbeydale Brewery which billed itself as a Ruby at 6.66% ABV (I see what they did there). It looked a heavy hitter for a finish and was close to where I was standing as a bonus. I had a couple of other ales I had my eye on but time was running out to get the last bus home.
This next one was intriguing as it promised honey from the Chatsworth Estate and that's pretty darn local and also just a bit indulgent. This was the Peak Ales Chatsworth Gold, a Golden ale (however did you guess?) weighing in at 4.6% ABV.
I had just enough time to grab a final half, and mindful of missing the bus I plumbed for one in the main bar downstairs so that I could keep an eye on the bus-stop. This turned out to be 99 Red Baboons by Blue Monkey Brewery weighing in at 4.2% ABV and promising something special.
|Derby looked pretty as I boarded the bus home.|
In case it wasn't obvious, the winner of the festival was the Papa Jangles stout that was simply amazing and well worth seeking out again. However, the real winner, for me, was the Fishpond, who proved beyond a doubt that they are decent hostelry and would make the £6 bus fair (along with long journey) worthwhile on their own. Coupled with the Midland and two or three single real ales in pubs along the main street, this makes Matlock Bath a good place to consider pub crawling with company in the future should people visit. I finished the day by getting chips and gravy back in Ilkeston again and then wandering home, a very pleasant adventure all told (and no massive headaches the day after either, which was nice).