Royal Oak, green hops and mountaineers

I'm never too sure as to exactly what the Oread Mountaineering Group actually do in the function room of the Royal Oak, Ockbrook, Derbyshire, between October and April. Maybe they're fairweather climbers and just lounge around drinking great beer and look back on their summer escapades. Maybe they take the opportunity on that first Tuesday of every month to plan some fantastic adventure up a forgotten crag. Maybe they just climb Pythonesque around the room.

Well, if they rappelled into the room tonight, they'd find a beer festival.

Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Hop counties - just. And from them, some twenty brewers represented alongside a smattering of cider. All held up on a three-tier stillage down the end of the room that's often housed an am-dram stage.

A steady drift of locals for its opening night. Some hold court at the bar, some chance another pint whilst their beer widows feign interest in the finer detail of a brewery's proximity to the Welsh Borders. Some gruff at you for 'jumping in me grave' when you sit in their seat. 

I love the way Steady Steve chooses a county or two. There's the good: Teme Valley have that sessionableness that I long to find in a beer after a long country walk. This has just enough floral bitterness. Hop Nouveau sidesteps the oft-tasted green-hop vegetal backfire and delivers, well, a bit more than This. 

There's the bad: Shoe's Green Hop is a masterclass in how many beer faults you can fit into one glass.

There's the ugly: if Ledbury Gold is supposed to be a brownish Caramac-infused beer then they need to rethink. If it was their bitter mislabelled... they still need to rethink. And I'm surprised just how many people on Twitter remember Caramac. And was scared to find you can still buy them. One of the few chocolate bars that made me want to vomit half-way through eating it.

But there were gems everywhere; Friday Beer's Pinnacle Ale had a great rye edge that slashed through pithy hops; Wye Valley Hop 101 was elegant in its simplicity.

Barely an hour at a festival is not really long enough. Especially when you're sat near the kitchen with the waft of pan-fried haddock making you feel hungrier. It's a shame to say I can't re-visit this weekend, a pub that's only five fields walk from my front door. Such is the overly-hectic life of this reluctant scooper. So if you happen to be east of Derby this weekend, drop by. And if Mayfield's Hop Picker's Glory is on, let me know. I really fancy trying it and will be tempted to manipulate social expectations so I can score a pint of it.

More detail about the Royal Oak, Ockbrook can be found on their website and Facebook page.