Monday, June 29, 2009

3rd Monkey Fest

If you are at a loose end this weekend, 4th and 5th July, then it seems a shame to miss out on the wonderful Monkeyfest at the Monkey Club, Armitage Bridge, Huddersfield.

The previous two were must visit experiences and I am sure this one will be no different, except there will be no hog roast this year. We have heard that there will be 40 beers on offer over the weekend, with many old favourites available and some sourced from the South West which are fairly rare in the area.

The club is easily accessible by bus, the Holmfirth and Meltham routes pass the top of the roads into the village. Hopefully we should have a full beer list in the near future to whet your appetite, but make it a date for the diary. Its a great place to be.

On the subject of local festivals, don't forget the Star Summer Festival between the 15th and 19th July, (opens at 5pm Wed and Thurs,full days Fri,Sat and Sunday). As usual there will be 46 beers in the marquee with others on the bar.

And finally an apology to Marsh Liberal Club whose festival I managed to overlook last weekend, to my cost I may add, I missed a Mallinsons special !!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What a Lot of Hops You've Got!

Readers of the blog know of our love of hops and hop variety. They will also be aware of our desire to showcase the best breweries around. One of those that delivers on both counts is the Pictish Brewery.

Richard Sutton, formerly a brewer at Firkin, (there's a blast from the past!), set up the brewery in 2000 in Rochdale. Why call it Pictish ? Don't quote me but I think his brewing kit came from a Firkin brewery in Dundee, hence the Scottish connection.

Since starting brewing Pictish have won many awards for their many and varied beers. Locally, we often come across 'Brewers Gold', a regular at The Star and often found in the Rat. The Star also takes many Pictish specials.

I had a quick look at the Pictish web site, and along with their regulars, seasonals, and monthly specials there is also a section of single hop variety beers. I will not bore you with the whole list but Richard is obviously a hop fanatic and not afraid to try something different.

The list goes from A for Amarillo to V for Vanguard and fits in many of the letters in between. From Bobek in Eastern Europe, to Mount Hood in North America, from the rare hedgerow hop Susan to the New Zealand Riwaka, they are all there. Just take a look at the list and marvel at the names of hops you have never heard of, and be jealous of those fortunate enough to have sampled them.

Here is a brewery that is not afraid to try something unusual, just a shame that they are not more widely available in West Yorkshire. May be the Lancastrians have got one up on us Yorkshiremen this time.

PS Should you ever be in Stockport, the superb Crown does have Pictish beer usually available. It almost worth the trip just for that !!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Mallinsons to Delight

It will come as no surprise to readers of the blog that I have a soft spot for beers from Mallinsons brewery in Huddersfield, and again they have produced a superb beer, this being the second in their single hop variety series.

I managed to track down 'Nelson Sauvin' (a 3.7% light and hoppy offering) at The Star last night. Well track down is a bit of an overstatement - Sam actually had it pulled and sat on the bar awaiting my arrival!! It did not disappoint. Full of flavour but without the full on aggressive bitterness that this New Zealand hop sometimes brings to beer, and at its weaker strength, very quaffable.

The Nelson follows 'Amarillo' in the series and will, I believe, make way for 'Cascade', which both showcase what American hops have to offer. Looking behind the bar at the Star, there is 'Druids Temple' due this week too, so for lovers of Mallinsons beers, it looks like being a good few days.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Navigation Festival

This weekend the Navigation at Mirfield is hosting its annual summer beer festival. In addition to the usual 5 beers on the bar, mainly from Theakstons, but including the rarely found 'Old Peculier', there are another 22 from around the country. They are mainly from the larger breweries, with Marstons, Brains, and Batemans represented. There are a couple from Cornwall and three from Scotland.

On my visit I sampled, Harviestoun 'Natural Blonde', the tasting notes say it was brewed with lager and wheat malts and was a most refreshing drink. The same applied to Hop Back 'Taiphoon' which had hints of coriander and lemon grass, and Roosters 'Elderflower', which obviously tasted of elderflower. These were supplemented by Sharp's 'Honey Spice' with its sweet and spicy aftertaste. If you include the Caledonian 'Top Banana' and Youngs 'Waggledance' (a honey beer), one could have a session on unusual tasting beers. The locals were raving about the TSA 'Lomond Gold' but time caught me out and I never had chance to sample it.

The beers are all served through handpumps but not all appeared cellar cooled, but were competitively priced at £2.20 a pint. If you are in the area its well worth a call, or if not Mirfield is well served by trains and the station is a couple of minutes walk away.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Green Loss

Since the departure of landlord Andy Henstock to York, quality at the Green Cross in Moldgreen has gone into free fall. Even my Friday night fish 'n' chips would have turned their nose up at the Eastwoods I was served there last week.

Meanwhile at Andy's new pub, the Bay Horse on Marygate in York, a Yorkshire Day beer festival has been announced with 30 plus ales available. August 1st is a Saturday too and with plenty of direct trains running from town there's no excuse for not getting over there and begging him to come back!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Beers From Far Away

It seems that this weekend, Huddersfield may be the place to be if you fancy something unusual.

A check on The Grove website, (usually updated daily) reveals all but two of their guest beers have travelled from the south east of England, with rare breweries such as FILO (mild), W.J King, Red Squirrel and Weltons all appearing on the bar. It is a beer festival in itself !

Complement this with ABC (Avon brewing co) 'Gurt Lush' and Hop Back 'Challenger'on the bar at The Star, and with beers from Penzance and Penpont breweries to come in the near future, the South west of the country is also well represented.

The North East provides Durham 'Temptation' (at 10% not exactly a session beer) at the Grove, and Hexhamshire 'Whapweasal' and 'Shire Bitter' at the Star.

Add to this the possibility of chancing across the superb 'Quenched' and 'Skoda Stout' from Mallinsons (assuming the discerning locals, or my namesake have not drunk them all!!), then it seems Huddersfield could well be the place this weekend.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Saltaire Raided

Last night, thieves broke in to Saltaire Brewery and stole a large quantity of casks and bottles of beer.

It is thought that they may have been stolen in order to offer to pubs or festivals. The casks are so far the only "Bavarian Gold" to have left the brewery, so please be aware and pass this information on to licensees and festival organisers who you think might be approached. The identity of the beer may of course have been disguised.

Over 70 casks were taken, all full of Bavarian Gold, from a locked, refrigerated compound. Empty casks, all accessible, were not taken, so it seems the thieves were not after scrap metal.The casks were rented, metal casks, with the "e-cask" name on the side, with two bright orange hoops painted on. Three pallets of bottled Saltaire Goldings and three pallets of Cascade, all 500ml, were also taken.

Please circulate this information as widely as possible.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Shropshire Ramble (last bit)

Shrewsbury.

Less than two hours by train from Huddersfield (about the same time as getting to Sheffield!), there are nine pubs in this years beer guide. After a week around Ludlow, Shrewsbury seemed so busy, we had time to visit just one of the many pubs here, and as the Coach & Horses on Swan Hill opens at 11.30 we reckoned this would give plenty of time for more Wye Valley and Salopian beers and lunch.

There is a small bar and even smaller snug as you enter, opening out behind the bar to a restaurant for about thirty. This was a Wednesday and the pub was full, though still comfortable, food was excellent, as well as usual pub favourites the Coach & Horses offers a daily carvery, which was going down very well. The ale too was very good, one non-local beer needing sampling was "Black Beauty" a dark bitter chocolate mild @3.9% from Oxfordshire's White Horse brewery.

This gorgeous beer is currently gracing the bar at the Star (at least it was on Thursday), so be quick!

Websites.

We planned our trip largely using www.visitsouthshropshire.co.uk , others of possible interest include : www.theludlowbrewingcompany.co.uk , www.thechurchinn.com , www.thecharltonarms.co.uk , www.hobsonsbrewery.co.uk , www.thekremlininn.com , www.threetunsbrewery.co.uk , www.bishopscastle.co.uk/sixbells/brewery.htm , www.odleyinns.co.uk/coach&horses.htm .

The Mytton Arms doesn't do t'internet, opens 4pm Monday to Thursday and all day Friday and weekends.
Public transport (plus a little walking) was used throughout the week.

Fin.

Friday, June 05, 2009

West Riding Summer Fest

Summer is just around the corner and what better way to get the new season off to a flier than by enjoying a little alfresco supping at one of our favourite local festivals.

Last year's Beer-jing event at the West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms in Dewsbury's railway station was a premature sell-out and the combination of an interesting and varied beer menu, quality live entertainment and excellent food looks set to be repeated again this weekend.

Full details including the beer list on the pub's website.


In the interests of blogging, most of the editiorial team met up on Friday afternoon to sample the festival and sink the odd pint or three. The festival was held outside the pub as on previous occasions with the 20 beers mostly served on gravity dispense with a small number on handpull from a makeshift bar.

The problem with the outside venue is that you can soon fall victim to the weather, and was I glad that I took Will's advice,(he is not only good at spotting birds, tasting beer but he can spot the arrival of rain and time it to the minute!!!), and found a seat under the shelter.

The beers came from far and wide and drew enthusiasts from a distance too. It was a good festival for 'tickers' and during the day I spotted Pete Collins from Rotherham,(the vicar!!), Hayden from Chesterfield, Gary from Lytham, and Hutch from Manchester to name but a few. As the beer, it was a mixture of new and old favourites.

Harviestoun 'Bitter & Twisted' rubbed shoulders with Empire 'Eccles', Mauldens 'Micawber Mild' with Phoenix 'Earthquake', Leeds 'Samba' with Durham 'Sunstroke' (unlikely in view of the weather !!).

Between us we sampled many of the offerings, my personal favourite was Mallinsons 'Requenched', a 3.8% beer packed with hop flavour from American Cascade hops. However, all the beers we tried were good and I only found one disappointment.

If you have nothing better to do this wet weekend then why not hop on the train and have a look at a well run, and well patronised beer festival.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Taking the P**s

As readers of 'A Swift One' know, we are always ready to support local pubs, local breweries, and on this occasion, local industry. Bear with me, it will make sense !

On my usual Monday trip to the Grove I was greeted, not only with an array of beers, but also with lots of crashing, banging and drilling, and the strange site of a man walking through the pub pushing a wheel barrow. It was explained that the gents were out of action and being replaced, and we should use the ladies,and very nice they were too.

The problem, according to Ian, the licensee, was that the old toilets had become damp, (I thought this was a natural state for toilets !) and smelly and during the evening the smell began to infiltrate the pub making it unpleasant for customers.

The long single porcelain urinal was being replaced by state of the art single urinals, created by 'Elemental Solutions' and supplied by the Golcar based Green Building Store, going by the name of 'Airflow'(c). They use less water, and use air to make the urinals smell free. The full technical spec, if you are interested is on the Green Building website. The whole system is eco-friendly, as one would expect from the Green Building Store.

All I can say is that the difference is very noticeable and makes a far more pleasant environment to visit, if only for the short time that you need them. I don't think that the gents at the Grove will become the tourist attraction that those at the Philharmonic in Liverpool are, but Ian has certainly improved the state of the pub with a simple change. Let's just hope that some other pubs follow his lead.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Shropshire Ramble (part 3)

A Hidden Gem (not in the beer guide - no.2 in an occasional series).

We finally got some walking completed the following day, a quick 5 mile jaunt across Stiper Stones, west of Church Stretton. Local buses cover the area so that you can start at one point and return from another. We headed from Stiper Stones to a small village called Habberley, simply because the map indicated a pub, we did not know what to expect, nor even if the pub was open, but what a treat we found on arrival at the Mytton Arms...

Only reopened a couple of years, having been closed for at least that long, this is a real free house, reflected in the beer range (mainly local, Ludlow, Salopian and Three Tuns on our visit).
There are good freshly prepared sandwiches and free range eggs for sale at 75p for half a dozen.
Beer was about £2.30 a pint, which for a fairly remote village pub is remarkable, but possibly because the beer IS LOCAL! The Three Tuns "XXX" was stunning.

All good things come to an end, and if we were to get to Bishop's Castle we needed to catch the next bus.

Brew Pubs.

With one change we reached Bishop's Castle with two hours before the bus to Craven Arms and a train back to Ludlow.

Bishop's Castle is a small town famed for having two brew pubs, one at the top of the hill (the Three Tuns) and one at the bottom (the Six Bells). The Three Tuns is clearly a victim of it's own success, being much extended behind the frontage to accommodate the numbers of diners and drinkers. The small bar at the front is much as I suppose it has always been, five of their own ales were available, including that delicious "XXX".

The Six Bells felt like more of a locals inn, football banter dominated, with Shrewsbury Towns (unfortunately doomed) trip to Wembley (division 2 playoffs) much to the fore. Four Six Bells beers were on show, two light and two not so light including the excellent "Cloud Nine".

So back to Craven Arms where there was time for a pint of Salopian ("Shropshire Gold"), actually in The Craven Arms, before the train back. Strangely all football talk here was about Man. Utd., but then again Shrewsbury is only an hour and a bit from Manchester by train.

Monkeyfest 3

It's almost summer and the festivals will be coming thick and fast from now one, so here's a quick reminder that one of our very favourites is just a month away.

It appears there's an Indiana Jones theme going on down Armitage Bridge this time around so don your hats and whips for Monkeyfest 3 or should that be Simian with Bones and his Raiders of the Last Cascade............................. I'll get my coat!

More details including the beer list will appear here nearer the time.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A Shropsire Ramble (part 2)

Hobson's (the) Choice.

With visibility on Clee Hill almost zero due to fog, we set off instead for the nearby, delightfully named, town of Cleobury Mortimer, home of Hobson's Brewery, and it's brewery tap, the Kings Arms.


The town straddles the main Ludlow/Kidderminster road for about 2 miles, which makes for quite a busy little place, even so 2 of the 8 pubs here have closed recently, but The Kings Arms is thriving, opening at 10am for breakfast, with lunch from midday. Divided into bistro, restaurant and bar areas around a central bar dispensing 5 Hobson's beers, including the relatively new "Twisted Spire", light hoppy 3.6%, celebrating the parish church opposite.

Beer and food were excellent, and as the weather was improving we headed back to Clee Hill.

Peregrines, Pigeons and Quoits.

Fancying a pint before any walking we dropped into the unusually named Kremlin Inn. The Craven Arms until the mid 1980's, the pub had been known as the Kremlin for some years due to the jukebox picking up Radio Moscow (so I am told), at 1,400 feet above sea level there is no high ground to the east until you reach the Urals.

Good food and local ales from Hobson's, Ludlow and Salopian were on offer.

Peregrine Falcons can be observed at a nearby disused quarry, a source of anguish for the local pigeons fanciers who meet here. The pub also boasts two quoits teams, a simple but deceptively skillful bar game. As the weather was turning against walking, this was a great way to while away a couple of hours, drinking great ale and attempting to play a game I don't think I have ever seen before. We would love to have stayed for the evening to see how decent players managed after a few pints, but buses tend to finish early round here.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Sportsman, Huddersfield

It's been nearly a month since the town centre's latest real ale house opened it's doors - just enough time for the dust to settle and for me to finally get around to a little picture taking.

The Sportsman is the latest Mike Field & Sarah Barnes venture following the incredibly successful and multi-award winning West Riding at Dewsbury railway station and the more recent remodelling of the Cellar Bar opposite Batley station.

The new pub is probably a little further from track side than rail enthusiast Mike would have ideally liked but then Huddersfield station is already overflowing with great ale and situated as it is just beneath the viaduct, the Sportsman's location is an acceptable compromise I would guess!

The main bar is flanked by two small and exquisitely decorated anterooms with an art deco style throughout. The bar itself is the main focal and talking point and is quite unlike anything else you'll find around here.The exposed and restored parquet flooring is another notable feature and in conjunction with some new tiling helps to create the distinctive acoustics.

Eight handpumps dispense a good range of mostly Yorkshire ales with one pump dedicated to Huddersfield's growing number of quality breweries - Mallinsons, Empire, Golcar, Summer Wine and Riverhead having guested already. Timothy Taylors will be permanent as will the eagerly anticipated new 'Golden' recipe from Black Sheep.

The quality of the beer I've sampled and that of everyone I've spoken to has been spot on and is a great credit to manager Sam Smith (no kidding!) and her staff, but then in such a prestigious cask ale neighbourhood there'll be little margin for error here.

With it's proximity to the railway station, the markets and less than a fifteen minute walk to the stadium, the Sportsman is well placed to succeed even in these difficult days of rising unemployment and inflated beer prices.

Whether the pub decides to introduce food, live music or host festivals remains to be seen but it's addition to the local scene is a welcome one and we wish Mike, Sarah and Sam all the best.

Website (map)
Address:1-3 St John Street, Huddersfield, United Kingdom, HD1 5AY
Phone: 01484 421929

Opening Times:

Mon - Thurs: 12:00 - 00:00
Fri - Sat: 11:00 - 01:00
Sun: 12:00 - 00:00

A Shropshire Ramble (part 1)

Ludlow.

A small market town with a mixture of medieval and Georgian buildings, a reputation for culinary excellence, a small racecourse and Ludlow Brewery. With as many as 18 other local breweries the area seemed just the place for a short break.

Ludlow has many fine old pubs, serving good food, unfortunately many are tied to Marstons, and much as I quite like Jennings Cumberland Ale, it's not what I really want to be drinking in Shropshire, so it's off to Ludlows finest ale house, The Church Inn. An excellent line up of regional ales await, Hobson's, Ludlow, Wye Valley and Weetwood, plus 2 guest pumps, which in the course of a few nights offered Abbeydale and Wentworth (S. Yorks.), Cathedral (Lincs.) and Teme Valley "Talbot Blond" (Worcs.) - since seen in the Star for about two nights only. All the beers sampled were excellent, food served and accommodation too.

The Church is not the only free house in Ludlow, as it has a sister pub - The Charlton Arms, next to Ludford Bridge. The Charlton is also a mecca of local ales, Hobson's, Ludlow, Wye Valley and Three Tuns from Bishop's Castle, excellent food and accommodation also available. The pub is currently being extended (only cosmetic work remains to be finished) to capitalise on the stunning riverside location overlooking the Teme. Drink and watch dozens of swallows feeding on the wing, dippers and wagtails on the riverside and even kingfishers.. (oops, wrong blog..).
The Teme is also an excellent river for fishing.

Bar conversation at both pubs frequently revolves around the racing at Ludlow, it is a pleasant enough race course, but typically only serves up Fosters in the bars, it surely can't be too difficult to get some Ludlow ales, especially as the brewery can supply their ale "bright" and probably a good deal cheaper than keg lager!

Anyone with an interest in the Ludlow area, and a love of pubs, could do no worse than seek out "The Pubs Of Ludlow And Neighbouring Villages" by Tony Hobbs (Logaston Press, isbn 1873827830). When walking around Ludlow it looked to me that every other building could once have been a hostelry, this well researched and entertaining book shows that at one time or another this was in fact the case! Lots of photos and a historical background too.