CRAFT BEERS CAN BE JUST AS INTERESTING AS GOOD WINE
Mary Riebold is a high powered actuary who lives and works in New York City. Her overriding passions are opera and beer (maybe with wine and chips coming not far behind!) and she travels all over the world in pursuit of them. I caught up with her at the Buxton Opera Festival in the Peak District of England. Whilst this website isn’t a forum for an opera critique, we are always happy to hear from lovers of alcohol (in moderation, of course!) Wine, food AND travel is an important part of our website – if you would like to be a guest blogger with something that we feel is relevant, please feel free to email me the contents at firstname.lastname@example.org
Who, would have thought! Enough beer interest in Buxton to fill in the holes of a 4-day Festival stay. Buxton Brewery has always been highly rated (named as one of the Top 100 Breweries in the world on RateBeer.com, more on that site later). But the brewery is not really in the town itself, which had prevented my walking out there and visiting their tasting room. All the treasures are available only at the brewery – the selection on the shelf of a grocery store or the tourist office (yes, the tourist office sells beer) is very limited. BUT – last year what a wonderful surprise to see that they had opened an in-town tasting room – and close enough to the opera house to have interval drinks there. This year, they’ve added food and really strengthened their bottled beer list. They also have about 6 rotating cask selections and 6 rotating regular taps.
A bit of background may put some perspective on their point of view. First, I should introduce the RateBeer site. It’s mostly patronized and followed by Americans. Beer geeks post their personal ratings for beers, but more importantly for places to drink them. (I always check it before a trip to learn the top-rated pubs and breweries in a new city.) As you may know, Americans are known for their preference for “extreme” beers. Meaning, high alcohol and high hops and (unfortunately) anything to be different. Buxton’s brewers seem to subscribe to some of these same views. Of the cask and tap beers, probably half of them had over 5.5% alcohol, a couple as much as 8%. And, man, were they good. And, man, were some of them hoppy. As premium breweries do in the US, they identify the source and type of hops in each of them. While the type of hop doesn’t quite produce the difference as the type of grape would for a wine, they are definitely distinguishable. Buxton uses some English hops, but also many of the beers are made from German and US hops. The bartenders can fill you in on all of this if you’re interested, and are delighted to offer tastes of the day’s offerings.
But don’t limit yourself to the taps. I’ve attached a bottle list – I’m sorry but the prices didn’t make it thru my pdf machine on one of the pages. On that no-prices page is my favorite non-Belgian brewery – Schneider Weisse. And among their beers, my favorite is Tap 6 Aventinus. I can vouch that the prices on all of those are MUCH better then I’ve seen elsewhere. Elsewhere not being Buxton, because you won’t find them anywhere else there (except a Tap 7 Original, which is their least distinguished offering. It’s available at the neighboring La Brasserie but at a higher price.) Note the significant number of beers from the Buxton Brewery and their excellent choices of other beers. Many pubs offer a selection of “world beers”, but the US offerings (as an example) are the standard lagers of Brooklyn Brewery, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, etc. The ones on this list really express a point of view which encompasses excellence and rarity.
The last page of my attachments is their Sunday Lunch menu. I can’t imagine a better way to prepare yourself for a matinee performance. Actually, I met several members of the opera chorus there doing the same thing.
I should also mention the Wye Bridge Pub, a bit out of the center but definitely walkable on a nice day. It’s a J D Weatherspoon Pub (a chain which tries harder than most to have interesting beers). Well, they have a Cider Festival every summer, which just happens to coincide with the Buxton Festival. I always manage to take a walk out there and try a bunch of ciders. This year I went on a Friday and had a great daily special of fish & chips (cod) and a pint for £6.50. The chips were the best I had during my stay – and I managed to try quite a few.
PS on chips: To my taste, the best chips in the world are in Manchester at a take-out fish & chips adjacent to the Cask Pub. You can bring them into the pub. The pub is adjacent to the Science & Industry Museum and on one of the free bus lines. It is also a terrific pub, with a totally non-industrial feel.
Mary S. Riebold[pdf]https://winebehindthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Buxton.pdf[/pdf]