Nottingham (Canning Circus), Nottinghamshire:
Friday 17th April 2015
This pub was the Red Lion until the winter of 2010 / 2011. It was then closed and boarded up. However, unlike so many others in a similar situation it survived to live another day. In this case the knight in shining armour was the Blue Monkey Brewery as they purchased it to become their first tied pub. It opened on the 24th June 2011 as the Organ Grinder.
Now, let me make something clear, the brewery’s logo is definitely not a monkey. As all can see it is a Chimpanzee and if an organ grinder ever had one it would probably end up as pure chaos.
However, let me tell you about Blue Monkey. It was formed in 2008 with a 10 barrel plant in Ilkeston. It went well from the off and soon expanded to 20 barrels. Still there was a need to expand and it moved to an industrial park in Giltbrook with a larger brewery. This location is close to the site of the erstwhile Hardy Hanson’s Brewery.
The pub is believed to have been a tied house of the Nottingham Brewery. There is a relatively new brewery of this name but this refers to the original. It was in operation by 1847 at 52-56 Mansfield Road, just north of the city centre. The old brewery was completely rebuilt in 1879.
The beautiful Rose of England pub was its tap and that was constructed in 1899. The Victoria station of the Great Central Railway opened opposite in the early 1890s.
Its beers were noted as “Rock Ales” as the brewery was built on top of pure rock and some fermentation was done in caves. It and its 150 pubs were taken over by Tennant’s of Sheffield in 1944, and brewing ceased on the site in 1952.
Interestingly Whitbread purchased it shortly afterwards to brew some of their national brands such as Mackeson. They closed it for the final time in 1960. Ironically Whitbread then took over Tennant’s in 1961 and eventually closed the Sheffield Exchange Brewery in 1993.
Back to the Organ Grinder, I was with Linda and we entered through the central door. The main room is quite large and the bar is on the right. There is the normal mix of pub furniture with comfortable fitted stuffed settles by the windows on each side of the main door. Opposite the bar counter there is a fireplace that houses a cast iron stove.
To the right of the stove is a rather amazing wooden construction that is a bookcase at the top, a store for the logs used on the fire on its lower level. It also has a shelf and there were two stools in front of it so it acts as a sort of table as well. The flooring is wood boards throughout the pub. At the far end of the bar is a small area with a piano and the two walls here are covered with all the framed awards that have been won by the pub and brewery.
At the back of the room there are a few steps up and there is another small drinking area. There is even a sofa here on the left. Exiting the pub through the rear door brings you to a small covered area with a wooden corner bench seat that is obviously for smokers judging by the ashtrays on the two upturned barrels. Keep on going to a higher level and there is a nice outside drinking area.
The cask beer choice is, as expected, was dominated by the home side. For our selection there was a choice of these regular beers: BG Sips (4.0%), a golden ale; Sanctuary (4.1%), a bitter; Ape Ale (5.4%), an IPA and Infinity (4.6%), an American Pale Ale.
Specials from Blue Monkey were: Guerilla (4.9%), a stout; Four Wise Monkeys (3.6%), a bitter; Right Turn Clyde (4.3%), a golden ale and Marmoset (3.6%), another golden ale.
There was also a guest beer in the form of Molson-Coors Sharp’s (Rock, Cornwall) Doom Bar (4.0%) yet why anybody would want to drink this instead of the excellent Blue Monkey beers is beyond me. There were also ciders and perries in the form of Gwynt y ddraig (Pontypridd, Glamorgan, South Wales) Black Dragon Cider (7.2%) and Broadoak (Clutton, Somerset) Perry (7.5%).
What about food? Well not a lot, unless you like pork pies or sausage rolls. The usual packaged snacks, of course. This is a cracking pub in an area of cracking pubs. Don’t miss it if you are in Nottingham.
The Organ Grinder, 21 Alfreton Road, Nottingham NG7 3JE. Tel: 0115 970 0630
Open: Sunday-Wednesday 12.00-23.00; Thursday 12.00-23.00;
Canning Circus is around ten minutes walk from the city centre.
It is a junction for three separate major routes out of the city so therefore has many bus routes, 15 in all, most of which come from Lower Parliament Street.