Up in Nottingham for the weekend, last night the hungry family headed out to look for sustenance. Needing somewhere child-friendly, I'd programmed what was supposed to be the postcode of the closest Wetherspoons into the satnav, but after driving for some miles we still hadn't got there, so when we spotted an obviously family-friendly pub with a car park, we did a u-turn and stopped.
It was called the Sherwood Manor and turned out to be one of Greene King's Hungry Horse formats. On the bar were a handpump for Old Speckled Hen and one of the new dual "north/south" pumps for IPA that supposedly let you choose a big or small head on your pint. The OSH clip was reversed, so it was IPA or nothing...
Now GK IPA can be a decent pint, especially on gravity but also sometimes on handpump. My pint however was awful. Not actually off but dull and lacking in any of the flavours one drinks beer for. It was as if the pump had something in it designed to remove 98% of the malt and hop flavour of the beer, leaving only the 2% that you don't really want or care about. For the first time I can remember I left three-quarters of a paid-for pint on the table.
On the plus side, the food was OK.
Our hotel - the lovely Bestwood Lodge which is a handsome Victorian red-brick mansion, nominally built as a hunting lodge - claims to have an "excellent bar" so on getting back I scanned it for something to restore my injured palate. Becks Vier, Stella, Boddingtons extra-cold and Magners on draught, plus Bud in bottles. We're in Nottingham, and they can't even stick a few bottles of Castle Rock Harvest Pale in the fridge. Argh!!
Fortunately, the city was today redeemed by Hotel Deux. It doesn't look much from the outside, in fact you'd probably not even think there was a pub in there, but the bar has four real ales, all in excellent nick. The regulars are Blue Monkey light and aromatic BG Sips, Welbeck Abbey's Henrietta (a superbly tasty 3.6%er) and Dancing Duck's 22 rebranded as the darker house ale; also on was Blue Monkey's dry and hoppy Pale Blue.
It's extremely child-friendly too, to the extent that the landlord kept our lad amused with games and stuff long enough for me to sink an extra pint! The boy also loved the music room next door - this has bands on two or three times a week but was quiet tonight. He was fascinated by the sparkly disco-ball on the ceiling and the guitars on the wall.
We'll probably look for Ye Olde Trip tomorrow. It claims to be England's oldest pub, dating to 1189. These days it is owned by Greene King, so this will be GK's chance to redeem itself. Thankfully it serves several ales, including a local guest, so I shouldn't have to risk the IPA again!