County Stat Attack Week 28 - Northamptonshire

Apologies for the late posting, we are camping in North Yorkshire and getting this together was quite difficult.

Straight back down the M1 and we get to Northamptonshire for week 28. The ‘Rose of the Shires’ is sort of East Midlands, sort of East Anglia but really neither seemingly. Surrounded by 8 other counties, the most borders of any by the looks it is an inland county quite low lying throughout. There are few signs of early occupation showing how difficult the land was to manage, the Romans did conquer the area though building Watling Street (now A5) in the process. The area became part of Anglo Saxon Mercia after the Romans then eventually overrun by the Danes. It was finally retaken by the Anglo Saxons in 942. Rockingham Castle was built for William the Conqueror and continued as a Royal Fortress through Tudor times. Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned at Fotheringham Castle within the county.
The county is mostly River basins flowing to The Wash with the River Nene being the most prominent. The highest point only being 225 meters in height. The largest towns are Northampton, Kettering, Corby, Wellingborough and Rushden.

On Ratebeer we have 38 Breweries with 24 of these still active and 14 closed. Only 2 of these are Client / Commissioner breweries.

The oldest brewery we have on Ratebeer for Northamptonshire is Frog Island Brewery of Northampton (Est 1994), now sadly closed. The oldest still active we have is Rockingham Ales of Blatherwycke (Est 1997).
The brewery with the longest history that I could find for Northamptonshire is Phipps NBC, Established in 1801 in Towcester by Pickering Phipps. They opened a second brewery in Northampton in 1817. Phipps grew by swallowing up other regional breweries from the late 19th century through to the late 1950’s, giving them 1131 tied houses. In 1960 they were bought themselves by Watney Mann who then dropped all the traditional draught beers and became keg only. The brewery itself was unloaded to Carlsberg Group and developed into an enormous lager factory which still dominates in Northampton. Managers from the old Pub chain attached to the brewery eventually obtained the naming rights from Scottish and Newcastle and commenced brewing under the Phipps name at Grainstore Brewery then in 2014 they opened their own brewery in Northampton and currently brew as Phipps NBC.

The Northants brewery with the largest range we have is Three Hills Brewing of Woodford (Est 2016) with 198 beers.

The Ratebeer Awards for 2020 gave us Braybrooke Beer Co. of Braybrooke (Est 2018) as best Brewery and Three Hills In Pursuit No 01 as Best Beer. No award was made for New Brewery.

The Top 10 Beers for Northamptonshire are –

  1. Three Hills BPAVK – Triple Chocolate
  2. Three Hills BPAVK – Peanut Brittle
  3. Three Hills BPAVK – Maple Pancake
  4. Three Hills BPAVK – Coconut Macaroon
  5. Three Hills BPAVK – Chocolate, Strawberry, Marshmallow
  6. Three Hills In Pursuit No 01
  7. Three Hills Of Juice No 08
  8. Three Hills Of Juice No 02
  9. Great Oakley Wagtail
  10. Great Oakley Abbey Stout

The Top Bars / Pubs for Northamptonshire are –

  1. Malt Shovel Tavern, Northampton – 84
  2. Albion Brewery Bar (Phipps), Northampton – 76
  3. Wig and Pen, Northampton – 73
  4. Alexandra Arms, Northampton – 69
  5. Moon on the Square (JDW), Northampton – 67

The Top 5 Raters of Northamptonshire Beers are –

  1. @maeib
  2. @imdownthepub
  3. @Grumbo
  4. @Mr_Pink_152
  5. @fonefan

Currently you will only require 22 beers from Northants to get into the Top50.

The Rater who resides in Northamptonshire with the most Ratings is -
@maeib who is still active on here. Many of us will remember Maeib from the early days of Ratebeer, we used to see him every year at Merton Beer Festival and on days out with his young family. Good to see him still active with us.


Northamptonshire is another neighbouring county, will Oxfordshire ever come up? Although I can easily walk to a few places in the county on its western border I rarely do, although my Mum lives in the county, so I do get there quite a bit to visit her, however the pubs in her village don’t really interest me. I have done a couple of the long distance paths through the county, whilst training up for the harder National trails, so I have done the Jurassic Way and the Northants stretch of the Macmillan Way. I have been to the old Football ground that The Cobblers used to play at, The County Ground which they used to share part of the cricket pitch and made for a weird atmosphere. The best thing about the County Ground was that strangely Status Quo used to play in the clubhouse every year, before they became too famous, we had great times in there. I used to help out a travelling disco and a lot of our work seemed to be in Northants, particularly Woodford Halse, Brackley and Byfield. At Woodford we used to back Radio 1 DJ’s and had great times, Tony Blackburn, Dave Lee Travis, Peter Powell amongst others, which also included Jimmy Saville, now then now then. I have some stories to tell about that night!

I am 2nd for number of ratings of Northants beers with 226, gradually clawing back Maeib’s lead but Covid has really restricted the flow of beers from the county, only 4 so far this year and a lowly 10 for all of last year. Proudly I am number 1 for total Northants breweries with 30. The beers average a lowly 3.02 unfortunately and Northamptonshire is 27th in my list of counties.

The breweries I have had most beers from are –

  1. Carlsberg UK (Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Co.) – 26
  2. Nobby’s Brewery (Closed) – 25
  3. Nene Valley Brewery – 23
  4. Potbelly Brewery – 21
  5. Phipps NBC, Gun Dog Ales and Hoggley’s Brewery all on 12

I have only marked 3 beers with a score of 4 or over –

  1. Potbelly Beijing Black – 4.3
  2. Great Oakley Wagtail – 4
  3. Three Hills The Mole – 4
    I must get hold of more Three Hills.

The Northants Breweries with the highest average are –

  1. Three Hills Brewing – 3.573
  2. Great Oakley Brewery – 3.555
  3. Maule Brewing Co. – 3.433
  4. Silverstone Brewing Co. – 3.325

I have only reviewed 9 pubs in the county, which is rather pitiful for a neighbouring county. Best are

  1. Malt Shovel Tavern, Northampton – 84

And that’s it, I cannot recommend any others at present. Not sure if it’s me or the county that needs to do better.


The first thing I think of when anyone mentions Northamptonshire are the lovely girls of Corby. They were (maybe still are?) known affectionately (NOT) as ‘The Corby Commandos’ by all the personnel at RAF Wittering, where they would come en-masse to the weekly NAAFI Disco and cause havoc, frightening any newly posted in airmen by fighting over them!

Next I think of a Lager Plant. Then the horrible supporters of Northampton Town and the nicer ones who followed Rushden & Diamonds. Been to both towns a few times, but never visited the Lager Plant.

My beer stats are not too impressive and I’ve never reviewed a place in the county, I intend to rectify that when I can, along with a couple of other ‘easy to get to counties’.

38 different rates, 2 of which are ciders, average score of 3.02.

38 rates gets me to 30th on the leader board and has the county sit 39th in my list of English counties.

Only beer above 3.8 is Tetleys Trust Porter @ 4.1
Lowest rate is 1.7 for SKOL Super

Breweries sampled sits at 13, 4 of which have closed. No Cideries, Mead or Sake’s
Carlesberg 13 (2 of which are ciders)
Three Hills 5
Frog Island 4 (closed)




25 beers sampled. 7 Three Hills 5 Nene Valley 3 Gt Oakley 3 Gun Dog 3 Pot Belly. None above 3.8 and no Carlsberg at all (I think I gave it up once my testicles descended).
I used to regularly take the kids to Boughton House to release them on the adventure playground before health and safety stopped them traversing trees with just a rope between them and the distant ground. They all survived, but that was all the excitement Northants yielded and the beer has not exceeded these expectations. I suspect foreign visitors think the county very English as they make their pilgrimages to Althorp and the gravesite, but if any of them read this, we are really not that dull.


A mere one tick - a terribly written rating of Tetley’s significant only in the fact that it was entered on my first day of using Ratebeer, which is actually kind of fun.


Northamptonshire seems to be my constant on Ratebeer. Even though I have never lived there, I lived in three bordering counties since joining RB. I’m currently sitting 8th in the table with 110 rates - could do better but I’m not complaining.

My top beers for the county:

While I really dig Three Hills, for some reason I’ve never really made that much of a habit of seeking them out. I’ve had 17 of their beers, second to Nene Valley (25) and followed by Phipps (11), Potbelly (9) and Carlsberg UK (7).

Sad Northants stat: I’ve tried 17 Northants breweries but only 9 of them are still active. That’s a depressing record.

Another sad Northants stat: It’s one of two counties (along with Staffordshire) to have two breweries in my bottom 10 (Potbelly and Carlsberg UK). It also is home to my lowest-rated beer, take a bow Special Brew (0.9).

I’ve rated 21 places in Northamptonshire. I like the area well enough, but I think that I’m usually here either going to somewhere else, so it’s both more and fewer places than I expected. It’s mostly cask ale territory, not a bad thing in itself, but more craftier venues can be found as well. Quite a few decent places, but the top would be:

Weird that my top two are in Rushden, which doesn’t stick out as a beer town. Perhaps the Hopmaster General was an over-rate but it was such a thrill to find a craft beer bar in such a quiet town so I stand by it.


Just the one Northants rate for me, and that was San Miguel, shocking! Looking down the list of brewers, it’s only Carlsberg and Three Hills I’m really aware of, and the latter only recently due to social media. Only visits to the county I can really recall were a race-day at Silverstone and a very brief stop at Billing Aquadrome - so all in all I have very little to offer here, goodnight and God bless!


I think we can all agree that Northamptonshire is home to the worst town in the country which isn’t Aldershot: Corby.

I’ve visited Kettering for a match. But that was when I was a naive youngster and instead of buying beer I bought McDonald’s and a Hot Hot Heat album.

10 beers and one cider:


40 rates from Northamptonshire, the highest with 3.9 is Nene Valley Double Big Bang Theory which is gluten free also

There are 11 active cideries in Northamptonshire, with Harefields Craft Cider from Northampton having the highest cider count with 13.

The top raters of Northamptonshire Cideries and Ciders are:

NorthamptonshireCider Ratings




Don’t forget poor old Northants.

Despite being a neighbouring county to my native Bucks (albeit way away at the opposite end to me), Northants does not put in a good performance for me. It’s my 12th least rated county with just 21 beers rated.

I’m quite amazed that’s just one rate off being in the top 50… I would say I’ll have to go and snag some more Northants beers to make the top 50, but given that it’s my second lowest scoring county (with an average rating of 2.72) I’m not sure I want to!

My top rated beers are:

I really liked Frog Island - I had superb service from them when I ordered some beers with custom labels from them for a gift, and I was rather sad when I heard they’d closed.

I’ve tried brews from 9 different breweries (3 sadly closed) and one cidery. I’ve tried most beers from [hangs head in shame] Carlsberg UK, which is my second-lowest rated producer on RB with an average rating of 1.83 and is single-handedly responsible for dragging by Northampton average rating down to such a low level.

I haven’t seen too much of Northamptonshire, and haven’t managed to rate any places yet - it’s another county that one tends to pass through. However, we went to English Heritage’s superb History In Action show for several years (I’ll never forget a group of medieval pikemen re-enactors going rogue and attacking a WWII tank - and “winning”!), I’d also like to do a shout out for Rushton Triangular Lodge - surely one of the weirdest and most fascinating follies in the country.

It’s a tie for the highest point in the county (it’s the only traditional county that could’ve appeared on “Twin Peaks”!). Both contenders are a little way SW of Daventry, are 224.3m high and are pleasant enough if unremarkable low grassy hills. Arbury Hill was a little nicer and had slightly better views than the ambitiously-named Big Hill in my opinion; however I understand that since my visit Arbury has had a motocross circuit built on top of it so it may be less attractive now…


Nice to see another of my neighbouring counties. So many places have a Lincolnshire border. But this is the shortest. The Lincolnshire / Northamptonshire border is only about 40 meters and the shortest of any county border.

For me Northamptonshire is a county dominated by 1 brewery Three Hills. 90 of my 169 beers are from Three Hills and they made 9 of my top ten beers for the region.

The of the other 22 breweries I have tried Nene Valley and Braybrooke are probably the better ones.

I tried Braybrooke Baltic Porter earlier today.

I have only rated two places:

Place Rate
Nene Valley 72
Shoulder of Mutton 64

I have been close to the top three for Northamptonshire for a while but hard to keep up with @Grumbo.


9 rates in total for me, 8 from Carlsberg UK and 1 from Three Hills. Naturally my highest rated beer came from the later. Having said that, there is something liberating when drinking Special Brew straight from the can while watching TV and wearing just shorts.

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You a ‘Cheesy Wotsit’ fan too?


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Yes, poor old Northamptonshire – never won the County Championship.

And a measly two rates from me (one each from Great Oakley and Nene Valley), though thankfully others have confessed to even lower totals.

Even my own records show only a paltry 13 rates from 5 breweries Nene Valley top with 4). But NONE from Carlsberg I’m glad to say !

Not rated any places in the county, though I have been to the Malt Shovel (several years ago) and would recommend it. Apart from Wetherspoons that could be the only place I’ve actually visited in the county.

On the plus side, I have visited the cricket grounds at Northampton, Kettering and Wellingborough – though not since the mid 80s. All to watch Hampshire play. Also watched Northants play Lancashire at Old Trafford, with Colin Milburn playing after he lost his eye. Standing ovation to the wicket, then a standing ovation back to the pavilion after he was run out for 1 !

Also a couple of memorable bus spotting trips to the county in the 1980s. Northampton to see the last Daimler CVG / Roe buses (route 13 if I remember correctly). And then Corby for Routemasters …


More a pork scratching fan myself!

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Well I appear to be continuing my theme of being exactly one week behind when it comes to my county updates.

Ok so, Northamptonshire…I guess with it being a neighbouring county to Oxfordshire I used to visit here frequently, particularly as Banbury was practically a border town for Oxfordshire with both Northamptonshire and Warwickshire right on the doorstep. I had family or friends in Middleton Cheney, Towcester, Aynho, Kings Sutton. To be fair you could walk from Banbury to most of them in no time and Loz had grandparents from Overthorpe which is practically a suburb of Banbury. Much further afield one of my very best friends and regular Merton Beer Festival attendee Bob lives in Rothwell and another best mate Dadger lives in Woodford Halse, both Banbury boys but I guess Northants is on the doorstep and is a lot cheaper to live in than Oxfordshire. It’s an ok county, I haven’t really done too much exploring, we used to go to Northampton a lot when we were kids as it was as quick if not quicker to get to than Oxford. I have been to a few football games in the county to follow my beloved Worcester City, so Rushden & Diamonds and Rothwell are two that spring to mind, I have been to Brackley Town but as a neutral and it was well before the money started flowing into that club. My first proper gig was also in Northampton at the Derngate, me and my brother went to see The Communards.

Ok so ratings, I have 69 which puts me in 19th but I am actually level with the two raters above me, I am a little surprised that I hadn’t got more ratings from a neighbouring county to be honest, but to be fair, I think that it has been a very average at best county for beers and only in the last couple of years has there been a couple of more exciting newcomers hit the scene, typically after I moved away.

My top beers seem to be skewed towards Great Oakley with a random selection of others including the excellent Potbelly Beijing Black filling the remaining places. I suspect that Maule would have more if I were still in the UK and perhaps Three Hills and Braybrooke, but Great Oakley we have driven to and picked up directly from the brewery for our Beer Festival in Merton and they were really nice folk and really solid cask beers.

Not that many place rates, seven in total, I suspect that I have hit many, many more but just never got to rating them. It appears that Northampton is top of the tree in terms of places, though I am surprised that I haven’t rated the Alexander in Kettering as I have been there a few times and it is a great place, well it was when I went.

Ok so that is another neighbouring county done, a week late but never mind, I wonder when Oxfordshire and Worcestershire (the only two counties that I have lived in) will appear!


Northamptonshire, one of only 2 counties that I’ve never set foot in… suppose that’s not too bad for someone that’s never lived on the big island. Only had 2 beers, both Tetley’s, so they don’t really count. Just booked the wife’s car for a UK road trip in August so may well take some notes for a overnight stay


Week 28 - getting there!

I’ve never been there - I’ve got some wayward cousins who live there and not much reason to visit them, as I haven’t seen them for 35 years at least! About a couple of years ago, it did look like a visit was necessary to get into the to 50 list, as I had less than 10 ratings, but all that changed with Three Hills and their super expensive cans! Once the threshold of 22 is broken, it’s only 20 to get to 30th, and then you can relax probably for a couple of years.

I have rated 99 beers from Northants which is my 22nd county and is enough to get to 12th place on the list. That’ll do for now, unless I stumble over them in passing!

I have rated 9 beers from Three Hills at 4 or above (I make that 9% scoring a 4 or more, so pretty high). These are as follows!

Three Hills BPAVK - Cherry Bakewell 4.4
Three Hills BPAVK - Maple Pancake 4.3
Three Hills BPAVK - Cognac / Bourbon 4.1
Three Hills BPAVK - Hazelnut Praline 4.1
Three Hills BPAVK - Triple Chocolate 4.0
Three Hills 55.5833° N, 2.7167° W - Wee Heavy 4.0
Three Hills BPAVK - Fudge Brownie 4.0
Three Hills BPAVK - Pomerol 4.0
Three Hills / Carnival Mokokoko 4.0
(I find their cans very highly carbonated, particularly the IPAs, meaning you feel your £8 can is even more expensive).

I also have time for the lager efforts of Braybrooke (good examples of their styles).

Places (online) - The Beer Garage


I finally managed to visit the county on my road trip. I trip to Sixfields for a decent home win for Northampton & another of the 92 Football League grounds ticked off. Stayed over in the town to visit a few of the pubs (best been Lamplighter) Albion Brewery Bar home of Phipps Brewery was also a enjoyable place to spend some time with bottles to take away for my home collection.