Tuesday, November 25, 2014

They don't have to be strong to be good

It is a common misconception that for a beer to be good it has to be strong. Obviously, in some cases that will be true, but recently I have come across some very tasty beers locally with an abv below 3%.

Hand Drawn Monkey were the first brewery that I really noticed brewing low strength beers. Their 'Smaller' versions of their beers were full of flavour but admittedly in some cases there was a lack of body in some of them. They have also had some beers on their HDM bar from Bexar County brewery which have not reached 3% both light and dark and packed with flavour.

However it was one of the innovative breweries from over t'hill which first made me really take notice of the style and prove what flavour can be packed into a weak strength beer. Tickety Brew hail from Stalybridge, and are not afraid of mixing flavours in their beers, but their 2.8% 'Table Ipa' was a revelation. It did not compromise on taste and I had to look twice at the ABV to confirm I was drinking a weak beer, such was its body.

I have come across others along the way but another that really stood out was Rat Brewery's 'Collaboration no3' - Ratler. This is a totally different style, being more of fruit based beer with a light hoppy background, and when I first sampled it last weekend, it so good good that I eschewed my usual tipple in the pub and drank several of them, so impressed was I with the result.

So, if you see a beer with a low abv, do not automatically assume that it will be weak in taste as well as strength. Give it a try, you may be surprised. I certainly was.

An apology

For those people who like to kept up to date with the Huddersfield Beer Scene, I must pass on my apologies for not updating you as usual. For some reason, my laptop has been playing up and has not allowed me to post in my usual manner. I think I have found a way round it, so hopefully normal service will be resumed in the near future.

If you have not made the note in your diary, the next Star festival starts on Wednesday 3rd December, and Sam promises a wonderful selection of beer for our delectation. As usual, there will be full days drinking available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. With Wednesday and Thursday starting at 5pm.

If you at a loose end this weekend though, there is a good beer list for the Shakespeare festival in Sheffield, which starts on Thursday at 12 noon. I have been to previous festivals here and they are well worth a visit.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The pubs of LIverpool: Part Two

The second instalment of the First Group's Ale Odyssey to Liverpool:
After decamping from the bijou bar of The Roscoe Head, we headed for the more expansive rooms of 
Earlier, when I'd told friends I was going on an ale excursion to Liverpool, they all told me: "You must visit The Phil."
I was expecting something special as we rounded Hope Street - and it didn't disappoint.
Gold leaf gilding on the archway entrance and stone balustrades above that made for an impressive facade.

Inside, the Grade II listed Victorian era pub had a semi circular front bar bar, which was sadly lacking in enticing ales.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of  Nicholson's pubs and usually there are more than a few beers on to interest me. But apart from a Purity, which I'd had before, there was nothing to tempt me. It serves me right for being a bit of a beer snob.
But I didn't let that spoil my visit, I took my drink past the Brahms and Liszt rooms into the dining room with its chandeliers and plate glass ceiling panels.
I got a few stares from the group for drinking coffee, perhaps I should have opted for a brandy and a cigar as it would have fitted in more with the surroundings, which were a bit like a gentleman's club that Sherlock Holmes' smarter brother used to patronise.
Speaking of gentleman, everybody was saying you must visit the gents toilets as they are the finest in the land.
I paid a visit and and duly noted the "particularly attractive roseate marble" as mentioned in Ken Pye's Discover Liverpool guidebook.
After marvelling at Britain's finest pub toilets, it really was time to go to our next destination, The Belvedere 
It lies on Sugnall Street and is another Grade II listed pub in Liverpool's Georgian quarter.
The bar was small with just enough room for high-backed chairs and loitering. 

It's a little while since our visit, but I recall Liverpool Organic and Wirral-based Brimstage Brewery on the bar.

I went for the latter's Trapper's Hat, a 3.8 % pale beer, and took it into the spacious side room to the left of the bar.
According to Brimstage's website it was their first brew and remains very popular.
Sadly, it didn't do it for me, but having had a 7% heavily-hopped beer earlier in the session my taste buds were elsewhere.
I then got a serious case of drink envy when I saw one of our group cradling a great goblet of gin.
It turns out the pub is a 'GinNasium' with a fine collection of gins from home and abroad.
I'd consciously done little or no research before this trip so as not to go with any preformed ideas, but here was a flaw in my black canvas strategy.
After the gin and beer it was time for a walk through the back streets to Ye Cracke, which I was told was popular with students.
Ye Cracke or Ye Crack? You decide!
After ordering a Soul Boy Beers (Blakemere) Simcoe, 4.3%, from the corridor bar I was shown some of the signs about the famous students who had frequented the pub in the past.
There was an engraved mirror on the lounge wall which commemorated a meeting of The Dissenters who aimed to put Liverpool on the map - among their number was John Lennon, so mission accomplished, then.
And I gather the impressive mural near the mirror was painted by one of Lennon's tutors.
There were also a few hand-drawn images of Lennon on the wall and pictures of well known Liverpool landmarks like the 'Wigwam' and Anfield.
And there also seemed to be some kind of art experiment going on in the far back room, so it look likes the pub's artistic tradition is being continued.  
The back room also offered me a curious view of the 'war room', through a Georgian window with no glass in.
Apparently, ie. the Internet tells me, this is one of the oldest parts of the pub and the place where people who insisted on talking about the Boer War (1899-1902) were stationed.
After the history lesson it was time to move on. Our next destination was The Grapes on the junction of Knight Street and Roscoe Street.
The Grapes on the corner of  Knight Street
This pub was genuinely busy but the layout may have helped accentuate the numbers. Space was a bit at a premium as a horseshoe bar left enough for about three or four-deep to stand by the hand pumps. In two corners there were a few tables for people to eat at or to enjoy a pint in a group.
I made my way to the bar and ordered a Black Jack Small Saison, 4.5%, which was good. But I recall one of our number praising a beer he had ordered, but what it was has now slipped my mind. The only other thing I recall was a garish looking Hobgoblin (post) Hallowe'en style clip with a pumpkin coloured hose over the hand pull. This prompted a pre-Christmas rant by me about glittery pump clips, which I won't rehearse here as it isn't even December yet.
Talking of which, I'll round off this tour of Liverpool pubs next month with visits to The Liverpool One Bridewell, The Baltic Fleet, The Lion Tavern and The Ship & Mitre.

Part one of the Liverpool blog is available here

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The 'First' trip to Liverpool: Part One

The Dispensary, Renshaw Street, Liverpool
Last Saturday a group of seven intrepid ale explorers set off for Liverpool.
This was new territory for me but fortunately I was with a bunch of people from the Huddersfield First group who knew the lay of the land.
The group meets, mainly, on the first weekend of the month and takes a tour of pubs near and far.
Our first port of call was The Dispensary, on Renshaw Street, which is a real five-minute walk from Lime Street railway station.
There we were met by two native guides, John and his son Adam, who would lead us on a fantastic tour of the pubs of central Liverpool.
Funnily, the bar was dominated by West Yorkshire Breweries: The Rat, Ossett, Fernandes and Saltaire, so we didn't exactly need an introduction to those breweries.

I went for Ossett Brewery's MMM 7%, despite having moments earlier sworn off the strong stuff after a rather too enjoyable stint on the high ABVs at Wakefield Beer Festival.
But I was delighted to have caved in so early as this was a nice hoppy strong ale. The beer, which celebrates Ossett's 3,000th brew, got the thumbs up from the group, who were sat in the upper section of this cosy main road pub.
During my steady half I looked up to see the football was on several screens in the pub as Liverpool were playing Chelsea at Anfield.
This prompted me onto the inevitable subject of TVs in real ale pubs. You hardly see them in Huddersfield and Sheffield bars where I tend to drink, despite both being sports-mad cities. In Liverpool there were more screens but not in every pub.
Anyway, I'm digressing from the point of this post. After a half it was time to move on a few streets to The Roscoe Head, which is a gem of a pub.
Roscoe Head, Roscoe Street
John informed us that this was the only pub in Liverpool to have appeared in every edition of The Good Beer Guide since it was first printed in 1974. Apparently it's one of the "magnificent seven" in the whole country.

And walking in from Roscoe Street you can see why: tiled floors, snugs, woodwork, ornate plastered ceilings. It reminded me of The Bath Hotel in Sheffield with its main bar and side room where you can be part of the crowd or slope off into the snug with your newspaper.
We took up residence in the Roscoe's back room, which I was told used to be decorated with neck ties.
Now, all I could see were some very impressive trophies for cribbage - think Jules Rimet.
I chose a Chequered Flag from Prescott Ales in Cheltenham. It was a 4.1% amber ale and slightly malty, which is not my favourite style of ale. But I'm glad I tried it as it took me out of my comfort zone of pale and dark.
I could have easily whiled away some hours here but the tour was moving on to out next destination: The Philharmonic. 
I didn't realise until slightly later that were were in the midst of the Georgian Quarter pub crawl, but there were plenty of clues along the way: mainly the architecture, which turned out to be a bit of a theme on this tour.
It turned out to be a fairly full day, so I'll break this post into two parts. So join us next time for the final chapter of this Liverpool blogpost when we will be visiting the opulent Philharmonic Dining Rooms and a host of other fine pubs.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Slaithwaite Moonraker Beer Festival

Slaithwaite Moonraker Beer Festival runs from Thursday to Saturday this week.
The annual charity event is being held in Slaithwaite Conservative Club on Britannia Road.
Here is the beer list and tasting notes (breweries in bold):
Autumn Light: Golcar Huddersfield 4.0% Golden amber lightly hopped bitter with malty overtones. 
Barncliffe Bitter: Small World Beers Huddersfield 3.7% Pleasant light drinking bitter, golden hue, crisp initial taste with a lasting bitterness through the finish. 
Blonde Ash: Grain Norfolk 4.0% Belgian witbier style, this cloudy wheat beer has flavours of bubblegum, orange and coriander. 
Commerciale: Empire Slaithwaite 3.8% Pale golden ale, fruity, slightly spicey with orange citrus notes. 
Cophill Best: Gooseye Keighley 3.9% Rose and Crown (Slaithwaite) special. A fine "session" ale. 
Daily Bread: Abbeydale Sheffield 3.8% Copper English bitter. Malty flavours with a smooth bitter finish. 
Dark Arts: Surreal Stout Magic Rock Huddersfield 6.0% Spicy hop notes, flavours of chocolate, liquorice, blackberries and figs. Rich and satisfying finish. 
Dark Satanic: OMB Sowerby Bridge 4.1% Stout brewed for rugby league world cup. 
Farmers Blonde: Bradfield Sheffield 4.0% very pale, brilliant blonde beer has citrus/summer fruit aromas making it an extremely refreshing ale. 
Golcar Mild: Golcar Huddersfield 3.6% Nice malty award winning mild. 
Golden Hop: Milltown Huddersfield 3.8% A combination of English/American hops give balance of bitterness and flavour' delicious session ale. 
Howling Fox: Slightly Foxed Sowerby Bridge 3.5% Exceptionally pale with hoppy notes blend of exciting new hop varieties from New Zealand, dry flavour. 
Katy's Blonde: OMB Sowerby Bridge 3.6% A fruity and full bodied blonde beer. 
Long Moor Pale: Small World Beers Huddersfield 3.9% Pale ale, grapefruit/citrusy notes with a light bitter finish, brewed with Centennial and Cascade hops. 
Maiden Voyage: Bosun's Horbury 3.9% Chestnut brown traditional English Ale using Fuggles hops. 
Moonraker Mild: Empire Slaithwaite 3.8% Award winning Mild, overall winner of the 2014 Oktoberfest. 
Mosaic: Summer Wine Holmfirth 4.0% Pale golden ale brewed with Mosaic hops. 
Movember (The Trucker): Empire Huddersfield 4.3% Blonde, mix of US & New Zealand hops give a tropical passion fruit flavour. 
Movember Bitter: Ossett Ossett 3.9% Golden dry and bitter with hoppy finish. 
Nelson Sauvin: Mallinsons Huddersfield 3.8% Golden coloured ale, with a lovely grapefruit nose, a hoppy citrus taste followed by a similar finish. 
Octahop: Fernandes Wakefield 4.0% Blonde, robust hoppy flavour, full bodied, very fruity with a hint of citrus 
Pigs Do Fly: Potbelly Kettering 4.4% A Single hopped beer using Styrian Golding, an easy drinking Light Golden Beer. 
Platinum Blonde: Milltown Huddersfield 4.0% Blonde lager style beer with American Hops creating a spicy, floral, citrus aroma. Clean / refreshing. 
Quick Brown Fox: Slightly Foxed Sowerby Bridge 4.5% Autumn special. Brown as Autumn, deep malt flavours balanced with the earthiness of English hops. 
Rat Attack: Rat Huddersfield 3.8% IPA Golden tropical fruit aroma and taste with dry aftertaste 
Ringmaster: Magic Rock Huddersfield 3.9% Original Pale Ale . The U.S. Hops give a floral, 'grassy' aroma with citrus flavours. 
Saltaire Blonde: Saltaire Shipley 4.0% A straw coloured light ale, soft malt flavours, delicately hopped with Czech and German hop varities. 
Terrier: York York 4.2% Award winning Golden Ale. Fruit & hops dominate aroma & flavour, clean bitter finish. 
Under Full Sail: Bosun's Horbury 4.5% A continental pilsner beer. 
White Cloud: Riverhead Marsden 4.5% Pale Ale. A hoppy bitter with citrus character. 
White Rose Glory: Mallinsons Huddersfield 4.0% Golden ale, with citrus and mango aroma. Taste is mixed fruit hop, finish is soft, clean and bitter. 
Zenith: Summer Wine Holmfirth 4.0% Pale Ale. Centennial hops citrus, lime & lemon grass combine to give a zingy punch & bitter finish. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wakefield Beer Festival's top ten


Bob Wallis, of Wakefield CAMRA, has kindly been in touch with the results from last weekend's Merrie City ale festival.
Congratulations to Fernandes Brewery and CAMRA stalwart June Bradbury who once again came top of the pile with Black Voodoo.
This time it was served from a wooden cask as were two other beers in the top ten.
Here's the top ten:
Fernandes, Black Voodoo 6% 
Five Towns, Grounds for Divorce 7.8% 
Five Towns, Strangebrew, 7%
Titanic, Plum Porter, 4.9% 
Bob's Brewing Co, White Lion 4.3% 
Bob's Brewing Co, Chardonnayle, 5.1% 
Untapped, Crystal 6% 
Five Towns, Raven King Porter, 6% 
Celt Experience, Brigid Fire 6.3% 
Fernandes, Wyte Magik, 5.2%

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Wakefield Beer Festival 2014

I'm looking forward to some dark beer out of the wood this week.
Today sees the start of Wakefield CAMRA Beer Festival, which has 120 ales on offer over three days.
The theme of the festival is beers from the Celtic fringe of Britain, so expect ales from Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man etc.
But it's two beers that have travelled slightly less further afield which have caught my eye.
Wakefield-based breweries Fernandes, of Kirkgate, and Five Towns, of Outwood, both have beers served from wooden casks.
Fernandes has Black Voodoo on, which won last year's beer of the festival, while Five Towns has Raven King on, which recently scooped first prize at the Independent Salford Beer Festival.
I've tried and enjoyed both of those beers before out of conventional casks, so I'm really looking forward to trying the "wooden" versions and all the flavour that type of cask imparts.
Five Town's also has another beer in the wood on, Strange Brew, a 7% APA. I understand the casks for the Five Town's beers have come from The Junction at Castleford, which has done pioneering work in promoting beer in the wood.
Right, that's my finishing beers taken care off, but what about my starters and mid session ales?
I'll have to do some more scouting of the beer list.
It's available on-line here but you need to click 'view' when you get through to the festival site.

Wakefield Beer Festival is at The Space, Waldorf Way, off Denby Dale Road, from November 6 to 8.
The venue is about midway between Wakefield Westgate and Wakefield Kirkgate railway stations. It's not far Sainsbury's on Ings Road.
You can pay on the door, apart from Friday night when entry is by advance ticket only.