Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Atlas Mill Brewery Tap (or Tipp Inn)

A long overdue and unfortunately brief visit to this new brewery tap at Brighouse was just squeezed in before Christmas, and very enjoyable it was too. This is one of the most attractive little bars I've seen of late with many of the fittings being saved from local pub closures. All eight handpumps were serving Atlas Mill brews with the Gold, the IPA and the Christmas special really impressing. A more leisurely and comprehensive study of the brewery's portfolio is definitely called for early in the new year! (map)

Friday, December 21, 2007

C*rling Banished!

What a red letter day! The two pubs I most often frequent (both Ossetts) have just taken the 'C'-word off their bars...and replaced it with Leffe Blonde of all things. TOTAL BONUS! I'm not a great partaker of Leffe (though that's mostly down to price) but the smug entertainment value in watching the faces of 'drinkers' automatically ordering "two pints a' C***lin' mate/luv" without even checking to see if it's served (anybody else noticed this 'how can you call yourselves a pub if you don't serve Crapling' attitude from the 'I won't touch owt unless I've seen it on the telly' brigade?), promises to be quality fun over the festive period. It might even take the sting out of having to share my favourite quaffing holes with folk who don't get in a pub from one Christmas to the next. Having the guts to take such a radical step will certainly ensure my continued support for this embryonic chain - now let's see a few more follow suit!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Top Ten Blondes in 2007

Looking back over a year of memorable beer festivals and some classic ale I have put together a list of my top ten previously unsampled hoppy brews from the past twelve months. Since these were all new to me in 2007 and don't include old favourites, they aren't necessarily the best I've supped, but I'll certainly be on the look out for each and every one of them again next year. They're listed in alphabetical order since scoring them against each other would be nigh on impossible now - however if pressed into taking just one to a desert might well bark in a bit of a brogue!

Allgates Bright Blade 4.0%
Brewdog Hype 4.1%
Brown Cow Silver Cascade 4.2%
Fernandes Pathfinder 3.8%
Goose Eye Geese-a-look 4.2%
Grand Union Liberty Blonde 4.2%
Maypole Wellow Gold 4.6%
Pictish Magnum 4.6%
South Hams Wild Blonde 4.4%
Thornbridge Jaipur IPA 5.9%

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Saving The Best Till Last

Two outstanding winter beer festivals this weekend rounded off another year's ale chasing and provided an opportunity to really appreciate the more traditional styles of British brewing. As a hopelessly addicted gulper of pale hoppy beers, conditions have to be just right for me to make the move back to the dark side these days - but once in the mood...!

Suddaby's in Malton once again put on a great cross-section of colours, strengths and styles amongst their forty beers but as usual I had great difficulty in moving on from the likes of the irrepressible Dark Star Hophead and truly wondrous Grand Union Liberty Blond. And this will always be the case when presented with these lightweight and full-flavoured session ales I'm afraid. It's not a fear of trying new stuff, but as I've said before, too much choice just seems to have me lazily opting for the sanctuary of old favourites.

The solution is simple - a festival solely devoted to the old style winter warmers with no lager look-a-like distractions or zesty orange scented temptresses, just proper beer-coloured ales, engine-oil porters and rich syrupy stouts.

The Drop Inn at Elland not only managed to lay on just such a do with some truly classic examples of the dark craft, but coincided it perfectly with the coldest few nights of the winter so far - ideal conditions! Of the fifteen beauties to try it was a tough choice picking a top-dog but I have to say that after reaching Critical Mass, a Rum for Cover had me heading straight to Oblivion! With any luck I might just recover in time for Christmas!
pics: Suddaby's festival bar & part of the weird & wonderful decor in the fest-shed

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Drop in for a Winter Warmer

The second Ossett Brewery pub to organise a beer festival is The Drop Inn at Elland and this weekend a selection of at least fifteen seasonal offerings will be available on the extended bar. I did manage to find out about some of the beers featuring but due to sampling a little too much killer-strength ale at The Grove earlier in the day, have managed to forget most of it. I do remember that Christmas/winter specials from two of my favourite breweries, Boggart (Manchester) and Skinners of Cornwall, are making an appearance though - so it would be rude not to go!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Suddaby's Winter Beer Festival

There's one weekend adventure I yearn for once the clocks have gone back and the sudden dark days have sparked a craving for Oatmeal Stout, Coffee Porter and Pudding Ale - and it's not in Kirklees or even West Yorkshire for that matter. For four days in mid-December Suddaby's Crown Hotel (below left), in the picturesque North Riding market town of Malton, puts it's rather large 'shed' to very good use indeed. With ample room for a hundred folk, some live music, plenty of food and no fewer than forty gantried real ales, this is without doubt my favourite winter beer festival. In fact if I had to chose just one festival a year to attend (God forbid!) this would probably be it!

Ideally an overnight stop in the Crown itself would make for the perfect weekend but with very few rooms, and availability at a premium during the festival, this isn't always an option. However a few hundred yards up Yorkersgate stands the mighty Talbot Hotel (right), a spacious (in fact enormous!), clean, comfortable (not to mention 18th century) home to a good night's kip and a monstrous breakfast - and all yours for the princely sum of £30 a night! Unbeatable value, and the very best way to start your build up to the festive season.

The links are all here so go ahead and treat yourselves to a relaxing couple of days in the beautiful heartland of Yorkshire a mere 10 minutes drive from stately Castle Howard (Brideshead) - oh and did I mention the beer shop where you can get all of Suddaby's ales to take home? - Christmas shopping made easy! (Now where's NYCC tourist board with that cheque!)
Suddaby's Winter Beer Festival runs from Thursday 13th - Sunday 16th December (map)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Dangerous Double!

Following last weeks Chilli beer, this week's curiosity at The Grove in Huddersfield involves the Alehouse (formerly Verulam Brewery of St. Albans) Ton Up Double IPA at a strapping 10.9%! Regulars at the pub are well used to the frequent occurence of super-strength brews (available in third of a pint measures) but will seldom have seen this style of ale.
For those wondering just what on earth a double IPA is I refer you to this somewhat simplified definition from Beer Advocate - "Take an India Pale Ale and feed it steroids, ergo the term Double IPA, then expect something robust, malty, alcoholic and with a hop profile that might rip your tongue out!" - Now that's my kind of beer! - BA goes on to say "You can thank American west coast (San Diego in particular) brewers for this somewhat reactionary style."

Update: Failed miserably to get this one down (wuss!) and had to donate most of it I'm afraid. Was rather hoping it would be similar to some of the strong American IPAs I've tried but instead was reminiscent of those dreaded childhood cough medicines. At 10.9% alcohol by volume, Ton Up is more of a wine than a beer and its drinking should obviously be treated differently, but for me the very strong tones of toffee and roasted sugar completely overpowered the malt flavour. Even the bitterness from the hops couldn't keep the sweetness in check resulting in a cloying burnt honey taste, unfortunately typical of so many barley wine style recipes. NOT my kind of beer but I'll be back to try their 9 Above Zero next week!
pic: courtesy of the Lower Red Lion in St Albans which is the Alehouse Brewery Tap & appears here 'cos I couldn't find any brewery pics on the web. It is a nice looking pub though!