Saturday, April 25, 2015

Progress report on the East vs West Fest

Victoria statue & County Hall, Wakefield.
The motley crew behind Wakefield's East vs West beer festival have been rather busy of late.
Several meetings have taken place and the beer list is beginning to take shape for the May 15 to 16 event at The Red Shed on Vicarage Street.
Last month some of the organisers decamped to Manchester to look at the western breweries likely to feature at the festival.
That makes it sound rather formal when in fact it was an excellent mini pub tour led by the man behind the Beers Manchester blog
The blogger is organising the East vs West beers from his side of the Pennines. He is a friend of Five Town's brewer Malcolm Bastow, who is organising the festival overall and sourcing the Yorkshire beers.
Our start was the wonderful Marble Arch in Ancoates, where we were treated to several brews from Marble, one from First Chop and another from Brass Castle.
The host's Antipodean and Lagonda drew the purrs as did the food. Beers Manchester informed us it was one of the best pubs to get food in - his local knowledge was spot on. Haggis-filled scotch eggs, cheese boards and a belting burger were all enjoyed by the group.
We took in another three pubs, including The Crown & Kettle where it was an all dark affair. A good day out and reminiscent of the First group trip led by Steve Goodwill before Christmas.
A few days later and we were back in Outwood at Malcolm's brewery for another planning meeting. I wish all planning meetings were like this, two Five Town's on draught (including One at T'end which had a fair few admirers at The Star during its last festival).
Then, last Thursday we me again at Malc's where Old Norrell was on the bar, I also espied a jug full of dark beer, which Malcolm told us was Pancake Porter brewed with North Riding. The sample had come out of the fermenter and had a lovely rum aroma (thanks GBK) and a distinct berried taste. I think Malc told us he had used blueberry. Anyway, I just had a sip and shall be looking out for this on cask soon.
Back to business, we were presented with a copy of the A4 festival poster, which listed all the breweries involved.

From Yorkshire we have Atom, Blue Bee, Rat, Sunbeam, Learn To Brew, Revolutions, North Riding Brewery, Clark's, Brown Cow and Five Towns.
Lancashire is represented by First Chop, Tickety Brew, Squawk Brewing, Blackjack, Brewsmith, Shindigger Beer, Wilson Potter, AllGates, Marble, Quantum and Thirst Class.
Malc did drop a few clues about the specific beers, but he made the mistake of having the second test from Grenada on in the background. So, let's just say someone wasn't paying full attention.
But I do recall the Brown Cow beer will be green hopped and the Clark's will be a Chappers special, possibly a stout.
I'll post a full beer list as soon as I get one.
The poster also gives the session times: noon until 4pm, then 5pm to midnight both on Friday and Saturday, May 15-16.
It will be pay on the door. Pricing is likely to be £5, with proceeds going to children's cancer charity Candlelighters and community-minded Newton Hill Cricket Club, Wakefield.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Tail Of Too Sitties !!

No, you have no read it wrong, I think there may be a book already of this title, so I am trying to avoid copyright issues !

I had heard of two beer festivals in Leeds on the grapevine in the last week and yesterday I had the chance to sample them. Armed with a list from BFH (thanks) I mounted my trusty steed and headed for the city. One of the festivals was at Mr Foleys on the Headrow, promising 24 beers at the pub. The other was a festival held by the Nicholsons chain of pubs, with beers available in each pub. Seemed the recipe for a good day.

On my arrival at Mr Foleys I realised I had forgotten to factor in opening times. It was 11 a.m but the doors were still closed. Ah well, round the corner to Wetherspoons for a quick one whilst waiting. I decided to try again at 1130 am and the doors were open, and I was all set.

It is the first festival held at the pub, and consisted of 24 beers all served on stillage from barrels in the upstairs seating area. All were cooled, and thankfully all were available in 1/3 pint measures. (a very useful thing when needing a lot of beer !). I set off with a couple of breweries new to me, Vocation from Hebden Bridge, and Left Handed Giant (of Bristol). Both the Chop and Change and the Pale Ale, respectively, were decent beers, well crafted and tasty.

Unfortunately, no lists were available when I was there, but from memory there seemed to be some of the beers I wanted to try missing. A quick enquiry with the staff revealed that two suppliers had let them down so they had to make do with 'more usual' replacements. This had a bearing on the rest of my day as it reduced the beers I wanted to try quite considerably. Anyway, onwards and upwards. There was plenty of variety still to be had, and next up were beers from down south. Pig & Porter and Siren were both sampled, and I found the latter particularly good. but that was outshone by my next choice, Windswept 'Weizen' - a really good wheat beer.A couple more local beers this time, Northern Monk 'Faith' and Sunbeam 'Sun Kissed' - both decent beers from local Leeds breweries.

By this time my plan for the rest of the day was formulating, its amazing what a bit of liquid refreshment can do. When I left my comrades after about a hour, there were only 5 people in the pub, all were festival goers, I dread to think what normal Thursday customer numbers are !  I decided to try the nearest Nicholson's house, the 'Victoria' to sample their 'festival'. What a disappointment. One beer, no lists (apparently you have to download the App) and no reason to stay.

At least it galvanised the plan. Hop back on the trusty steed and take a look at Bradford. I know I wrote quite recently about my dislike of the city and its pubs but I had heard of a couple of new places to try so I thought I would try them out. One of my problems with the city is that the decent bars are all concentrated in the North Parade area, at the top of the city, so when someone told me the Old Bank had reopened as a decent pub it seemed churlish not to try it.

It is fairly centrally sited, and down a couple of steps. I checked out about 6 cask beers on the bar, from far and wide and my half of Upham 'Punter' was decent if not outstanding. The pub itself is light and airy and a pleasant place to while away a few minutes. But I had another objective, to find the brewery tap of the new Bradford Brewery. 

It was a bit of hike, again up the hill towards the market area, but instead of turning right towards the bars I had tried before I went straight past Morrisons and was faced with a yellow painted building - no signage but it looked like a pub. And it was. 8 beers on offer, 3 from the Bradford Brewery - all sampled and all good beers of different styles - and the others all interesting. The pub itself is fresh, clean and welcoming and the knowledgable barmaid filled me in with a bit of gen about the brewery and the pub. There have been 8 beers so far produced, and the number of pump clips around the bar give testament to the number of guest beers served. There are several keg lines too, but it seems that the brewery are intending to can and bottle their beer rather than keg it, suprisingly.

By this time, my beer-o-meter was showing full, so it was time to make my way back to the bus station and home. An interesting day of contrasts, but one decent beer festival, and a new brewery tap to reflect on.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Welcome to The House of Fun - Brewing a Madness themed beer

Image courtesy of Revolutions Breing Co
By The Bloke from Hull
Was it really 33 years ago that I went to see Barrie, the record man on the market to buy an ex-jukebox copy of “House of Fun” by Madness? Well it must have been and I still have it, complete with picture sleeve and false centre. We always had to say: “got a middle for this mate?” It was released as a one-off single on April 30, 1982 and reached No.1 in the Hit Parade.
Memories of all this came flooding back when I spoke to Andrew and Mark from Revolutions Brewery at Wakefield CAMRA beer festival last November. They had already decided on the names of the beers for their 2015 Rewind Special series and offered me a choice to come and brew one. “House of Fun” jumped out at me as it about sums up my life at the moment. Several weeks later, Andrew showed me the pumpclip design on his phone and at that moment the pub we were in, The Victoria in Ossett, became just that as I had to put my drink down and roll around with laughter.
Based at Whitwood in Castleford, Revolutions make great music-inspired beers, wide ranging in styles and flavours that appeal to contemporary tastes and yet with a nod to the vinyl (and cassette) tradition of my youth. Classic songs, albums and artists are referenced throughout their beer range. Many are 4.5% ABV (including this one) reflecting their love of the 45rpm 7" single - younger readers take note and look on the internet, please.
Revolutions Head Brewer Andrew Helm
Winding on to February 18th this year, the brew day arrived and new apprentice Callum was soon busy weighing out the malts. Carafa 3 was used to provide a less intense flavour than usual to allow the chocolate malt to come through for flavour. Someone had done his homework, Andrew! Other notable grains added were roasted barley, chocolate malt and oats. 
After boiling for a couple of hours in the mash tun, the wort was transferred to the copper for a rolling boil. Pilgrim hops were added for bittering and then it was time for the magic ingredients. Lots of Lactose powder to make it marvellous and 3kg of Cacao Nibs from Peru, the land of footy World Cup legends Hugo Sotil, Teófilo Cubillas and Héctor Chumpitaz. I remember them well – I had the Subbuteo team. A search on the internet reveal that Cacao increases energy, vitality and well being through the release of anandamide, a bliss endowing compound. Who said beer is not good for you.
The wort was then rapidly cooled via the heat exchanger and transferred to the fermenter where the yeast was added to begin the final process (for the time being). A bit of clearing up and then it was refreshment time over at The Junction pub in Castleford where the guys told me that “our” beer was the most expensive beer they had ever made thanks to the fancy ingredients. No pressure then!!
After a week of waiting and wondering, Andrew contacted me to say that it was Ok. Such enthusiasm. He also instructed me to attend the beer launch at the up and coming Robin Hood pub at Altofts on March 11. The news went out and about and as the evening of the big day approached my worrying intensified. However, after one sip at the pub I was happy. 
A bloke & his beer at The Robin Hood, Altofts
The mocha milk stout brewed with my help/interference was pretty good. The Robin Hood was certainly a “House of Fun” that night.
But the story did not quite end there. The following day, I was working at Leeds CAMRA beer festival and our beer was on. Quality control revealed that it was still very good. Quite by chance I bumped into Ian Cheeseright, the pumpclip designer. What an honour! I abandoned my duties for a while as we chewed the cud over a pint or two. 
So thanks guys for making a wonderful beer and involving me. And no – I was not one of those embarrassed teenage lads who frequented chemist shops.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Piebald Inn, Hunmanby

By Bloke from Hull
After twelve years at the Chestnut Horse in Great Kelk, John Allen saw a business opportunity to good not to miss and decided to move to the Railway at Hunmanby. He took his renowned pies with him and appropriately renamed his new business “The Piebald Inn”. As the previous name suggests, the pub is located next to a railway crossing just a short walk from the local railway station on the Hull to Scarborough line. 
I had visited the Chestnut Horse with my friend Peter and we had dined there. He had been wanting to take his son Ben to the “Pie Pub” for some time. Ben was recently back home on vacation from the USA and so, one recent afternoon we made the trip by train to see Jon at his new pub, try lovely beers and of course sample some of his legendary pies.
Arriving shortly after opening time we were greeted by barman Ben who provided us with some lovely real ales and a menu each. Jon soon appeared to explain all about the Piebald and the great potential it held and how he was going to realise that. The pub is a huge former Marstons affair with a lovely bar at the front and various large rooms to the rear. The aim is to not only have the restaurant that is now in use but to also develop the other rooms into various function rooms and to create a terrace. 
We chose our pies from the wide ranging menu and we were soon demolishing them eagerly. Great value! However, we declined the “Challenges” that were available. These are the “Dray Horse” and the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The former is a monster pie with mountains of veg while the latter is made with the hottest chillies in the world. If you clear the plate of either and your meal is free. If you don’t you have to pay and make a generous donation to charity. Many have failed!
We indulged in a couple more pints of excellent real ale and engaged in more banter with Ben and Jon before setting of for the station feeling comfortably full. 
The pub endeavours to cater for those having special dietary requirements – veggie, allergies and gluten free, so there is no reason for most people not to go along and give it a try. So, if you are on holiday in the Filey area or travelling between Scarborough and Bridlington or just fancy a different kind of meal experience then pay the Piebald a visit. When we go for the Yorkshire cricket at Scarborough we have decided to abandon all ideas about fish and chips and go for a pie.
Menus are available on line at
Tel: 01723 447577

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rebranding Elland Brewery's pumpclips

On my recently brew day visit to Elland Brewery I discovered the whys and wherefores about the recent rebranding of their fantastic range of beers. 
Despite retaining the distinctive shape of their pumpclips over the years there have been many varied and quirky designs. 
It has been noted that some were too individualistic and it was time to simplify the brand to uniformity. 
There was a need to make the clips less busy and communicate with the customer clearly to ensure easy and immediate identification by pub customers when reaching the bar to make a choice.
The shape has been retained but softened with rounded corners. 
Five key points are now quite evident across the range: the Brewery; the beer strength (ABV); the beer colour; the beer type (brief description); and the beer name. 
This uniformity should lead to the brand becoming far more recognizable and hopefully appealing to both traditional and new customers including the newer generation of cask ale drinkers.And where did the launch of the rebranding take place? At The Junction in Castleford of course and all in the wood. Nine pumps were in action but not for long as six were soon drunk dry very rapidly. BFH

Monday, April 20, 2015

Leeds Latest

A little later than we initially reported but it seems the latest Ossett Brewery craft/wine/pizza bar is set to launch in the leaning tower this week.

Two beer festivals are also taking place in Leeds, one at the Nicholson's chain (Great George Street, Bishopgate Street & Kirkgate) and the other at Mr Foley's opposite the Town Hall on The Headrow. Both start on Thursday 23rd, Nicholson's running until 10th May and Foley's until next Sunday.   

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Riverside crawl of sorts around Sheffield

Back view of The Riverside, Mowbray Street, Sheffield.
Inspired by last week's sunshine crawl around Sheffield, I ventured out for another ale foray but on an altogether greyer day in the Steel City.
The intention was to take in three pubs I haven't written about for ages, if at all. As per usual it didn't quite pan out, but I had some interesting detours.
First up was The Riverside, which is close to The Harlequin and The Fat Cat. 
I've been in here two or three time recently, mainly to eat their fine burgers, but I thought I'd take a closer look at the ale this time.
The pub often has a good selection of Exit 33 beers, so I started with one of theirs: New England Best, 4.2% ABV. I also had a half of Derventio Brewery's Feast 4.8%, which was somewhere between a pale and golden colour.
I preferred the bitter or 'Dark Ale' as breweries seem to like calling them these days. At least this one had best on the clip. Apparently, I had a mild the other week, which was described as a dark ale for commercial reasons. At least breweries' naming policies are keeping me on my toes.
The weather wasn't ideally suited for outdoor drinking but I made it out onto the large riverside beer garden briefly, which tends to get rammed on sunnier days.
I popped back inside for food, a bacon burger, and was struck by the music. Eclectic jukebox might be an understatement. It started off with some Heavy Metal, then flamenco meets bluegrass, followed by what I thought was Iggy Pop, Muddy Waters and some jazz.
It was quite loud but it grew on me after a while. However, I then opted to move on for a quieter pint further up the river at The Gardener's Rest.
The idea was to follow the river's course and ultimately end up at The New Barrack Tavern in Hillsborough, where I haven't been in ages.
But I made the mistake of cutting through Kelham Island. The lure of The Fat Cat proved too great and I had a very nice half of Bristol Beer Factory Sunrise. This would turn out to be my beer of the day. It was 4.4% ABV and described as 'premium all English, hoppy and golden'. 
'Royal Oak' mural in The Fat Cat's beer garden
The detour continued at The Kelham Island Tavern where I had a half of Tiny Rebel's One Inch Punch. A very nice 'golden American' 3.9% sessioner, which would have been a good beer to start my tour with. But despite Twitter being a good guide to telling you what's on the bar where, I haven't got to that detailed planning stage yet.
For example, the inevitable next step was to The Shakespeares, which updates its social media pages frequently.
But the sight of a number 79 bus in slow-moving rush traffic took me down to The Moor and towards my final destination, The Rutland Arms, a few minute's walk from the city's bus and railway stations.   
Rutland Arms, Brown Street
I like this pub but don't get here as often as I should. It's a great place to sample Blue Bee beers. There were at least two on when I called briefly, and I had them both.
First was Hillfoot Best Bitter, presumably named after Hillfoot Steels up Penistone Road. This 'dark, traditional, balanced' four percenter was the pick of the bitters I had on Thursday. 

I followed it with Belma IPA from the same brewery. A single American hopped beer at 5%. This hop was new to me so I had to look it up on the Hops Direct website which tells me it is a "very clean hop, with a very orange, slight grapefruit, tropical pineapple, strawberry, and melon aroma". 
Apparently it hails from Puterbaugh Farms in the Yakima Valley in Washington State.

Despite that list of ingredients I would describe it, unscientifically, as a subtle, not in your face hop.
I didn't do well at chemistry at school though.
It was a neat end to a Sheffield session and a nice way to sign off from the city before the cricket season starts in Huddersfield on Saturday.
But I think I'll be back in Sheffield after about four matches - you can't escape the magnetic pull of the Steel City!