Tuesday, March 31, 2009
At the time I remember thinking if only all beer looked and tasted as good as this - and in no time at all of course it did! Well not quite, but the revolution in light well hopped ale really gathered momentum in the late nineties as everyone had a crack at emulating the likes of Abbeydale and Roosters.
But it's not all been beautiful citrus flavours and glorious sharp bitterness of late. I had a theory at this Spring's Star festival that the reason so many beers of this 'new' style had become disappointingly bland and samey was because of the shortage and price of the more interesting hop strains necessary to make a beer of this style really stand out. This may well be true to a certain extent but whilst ever Abbeydale can produce this quality in this economic climate at this strength then I for one won't cry too much at the next round of price hikes!
It is not unusual for landlord Ian to provide unusual beer as he does often travel the length of the country to satisfy the thirsts of his loyal drinkers, as well as being an avid collector of unique foreign beers. Just recently he has provided us with some tasty Brew Dog ales including the 6% Punk IPA, but the next to come from this iconic Scottish brewery is Trashy Blonde at 4.1 % (according to the improvised clip) which I've never even heard of let alone tasted - should be interesting!
Another coming soon is Marble Ginger 6 (6.0%). I know it has been bottled before, and occasionally appears in The Marble Arch, but I have never tried it. My information from those in the know is that this is Ginger Marble's big brother and an excellent beer.
For those who have not visited the Grove, there are 10 guest beers, 8 regulars, (recent additions being Marble Ginger and Durham Magus) and a host of different bottled beers from all over the world. Add to this some of the most bizarre snacks you have even seen and it becomes well worth a few hours of anyone's time. To keep up to date with the events at the pub and the ever changing beers, Ian updates his website regularly. Just keep checking and see when your favourites are on the bar.
Monday, March 30, 2009
There was a pub crawl, for want of a better expression, that started at the Foresters at Crosland Moor, and would visit 15 pubs before returning there. We had been told that we were 11th on the list (so obviously the visitors may have consumed a bit before they reached us), and that the event was a way of getting funds for the Marten House Children's Hospice At Wetherby. A worthy cause.
What we were not told, was that the crawl consisted of 20 couples, all handcuffed together and in fancy dress! Throughout the afternoon we were visited by blokes in pyjamas, girls dressed as schoolgirls, the Blues Brothers, a Smurf, Mr & Mrs Shreck, a large beer bottle, and various other people in all sorts of weird attire. Most were predictably unfamiliar with real ale (the sales of Carling went through the roof though, as did vodka) but as a treat the group had some strange system of forfeits resulting in the pickled eggs running out!
No doubt, none of the participants will have ever heard of this blog, in fact most seemed never to have been in a real ale pub before, but for the two hours of enjoyment they provided will not be forgotten - I will be having nightmares for years to come!! Just hope that they all made it back and I am glad that I am not enduring their inevitable hangovers this morning. A day to remember - or not in their case!
The brewery are not afraid to experiment and have produced beers with various fruit flavours - I recall the Lemon and Grapefruit at a previous Star festival being exceptional. They also produce single hop beers under the A-Z Reg banner. A quick scan of their beer list shows brews with marzipan, lemongrass, honey and banana and many other ingredients one would never assume would work in beer. But somehow most do.
The staple range does sometimes reach Huddersfield, most likely in the Kings Head or the Star Inn but it has been a while since I have come across any specials locally which is why I was so interested in these at the Star. The first to appear on the bar was Forbidden Fruit at 4.1%. It was packed with citrus flavourings and very light. As expected it did not last long and was generally well received. This was followed by 2 others, which were still on the bar yesterday. One is the weirdly named Pusty Hrad, a 3.9% dark bitter, full of flavour but not enough hop character for my taste, (a bit of googling revealed it is named after a 7th century Czech Castle), and the equally strange sounding H.A.T, a 4.5% bitter. This will be followed by two more this week but the names elude me - though one has a picture of a bicycle on the pumpclip!
If you have never tried a Church End beer, they are well worth searching out, but beware, often the name of the beer is no indication as to taste, so be prepared for the unexpected!!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Out of the 13 pubs and 3 clubs listed only one has featured in every volume, that being the Rat & Ratchet (below), originally as Andy Moorhouses's brew pub and more recently as part of the Ossett empire. One club and one pub made six appearances each - the Marsh Liberal Club (reappearing this year after a three year absence) and the Fieldhead at Quarmby, last showing in 2006.
Three pubs have made five consecutive appearances, all starting in 2004 so still going strong - namely the Star Inn, Station Tavern and The White Cross at Bradley. The Slubbers Arms has also made five but with a break. The ICI (or Syngenta) Club had four entries in the early part of the decade but has not featured since, in fact I seem to recall it hosting Huddersfield Beer Festival one year.
This then leaves eight pubs so far unaccounted for. The couple of one time entrants are the Grove (2008) and The County (2002). The Albert (2003/6) and the Dusty Miller (2003/4) made it twice, along with Cowcliffe Liberal Club (2007/8). Finally this leaves the three pubs that have each made three appearances in the guide - one is currently in there, the others are not - but can you guess which they are? Answers in comments below.
Just shows how Huddersfield has improved as a drinking town though - this year we have nine entries in the guide, compared with seven for the last two years. All well deserved, and the good pubs here seem to go from strength to strength. Good luck to them all.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The highly regarded Black Hole Brewery has been on the go for a little over two years now, collecting several awards (including a SIBA Silver for it's excellent Red Dwarf) so I was delighted to find that Star Gazer had materialised at the Huntsman this lunchtime. This golden full-bodied 4% bitter provided a strikingly good balance of smooth caramel maltiness before delivering more bite than a pissed-off particle accelerator, thoroughly satisfying three days worth of ale-craving - that's right, no beer since Saturday (my very own black hole experience!).
Unfortunately my hopelessly inadequate note-taking technique means I can't say how much of BHB's range I've connected with to date, but I see from the website that just seven beers are produced regularly so it shouldn't take an inter-galactic quest to track 'em all down. They do seem to have missed a trick here though - I mean surely there's got to be room in the portfolio for that most universally revered of all beers - Romulan Ale! C'mon guys, even Jim Kirk was scared of that stuff!!
Friday, March 20, 2009
York Camra has made amends this month though, as the Swan has just been announced York Camra Pub of the Year 2009. The pub is on the National Inventory (part 2) for the traditional West Riding layout of drinking corridor, bar at front and lounge at the rear. There are six hand pumps, normally all serving Yorkshire ales, but one from Skinners last time we called with a cider and the delicious Broadoak Premium Perry.
The Swan is a little out of the way, so except on race days, you'll only encounter locals and discerning drinkers - but don't go till 4pm during the week - all day drinking is only at weekends.
Pic: York Pub Guide
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The format is the tried and tested method with all 46 beers in the marquee being cellar cooled and handpulled, supplemented by many more served on the main bar inside. As usual there's a splendid array of pump clips promising beers from all over the country in all styles and strengths. As the more ardent 'tickers' scoured the programme for the unusual, I set to work sampling the new beers from Mallinsons (surprise, surprise!), and these two set the standard for me, being both light, hoppy and very drinkable.
The most notable rarities are from new(ish) breweries such as Garthela, Silverstone, Montys and Wild Walker with festival specials from Goose Eye and Wensleydale and even a collection of George Formby themed beers from Great Heck! To try everything in one night is an impossibility of course so these are a few of what was managed - with the assistance of some friends!
Interesting fruit beers this time have come from Coach House with their Lemon and Ginger (very gingery!), Boggart's Lemonale tasting of lemonade believe it or not and Caledonian Raspberry Fool with a very nice fruit tang. Several bitters with strengths from 3.7% to 5.7% were sampled, all different in taste, with the best being Kirkby Lonsdale's Ruskins (3.9%), a good effort from a new brewery and Phoenix OTT (5%) that was full of balanced flavour. Pictish weighed in with 4% Spiral, a little darker than their usual fayre, Howard Town with the 5.5% SDB (Strong Dark Bitter), and Yorkshire Dales with a couple of beers - the Scabba Wath at 4% going down particularly well.
In addition we tried stouts from Hornbeam, Kinver (their Tornado having a massive honey background) and Titanic (chocolate & vanilla) plus dark beers from Wild Walker, Great Heck, and Coach House - to name a few. There's even Fulstow's Raging Recall available - allegedly based on the Carling lager recipe according to the programme notes. Make up your own mind here!
Again, Sam and the team have done a fabulous job sourcing and presenting all the different and interesting beers, and were rewarded with a good turn out of enthusiasts from all over the country on this opening night. I recognised people from Derby, Cambridge, and even the Stoke boys were back in town, showing how well thought of the Star fest is in 'tickers' circles. So if you have never visited then now is the time. The festival continues until Sunday so no excuses!
(PS No payment from Mallinsons was received in the production of this article!!)
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
It has to be said that even without it's three annual festivals the Star would top the favourite pub list of a large percentage of local real ale enthusiasts with it's rapid turnover of widely sourced beer, friendly and knowledgeable staff and convivial atmosphere. With ten handpumps on the bar only Taylors (Landlord or Best) and Pictish Brewers Gold are permanent whilst the remainder can serve an eclectic choice, often as a result of regulars' requests.
If your beer cravings require you to sniff out something a little different from maybe a little further afield then this is certainly a good place to start. Landlady Sam Watt is one of a special breed of publicans who seemingly can't do enough for her regular clientele, who in turn give their support for her organising and hard work with unwavering devotion.
But it's the festivals that really set this pub apart. In fact it's difficult to think of many other non-CAMRA organised events that are so highly regarded and widely supported. Indeed the drinkers attending this weeks festival will in many cases have travelled as far as the beers!
So set aside some time and let Sam and her team guide you through the weird and wonderful world of Britain's booming real ale scene and experience an unforgettable five days in beer heaven. (map)
Where's Folly? Study the above photographs carefully to reveal the whereabouts of the well known limelight-grabbing black spaniel!
This post will continue to be updated in the Pub Profiles section with additional information and pictures. Also look out for Tim's round up of all the highlights from this latest festival.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Black Mamba no.5 is a 4% porter and a totally different beer to anything that Tara and Elaine have brewed before. It is dark, obviously, but has a background hoppiness that takes over in the taste from the initial burst of chocolate. And it is very moreish, as I discovered last night. It shows the skill of the brewster, that she can produce superb light hoppy beers and then turn her hand to something as distinctive as this beer is. It is presently on the bar at the Star at Folly Hall, but if the amount sold last night is anything to go by it will not be there for long, get it while you can.
As an aside, look out for a couple of Mallinsons specials at the Star Festival that starts on Wednesday at 5pm, if their previous offerings are anything to go by they will not be disappointing.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Plenty of compliments are being paid about the pub right now so a big turnout is guaranteed - and with festival pricing like this, it's success would seem a foregone conclusion! (map)
Click on menu to view at a less eye-straining size!
Update: While Will was out in the furthest outposts of the Ossett empire myself and Iain made the short trip to Brighouse to sample the 1st festival at the Old Ship. And we were not disappointed.There were 24 beers available on the bar, all hand pulled and cellar cooled, and all at the amazing price of £2 a pint across the board.
The selection was one to suit every taste, not especially a 'tickerfest' but one that provided good quality beer, many of which would be new to the drinkers of Brighouse. There were a couple of festival specials from Brass Monkey, (brewed by the landlord according to the programme) and Dark Horse but the real winners were the Marble beers, (Ginger and Chocolate) and Thornbridge Jaipur, which according to Iain was on a par with any he had previously tasted.There were many other good beers from around the country. From Cotleigh in the south, to Wolf in the East, and many other breweries in between. The quality was consistently good, the taste occasionally not so. The B & T Fruit Bat was a case in point, with its overpowering flavour of raspberries.
Notwithstanding the minor aberration, the festival was a good example of what can be done in a small pub with the commitment and dedication of the licencee and staff, and on our visit had attracted drinkers from well beyond its Brighouse home. Just looking forward to the next one later in the year. Tim.
The recent refurbishment has restored the bar to it's former glory and you cannot help but be impressed by the beautiful detail surrounding it. In fact wherever you choose to stand or sit there's a view to marvel at - indeed I can't remember ever taking so long to finish a pint!
And talking of beer there are no fewer than eight cask ales on handpump including a selection from the three Ossett owned breweries plus Fullers London Pride and a couple of guests - Boggart and Atomic during my visit. The draught lager line-up includes San Miguel, Erdinger, Becks Vier, Carling Extra-Cold and Stella with Guinness and Strongbow completing the picture. Landlord Nigel Mount is keen to increase the selection of bottled beers in the near future which are currently just Hoegaarden, Budweiser (US), Becks & Leffe.
Also in the pipeline is the credit crunch lunch which will be served initially from Friday through Sunday - and may now already have started. It will include typical bar fayre such as pie & peas, filled Yorkshire puds & chilli with rice - with each at an unbeatable 99p!
In addition to the two distinct drinking areas the pub also boasts a pool room and a large upstairs function room complete with bar, serving two Ossetts and a Fullers. Outside, a newly built decked area to the rear doubles as a smoking shelter - though don't expect glorious views of the Dales from here!
Being centrally situated in Keighley the pub has in the past attracted it's fair share of the unwanted, especially at the weekends, but with it's restored image and attention to quality ale, the Albert will hopefully bring in the clientele it fully deserves and remain a fabulous example of grand Victorian design for generations to come. (map)
Apologies for the temporary lack of an exterior shot of the Albert, but to do it justice will require better weather and an early morning visit.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Tonight I was having a conversation with a couple of friends about our favourite name for a beer......suggestions on the back of a postge stamp (please add your ideas below under comments).
Mine has got to be Grandma's Weapons Grade Ginger Beer from Wheal Maiden Brewery.
Now lets be fair - WHAT A NAME - it scares the hell out of me!
Sam: I know it's late in the day...but can we have some on 't bar for 't beer fest next week????
Anyone who has tried this beer (and I have asked a few "tickers" with a negative response) please let me know as I would like to know how my gullet and rear end is going to cope...
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
'We are currently in the process of ripping the pub apart although trying to maintain as much of the original features as we can! We have uncovered a fabulous parquet floor in the main bar, and we'll have an open fire in the snug whilst keeping the pool table - as I can't ever remember seeing one in a Huddersfield pub! We're hoping to be open early April and I'll let you know a more definite date nearer the time!!
We'll be having 8 hand pumps - 2 Taylors, Golden Sheep (the new Blacksheep beer), a line devoted to Huddersfield breweries, a stout line and a couple of rotating guest lines. We'll have ten keg beers including fruit and wheat beers and hopefully both Budvars. We do plan to have food but probably not when we first open. Not really the kind of pub for much live music though open-mic nights might be possible.'
Exciting news then and the moment we hear any more we'll let you know.
We are hoping to do a long-overdue profile of the pub, complete with plenty of pictures before this festival begins, so be sure to check back here after the weekend. In the meantime here's the usual map link.
Note: the pub's website is carrying a preview of some of the beers available at this five day ale-apalooza so don't forget to take a look if you can't stand the suspense!
* Does NOT infer that the little doggy has ticks, mites, fleas or any other unwanted passengers by the way - I could have used the scratching term but then....well you see my dilemma!
It is free and widely available in local pubs (while stocks last) and is the best way to keep up with local matters and upcoming events - apart from this blog of course!! Travelling around the country I come across many similar publications but none as comprehensive as Ale Talk, and Bob deserves great credit for the many hours he must spend researching and publishing the magazine. If you have not seen one yet, hunt it out, and you'll see what I mean.
The Head of Steam is on the up. Often in the past it has been ignored by the real ale drinkers for the quality of beer and the haphazard service. These problems seem to have been eradicated by the new licensee and they often serve up to eight decent beers from varied breweries. It is one of the two places in Town that Sam Smiths Old Brewery Bitter can be enjoyed, but unhappily not at Sam Smiths prices. The other beers are not cheap either, except strangely O'Kells from the Isle Of Man, but the quality is good and there is an interesting food menu.
The Kings Head is well known locally for those liking beer of the light hoppy variety. The pricing is good and the 10 beers on offer are kept in good nick. Along with the lighter beers are usually a mild and a couple from Taylors of Keighley. The pub itself gained fame when Oz Clarke and James May visited for their TV programme recently and is now busier than ever. It is an open plan pub that has not changed for years, but none the worse for that!
A short walk away is The Vulcan in St Peters Street behind the Post Office near the Ring Road. This is a small pub that has the feel of a town centre local with its own group of regulars. There seems to be an emphasis here on racing with a big screen TV dominating the pub, but it does cheap food and often 4 beers on handpull. Two of the pumps offer local ales regularly, instead of the big brewery beers seen previously. The only problem seems to be the size of the place, making it hard to find somewhere quiet to enjoy your beer.
Back up on John William Street you will not miss the Cherry Tree, one of the town's two Wetherspoons outlets. If you like your beer served in the drinking equivalent of an airport lounge then this is for you - that is if you can get past the crowds of smokers hanging around the doorways! Notwithstanding, it does serve ten real ales, five are the usual JDW fayre and the rest from breweries far and wide. The quality is good and pricing competitive, but like the Vulcan, seating is always at a premium.
My final stop was at The Albert in Victoria Lane, an old favourite that reopened around four weeks ago - take the yard at the side of the old Woolworths off New Street and it's at the bottom. In my opinion this is one of the town's gems. A wonderful looking pub with an interior to match - well worth visiting for this alone. On my visit there were four beers on the bar. My Copper Dragon Golden Pippin was acceptable and not overpriced, and should you want to eat there is a good looking menu. I just hope that it stays open this time, having spent more time closed up in recent memory.
All five pubs are very different, and whilst not especially great for scratching new beers, the prices aren't outrageous for a town centre (the Head of Steam being the most expensive) and certainly worth visiting if time prevents seeking out the Grove, Rat & Star.
Yesterday, on the bar in the Rat & Ratchet, arrived a Fernandes beer called 'Orange and Ginger' weighing in at 4.5%. Being a brave soul, and because it was a tick I thought I ought to try it. It was not quite what I expected. It was lightish coloured and had very subtle flavours, not unpleasant, but not spectacular either. Neither ginger nor orange predominated but one could taste both in the beer. I am not sure whether they actually compliment each other and I was left slightly disappointed in the flavour, which seemed a little too marmalady for my taste (I know - what did I expect from orange & ginger!!).
Maybe I am being overcritical but in recent times we have been treated to the superb Ginger Marble from Manchester, which does not hold back on the flavour one iota. This may have clouded my judgement. I have no objection to brewers experimenting, often with good results but sorry Fernandes this is not one of the better ones.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I tend to have to wander round the country (usually at silly o'clock) when all decent hostelries are a'bed. Let's be fair; beer and a car are not good bed mates...however the benefits I do get are to visit super places and be free by lunchtime...thus it was one Tuesday not that long ago...
Now we all know the decent boozers where we live (ish) - but a while ago a long term friend of mine who had been living in Bristol because of work said; "I can't find a decent pint for love nor money". Good beer does exist though and whilst down there recently I found these three great pubs .... one of which I've been going in now since the week after his comments.
The 7 Stars is a very old pub which I will not spoil for anyone, suffice to say not enough is really available internet wise (the pic is the only thing I could find worth reproducing and hardly does it justice!). A pub with up to 6 hand pumps on; no brewery ties of any description and so much history it is scary. Hull thinks it has done its bit to abolish the slave trade...this pub is where it really started. The young couple running it are super, however they suffer from the age old problem of lack of freehold.
A fair walk across by the rejuvenated docks (not ships; just flats now) and with a view to the SS Great Britain brings us to the Bag O'Nails. What this boozer lacks in finesse it makes up for in character .... you would not take a young lady in there, but then with it's range of clientele you wouldn't want one with you anyway...basic pub with far ranging ales (had arguments about them getting Red Lion's White Lion) with very few amenities... well worth not going to bed in order to catch them opening at tea time.... Oh dear - time! Half two - amount of alcohol consumed: 4 pints...and now I have to visit another, knowing it's a steep climb straight out of the 'Nails and up the hill.
The Hope and Anchor could be my favourite pub in Bristol; Hop-bines all round the place....fresh flowers on every table and the bar...pine tables and floors; looking good. I don't always associate good food with a good pub but it can help.... salad dressing as well as the S&P and all food homemade. 3 Soups, various themes, pancakes i.e. "cakes cooked in a pan" (could almost be in Yorkshire!) - Ploughman's, 20 cheeses and 11 other choices along with the usual salad etc. But there is more; a backyard stretching up the hill with countless Singer sewing machine base tables; places for smokers and barbecue areas abound.
The artwork I have loved for ages; an old regular has drawn cartoons depicting local history tied-in surreptitiously to the pub; look for the one of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's discovery moment whilst staying here (yeah right) to build the suspension bridge. Beers; London Pride, Bombardier, TT Landlord, Wadsworth 6X, Butcombe Gold and a couple from Bristol; Red and Sunrise. In summary: well worth seeking out despite the hill - super staff, food and ale. A very well kept house. Just one hell of a way from the Star on a Saturday night - and if you think it's pricey in Huddersfield for TT Landlord, try £3.30 a pint...this ain't London despite being darn sarrf!
Photos: courtesy of the respective pubs' websites - shocking I know, but if you don't want people to come then you're doing a great job!
Monday, March 09, 2009
A week on Wednesday will see the start of the first of three festivals this year at The Star Inn (Folly Hall, Huddersfield), more details of which will appear here very soon - I'm reliably informed!
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Also The Leggers Inn at Dewsbury's canal basin is turning round a couple of quality Monkeys at the moment with the stunning Son of Silverback (3.8%) and Capuchin (4.5%) on sale.
Long-standing owner & licensee of the Huntsman, Ian Mann, has been trying his hand at a spot of brewing and the result can currently be sampled on his bar in the shape of Bitter What You Fancy (4%), initially created for Valentine's Day.
Meanwhile the real ale scene in Huddersfield is about to get even more prodigious with the acquisition of The Sportsman (right), on the corner of Fitzwilliam Street, by the same bunch who brought you Dewsbury's award-winning West Riding Refreshment Rooms and more recently of course the Cellar Bar in Batley. What's more if you fancy managing the pub then Sarah would like to hear from you. Contact her at West Riding LRR, Wellington Street, Dewsbury WF13 1HF, in writing only please.
More news and views on both these exciting new ventures will follow soon!
photo: © Copyright Humphrey Bolton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence