When is work not work?
Self generated projects offer us the chance to do things that, otherwise, we may never get the chance to do. They bring together our passions and interests as a collective like no other work can. Obviously this also means that they are amongst the first pieces of work to be jettisoned when paid projects demand our attention elsewhere. However, we have a strong belief that showcasing the different modes of creative delivery that define our company, on a project that reflects the things we love outside of our work, should be a fundamental element of our output.
With that in mind we are setting out on the exciting journey of producing Mash, a new zine that collects and collates stories from breweries, brewers, publicans, drinkers and purveyors of all things beer. Because, to be clear, we love beer. Not in a ‘lads, lads, lads bloody beers’ sort of way (we’re far too old for that) and if we’re being totally honest, not even in a ‘tasting notes and reviewing’ kind of way (we’re probably not quite old enough for that). We love good beer, drank in great surroundings and in the company of friends. Our particular angle is certainly that of beer as a vehicle for social solidarity.
The idea is that Mash will look locally at the beers we like to drink, the brewers that make them, the pubs that serve them and the folk that drink them. Being based in Chesterfield (itself a haven of amazing hidden gems) we are sandwiched between two great cities of beer. Sheffield and Derby. Due to this geographical fortuity we feel that we are ideally positioned to celebrate everything that is great about the beer scene in the region. From the traditional to the contemporary, we have sampled and love it all.
Each issue of Mash will look at a different geographical area, its people, places and stories as a backdrop to discussing beer. Selecting our venue for issue one was simple. It had to be our adopted home town of Chesterfield (and the surrounding area), with its unique collection of traditional pubs, micro pubs and craft brewers. It is often overlooked when people think about the great beer in this region and we wanted to shout loud and proud about everything we have on our doorstep.
So, on Saturday 1st October we set off on a recce of all the places we love to drink to begin compiling information for issue one. We began our journey at the Dronfield Arms, an independently owned free-house situated five miles north of Chesterfield in the town of Dronfield. The pub has all the warmth and charm of a traditional real ale pub, with all the choice you would hope for in a forward thinking craft beer establishment. It has 6 cask ales and 3 craft keg beers on tap and an amazing selection of bottled beers. They have local staples from Abbeydale, Bradfield and Stancill Brewery, but for us the biggest draw was the amazing Hopjacker Brewery beers that are brewed on site. Opened in 2015 in the old restaurant below the pub, head brewer Edd Entwistle is knocking up the sort of beer that shows a love of brewing tradition, whilst embracing the hop forward styles that are bringing more and more people into the craft beer revolution. I’ll leave the full write up for issue one, but needless to say, we loved the beer, we loved being able to see the brewery through a glass section in the floor of the pub and we loved the pork scratchings. A perfect start to the day.
The next step involved a short bus journey to Whittington Moor in Chesterfield, followed by the unfortunate combination of hordes of Chesterfield FC fans making their way to the match and the need to locate our next beer. It has to be said that had we not been so lax in our planning, the Derby Tup and its interesting selection of Pigeon Fishers beers would have been our next stop. Unfortunately match day crowds meant we headed for a quick snack at an unnamed fast food establishment then the relative tranquility of The Beer Parlour. Situated in an old gun shop, this bottle shop come micro pub is well worth a trip for its incredible selection of bottled Belgium beers alone. However the choice available from the 8 casks and 10 keg lines is also of the highest quality. Local breweries in the form of Ashover, Spire Brewing, Bradfield, Hilltop and Thornbridge are all represented on the bar. But I couldn’t resist the IPA Green Killer by Brasserie de Silly, although at 6.5% it was probably not the wisest choice at three in the afternoon.
We then took a walk up to our de facto local, The Chesterfield Arms. Located a mere five minute walk from our studio it is a Defeye favourite and for good reason. A focus on local and national cask ales in the type of pub that people picture when visualising a traditional English public house. Roaring fires, a converted barn, stone flooring and dark sumptuous wood paneling provide the backdrop to a pub buzzing with friendly locals (and their dogs), drinking incredibly well kept beers, purveyed by a welcoming and knowledgable team. I live ten miles away in Sheffield and I drink here more than any other pub due to this perfect combination. At this point in the day the weather took a turn for the worse and we decided to hunker down for while. I can think of much worse places to avoid a downpour.
The later part of the day involved a quick stop off for a curry (if we ever put together a zine about Indian cuisine then West Bars Tandoori is certainly getting a mention) before taking in two more contrasting pubs. The first of these was The Chesterfield Ale House, a micro pub that has been at the forefront of Chesterfields craft beer renaissance over the last two years. We are greeted by the site of a tap takeover from Rat Brewery of Huddersfield. Whilst certainly not local, it was exciting all the same.
Particular mention has to go to Ratatonic, although, much like the earlier IPA Green Killer is perhaps a little strong for this type of day. The atmosphere is inviting and it's easy to see why the local CAMRA branch have awarded it with the town centre pub of the year award in 2015. It became very apparent at this point in the day that our stop off for a curry, avoidance of the rain and slightly inebriated state meant we may have to abandon our plan to make it all the way to the top of the Brampton mile.
We therefore decided to make the Tramway Tavern (Brampton Brewery’s tap house) the last stop of the day. A much more lively establishment than anywhere else on the journey, its eclectic and friendly regulars are spoiled for choice at the bar. A great selection of the Brampton range on cask and a packed fridge of craft bottled and canned beers is expertly talked through by a bar team that clearly knows its beer. Recommendations were made and our final beers of the day very much enjoyed (a great selection of Wild Beer Co. bottles was a particular highlight).
For our first issue there are obviously many more establishments that will receive the attention they deserve, but to see any more in the day may have led to me being unable to remember anything about them. So, when is work not work? When it involves 5 pubs, over 20 different beers, interesting (and only half remembered) conversations, great company and the promise of an exciting project to get our teeth in to.
Look out for Mash #1 in 2017.