Friday, February 12, 2016

Lancastrians join beer from the wood craze

By The Bloke from Hull
The 12th Pendle Beer Festival recently took place at the Muni in Colne, the town probably best known as the birthplace of Wallace Hartley, the bandleader on the ill-fated Titanic (Harry Chapin fans please note!). 
Run by the East Lancs branch of CAMRA, this year’s theme was the 200th anniversary of the building of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and around half of the beers featured were from breweries along its length. However, of particular interest to us “woodentops” were the six beers in wooden casks, two each from Worsthorne and Fighting Cocks (both Lancashire) and Elland (God’s own county - Yorkshire). 
From Worsthorne, Old Trout was a 3.7% ABV smooth full flavoured red-brown ale and certainly very drinkable, whilst the Chestnut Mare at 4.0% ABV was lightly bittered and malty and lived up to its name in colour.

Fighting Cocks is the latest brewery to open in East Lancashire. Situated behind the Italian Restaurant at the pub near Cliviger it is the brainchild of Carmelo Pillitteri who has been experimenting for a few years before “going for it”. At 3.9% ABV the Blighty was a lovely refreshing golden blonde ale. The Spaghetti Stout (5.9% ABV) was brewed with said water from the restaurant! And very nice too.
From Elland brewery was the single hopped golden session beer called Chinook at 3.9% ABV. It is the newest addition to their core range and is already a firm favourite amongst regular customers especially those at the “home of beers from the wood” – The Junction at Castleford
Saving the best until last and quite rightly as the strongest -1872 Porter, a 6.5% ABV beer which really needs no introduction. Arguably the most decorated beer in recent British brewing history. A rich, complex, dark ruby porter from an 1872 recipe. Supreme Champion Beer of Britain and three times National Winter Ales Champion. Wowee!
All six beers were on top form and East Lancs CAMRA are to be congratulated on sourcing them. The word spreads and the revolution continues!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Riverhead says join us for International Women's Collaboration Brew Day

Liz Crosby, of Ossett Brewery, has kindly been in touch to tell us about Riverhead Brewery's involvement on International Women's Colloboration Brew Day.
The Marsden based brewery has been an active participant in the event over the last few years.
But we will turn this over to Liz who can tell you the whole story.
Liz said: "The Pink Boots Society is an organisation that promotes the continued education of women working in the beer industry through scholarship opportunities. 
"2014 saw the first International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day (IWCBD). A day organized by Sophie de Ronde, a brewing technologist for Muntons Center of Excellence
"IWCBD falls on International Women’s Day (March 8) and encourages women to brew together.
Riverhead Brewery has been part of this fantastic event in 2014 and 2015 and we hope to have a great day again in 2016. 
"We’re inviting interested women to join us on March 5 between 10am and 5pm and brew with us to celebrate IWCBD. 
"You can be an experienced homebrewer, someone who is interested in homebrewing but not too sure how to get started, or even someone who just loves beer and wants to learn more about the production side of things and help raise money and awareness of Pennine Domestic Violence Group.
We are holding a launch event on Saturday March 12 at 2pm, so that everyone can try the beer.
We hope you can be part of this great day."

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Scottish beer festival at Hillsborough Hotel

Swannay Brewery 
Apologies for the short notice but there is an excellent Scottish Beer Festival on this weekend at The Hillsborough Hotel in Sheffield.
I stumbled across it yesterday while on the tram, and I'm glad I did.
First up was a new beer for me: Island Hopping from Swannay Brewery, of Orkney. A 3.9% session beer made with New Zealand (Nelson Sauvin) and American hops. A lovely beer, which I had to revisit later in the session.
Next was Cromaty Brewery's  Kowabunga, a 4.6% pale. The beer's name and the brewery's tasting notes probably tell you all you need to know about the inspiration for it: "Totally bodacious, American hopped pale ale destined for your inner pizza loving ninja turtle. A luscious sweet malt base gives a good body to this beer whilst vigorous late hopping in the kettle from 5 varieties of hops provides a unmistakably juicy flavour and aroma. Kowabunga dudes!"

Next was a beer that was recommended to me by the very helpful and friendly bar staff: Tempest Brewery's  Cascadian. A 3.9% pale sessioner, which was on stillage in the conservatory of the Langsett Road pub. It was a very good recommendation. 
I hit rewind next and ended up going back to Island Hopping, so much did I enjoy it.
My last beer was one I think I had at the Navigation's memorable Scottish ales festival a few year's back: Loch Lomond Brewery's Kessog. It's a 5.2% dark ruby beer with more than a hint of chocolate in the finish. A perfect way to end a flying Scottish session.
The festival is on again today (Sunday) and hopefully some of the beers will still be on during the week. It is well worth a visit.
I've just learnt via the pub's twitter page, @HillsboroHotel1, that all the festival beers are £2 a pint today.
The event is raising money for St Luke's Hospice.
Getting there:
The Hillsborough Hotel is based at Langsett Road and is close to the Primrose View tram stop on the blue and yellow routes. It is also very well served by buses.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Mr Foleys Festival

Last year I made a trip across to Leeds to sample the beer festival at Mr Foleys on The Headrow, and when I heard that this weekend there was to be another, it seemed rude not to revisit.

The beers are on a mixture of stillage and handpull with around 30 available, with the majority being on the upstairs stillage. Thirds were, thankfully, available.

I arrived around 1130 am, and was the first visitor there. I bagged a table and set to work with the beer list. Sadly, I had already missed two beers I wanted which had run off the night before but there was still plenty of choice. A lot of the beers were a little on the strong side, so the third really came into it's own later in the day.

As usual I like to start with light and weaker beer and go stronger - at least this was the plan .Hopcaft 'Mashup no1' was first up, and a good start it was. One of  a limited run of 16 barrels so one not to be missed. I followed with Ashover 'The Fabrick' , a totally different style of light beer but still pleasant, and I do like their new style pump clips. These two were both off the main bar so it seemed sensible to start on those on stillage.

Vocation 'Pride and Joy' with mosaic hops drew my attention and was up the usual standard I associate with the brewery, Northern Monk 'New World Zest' was a dry hopped special and a little stronger at 6.2%.. It was then that things started to unravel when I decided a change of style was needed. Almasty 'Winter Saison' was weaker but packed with the flavour I had hoped for.

Bad Seed 'Smoked Maple Ale' just did not do it for me, despite the tang of Belgian yeast, I found the Pig and Porter 'Disgraceful Behaviour' a bit overwhelming taste wise. But the Cromarty ' Ghost Town' was a porter far more to my delicate taste buds.

By this time the pub was getting busy and there were three of us at my table, all comparing notes on the beers. And we found one that totally blew us away. Gary returned from the bar with something that resembled Ribena but the look on his face when he sampled it soon dismissed that thought. Celt Experience 'The Blood Moon'  was described as a blackcurrant sour. It certainly was. I tried one and it was one of the most distinctive beers I have sampled for some time. As Neil pointed out, quite rightly, not a patch on the Belgian sour beers but for an English (sorry Welsh) version it was really good once I had overcome the initial hit. I could not have drunk a lot, but it certainly did what it said on the tin.

Sadly it did taint my taste for what was to follow. I tried the 10% Anarchy 'Warhead' but although it tasted its strength it was a little one dimensional, and I decided then that my swan song should be a beer from the wood. Three were on offer, two from York and one from Ridgeside. I tried the York 'Terrier' which I thought would be the one to bring the flavours out best, but although I got a hint of the barrel it was not as pronounced as I had hoped.

But nevertheless it was a great way to spend an afternoon with plenty of good beers,at a reasonable price in  good company. Thanks to Jason and his team for another great festival and the good news that he intends another later in the year. I will be there.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Master cooper finds his apprentice

Successful candidate Kean Hiscock

By The Bloke From Hull...
After a successful summer advertising campaign for an apprentice, Master Cooper Alastair Simms finally got his man in October. The story of his business and his requirement for new blood to continue his ancient trade had gone viral in the local and National press. He was interviewed by Vanessa Feltz one lunchtime on Radio 2 and a further evening interview took place across the syndicated National local radio network. However, top of the shop was an appearance on the ITV National News. 
Hundreds of job applications arrived from near and far on Alistair’s physical and electronic mats. Following a considerable amount of sifting and narrowing down, six candidates remained by the final interview day on October 17, 2015. 
It was a bright and sunny Saturday lunchtime when they began to arrive, all agreeing that it was great to have the opportunity and a privilege to make it so far along the selection process. All bar one had previous experience of working with wood in one form or another and this was to prove crucial in the selection process which consisted of two elements, a regular sit down HR type interview and two practical aptitude tests. 
Two tasks were shown to the candidates before they were invited to “have a go”. The first was raising a cask, which in layman's terms is putting the hoops on staves while the second was dressing out - smoothing out the inside of the cask once assembled.
Two of the six candidates were well ahead of the others in these tasks and there was not much to choose between them. However, from the duo Alastair chose Kean Hiscock for a couple of reasons. Although he’d no serious experience with working with wood, Alastair saw some something of himself when he was young in Kean. He also felt that he was the embodiment of a blank canvass which could be crafted into shape.
During the practical tasks Kean showed the correct attitude. He paid full attention to the demonstrations and showed great concentration, competency and hand/eye coordination. Alastair also noticed that Kean had the same sort of dry, cheeky humour that coopers require and display.
Kean has grown up in West Yorkshire and as well as a good formal education has also excelled in an inherited family gift - sport, representing Yorkshire at Under 19 level at Rugby League. As such his ambitions had initially lain in the sporting path as a PE instructor. However, the chance of a lifetime to learn the rare skill of the cooper was a unique opportunity to strive for. He had learned of the job vacancy by word of mouth and realised that if successful it would be a massive skill to attain. He did his research in preparation and gave the impression of being a confident young man, despite later admitting that he was nervous.
When Alastair rang him later on interview day, he thought that it was going to be bad news but it was quite the reverse. He later stated: “I hope to work in the business for many years, thereby keeping the trade alive”.
From left: Wine cooper Cassandra Phillips, master cooper
Alastair Simms  and new apprentice Kean Hiscock
Prior to Kean’s appointment, Alastair’s order book was at bursting point with an ever increasing demand for his services not only to make and repair casks for beer but to also maintain and service large vats at a number of large independent breweries and cider makers. He had already taken on South Australian wine cooper, Cassandra Phillips but an apprentice was vital.
There are no technical college courses with day release facilities for learning the “art of the cooper” and Kean will learn “on the job” with one-to-one practical training. Kean’s apprenticeship has now begun and will last for four years, covering not only all practical aspects of the business but also interpersonal skills in day to day interaction with customers and clients together with learning the art of giving demonstrations and lectures to various groups around the country.
The apprenticeship is being funded externally by the London based livery company, the Worshipful Company of Coopers, which is extremely keen to encourage and support the current revival in the country and Yorkshire in particular. 
After just a couple of months at the White Rose Cooperage in Wetherby, Kean has shown a considerable aptitude to learn so many new skills and has already successfully assisted in the completion of several contracts including several vat repair jobs and lecture outings to London. When asked recently about his new job Kean stated: “It is very interesting hard work, both enjoyable and rewarding.” For his part Alastair said: “I am more than pleased with Kean’s attitude and temperament. He is making great progress.”
Long may it continue.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

North Riding Brewery Takeover

Every month The Sportsman tries to have a brewery takeover, with the entire bar being dedicated to the breweries beers and a tutored 'Meet The Brewer' tasting session. January's 'victim' was Stuart Neilson of the North Riding Brewery in Scarborough.

I didn't manage to make the evening session but an early visit to the pub yesterday revealed that the whole beer range was still available, so all was not lost,

The brewery has been going for quite a few years, initially at the eponymous hotel in Scarborough's North Bay (well worth a visit in it's own right incidentally) and because of demand the brewery enlarged and moved to an industrial estate outside the town in March last year. The pub does still brew  but the beers that I sampled were all from the new brewery.

There were 8 on offer in total, seven light, one dark. Three of them were from the brewery core range, the others being part of a session series. To take the core ones first it seemed sensible to start with the weaker and go stronger.

'US Sessions IPA' was what it said on the tin. A light, hoppy beer made with Citra, Chinook, and Willamette hops (obviously all from the US) and 3.8%. And a fine session beer it is. The next two were both single hopped 'Citra Pale (4.5%) and 'Mosaic Pale (4.3%). Citra used to be my favourite hop, and this brew was very acceptable with a decent body to showcase it, but when taken side by side with Mosaic it tasted a little - dare I say - boring. The Mosaic was bursting with fresh hop flavour and has overtaken it in my league table.

The specials also included three single hopped beers. 'Azzacca' is a newish Amercian hop. At 4.3% at decent but not outstanding beer, likewise was '484' another experimental Amercian hop. I would like to sample more of this to make a proper judgement but on this sample I would say that it may be better used in concert with other hops rather than as a single hopped beer. 'Centennial' was another single hop beer. Another old favourite and it was easy to see why, with plenty of fruit in the taste and a more bitter taste than the previous samples.

The last light beer was a 'proper' IPA; this time 'NZ IPA' - 5.5% and showcasing Nelson Sauvin hops. This was a more rounded beer that the weaker ones I had tried before, it did drink its strength but it did show off the hop excellently. But the real star of the show, which I had not really expected was the single dark beer 'Black Horizon'. Fair enough,it was 6.7% and had enough body to make it a great beer, but the balance of malt and hop was superb and the result was a beer I would gladly drink more of, but at the end of a session, its flavours would overtake anything coming after.

So what did I learn? Quite a lot actually. It was good to sample several single hopped beers side by side and it brought out why I liked certain hops over other ones. It also reinforced my opinion that Mr Neilson is one of the best brewers about, and I thank him, and John at the Sportsman for the chance to sample the range.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Wakefield CAMRA's top pub: Robin Hood

Robin Hood at Altofts. Wakefield CAMRA'S pub of the year
A chance remark last week led to a rather memorable Saturday session.
I was in Wakefield for a planning meeting for East West Fest II (May 12-14 at the Red Shed) planning meeting when I casually said to Gingerbeerking, 'Please let me know when you are going next to the Robin Hood at Altofts."
"Saturday" was the fired back reply.
Not being ones to stand on ceremony we agreed to meet up there. But we took different routes to Wakefield CAMRA's newly crowned pub of the year.
Mine was the direct one, a 15-minute walk uphill from Normanton Station whereas GBK had the rather more circuitous and interesting route, checking the Locale provision in several rural Wakefield pubs.
I arrived to find him checking the beers/breweries on the bar. They were all the requisite LocAle distance of being within a 21-mile radius of Wakey.
There was Mad Dog & Englishmen from Empire, Old Moor and Barnsley Bitter from Acorn and Topaz from Geeves.
All four were in good nick and, I believe representatives from Acorn had been in the night before and given their own beers the official seal of approval. But it was another Barnsley based beer that grabbed me from the off,  Geeves' Topaz. A single hopped session beer at 3.8 per cent. 
Sessions seem to be becoming a bit of a recurring theme for me of late. I think my days of gallivanting here there and everywhere in search of something new may be becoming more infrequent.
May be it's an age thing, but I'm more minded to let the beers come to me these days. This was the third good pub session I've had in a row (Jacob's in Bradford, The Kelham/Shakespeare's in Sheffield and now Robin Hood, Altofts).
The latter warded off some stiff competition to claim the district pub crown after only 11 months of the new management team being in charge. The Junction, Harry's and The Black Rock were all in the running.
So what singles it out? Well, I'm not a member of Wakefield so I don't have any inside track. But based on my sole visit, I'd say it it's a combination of factors: beer quality, service and attention to detail.
As far as I understand it the pub is run by a team with no previous experience in the ale trade, but when you put together their individual talents in retail, business acumen and a Doctor of Chemistry then it's a pretty heady brew.
Forgive the pun, but that leads me to another aspect. The pub will become a brew pub when on site microbrewery Tarn 51 Brewing cranks up shortly. 
There is also talk of some hot food being introduced. But nothing is being rushed, each aspect seems to being honed before the next one is introduced.
GBK and me had the privilege of drinking in the company of brewster Dr Haley and co-owner Rob, who told us of their hopes for the community pub. Judging by the number of people who kept funnelling in on Saturday, I'd say they are well on their way to achieving their ambitions.
We were in the snug/tap room where I believe Hayley's forthcoming beers will feature, bringing the number of handpumps up to six.
No date was given as to when that might be. I get the impression the team will want everything to be just so before the eagerly anticipated ales hit the bar.
So this post is very much part one of two. I shall leave you with a few pints of Five Town's Middle Un, which came on just before I left. It made the trudge back to Normy Railway Station in the snow like walking on air.
The Robin Hood is based at 10 Church Road, Altofts. It is on or near a number of bus routes. 
The pub is on Facebook and on Twitter: @RobHoodAltofts as is the brewery: @Tarn51brewing.