Friday, April 18, 2014

Leeds Continued - part 2

I left you a little while ago in the Leeds Brewery Tap. Next port of call was a pub I had not visited for six years when I had my retirement do there. And how it has changed ! 'The Scarborough Taps' (just across the road from the railway station used to be a pub that seemed to be full of male office workers who hogged the  bar and drank copious amounts of Tetleys. Now all has changed - Tetleys is still on the bar, but is not the  beer it was. The pub is light, airy and full of comfortable seating and its clientele seems a mixture of suits, travellers and lots of 'ladies that lunch'. The interior has changed but I could not quite work out how but certainly for the better. And since it is part of the Nicholsons group, it was part of their beer festival.

I managed to lay my hands on the festival programme here and selected another couple of beers from the list. There were fifty available thoughout the festival, with around eight on the bar here. Adnams 'South Town' and Peerless ' Down Under' were the choices here. The latter being excellent with a good blend of southern hemisphere hops. The former again being southern hopped but a red ale, which gave it a more of nutty taste.

The Bar In Tapped
Anyway time and beer waits for no man. So it was onwards and outwards again. This time to 'Tapped' on Boar Lane. My first attempt to find it was fruitless, but I must have walked straight past without realising as it is a pretty imposing sight. And that is just the exterior. Inside it is something totally different for the city. It has lots of brewing paraphenalia on one wall and a brass fronted bar on the other. I was a little concerned as I could see no hand pulls but once my eyes had become accustomed to the lighting I found a list of draught beers on the wall to the right hand side of the bar. I think twelve in all. I had really hoped for a beer from their sister brewery in Sheffield but was out of luck. There were plenty of Yorkshire beers on offer, I eschewed the Mallinsons in favour of Atom 'Camomile' which was a tea infused beer appaently. Pleasant but not exceptional. And again £1.75 a half.

Next up was Mr Foleys Ale House on the Headrow. Another pub that has been facelifted since my last visit. In fact this had been done earlier in the week and included a new bar, new beer lines, and a new doormat of which the staff appeared unusually proud. Being a York Brewery pub there were 4 of their beers on offer, but I overlooked these and instead opted for Roosters 'Revolution ' and the  beer with the best name of the year 'Misunderstood Starfish' from 4 Thorns. Both decent beers but I was still itching for more festival beers and I was just across the road from another Nicholsons pub.

'The Victoria Family and Commercial' is on Great George St just behind the General Infirmary, and is a wonderful building. A perfect antidote to the modern bars that have recently sprung up in the city. This is all dark wood, high ceilings and small intimate booths. And around 10 hand pulls with festival beers.
I selected Brains 'Rye Catcher' - a mistake. It was either running off or a very weird beer, or both. Luckily I found Trumans 'Tom Ditto IPA' on the bar as well and this was very pleasant, very fruity and according to the list a collaboration between the brewery and writer Danny Wallace. It even included a new hop from the USA which is not even named yet.

By this time the beer meter was showing close to full, and although I knew there were other pubs to visit, I did not feel this was the day to do it. But having ignored the promise of Leeds for some time, it will not be too long before I return and check out the rest of those I missed out and revisit those I especially enjoyed.

Revisiting Leeds - two years on (part one)

One of the cities I seem not to visit often is Leeds. In fact, checking earlier posts on 'A Swift One' shows it was a couple of years since I, personally, visited there and wrote about it. Yesterday seemed to be a good day to redress the balance and take a look at some of my old favourite pubs and catch up with some of the new kids on the block.

As those of you who know me are already aware, I like to combine my beer trips with a bit of 'bus bashing' so my first call is usually The Palace down by the bus station just off Kirkgate. I have written about here before, and will not repeat myself except to say that on this visit I encountered a beer festival - in fact a festival that covered all the Nicholsons pubs and since there are three in the city, led me to rearrange my route a little to check out as many beers as I could.

The arrangement here was similar to that of Wetherspoons beer festivals, with the beers being available on the bar at the respective pubs, and with several specials brewed specially for the festivals. I did discover that thirds of a pint were available - but not until the third pub - and unlike 'Spoons - the prices were a little on the steep sid e. I started with Acorn ' Dead Gold' a 4.5% special, and followed this with Brains 'Three C-Son' brewed on their test plant. A pleasant version of the style, with plenty of fruit flavour and a good hop hit from the trio of American hops used. I saw flyers about the festival but did not get a programme here.

My next visit was the 'Duck And Drake' on New York St. This had changed a bit since my previous visit. And the door has moved - to my confusion as I thought the pub was closed. The pub still has its bare boards and ale house feel but a very knowledgable landlord and strangely the only other customer when I visited was from Huddersfield ! Sadly the Ossett beer I wanted to sample was unavailable for line cleaning but there was plenty of other choice, mostly sourced from Yorkshire breweries, but sadly from my point of view no 'ticks'. The Ossett 'By George' I sampled here was in good form however.

Plenty of more pubs to try - so it was onwards and upwards to New Station St, and the 'Friends Of Ham'. A pub I had heard good things about from my librarian namesake and I was keen to try. The bar itself is at street level and is fairly small but there is a large seating area downstairs. A 'pub' - I use the term loosely - that seems to pride itself on its eclectic food choice and choice of interesting beers. There are 3 pumps available and they do serve thirds. I opted for a Magic Rock/Hawkshead collaboration ' The Illusionist'. It was a 3.5% dark beer but allegedly a pale ale. Confused - you bet I was. But it was a pretty decent beer as would be expected from two class breweries. I followed this with a third of Fell Brewery 'Tinderbox IPA' which was a well crafted beer from a brewery I rarely encounter.

Fortunately this was just round the corner from my next port of call. The 'Leeds Brewery Tap' is somewhat similar to 'Ham' and appears to be trying to attract the same clientele, with a good food menu. Here the beer range is weighted towards the breweries own beers as would be expected. I chose a half of Brass Castle 'Burn Out'. Decent but not quite to my taste, neither was the cost which I found a bit steep at £1.75, but I was in the 'posher bit' of Leeds. Time for an advert break.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A champion beer of Britain in the wood

 Junction landlord's Neil Midgley's wooden casks. Image: BFH
One of the first posts I wrote for this blog was about a "beers in the wood" festival in Castleford.
Well a year has gone by and The Junction is now staging its 2014 event from noon on Friday (tomorrow) to late on Sunday.
And landlord Neil Midgley and landlady Maureen Shaw have put together another fine Bank Holiday selection.
There are beers from pub favourites Ridgeside, Five Towns, Walls and Old Bear.
Wentworth, Axholme and North Yorkshire Brewery also feature.
But the one that caught my eye was the champion beer of Britain, Elland's 1872 porter, available in both wine and whisky casks.
Neil has had the beer in a wine cask for about three months. He also managed to get a pin of the championship winning gyle, and that has been in a hogshead whisky cask for longer.
And if you like the idea of beers from the wood then raffle tickets will be on sale during the festival to become a cooper for a day.  
The other thing that impressed me about this ale event was the mix of beers styles. I would've expected a top-heavy stock of pales given that summer is allegedly round the corner. But milk stouts and porters are well represented. 
So what what better way to spend the Easter Holidays than enjoying a few dark beers before the pale brigade start invading our pubs, not that I'm complaining much because I'm a hophead for about 75% of the year!
Getting there:
The Junction is situated on Carlton Street in Castleford town centre. It is an actual two-minute walk from Castleford railway station.
The festival may run into Monday, which is good news for rugby league fans attending the Castleford Tigers and Warrington Wolves game.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Coach and Horses reopens

The 'Bloke from Hull' lets us know that The Coach and Horses at Linthwaite will reopen tomorrow night (Wednesday) under the care of Jonny Holmes and Michelle. 

Those of us who know Jonny have been waiting with anticipation for this announcement, he has been a champion of real ale and real pubs, initially in the Colne Valley at The Swan at Crimble, and the Commercial at Slaithwaite before changing valleys and helping to set up Brambles at Holmfirth. 

No doubt a place to check out in the none too distant future.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Three Pigeons Refreshed

A chronological refurbishment programme is underway at the Ossett estate it seems. In September we saw ratification in Huddersfield (pub 2) and last night it was histoplasmosis eradication in Halifax (pub 3).


The Three Pigeons once had the distinction of winning the English Heritage/CAMRA Conservation Pub award for one of the best art deco interiors in the country and with it the burden of responsibility.


That was eight years ago now and the 'pigs' has frankly had a bumpy ride through recession, not to mention the odd CGAS manager. Definitely time for a complete moult then.


Although a very nice tidy up, highlight of the evening was the unveiling of the former storeroom at the back of the pub (above). This tiny addition has been stylishly converted and with its cast iron stove will be the snuggest of snugs come winter.


The additional space now means six distinct drinking areas are available to the visiting hostel historian, each creating it's own atmosphere and providing a drinking experience quite unlike any other locally.


Outdoors and the once blackened stonework has been extensively cleaned, about time you might think - but not everyone's happy. The local council have approached the brewery about darkening the building again as apparently it's not in keeping. Actually Calderdale, it's called inn keeping, and revolves around attracting custom in order to make a living. Seriously!


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Hudds' old & new pubs of the year

The King's Head is Huddersfield CAMRA's pub of the year. Image Steve Goodwill
Sitting in The Sportsman scoffing a brisket sarnie, I learnt the pub had lost its three-year stranglehold on Huddersfield CAMRA's Pub of The Year title.
I was on Sunday's 'First' group trip of town pubs - more of this in a later post - when tour leader Steve Goodwill said we would soon be off to the newly crowned King's Head.
But before we take the short trip under the viaduct to Huddersfield Railway Station, first a quick word about the outgoing champ.

The outgoing champ: The Sportsman. 
There was a good selection on the bar when we walked through the door on Sunday. But the beer that caught my eye was the star of the show at Huddersfield Oktoberfest 2013, Mallinsons Nelson Sauvin, 3.8%.
I missed that beer at last year's festival so I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. It was without doubt, and there were some strong contenders on Sunday, my beer of the day.
I followed it up with a slightly weaker strength pale beer, Moor Top from Buxton at 3.6%. In hindsight, I drunk these two beers the wrong way round. I failed to pick up the advertised citrus and grapefruit notes of the latter because my taste buds were still wrapped around the NZ hop of the former.
So after a pint and some lunch we headed of to the 'Jimi Hendrix' signed pub on the station.
Here I spotted beers, among others, from Pictish, Golcar, Abbeydale, Magic Rock and Wood Street Brewery.
The last two were side by side and had a connection. Magic Rock's Stuart Ross formerly brewed for Crown Brewery, which used to work out of the Hillsborough Hotel, while the newish Wood Street Brewery is named after the road that runs down the side of the pub.
I went for the Sheffield outfit's Ebony Stout, 5%, which was a perhaps was a pretty odd choice for my third beer out. But maybe it was conditioning as the King's Head is always my final stop for dark beer on the way home.
So, given that my beer radar was a bit wonky I shall leave you in the more expert hands of Ale Talk editor Bob Tomlinson.
Bob said: "I can confirm that the King's Head (formerly The Tavern) is Huddersfield CAMRA's Pub of the Year. 
"The Monkey Club is the Club of the Year and the Rat & Ratchet is the Cider Pub of the Year.
"There was a lot of competition from the main town centre pubs and the vote was fairly evenly spread out, but when it went to a second vote the King's Head won outright.
"A number of factors went in its favour. It is a regular entry in the Good Beer Guide and has won a number of pub of the season awards – a good pedigree to start with. 
"It serves a wide section of the community and is not secular like some pubs. The beer range encompasses a selection of national, regional and local ales providing a range for both beer novices and aficionados. 
"The beers are always served with good grace and in tip top condition by attentive and willing staff.
"There is handpumped real cider and occasionally a perry to supplement the beers. Food is basic and is typical travellers and workman’s fare – sandwiches and pies.
"The King's Head is a grade II listed building which restricts extensive conversion work to the interior of the pub. The d├ęcor is a strange mixture of late Victorian and late 70’s style, with the mosaic floor pattern the most prominent feature. 
"Bruce Travis, the licensee, has secured funding from the railway heritage fund to start restoration of the side room, toilets and the ceiling to reveal the ornate Victoria roof.
"So, these are just a few comments why it was awarded Pub of the Year 2014."
Postscript:
Many thanks to Bob for giving us the inside track on the judging process. 
And congratulations to Bruce & staff on taking the crown.
Long live The King!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The 'Spoons Festival gets a Bit Fruity !!

I have previously spoken about the current Wetherspoons festival, which continues until this weekend, and since there are 50 beers available throughout, I still keep coming across new beers as they appear on our local bars. This weekend seems to have had a surfeit of 'weird' beers though. Let me draw your attention to a few.

I will kick off with Batemans 'Springtime Oatmeal Biscuit'. The pump clip is a clue - it has a pile of oatmeal biscuits on it. Not that I have any issue with them per se, I just don't want them in my beer. Raw cane sugar, oats and malted barley combine to give a sickly sweet concoction that masquerades as a beer. Not for me I must confess.

Saltaire 'Juniper Rye' sounded promising. Another let down. There are some decent hops here but they are masked by the taste of malted rye, and whole juniper berries, making another odd tasting beer. Thank goodness I did not order a pint.

Surely my next choice would be better. Sadly my choosing was astray again. This time it was partly my fault though. The pump clip does say that Green Jack 'Red Herring' is a smoked beer - a style I dislike with a passion - and it is a very smoky beer. I missed that vital part of information so the oak and beech smoked malts in this red beer came as a bit of shock. Another catastrophy.

By this time I was getting desperate for some hop taste, and I still had a couple more beers to try.I read the tasting notes on the Lancaster 'Raspberry Rose'. Wheat and Slovenian hops with the subtle spring hint of raspberries. If this is what a 'hint' tastes like...well ?? At least I was getting my five a day in without leaving the bar !

I eschewed the Elgoods 'Plum Porter'. By this time I had learned my lesson. Daleside 'Sea Fever' had a couple of decent hops in it, and thankfully, did taste of hops, and was clean and refreshing without a suggestion of any odd flavours. It made my day. 

Of course there will be drinkers out there who will love the beers that I disliked otherwise they would not be brewed, and of course, I was unlucky to find all these beers in the same pub at the same time. One I could overlook - five was a step too far for me. Just wished I could have found the Hawkshead 'El Dorado' rumoured to be the best beer at the festival.