Wednesday, December 30, 2009

David Charlesworth

It is with regret that 'A swift one' has learned that David Charlesworth, 'Charlie' to his friends, died earlier today after a short illness. Charlie was well known in local pub circles, was a previous chairman of Huddersfield CAMRA and a tireless worker for Huddersfield Beer Festival. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to his friends and family at this sad time. As yet, funeral arrangements are not finalised.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Review of 2009

I decided, in the traditions of all the best publications, that it would be appropriate to end the year with my list of favourites from the past 12 months, with a look at the best of the last year.

Favourite Huddersfield town pub

Those who read the blog regularly will know of my affection for the Star. A great pub, no juke box, no gaming machine, just the craic from the customers, and some great beers to choose from. That along with the friendly and informed staff and the 3 yearly beer festivals make it an outstanding place to drink.
The Sportsman is also a credit to the Town, newly opened and again serving well kept beer in good surroundings, and ,well made home cooked food,put it high on the list of places that one must visit.

Favourite Huddersfield rural pub

The Commercial at Slaithwaite is another pub new in 2009 which has really taken off and with 8 beers on the bar, and has cemented its place on the Rail Ale trail. It is a real credit to Johnny and the team, and well worth a trip up the valley to visit.

Favourite out of town pub

Had this been written 6 months ago I would have said the New Oxford in Salford, but my recent visits have been slightly disappointing, so this accolade goes to the Harlequin in Sheffield. Again with around 10 beers on the bar, piped music, and several beer festivals throughout the year I think it deserves the prize - and for the record, one of the few things that Dave Unpronounceable and me agree on !!!

Favourite Huddersfield club

The Monkey Club at Armitage Bridge, with its beer festival and knowledgeable beer ordering by Festa continues to prosper.

Best Beer of The Year

This is where the problems start. The pubs almost chose themselves, the beer doesn't, and its hard work trying to remember what a beer tasted like back in January. Personal taste always comes into this, and some great beers are not to my liking so unfortunately don't get a look in.
The Marble '1425' was very good with its New Zealand hop flavours, so good that the brewery kept it as a regular and renamed it 'Dobber'. Pictish made many good beers but their single hopped 'Saaz' and their 'Mount Rainier' were exceptional. Salopian beers always came up with the goods throughout the year, and it was hard to choose the best one, but maybe 'Mafia'. Yorkshire Dales likewise always made plenty of good beers. On the dark beer front, Mallinsons 'Oatmeal Stout' was excellent along with Windsor Castle 'Mud City Stout'. There was even the appearance of Red Shield.
As you can see, there are so many to choose from that it is impossible to make an objective judgement - what one person likes, another dislikes, and vice versa, but here are my personal favourites, but don't go looking for them as many are one-off beers.

5. Mallinsons 'A Swift One'
4. Brew Company ' Hop Ripper Ipa'
3. Steel City 'Hop Manifesto'
2. Mallinsons 'Star 5000k'
1. Yorkshire Dales ' Hit For 6'

Best Brewery

In 18 months Mallinsons have created a reputation second to none, and do they desrve it!! Every beer eagerly anticipated and seldom failing, they have even started bottling so you can now enjoy their beer at home.

Favourite Hop

Anything from New Zealand, but Nelson Sauvin gets the vote. Closely followed by anything from the Mount Hood area of America.

Best Blog

Don't be silly !!!

There we are, my view of 2009. A good year for the beer world, despite the continuing gloom spread about by the brew companies closing their share of pubs, and the closure of some breweries. Just hope that 2010 continues to provide good quality beer and interesting new pubs , if it does, things can only get better. Have no fear, us intrepid bloggers on 'A Swift One' will be there to bring the news of it to you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas To All Our Readers

Just a big thank you to everyone who reads the blog, and those who have contributed in the past year, no matter how small, any feedback is much appreciated. From the editorial team, we wish you all a happy Christmas and a beery New Year.

Should there be anything you feel we should cover, any pubs we should visit, or any thing you would like done differently on the blog we will be pleased to hear from you. Just add your comments in the comment area. We just hope to keep producing an informative, interesting, amusing and occasionally controversial update on the beer scene in Huddersfield and its surroundings.

Will, Tim, Alison, Iain and David

Reopening Time?

Information has arrived from our Hull correspondent (not sure how he gets to know before the locals!) that The Sair, has started brewing again. It is unconfirmed but it is believed that there were four of their own beers on the bar at the weekend, including Old Eli, and Gold Medal. Will have to wait till the snow thaws before trekking out to confirm the truth of this, but sounds promising news.

Rumour has also reached us of the reopening of the Shoulder of Mutton at Lockwood. Again with real ale, but if my information is right these are beers from the larger breweries and I have no idea of its opening hours.

A bit more positive is news of the Marsh House on Westbourne Rd at Marsh in Huddersfield which has been closed for some time, but according to the advert in 'Inn Speak' has reopened. It serves five hand-pulled real ales and a real cider, opening at 4pm daily and all day at weekends.

Rumour again says that the old West Riding pub in the town, on the corner of Buxton Way and Albion St, is being refurbished, (judging by the work going on that is certainly the case) but the good news is that when it reopens in the New Year it will also provide several real ales on the bar. Another one to watch out for.

As I said, none of this has been definitely confirmed, but should it be true then there are even more reasons for a trip to Huddersfield.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monday Club Christmas Crawl

It has been the tradition for several years for the members of the 'Huddersfield Monday Club' to have a Xmas do. Well more of a chance to get round a few more pubs than usual.

This year we decided to start in The Sportsman so we could line our stomachs before the real drinking began. As it was, the weather was not kind to us, with most of outer Huddersfield under a few inches of snow and central Huddersfield full of slippery slush, but nevertheless we managed a turn out of eight hardy souls.

Being a ticker, and unable to walk past a pub without calling in, I started at The Cherry Tree. It had some interesting beers on the bar from unusual breweries, so I was well chuffed to get a couple of Big Lamp beers, (Embers & Keelman Brown) but less happy when I realised they were 5.5% and 5.7% respectively. I followed these with a more sensible, but cloudy and tasteless half of Old Bear 'Jingle Bears'@ 4.0%.

I then made my way, very carefully as it was treacherous underfoot, to the Sportsman. There on the bar I was treated to one of my favourite beers, Elland 'El Divino', a lovely light hoppy beer. Unfortunately, in my enthusiasm to drink this, I managed to miss a new Riverhead beer, 'Brewsters Blonde' which ran off before I got to it. I managed to console myself with another pint of Elland and a steak pie before we made off to our next port of call. By the time we left the pub our little group had increased to its maximum, with the arrival of those who were struggling on buses with the traffic into town, plus those who accidentally started in the wrong pub!

The 'Kings Head' provided the mecca that light hoppy beer drinkers love, (thats the beer, not the drinker!) and the groups choice seemed unanimously to be Dark Star 'Hophead' which was in tip top form, and I followed this with Brown Cow 'One Over the 8' which again was excellent.

Anyway, time and beer waits for no man, so it was onwards and upwards to the Grove. Time constraints meaning the Head Of Steam was bypassed. In the Grove our choices were wide and varied from White 'Brighton Rocks', Thornbridge 'Jaipur' and Marble 'Dobber' to Brewdog 'Hardcore IPA'. All were different, and all in good fettle. There the party began to split up, and go their own ways. Incidentally in The Grove I managed a sight, but not a drink, of Brewdog's 'Tactical Nuclear Penguin' in a bottle. At around 30%, not a beer to be taken lightly. The best before date of 2019 seems to suggest an investment rather than a drinking beer.

All in all, a good day with plenty of good beer, plenty of bizarre conversations, and a promise to do it all again in 2010. See you there.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hoppy Christmas

Those lucky enough to be present in the Star in Lockwood on Saturday were treated to a veritable feast of hoppy beers, with several of the hoppiest around from some of the best breweries.

Pictish 'Sterling', a single hopped beer was there, rubbing shoulders with a couple of offerings from Salopian; the massively hoppy 'Santa's Big Sack' and the less aggressive, although no less flavoursome 'Firkin Freezing' (just suited the weather). These were later followed by Marble 'Brew 14'.

In addition to the beers we were visited by Kev Yelland from the Alehouse brewery, all clean shaven after his charity hair cut and singing the praises of the beers on the bar - deciding that the Marble was the best beer of the year! Praise indeed from a man who makes some of the hoppiest beers around. Even the news of Town's demise at Norwich did not dampen the spirits of the assembled hop monsters who continued to sample and resample the offerings.

Having checked the weather for today and seen snow forecast, I suppose I will just have to return and do it all again. Hard work I know, but someone has to do it!!!

(Note to fellow editors - think you picked the wrong day to go to East Anglia, a 3-0 defeat and missing some of the best beer of the year - glad I stayed at home )

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ticking Reaches the Masses - sort of

Last Tuesday saw the premiere of a film called 'Beertickers - beyond the ale'. Written and directed by Phil Parkin it features several 'beer tickers' as they explain and enjoy their hobby, visiting pubs and festivals up and down the country.

Phil's objective was to tick 500 beers through the making of the film and we see him going through his apprenticeship under the watchful eye of Sheffield's Brian Moore, the nations number one ticker.

For those who know Sheffield, there are plenty of recognisable pubs in the film plus interviews with many of their famous faces. Also featured in the film are local scoopers Dave Unpronouceable and Gazza, with Mick The Tick from Birmingham making up a fearsome foursome of beer enthusiasts.

The film attempts and succeeds, in trying to show what motivates tickers to do what they do, and why they travel several hundred miles to do it. There is a section on Phil actually brewing a beer under the watchful eye of Kelly Ryan at Thornbridge, and for the more musically minded, a piece on Mick playing in his skiffle band at his local pub in Halesowen.

The film has been rushed out on dvd, and I was lucky to secure a copy (actually I paid 10 quid for it at the Star, where incidentally Brian Moore was drinking at the time). In my opinion, it is well worth £10 of any tickers money to watch all the famous faces at work and play, and see if you can spot the fringe players and the pubs featured. Sort of ticking tickers I suppose. You even get chance to see one of Dave's minor rants about his and Gazza's boycotting of the 'Fat Cat'.

There you have it, a perfect Xmas present for the ticker that will keep him (or her)happy for just over an hour after the turkey. know there are a few for sale at the Star and around the local Sheffield pubs should you fancy a copy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Xmas Opening Times

To save anyone making fruitless trips to pubs this holiday period I will try and update what I know of the local circuits opening hours:

Xmas Eve:
All pubs opening as usual, except the Star which will be open all day. Some may stay open longer than usual.

Xmas Day:
Grove is closed
Sportsman 11-2pm
Star 12-2
Rat closed

Boxing Day (26th):
Grove is closed
Star is closed
Sportsman open 12-11
Rat 3-12

Monday 28th:
Star is closed

Will attempt to collate rest of times in next few days and update as and when.

Bah Humbug!!

It is one day in the calendar that real beer drinkers dread and licensees must love. Its the Friday before Christmas, 'Mad Friday' is here again. No doubt it will bring its usual collection of groups of lager drinkers, seen in the pub once a year, who think they own the place and the work groups with the once a year drinker who decides the most exciting thing to drink is half of mild.

I am not intentionally critical of these people, they have as much right to be in the pub as anyone else, after all it is a public house, but I just wish that they would be more adventurous and not hunt in packs. The choice of real ale in most of the Town pubs is wide ranging, so why stick to something tried and tested like smoothflow. Branch out, drink something different, like real beer, with real taste, you never know, you may like it. And you may even be converted. The same applies to lager drinkers. Why not try something different to 'Carling'? Even though I don't drink it, surely there are better alternatives. I know the Grove has several to choose from, and the Rat does Becks and Veltins. Why not experiment ?

Anyway, no doubt I will be around in town joining the fight to get served and trying to get into the Xmas spirit. I am glad that it happens only once a year. But I expect the tills in the town centre pubs to be ringing happily to the sound of revellers spending their cash to keep the pubcos happy. Roll on 2010 and sanity.

It's Chocolate Time

Readers know how much I rate light, hoppy beers, but I am also a great lover of the dark, proper stouts, and last night I found one of the best on the bar at the Star. You will not be surprised to hear that it was brewed by Mallinsons.

This time Tara has turned her hand to making a chocolate stout, and has done an excellent job of it as well. It is 4.2%, a sensible drinking strength, and black as a stout should be. It is smooth but has an underlying bitterness that shines through each mouthful. It is hard to say whether this comes from the hops or the bitter dark chocolate in the beer but the combination works to perfection, giving a tasty stout which is very moreish and stands comparison with any other chocolate stout on the market. It may not have the smoothness that her 'Oatmeal Stout' did but that does not detract from it in any way. It is easy to recogonise with the normal Mallinsons clip depicting a bar of chocolate, so there is little chance of confusion.

I also hear that there is a chocolate orange version made in small quanties to sample but that is not available around these parts yet. It is supposedly on the list for the Harlequin's mini festival this weekend, along with another one off, 'Humbug'. I have also noticed some additions to the Mallinsons bottled beer range with 'Nile' and 'Xavier' appearing.

If you want something different, hunt out the 'Chocolate Stout'. It is a great beer from Huddersfield's excellent brewster.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

More Choice in Sheffield

When beer enthusiasts are asked which is their favourite drinking town, Sheffield is invariably and deservedly high on the list. It boasts many good pubs in a small area which all provide several and varied cask ales. Ranging from the 'Wellington' by the Shalesmoor tram stop, to the 'Harlequin' down off The Wicker; from 'The Hillsborough Hotel' to the 'Fat Cat' and not forgetting CAMRA's pub of the year 'The Kelham Island Tavern'. All are different and all worth a visit, making it a mecca for beer tickers. However, in the last couple of weeks two more pubs have been added to the list to make a visit there even better.

The Gardeners, situated out on Neepsend Lane, has reopened after refurbishment. It closed almost 2 1/2 years ago after being under water in the floods that devastated Sheffield, but has been well worth the wait. The pub has retained its original shape with the central bar serving two rooms but has been redecorated to give it a light and airy feel with its rear conservatory adding even more light. It was serving four beers from the Sheffield Brewery on my visit, with 6 guests, so there is plenty of beer to go at. The bar billiard table has been retained, which is apparently unique in the City. It does not serve food and it only opens at 3pm Monday to Thursday but is open all day Friday and at the weekend. It is well worth a call.

The other pub, is a revelation, and superbly sited for the train traveller from Huddersfield. 'The Sheffield Tap' is situated on Sheffield Midland station with access either from the road outside or from Platform 1, which coincidentally is where most Huddersfield bound trains arrive. It is a large pub that used to be a refreshment room I believe and has been redone with a dark wood bar and plenty of glass. With this, the high ceiling and good choice of seating it can hold plenty of people but still seem comfortable. Its beer range at present is eight from the Thornbridge stable, but rumour has it, they will be introducing guest beers in the near future. There is a massive range of interesting bottled beer as well so it is an ideal place to idle away a few minutes waiting for your train.

Sheffield has always been a good place to visit, and has just got even better, so when you have a bit of free time, take a trip down the Penistone line and seen what it has to offer - I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Christmas Is Coming

You do not need me to tell you that there are only 16 drinking days until Christmas, or alternatively only 16 days to hunt out those beers that only appear once a year for the festive season. Some are recognisable by their seasonal names, others by their seasonal tastes; some are good, some not so.

In the last few days around town these beers are starting to trickle in (not literally I may add!), and Scrooge's and Christmas lovers alike can take in their share. Thankfully, there are still beers with normal names to choose from as well, but if you are on the Christmas theme, here are a few to get you started.

The Cherry Tree provides Hook Norton '12 Days', a 5.5% dark offering along with Marstons 'Ugly Sisters' a 4.5% that has a little too much sweetness for my taste - Oh no it hasn't I hear you shout! - both typically seasonal. Out of town I have encountered, but not enjoyed, Oldershaw 'Yuletide' which is a dark red 5.2% brew and Phoenix 'Snowbound' a 4.3% beer that I did like. The Rat & Ratchet has had York 'Nippy Nights' on the bar - a bit of a shock when it turned out dark rather than the light beer I associate with the brewery.

The other town centre pubs do not seem to have really entered into the spirit of the season yet, that is until you reach the Star, where in the last week the drinkers have been supping Abbeydale 'Turkey Surprise' and 'White Christmas', both excellent beers from this very good brewery. Coach House 'Xmas Stocking' has made a reappearance for the season, along with Church End ' Reinbeer', and they have been backed up by Derventio 'Winter King', more seasonal than festive, but still very good from a brewery not often seen around these parts.

No doubt there will be plenty more to come, hopefully not many of those that taste like Christmas pudding in a glass or made with all the odd spices and flavours that brewers feel compelled to throw in at this time of year. It is time when the light hoppy beer fan does seem a little left out, but its only once a year so I cannot complain too much. All I hope for is the reappearance of my favourite name for a Christmas beer (cannot recall who brewed it though) 'It Looks Like Rain Dear', and the rebrewing of Pictish's excellent 'Rudolph's Rocket Fuel'. Suppose I will just have to wait and see what Santa brings me, just hope its pale and hoppy.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Revisiting Old Favourites

Those of you who read the blog regularly will be aware that I was less than charitable about Thornbridge 'Raven' a couple of entries back, for which I have had plenty of feedback, from brewers and drinkers alike.

As a result, and since I managed to find a spare afternoon, I thought it a good idea to revisit the Thornbridge beers available at the 'Grove', to check on their quality. It is unusual for me to drink a brewery's core range, I generally go for their new beers when they are available but on this occasion all the beers there I had drunk previously, so I knew roughly what to expect.

In case you were not aware, Thornbridge have recently started brewing on a new and larger plant so some - not me I hasten to add - would class these as new beers. First up was the 3.5% 'Wild Swan'. This was excellent and how I remember it, crisp, clean and flavoursome, in fact loads of hop flavour for a beer of its strength and one I could have quite happily drunk all day. But tasting waits for no man, and it was onwards and upwards, strengthwise anyway, to 'Jaipur'.

This is a 5.9% IPA, again packed with flavour, and even better than I remembered it. The slight haze may have been explained by the heating at the 'Grove' being broken - where else do you get served by glove-wearing bar staff?!! The beer tasted superb, allowing all the hop character to come out as the beer warmed up. I think a revisit may be in order when the heating is back on.

The last of the trio, was even stronger at 7.7%, and a stout. 'St Petersburg' is again a great example of its type, and dangerously does not drink its strength. A beer to be treated with respect but certainly none the worse for this. In retrospect, I may have been harsh on the 'Raven', I would certainly try it again now but after my experiment I can report that all is well with Thornbridge, and their brewing goes from strength to strength.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Get it while you can

This weekend Huddersfield is a mecca for lovers of the Rochdale brewery Pictish. The Star, in addition to the regular 'Brewers Gold', still a bargain at £2.00 a pint incidentally and in superb nick, has their 'Saaz' on the bar. A 4.1% single hop variety beer made with Eastern European hops, it is crisp, clean and full of flavour - a classic.

If you can drag yourself away, then a short walk to the Rat provides their 'Z Rod'. This is a stronger beer which I have not seen about for ages but, if my memory serves me well, is another brilliant Pictish recipe. Hopefully it will still be on the bar for me to try, unless my fellow editors get there first and drink it all, in which case they can do the tasting notes!!

Just for good measure, the taunting pole at the Star shows two new up and coming Mallinsons, 'Trabant' and 'Gator', offering an ideal way to spend a wet Sunday.

I will never complain about price again !!

I have just been reading Scoopgen (a website for beer enthusiasts) and have come across a couple of entries from some displeased people from London. Apparently they visited an Old Ale festival in a pub near to Fuller's brewery and were asked to pay £7.00 for a pint of Fullers 'Old Ale'. I know its a strong beer but surely someone is taking the punters for a ride here. Long live Northern pricing policies.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Black Side

This week seems to have attracted several beers of strength and darkness to Huddersfield, all of which are interesting and different in their own way and all of which are worth a try. Thankfully they are spread around different pubs giving you the chance to walk off their not inconsiderable strength.

The Kings Head provides Yorkshire Dales 'Blackstone'. At 5.9%, a thick black stout that goes down a treat like most of the breweries beer, and provides a useful benchmark against other dark beers showing me why I think a lot of darker stuff, especially milds, taste so thin. To be dark and tasty I feel they need strength to carry off the malts used, and to allow some of the hop character to show through. This one certainly scores on all counts.

If you make your way to The Grove, they provide three dark beers at present. The Brentwood 'Marvellous Maple Mild' is 3.7%, and not marvellous but I cannot dispute it being a mild, but lacks body. There is also Wentworth 'Short & Stout', which at 4.5% is certainly stronger, but again I expected more as it was thin and short on flavour. The third is Thornbridge 'Raven' at 6.6%. Unfortunately I feel Thornbridge beers are not what they were, and this offering seems to fall between two stools. It is a dark beer certainly, but the clip describes it a 'Dark IPA', which I would think could be a deliberate contradiction in terms! There are plenty of hops but they are masked by the malts and the whole offering tasted unbalanced to me.

The Star does offer a couple more variations. The Bridestones 'Whisky Dark Mild' comes in at 4.5% and was not to my personal taste, but those who know their Highland malts say that there is an underlying peatiness which characterizes the breed and translates well into the beer. It is certainly different. The pick of the bunch along with the previously mentioned 'Blackstone' is the Crown 'Django Reinheart'. This is a 6.3% 'Damson double porter' whatever that means. It does have the body that others lacked and has plenty of fruit flavour, but does not overpower, making it far too drinkable for a beer of its strength. In short, it is a dangerous beer!

It is well worth a wander about to try these beers as your opinion may well be different to mine - I just hope you find some that you enjoy. And on the subject of dark beers, look out for Mallinsons 'Oatmeal Stout' which has now started to appear in bottles - a great Xmas present for the dark beer lover.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Load of B*******s

A short time ago I was flicking through my copy of GOBBS guide, (a beer guide for serious beer tickers, if that's not a contradiction in terms) when my mind wandered to the names brewers give their beers and the themes they loosely hang these names on.

Locally we have Brass Monkey, using their Monkey theme with names like 'Capuchin', 'Silverback' and the like; Empire, where Russ seems to come up with winners like the Goon Show series, or daft names from comedy programmes, 'Eccles' and 'Ooh Matron' being examples; and Mallinsons where Tara has themes ranging from Not so Classic Cars to Yorkshire Follies. Going further afield, Will mentioned Cotleigh and their bird themes a couple of posts ago, whilst Moorhouses stay true to their roots in Burnley with their Witch beers, and Yorkshire Dales seemed to have named beers after every conceivable part of the North Yorkshire Moors. And how many know that Ossett 'Silver King' was originally part of a railway series?

Talking of trains, it seems the norm rather than the exception for brewers to name their beers after old steam engines. Cottage do a lot, but Little Ale Cart has a massive range of named engines on their clips. Being a bus enthusiast, I seek in vain for bus related beers, just the occasional 'Routemaster Red' makes its appearance on the bar.

It used to be usual for brewers to call their beers 'Best', 'Mild', or 'Strong'. At least the unwary drinker had a clue what sort of beer he was getting. It is now equally common to name beers after the hops used. Pictish for one has a massive range of single hopped beers, (check their web site for proof, and see how many hops you have never heard of). For some reason, there are very few beers named after the malts in the beer though.

But it's the really daft names that seem to attract the attention. Who for instance can forget 'The Dogs Bollocks'? And just whose idea was it to name it such? A flick into the Halifax Steam archives shows beers called 'Child Catcher', 'Christmas Crapper', 'Extra Pillows' and 'Luftkissenfihrzeug' (don't tell me I spelt it wrong, I copied it from the book!). As an aside, this must have been the longest pump clip in history covering about 2/3 of the bar!! Inveralmond have taken up the challenge as well, as 'Inkie Pinkie', 'Llama's Lament' and 'Rocking Horse Poo' all illustrate.

Talking of the daft, who at Northumberland decided that to name beers after footballing legends of the Tyne would be a good seller; obviously not in Sunderland, as they have now produced a range of footballing legends(?) - sorry, Iain! - from the Wear to balance it out and hopefully sell some beer south of the Tyne as well.

Anyway must stop, have to get to the Star festival and sample some 'Folly's Dog Collar Blues', 'Viva Cas Vegas'and 'Firkin Dark', to name but three. All I can say is keep the names coming, it always creates a talking point at the bar.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Star Does It Again

Last night the doors opened at the Star Inn's 8th Winter beer festival, and again it has gone from strength to strength. Sam and her team have provided another wonderful selection of beers for us to try, both in the marquee and on the bar, from breweries near and far (I didn't mean that to rhyme but never mind; I could write the rest of this in limerick form, or as a sonnet but I don't think my brain could cope with it at this time in the morning !! - anyway, back to the beer).

On the outside bar came the usual suspects. A couple of dry hopped Mallinsons, two Goose Eyes, three from Yorkshire Dales plus beers sourced from further afield. From Williams, Atlas and Devon ales in Scotland, from Box Steam, Hidden and Two Bridges in the South West, and Montys in Wales. It is easy to see why this is such an interesting festival for the 'ticker'.

The range covered all sorts of beers from the light and hoppy, to the dark and chocolatey via ginger beers, ruby beers and winter warmers, in fact beers to suit every taste. Of the one's I tried, the Mallinson's stood out, (no surprise there I hear you say) but the real star of the show, no pun intended, was Yorkshire Dales 'Hit For 6'. Not an indictment of the English cricket team but a light beer crammed with New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops. The dark beer lovers seemed to be well impressed with Great Heck's ' Dark Star' weighing in at 5.5%.

If you want something a little different for a Christmas present, there are Mallinsons gift packs with 3 bottled beers, and all varieties of cheese, along with some Christmas cakes with beery themes. Why not make time to call in, the festival runs all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and see what a good, well run pub festival should be. Congratulations Sam, you have done us proud again. (map)

Star pooch Folly prepares to declare the 8th Winter Beer Festival officially open!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Great Oakley On Song

I'm always going to get a little giddy if I spy an attractive bird on the bar - it's just instinctive you see. Having spent/wasted the better part of my life fascinated by all things feathered, it's not easy to ignore avian themed beers whilst touring my favourite locals. More often than not though the ale turns out to be nowhere near as interesting as the artwork advertising it - but I'm never deterred.

And so it was with great good fortune that, whilst perusing the line up at the King's Head on Huddersfield's station platform this afternoon, I bumped into Great Oakley's knockout 3.9%er, Wagtail. Brewed, according to the GBG notes, with New Zealand hops, this beautifully scented and perfectly balanced award-winning session ale would easily make my top ten beers of the year, even without the exquisitely detailed motacilla alba on the pump clip.

From the wonderful initial lychee aroma to it's final lingering bitterness, this ale has all the hallmarks of a classic - very much in the mould of Roosters Yankee back in the days when that particular revolutionary beer destroyed all in it's path. Seldom have I been so impressed with a beer I had little prior knowledge of - the only negative being that the rest of my day was all downhill taste-wise!

Although largely unfamiliar with this four year old Northamptonshire brewery's output, I did note that birds aren't a recurring theme as they are say at Cotleigh, so I guess there's probably a story behind this particular brew. Whatever that is, I'm inspired enough to put together a list* of my all time favourite bird-themed beers, possibly by Christmas, so watch out for that. In the meantime go get your lips around a wag, it most certainly won't have you spitting feathers!

* Note to Timbo: Your Castle Rock recommendations (Sparrowhawk in particular) need not apply!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Festival Update

In addition to the New Charnwood in Heckmondwike (see previous post), this weekend also sees festivals in Sheffield and Slaithwaite (pronounced Slathwait or Slawit but NEVER Slaythwait incidentally!).

Having attended the last two Lions Club fests I can wholly recommend this friendly, well organised event, especially as the recently reopened Commercial just a couple of hundred yards away has made a visit to Slaithwaite even more rewarding for the ale connoisseur. The Moonraker Beer Festival is held in the first floor function room of the Conservative Club on Britannia Road (map).

Another popular festival, a little further afield, is at Sheffield's Harlequin on Nursery Street (map). At least forty beers from all over the shop can be sampled here this weekend including plenty from new and lesser known producers. See below for the full list and the sidebar calendar for dates.

New Charnwood Beer List
Moonraker Beer List
Harlequin Beer List

A Fistful of Hops

Last night the drinkers at the Star in Huddersfield were treated to a hop extravaganza.

On the bar were Mallinsons Motueka at 3.8%, a single hopped beer with the aromatic New Zealand hop showcased to perfection; Pictish Pioneer (4.8%), another single hopper but this time with far more body and bitterness and finally Steel City's Hop Manifesto again at 4.8% and massively hoppy with American hops this time.

In addition, Goose Eye provided Gooseville at 4.6% but after the other three this tasted more of caramel. It was just hard work to drag myself away from the bar!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sail Ale Trail?

A little out of town this one but quirky enough to merit a line or two I think. Being a frequent visitor to the north Norfolk coast I like to investigate any new GBG entry, especially if the pub is somewhat out of the ordinary and/or Woodfordes Wherry is involved. The Albatros scores big time on both counts.

Moored in Wells-next-the-Sea's little harbour and serving an excellent pint of the norky nectar, this one hundred year old Dutch sailing barge is also available for charter when not gainfully employed as the town's most popular real ale venue. Two beers are generally available on gravity and both usually supplied by the Woodbastwick brewery.

The single below-decks drinking area also finds room for regular live music (god knows how!) and an interesting (though pricey) menu full of locally caught produce might persuade you to tarry a while. Just getting down to the bar is challenge enough though and I would imagine returning to the quayside after a session on the Nelson's Revenge is downright dangerous!

The Albatros is great fun and immensely popular with families - a must visit if touring this beautiful coastline! More about the history of this remarkable old vessel can be found here.

Interestingly this is the only CAMRA beer guide entry for Wells in the latest edition, with last year's Edinburgh Hotel failing to meet the criteria despite being the busiest I've ever seen it and serving a larger selection of ales than before. Round the corner The Globe was suffering from poor quality Adnams and an identity crisis!

Monday, November 09, 2009

New Charnwood Beer Festival

The New Charnwood is Heckmondwike's saviour these days and with so many once popular ale houses in the town going the way of iced-cider (is any one still drinking that?!), I'm absolutely delighted, as an ex-Hecky resident, that the pub is getting good support from Heavy Woollen CAMRA along with local ale fans.

And this is just what we've been lacking recently, a local pub festival with an attitude problem! Well I'm game - and whilst it seems deliberately timed to begin on that most-feared day in the (superstitious) calendar, we can only hope that any 'disaster' that befalls the Charnwood this weekend is confined to running out of beer a little early!


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

It's a Firkin Shame

Whilst Will has been getting all sentimental about his early drinking days in Dewsbury, an article in the CAMRA magazine 'Beer' this quarter has left me thinking of bygone times too. The article was about the chain of Firkin pubs and what happened to their brewing equipment when those fine establishments closed down. There is one local mention and that is of the 'Halifax Steam Brewery' who sourced their plant from the chain and continue to use it to this day. Huddersfield did for a while have its own none brewing Firkin pub on Zetland Street, but I cannot recall its name. They did sell 'Dogbolter' so it was always worth a call. However I digress.

The reason for this article is to remind people that a local brewery did indeed benefit from the demise of Firkin, when Andy Moorhouse, erstwhile landlord of the Rat & Ratchet in Chapel Hill decided to try his hand at brewing.

He, with a couple of other regulars, tripped off to Surrey one day and returned with the brewing kit from the Firkin in Crawley - and if I can't remember the name of the local Firkin I am unlikely to to remember the name of one 200 miles away am I!

He managed to cram the brewing kit into the cellar at the Rat and started brewing in late 1994. He would be offended if I called the brewery a 'Heath Robinson' affair, so I will say that it was a tribute to his engineering and skill that he managed to fit all the gear into such a small area and before long beers with rodent names were appearing on the bar (below). Usually light and hoppy, they were a tribute to his ability and it was always a pleasure to walk down Chapel Hill and smell the brewing process wafting up the hill towards you.

Andy not only used his ingenuity in the brewery, his search for rodent names provided some of the most memorable beer names ever. 'Silver Shrew' and 'Rattus Rattus' were easy to explain, 'Lord Derby's Flying Squirrel' and 'Splinter' less so. Nevertheless, the brewery went from strength to strength and I recall his pleasure, or maybe amazement at being awarded the 'Beer of the Festival' at Woking one year. (Suppose, light hoppy beer was a shock to Southerners!!).

Anyway all good things must end, and Andy decided to turn his hand elsewhere and the brewery was sold on. Firstly to the Fantasy Brewery in Nuneaton, which was a fairly short lived affair and then on again. I believe it was the basis for the Ashover Brewery in Derbyshire but I could be wrong. They are still brewing, so if you come across their beers it is entirely possible that they have come from the original Rat plant.

Andy did brew again, using Golcar's plant, where he produced a handful of beers under the 'Sidecar' name. However, his real success came at the Rat with beers that attracted attention from far and wide. Who can forget 'Infestation', a beer that is still talked about to this day. It just shows what a good brewing pedigree Huddersfield has, and is a tribute to Firkin that their kit has lasted the test of time to still produce good beers over 20 years on.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Shepherds Boy, Dewsbury

My personal real ale trail began in Dewsbury back in the '70s when a pint of Tetley Bitter at the Market House was as good as it got - and believe me it was good - though I doubt it was ever just a 'pint'! Sadly the Market House is no more, betrayed by a generation of drinkers who attached more importance to gloss than substance - and as for Tetley's...well, we all know what happened there!

These days the town boasts four entries in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide offering local ale fans some serious choice. Included in that list is the Shepherd's Boy which reopened under the Ossett Brewery banner in the spring of 2006. Situated a little out of the town centre on the Huddersfield Road, the pub underwent a comprehensive refurbishment under it's new owners resulting in one of the most attractive hostelries for miles around.

Eight handpumps feature four beers from the hosts leaving plenty of room for an ever changing barrage of quality guests which always include a mild or stout. The latest landlady Katie Green, formerly of the Rat & Ratchet in Huddersfield, organises an annual beer festival around October/November time, often with a theme, always with cider & perry available. 

This is indeed a far cry from the old spit 'n' sawdust, one beer (a mild if you're lucky) Market House but thanks to pubs like the Shepherd's Boy, drinking the real thing has never been as much fun as it is today - let's just hope that future generations treat this fine gem with a little more courtesy!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's 'Spoons Fest Again

Today heralds the start of the Wetherspoons beer festival which will showcase 50 beers from near and far. It is a bit different to other festivals we have featured in that not all the beers are on the bar at any one time (in some cases they are not even in the cellar!!), but the intention is that over the three weeks of the festival all those in the programme should appear on bars at Wetherspoons' pubs. The fun is that no one knows which pubs have which beers, or when. This means that the enthusiast has to visit the same pub many times to sample everything or visit several 'Spoons in the hope of finding different beers - its a good game if a bit frustrating but at least it keeps us tickers on our toes!

In Huddersfield we are lucky (naturally!), with the Cherry Tree having the ability to get around eight on the bar at any one time, and often the pub gets second barrels if the first go quickly.

Last year I decided to get out and about and on one day visited branches in Brighouse, Halifax and Bradford in search of beers, (it can be done for a £4 First Bus ticket quite easily) and with opening at 9am, one can collect quite a few beers in a day.

The theme is Wetherspoons 30th Anniversary and the beers tenuously fit this theme. The range this year is as wide as ever with beers from all over the world. Some have even been created by foreign brewers using English brewery plant to provide even more interest. Where else can you drink real ale brewed by New Zealand, Japanese, American, and Czech brewers on handpumps?

So why not give it a go. Pick up the programme or download it here and set to work. They even allow the possibility of drinking the beer in third of a pint measures, plus the food is decent and at the price they charge it's not expensive either. Happy ticking.

Monday, October 26, 2009


The word is that The Leggers Inn (right) at Dewsbury has had to cancel it's beer festival, due to be held in mid November, as the bar manager has been suspended.

Also Ron Crabtree at The Sair (Linthwaite) has sacked some key staff including his brewer a few weeks back. But the good news is the brew house has pretty much been rebuilt and cleaned up by the new brewer and we expect home brewed ale to flow in the next few weeks. They had seven ales on last Sunday from Elland, Copper Dragon and a few others.

Friday, October 23, 2009


The witching hour approaches and many pubs up and down the land will be trying something extra to get us to our local for yet another night! First out of the blocks in these parts is the Shepherds Boy, Dewsbury, which will be holding a Halloween night on the 28th (Wednesday), complete with a free buffet, themed quiz and lots of beer.

There will be four Halloween inspired beers on the bar and managing a pint of each of the four gives you entry to a draw for a hamper of international bottled beers. The "Halloween ale trail" lasts until Sunday 1st November, so you don't need to have all four beers in one session. Two reserve beers are in the cellar, should any of the four be so popular that they don't last all sessions.

This attractive pub is well worth a visit, with good beer and free food too, next Wednesday might be just the time to drop in, fancy dress is optional.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Red Rooster, Brighouse

It's a crying shame that these days I only get to sample this dream of a pub during it's festival. There was a time when I'd make regular mid-week sorties to enjoy the well-kept beer, exceptional service and relaxed atmosphere but now I'm based just a little too far away.

Two visits to last weekend's No Nonsense fest (formerly Septober) were very enjoyable though and whilst my esteemed colleagues may have turned their noses up at the beer list, I was delighted with the selection.

For the record my personal favourites included Pictish Pioneer, Enville Ginger Beer and Mallinsons Riva (possibly their best to date) but the excellent pie and peas at £2 a shot were also worthy of a mention, especially since we're featuring food a little more this week.

The word gem gets used a lot to describe quality no nonsense boozers (probably the Good Beer Guides fault) especially since we each have our own ideal when it comes to pub interiors and the sort of places we feel comfortable in, but I hope a glance at these pictures will give you a feel for the Rooster - as this is most definitely my kind of gem!

For the Hop Lovers Amongst Us

Having browsed through 'Opening Times' (the Manchester CAMRA beer magazine), I noticed the section about local breweries had an interesting piece on the Marble Brewery and this years 'Marble Festival' beer.

Those of us who are familiar with Marble beers are aware that they like to experiment a bit and are not afraid of using a lot of hops. Again they have produced something different and 'Festival' will be brewed with a New Zealand hop called 'Rukau' which apparently imparts floral and passion fruit flavours to the beer.

If their previous use of New Zealand hops, such as Nelson Sauvin, Riwaka and Mortueka are anything to go by, this should be a winner. Just hope I can get chance to try it and maybe other local brewers (hint Tara!!) can get hold of some and see what they can make of it.

A Hidden Gem

At the suggestion of several people, Sunday brought a trip into the Colne Valley to visit a pub I had heard many good things about but had never been to visit. The Tunnel End at Marsden is a real gem.

It is not the easiest place to find but driving or walking from Marsden centre, take Reddisher Road and the pub is on the right hand side just as it meets Waters Road above the Stanedge Visitors centre - it is probably easier to use the train as it is only a short walk from the station away from Marsden centre. Parking is also a premium at the pub so rail seems a good option.

It is a welcoming pub comprising various drinking areas with a real fire and a good food menu - ideal for these long autumn afternoons. On the bar were Taylor Landlord, Greene King IPA and Black Sheep but I opted for a guest beer from Saltaire and that and a coke came to just £3 so not overpriced. The food menu is reasonably priced too, and appears to be all home produced and of excellent quality.

All in all the Tunnel End is well worth a visit, especially if you have been walking on the moors and are in need of a warm, some decent beer and a recharge of your batteries. Just be wary of the opening hours as it only does full days at weekends.

Following on, and since I was in the area, I called down to see Johnny at the Swan at
Crimble to firm up the opening hours for his forthcoming festival. He confirmed that it starts Thursday evening and then all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, (not 4pm on Friday as some adverts have shown), it looks as though that is my Friday sorted!! 30 beers will be available with some rare and new ones from near and far, so if previous festivals are anything to go by this looks like being another ticking treat.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Food, Glorious Food

Those of us who travel to Manchester and Sheffield know that somewhere in a pub with a dozen or so hand pumps we will be able to get a good plate of food, and likewise visitors to Huddersfield's mighty drinking establishments have never been so well served. The closure of the Rat & Ratchet's kitchen has been a blow but the start of food service in The Sportsman may restore the balance.

For those who don't yet know, The Sportsman (above) is Huddersfield's latest real ale emporium, going out of town past St. Georges Square and just beyond the railway viaduct. Food is available 12-3 Monday to Thursday and an amazing 11-4 Friday and Saturday, and then again from 7-9 in the evening (Monday to Thursday). Sunday lunch is served 12-3. There is a regular menu plus a specials board, the food is home cooked, big portions and good value (steak & ale pie, chips & veg £3.95). Don't expect fine dining, this is after all pub food to accompany the beer (8 hand pumps, typically Anglo Dutch, Salamander and Mallinsons), or keep you warm inside if you are off to watch Town or the Giants (Huddersfield's Galpharm Stadium is less than 10 minutes walk).

Some of the Rat's kitchen has moved, along with Rob, to it's sister Ossett pub in Dewsbury, the Shepherds Boy (above).This is a great little pub on the Huddersfield-Mirfield-Dewsbury road or a ten minute walk up from Dewsbury railway station. We travelled to sample Rob's Sunday fayre, something the Rat was never able to offer, and for £7.95 we got a three course traditional Sunday roast (a choice of beef, lamb or chicken) with starter and dessert (£6.95 with starter or dessert and just £5.95 main course only). Vegetables and roast potatoes are perfectly cooked, and a different gravy is served for each meat. Sunday roasts are served 12-6, which gives you plenty of time to sample the 8 different beers on offer, normally 5 Ossett and 3 guests.

If you have not got the time (or access to transport) to travel out of town to one of our many country pubs for a beer and a bite to eat, the Sportsman or the Shepherds Boy might be just what you are looking for.

Buon appettito!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blowing Our Own Trumpet

Earlier in the year we wrote of three pubs (under the byline of "not in the beer guide.."), which we thought so good that they should be. Perusing the 2010 Beer Guide (purchased from the Star, Huddersfield for a bargain £9), we were really pleased that all three now have an entry!

For the record, the three pubs were The Swan, York, Mytton Arms, Habberley (Shropshire) and the White Lion, Bridgnorth (also Shropshire). The Shropshire (Wrekin) CAMRA quarterly, at the time of our visits, gave a guide to landlords on how to get your pub into the beer guide, maybe they could add "get your pub reviewed by 'a swift one'"!

The Charlton Arms, Ludlow, also reviewed, is another new entry in the 2010 guide. I'm sure their local CAMRA branches were on the case already, but who knows for certain.

Congratulations to all the above.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Day in the Capital

I know its not quite within the remit of Huddersfield, but last week I managed a day sampling some of the beer guide pubs of London. I have not been there for years and wanted to try out some of the places that others have told me about. I was not disappointed.

Armed with a day travelcard and a bus map, (those who know me, can see I was combining my 2 hobbies !) I managed to find 4 of the capital's great pubs, all serving real ale in good form and all in different parts of the city. First out came the Jerusalem Tavern, the St Peters Brewery tap.

Not too hard to find and a real gem; bare boards, basic furniture, and 6 beers on tap and more on stillage. They say they serve the whole range of the brewery's beer, either over the bar or in bottles.

I managed to sample three on the bar, Golden, Stout and the current fruit beer which was Grapefruit. All decent beers but the fruit beer was superb, and tasted of real grapefruit.

The next stop was the Wenlock Arms, near Shoreditch Police Station. I think there must be an easier way to find it than we managed, which involved a 15 minute walk round one of Hackney's dodgier council estates. When we eventually reached it we were not disappointed with around ten beers on draught and from all over the country. I tried offerings from Acorn, Lees, and Mighty Oak and when the landlord saw me scribbling away was most helpful in answering a couple of queries, not always the case with tickers. But time was against me and I knew I had to cross London to find the next pub.

Another gem, the Market Porter in Borough. Again about 10 beers available, from breweries near and far. Their regular beer, Harvey's Sussex bitter was doing a roaring trade but I opted for the guests and this time sampled beers from Corvedale and Stonehenge and again, the quality was excellent. The pub was heaving at 4pm with people calling in after work and seating was at a premium. When I left I found as many people drinking outside as in the pub. Should you need to do a bit of shopping then Borough Market is just across the road.

My final call for the day was the Bree Louise in Euston, handy for the railway station and another super pub. More modern than the other three and crammed with people so I never got chance to count the handpumps, but they also serve beers from stillage on the bar and provided about 20 in total I think. Here I found a new brewery for me, Twickenham and the two beers of theirs I tried were fine, although more geared to southern tastes being more malty than hoppy. I completed my sampling with a couple of Itchen Valley beers, again a rarity up north, and again typically southern styled.

All in all I was very impressed. The price of the beer was around £3 a pint, an average for the capital, but all the pubs were busy so the recession does not seem to be biting too hard. The pubs were all different with their own character and the staff appeared knowledgeable and interested. All it takes is a bit of planning and all four pubs, and possibly more, can be done in a day. Why not have a go ?
All pics courtesy of beerintheevening & the pubs' own websites