Friday, November 30, 2007

Holidays Are Coming!

That special joie de vivre that only the run up to Christmas can generate is upon me today. Yes I know it's a little early to be feeling very festive but two excellent local beer festivals coinciding with payday plus an afternoon off work and some half decent weather have all conspired to lift my spirits to a seldom-experienced plateau of euphoria. And I'm feeling like this in Dewsbury for pity's sake - it must be the medication!
Hopes of connecting with Anglo-Dutch Tabitha (a near legendary festival special) at the Stork & Whippet (WRLRR) fest (right) were dashed a few days ago when the beer list was announced, but seeing the Harviestoun Schiehallion on the menu instantly remedied my disappointment. This multi-award winning cask-conditioned lager seems to have dropped off in either popularity or availability in recent times - certainly in these parts - but remains the undisputed champion of it's category in my eyes. New boys Leeds appear to have another thoroughbred on their hands with Ale Mary, a delicious dark medium strength beer with plenty of rich roast flavour that could well see you doing penance if not respectful!

The overwhelmingness of The Star's beer festivals at Lockwood in Huddersfield is ... well ... overwhelming! Those first few minutes there, awkwardly clutching glass and menu in front of a battery of fifty handpumps, are on a par with that childhood hysteria felt moments before present opening on Christmas morning. With so much choice and little chance (or desire) to get through the lot I tend to head straight for the gimmicky stuff these days - you know the bright green Irish ale or the banana & toasted wombat flavoured brews!

The Star has become much more about having fun than sitting there ticking a list or attempting to pontificate on the merits of such and such a beer - especially when you're just plain juiced. For the record I did find some previously unsampled delights today but they were all totally over-shadowed by the awesome Brew Dog Hype at 4.1%, a Scottish ale of fabulous sharp hoppy bitterness that was too moreish to allow a serious inspection of a lot of what was on offer - sorry!

It's on to Suddaby's festival at Malton in a fortnight for a winter festival with a real Christmas feel, and God willing there will be a report of some description. A premature Happy/Hoppy Holidays everybody!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Little Green Men at The Grove

The 'coming soon' board at The Grove in Huddersfield is currently boasting the imminent arrival on the bar of some Little Green Men! No - not the aliens from the foot of your bed but those Lancastrian hot pepper experts from the telly who have now embarked on a career in beer production. Using only the finest (you guessed it) green chillies, the LGM have had bottled versions of their beers on supermarket shelves for a while but this weekend will see an opportunity for local drinkers to try the stuff handpulled. My one and only previous experience with chilli beer was not pleasant (downright dangerous in fact!) but according to the website the brewers have no intention of trying to decapitate anyone but rather wow their customers with the 'fruitiness' that's apparently contained within the peppers (must have missed that bit!). The 3.8% mild version features at The Grove - so a gentle initiation one hopes!

Update: Arrived at The Grove Sunday lunchtime with less than an hour to spare before those legends of non-league footy Locomotiv Harrogate were due on the Beeb (in another pub of course - The Grove does jazz, not sport) and found the LGM had just landed! This copper coloured ale on first tasting was a pleasant though rather thin balance of malt & hop with just a hint of fruit and a late afterburn as the chilli made itself known. Gradually (after the best part of a pint) that familiar belly glow started to build up and provided good insulation against a cold & wet tramp back to town. Need to sample the next one up though, definitely!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pub Paper Revived

The demise of Pubspeak, that annoyingly unproofread yet indispensable guide to local pub goings-on, was a crying shame for many of us, but in a little under three months the paper has reappeared. Innspeak (catchier IMO!), saw it's first edition hit selected pubs and clubs in Calderdale & Kirklees at the end of last week offering the same blend of pub and festival reviews, events calendars and corny jokes etc. that made it's predecessor such essential reading. To ensure it continues the publishers have asked for a donation of £68 a year from pubs wanting it delivered. Not a lot over twelve months and certainly worth putting a collection on the bar for if your landlord's too tight to stump up the cash! Good luck and best wishes to all involved - you've been sorely missed!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Batley's Star Bar

The attractive Cellar Bar at Station Road in Batley continues to appeal to my better/bitter nature with it's inexhaustible (or so it seems) supply of Red Lion ale. It also has it's own website up and running now so keeping tabs on the latest happenings (and there's always something happening) just couldn't be simpler.
The pub has Sky Sports, though not in an intrusive big screen way, plus active pool and football teams but thankfully falls well short of sports bar classification. Something I hadn't noticed on my previous visit (it was dark!) is the permanent inclusion on draught of 'Dewsbury Wit'. At 4.5% this continental style bier from the local Anglo-Dutch brewery is a cloudy refreshing coriander flavoured brew reminiscent of Hoegaarden, and completes a very healthy line up of styles. A further two handpumps for real ale are planned if there's enough interest generated, so do hop on the train and give this imaginative, stylish and friendly little bar your undying support!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Colne Valley LC Beer Festival

A toss-up between Slaithwaite and Hebden Bridge for the privilege of hosting my ale swilling prowess (?!) was really a no-brainer this afternoon. Having already done a Fox & Goose festival earlier in the year and knowing what a tedious journey Hebden Bridge is by public transport, it was yet another liquid lunch down the Colne Valley for me. Not only is the Moonraker a very well organised and friendly festival but all for a good cause as well - and with over a third of the beers from recently opened breweries there was no shortage of new ales to sample. Of these I picked out Golden Wraith from Hornbeam, a moreish syrupy concoction with 'over the top hop', plus the excellent Grindleton LPA which appealed to my bitterest of bitter loving taste buds.

To soak up the suds a generous few platefuls of pork pie slices (presumably from the legendary Eddie Grange next door - who appeared to be moving premises incidentally) were on the bar and could have led to a much extended swillage had there not been a train to catch.

A good turnout was anticipated for the evening session following on from a very busy Friday night, and next year's bash will most definitely be high on my list of priority beer bothering escapades. I didn't note the name of the Irish folk band that were just tuning up as we left but the inclusion of a trombone in their line up was inspired - it seems I can't come to this valley without exposure to a little brass (and a lot of beer) - it's such a nuisance!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Three Horseshoes at Warham All Saints, Norfolk

One of my all time favourite pubs has recently launched it's own website (no wonder it's getting busier) and the photos certainly do it more justice than mine ever could - but here's a little piece I prepared anyway following a recent stay.

There's so much to recommend the Three Horseshoes that it's difficult to know where to start, but I'm hoping that these pictures, though hardly brochure material, do at least convey the aesthetics if not the atmosphere of this wonderful place. Being a lover of wild spots (that's naturally wild - not 'Jonny's' on a Saturday night wild!) the location of the 'Shoes is perfect.

Situated a couple of miles inland from Wells-next-the-Sea (the north Norfolk coast's halfway-house), the pub acts as a great base for exploring this internationally important shoreline whilst providing everything that makes traditional English pub B&B the best type of accommodation going. The five guest rooms are in the old Post Office next door, which also houses a quaint lounge and country kitchen style breakfast room. Access to your digs is separate from the pub but is only a few yards down the street and does mean your comings and goings aren't restricted by the odd opening hours the Horseshoes keeps (by this I mean afternoon closing, a rare thing these days where I'm from).

I have included a shot of the menu board to give an idea of what culinary delights await, though in actual fact this selection is pretty much fixed and only alters due to seasonal availability.
As you may have guessed the pub is renowned for it's pies and puddings so make sure to work up a good appetite - a few hours tramping around Warham Greens, Wells Woods or the magnificent beaches at Holkham should do the trick!
This time of year is of course fresh mussel season and here, like in so many of the local pubs and restaurants, they come to your table by the bucket load - a fantastic feast and not to be missed!

The permanent beers are Greene King IPA and of course that old favourite Woodforde's Wherry (served straight from the cask and at it's very best here I must add). Incidentally to those folks at a couple of pubs in West Yorkshire who drink the stuff forced through a sparkler at less than 12 degrees - you have absolutely no concept of how this legendary beer should be enjoyed! The Wherry & IPA are occasionally supplemented by a guest ale, which wasn't a bad drop of Tydd Steam Swedish Blonde (4.0%) during our few days stay.

I've yet to come here when the snow is falling but I imagine the scene would be straight off one of those deluxe Christmas cards that big companies send to their best paying clients - the kind of image that briefly transports you to a different time and place when all was rural beauty and thatched tranquility. 'Tis with a mug of ale and full belly hearkening to familiar talk and cracking embers that I would choose to spend my final hours'. Robert Swift in 1886 may have had this place in mind! (map)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Rat & Ratchet, Huddersfield

I had intended to do an exhaustive guide to the Rat many moons ago but to put it bluntly I just couldn't be arsed! It's like I feel too close to the pub and it's regulars to write anything objective and for some reason am strangely self-conscious about getting the camera out when it never bothers me elsewhere.

Without doubt it's the pub I most frequent in town for more reasons than I've got room for here, but put very simply it's a great combination of interesting beer and good people (or should that be the other way round?!) - so rather than any attempt at personal anecdotes etc, here are the plain & simple nuts & bolts of this almighty boozer!

THE RAT LOWDOWN (for low down rats!)

14 handpumps serve -
Ossett Pale Gold
Ossett Silver King
Ossett Excelsior

plus rotating Ossett guest
a Mild/Porter/Stout (very occasionally from Ossett)
& a Real Cider (or Perry) on draught or by gravity

Frequent Guests from:
Daleside - usually 'Blonde'
Pictish - usually 'Brewers Gold'
Phoenix - often the newer brews but occasional 'Arizona'
Fernandes - ever changing from this quality producer
Riverhead - usually 'Butterley', 'March Haigh' and 'Redbrook'
Abbeydale - 'Matins', 'Moonshine' & 'Absolution'...mostly!
Bradfield - quite often 'Farmers Blonde' or 'IPA'
Moorhouses - seasonals

Recent Guests from:
Roosters/Outlaw - 'Cream' cropped up again plus 'Amarillo'
Elland - seen most months and very popular - especially 'Beyond the Pale'
Anglo-Dutch - the session stuff recently rather than 'Tabatha' unfortunately
Acorn - 'Barnsley Bitter' & 'Gold' have been doing the rounds & seasonal 5% IPAs
Boggart - both dark & light milds have put in the odd appearance
Brew Dog - made a recent appearance with Edge, Hype The Physics many many more

Continental Draught Beers & Lagers etc.
Becks Vier
Budvar (dark)

The Rat comprises four separate drinking areas plus an attractive terrace beer garden for when the weather's fine. Distractions are kept fairly minimal with a pinball machine, one slot, a wall mounted (but unobtrusive) TV plus the near legendary jukebox. There is a regular quiz (currently Wednesdays) but live music seems to have died a death apart from an occasional 'open mic' night. However with former landlord Dave Kendal-Smith now working behind the scenes for the Brewery, there's every chance that the events calendars of all Ossett's ten houses might start to fill up a little.

Food is no lomger available but a mini-fridge on the bar stocks a selection of locally produced pies and pasties.

The pub normally has two regular beer festivals a year, a mini mild one in May (around 15 beers) and the all singing version in September (over 60 beers last time) to rival it's illustrious neighbour down the hill but the main one is currently on hold.

Additional Info
Rob Allen

40 Chapel Hill
Opening hours:
Mon - Tue 3-12
Wed - Thu 12-12
Fri & Sat 12-1am
Sun 12-11

Click here for map.
More photos will appear shortly as will a list of bottled beer and a draught beer update - please keep checking back