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

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Watch Out For This One!

On the taunting pole at The Star at the moment is one of the best beers of the year in my and several other people's opinion, having tried it at the Lytham Festival last month.

The beer is Liverpool Organic 'Ironman', a 3.8% offering from this new brewery that is easy drinking, hoppy and full of flavour. Just the sort of beer I like. Sam says that their stronger offering, 'Premium' is also in the cellar so it looks as though the regulars may be in for a real treat later in the week.

More Festivals to Enjoy

I know there is a list of beer festivals on the blog but they have disappeared down the page because of the tweets, and there are some that are on the fringes of the area that may be overlooked.

This weekend the Red Rooster at Brighouse has its Octoberfest, starting Thursday evening through till Sunday and offers 30 or so beers. I have been previously and I can recommend it, even though I have yet to see a beer list. This will be followed by the Barge & Barrel (right) at Elland, easily accessible from Huddersfield and again offering 30 beers, unfortunately not all available at once if past festivals are anything to go by. I cannot supply the exact times at the moment (managed to lose my notes!!) but will update later.

For those intrepid people who fancy a bit of travelling, this Wednesday at the Harlequin in Sheffield provides a mini fest for their chief ticker Brian Moore's 70th birthday and the launching of Dave 'Unpronounceable's' Steel City Brewery. Expect some interesting beers for Brian and some mega hopped offerings from Dave. Have just checked another website and discovered three beers for Brian, two from Tara and one from Dave.

The Wakefield CAMRA fest is on over the weekend of bonfire night in the Light Waves, near the bus station and this year I have read they are showcasing Norfolk beers, which if last year's South Western festival is anything to go by should be a winner. And not forgetting The Star, starting on the 18th November where Sam will hopefully do us proud with beers from near and far. I, for one, can hardly wait.

Have managed to overlook the super fest at the Swan at Crimble next weekend, another worth a trip out, especially since the Commercial down the road is going from strength to strength, a very good reason to visit Slaithwaite, if you haveen't been yet.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Star Reaches 5000

On Saturday evening at 6.50 pm the Star Inn at Folly Hall put its 5,000th guest beer through the pumps, and that excludes the hundreds that have appeared at festivals. It was a Mallinsons special brew, Star 5k, and the thirsty regulars managed to shift the barrel in 100 minutes - that's going some - but according to Sam not the quickest, which was polished off in just 70 minutes, glad I wasn't serving that day!!

Tara Mallinson and Star Inn regulars toast the pub on reaching 5000 guest beers

Joking aside, it is a great achievement for Sam and the team and shows how a back street local can be transformed into a beer drinking mecca attracting discerning drinkers from far and wide. Long may it continue !

Friday, October 02, 2009

A Couple of Quick Bits

For those not aware, Rob Allen, senior bar person and chief cook & bottle-washer at the Rat & Ratchet has moved on to become the manager of the Shepherds Boy in Dewsbury (below). The downside of this is that food is no longer available at the Rat and the hours have consequently been reduced, with opening now at 3pm Monday to Thursday.

For those reading the blog from out of town and wondering whether a trip to the drinking capital of the north is worth it, may I draw your attention to an article in the latest edition of the New Imbiber detailing a pub crawl around the town. It may give you some ideas as to what Huddersfield can offer the itinerant drinker, if we haven't already done so!

Oktoberfest Success

Last night the doors opened to a long queue of punters at the new venue for the Huddersfield Beer Festival. The Sikh Leisure Centre hall has plenty of seating and enough room to drink without everyone falling over each other - a welcome change! The beer is mostly served on gravity from stillage at one end of the hall but there are around 20 handpumps as well. There is the usual breweriana plus book stalls and food is available too, with curries being particularly popular.

The beer was a mixture of old and new, from near and far, and all the ones I tried were in good condition. The traditionalists could sample Fullers and Marble, whilst those wanting locales could chose from Mallinsons, Golcar, Empire, Brass Monkey, Summer Wine, Riverhead, and Elland. For those in search of the unusual, plenty of beers from the South West and the Cotswolds were available.

I sampled the new beers from local breweries and some of those that had travelled far. I was especially impressed with the two Mallinsons specials, (no surprise there then I hear you say) but the North Curry 'Church Ale', Plain Ales 'Innocence' and Rowton 'Bitter' also hit the spot. The only beers that slightly disappointed were the stronger ones which seemed not to have the complexity of some of their weaker cousins, but with 85 beers on the bar there is something for everyone.

Dave Lyall also sourced 21 ciders and perrys for the event, an increase in previous years and these seemed to be doing a good trade as well. All in all, a festival the town should be proud of and credit should go to the hard working organisers.