Thursday 14th March: Having sampled the delights of Derby just a few short weeks ago, Nick and I joined forces once more in order to visit another place closely associated with beer. Burton upon Trent is the cradle of the British brewing industry and the prospect of getting our teeth into the town's beer festival soon had us all set for some Staffordshire scholarship...
- Burton Station -
We arrived just before midday courtesy of a hectic sprint at Birmingham New Street when the Nottingham train was ready to depart. I think we'd just got our breath back by the time we reached Burton Station and its rather grim-looking entrance.
- River Trent -
The town seems to be split into two halves either side of the railway with the Town Hall one way and the High Street the other. Our initial investigations took us towards the latter and included landmarks such as the Market Hall and St Modwen's Church - we even called into the local library where the cafe greeted us with whiffs of cheese-on-toast and scrambled egg. A particular highlight was a walk across The Washlands to the riverside where we could admire views of the many-arched bridge spanning the
width of the Trent
- Burton Bridge Inn -
The bridge gives its name to a nearby pub and microbrewery, with the lure of a brewery tap being far too much for mere mortals such as we to resist. Burton Bridge Bitter and Damson Porter are thus sampled in the atmospheric traditional surroundings of the front bar room with its bench seating.
- Dragon Slayer -
Ever the gallant hero, Nick follows up his rescuing of the Damson in Distress by doing battle with a Flaming Dragon courtesy of the curry deal at the Lord Burton Wetherspoons. He bravely took all the heat that the chillies could throw at him and so the beast was suitably vanquished.
- Molsen Coors -
It's virtually impossible to walk around Burton without seeing evidence of the town's ongoing brewing connections. The industrial architecture isn't pretty but I can't help being impressed by the sheer scale of it all. Here is part of the Molsen Coors plant off Station Road.
- Coopers Tavern -
My favourite pub of the day has to be the Coopers Tavern, a brick cottage former Bass house that is now operated by Joule's. Beer is dispensed from the back bar in time-honoured fashion whilst there are plenty of fascinating little rooms to explore just bursting with brewing heritage.
- Trent & Mersey Canal -
Crossing into the Town Hall half of Burton, we noted the Oak & Ivy on Wellington Street where coverage of the Cheltenham Races took centre stage. The search for the Thomas Sykes proved a forlorn exercise so we consoled ourselves with a stroll along the canal from Shobnall Marina to Dallow Lock, although even here we couldn't escape brewery advertising for long!
- The Old Cottage Tavern -
Another of Burton's smaller independent breweries is Old Cottage, and their brewery tap is just around the back of the Town Hall. Some Stout here set us up well for an ill-fated hunt for the Alfred - even despite having a map and a vintage Burton pubs guide at our disposal we still managed to go in the wrong direction!
- Cor B'Limey -
Having finally found the said Alfred, we made our way to the Town Hall to avail ourselves of the fine selection on show at the 34th Burton CAMRA Beer Festival. The ales are grouped by category here so bitters, dark ales and speciality beers were in the main hall whilst golden ales, old ales and ciders were in the Lingen Room. Amongst the tipples we tasted, I went all historical with Richard III and Palmer's Poison whilst Nick hopped til he dropped and then turned all plummy. The Morton's Cor B'Limey stood out with its clatter of citrus infusion.
- Scilly Stout -
Burton Town Hall proved a wonderful venue for the festival with a Wurlitzer organ and the chance to sit on the balcony cementing its place in our affections. The event reached a predictably silly (sorry Scilly) conclusion with Nick's closing stout and we just had time to climb the Stairway to Heaven in the Devonshire Arms before our train home.
It's not every day you dabble with dragons, partake of poison, sink various stouts and abide some acid but that was the story of the Burton Festival for us this year -
roll on next year!
roll on next year!