Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Wood Street Beerhouse opens

The title is not strictly accurate as the Wood Street Beerhouse has actually been open for about a fortnight, but now seems a suitable time to champion its work.

It is housed in the premises that used to be the Hand Drawn Monkey bar on Wood St, Huddersfield (about a five minute walk from the railway station) . The place has been repainted and is in the process of being spruced up to make it a pleasant bar to while away an hour or so.

It has 4 draught beers on the bar, on my visit this included two from Mallinsons, and all were in good condition, along with around 8 key keg lines providing beer from far and wide, and all are reasonably priced.

There now no connection between the bar and the Hand Drawn Monkey brewery, so although their beers may occasionally appear as guests they will not feature permanently on the bar.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Shepherds Rest Beer Festival

Yesterday saw the first day of a weekend beer festival at The Shepherds Rest, at Sowerby Bridge. The pub is owned by Ossett brewery, and the festival followed the blue print of a previous Ossett festival at The Three Pigeons in Halifax. All the beers (bar two) were sourced from breweries within the HX postcode area, and on my visit one from each brewery was available - to be honest I had not realised there were so many breweries in the area.

Unfortunately time was a little short, so it was a case of selecting the beers I had not sampled before, so offerings by Elland, Little valley, Slightly Foxed and Stod Fold were overlooked in favour of newer, smaller breweries.

I started with Bridestones ' New Beginnings'; at 3.5% a pleasant session beer, (before you all write in I know Bridestones have been brewing for some time), and followed this with Oates 'R.O.B.'. This was apparently brewed in collaboration with three Lancashire Camra branches and had an antiseptic taste that was a little off putting. I suspect it could have been my nemesis, the Green Bullet hop, but I cannot confirm.

This was succeeded by my only dark beer - Norland 'Moorish Mild' which was pleasant but unremarkable. However, the same comments cannot be levelled at Vocation 'Bread and Butter' - an excellent 3.9% bitter. Full of American hops and a clean, fresh taste and an excellent offering from a brewery who brew consistently good beers and have hit the ground running. I was also impressed, for other reasons with Landlords Friend 'Alf' 'n' Sam'. I have only sampled one of their beers before and I found that very home brewish but this was light and soft, with no discernible hop flavours but very drinkable.

Nevertheless, I saved the best till last. Accidentally, as it happens because it was the strongest beer on the bar at 5.1%. Fighting Cocks 'Nomad' actually comes from over the border in Burnley but I will forgive them that. The beer is superb. An American style IPA with plenty of hop flavours and fresh fruit tastes coming though every mouth full. If this the first attempt for a new brewery I will be waiting with interest for their next beers.

The festival, as I said, runs through till Sunday evening and the 12 pumps on the bar have replacement beers from each brewery when the first beer runs off. At £2.80 a pint and thirds available as well, it will not break the bank. Guess where I will be going on Sunday !

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Female Hop Festival

The sixth and most recent beer festival at Jacobs Beer House in Bradford was yet another creation from the head of licensee Christina Wagstaff. The theme this time was a festival entitled “The Female Hop” that was a celebration of beers brewed by women - Brewsters. With the aid of knowledge from a friend she gathered together a list of female brewers and asked them if they would supply beers for her festival. The result was seventeen beers from ten breweries. 


Why “Brewsters” you may ask? The number of professional women brewers in this country and no doubt the world is on the up which just illustrates that brewing has come full circle. From ancient times until the Industrial Revolution, making beer was the domain of women as part of their role in the home. Just as food was home prepared in the kitchen for the family (including children), beer was too. For many years water quality was poor and the only safe way of drinking was to partake in alcohol. Anything left over was usually sold, often providing a valuable income for households. Indeed a survey of an English town in the 13th century found that only 8% of brewers were men. Alehouses were most often run by women and that often meant that there was a room made available in the house for the consumption of “home brew”. 
However the social and economic change brought about by the Industrial Revolution generated a huge change. With the scientific understanding of the brewing process and the introduction of large scale equipment into what amounted to factories (the domain of men), beer was taken out of the hands of women and the family home and produced on a massive scale by men, for men!


In recent years there has been an upward trend of more women drinking real ale and this has been reflected by the increasing number of brewsters in the industry, nowhere more so than in God’s Own County. Of the ten Brewsters breweries showcased at the festival, seven were from Yorkshire and the other three from not far away. Women brewers tend to think outside the traditional box and its often called boring bland brown beers (although still liked by some) and these are no longer the norm. Many have brought imagination to their craft and just as there is a trend to experiment with flavours and tastes with food, they have been as innovative with beer and have not been afraid to be creative. With this inventiveness has come commercial success and recognition too. Many female brewers have won awards all over the country for their beers and perhaps the pinnacle of these successes was the title of “Brewer of the Year” being awarded by the British Guild of Beer Writers to a woman for the first time in its twenty year history to Sara Barton in 2012. Sara owns and runs Brewster's Brewery in Lincolnshire and provided a great beer for this festival. 


And what of these brewsters and their beers? In brewery alphabetical order:

Baildon Brewery
 Guest appearing at the festival launch was local lass Leigh Terry from the Baildon Brewery who had supplied her Brunette, a 3.9% ABV Ruby True Ale made with English hops. Although she had only been running her brewery for about a year, Leigh had previously spent ten years performing various roles at Britain’s oldest brewery, Shepherd Neame in Kent. She was on her way to drop a wooden cask also containing Brunette to the Oddfellows at Shipley and so a photograph just had to be taken. She had this to say about being a brewster “This may seem like a male dominated industry but in practice is more like a club where women are accepted as equals. That is the beauty of brewing. All true brewers are supportive of each other. We leave the cutthroat business to the salesmen. For these reasons there is no other industry I would rather work in and I am very proud of our heritage. Read the story of Leigh and her Baildon Brewery in the article written by Jeff Utley MBE in the Tyke Taverner from July/August 2014. 

Bradford Brewery 
The beer from the newest and most local brewery was a lovely 5% ABV Strawberry Pale Ale brewed by Maria Barrett at Bradford Brewery. Called Jaspa, the strawberry flavour was very subtle and monies raised from sales of this festival special were donated to Children's Liver Disease Foundation charity.

Brewsters Brewery
In the business for over twenty years, Sara Barton founded her Brewsters Brewery because she had a raging desire to brew fine innovative beers on an artisan scale. She took a Masters degree in Brewing at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, and spent several years working for Courage mainly in the Berkshire Brewery as a production manager. With her brewery team she continues to develop new beers and put a twist on old styles by incorporating the latest hop varieties. She heads an all round brewery developing the experience to produce an array of beer styles with great flavours for all occasions. On the bar at the festival was Aromantica (4.2% ABV), a light amber beer with a slightly sweet nutty flavour. 

Brown Cow Brewery
Sue Simpson at Brown Cow had supplied two beers for the festival, the multi award winning Thriller in Vanilla (5.1% ABV) and the ever popular (if you are lucky to frequent the great pubs of Selby) White Dragon (4.2% ABV). Sue had this to say “I brewed my first Brown Cow Brewery beer eighteen years ago on the 17th July 1997. Back then it was pretty unusual to be a Brewster, there was probably only around a handful of us in the country and sometimes I admit it could be hard to be taken seriously. These days though it’s not so unusual and it’s great to see a growing band of brewsters joining the industry. I’ve just brewed my 1,432nd beer and I don’t intend to hang up my mashing-in paddle any time soon!”

Empire Brewery
Normally, Russ Beverley does all the brewing down at Empire in Slaithwaite (Slawit to train conductors and us locals). However half the brewery team are two redheaded “ ladies”  and they  thought why not get stuck in and came up with "Double Hop, Carrot Top" (4.3% ABV). Brewed by the “Empire Bunny Boilers” (their words not mine), it is what it says, a doubled hopped pale ale with tongue tantalizing notes of mango, passion fruit and lime - what's there not to like. Well if this is their first attempt there should be more to come in the future. Lovely.

Ilkley Brewery 
Head brewer at Ilkley Brewery, Christa Sandquist has been with the company for almost two years  after two year’s brewing at the Harviestoun Brewery in Scotland. She has brought a wealth of knowledge and experience, endorsed  by a degree in Brewing and Distilling at Herriot-Watt University as well as a Chemistry degree from the University of Washington. The Invader is a 4%ABV crisp, peppery and light rye pale ale that is a revamped and improved recipe developed from Rye Pale brewed for Le Tour (Bike Rye'd) last year.
Mallinsons Brewery 
Former teachers Tara Mallinson and Elaine Yendall love beer and their inspiration in establishing their brewery in 2008 was to develop and brew beers that they like themselves. Over the years, they have gained a reputation for producing crisp, clean flavoured hoppy ales, their speciality being single hopped variety ales of which those supplied to the festival are prime examples, namely Citra (3.8% ABV), Bramling Cross (3.7% ABV), Baby Mosaic (3.7% ABV) and Ella (3.9% ABV made with Stella hops – don’t ask!). 

Oldershaw Brewery
Kathy Britton is the managing partner at Oldershaw Brewery in Lincolnshire. She runs the brewery on a day to day basis: brewing, recipe devising, selling beer, handling the office and pretty much anything else that needs doing. She has developed many new beers including those which are part of Project Venus – a collaboration by brewsters to raise the profile of women in the brewing industry. On the bar was Mosaic Blonde (4.3% ABV), a lager-style beer featuring three hop varieties including the formidable ‘Mosaic’, a relative newcomer to the hop scene and the current favourite of many including myself. Waiting in the wings was the American Hopquad IPA (5% ABV), a beer with striking orange, citrus and herbal notes.

Riverhead Brewery 
After two years as assistant brewer at the Riverhead Brewery in Marsden, Lisa Handforth has been going solo now for around four years making some wonderful beers. Her brewery is a two brewers barrel plant producing just eight firkins per brew, meaning that she can experiment and produce a massive range of styles of beers, including many one-off, limited edition brews. Lisa says “each and every brew day is full of challenges and as a result I have become the Mistress of multitasking, but for me, knowing that people really enjoy the end product is the greatest reward.” Well said. Lisa’s beer for the festival was the flavoursome Dandelion and Burdock Mild (3.6% ABV) with herbal and floral notes.

Welbeck Abbey Brewery
The career of head brewer Claire Monk all came about by chance. Having studied microbiology and bio-chemistry at Sheffield University, she was unsure about a career path when a lecturer friend suggested the food and drinks industry. She soon found herself at Kelham Island Brewery in Sheffield training as a brewer. It was the ideal role, made even more appealing by the fact that she’d always had a passion for beer encouraged by her father’s love of real ale. When Welbeck Brewery opened in April 2010, Claire moved to become Head Brewer. A dream come true job indeed. She is now relishing the routine of brewing and managing the brewery's day-to-day business. “It’s very demanding, but great fun”, she says. Three of Claire’s beers were available: Portland Black (a rich black porter at 4.5%ABV), a delicate golden ale called Aphrodite (5.2% ABV) and a malty amber beer called Red Feather (3.9% ABV).


Thus the Brewsters festival provided a multitude of styles with something for every palate. Well done Christina for organizing it. What will she think of next? Perhaps a tap takeover from a brewery that only puts its beers into wooden casks!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Beer festival at Scholes Cricket Club

Scholes CC to host beer fest Aug 22-23
News has reached us (via BFH) of a beer festival at Scholes Cricket Club this weekend.
Regular readers will be aware that Chapelgate is the scene of an annual A Swift One pilgrimage to watch a few overs and check out the excellent bar.
Here are the details: Scholes Cricket Club will be running a beer festival this weekend, Saturday, August 22 and Sunday, August 23 from 12 to 11pm on both days.
There is live cricket both days - live music on Saturday night - food - and of course beer.
We are on the 310 bus route
We have 21 beers on with an extra bar with five extra handpumps serving beers from the following breweries:
NAVIGATION
MALLINSONS
ELGOODS
PHOENIX
BOX STEAM
MILLTOWN
SCARBOROUGH
QUARTZ
SMALL WORLD
NETHERGATE
IPA'S - stouts - blond and regular ales - milds - and a barrel of JW lees legendary Moonraker at 6.5%.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rest Fest

The Shepherds Rest at Sowerby Bridge is hosting it's first beer festival (as an Ossett pub at least) this weekend, featuring Calderdale breweries - for the most part.

24 beers from twelve breweries will feature, including one or two that are hard to find. In addition the festival will include 11 real ciders, BBQ food and live music. 

Start time is noon on Friday 21st and the festival will run all day Saturday and Sunday. The plan is to hold the event every August with a similar local theme.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Rebirth of the Robin Hood at Altofts


The launch of a new seasonal beer from Revolutions Brewery at a newly re-opened freehouse – the Robin Hood at Altofts, not far from Normanton, had previously attracted me to the pub. Having enjoyed a great evening, a return visit was made to find out who, what, when, where and why this great pub had surfaced on to the real ale scene. 
There are two parts to the business, the Robin Hood pub itself and the Tarn 51 brewery which is taking shape at the rear of the pub. The pub is owned by former WF6 brewer Rob Turton and Chris Cable and run by Andy Page. The brewery is under the auspices of Rob and Hayley Lumb. However at these early stages they are all involved in all aspects of both.
Hayley’s dad, Bernard and Rob were literally neighbours in Altofts and used to drink together and also with Chris locally for many years. They had become disillusioned with the range and quality of beer available in the village. With real ale on the up elsewhere they took to travelling further afield to satisfy their drinking desires. This was fine but not ideal. They wanted great real ale in a local pub. 
The light bulb moments came in late 2013. Hayley and Rob had the idea for the brewery and Chris and Rob, the pub. They approached Admiral Taverns pub group to purchase the Horse and Jockey just down the road but were unsuccessful. However, they had identified the potential of the Robin Hood which at that point was a run down non-real ale pub. Despite it not being on the market, they made a successful offer to Admiral Taverns and it was “all systems go”. Rob approached old school friend, drinking partner and business colleague Andy to manage the pub. Andy’s background of growing up and working in pubs together with his retail and management experience meant that he could immediately slot into the team – right at the deep end! 

After nine months of sorting out business red tape everything finally fell into place and a whirlwind operation took place. Vacant possession was obtained on Saturday 17th January 2015 and the keys were obtained two days later at 1pm on Monday 19th. In just three and a half days all the lines had been ripped out and re-laid and four beers were made ready - namely Acorn Barnsley Bitter, Revolutions Clash London Porter, Roosters Yankee and Great Heck Simcoe.
The pub reopened on Friday 23rd at 4pm to the delight of the queue of thirsty drinkers who, thanks to the local jungle drums, had gathered outside to slake their real ale thirsts. 
Andy and his team listen to the locals. Many come in for a session so the usual policy is to have beer at under 5% ABV of which one is always used for a dark beer. On a busy Saturday when the pub is full, the car park is empty – a true sign of a local. After just three months over 10,000 pints were served. With Acorn Barnsley Bitter as the regular beer, over seventy different beers from more than twenty Yorkshire breweries have been dispensed from the three guest lines. Wowee - some going indeed! 
With the pub being a roaring success work continues on the Tarn 51 Brewery to the rear of the pub. “Why that name?” you may ask. Tarn is the West Yorkshire term for “village by the water” and 1851 is the year that the pub was built. The new bespoke brewing kit has been manufactured by local Featherstone firm CNG Engineering Ltd, who have previously made the kit for the highly successful new Atom brewery in Hull.
With getting everything just right, it is expected that the brewery will be up and running later this year. This use of local firms, businesses and craftsmen has been a feature of the development of both the pub and brewery. By employing local tradesmen the owners are giving back to the local community and aiding the local economy. Well done guys. 

Work has still to be done to the pub too and now that Hayley has completed her University studies at Durham she is intending to further research the history of the pub. It’s all go. 

The key to the success of the pub is that all of the partners are friends from different backgrounds, each contributing with their own skill sets.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Chance of a Lifetime

On his 50th birthday in May 2013, after 18 years at Wadworth Brewery in Wiltshire, Master Cooper Alastair Simms returned to God’s Own County to establish the White Rose Cooperage Ltd on the Thorp Arch Estate near Wetherby. He is the last remaining Master Cooper in England and is the country’s only independent commercial cooper. He is now offering a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity to the right candidate to become his apprentice and learn the ancient trade in making and repairing wooden casks bound by metal hoops for the brewing industry.


When he began back in the 1970s, there were still around one hundred coopers in the UK but the advent of metal casks in the 1960s saw numbers decline, thus resulting in the craft almost fading away but for the handful of skilled craftsmen existing today. 


Alastair established the White Rose Cooperage with the aim of keeping the tradition of crafting wooden casks, barrels and vats by hand alive. His return to Yorkshire has certainly stimulated interest in the use of wooden casks. The amazing growth in numbers of real ale microbreweries in Britain and Yorkshire in particular has meant that there is hope. The revival of demand for wooden casks is already taking place in the search for something both traditional and yet  unique.

Together with certain pubs, some breweries have proved that great beer can have an additional dimension if stored in wood. They have experimented with spirit casks and have also had great success with “Ageing in Wood”. Not only do wooden casks add a depth of taste to the stronger, darker beers which metal casks cannot provide but successful recent trials with lighter beers also show that they certainly add that something extra to them too. Spearheading the vanguard to maintain the tradition is the Junction at Castleford where Maureen Shaw and Neil Midgley only serve real ales from their own wooden casks. 

With this encouraging background Alastair’s order book is bulging to bursting point. Thus he requires an apprentice cooper to pass on the ancient craft to meet this demand and in so doing expand his business. Additionally, Alastair has several ongoing contracts with large regional brewers and major cider producers who still use traditional methods for their premium products. These include the use of large vats that require special attention from the traditional cooper for maintenance from time to time.

For the successful applicant, this is a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity to be the envy of his or her peers by learning a skill that will keep the trade alive. The apprenticeship takes four years to complete, meaning that a strong dedicated work ethic is essential. Physically, the ability to lift heavy loads is a must and working both indoors and outside should hold no fears. Strong interpersonal skills are a necessity as communication with suppliers, clients and the media are vital to the business. 


The role usually means working five days out of seven and will sometimes include weekends & bank holidays. Flexibility is key as the apprentice may be required to work early mornings and late evenings. The job is primarily based at the unit on the Thorp Arch Estate, near Wetherby. However, due to the nature of the business, some repair work may be required at clients’ locations. Travel away from the usual workplace is expected on occasions and can be for extended periods of time. 

Anyone interested in this chance to continue this unparalled and most skilful of trades should apply with a covering letter either by post to The White Rose Cooperage, Unit 191, Street 6, Thorp Arch Estate, Wetherby LS23 7FP or via e-mail to alastair@whiterosecooperage.co.uk.