Monday, December 29, 2008

Resolutions and Things

Now all the excitement of Christmas has passed the time has come to sit and look back on the highs and lows of the last 12 months. I was thinking of sharing my ideas of my favourite beers with you, and my favourite pubs for drinking them. But then.....

I was totalling up how many different guest beers that I could find in our local Town Centre pubs on any day of the week, and I was astounded to realise there could be over 30 in the 6 pubs that I generally visit. (in order of walking from the Railway Station - The Kings Head, The Head Of Steam, The Cherry Tree, The Grove, The Rat and The Star). Added to that are all the regular beers the pubs have, and the odd diversion to the Vulcan or the Lord Wilson, no one can complain about lack of choice and variety.

It makes you realise how lucky we are living somewhere like Huddersfield, with new beers appearing daily, and our own local breweries seeming to go from strength to strength.

This year alone has seen the arrival of Mallinsons and Brass Monkey, the return of Summer Wine along with Empire, Golcar, Linfit, and Riverhead making a great local brewing portfolio which surely must be the envy of other towns.

As for the original question - what was my favourite beer of the year ? I have tried to just choose one but there have been far too many to decide. All I can say it has been a great year of beer drinking and if this continues...2009 promises to be another good year too.

So, to nick a quote from an Allgates beer, all that remains is to 'Carry on Drinking'!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Its Christmas....nearly

Want to wish all our readers a malty Christmas and a hoppy New Year, with plenty of new and interesting beer to drink. Also want to thank all the local brewers who have provided such variety over the last 12 months and wish them continued success in 2009 and another big thank you to all those licensees who have provided us with the raw material to make this blog, and keep serving up excellent beer.

If anyone is at a loose end over the weekend the beer festival at the Cock of the North at Hipperholme, home of the Halifax Steam Brewery starts on Boxing Day. Have tried it before and it is worth the trip, and promises 20 new beers brewed on the premises.

A little closer to home, have heard that the first commercial brew from Summer Wine Brewery can be found in the Head Of Steam, called Vagabond and allegedly a traditional style bitter. If dark beer is to your taste, then the Rat and Ratchet has some great porter from Castle Rock called Blackbird (honest Will, it is good !!), weighing in at a sensible 4.4%.

Hop fans are catered for by the Star with a 3.4% from Thornbridge called Ember, (described as smokey on the clip but not sure) and another Goose Eye, On The Piste. The Grove weighs in with the 6% What The Dickens from Empire.

If something more traditional is what you seek, the Cherry Tree can provide Stuff It, from Titanic - a cranberry and chestnut concoction (a bit odd to say the least).

Again, a big thank you to all our readers, looking forward to more blogging next year.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


As part of our festive beer drinking, a trip to Leeds to visit old and new seemed a good idea, avoiding the shops and grabbing a bite to eat. Mr. Foley's (above) has not been established for that long but if you have time for "just one" whilst in the city, this bar won't let you down. As well as the York Brewery beers (including a seasonal "Mistletoe" bitter) there are plenty of guests to tempt, on this visit Mallinsons "Sugarloaf" and E&S "Stocking Top". The bar really looked spot on, Christmassy, but not OTT.

Foley's was starting to fill up with groups of diners, so it was time to cross the city, to the long established Palace. This pub is well worth a visit just to look at the old photos and maps of Leeds adorning the walls, the Palace itself has a fascinating history, and there are 12 hand pumps (one for every day of Christmas)! Tetley and a Roosters are ever present (YPA today), guests included Springhead "Polar Beer". Food was ordered, and despite this very busy lunchtime, food and bar service was spot on.

Time came to leave and head back to the station and visit a third bar, at a mere three weeks old the Brewery Tap (above) is as new as they come, and is Leeds Brewery's latest. The number of diners and proximity to the station suggest that the place could quickly establish itself, but it does feel like "work in progress" at the moment, a bit too clean and new for me! Four Leeds beers were available including "Christ Almighty", but only one of the four guest pumps was in use, good old Ossett "Silver King". The brewery on the first floor starts up in January, so a re-visit will be on the cards to see how this baby grows up.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Comes Early for Hop Fans

While Will was salivating over the Hadrian beer in Chidswell I was Xmas shopping in Huddersfield. As most males know, the ideal antidote for this is a few beers afterwards.

I started in the Grove and was most impressed to find that Mallinsons Sugarloaf had made it onto the bar, along with Adnams East Green, their 'carbon neutral' beer. Don't often see Adnams round the place nowadays so was more than happy and both beers in decent nick.

However, after a quick walk to the Star was very impressed to find 2 more Mallinsons beers on the bar. Both Chuffed at 4.3% and Matterhorn at 4.4% were there and supported by Mount Rainier, a 4.2% offering from Pictish. Well worth the trip if you are in the area, but be quick, they won't last for long if previous experience is anything to go by. All 3 were in tip top form and a credit to both Sam and the brewers.

The perfect end to a stressful day !!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hadrian's Wallop

Not much has been written about whether the Emperor Hadrian enjoyed a few beers, but the fact that he was large, bearded and spent as little time in Italy as possible clinches it for me. Indeed I'm willing to bet the man would have been extremely proud of the brewery that bears his name today, though I guess he'd probably have been struggling to get much walling done had it existed back in the first century!

Anyhow, nearly two thousand years later and it has to be said that my Tuesday lunchtime pint at the Huntsman in Chidswell is fast becoming the beer event of the week. Following hard on the heels of the sublime Great Heck Yorkshire Pale Ale was a very finely crafted session beer today from the aforementioned Hadrian & Border. The 3.9% Tyneside Blonde is as good a pale and hoppy quaffing brew as I've tasted all year, with mellow hints of citrus abruptly but skillfully balanced by a satisfying, slightly soapy, short bitter finish. More a drink for the summer months in looks and quenchability perhaps, but beer as good as this really should be available year round. Those seeking something more seasonal are also well catered for by this eight year old outfit with their Yule Fuel (5%) and Rudolph's Ruin (7.2%) currently doing the rounds.

Learn more about the brewery's history and output here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Another one to try

Had heard good things about The Slubbers Arms at Hillhouse from various sources so thought I would take a look.
For those who remember the pub in its great days under the legendary Dave Green, not much has changed. The pub is quirky to say the least, not many pubs are wedge shaped, can only think of the Baltic Fleet in Liverpool and here.

This has lots of small rooms off the bar to make it cosy and it has retained much of its character but has benefited from a spruce up. However many of the old bits and pieces are still there and one can have a happy half hour just wandering through the place and looking at things.

There are 4 Taylors beers on the bar and a guest, a Mallinsons on my visit, (my only concern was that I thought £2.50 a bit pricey for a 3.9% beer.) It is open from 12 every day and has a good menu with home cooked food at reasonable prices.

Certainly somewhere to call off should you be on the North side of Huddersfield, or if you fancy walking, its about 15 minutes from the Town Centre. It is also close to the frequent 363/328 bus routes from Town (alight at Hillhouse on Bradford Rd and the pub is 100 yards away).

From what I saw on my visit, another pub that deserves to do well that is just off the usual track.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mitchells to brew again (sort of....)

Mitchell's of Lancaster have acquired York Brewery and it's four pubs (including Mr Foley's in Leeds). York Brewery will be supplying many of Mitchell's 60 or so pubs, which must leave them in a very strong trading position. Mitchell's will be looking to acquire suitable premises in Yorkshire to add to the York Brewery pubs.

Not so good news in York, where the popular Black Swan (Peaseholme Green) has closed suddenly. Hopefully Enterprise Inns (who own the pub) will find a new landlord soon, but for now the comedy club and folk night and regular drinkers need to find a new home.

One pub I thought might have closed for good years ago is Elland's Drop Inn, but today, thanks to it's latest owners (Ossett) and landlord (Tom) this pub is a "must visit".
The weekend saw a festival of strong and mainly dark winter ales. Mauldons "Peggotty's Porter" (4.1%) and Oakham "Attilla" (7.5%) both hit the spot.

One Heck of a Great Beer

Although more famous for incompetent Land Rover drivers than beer, the village of Great Heck in East Yorkshire is home to a brewery of increasing distinction. Having managed to sample one or two of their brews at local festivals recently I was aware of their potential, but today's pint of Yorkshire Pale Ale (4.3%) left me in no doubt as to their ability. This beautiful late hopped ale with dry grapefruit bitterness was top drawer and at a less busy time of year I'd have skipped work and settled in for a session.

Those in the Dewsbury area need to know that this delicious little number is currently available at the Huntsman in Chidswell, where the air is clear, the sun is shining and the atmosphere very relaxed indeed. Cheers! (map)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Summer Wine Brewery

Head brewer at Summer Wine James Farran has been kind enough to contact us with the following great news:

"Just to let you guys know we are now up and running at our 6BBL plant at Crossley Mills, Honley and our ales will be available in the local area in the coming weeks. Look out for 'Vagabond', 'Furnace Gold' & 'Holmfirth IPA', plus we are having a stand at Holmfirth Farmers Christmas market on Sunday the 21st Dec where gift packs will be available. Please check out the website for more details."

James and his team can be contacted at

Fancy a different taste ?

For those who like beers with different tastes Huddersfield is certainly the place to be this week. At least 3 of it's flagship pubs have beers on the bar that will appeal to those looking for something a little different. Not as would be expected at this time of year, the dark Xmas pudding, or spiced ale - but fruity and unusual.

The Grove has Ginger Explosion from Bridge of Allan and Chocwork Orange from Brentwood.

The Star provides Big Ginger from Boggart, Chocolate Orange Stout from Sawbridgeworth, and should you want a Xmas style beer, Nobby's brewery Santas Secret. They have also just had the juniper flavoured Suju brewed by Thornbridge.

The Rat and Ratchet however has different flavours. A Strawberry flavoured bitter by Fernandes and Greenmill Twilight, a chocolate wheat beer are on the bar, and on the beers to come board is Saltaire Hazelnut Coffee Porter. There is also a Naylors Kriek beer on the beers to come.

The Head of Steam has also got in on the act with the superb Coach House Blueberry, a beer not to be missed . If you do, Sam at The Star tells me she has bottles of it available.

If you want something different get there soon, they won't last long.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Well Worth The Trip

I have just received my copy of the Calderdale CAMRA Caldercask newsletter and was very pleased to find 2 of my favourite pubs from over the border receiving the Summer and Autumn Pub of the season awards. Both are easily accessible from Huddersfield by public transport and both well worth a visit.

The Summer award went to The Old Ship in Brighouse, on Bethel St, just further up the road from the Richard Oastler, (a Wetherspoons that is better than most). The Old Ship is an interesting half timbered building and has 3 regular and 3 guest beers on sale. One of the regulars being Copper Dragon Golden Pippin.

The Autumn award was given to the Cock O'the North at Hipperholme, (an easy bus ride from Brighouse). For those not aware, this is the brewery tap for the Halifax Steam Brewery and is one of the few places to get their beers now, Dave doing little in the free trade. On my last visit to the place, which is described as 'a sectional building' (but is none the worse for that), the beer was all on at £2.20 a pint, and covered a range of strengths and styles.
So if you are over that side of the world, call in both, or either. Or make a day of it. You know it makes sense.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Winter Warmers at The Drop

The Drop Inn at Elland is all set to unleash another load of heavy duty ale on us at it's winter festival this week. Last December's inaugural event was a big success as was the first summer fest this year, so plan to get there early and avoid disappointment - those who missed out on Morrissey-Fox's masterpiece last time are still kicking themselves.

Expect strong milds, stouts, porters and maybe even the odd dark old ale (a style seldom brewed these days) all hand pulled at the pub's two bars. Food and entertainment will also feature with the Marsden Silver Band performing some Christmas carols no doubt. If it's anything like as good as last year then it's one festival you'll not want to miss! (map)

Those living in Huddersfield may be interested to know that a mini-bus is running from the Rat & Ratchet on Saturday at 5.30pm. One or two places were still available last time I checked. Contact Sam on 01484-542400 for details.

The festival hours are:
Thurs to Sat 12pm-12am
Sun 12pm-11pm

And as promised here's the list:
(please click on it for the good of your eyesight!)

The Verdict: Bloody brilliant! Two mini-buses from the Rat on Saturday made the Drop a home from home, and the beers were just awesome. The top three for me in no particular order were from Spire, Oakham and Mauldons - three different styles, all beautifully presented, all combining to ensure Sunday got cancelled!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

WRLRR 3rd Annual Charity Beer Festival

The West Riding in Dewsbury will be hosting it's third charity festival from 5th-7th December in aid of cystic fibrosis research.

15+ beers will be available over the weekend together with live music from Kaleidoscope and The Buzz Room and an Irish Folk band on the Sunday afternoon.

These events always seem to run out of beer early due to their remarkable popularity so get there early to support this important charity. Local businesses have sponsored the ale and the bands are playing for free. Raffles and other money raising events will be going on throughout the weekend.

The List:
Anglo Dutch Brewery – Pacific Gem - 3.8% - £2.10 - A full bodied pale ale
Yorkshire Dales Brewery – Ivy Scar – 3.9% - £2.10 - A mahogany dark ale which is mildly hopped.
Leeds Brewery – Leeds Pale - 3.8% - £2.10 - An easy drinking pale ale. Light and hoppy with delicate floral notes and a well balanced finish.
Durham Brewery – Bonny Lass – 3.9% - £2.10 - A ruby coloured, malty and full bodied bitter.
Conway Brewery – Honey Fair – 4.5% - £2.30 - Amber best bitter with hints of a honey sweetness taste with a hoppy bitter finish.
Harviestoun Brewery – Schiehallion – 4.8% - £2.30 - Scottish cask lager, brewed using a lager yeast and hersbrucker hops. Fruit and malty bitter with a floral twist.
Caledonian Brewery – Elf Esteem – 4.0% - £2.10 - A special tawny coloured, easy drinking winter bitter with a trace of orange and molasses giving a rich and smooth texture
Breconshire Brewery – Bah Humbug – 5.0% - £2.50 - Golden Christmas ale brewed with fruit and spices. You might as well be drinking a Christmas pudding!
Brentwood Brewery – Chestnut Stout – 4.0% - £2.20 - An easy drinking but tasty stout brewed with local chestnuts.
Great Orme Brewery – Winter Ale – 4.2% - £2.20 - A biscuit coloured ale with a blackcurrant and cinnamon nose
Skinners Brewery – Christmas Fairy – 3.9% - £2.10 - Ideal Christmas session ale, light and crisp with a superb hoppy finish.
Hook Norton Brewery – Old Hooky – 4.6% - £2.30 - An unusual reddish/brown beer with a strong nutty aroma. Full bodied with a bittersweet aftertaste.
Hidden Brewery – Hidden Pleasure IPA – 4.9% - £2.30 - Revisit the pleasure of the British Empire with this traditional IPA. Deep golden with a strong dry and big aftertaste.
Acorn Brewery – Snowstorm – 4.0% - £2.20 - Pale, straw coloured bitter with a lasting hop aroma.
Phoenix Brewery – Fresh Hope Bitter – 3.8% - £2.10 - A brand new beer so fresh from the brewery we haven't had a chance to taste it yet. It's from Phoenix though, so you know it'll be good!

Update: I visited the festival at noon on Friday when it was still setting up. There were 7 beers on handpull and the others on gravity in the outside bar. Unfortunately the weather had not been kind and many of the beers were too cold and it was not warm enough to enjoy sitting on the decking so one had to spend time in the pub itself.

The beers were as shown above, and the ones I tried all had distinctively different flavours. One even tasted of TCP but I will not name it. Judge for yourself.

All in all a good festival but spoiled by the British weather. However, things may have improved as the day(s) went on and hopefully they will make plenty for their chosen charity, with bands playing free every day and all the beer being sponsored. Timbo