Thursday 12th February 2015
East Kent is where the modern micropub phenomenon began and it is where the greatest concentration of them can be found. However this form of pub appears to have also taken off in the East Midlands where there are now a considerable number. On 16th April 2014 yet another was added when the Chequered Flag opened in Castle Donington.
Those familiar with motor sport will know that there is a race track here. It has been used for motor racing but is probably better known for motor cycle events and is now used for everything from Karting upwards.
So, in a way, it is almost inevitable that the town’s new micropub should bear the name of the famous finishing flag.
Another reason you may have heard of the place is the massive rock festivals of the past that were hosted at Donington Park. Now it is the home of the annual Download Festival which at the time of writing was in its tenth year.
The town is very close to East Midlands Airport. This is advantageous as it provides excellent bus links to the pub from neighbouring cities.
The beginnings of this pub have an interesting story. Michael Willies and Caroline Campbell were living on a narrow boat in the Marina at Willington. Purely by chance they met Gary Hodder who told them of his plans for the Cask and Pottle at Tutbury in Staffordshire. Please see an article on it in BeerVisits. They watched his progress with interest and when it proved to be successful they took the plunge in Castle Donington.
The pub was certainly successful and became an instant institution in the town. However the owners were unable to continue with the project. So, in December 2014 Bert and Chrissie took over the reins.
It seems that Bert had already worked in the pub before this. It was he that I met on the early evening I called in.
Bert explained that he now operated the pub and told me that it was in the basic mould of a micropub with a few twists. Before I took the photographs I gave him my card and explained why I was doing it. He looked at it and said that he was also Bob. He said that when he moved to the town he was Robert (and still is) but for some reason his name was corrupted to Bert; how strange!
Bert’s background before the pub was in high quality metallic paint business, as in that you find on the outside of racing cars. So, there was another connection from the race track and the pub. His pub is very small yet decorated in a modern style. A few steps up from the street take you into the room of the pub with a table for four or more on the left and a corner seating unit on the right.
Further down the small room are shelves on the walls along with stools. On the left there is a modern heater (fire?) on the wall. I thought it might be just a prop with its flames burning behind the glass but Bert assured me that it really did work.
Following the shelf on the right is the bar itself, or should I call it the serving area? Its front is decorated with soft leatherette cushioned squares arranged in the chequered flag pattern.
Behind the “Bar” are shelves that hold soft drinks and wines. The cool room for the cask beers and ciders is visible through a glass screen. The casks are on metal racks and the beers are served directly from the cask. The facilities are located along a small corridor to the left of the cool room and is decorated with the pump clips of all the beers you’ve missed.
There was a choice of no less than six beers and these were Nutbrook (Stanley Common, Derbyshire) Responsibly (4.0%); Brunswick (Brunswick Inn, Derby) White Feather (3.6%); Burton Bridge (Burton, Staffordshire) Stairway to Heaven (5.0%); Shardlow Brewery (Shardlow, Leicestershire) Reverend Eaton’s (4.5%); Scribbler’s Ales (Stapleford, Nottinghamshire) Hoppy Potter (4.2%) and Leather Britches (The Tap House, Smisby, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire) Stouter (5.0%).
I think you’ll agree that it is great list that shows loyalty to the East Midlands. Unfortunately it is not possible for the cider menu to be as local. Nevertheless it is a good list comprising of three from Gwynt y ddraig (Pontypridd, Glamorgan, Wales). They were Haymaker (6.5%), Pyder (6.0%) (a cider/ perry mix) and Happy Daze (4.5%).
There was also Abrahall’s (Bishop Frome, Worcestershire) Slack Alice (4.5%). From the same village there was also Snail’s Bank Tumbledown (4.0%) which I think is special as it is normally 5.2%.
Of course there are the normal packaged snacks found in most micropubs such as nuts, Crisps, Scratchings and Cheddars. The Midlands is the home of the English pork pie and here they certainly don’t disappoint. The pies come from Smith Hall Farm at Hulland Ward near Belper, Derbyshire. This farm is certified organic for cattle and pigs. Twp of their products are offered in the Chequered Flag; a large pork pie topped with Stilton or Shropshire Blue cheese, suitable for two and a single pork pie for one. Both are served with pickle.
There is a good mix of wines at very reasonable prices and they offer Prosecco in small and large bottles (Cava is so yesterday!). There is a range of soft drinks from Fentiman’s and Frobisher. So if you are in the area this is a pub well worth visiting.
Chequered Flag, 32 Borough Street, Castle Donington, DE74 2LA. Tel: 07780 507926
Monday: Closed. Open: Tuesday-Thursday 15.00-22.30; Friday 15.00-23.00;
Saturday 12.00-23.00; Sunday 12.00-1600
Transport to the pub benefits from its close proximity to East Midlands Airport.
There are two major routes of the Skylink bus: Nottingham-Beeston-Long Eaton station-Castle Donington-EMA-Loughborough. Derby-Castle Donington-EMA-Loughborough-Leicester. They run every 20 minutes during the day and hourly throughout the night.
I caught the Nottingham route from Beeston, the stop is just 5 minutes from the excellent Victoria Hotel. I left Castle Donington on the other service to Derby.
The grandly named Bus Station (2 shelters) in Castle Donington is about five minutes walk to the pub.