Nope, I’m not detailing my adventures to Jerusalem (though I was there about a year ago on business, and it was pretty awe inspiring):
But rather, I paid homage to the oldest ongoing ale house still standing (or still buried – more to come on that in a minute) in England. When we visited England on vacation about 3 years ago, Pam and I happened across this pub and tried it out. It was awesome to go recently and see it again through familiar eyes this time. A note: it can be a bit of a tourist trap (particularly if you hit it in tourist season), but so are all the other Bavarian Brewhouses that I liked to frequent (like the Augustiner).
As you approach the (now quite industrial) town of Nottingham, you’ll notice that its castle sits atop a sandstone hill/cliff. The castle had humble beginnings as a wooden motte-and-bailey at the turn of the last millennium (around 1000 AD). During the 1100’s, King Henry II (Richard the Lionheart’s dad) decided to strengthen it with some stone. Structure was planned for a great hall, some bedrooms, kitchens and myriads of other rooms during this stone conversion. And of course, every castle has to have a brewery to keep the nobility appeased… but really: no one knew how to purify water back then, so turning it into ale (where the booze kills all the bad stuff) was the only safe way to prevent Montezuma’s Revenge (apparently his reputation preceded him; young Montezuma didn’t terrorize the Spanish until about 500 years later). Regardless, to keep the brewed concoctions at a cool temperature, King Henry’s men realized they had the perfect brewing cellars naturally built into the sandstone crevasses and caverns below the castle.
As they continued to brew during the following decades, they also realized that some of the caves made great prison cells and cock fighting pits. And then in the year 1188 AD (just prior to men being merry and robbing the rich to give to the poor), Richard the Lionheart (who barely even spoke English, by the way) and his dear ol’ dad had a falling out. The Lionheart didn’t appreciate being disinherited by his father, and pursued him with an army until his father’s death in 1189 AD. And as everyone knows, one of King Richard’s first deeds after taking the English throne in 1189 was rallying the troops to go fight the Third Crusade against the Saracens. The war invitations were sent, and the nobility came from all reaches of England to meet up with the Lionheart at Nottingham Castle (apparently his favoured summer mansion) and press on towards France to get thee to Acre in Israel. It is said that many of them trypped (“stayed” in ye very olde English) at the Inn below the castle, quaffed themselves on some ale, and marched onward towards Jerusalem.
Therefore, established in 1189 is Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem.
Other interesting tidbits about the Pub:
- 150 years after King Richard the Lionheart’s tryppes from the Inn, King Edward II (the gay prince from Braveheart) was murdered by his wife Isabella (the French broad from Braveheart) and her (straight) lover, Roger Mortimer. I guess after the murder, Isabella and Mortimer celebrated her Queenhood with feast and fornication in the castle above. Only when her 17-year-old son (Edward III) found out that she’d murdered his father, he gathered a small band of merry men and raided the castle from beneath. They utilized the tunnels that made up the Inn and Brewery to catch the lovers in the act. Ultimately, one hanged (Mortimer) and the other (mother Isabella) was sent to permanent
- The facade you see now sticking out of the sandstone was added in the 1660s, shortly after ownership went from the Priory of Lenton (who also had strong ties with the Knights Templar before they were decreed satan worshipers by His Holiness in 1312) to private English citizens.
- They say the place is haunted (perhaps from all the prisoners that died in the caves throughout the centuries?). Some workers have reported mysteriously crushed pint glasses in the morning (hmmm… alcohol+glasses+people usually equals something getting broken…). There’s also a model galleon (boat, for the uneducated) that used to be with the other models that is now separated: the last three people to clean it in the 1800s all mysteriously died, and the people that moved it to the glass casing (where it now sits) fell deathly ill for a period of time after they handled it.
- There’s also a “pregnancy chair” in the corner claiming that “any female who’s sat upon it has quickly become pregnant” (and then it asks you not to sit on it, ha!). It sounds pretty gimmicky… or perhaps it was the chair that Isabella and Mortimer used to romp around in?
Though the location itself may have been serving homemade brewskies since 1189 or even before, the beer they currently serve certainly isn’t as old nor does it have as rich a history… but you could almost be fooled since it has its own label of Olde Trip. At an old place such as this, I really just want to believe that I’m drinking the same slop that Friar Tuck was getting tanked on back 1000 years ago. It may not be authentic, but it’s still rather tasty and is also a true English-brewed cask ale from a few hours’ drive down the road at Greene King Brewery in Suffolk, who has been brewing since 1799. A micro-establishment Greene King is not: they also brew heavy hitters like Old Speckled Hen, Belhaven, and Abbot Ale.
The beer is better than average. The food is just average, but the hour long transit to get to the pub probably makes the food taste a little bit better. Where this pub excels is in its atmosphere. Not only are you basking in old historied real estate with tie-ins to Robin Hood and Braveheart, but you truly get to dine and drink in the caves that have been in use for over a millennium.
Unlike the last time, I was much smarter on where/how we parked so as not to take home any unwanted souvenirs… say, like a parking ticket from the Sheriff of Nottingham, himself.