Strong Ale along the Derwent

A long morning of pushing a broom around the driveway, shifting leaf mulch and wet moss, builds up my appetite for beer. So I fancied the ninety minute troll up the River Derwent to call by at two Derby brewpubs in search of strong ale.

The Brunswick is a given in the hunt for strong ale in winter. Usually, I'd be slavvering over a pint of Black Sabbath, unfeasibly ABV'd at 6.66%, black as a black thing that's been stuffed full of damsons and twigs and liqorice and sourness (in a good way). But this is Rambo season; Rambo being an old Everards recipe resurged at this brewpub into a deep, viscous, fruity brew. Truth be told, the first few sips were difficult, perhaps as I'd worked up a thirst and satiating it with strong ale wasn't the keenest move.

Like one of Victoria Wood's flapjack, you just need to work it around your mouth a bit. The turning fruit and itching malt works better as the beer warms. To be honest, sitting in the parlour where the only sound was the head of my pint popping and forming has been one of my finest beer moments this year.

Upriver for a palate cleanser. There's one downside to the Smithfield in Derby - when the river's running high, the pub stinks. But there's nearly always a dog in the bar that's mad as a box of frogs, great tunes on the perpetually self-selecting jukebox and at least six handpulls full of light, hoppy beer. It's unusual for me to not be drinking Whim or Oakham in here - when the alternative is BrewDog Punk IPA, perhaps I can be forgiven. Full of fat fresh fruit salad flavours. Dang tasty.

Last stop was the Flowerpot. Often tricky drinking here on a Sunday; being a popular music venue, fans may have given the beers a hammering the night before. The upside is availability of their own brews; five of theirs on today including their winter ofering, Zymosis. Vaguely golden, bitter pine to the fore, lurking alcohol with licks of old pineapple steeped in gone-off glue. More drinkable than Rambo, deceptive with its strength. In cinematic terms, it's Jason Bourne by comparison - subtle, understated.

Back home with a smile on my face and a Three Counties jacket potato to look forward to - Double Gloucester cheese, Worcestershire sauce and Herefordshire perry. Nom cubed. And a glass or four of BrewDog Zephyr to chase it down - but that'll be another story...