Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Round Dozen For Ossett

Ossett Brewery have just acquired a second pub in their home town to bring the overall total to twelve managed houses in West Yorkshire. The Victoria in Ossett will be re-christened The Silver King, after the brewery's flagship ale (or should that be Chairman Bob?!), and will reopen on Friday 12th September. As with their last pub, The White Horse at Emley, there will be much emphasis on dry sales but expect a minimum eight real ales on the bar. The Revolution continues! (map)

Black Bull, Liversedge
Rat & Ratchet, Huddersfield
Three Pigeons, Halifax
Shepherds Rest, Sowerby Bridge
Travellers Inn, Hipperholme
Shepherds Boy, Dewsbury
Drop Inn, Elland
Riverhead Brewery Tap, Marsden
The Tap, Ossett
Fernandes, Wakefield
White Horse, Emley
Victoria, Ossett

Left: The boarded-up Victoria today

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Festival Update

A long overdue dose of hot summer weather this weekend not only meant ideal conditions for outdoor supping but ensured the packs of beer hunters were armed with a real thirst - the only issue was where to quench it!

Early doors at Hall Bower and the best seats are already taken

Whilst The Star's biggest festival to-date offered more choice than you could throw a neurotic spaniel at, it doesn't provide much of an outdoor seating area which ordinarily isn't a problem, but boy was it hot in that tent this weekend! Meanwhile up the hill at Hall Bower, the organisers must have been punching the air in delight with their beer terrace completely mobbed from the word go.

The Navigation Tavern benefits from it's proximity to the railway station and it's tranquil canal-side setting and should certainly be putting on festivals with more regularity. Beers at all three were served nice and cool which is not always the case at many festivals when the temperatures start to rise.

As for favourite ales, bearing in mind I probably sampled less than 20% of what was available this weekend, I've picked just one from each that I'd certainly want to enjoy again and again.

Hall Bower: A difficult choice to make here with both specially commissioned beers ranking very highly, but I have the superb Mallinsons just edging out the Clarkes.

Navigation Tavern: A limited choice by Sunday but the Cains Sundowner was tailor-made for the weather and in fine condition.

The Star: Well it took some waiting for but the much anticipated Chocolate Chilli from Marble rounded off a truly wonderful weekend's festival-going.

Some tasting notes to follow.

The Navigation's back room and festival bars both saw plenty of action over the weekend with little left to pick over by Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More Beer Fests

Another hectic week of beer festivals beckons with the Star Inn's summer event kicking off tomorrow. Widely acknowledged as the biggest and best pub festival in the country, with over 70 beers on handpull, I've all but run out of superlatives to describe these awesome assemblies of astounding ales (nowt wrong with my alliteration though!). Crowds of tickers will no doubt be gathering to significantly advance their lists and the promise of a dose of good weather should further swell the numbers. (Website)

Hopefully many of those making the second-leg of their tri-annual pilgrimage to the Star will find time to visit Hall Bower during Saturday and Sunday to sample what's on at the very first Athletic & Working Men's Club beer festival. Only a short hike up toward Castle Hill from the Star (if you're reasonably fit!), Hall Bower WMC is hoping to emulate the Monkey Club's successful events, and a couple of specially commissioned ales should prove irresistible to many. (Website)

The Navigation Tavern by the railway station at Mirfield is also holding a festival this coming weekend with approximately 20 beers and a coopering demonstration. Hopefully some more details will appear here before it begins.

See the Local Real Ale Map in the sidebar for details of where to find all of these venues along with their full postal addresses, phone numbers, email contacts and websites if applicable.

Navigation Tavern pic courtesy of

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Green Cross, Huddersfield

With so many pubs closing around town at the moment it's good to be able to report on one that's been given a new lease of life. Admittedly I haven't lost any sleep over the closures in my immediate neighbourhood as they were all crap pubs serving crap lager to crap people, but even so it's a trend that needs reversing once the rubbish has been weeded out.

Redressing the balance in the Moldgreen district of Huddersfield this month is The Green Cross, which is now open for business and putting real ale back on the map in this largely caskless end of town. The striking exterior fronts a very tastefully refurbished pub with a balanced blend of new and traditional features providing a comfortable and relaxed environment. Two distinct drinking areas make up the front bar area with a back room for functions including live music. There is also a small beer garden to the side of the pub available to smokers and the rest of us if the sun ever shines!

A reciprocal agreement with Thwaites ensures their Best Bitter is always available alongside five guest ales, usually from Yorkshire micros. Gracing the bar during our lunchtime visit were beers from Abbeydale, Roosters, Kelham Island, Elland and Salamander, with enough styles to suit all tastes. A glance at the retired pump-clips revealed that the ubiquitous Leeds, popular Acorn, local Mallinsons and even a rarely encountered Abbey Bells of Selby had all done turns recently.

The addition of another quality boozer is really good news and ensures Huddersfield stays very firmly amongst the top real ale towns in the country, a fact that even the much maligned Cask Marque conceded earlier this year - perhaps they're not so out of touch after all! A little extra effort might be needed getting to The Green Cross, especially for those more familiar with the town centre to Folly Hall trail, but this place is certainly worthy of a detour, and one that won't disappoint.

The pub will hold a mini-fest to celebrate Yorkshire Day from 1st-5th August and will feature beers brewed especially for the occasion, including one or two surprises. Full details are on their website along with live band info and everything else you could possibly want to know - so if you've yet to put in an appearance, then here's the excuse you've been waiting for! (map)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Summer Roses Clash

The Shepherds Boy in Dewsbury is hosting it's very first beer festival since joining the Ossett Brewery stable two years ago. This themed event will pit Yorkshire and Lancashire breweries agin' each other from this afternoon until Sunday evening.
Around 10 beers from each county will be available, with a few lesser known producers from over the hills featuring. With another very unsettled summer in prospect the weekend forecast is actually looking quite promising, especially for the Silver Band performance in the beer garden on Saturday afternoon. The temporary festival bar will be sited in the back room rather than outside as originally planned though - just to be on the safe side! Rain or shine the festival will get under way at noon today - so polish your tankards and prepare to do battle! (map)

Yorkshire Puddings & Lancashire Hotpot will be available to soak up the ale, and musical interludes will be the responsibility of Gerry McNeice (tonight), the Marsden Silver Band (Saturday afternoon) and Hard Rain (Sunday afternoon).

Landlord Steve Bamford, watched over by some famous Yorkshire folk, samples the impressive beer on offer at the first Shepherds Boy festival this afternoon.

Update: An incredibly popular festival meant all but three ales ran off on the Saturday night with nothing left for the majority of those attending on the Sunday afternoon. Riverhead's excellent Centenary Ale was voted most popular beer with Boggart's Waterloo Sunset Porter fininshing a close second. The remarkable success of this and last month's Drop Inn festival shows what an attraction these mini pub events have become and it can only be hoped that both venues now benefit from an increase in trade as a result.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Grove T-Shirts

This exclusive design, first seen on The Grove's pint glasses, has just been reproduced on a quality Fruit of the Loom t-shirt, now available from the pub at £12.50, or £14.50 by post. As beer garments go this has to be one of the few I would consider getting though I'm not that keen on the over used 'On Tour' style list on the back - those '80s metal bands have a lot to answer for!
Click here to order yours.

A little about the cartoonist from The Grove's website -
"Martin Honeysett is a world famous cartoonist whose works have appeared in publications such as Punch, Private Eye, Radio Times, The Oldie, The Spectator, The Sunday Telegraph and The Observer. He has collaborated in illustrating books by luminaries such as Michael Palin & Terry Jones, Sue Townsend and Ivor Cutler amongst others."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The White Horse at Emley

Pub number eleven in the burgeoning Ossett estate opened it’s doors to the world last night, and disguised as a local hack from the Huddersfield Daily Unexamined I managed a quick nosey and even some rather good ale (a real rarity in these parts). This is the company's first foray into rural pub ownership and represents a significant change of tack for an outfit whose reputation rests entirely on it's championing of the Real Ale Revolution in urban West Riding locations. Sensibly a couple with many years experience of running similar backwater food pubs has been found to manage The White Horse (rather than the usual promotion from within), acknowledging the fact that this will be a very different proposition not to mention gamble if handled badly.

There are few surprises decor-wise, with Ossett's trademark pseudo-rusticity dominating throughout, comprising dark-stained furnishings, exposed stonework and flagged floors. I was rather hoping that maybe a piece of local history would have featured such as a bit of the original giant TV mast that famously collapsed nearly forty years ago or at least some old newspaper accounts of how locals were skewered by six foot icicles falling from the enormous cables supporting the doomed structure - but never mind, there are some very nice prints of white horses in the theme room.

No expense is spared when it comes to the bar in an Ossett pub and the White Horse is no exception with some fine craftsmanship on show - but I must admit I didn't expect to find eight real ales on it! Granted, this is the bare minimum at the other ten pubs but out here in the sticks with little passing trade, a poor bus service and in what is destined to be a food orientated pub, it's difficult to see how so much beer will shift. Obviously I'll be doing my bit since I'm near by, but I'm just not sure how many beer drinkers will be driving out to Emley on a regular basis. Of course there may be a substantial number of neglected ale fans residing locally who are chomping at the bit in anticipation of their own beer oasis, but we're a rare breed these days so I somehow doubt it.

The entire village seemed to have turned out for the opening which was encouraging though a large percentage were hitting the Holsten Pils - now there's a name I hadn't seen, heard or even thought about since the days of those naff ads with Griff Rhys Jones - but hey, it's still with us! I guess this must be the obligatory standard Brit-brewed lager in the absence of Becks, Stella and the two C-words though I have to say it does come in a rather nice glass! Emley's other pub the Green Dragon (Tetleys) has had little or no competition of late but I would imagine will be feeling the pinch by the end of next week. The place has suffered from chronic neglect for years so I can't imagine that getting accepted, not usually an easy thing in rural communities, will pose too much of a problem for Ossett in Emley.

The key to success here will undoubtedly be the food, in particular Sunday lunches. There is a fair bit of up-market, albeit largely beerless competition where dining is concerned nearby, but if The White Horse can achieve the popularity of say the Riverhead's restaurant at Marsden (Ossett's only other gastro-pub, for want of a better description), then it really will be in a league of it's own. The attractive dining room features just seven tables and will be doing business by the end of the month.

The beer choice on this opening night was the usual mixture of Ossetts, Fullers London Pride, a mild from Fernandes, the excellent Phoenix Spotland Gold and a first outing for Riverhead's Centenary Ale, brewed to commemorate Huddersfield Town FC's 100th birthday. A very well-hopped and enjoyable 3.9% ale, this is certainly one for the tickers and, considering the great affinity between Emley FC and their big brothers down the road, should prove to be something of an ice-breaker with the villagers. Now whoever had that idea deserves to go far!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Terrier's Tipple

In this, Huddersfield Town F C's centenary year, Riverhead Brewery of Marsden has come up with two special beers to mark the occasion. In creating the 3.9% Centenary Ale, brewer Paul Spencer has used more hops, Santiam apparently, then in any previous Riverhead brew. A second 4.6% lager style ale called Town Terrier will also be released and will hopefully entice younger fans away from their Carling for a short while.
The results will be available for beer connoisseurs and Town fans to sample (award yourself extra credits if you're both!) at the brewery's three Huddersfield based pubs starting this very evening at the all new White Horse in Emley. This latest addition to the Ossett stable opens it's doors at 5pm today when Centenary Ale will make it's debut. A limited amount will be guesting at the usual Riverhead/Ossett outlets in the area and also at the Shepherds Boy War of the Roses beer festival in Dewsbury from 17th-20th July.

Update: My first sample was rather disappointing as the beer hadn't quite dropped bright and seemed lacking the real bite I was hoping for, but on returning to it later in the evening, after a couple of gallons had gone, it was a different story. The ludicrously excessive use of Santiam hops means this is not a drink for the 'malties' and quite honestly even some bitter bitter fans were performing facial contortions. But like many beers of this style once you're through the pain barrier it's addiction time and it was no surprise to see it run off first. So no pretensions here, no bullshit hints of wild pansies and definitely no prisoners, and at a quaffable 3.9% what more can a hop addict ask? Balance-wise, well there wasn't much, just a hint of fruit then full on bitterness from start to finish ... and what a finish - in fact it was still trying to finish the morning after! The down side is that this ale is in very short supply although it is currently tapped and raring to go at the Shepherds Boy beer fest in Dewsbury starting Thursday - no arm twisting required for that event then!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Leggers Inn, Dewsbury

This pub needs little introduction to the real ale drinkers of Kirklees. The Leggers Inn at the canal basin in Dewsbury has been the town’s not-so-well kept secret for over a decade now - and to my eternal shame I’ve not been putting nearly enough time in at this legendary first floor stable conversion, despite working locally and despite the pub’s continued reputation for great choice and quality. The recent enhancement of the extensive outdoor drinking area was the final piece in the jigsaw, ensuring that Leggers is now not only a beer drinker's paradise but also the most attractive place in town to enjoy seriously good ale outdoors as well as in.

So in keeping with the avowed intention of this blog, here is the pub in glorious canovision for those of you who are either unfamiliar with it, or like me, have inexcusably lapsed of late and need a little coaxing back through it’s welcoming doors! (map)

Leggers File

John Smithson on 01924-502846
Savile Town Wharf
Mill St East
West Yorkshire
WF12 9BD

Real Ales:
Six including permanent Everards Tiger and a Roosters (usually Yankee)
Regular guests from Leeds, Abbeydale, Cottage, Exmoor & Acorn - to name a few!
Westons Old Rosie, Stowford Press
Stella Artois, Carling

Other Beers on Draught:
Erdinger, Guinness, Boddingtons

Monkeyfest 2

The Monkey Club at Armitage Bridge, Huddersfield is holding it's second beer festival this weekend featuring an estimated forty ales (including one brewed by Empire especially for Terriers fans!) Last year's debut was one of the highlights of the summer and I've not met anyone who went that hasn't pledged their support again, such was it's popularity.

The club has picked up local CAMRA Club of the Year and a seasonal award since then and is the venue of choice for real ale fans wanting to watch SKY televised sporting events whilst enjoying a variety of quality beers. Hopefully the weather will be kind as this is very much an outdoor event with a traditional village fete atmosphere. Live music and a fabulous pig roast were crucial ingredients in last year's success and are repeated again this time, not to mention the great line up of wonderful ales of course - can't wait!! (website) (map)The full list of beers at this year's Monkeyfest - enough to make a grown man dribble! (click on the image to spare your eyesight!)

Update: Bigger and even better than last year despite the best efforts of the weather to spoil it. Too many great beers to single any one out though Empire, Leeds, South Hams & Moorhouses got extra credit from me. The photo is of the pig roast production line and if there's a better accompaniment to an afternoon's ale tasting, I've yet to find it!