Saturday, July 21, 2007

Beer 'n' Brass

Another potentially crappy wet miserable Saturday afternoon in Huddersfield was saved by a healthy dose of the two things the town can take real pride in - great ale and a decent brass band. The combination could be enjoyed by taking in The Star Inn's popular Summer Beer Festival at Folly Hall and the Marsden Silver Band, appearing a few hundred yards away at the Rat & Ratchet on Chapel Hill.

A record seventy plus ales were available on handpump at the Star, and after a rather mediocre Spring fest by their high standards, this weekend saw a real return to form with an incredible variety of quality beers, many from new brewers. Anyone who still needs convincing of the healthy state of British independent brewing need look no further than a Star beer festival.

Apologies for the state of the menu (and the guy who photographed it)! Click to read

Personal favourites this time around included a very sweet Banoffee flavoured beer from those quality gimmick specialists Coach House Brewery, a sharp and tangy number from Marble called Lemony Ginger and Magnum, another classic from Pictish.

A view from smokers corner at The Star Inn

Braving the elements up the road was the multi-award winning Marsden Silver Band who are now sponsored by Ossett Brewery and are currently touring as many of their pubs as can accommodate them.

A stirring and often very moving performance was well appreciated and resulted in a couple of encores despite the worsening weather. At one point I wondered if it was actually possible to drown whilst playing the euphonium in heavy rain!

The band are slated to appear at the brewery's open day event next month, details of which will be posted here soon.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Armitage Bridge 'Monkey' Club Festival, Huddersfield

One of the most appealing aspects of living in Huddersfield has to be it's immediate proximity to some truly spectacular countryside and attractive rural hostelries. And today, just five minutes from the town centre, hidden away in the beautiful Holme Valley, the pretty 'Summer Wine-esque' village of Armitage Bridge was the setting for the much anticipated inaugural Monkeyfest.

The first of hopefully many beer festivals at the Monkey Club coincided with yet more unsettled weather, though thankfully as I write, it hasn't managed to spoil this very well organised event - at least not so far! In fact this afternoon saw some welcome warm sunny spells, but Sunday, unfortunately, is likely to be a return to the sort of miserable conditions we're becoming all too used to this summer. The decision to erect a gazebo opposite the outdoor festival bar was probably a wise one!

Having not seen any previews of the twenty eight beers available it was a welcome surprise to find no shortage of lesser known brews. South Hams Wild Blond at 4.4% was one such and came very close to toppling some old favourites like the mighty RCH Old Slug Porter and wonderful Exmoor Gold (neither of which I've seen locally for a very long time).

Plenty of hard work and good use of local sponsorship would seem to be key to this successful and highly enjoyable festival and it's difficult to see how it could be improved upon (apart from the weather of course) - in fact as first attempts go this is nothing short of a brilliant effort!

There were no restrictions on modes of transport for getting to the 1st annual Monkeyfest!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Grove, Huddersfield

More than enough praise has been heaped on this multi-award winning beer mecca already so I'll keep this one brief.

With unquestionably the largest selection of cask and bottled beer under one roof for many miles around, The Grove has taken little more than twelve months to reach legendary status in real ale circles.

An unprepossessing street corner local it may appear but once inside it's a case of all your Christmases coming at once!

Check out all the latest from The Grove including their 'coming soon' board and live music schedule at their website.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Drop Inn, Elland

Whilst we're on the Ossett theme, here's a look at one of their least known pubs on this the first day of the new smokeless era.

Formally The Oddfellows, The Drop Inn was the seventh to open under the Ossett Brewery banner back in February last year and bears all the hallmarks of the Company's vision of a traditional real ale environment.

I had this dream that at noon today pubs across the land would see mammoth queues of ostracized non-smokers desperate to reclaim their locals, sending profits through the roof and thereby vindicating the smoking ban and saving this ailing trade in one fell swoop! No sign of that happening here yet unfortunately but then The Drop is not the easiest pub in the world to find (map) so in the meantime we'll just have to keep everything crossed I guess!.

Live music is featured on the second Sunday of every month (see the brewery website for details) and the spacious refitted beer garden is a lovely feature, or will be if it ever stops raining this summer!

Eight handpumps dispense four Ossett ales, a Fullers (usually London Pride), a mild or stout and two changing guests from near and far. Today's offerings were a couple of heavyweights from Abbeydale (Absolution 5.3%) and Phoenix (Wobbly Bob 6.0%) both kept in lovely condition by landlady Linda Rowley and her staff; so do make the time to find this charming pub - 'cos no more smoke = no more excuses!