Friday, December 31, 2010

Hoppy New Year

As we are on the cusp of a New Year, let all at 'A Swift One' wish you and yours all the best for 2011. Lets hope there are plenty new beers to sample, plenty of new breweries to try, and that our time honoured favourites go from strength to strength.

Thank you to all our readers throughout 2010, to all the brewers who have produced the goods for us to review, to all the pubs who have tolerated us and our questions. Hope 2011 brings everything you deserve in this difficult economic climate, and that we continue to be able to bring you the best that Huddersfield has to offer.

It would also be nice if the blue & white Brazil managed to achieve promotion and at least one trip to Wembley. I can dream at least !!!

Happy 2011 to you all.

Beer of the day,30th December

A visit to the The Grove produced one of the best beers of the month yesterday, from one of the best breweries around.

Moor have become fairly regular at the Grove in recent weeks and some of their beers have been excellent but yesterday I encountered one of the best. It is one of those strange hybrids that call themselves 'black IPA', which I think is a contradiction in terms, but that aside, their 'Illusion' is a superb version of the style.

Even though it is black, obviously, there is plenty of hop flavour in the glass, and none of the overpowering dark malts that sometimes appear in beers of this type. It is 4.3% which is a sensible drinking strength and very moreish. (or should I say 'Moorish'!).

Moor are a southern brewery who seem to be going down the route of hoppy rather than malty beers and their beers are well worth seeking out. In fact, I didn't have to look far for another, their 3.8% 'Revival' was at the other end of the bar. Not as distinctive as the 'Illusion' but a good session bitter.

The black IPA seems to be a feature at the Grove recently, with Thornbridge 'Raven' and 'Thornstar '(a collaboration between Thornbridge and Dark Star) all appearing. If you have never tried one, give it a go, I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

House Beer Reaches the New Inn

I have been advised by one of our roving reporters, (thanks Margot !), that the long awaited Mallinsons house beer for the New Inn at Roberttown has arrived, and very good it is too, apparently. It is called 'Bobbytown Pale' or something similar. Must be worth another trip out to investigate.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Date for Your Diary

Soon the New Year will be upon us, and with it a new range of beer festivals. It is unusual for 'A Swift One' to promote Camra beer festivals but the New Year opens with the 'National Winter Ales' festival, over the hills in Manchester.

It starts on the evening of Wednesday 19th January 2011 and runs through till Saturday 22nd with full day sessions from Thursday onwards. The venue is a short distance out of Manchester itself, at the Sheridan Suite up Oldham Rd, a few minutes out of the Northern Quarter.

That's enough of a plug for the main event, but often, running in parellel with the larger festival, the pubs in the area host their own smaller festivals, and, in my opinion, are far more worthy of a visit. I am usually well clued up by this time to know what is happening where but due to the the recent inclement weather I have been unable to visit for my research visit, (if you know what I mean !) so at present I am in the dark as to who is holding what and when but hopefully some of the more adventurous pubs should be holding their own festivals during this time. If not, the bigger festival promises a range of 200 + beers and ciders to sample.

Make a date and see what is available, and start the 2011 festival season early.

Note : have just been advised by one of the drinkers from over the hill, 'Nora Ticker', that there is a beer festival being held at the New Oxford in Salford,as I type, and running until 6th January 2011. It seems there are 50 beers on offer coming through the 15 or so handpumps at the pub. So should you be at a loose end over the New Year weekend may be a trip into Salford may ward off the winter blues. Pub opens at 12 noon daily and is easy enough to get to on the no3 free bus from Man Piccadilly station.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What a lucky lot we are !

In the world of beer, Huddersfield may have been looked down on by its bigger brothers Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield, but this applies no longer. We have got one of the best drinking towns in the north, possibly even the country; we possess some of the best breweries about; and some of the best beer festivals.

The town has cemented its place on the 'Trans Pennine Ale Trail', with plenty of groups discovering for themselves the pubs that we can offer. The eight or so committed real ale pubs on the 'town centre trail' all offer different types of experience for the drinker, whether it be beer from local micros or further afield, beers from foreign brewers, or something more familiar.

The town is home to well known breweries such as Empire, Mallinsons, Nook, and Summer Wine, which often travel far and wide and spreading beer from Huddersfield to many parts of the country. And what's more they are all going from strength to strength in this difficult economic climate.

As for beer festivals, well what can compare with the thrice yearly Star fest at Folly Hall? Now into its 9th year it attracts drinkers from as far afield as Scotland, London and the south coast, with some even booking their holidays to coincide with the events. We also have our CAMRA festival, which again is one of the better ones about; the twice yearly Swan festival at Crimble is well worth a call; and where else could you visit village festivals of the quality of the Thurstonland 'Thurstyfest', the Armitage Bridge 'MonkeyFest' and the Hall Bower festival? Throw the 'Moonrakers' and 'Slaithwaite festivals' into the mix and there is something to keep the itinerant drinker happy most of the year.

We already celebrate the fact that Huddersfield is one of the best towns around in so many ways, so let's get out there and show our support for the pubs, brewers and festivals too and make 2011 an even better drinking year.

Merry Christmas to all our readers

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers and everyone who has contributed to 'A Swift One' during the last 12 months.

We are aiming to be the most comprehensive account of beer available and pubs around Huddersfield, and think we have gone from strength to strength in the last year, with even more readers and contributers. Long may it continue.

All we can say is get out there, check out the pubs we have and sample the beers available. You know it makes sense.

Will, Tim, Alison, Iain, BJ, Brian and 'The Bloke from Hull'.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mallinsons Now Regular at The Rat

Since Rob Allen returned to manage the Rat & Ratchet in Huddersfield he has being gradually doing things his way, and yesterday he unveiled the most recent of his changes, a permanent Mallinsons pump alongside the now permanent Pictish.

He states that the choice of Mallinsons will complement those beers already on the bar and give those who hold the brewery in high regard (i.e. most of the drinking world), another outlet where they can find their favourite brewery. At present there is 'Garnock' available but several other new brews are waiting patiently in the wings.

This gives the brewery an outlet either side of town with The Sportsman serving the north end. And should you want to travel further afield, Mallinsons are also featured at The Shoulder of Mutton in Lockwood, and more recently, The Kings Arms at South Crosland in addition to the house beer provided for The New Inn at Roberttown.

It just shows how far the brewery have moved on in a short space of time and is a credit to them that so many local pubs feel confident enough to keep their beer available at all times. Long may it continue.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Beer of the Day - 18th December

To continue a theme that has been running through the last couple of posts, and to save Jibber the problem of risking drinking a Xmas beer that is not light and hoppy, I have found one with a Christmas name that should satisfy any light beer drinker - and after a customer satisfaction survey yesterday, seems to suit dark beer drinkers too.

Pictish have come up with something different this year. Instead of their usual 'Rocket Fuel' they have brewed 'Wheat Christmas'. It is a crystal clear beer, the wheat just obvious in the background, and unusually for Pictish it is not massively hoppy. Everything is just subtle and blends together to make a very quaffable 4.4% beer. Just the antidote for these freezing times.

It came on the bar at The Star yesterday afternoon, all I can hope is that it may be still be there today so I can sample it again, purely for quality control and research purposes of course.

On the subject of Pictish, I am advised that their ' Winter Solstice' - the monthly special for December - is available at the Rat & Ratchet, and in excellent form too apparently. Another one to try should you be lucky enough to get time off from Christmas shopping today.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Xmas - A Time For Silly Names!

Will has just pre-empted my post, which was going to be about Xmas beers in general, and those with silly names in particular. He has already identified one of the beers I was going to highlight, another of the Doctor Morton's range from Abbeydale, which are always good for a laugh, I mean the pump clip, not the beer, which is usually excellent. But what else is about for us to enjoy ?

Locally, Mallinsons have brought out 'Comet', named after the reindeer, not the thing in the sky. Acorn have provided '8th Noel', their 8th Xmas beer, and Ossett have resurrected their 'Nervous Turkey' for the season. None of these having a particularly silly name though. I have seen a pump clip, although not yet tasted the beer, for a new offering from Blue Monkey, called 'King Kong Merrily on High'...that's more like it.

Time for a bit of research. A look through the new beers on Beermad only revealed Caledonian 'Escape Claus' which I could class as vaguely silly, but as an aside Warwickshire 'Moustache Ale' sounds a bit daft. So time to revisit my beer lists and see what we have been subject to in the past.

Blackwater 'Jingle Dingles' seems to fit the bill; so does Bull Box 'Turkey's Revenge'; and Hull 'Rudolph P*ss', but most breweries have been playing safe with stuff called 'Xmas Pudding' and 'Christmas Beer'. Who else has the wit to be a bit original ? Andy at the erstwhile Rat brewery came up with 'Cratchit's Xmas Cracker' ; Bobs had 'Anything But Turkey' a couple of years ago; and Pictish treated us to 'Rudolph's Rocket Fuel'.

What were the best though ? Will has found one of my favourites already, but in amongst all the breweries who have a beer called 'Red Nosed Reinbeer' I came across my favourite, an offering from Storm brewery called 'It Looks Like Rein Dear'. Just goes to show how easily pleased I am !!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Fun from Abbeydale

Currently selling well at The Huntsman in Chidswell is a Christmas brew from Abbeydale's Beer Works range.

The comically titled Dr. Morton's Famous Reindeer Repellent is another in an excellent line of beers from the company's testbed brewery, but at a pale and hoppy 4.2% is probably not the ale you would have expected (perhaps the clue's in the title!).

A subtle hint of spice somewhere in the finish is the only real nod to winter in an otherwise light and citrussy drink. With it's fruity moreishness and typically fun pumpclip, this is easily my favourite yuletide beer thus far. (map)

Ossett Landmark Beer

Ossett Brewery's 2000th beer will be a specially produced single-hopped 7.5% IPA and should be in pubs in time for Christmas.

The as yet unnamed landmark ale uses the current favourite Citra hop, so will hopefully be well received by the many fans of this relatively new American hybrid variety.

We will attempt to keep track of when and where this limited edition beer is available but if you're going to be out looking, then obviously the brewery's pubs are a good place to start!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Cheer

It has been a tradition for a while for some of us more aged gentlemen to gather together on a Monday in a local hostelry to compare notes whilst sampling the wares on offer. This week we gathered in The Grove for our usual brainstorming session, and were treated to some excellent beers, both English and foreign.

My only regret was that the Dark Star 'Green Hop IPA' ran off before I could sample it, (thanks Gary!) but I managed to find several other beers to make the disappointment more bearable.

Moor 'Revival' seemed a good place to start; a 3.8% session beer, pale and hoppy and well up to their usual standards. A brewery rarely seen about these parts but one that is consistently good and has the knack of succeeding, whatever style it produces. I followed this with another Moor, 'Ported Peat Porter', which was dark but equally good. Those in the know told me it was their 'Peat Porter' with added port. At 4.7% it was robust but very drinkable, with just a hint of the port.

Another of my favourite beers was on the bar, so next on the list came Bathams 'Best Bitter'. I was a little disappointed with this as it displayed a little more sweetness than usual and seemed a tad unbalanced, but there were still plenty others to go for. I followed this with Nethergate 'Sweeney Todd', which was not to my taste, unlike the Adnams 'Old Ale'. This is another favourite from years back and this time it did not disappoint, bringing back memories of times gone by when it was often on at the 'Rat & Ratchet'.

By this time I had decided to go a bit experimental. I often overlook the foreign beer in The Grove but this time did venture around the other side of the bar and took the plunge. It is not cheap but does give the chance to see what other countries have to offer us at this time of year. I started with the American 'Stone Pale Ale', and at 5.4% I expected much from it but it did not have a lot of the flavour I want from a beer of this strength, especially from one of the classic breweries of The States.

That was soon put right by a 1/3 pint of the 'Delirium Noel' though, a dark, fruity 10% offering. I could not complain about the lack of flavour here, a robust little number, packed with taste and far too drinkable for it's strength - a real Belgian classic and a fine way to round off an interesting afternoon. Should you be in the area and need an antidote to the Christmas shopping then look no further, I am sure you will enjoy it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Creche

Thanks to David Litten for this. It does indeed sound a bargain - one which I'll be suggesting regularly during the next twelve days!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The 'Swift One' Awards - 2010

As another year draws to a close its time to reflect on the highs and lows of the previous 12 months, and as a bit of fun I thought I would share my feelings with you. I hasten to add, before I get lynched by the rest of the team, these are purely personal and have not been shared. So if your favourites are not mine, add them to the comments at the bottom and we may have a comprehensive, and objective list come the new year.

Best Beer Festival - goes without saying - The Star Inn. People travel from all over the country thrice a year to sample the beer that Sam sources. It is always in good nick, and a selection to satisfy any palette. It stands head and shoulders above all others.

Best Brewery of the Year - again I may be a bit biased but Mallinsons beer always seems to hit the spot for me,and many others too by the look of it. Great to see a local success in these difficult times and good to watch a brewery go from strength to strength in the few years it has been running. Must not overlook Golcar either for their achievement in winning the Bronze at the GBBF for their mild.

Best Beer of the Year - sorry Tara, but this has to go to your competition from over the border, Pictish 'Citra' was stunning. A true classic.

Best Hop of the Year - again Citra, never had a bad beer brewed with it. Full of intense citrus flavour and well worth hunting out.

Best Beer Town/City of the Year - in my opinion Manchester and Salford, which used to be the holy grail for drinkers seem to have lost it a bit this year; Sheffield is still good but my favourite drinking city must be Derby for its selection of beers and variety of different pubs to drink them in. The best town must be Huddersfield with some many good pubs in such a small area and each with their own take on beer.

Best Pub in Huddersfield - again this is a very personal opinion, but for the amount of beers that are turned over and their quality, The Star Inn gets my vote. I like the pub too as you may have guessed. Others run very close though, and many people will prefer the Rat, (who incidentally, have the best quiz night in Town) ,the Grove or the Sportsman for their own reasons.

There you are....my totally subjective choices...may be you think differently, I am sure you will. Just let us know.

pic: Tara & Elaine of Mallinsons Brewery receive non-Timbo related awards from the kind lady at The Star Inn, Huddersfield.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

New Inn - Roberttown

Ironically, in view of my previous post, I had cause to visit Leeds yesterday. I did go by car but as the M62 had ground to a halt I had to return via the old A62. It seemed the ideal opportunity to call in at a pub I had not visited for years and see what had happened to it. This is what I found.

The New Inn, at Roberttown lies just off the main A62 in the village centre itself. An imposing stone building, it is not hard to find, standing on a corner by a mini roundabout. For the driver it does have a large car park at the rear.

It is a pleasant environment to call for a beer, with the main lounge an airy and welcoming room, large and bright with plenty of tables and seating and should you feel the need to relax even more,a red leather suite in one corner. It is open from 12 noon every day, and on my visit, I doubled the clientele in the bar. There is food served with a mixture of old favourites and more modern fayre on the menu at a reasonable price, shame no one was eating when I called in.

My reason for calling was actually to chase a Mallinsons beer that had previously eluded me, and rumour told me was available on the bar. It was, so I settled down with a pint and watched the world go by. I believe, although am not 100% sure, that there will be a permanent Mallys house beer on the bar in the near future, the pub is having a competition to name it at the moment, so that makes another good reason to call in. Notwithstanding this though, there are 5 other draught beers on the bar, with offerings from Leeds, Adnams, Riverhead, and Nottingham also available when I called, and covering all styles of ale to satisfy any drinker. The staff obviously care about their beer, the efforts the bar man put into pulling a decent pint of Leeds for a customer was very impressive. There is also a good range of soft drinks and the usual range of lagers on the bar should that be your thing.

In view of my previous post I did a bit of research on my return and discovered that the pub is well served from Huddersfield by the 229 Arriva bus route with buses every 30 minutes and a journey time of around half and hour. Not too long for us oldies to hang on on the return journey then !!

All in all, another pub to add to the list on the fringes of the town that are worth a call. Maybe a short crawl covering here, the Black Bull at Liversedge, the New Charnwood at Heckmondwike and the White Horse at Bradley would be a possibility. But that is one for the future. Hopefully, the pub will do well, it is another village local, and needs the locals to support it. From what I saw, I hope they do.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Real Ale Accessibility

Thanks to Jibber for his comments on Will's previous post about the Cricketers. It set me thinking a bit about some of the pubs I never seem to get to, but probably should.

I know this is not the weather to start tripping off into the wilds in search of beer but do we, as drinkers, become complacent if we have good pubs on our doorstep? Is going the extra mile to get somewhere worthy of a visit, too much for some of us? Are we missing out on some gems? Unfortunately the answer to all these questions in my case is certainly yes.

We live in an area where we are spoiled for choice, both in good beer and good pubs. I regularly visit several pubs in the town centre, as readers will no doubt be aware, but rarely do I venture into the outlying villages around Huddersfield. This is due to various reasons, the most telling for me being the opening times and their accessibility by public transport.

I am a day time drinker and my Saturday commitment leaves only Sunday when all day opening is virtually guaranteed. Transport is usually at a premium then, so what seems like a good idea to visit out of the way pubs becomes a chore rather than a pleasure.

I have not been to The Sair at Linthwaite for some time for this very reason and likewise my visits to the Yeaton Cask at Kirkheaton have been few and far between. They are both excellent pubs, well worth a call, but a bit out of the way and especially tricky during weather like this.
I am lucky to have occasional access to a car and driver, so sometimes can venture out into the unknown, but if I do, I prefer to get to places outside my usual drinking area, and the scope of a 'Swift One' - only rarely do we stay local. I know others of the editorial team are keen walkers and use this as a means to get to some of the more distant pubs, killing two birds with one stone as it were, it is not my thing however, so locally I have to rely on the fragmented transport system.

Is there an answer? Well it will depend on how important you feel supporting real ale pubs in awkward locations is. Jibber's comment is spot on - most of us will visit a new venue once or twice out of curiosity but the onus is, and always should be, on the local community. If, for what ever reason, they aren't interested, then the pub won't survive. However much we may like a place and wish we could visit more often, we can't be expected to become regular, nor should we feel guilty about it. In the case of Horbury's Cricketers Arms, the decision to take on this pub will surely have been made with location in mind, there are precious few more important considerations after all.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Cricketers Arms, Horbury

I was convinced I knew this pub – right up until the moment I arrived at the wrong one. Although not over-familiar with Horbury, I had spent my early years at school in the town but for some reason, when I finally did find it, The Cricketers Arms on Cluntergate just didn’t ring any bells.


In contrast to the formulaic makeover at the latest Ossett pub in Knaresborough the other week, this Field & Barnes production would be much less contrived - and remembering back to the opening of The Sportsman in Huddersfield, I got there thinking 'try to keep an open mind'. But whilst the duo's last project was a somewhat acquired taste (though well worth acquiring!), this pub is instantly lovable.


Should anyone need to see just what a transformation there’s been here (and you really do) then there’s a photo album available for perusal on the bar detailing every stage of the metamorphosis. The pub looked to have rather lost it’s way under the stewardship of Tetleys so it’s great to see it’s dignity and character restored once more.


The bar is a real piece of work with panelling from an old German dresser making it an eye-catching feature. The décor, whilst understated, makes the best of the natural lighting through the etched glass and the (obligatory?) historical prints of the locality in the front room are perfect.


Beer

The eight handpulls were heavily biased in favour of the most local producers during my visit, with Fernandes, Five Towns, Ossett and Tiger Tops making the Mallinsons look positively foreign! As with both The West Riding and The Sportsman, Taylors Landlord and Black Sheep Bitter will be permanent here.


Alongside the cask, the pub also serves Amstel, Guinness, Aspall, Pilsner Urquell, Heineken, Blue Moon (an American take on Belgian wit), La Chouffe and de Koninck on draught. A selection of continental bottled beer is also available.


Manager Lisa Wood is confident that beer festivals, quiz nights and acoustic sessions will feature at the pub once the dust has settled, and we would like to wish her, Mike and Sarah all the best with their latest adventure! (map)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Tickers - A Hardy Breed!

After a couple of quietish nights at the Star festival, Friday saw it get into full swing with a plethora of beer lovers from all over the country braving the extremes of the weather to sample the beers on offer.

Visitors came from as far afield as Croydon, Carlisle and Newcastle in search of 'ticks' to prove that a little matter of snow, ice and transport disruption will not stand in the way of the enthusiast and his beer. There was no great queue at opening time but throughout the afternoon a constant stream of people came through the door in search of the 'holy grail' and it was good to see them. Some of the regular faces were missing admittedly, and it was a shame that neither 'The Vicar' nor Brian were well enough to get up from South Yorkshire, and those that did come up had to detour around Leeds, but they made it.

We had plenty of visitors from the other side of the Pennines too, with the 'usual suspects' from Liverpool, Blackpool, and Manchester appearing. The Wirral was also represented, along with Humberside (even the 'Bloke from Hull' managed to get across).

It was great to see everyone who made the effort during this exceptionally difficult time and good to see some old faces and catch up. Its not just a festival, its a great social occasion too so thanks to everyone who made it, and hopefully we will see many more today.

And by way of a reminder, if you have some time to while away in town before the pub opens then why not take a look on New Street where the Star Inn bar is set up for the Festival of Light celebrations. The bar has two Mallinsons and two Goose Eye beers on, three of which were new to me, so definitely a good place to start the days ticking (it opens at 10 am I believe.)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What Did We Find At The Star?

The Star Inn opened the doors on it's 9th Winter Beer festival last night, and never has a festival been so aptly named. Those who were in Huddersfield yesterday were treated to a proper winter day, freezing cold, heavy snow and in true English style, a complete absence of public transport. Therefore, if you were not prepared to put the hard yards in and walk, there was no way you could make it there. (I did come across a couple who had made it all the way from Southampton for the festival though, but I assume they didn't walk all the way!!)

Although this may have scuppered the plans of those living out of town, a fair selection of the town's beer enthusiasts made the trip to see what was on offer, and as usual Sam has done us proud (the actual list is on our Facebook & Twitter pages if you want to check it). Due to the inclement weather, and the prospect of a long walk home, I did not manage to sample as many of the beers as I wanted, but here is what I found.

The obvious place to start was the Mallinsons special 'MCC', and I was not disappointed, it was bursting with hop flavours from the mixture of the three hops used, and a great starter. I followed this with a couple of offerings from 'Steel City' and again, there were plenty of hops to the fore as would be expected with beer from Gazza and Dave.

By now the urge to experiment was taking over, and a desire to sample some of the breweries new to me. I had a go at the Magnet 'Tornado', which I have later found to be a cuckoo brewery brewing on the Hornbeam plant. It was a decent beer but a bit lacking in my opinion. Next came the Tatton 'Gold' which was a well balanced stronger beer. I found the Mr Grundy's 'Trenchfoot' to be not to my taste at all and lets face it, the name doesn't exactly sell it either!

Time to trip down the dark side - Kissinggate ' Black Cherry Mild' was good, with plenty of flavour in a 4.2% beer and I followed this with Blue Ball, 'Black Hawk', a 5.2% blackberry porter and a really tasty beer from a new brewery (even Caddy may like this!!). I finished off with the Goose Eye 'Ever so Gingerly', that's the name of the beer, not the way I was drinking it!! At 4.7% I expected more from it, but maybe the ginger will become more apparent later down the barrel.


Nevertheless, I could not complain about the beers I tried, all in good form and despite the freezing cold outside, all managed to keep their flavours, a tribute to Sam's efforts and the hard work put in by her team to actually get the beer on the bar. I will have to revisit again tonight, to catch up on some of the beer I missed, I heard good things about the Pictish 'Star Turn', which looked great, and I still have the Mallinsons 'Chocolate Cherry Stout' to sample.

So, should you have a bit of time to spare this weekend, and you want to get out of the snow, where better to while away a few hours. And for those seeking the unusual Xmas present, there are plenty of bottled beers on offer, and the usual selection of interesting cheeses. And why not go home with a Star fleece, just the thing to keep you warm in this weather. Hope to see you there, I am sure the trip will be worth your while.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

9th Winter Star Inn Beer Festival

Just a reminder that this afternoon sees the start of the Star Inn Winter Beer Festival at Folly Hall, Huddersfield, opening 5pm today and Thursday then 12 noon, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The set up is as always, 46 beers in the outside marquee and ever changing beer on the bar in the pub. There will be plenty to choose from with lots of new beers, some festival specials and breweries rare to these parts. The full list can now be found on our Facebook and Twitter pages (see sidebar).

Just to whet your appetite even more, there will be a Star Bar at the 'Festival of Light' that runs over the weekend in the town centre, where even more specials will be available from local breweries. (map)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Cross Keys, Knaresborough

Many have asked what it's like, and normally I'd tell them to go have a look, but since it's a bit out of town and the weather ain't conducive to travel just now, here's a few snaps of Ossett Brewery's latest hostelry.


Knaresborough, being a little more - shall we say - historic (...ok, posh!) than perhaps Ossett or Elland, is the perfect setting for the brewery's trademark decor style and consequently this newest addition to the estate feels much more at home.


Towns like Knaresborough and Harrogate should be full of pubs like this and it's always a disappointment to find so many poorly maintained interiors behind such beautiful facades.


This is probably my favourite Ossett refurbishment to date - it's just a shame that my trips to this part of the world are so few and far between these days. (map)

Good News for Denzil

Courtesy of the 'Bloke from Hull', we have been advised of a bit of good news about one of the breweries that we often see around Huddersfield.

Great Heck beers are brewed in the village of the same near, near Goole, by Denzil Vallance. I have sampled plenty and I consider it to be one of the better micro breweries about. Seems I am not alone.

One of their flagship beers is 'DAVE' (the pump clip calls it 'Dark And Very Enjoyable') and has recently appeared in Strangers Bar at the House of Commons, and selling better than some of the more regular beers there.

Well done Great Heck. A great achievement, and hopefully, if the southerners appreciate what us northerners can produce, we may see more local breweries on at this historic bar.

How daft do they think we are?

Last week I blogged about the disgraceful habit some breweries have of re-badging beers as something new when they aren't. I have been reading another beer website, and lo and behold, what did I find bit another brewery shamelessly just doing that.

Charles Wells brew 'Bombardier'. It is one of their flagship brands and widely available, some even consider it to be one of the best beers around. However, for some reason, this festive season (sorry, don't mean to be poetic !) they have renamed it 'Bombareindeer' with an appropriate pump clip. It's the same beer available throughout the year, so why they have decided on this course is beyond me.

There is also a suspicion that Wadworth '6Xmas' could also be their usual '6X' renamed for the season.

It just shows the way the larger breweries treat the drinker, thinking that we either would not realise we are drinking the same beer, or that we may be attracted to the beer because of the new name. I, for one, have just become more suspicious of any of their beer, and may think twice about drinking any unless I am sure of their background. Is it really worth it for them ?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Cricketers Arms, Cluntergate, Horbury

Will be open on the 26th November from 6pm.

The winning combo team headed by Mr Mike Field, who has connections with local brewery Anglo Dutch and works with CAMRA. His business partner Miss Sarah Barnes who oversees the day to day running of the whole company, and brought you Dewsbury Beer Festival bring you another fantastic Real Ale Bar. After some major, but sympathetic redecorating and recruiting of new members of staff we will be ready to eagerly welcome you all.

It becomes the third in our small group of real ale bars, joining The West Riding in Dewsbury established 16 years ago and The Sportsman in Huddersfield just over one year ago, both with great reputations.

It will be managed by Lisa Wood who has successfully run The West Riding at Dewsbury train station for the last five years although she will be fondly missed, we know she will make The Cricketers Arms as welcoming and hopefully as award winning as its sister pubs by keeping the beer to the very high standard that she brought to the West Riding.

We will have eight real ale pumps on the bar with favourites from Black Sheep and Timothy Taylor on regularly, and local brews as well as beers from far and wide on rotation. Also a vast array of lagers wines and carefully selected spirits to suit all, not to mention the extensive choice of Belgian beers and continental lagers.

Another beacon for real ale drinkers near and far.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

When is a new beer not a new beer ?

In the comments on my recent blog about the Wetherspoons festival, Jibber makes an interesting point. He says can a one off beer at a festival be classed as a new beer, if it is not available elsewhere.

I, personally, have strong feelings about this, and I know others, including some local brewers do too. Let me try and explain.

The simple place to start is a brewer brewing a new beer. They make a full brew length, appropriate to the brewerys size, give it name and distribute it to pubs. The beer comes on the bar and the drinker drinks it. A new beer obviously. The confusion starts when the brewer has a couple of barrels of beer left and someone approaches the brewer for a festival special. What happens then?

Does the brewer give them the original beer with the original name, the original beer with a new name (cheating the tickers surely), or add something to the cask to make the original beer different and give it a new name ? This , in my humble opinion, would make this a new beer. Often, and usually the easiest thing to do is add some hops to the barrel, and therefore 'dry hop' the beer, which alters the flavour of the original beer, (and therefore makes a new beer).

A couple of years ago, as an experiment, and with the help of a local brewer, Pete Byrne and myself brewed a beer. A full brew length that was released into pubs. We kept two barrels back for a local festival and dry hopped each one with different hops. These appeared on the festival bar, along with the original, with nothing to suggest their provenance. We listened to feedback from the festival goers. Only a hand full sussed out what we had done. Most assumed they were different beers, they certainly tasted different to each other. Therefore, I am quite happy to call a dry hopped barrel of beer 'a new beer'. This covers most of the festival specials around.

What annoys me is a brewer just rebadging,(using an old beer and just giving it a new name for the occasion) a beer to satisfy the needs of the festival, there is often nothing to suggest this is the same beer that I have been drinking under another name, and seems to me to be a way of misleading the 'ticker'.

If you are familiar with the beer drinkers bible, the GOBBS guide (c), a quick scan will show some breweries that use several names for the same beer, and unless you are prepared to do the necessary research, then it is easy to assume all are different. I cannot understand why some brewer should want to try to mislead the drinker by renaming a regular beer as something different. I know of enthusiasts that will not drink certain breweries beers because they are unsure of the beer's provenance.

I know this may sound a very pedantic post, and it affects only those of us sad enough, sorry, enthusiastic enough, to want to list every beer we have, and want every beer that has a different name to be different. I have no issue with 95% of the beer I come across, or 95% of the brewers. But with Xmas coming, and the Royal Wedding on the horizon can I be sure that every beer I drink is actually a new beer, or is it an old favourite renamed. I certainly hope its not the latter.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Hop Beer Festival, Leeds

To ensure the focus stays firmly on real ale, the second of Ossett Brewery's venue pubs is holding a beer festival next week.

The Hop
in Leeds, beneath the city's railway station, has been open eight months already and continues to wow visitors with it's unique decor in this quite remarkable location. (map)

35 beers will be available and the list and further details will be published next Monday (29th).


If you've not managed a visit to the dark arches in a while and wondered what all the fuss was about, then this festival is the ideal excuse to come along and take a look at a very impressive venue.

The Leggers Inn Beer Festival

Dewsbury's best kept secret is holding it's first beer festival in over two years this weekend.

The Leggers Inn had to scrap plans last autumn but manager John Smithson is looking forward to a busy few days at the canal basin pub. "We've had a cracking year so far, despite everything, and we want to reward our customers by giving them a great range of beers to enjoy". (List)


Festivities kick off at lunchtime Thursday (25th) and continue until Sunday night, or when the beer runs out. Food will be available throughout the five day event. [map]

What about the 'Spoons fest

Before I start, I apologise for the shortage of blogs in the recent past, caused by a combination of personal and medical problems, hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly.


In the meantime, did you get to the Wetherspoons festival? Did you enjoy it ? It seems ages ago since I mentioned that they were having their usual 3 week extravaganza of 50 beers. The real task was to try to complete the whole list in the time available. I know of plenty who managed it, cyberspace was full of details of where to find the 'hard to find beers' so that if that was your ambition you knew where to look. Obviously the bigger cities had the best ranges, they have more 'Spoons to choose from after all, but here in Huddersfield we managed fairly well too. All the beers were available at some stage, it was just a case of being there at the right time or being really lucky.

Personally I managed about 75% of the beers before being struck down, and I was confident I could have picked the rest up - it was not to be. I was disappointed to miss out on the Jersey Brewery 'Liberation Ale, a new brewery to me and one that rarely moves off the island, and the Harviestoun 'Wild Hop IPA' also eluded me, one I fancied trying. What did I actually find though?

As I said before, the best beer in the festival in my opinion was Adnams 'Ghost Ship', head and shoulders above any other beer I had, a clean, crisp bitter. I sampled other beers crammed full of coffee, (TSA 'Double Espresso') - not to my taste but highly recommended by those who like that sort of thing; coriander (Mordue '1879'), another strange taste but not mine; and vanilla (Tom Woods 'Vanilla Orchid'), which I can only describe as unusual at best, revolting at worst.

Many of the beers at the festival were similar in colour and flavour, they seem to have cornered the market in the mid brown range of various strengths, and it was rare for a beer to stand out from the crowd. The wheat beers I tried, Hereford 'Aurora' and Batemans 'Wheat Dreams' were both good examples however, but the darker speciality beers disappointed, promising much but failing to deliver in my opinion.

To sum up, an interesting way to spend a couple of weeks playing hunt the beer, but although I had no complaints about the quality or range of beers, I was disappointed, personally, to find so few beers to my taste, but no doubt there were people who thought just the opposite. That's the thing about beer, it certainly divides opinion.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mayor Opens Keys

Ossett Brewery's stunning new pub in Knaresborough was officially declared open last night by the town's mayor, Councillor Richard Hall at an invitation evening.

[left-right: Bob Lawson (Ossett Brewery Chairman), landlady Diane Lockerbie & the Mayor of Knaresborough Councillor Richard Hall]

The Cross Keys on Cheapside is the sixteenth the company has opened since 2003 and it's first outside of West Yorkshire. Diane Lockerbie has transferred over from The Old Vic (formerly The Silver King) to take charge in this, her home town, whilst Sarah Dixon from The Shepherds Rest in Sowerby Bridge replaces her at Ossett. (map)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Meet the Brewers cancelled

The Meet the Brewer night on Thursday at the 'Yeaton Cask' has sadly been cancelled

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Meet the Brewers - Thursday

Should you be at a loose end this Thursday evening, then may be we have something for you. The 'Yeaton Cask' at Kirkheaton is holding a Meet The Brewer night, starting at 7.30 pm.

There should be a couple of brewers there to explain what goes on before their beer reaches the pub. Tara Mallinson is making an appearance along with Dave Atkinson from Goose Eye, so it promises to be a good evening.

Hopefully, each will bring along some of their beers for sampling and since both are well known for the quality of their beer, their knowledge of the industry and product, we should all learn something. You may even get chance to meet some, or all, of the team of a 'Swift One' so what better way to while away a few hours in good company, with good beer. Make it a date.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The New Albion at Flanshaw

This month we feature another Wakefield district pub. And not because we've run out of boozers in Kirklees - indeed there are a couple in the pipeline - rather that The New Albion is just too sexy to ignore.


I have a vague recollection of the way the old Albion used to be as I was at school nearby many moons ago but more recently the pub had gained an unwanted reputation through association with drug dealing and violent behaviour, finally resulting in closure.


Lots of new housing and the opening of a link road to the M1 via a pleasant industrial estate (really!) have helped regenerate the area though and it's this change the new owners will be hoping to cash in on.


Anyway, no prizes for guessing who's responsible for the transformation. All the hallmarks of a classic Ossettification (a Timbo word I think) are there to see. In fact the only thing that might seem a little out of place is the inclusion of a permanent Everards beer on the bar, a stipulation of this joint venture between the two family run breweries apparently.


In addition to the Everards (which will be Tiger mostly) expect the majority of the remaining seven beers on offer to hail from the Ossett holy trinity. Our samples, one from Fernandes and the other Leeds, were in good condition and landlady Angie Cromack is a delight.


A final thought that might concern one or two is that the pub is far from worn-in and consequently the moment you sit down the place looks untidy. It's only ever been an issue at newly opened Ossett pubs for me and is testament to the high standard of the makeover, but whilst beautiful to look at, I do wonder whether there's a percentage of punters who never quite feel as comfortable as maybe they should. (map)

And another !!!

May be not exactly Leeds this time, but the Revolutions brewery have also released information about their plans to start brewing. Their intention is to use a plant somewhere near the A1/M62 corridor but that is not yet complete, they are brewing initially on another brewery's plant.

They have chosen their name because of its connection with the music industry, (remember the old vinyl records, and their pump clips reflect their music pedigree, looking like old record sleeves.

They say that they are committed to brewing beers of only three strengths, 3.3%, 4.5%,and 7.8%, sounds a bit familiar !, with the first 3 trial brews being a mild, a porter, and a stout, but with intentions to brew a session bitter, a German style beer (called Kraftwerk) and an American Pale Ale in the future.

Again, a brewery to look out for, their clips will stand out on a bar I am sure, and another addition to the large number of breweries in the county.

Another brewery for Leeds

Be on the lookout for another new brewery that is opening up in Leeds, this one called the Kirkstall brewery. It will be run under the guidance of head brewer, Dave Sanders, and based in an 8 barrel plant in an industrial estate in the Kirkstall area, surprisingly enough !!

Those who know of Mr Sanders pedigree will expect good things from the new brewery, after all he was the head brewer at the Elland brewery before moving on, and they have produced many good beers under his care, including their award winning '1872 Porter'. I am unsure whether he has taken the Elland recipes with him to the new plant but, I for one, will be interested to see what beers the new brewery comes up with.

The press release via Leeds Camra reveals that his first beer is likely to be a pale hoppy session bitter, but his intention is to brew many different types and styles of beer and there are also plans to bottle in the pipeline.

If Leeds continues to spawn new breweries, then maybe the loss of Tetley's in the city may be to all drinkers benefit, with plenty of new beers to look forward to from their not inconsiderable range of craft brewers.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Changing Trains

With Tim having Huddersfield all wrapped up (and generally we only get to the Sportsman, Rat and Star anyway), we thought it about time to have a wander further afield. We had a little tour of Northants in summer, but apart from a couple of pubs (The Locomotive in Wellingborough and The Duke's Arms in Woodford) we were disappointed with what was on offer, and straplines such as "is this the worst rural pub in England?" weren't going to do anyone any favours, so we headed off to Peterborough to enjoy the Camra Festival.

Peterborough is a city we have been "forced" to visit quite often this year, since Ryanair stopped flying out of Manchester, we have been travelling to Stansted for our cheap flights to Italy. The train is not that expensive if you book well in advance, and it is easy to plan your journey around a 3 to 4 hour stop in Peterborough.

Once you have found your way across the inner ring road from the station it is only a couple of hundred yards to either the Wetherspoons on Cowgate or the Brewery Tap on Westgate, our intention was to start at 'spoons, do a big figure of eight and finish at the tap.



The Drapers Arms is a cracking good Wetherspoons, we often call in for breakfast, it is smaller and has a proper pub feel to it, compared to a number of their outlets we are familiar with in Yorkshire. Ten hand pumps are gathered together on the bar, with the beers normally supplied by familiar, quality small breweries - today was slightly different, as it was the second day of the Wetherspoons Festival. Thirds were purchased of Woodforde's Once Bittern, Lion Stout and Samuel Adams Blonde Ambition. The Woodforde's edged this taste battle, the presence of Nelson Sauvin hops nearly always wins with us. We then headed towards the cathedral and across the River Nene, past Charters and Peterborough United FC to reach the Coalheavers Arms.



The Coalheavers is a classic backstreet local, surrounded by terraced housing, typical of the sort of pub that has been disappearing over the past 30 years, but here we find a thriving free house, albeit with a close relationship with Cambridge's Milton Brewery. 8 hand pumps dispense 4 or 5 Milton Beers plus 3 or 4 guests, the pub is quiet enough to hold a book club meeting, yet busy enough to hold an enthusiastic Halloween party. Milton Tiki was our beer of choice (and some Gwynt y ddraig cider). Closing at 2pm on this afternoon, it was our intention to follow the figure of eight back to Charters via the Palmerston Arms and the Cherry Tree only to be informed that the Palmerston doesn't open till 3, we did not feel that diverting down Oundle Road just to visit the Cherry Tree was worth it, so we retraced our route to Charters.


Incidentally, the Coalheavers was once a Phipps (of Northampton) house, a brewery fondly remembered in these parts, and a beer worth looking for is Grainstore's Phipps IPA, a recreation of a 1930's original recipe from another excellent small brewery.



Charters is a huge barge on the river next to the bridge with a Thai restaurant at deck level and the bar down below, 12 hand pumps showcase the Oakham Brewery (we have seen 7 on at the same time) and guests from all over the country occupying the remaining pumps. We have found that you are more likely to catch Oakham's specials here, and today, alongside the 4 regular brews (JHB, Inferno, White Dwarf and Bishop's Farewell) we were treated to Citra and Warspite. Oakham's Citra is one of the beers of the year (in our humble opinion). It is possible that, hops allowing, it will become a permanent brew.

We now had an extra hour, and following the advice of the landlord of the Coalheavers, detoured from our route back to the Brewery Tap to call in at the Ostrich Inn, down a side street off Westgate just before you reach the Wortley Almshouses (a very good Sam Smith's, but only Sam Smith's of course).




The Ostrich has a half cafe bar/half traditional feel (a little like the New Oxford in Salford), 4 hand pumps dispense beer from local breweries, we chose Tydd Steam Barn Ale and Newby Wyke Kingston Topaz and sat down next to a montage of old photographs of (closed) Peterborough Pubs, one of which was the Ostrich, except it was called Bogards and closed in 2008. Bogards was a beer guide regular until 2007 and is now reopened under the original name, a welcome return, as we think Peterborough needed a smaller bar in the centre of the city.


Finally it was off to the Brewery Tap, 12 hand pumps, always include the 4 regular Oakham Beers, and on this occasion 3 specials, Citra, Akhenaten and 3 Witches (Halloween again!). Not a pub that is to everyone's liking (it IS huge), but handy for the station and our train back to Yorkshire. We finished with some classic JHB and it was time to go.

A great day out, and not a bad beer in sight, next time we change trains in Peterborough, we have the pubs we missed to catch up with and some recommended to us in nearby Stamford.
Just one thing though - why are the beers 20p a pint more in the Tap than in Charters????

This weekend's festivals

As mentioned earlier, there are a couple of festivals locally this weekend. The one at Marsden Mechanics Hall runs from 7.30 pm on Friday, then all day Saturday and Sunday. Thanks to the 'Bloke from Hull' we have now seen a beer list for the event.

It has a fair selection of beers from breweries near and far, its not often we see a beer from Orkney round these parts, nor Nelson, nor Evan Evans, but they are all represented, along with plenty from the local area and Lancashire, who provide a selection from Leyden, Fuzzy Duck and Bank Top. South Yorkshire have entrants from Brew Co, Abbeydale, Bradfield and Wentworth. Bridestones, Empire, Wharfebank and Golcar come from closer to home. Mallinsons have also sent a couple of specials there, so there is plenty of variety to go at, and looking at the beer lists, styles to suit every palette. Why not give it go.

Another festival this weekend that I had somehow managed to overlook, runs all day Friday to Sunday at The New Charnwood in Heckmondwike and is in aid of 'The Help for Heroes'. Again our East Yorkshireman has got hold of a beer list, and this again offers a good selection of beers and ciders, many with a military connection. There is even 'Bombardier' if someone can let Malcolm know !! Most of the beers here are old favourites rather than new or specials but none the worse for that and are sourced from all parts of the country.

So if the weather is going to be as bad as the weathermen promise, why not get yourself to a festival and sample a few of the beers on offer.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Couple of Colne Valley Festivals

It seems that should you want a festival in November, then the Colne Valley is the place to head for. This coming weekend, Marsden Mechanics hosts the Marsden Beer festival. Running from Friday night, (at 7.30pm) through Saturday and Sunday. It promises in excess of 16 real ales.

The following weekend sees the Moonraker festival at Slaithwaite. This is on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Slaithwaite Conservative club, and if previous experience there is anything to go by, is well worth a call. Around 30 beers, all on handpull, and comprising a decent mixture of beers from local and distant breweries.

Will update further details later.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Beer of the day, 6th November

Those of us fortunate to be in the Star, in Huddersfield last evening, were treated to another new beer from the Pictish stable. Sadly, those who were watching the blue and white Brazil start their Fa Cup campaign, or those watching bonfires and fireworks may be too late to sample it. It was going quickly.

The beer is the latest in the brewery's single hopped range, at 4.2% and called 'Southern Cross'. I must admit, since seeing the clip on the taunting pole it was a beer I was wanting to try, always being interested in the use and flavours of new hops. It was no disappointment.

A light, hoppy bitter, like most of the brewery's beers, it brought the best out in the hop. The background may have a hint of malt sweetness admittedly, but that did not detract from the hop flavour. It is a New Zealand hop, from the same stable as Riwaka, and brings a clean taste to the beer, with citrus and pine coming through the beer, and despite being a high alpha content, it does not give the astringency that others of a similar level sometimes do. It has a subtle resinous quality, and a delicate balance of flavours, and is very moreish. Very, very moreish !

If you miss it at the Star, I think there is some hiding in the cellar at the Rat, and no doubt, it will be available at other local outlets too. Just search it out and try it. Its another winner from Richard Sutton, who rarely fails in my opinion. No doubt, when other brewers find out about it, it will appear in their beers too, I certainly hope so. Its a fine addition to the hops from the Southern hemisphere.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

More Awards for Ossett

Ossett Brewery walked away with a record FIVE awards at the largest ever Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) beer competition and festival last week. The competition, the largest ever for the SIBA Northern region, was held at the Palace Hotel, Manchester and saw over 400 beers entered into the daylong event in which 100 judges narrowed the winners down across 3 rounds.

Awards included the overall best bottled beer for Treacle Stout, which actually has black treacle as one of the ingredients, and Gold for their new bottled Yorkshire Blonde Premium.

Paul Spencer, Head Brewer, said: “We were delighted with the amount of wins, especially the success of our Bottled Beers, Treacle Stout and Yorkshire Blonde Premium. We only started brewing Yorkshire Blonde Premium, a stronger version of our permanently available Yorkshire Blonde, in August this year so to have such a prestigious win so early on is fantastic.’

The overall winners of each category will enter through to the SIBA national finals to be held early next year.

Mike Inman, Co-Director of Ossett Brewery, said: “To have Treacle Stout going through to the national finals as best bottled beer is testament to the quality of our beers and the overall amount of wins we had on the day is real recognition of all our hard work.”

It’s not the first time Ossett Brewery’s beers have gone through to the national finals. In 2001 their famous Silver King won National Speciality Beer and more recently Excelsior, their strongest beer at 5.2% ABV, won the prestigious National Supreme Champion (2003) and Stong Ale Champion (2006).

Stouts and Porters – Treacle Stout (Gold) Milds – Fernandes Malt-Shovel Mild (Silver)
Gold Beers – Yorkshire Blonde Premium (Gold) Strong Bitters – Excelsior (Silver)
Overall Best Bottled Beer – Treacle Stout (Gold)

Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA): Northern Region Competition 2010
SIBA North - Largest SIBA region in terms of amount of brewers
282 cask beers were judged, 8 Cask categories
120 Bottled Beers judged, 5 Bottled Beer categories
3 rounds then overall judge off.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Mallinsons get more awards

The results of the beer of the festival for the Huddersfield Oktoberfest have just been released and Tara and Elaine have managed to add a couple more awards to their growing list of achievements, and show what strides they have made as a brewery in a very short time.

They won the award for the Best Strong Ale with 'Castle Hill Premium' and also the Charlie Award for the best new beer, with, ironically, 'Cheers Charlie' a fitting tribute to the man himself.
They also went on to scoop the Beer Of The Festival with their 'Castle Hill'. Well done from all at a 'Swift One'.

The other awards went to Leeds Brewery, 'Midnight Bell' was voted the best mild; Ossett took the best Stout with their 'Treacle Stout' and Fernandes took the best speciality beer with 'Rum For Cover'.

Congratulations to all the breweries on their achievements, there was plenty of stiff competition for the awards.

Beer of the day, 31st October

This is a first for 'A Swift One', todays beer of the day comes from The Cherry Tree. This is Huddersfield Wetherspoons for those that do not know it. Not the most historic or pretty pub in their chain, to call it functional would be about the best I could manage but it does keep its beer in good nick, and is often busy and consequently there is a fair turn over of beers to keep us on our toes, especially during their festival times. Like now.

There were a fair few new beers on the bar when I called in but there was one that was outstanding. I have always been a fan of Adnams beers, and was pleased to find a new addition to their range on the 'Spoons festival list. As with all the festival beers, the problem was when or if I would find it. Luckily it was on on my second visit. What's it like ?

'Ghost Ship' was light, very light in fact, and packed with fresh citrus hop flavours, which comes from the use of chinook, columbus, and the new hop on the block, citra. They combine together to give a wonderful balance and a clean drinking pint which is wonderfully refreshing. The sort of beer for a warm summer's day, shame it was a damp and miserable Halloween, but it did brighten it up considerably. And at £1.85 a pint I could not complain about the price either.

I may have to check it out again, it was so good. All we can hope is that it becomes part of their regular portfolio, not just a one off for this festival.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Lockwood Festival

This weekend we have 2 festivals locally. One is at Pennine Manor at Scapegoat Hill, which is their first and for which I have no information at present, the other closer to town is at the Lockwood Pub on Lockwood Rd. They have held beer festivals before but last time it was upstairs in a function room, this time it is downstairs on a makeshift bar attached to the main bar with the barrels stored behind the bar.

I took a look at what was on offer yesterday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised with the beer range available. There are 26 beers available through the weekend, but due to space constrictions only 15 are on at any one time. All the festival beers are £2.50 a pint irrespective of strength. My concern would be the quality later in the festival as the barrels behind the bar begin to warm up. I just hope their cooling system is up to it.

Armed with my programme I set about making my beer choices. Some of the beers on the regular bar were immediately discounted, such as Landlord and Tetley's (I know some of you will find the latter hard to believe !!) but there were still a fair few new beers to go at. There was a majority of Brass Monkey beers but since it was their pub, that was fair enough, however I expected something new from them but the range offered just the old favourites. I started with Empire 'Pennine Way' a 3.9% light beer, inoffensive and a good opener.

The rest of the bar was made up of South Western beers, many rare round these parts, and without tasting notes I had to gamble a bit. There were little glasses to show the colour of the beers so I had a bit of direction but most of the new ones to me were mid brown which did not really assist. I decided to select in order of strength. Dawkins 'TTT' was next up, instantly forgettable, then Nailsworth ' Funny Bones' , a little better, Moles 'Hole In One' , another failure, and Cotleigh 'Ettaler', the best of the new beer I chose. 4.8% and a take on a dark lager.

By now my time there was rapidly drawing to a close, and I wanted something tasty, and light. So I finished with Brass Monkey 'Silverback'. The best beer that the brewery brew in my opinion, and I was not disappointed. It was bursting with hop flavours that had missing in the other beers I had tried.

It is good sometimes to have plenty of beers from one part of the country to go at at a festival, but the problem is, as demonstrated here, many have very similar flavours and tastes, and if they are not to your taste then you are a bit stuck. I almost reverted to Tetley's at one stage !!

It is a little unfair of me to criticise though. It is credit to the brewery that they have sourced some rare beers and to the pub to organise the festival. It is a good place to while away a couple of hours sampling something different.

On the subject of Brass Monkey they have added a third pub to their chain along with the Rose & Crown at Thurstonland and The Lockwood. They have now taken over the Golden Cock at Farnley Tyas. Another pub in the middle of nowhere that was formerly more of an eatery that a pub. No doubt I will visit it one day and let you know what's on offer, that is unless someone can tell me first !!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wetherspoons Autumn Festival 2010

Today Wetherspoons kick off their autumn festival, they are using their tried and tested system of putting the 50 beers on offer on the bars at their pubs throughout the next three weeks, which should give punters plenty of time to sample the whole range on offer.

Flicking my way through the beer list, (this time, a stupid size that is guaranteed not to fit in anyone's pocket) it is amazing to see the amount of breweries who have produced new beers specially for the festival. They come from far and wide, north and south, and plenty in between. The styles are as varied as the breweries and virtually every different type of beer is represented.In addition to the British breweries, there are, as usual, half a dozen beers brewed in England from brewers across the globe, so you can try beer from Sri Lanka, Belgium and Italy to name but three.

The list gives tasting notes for each beer, and also the hops used, so if you want to try something a bit out of the ordinary you are given a clue what to look for.

If you are not a regular 'Spoons visitor, give it a go, you may find you are pleasantly surprised. Especially at the prices. They even give you the chance to try the beer in thirds so you can sample even more.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Brewdog - meet the brewer night

As regular visitors to the Grove, in Huddersfield will be aware, they have several pumps dedicated to individual breweries. There is a Marble pump, a Dark Star pump, a Thornbridge pump, a Durham pump and a Brewdog pump. All the beers on these pumps change regularly, so the drinker there is often able to sample various selections of beer from the one brewery over a fairly short space of time. Some are their regular offerings, some are their specials. Most times, all are interesting.

A while ago, Thornbridge did a 'meet the brewer night' at the Grove and it was hailed as a great success. So much so that they are following this with a similar event with the Brewdog brewer. This will be on the evening of the 2nd November at the pub and promises to be one of the events in the local beer drinkers' calendar. As well as a coup for The Grove. All proceeds will be going to charity, so why not jot it down in your diary and call along. It sounds like a great evening.

On the subject of Brewdog, it is one of Ossett's featured breweries for the season and therefore expect to see their beers on the bar at the Rat & Ratchet before long. I believe there are 6 barrels there of various beers including a 9% offering and the 10% 'Paradox' matured in whisky barrels. Something else to make the darker nights seem more bearable.

Pictish, Pictish and more Pictish !!

This weekend, visitors to the Rat and Ratchet in Huddersfield have been treated to one of those occasions that only occurs once, (or twice) in a blue moon. Rubbing shoulders with the regular selection of Ossett beers we had the choice of 4 Pictish beers as well. We often see Pictish beers about in the town, after all they are only brewed over the hill in Rochdale but rarely do we get chance to contrast and compare several of their range at the same time.

On the bar when I called in, were their single hopped 'Centennial', 4.5% and full of spicy hop flavours, and very moreish. This was supported by 'Samhain Stout'; a very good example of the style and brewed as a Halloween special, get it while you can. Their regular 'Brewers Gold' was also there, another single hopped beer but weaker than Centennial and a good session bitter. However the star of the show, if that's not a contradiction in terms, was their 'Blue Moon'.

I was intending to sound really clever and explain why they brewed 'Blue Moon' and when it as brewed. I have checked various websites and I now more baffled than ever, so suffice it to say that it was originally brewed to celebrate the second full moon in a calendar month, according to the Pictish website, so I assume they know what they are talking about. They first brewed it in 2001 so it has been around a while, but nevertheless is still worth searching out. It is 6%, brewed in the style of an IPA but with a subtle ,spicy hoppiness that almost forces you back for another pint, and another,and......

Anyway, I managed to drag myself away from the Rat and went down the hill,(not downhill as you may be assuming after the previous paragraph!!) to the Star. What was sitting proudly at the end of the bar to taunt me ? You have guessed, more 'Blue Moon' . May be this is the new definition, the same beer on in two pubs less than a few hundred yards apart. Or would that be 'Twice In a Blue Moon' . I don't really care. It was just a chance to sample one of the best beers around in two of the best pubs around. What more can you ask !!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Swan festival at Slaithwaite

Yesterday I had a trip up to Slaithwaite to sample the delights of the Swan festival. It is decent little pub festival, with 20 beers available, all on hand pull, and Jonny Holmes generally finds something to keep the tickers interested, hence my visit.

The doors opened at 4pm, so I had chance for a pint in Jonny's other pub, the Commercial, before going along to the Swan. The beer in the Commercial is always kept well, and well worth a call. I had a pint of Empire 'Budgie' here, I know its been about a while but is a beer that has always managed to elude me, so I was more than happy.

The list at the Swan was predominantly Yorkshire beers, with offerings from Greenfield, Leyden and Phoenix from Lancashire and Otley '01' ,Springhead 'Bramley Apple',and a couple of Dark Star beers from further afield.

I started with the Springhead, a brewery I have not often seen recently. It was a decent light beer, but the tasting notes said 'made with bramley apples' I struggled to find them I admit. I followed this with Empire '9 Standards' another inoffensive offering and again light and hoppy. I wanted something with a bit more flavour. Elland 'Twa Tipa' fit the bill. Again pale, but this time with more of a citrus kick, and 4.6% so a bit more body. Greenfield 'Little Jack' was another pale beer, but lacked the bite of the Elland. The star of the show, in my opinion, on my short visit, was the Abbeydale beer. Their 'Dr Morton's' range always seem to be good, and the 'Binge Oil' was no let down. With subtle New Zealand hops, if this is not a contradiction in terms, it was very pleasant and well balanced.

There were plenty of other good beers on the list, Abbeydale 'Fascination' is another excellent beer, Phoenix 'Arizona' is always good, as is Dark Star 'HopHead'. For those in search of different flavours Nook 'Strawberry Blonde' was there, Mallinsons 'Porker Porter' also and Empire 'Chocolate Stout'.

Not a massive beer range but enough to keep me happy, with its mixture of old favourites and new beers. So, if you have a bit of time to waste this weekend, maybe a trip into Slaithwaite may fit the bill. For £2.20 a pint for all the beers, it will certainly not break the bank.