Friday, September 19, 2014

Rastrick Beer Festival, 2014

Yes,  you did read the title right; on the weekend of the York beer festival, 16 new breweries for me, and zillions of new beers, I spent my Friday afternoon at the Rastrick Beer Festival. 

It is the most local beer festival to where I live, but for some reason I knew nothing about it until I came across it on fellow blog. But never one to miss a chance, off I went.

It is held at the church hall, at the back of the church on Gooder  Lane, at the Brighouse end of Rastrick, and opens tomorrow (Sat) at 1pm till 11pm. The entry fee is £5 which entitles you to a glass, programme, and a free half, and it goes to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and The White Knights  - last years festival raised £4,500 for charity.

Anyway armed with my programme, I selected my first half. Oates 'Summit IPA', it was ok but did not quite hit the spot. I was surprised how busy the place was, and equally surprised that I only knew three people there (but Roger, Martin and Gerald do get about a bit !). I needed another beer token, (£5 for 4 halves) and was a bit bemused to be served by a vicar, that was a first !

Next I tried Nook 'Nooky Brown', but again I was a little disappointed, and a check of the festival list confirmed that this was not really a 'tickerfest'. There were around 16 beers, and a few ciders on offer, all handpulled and well cooled, but apart from a smattering of Cornish beers (mostly the regular ones) the beers were locally sourced.

My next choice was a Cornish beer, Keltek 'King'. Again a decent beer, but it did not have the wow factor. Time was closing in, so time to go safe, Mallinsons 'Kiwi Classic'. And a damn fine beer to finish with.

All in all, despite the lack of ticks, a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. I will pencil it in for next year. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Beer list for Navigation's festival: showcasing ale from Norfolk and Cambridgeshire

Navigation Tavern beer festival September 25-28 
There are a handful of beer festivals which I eagerly anticipate and The Navigation Tavern's is one of them.
Fortunately, for me, the festival in Mirfield is just round the corner and not some distant diary date. It starts next Thursday (September 25) at 2pm and runs until last orders on Sunday the 28th at least. 
This edition's theme is beers drawn from Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. I'm not overly familiar with the two areas, apart from Oakham Ales, but I'm sure Kevin and Derrick will steer me in the right direction as usual.
But to whet your appetite, The Bloke from Hull has come up trumps with the beer list:
Buntingford Brewery from Royston 
Royston Red 4.8% ABV - Supremely hoppy citrus character with an underlying malty-sweetness. Brewed with a magical blend of wheat & barley malts, and a heady cocktail of hops from the USA, chosen to pack a citrus punch. 
Elgoods Brewery from Wisbech, Cambs 
Black Dog Mild 3.6% ABV - An award-winning cask conditioned traditional dark mild. Well balanced malt and hops gives a pleasant aroma and taste, with splendid roasted bitter flavours. 
Indian Summer 4.8% ABV -Indian Summer is a mid-golden ale with a sweet malty background and a prominent hoppy flavour. 
Fat Cat Brewery from Norwich 
Hell Cat 4.1% ABV - Low-colour and local, gently-malted East Anglian barley gives a light, fruity base, with plenty of body. Hell Cat gets its kick from the blend of American hops, packed with bright, citrus flavours. Most of these are added late on in the brew, giving great taste without too much bitterness. 
Honey Ale 4.3% ABV - A golden coloured ale, combining the full flavour of English pale and crystal malts with Norfolk honey, giving a sweetish, yet full-flavoured ale. The spicy notes of Aurora hops combine well with the honey to give a smooth finish. 
IPA 6.4% ABV - A beautifully balanced ale, in the style of the traditional lPA of the days of the British Raj.
Big pale-malt flavours of honeyed biscuit combine beautifully with powerful citrus hops to give ultimate 
refreshment and satisfaction 
Top Cat 4.8% ABV - Full flavoured, toffee-coloured beer - a bit like a slightly toasted flapjack with a thin spread of bitter rnarmalade on top! 
Golden Triangle Brewery from Barford, Norwich 

Citropolis 3.9% ABV - Pale hoppy bitter brewed with Citra hop. 
Mosaic City 4.1% ABV - Single hopped pale ale with bold character and flavour. Notes of peach mango lemon and pine and a clean dry finish 
Grain Brewery from Alburgh, Norfolk 
Redwood 4.8% ABV- A rich red premium bitter that beautifully balances roasted malts with sherbet 
grapefruit hoppiness. 
Porter 5.0% ABV - An old-style porter. Smooth and creamy, with the flavour of dark berries. 
India Pale Ale 6.5% ABV - A traditional strong and hoppy India pale ale, brewed with the finest English Maris Otter pale ale malt to give a full-bodied malty character.
Humpty Dumpty Brewery from Reedham, Norfolk 

Broadland Sunrise 4.2% ABV - Broadland Sunrise is red-orange in colour and is brewed with additions of crystal malt and rye, giving it a complex malty flavour and a refreshing dry finish. The beer is hopped with a combination of English and North American hops, giving it a refined bitterness well balanced against the complexity of the malt bill. 
Swallowtail 4.0% ABV - is a light and refreshing summer seasonal with a balanced bitter finish. 
Jo C's Norfolk Ales from West Barsham, Norfolk 

Norfolk Kiwi 3.8% ABV - Norfolk Kiwi was the first beer to be brewed by Jo C's Norfolk Ales. An easy-drinking session bitter, it's made using the finest locally-grown Maris Otter barley and wheat, giving it a golden straw colour. This is blended with generous helpings of English and New Zealand hops, to give it that unique Kiwi flavour and aroma. 
Bitter Old Bustard 4.3% ABV - Bitter Old Bustard is the second beer to be created and brewed in Jo C's Norfolk Ale brewery. This russet coloured ale carries warm nutty biscuit flavours coming through a smooth malt body. Bitter old Bustard is given a delicious hoppy balance with three of England's finest varieties.
Mile Tree Brewery from Wisbech St Mary, Norfolk

Adventurer 4.0% ABV - Golden full flavoured beer with a ripe fruitiness and hop character. 
Wellstream 4.9% ABV - Ruby brown full bodied malty beer with a deep bittersweet finish. 
Milton Brewery from Cambridge 
Justinian 3.9% ABV - Crisp pale bronze-coloured bitter. Attractive bitter orange flavours persist into a satisfying lasting finish. 
Minerva 4.6% ABV - Golden ale. Brewed with US, NZ and British hops for a powerful hop punch and satisfying bitterness. First brewed in collaboration with Prof. Mary Beard when it was felt that some feminine wisdom could usefully be added to the range.
Nero 5.0% ABV - A satisfying, full-flavoured black brew with a good balance of malt, roast and fruit. Bittersweet flavours carry through to a dry finish.
Oakham Ales from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire 

JHB (Jeffrey Hudson Bitter) 3.8% ABV - A golden beer whose aroma is dominated by hops that give characteristic citrus notes. Hops and fruit on the palate are balanced by malt and a bitter base. Dry hoppy finish with soft fruit flavours. 
Citra 4.2 ABV - A light refreshing beer with pungent grapefruit, lychee and gooseberry aromas leading to a dry bitter finish. 
Star Brewing Company from Market Deeping 

Comet 3.8% ABV - Pale, straw-coloured refreshing session bitter that combines finest English barley and three American hop varieties to give a zesty bitterness and citrus aromas. 
Orion 4.7% ABV - Rich chestnut malty best bitter with some hop character. Mid strength and nicely balanced thanks to carefully selected English malts and a blend of World hop varieties. 
Solus 4.7% ABV • The first brew in our Solus series. Each Solus beer shares the same malt body and Magnum bittering hop but showcases a different flavour hop each time. First up is Sorachi Ace - An American hop giving lemon, floral, tea, dill and coriander characters. 
Tydd Steam Brewery from Tydd St Giles, Cambridgeshire 

Swedish Blonde 4.1% ABV - Golden refreshing best bitter with a floral citrus background and zesty 
lemon/pepper finish. 
Stargazer 4.2% ABV - A deep golden best bitter. Malt and hops combine to give a combination of light toffee, marmalade and orange fruit flavours. Cosmic!

The Navigation Tavern is just off Mirfield Railway station at 6 Station Road WF14 8NL. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Yorkshire's Real Heritage Pubs

With members of the press, local licensees and a strong presence of Yorkshire CAMRA members, the new edition of CAMRA’s guide to pubs with real historic significance in Yorkshire and Humber was recently launched at Whitelock’s pub in Leeds. Yorkshire's Real Heritage Pubs is a full-colour campaigning guide to the pubs which still have interiors or internal features of historical significance. This fully updated and re-launched revised edition builds on the success of the sell-out first edition (published in 2011) and is the only publication of its kind covering the Yorkshire region. Following an introduction by editor Dave Gamston, the new guide was officially launched by Greg Mulholland MP, Leeds North West (and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group).
John Thornton, left, editor Dave Gamston and Greg Mulholland MP.
Not only does the new guide aim to celebrate the heritage pubs that are open and trading but it also highlights the sad reality of how few are left and the threats they face. The guide highlights a disastrous planning ‘loophole’ that allows many pubs to be turned into supermarkets or converted for other retail or office use without the need of planning permission. In telling the story of important pubs we have recently lost, Yorkshire’s Real Heritage Pubs reflects on other major failings in planning and heritage protection systems.
Editor Dave Gamston said, “We believe it will have wide appeal as an enjoyable and informative guidebook for locals and visitors to Yorkshire. At the same time we hope it will provide a serious working reference – and wake up call! – for the people and official bodies who control the destinies of Yorkshire’s pubs.”
Yorkshire's Real Heritage Pubs features 119 pubs and provides informative text to highlight their significance, with full colour photographs in many cases. Pub entries of local interest are The Albert, The Sportsman, The Shoulder of Mutton, The Victoria (all Huddersfield) and The Beaumont Arms at Kirkheaton.
The book is available direct from CAMRA (01727 867201), in all good bookshops and some of the featured pubs, priced at £4.99 (excluding p&p).

Friday, September 12, 2014

Rat Scoops Top Award!

Huddersfield's Rat & Ratchet claimed the gold award for Best Cask Beer Pub at last nights prestigious Great British Pub Awards. The annual event sponsored by the The Publican's Morning Advertiser saw The Grafton in Kentish Town win pub of the year, with Skipton's Woolley Sheep as best managed house and the Botanist in Leeds winning best bar team.

The ceremony took place at the Park Lane Hilton, London and the Rat's management team of Richard Prest and Lisa Dunbar were there to collect the award.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Leggers Inn festival review

The Leggers Inn
The Leggers at Dewsbury has not held a beer festival for a few years and so it was with eager anticipation that I made my way to the pub at the Savile Town Wharf canal basin at Dewsbury on a sunny lunch time at the end of August. 
The pub occupies the hayloft above former stables that housed the working horses that pulled barges along the Calder & Hebble Navigation before the advent of 2 stroke engines. It takes its name from the term describing the men who used to take the boats through the narrow Pennine tunnels by lying on their backs and pushing against the wall with their feet. The area has rather become a picture postcard scene hosting a multitude of colourful barges following sympathetic renovation with due regard for the heritage of its past. The recent enhancement of the extensive outdoor drinking area was the final piece in the jigsaw, and now ensures that Leggers is now not only a beer drinker’s paradise but also a perfect destination for boaters, cyclists and walkers.

Long time licensee John Smithson used his skill and experience to gather a wide range of beers of different styles from several sources. His choice included long time favourites from well established breweries such as Batemans, Woodforde’s and Adnams, Orkney and nearby Clark’s plus a selection from newer breweries including Wilson Potter (Middleton), Melwood (Merseyside) and Brighton (East Sussex). Newer Yorkshire breweries were well represented by exciting beers fromBlue Bee and Stancill (both Sheffield), Chantry (Rotherham) and the very new local Small World Brewery from Shelley.

All the beers tried were in tip top condition at ideal temperature. I cannot wait for the next one. In the meantime I must visit the pub more often!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Keykeg - a further thought or two

I have been reading the comments on my previous post, and one, from SteveG, a fellow dinosaur, has made a very interesting point which I believe deserves a little more exploration.

He says that one of the reasons for the outbreak of keg (not keykeg) beers in the 1960's was to make life easier for the landlord and his cellar staff. Basically this method of dispense gave the product a longer shelf life and helped out those pubs without a quick throughput of their beers. It also, in my opinion, led to some sloppy cellar practices, and line cleaning, for example, seemed to get overlooked in  some cases, and beer quality, no matter how good the beer may have been, suffered.

Fast forward to the present day. Isn't time travel a wonderful thing ! Nothing in this respect has altered. Cleanliness is still one of the essential factors in providing good quality beers, as is good cellar management. And by association, so is the skill and commitment of the landlord. They can still make a good beer poor by their lack of effort with it.

I have seen the Cask Master assessors at work, and they certainly do assess the beer so that  the quality in a Cask Marque pub should always be of a consistent standard. This do not mean that I am saying they are better quality than those without the marque, just that it does give an indication of quality of dispense. 

The other thing that made me think from Steve's comments, has made me think about the actual pubs themselves. A few years ago, a pub was a pub, a wine bar a wine bar, and so on. Nowadays the distinction has become more blurred.

It is not unusual for a cask beer pub to offer wine and on occasions key keg beers, nor is it unusual for key keg pubs to offer cask beers. But it does seem that the newer kids on the block - let me use Brewdog for an example, have made a style of bar that is predominately dominated by key keg. We have all been in them, or at least past them !, and this style of bar, I hesitate to call them pubs, does tend to attract a younger drinker, who enjoy that style of beer because that is the only beer available in the place.Us dinosaurs will avoid them, for the self same reason.

There are some places, I will not name names, that manage to blend the two styles of dispense and attract both the older and younger drinker. However, I have noticed in these pubs that the younger drinkers do still gravitate towards the key keg product, while the older ones stick to cask. I know thats a massive generalisation and some readers will say they have a  foot in both camps. All I am concerned about is that the younger drinkers, as they become more mature, with continue to drink their key keg and gradually the more traditional beers and pubs will suffer. Time will tell, and maybe some time travelling blogger could let us know how things have panned out in 2100. Steve, get the sonic screwdriver working !! 

Saturday, September 06, 2014

I think I must be mellowing !!!

It is well known to readers of this blog that my favourite style of beer is not key keg. And before I continue let me confirm that nothing has happened to change my personal opinion. However, I am now prepared to admit that my (hopeful) feeling that it may be a one day wonder seems to be very wide of the mark.

We all know of pubs that will not entertain the stuff on their bar, and of others that are almost entirely all key keg now. It is not my intention to go into the whys and wherefores of this, it has been well covered before, but rather to try and understand why some drinkers - including some of my close friends - are gradually gravitating towards this style of beer.

A bit of historical perspective may help to understand. I was brought up in  the world of beer that was almost entirely fizzy keg. To find a brewery that was local, and still producing cask beer was the exception rather than the rule, and those pubs that served it were treated like the holy grail. So we drank cask. Some of us liked brewery A, others brewery B, and some philistines forsook beer entirely and started drinking that strange stuff allegedly called lager.

This was the situation for quite a few years until in the 1990's I did discover real ale and gave up using pubs that did not dispense it. 

One of the things about real ale was that it was almost always more tasty than the keg stuff. There was a problem in retrospect that this taste was not always necessarily good. There were good brewers and poor brewers, and a lot in between. But whatever type of beer; cask, keykeg, keg, or bottle, if it is brewed well it should be good, if it is bad then it will be poor. Not all keykeg will be superb as we tend to be led to believe.

Lets fast forward to the present day. It not hard to find cask beer, Nor key keg. I do not drink a lot of key keg beer as I have said, and the ones that I drink are always British breweries that produce beers that I could not get except on key keg.  I have noticed in the pubs that supply a quantity of key keg beers are becoming more cosmopolitan in their choice and it is possible to sample plenty of British micros, alongside breweries from Europe and the USA, to give a very rounded picture of the current world beer climate.And plenty of my beer drinking friends enjoy beers from abroad, often in preference to British beers,and it is good too see them have this choice locally. . 

What baffles me a bit is that a lot of the key kegdrinkers champion the style, and the variety, but in plenty of cases the same beers have been available in bottled form for a long time, but they singularly avoided them in that style. 

But as I said at the outset, I feel I may have been a little premature in dissing the keykeg. It looks to be here to stay, I just wish it was a little cheaper. But never fear I will be back championing the cask stuff, I can only do one style change in a lifetime, and I am a well known dinosaur !