Wednesday, June 30, 2010

They Think It's All Over etc...

Well it all seems so very long ago already, but now that the dust has settled and the hangovers have subsided perhaps we can finally return to normality.

All the flags outside houses and on cars failed to inspire, as did all those beers named in honour of England's expected triumph. They could never hope to of course, and I bet there are now plenty of breweries with beer in the cool rooms awaiting renaming (the beers not the breweries I hasten to add - though I can think of one or two that could benefit from a major makeover!).

This last fortnight I have been to countless pubs where beer was named after competing countries or where the pump clip designs were merely different country's shirt colours along with a brewery and ABV on them; I have also been to several festivals where the majority of beers have been named in honour of the event or the team or the players or the stadiums; and I have lost count of the number of times I have thought, I'm sure I've had this beer before under another name - in fact I can't recall such a load of over-the-top fuss in support of an ultimately bloody awful short-lived product!

What did I think of the themed beers that I came across during the World Cup? Well not much actually. In fact about as disappointing as the team, but I guess had they not been named after England they would have come out under other guises anyway - I'm pretty sure no one sits down and brews a beer intentionally for the World Cup - do they?!

I for one will be glad to get back to normal, even though after so much hype I'm having difficulty remembering what normal is! Let's go to pubs where the main attraction is the beer and the craic, not the big screen telly and gaudy bunting. I do wonder though how many pubs have prolonged their survival on the back of increased custom from those coming to watch the games. And how many will now fold. In fact I can name one already - but that's a story for another day!

Despite everything of course I'm sad to see England go out. But all is not lost. Our cricketers and tennis player are doing well, so maybe some of those beers awaiting names could be rebadged in favour of something we are successful at - in fact I'd gladly sample a little Murray Magic or Aussie Assassin right now!

If you want a quick chuckle, this was overheard in a certain tv-less pub on Sunday.
Insane elderly man - "It's quiet in here this afternoon, where is everyone?"
Inert barman - " They're all watching the England game up the road".
Insane elderly man - " You should have asked them to play tomorrow when you're closed".
Isn't that just... insane?!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bramling Cross - or not ?

Last night the team met up in the Star for their weekly editorial meeting, covering such important subjects as where to watch Sunday's Grand Prix and the upcoming England v Germany match. While we were there we naturally had to sample the beers on offer, and I for one, found an offering that I considered a classic of its type, but a bit of research has confused me a little.

I consider myself fairly well educated in hops and their tastes, but as readers will have realised I tend to lean towards the more aggressive hops of the Northern USA or the South Island of New Zealand, rarely mentioning the wonderful hops that England produces. Anyway the beer at the centre of this controversy was Holdens ' Shaft Spragger'.

I am not generally a fan of Holdens beers, I find they are too biscuity or caramel-tasting for my liking so I just took a half. Suddenly, after just a couple of mouthfuls, the wonderful aroma of fresh apples took over and I found a beer I really liked. Not malty, but just light, with a subtle hop bitterness, and not only did it smell of green apples, it tasted of them too. So, armed with a pint, I set about doing some research.

'GOBBS' guide destroyed my first assumption. It wasn't a new beer but had been about for a good few years, just being brewed occasionally. My second assumption has also caused me a bit of consternation. 'GOBBS' showed it brewed with Bramling Cross hops. Now I was quite prepared to accept this until I checked up on the hop this morning as a basis for this article.

Bramling Cross is shown on various websites as being low in alpha acid, (between 5 and 7) so it does not have the astringent bitterness often found in hops from the New World. What they also say is that it produces tastes of summer fruit such as blackcurrant, but definately not apple. I do recall other beer brewed with the hop that produced the blackcurrant flavour, Dark Star 'Winter Solstice' being one, Otley '08' being another, but the Holdens did not fit the taste I recall from these. So I set about working my way through hop lists to find one that produces an apple taste, but could not find one.

A check of the Holdens brewery website provided the answer. It is brewed with Bramling Cross, and is their June seasonal beer. They do not mention anything other than a fruity taste and the malty undertones I would have expected. Maybe with it being fresh on the bar the true nature of the beer had not developed or maybe Holdens have used it to provide a different result to that which the hop usually produces. I will now obviously have to keep checking it for quality control purposes and see if it does change.

However, I consider it to be a really fine beer and in my opinion one of the beers of the year. Get it while you can as it won't be out there long - not if I have my way anyway!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Leeds Brewery

Those planning a visit to Great Heck Brewery's first pub in the next few weeks may be fortunate enough to happen upon some ale from the latest Leeds-based producer.

The Ridgeside Brewing Company in Meanwood is gearing up to begin full-time production, with O'Donoghue's in Wakefield selected for the official launch. Head brewer Simon Bolderson (right) is keen to get started -

"We have been working very long hours over the past few days, and now have our first batch of beer safely in the fermenter. This is a small one off batch of just 9 casks, which we have brewed primarily to test the system. We are hoping to brew a full batch of 16 casks on Friday or Saturday, and will be launching our beer at O'Donoghue's in about three weeks. Exciting times ahead!"

For all the latest, check out the brewery's website here and read a full interview with Simon here.

pic: Leeds Guide

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wakefield Area News

Attached is an invitation to Ossett Brewery's latest opening this Friday (25th) and includes a free pint voucher. Just print it out and fold it over!

After concentrating on live entertainment venues recently, this is the first new pub venture since the short-lived association with Timothy Taylor's Albert Hotel in Keighley, and sees a deal with Everards that will make their top-selling Tiger Best Bitter (4.2%) permanently available.

The New Albion is at the beginning of Flanshaw Lane in Alverthorpe, which you can see from the traffic lights on Batley Road.(map)

O'Donoghue's becomes Great Heck Brewery's first pub - centrally situated in Wakefield. (map)

The Broken Bridge, J.D. Wetherspoons' new palace in Pontefract is now open. (map)

The Annual Beer and Music Festival at Boons in Horbury is next weekend, Friday 2nd - Sunday 4th July - Friday from 15.00, Saturday from 11.00 & Sunday from 12.00. (map)

Coming soon, in conjunction with Netherton Gala (pronounced to rhyme with Mahler not sailor) is the beer festival at Netherton Sports & Social Club.

Beers on tap will be - Golcar Bitter (3.9%), Kelham Island Best Bitter (3.8%), York Brewery Constantine (3.9%), Idle Brewery Landlord (4.6%), Little Valley Withens IPA(3.9%), Old Bear Black Mar'ia (4.2%), Old Mill Bullion (4.7%), Leeds Pale (3.8%) and a specially brewed bitter from Clarks called Netherton Gala Bitter.

The festival will run from Friday 16th July (19.30 to 24.00), Saturday 17th July(11.00 to midnight) and Sunday18th July (12.00 to 23.30) - everybody welcome. On Saturday will be Netherton Gala with fun for all the family with the club and gala supplying food throughout the day. Also "Pocket Panto" in the club on Saturday afternoon for the children. (map)

Advance notice: the Harewood Arms on Kirkgate, Wakefield is having a beer festival Friday 20th - Sunday 22nd August. (map)


Monday, June 21, 2010

The Penistone Line Music Train

On Monday 7th June we decided to do a beer crawl with a difference, and boarded the "Penistone Line Music Train", which runs on selected Mondays each month from April to August, leaving Huddersfield at 19.18, to Sheffield and return.

There is a different musical theme each month, our service piped in the music of Abba, future departures will feature live jazz and brass, and a bar set up at each end supplies soft drinks, wine, tinnies, snacks AND DRAUGHT BEER. This is currently supplied by none other than Mallinson's Brewery, who have brewed an ale series especially for the music train, named after the many viaducts on this heavily engineered line.

The "Viaduct" beers have been generally available at the usual Mallinson's outlets, "29 Arches"(4.1%) - one of the offerings on this trip, is currently in the cellar of the Star, Folly Hall, but one of the reasons for joining "The Abba Train" was the provision of a one off - "Mamma Beer"(3.8%) - a dry hopped version of Tara's excellent "Crescent Hop" - the house beer of the Crescent, Salford.

All the beer had been supped by Denby Dale on the return leg from Sheffield - about 2 hours! Commuters and shoppers returning from Meadowhell joined in the fun, the "Moorland Singers" encouraged everyone to singalong and dance (honest!).

The next music train is on July 5th, featuring live jazz from the "Train Gang", and an American Independence Day theme will be backed up by Mallinson's "Oxspring DC"(4.1%) - an American pale ale. These are normal service trains - just pay for your tickets and bring extra for the beer, about £2.60 a pint.

pic: Northern Rail News

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Barge & Barrel Festival

It must be the local festival season as in addition to the Navigation, the Barge & Barrel at Elland has also been holding theirs this weekend. I called in for a couple of hours on Saturday to see how it compared.

The Barge is the pub where I discovered real ale so it always holds a soft spot for me. It's a large multi roomed building on the main roadside and has ten real ales usually on offer with Abbeydale 'Moonshine' and Phoenix 'Wobbly Bob' as regulars. It should be one of those places I visit regularly but it has fallen out of favour with me recently due to it's disappointing choice of guest ales. Maybe this festival would change that.

I have been to festivals here in the past and the set up is as before, with one room made into a makeshift bar with ten beers on handpull in addition to those on the bar making around 16 festival beers available at any one time. The list shows 30 so it is hit and miss if the beers you want are on the bar during your visit.

This time I was fairly lucky, and there was enough to keep me going but not for a full afternoon session. Picking up the list, it was obvious that most of the beers came from the larger, more established breweries and it was difficult to find something a bit unusual though happily I came across a new beer from the recently opened 'Wharfebank' brewery which was blonde and hoppy. When I had discounted the beers that were already finished and those not yet available, I had a selection of seven that I thought were new to me. Since we are in the throes of the World Cup, though maybe not for much longer in England's case, most of the beers had either football or patriotic themes.

I followed up disappointingly with Brains 'On The Head', a bit too malty for my liking, but a typical style of beer for the brewery; Ufford 'Union Jack', a bit tasteless; Mauldens '3 Lions', instantly forgettable and the Hambleton 'Kick Ass', ditto. By now I was getting a bit desperate. The best beer I found, apart from the Wharfebank, was Batemans 'England Expects' which tasted like a Batemans beer (those who are familiar with the brewery will know what I mean) but at least it did have some taste. I decided then to give up the ghost, leaving offerings from Greene King and Holdens untouched.
In many ways this was a carbon copy of the Navigation festival of the previous day. It had potential but in my opinion failed to deliver, (sounds like England again!!). Nevertheless, for the passing punter you could collect a few new beers if this was your thing, or while away a couple of hours sampling beers from all over the country. The quality of the beer was good, the price not excessive, and the food excellent. Just wish they had gone the extra few yards and taken a few more risks with the beer selection, it would have been well worth the effort.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Navigation Festival

I had a bit of free time on Friday so instead of my usual trick of tripping off miles in search of beer I thought I would stay local and have a look at this summer's Navigation festival at Mirfield. It is dead easy to reach by train from Huddersfield, just a 10 minute trip and a couple of minutes walk to the pub.

Those who have been reading the blog for a while will know I have been to previous festivals here and the format is much as before with a makeshift bar in the pool room serving around 15 beers on handpull, with another 5 on the main bar . The list itself shows around 35 beers so some are replaced when they run off. (Personally I would prefer all the beers available at the same time but I can see the logistical problems in this.)

Anyway, what was available when I went? A quick look at the programme (printed in previous post) gave me an idea, not much of an idea I must admit as it seemed to omit brewery names some of the time, a few ABV's and lots of the time did not make a great deal of sense. After all, how many breweries brew 'Summer Ale'?

The theme of this festival was 'Beers of the M62 Corridor', so naturally there was a preponderance of Yorkshire and Lancashire ale. Many were old favourites, some were new to me however and I concentrated on these. Allgates 'Twitter and Bisted' from Wigan hit the spot straight away, a light, hoppy beer at a sensible strength and I followed this with Saltaire 'End Of The Road' showcasing Amarillo hops. Another winner.

Things started to get a bit difficult then. I did sample another 3 beers, all Yorkshire beers, from Salamander, Great Newsome and Empire, the first two being World Cup themed, which was something I was trying to avoid, but none were anything special. Notwithstanding that I could have tried Phoenix 'White Tornado' and Five Towns 'Solstice', neither new to me, but both good beers but decided enough was enough and headed for the train.

It may sound as though I was disappointed with the festival. This is not really the case. The beer was kept well, was cheap enough at £1.10 a half across the board, and there were plenty of different styles to go at. It just wasn't a festival of new beers or new breweries, so from my point of view it did not reach the heights of previous festivals here and the haphazard programme did not help either. Never mind, I did get chance to see Germany lose on a big screen so all was not in vain !!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Navigation Beer Festival

The second of three festivals at The Navigation in Mirfield this year got underway today with all the beers selected from breweries situated along the M62 corridor. (map)

Please click on the list for the sake of your eyesight!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Albion Under New Management

The New Albion in the village of Flanshaw (five minutes from the centre of Wakefield) will open as an Ossett Brewery house on Friday 25th June. After concentrating on live music and comedy venues recently, this will be the first new pub venture since the short-lived association with Timothy Taylor's Albert Hotel in Keighley two years ago.

In addition to The New Albion, the Ossett group has two further houses in Wakefield itself, namely Fernandes Brewery Tap & Bier Keller in Avison Yard and The Hop on Bank Street, together with another thirteen across Kirklees, Calderdale, Wakefield MC and Leeds.

We wish landlady Angie Cromack and the rest of the pub & brewery team all the best and look forward to sampling some quality beer and, no doubt, classy decor next week!

Address: 2 Flanshaw Lane, Wakefield, WF2 9JH (map)

Blogger Layout

Blogger has launched masses of new templates and layouts recently so we will be all over the place for a while until a new look (that we are all happy with) is found.
Please don't be put off - we'll get there in the end!

Small But Perfectly Formed

Saturday saw the second day of the 2nd Kirkburton Beer Festival run by the Kirkburton Uniformed Group (KUG). I arrived in the village on a sunny morning via one of the regular buses from Huddersfield and made my way up the hill. Last minute preparations for the day’s event had just been completed and everyone was ready for action.

Twelve well chosen beers were available and all six that I tried were in perfect condition thanks to the Brass Monkey equipment and the expertise of the bar manager and his staff. I chose to try all of the Cumbrian beers (two each from Keswick, Hawkshead and Coniston). Also available were real cider and perry, wine, soft drinks – something for everyone. On the food side, in addition to the usual crisps etc was a menu of Jan’s delicious homemade pies (made with meat from the local butcher) and puddings. Afternoon family activities, the Shelley Band, barbeque, a big screen TV were all on the go and kept everyone entertained (and the voluntary staff busy!).

Proceeds from the festival went towards the Scout Hut Restoration fund and a donation from the profits went to the All Hallows Church Heating Restoration Fund.

This was a most well organised independent local beer festival thanks to the hard work, skill and enthusiasm of the organisers and their helpers. Here’s looking forward to the next one!


Bruges Zot at The Sportsman

If you like your Belgian beers then a trip to The Sportsman maybe in order. Yesterday I found 'Bruges Zot' on the guest lager font. I know it is readily available in bottles and appears on bars all over Bruges but it is unusual to find it in England on a font.

It still has its crisp sharpness and is one of those Belgian beers that is a sensible strength and can be enjoyed without the fear of falling over. At £3 a half, its not cheap but if you want something a bit different, or to relive the taste of Belgium why not give it a try.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Tale of Brewery Taps - or Beer Hunting in Derby

The day dawned bright and early as two intrepid travellers (well Robin 'The Train' and myself) set off to sample the delights of one of Britain's foremost ale cities. Derby is easily accessible by rail, via Sheffield from Huddersfield, and not overly expensive if you split and rebook in Sheffield (less than £30 ). The trip took about 2 hours and we were soon in a sunny Derby. Rob was chuffed (excuse the pun), that he scored a new train and I was well suited with the activity around the bus station, but I digress.

For those unfamiliar with the city, Derby's station is about 1/2 mile from the centre so a long walk is in order to reach it. On the way we passed the 'Brunswick' and the 'Alexandra' both beer guide listed but more of them later. Soon we were in the hub of the city and after a short walk through the pedestrian precinct we arrived at our first pub, it was just past 10 am but was a joy to behold. It is not often I say that about a Wetherspoons pub but 'The Babbington Arms' is a must visit place.

On the bar were 16 beers, displayed on a big screen for all to see, with colour coding to point the drinker in the right direction. I needed no help, coming across four offerings from a new brewery to me, Quercus from Devon. Armed with the first beers of the day and a good breakfast we set about ticking. The bar had the usual 'Spoons beers on but additionally had stuff from Wyre Piddle, Cottage and a couple of local beers from Falstaff. I could have stayed all day but suitably refreshed and having found a map that made life a bit easier we set off into the Cathedral quarter.

After an easy walk of about 10 minutes, guided by the spire of the Cathedral, we found another 'Spoons. This was a massive place, 'The Bankers Draft' gave a clue as to its previous identity, however the beers here were not too interesting so we continued our way towards the 'Olde Dolphin'. This is on Queen Street just up from the Cathedral and has a history dating back to 1530.
The interior showed this with quirky little rooms and oak panelling and with its timber framed exterior it's a pub not to miss. The house beer here is brewed by Nottingham and rubs shoulders with another seven decent, but more common beers. So the 'Dolphin 1530' it was and a pretty good beer it was too.

We knew there was a pub called the 'Flowerpot' close by so off we went again. Up to the end of Queen Street and left, finding it on the main road. And another revelation! This is the 'Headless' brewery tap and on the first bar we found three of their beers with others from 'Buxton' and 'Gargoyles' - so a couple of halves and a quick regroup seemed the least we could do. However on a wander around the pub to find the gents I found even more rooms, and even more bars, including a stillage bar with 24 barrels behind glass and with some of them linked to a back room bar. This explained the list which offered over 20 beers available. We stayed a little longer than anticipated as all the beers, especially the home brewed stuff , were on top form.

As a result of a chat with a local in the pub he directed us to the 'Silk Mill', reopened around a year ago which apparently also sold decent beer. He was not wrong. The pub is easy enough to find - at the back of the 'Dolphin' cross the road and look for the building with the mural on the side. The beer was good and the craic likewise, (Blue Monkey 'Cathedral Quarter' being the order of the day here) but the pub itself was a little too modern inside for my taste, all light polished wood and very unlike the last two we had visited.

This theme continued in the Derby Brewery Tap, 'The Royal Standard', which was a short walk away over the river. The beer here was average too, surprisingly for a brewery tap, and the range somewhat uninspired. I did note that 'Heiniken' was £3.10 a pint here, serves them right for drinking lager!

Time was beginning to catch up with us now and we still wanted to visit the Alex and the Brunswick. Well to tell the truth, I wanted to visit the Alexandra and I wished I had listened to Robin. It is a pub in need of a makeover, or at least a good clean. Here we selected a couple of halves from a list that was disappointing and we suffered while the regulars watched the opening of the World Cup. We soon drank up and were on the move to the Brunswick. Our third brewery tap, and home of the brewery of the same name. The pub was taken over by Everards a few years ago but nothing seems to have suffered by that.

This is a pub I have always called in when in Derby, being just down the road from the railway station and it seems just the same a I remember it from years back. There were five home brewed beers on the bar in a range of ten or so. The pub is another with plenty of rooms off the main bar so if you want some peace and quiet it is easy to find somewhere to hide. All dark wood and nooks and crannies was again the order of the day here.

It was soon off for the train, and after missing one which would have given us our connection in Sheffield, we made do with the next. (Why is it when you don't need a train, they run every 15 minutes, when you do, they are every 30 minutes !). As a result we had to spend half a hour in the Sheffield Tap sampling a new Thornbridge beer 'Pollards' which is allegedly a milk stout, I think.

All in all Derby is a great place to spend a day. No problem finding decent beer, no problem finding interesting pubs, and for the tickers the range is overwhelming. Its just a case of what you have to fore go on the bar of one pub to sample the range in the next. Add it to your list of places to visit.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Calderdale - Riding on the E8

While having a quiet pint in a Greetland pub recently, I heard about the new E8 bus service in the Calderdale area operated by TJ Walsh of Halifax. On Saturday, I gave it a go and everything worked like clockwork. The service runs from Barkisland to Brighouse via Elland and links several top beer drinking venues en route.

The starting point was the Greetland Community & Sporting Association Club which can be reached on the E8 itself or by other services (343, 557, 559). This friendly, newly refurbished club is CAMRA multi award winning and is run by experienced steward Ian Sinclair who knows a thing or two about serving great beer in a pleasant environment. The excellent house beer is Coach House Cheshire Gold (4.1% ABV) and sells at just £2 per pint. The interesting varying range of guests beers are priced slightly higher.

After a couple of pints the E8 stopped directly outside and took me door to door to the Barge and Barrel at Elland. There were ten beers on here and my choice was the Elland Bargee (3.8% ABV) which accompanied a spot of lunch. The pub will soon be holding its 8th Annual Spring Beer Festival from Thursday 17th to Sunday 20th June where over 30 handpulled cask ales will be available together with real cider and specialist foreign beers on draught and in bottles. Something for everyone!

After an hour I boarded the next E8 (same driver) and was soon at another award winning pub, the Red Rooster at Brookfoot. I spent a very pleasant hour here drinking Bradfield Farmers Stout (4.5% ABV) – one of nine cask ales available!
The next E8 from here had the same driver again and he laughed as I boarded – what a way to spend an afternoon – jealousy, I think.

I arrived in Brighouse a few minutes later and made my way to the newly crowned local CAMRA branch Pub of the Year, The Old Ship where I was confronted by a choice of seven beers and several ciders. I plumped for the excellent house beer called Shipwrecked (5.3% ABV) brewed by Dark Horse Brewery (made famous on TV).
By now, it was almost five o clock and time to think about going home for tea. After some contemplation I did just that.

There you have it – a simple afternoon out on a local bus service that takes you between four great beer destinations. The most difficult thing was choosing a beer with so much choice on offer!

For further information on the bus service either go on-line to West Yorkshire Metro or pop into the office for a timetable.

You can’t beat it!


pic: Andrew Stopford

Monday, June 07, 2010

Return of an Old Favourite

This months guest brewery in Ossett pubs will be Oakham. A brewery worth looking out for.

A few years ago if you asked any beer drinker to name his favourite breweries then Oakham would often come very high on the list, but in the recent past they have not been about these parts as much. Whether this is due to a change in their distribution system, or because of other reasons I am unsure, but it will be good to see them on the bar again as they rarely fail to impress.

The brewery started in Oakham in 1993 and soon needed larger premises. A move to Peterborough came in 1998 and a further move in 2006 to their current premises. They are one of the few breweries to have a major plant for their regular beers and a smaller plant where they brew their specials or test brews.

Their beer range encompasses all styles but they are usually associated with light, hoppy beer. 'JHB' and 'Bishops Farewell' being two excellent examples of the style. The former, at 3.8%, is full of spicy hop flavour and a lingering hop finish, the latter is stronger at 4.6% and provides the same hop kick but with a more bitter finish. Throw 'White Dwarf' ,their wheat beer and 'Inferno', their take on a golden ale into the mix and you have a great core range of beers to choose from.

I am not sure which beers Ossett have on their list but I am sure that they will not disappoint. They do brew specials, as I mentioned earlier, and some of these are fairly regularly available. Look out for 'Black Hole Porter', 'Mompessons Gold' and 'Oblivion' for example. All obviously Oakham beers but stronger than their usual fayre and with their twist on different styles. And if you want to go to the really strong extremes then maybe 'Attila' at 7.5% will be the beer for you.

To show what a high regard I hold the brewery, when people ask what my favourite beer is or has been I refer them to Oakhams '12 Monkeys'. I even remember where I drank it, but not when. I called in the George in King Cross in Halifax a few years ago on a hot day while driving and wanted something thirst quenching and tasty. At the bar were a few lager drinkers, and eschewing the weaker stuff I spied the '12 Monkeys' which weighed in at 4.8% - but knowing Oakham beers, thought it would hit the spot. It certainly did, blowing me away with its massive fresh hop taste. Once the landlord pulled me my pint the superb aroma managed to fill the bar and that, together with the light colour, captured the interest of a couple of the lager drinkers. Soon the whole pub was on it, much to the landlord's chagrin as we emptied the barrel before he got chance to try it. I got the bus home that night !!!

Can't say I have seen it since but as I said, Oakham has a reputation for superb beer so whatever the Ossett pubs have in their cellars I am sure we are in for a treat.

Since writing this have spoken to Sam at the Rat & Ratchet. He has several of the beers in the cellar and due on the bar in about a fortnight, the only one of the regulars not available is 'Black Hole Porter', should be a good month for beer.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Another World Sup Festival

For those of us who have not sampled enough World Cup themed beers, another festival started on Friday and continues over the weekend over the borders in Salford. The Crescent opened their doors at 1200 for their World Sup event.

It only came to my notice on Friday morning after reading Scoopgen but the range of beers advertised made it the place to visit, unfortunately my planning went the way of Rio Ferndinand's world cup hopes (to continue Will's theme!).

I cannot deny there is a festival, and there is a World Cup theme, but the set up is different to that at Dewsbury with all the beers planned to come through the beer pumps over the course of the weekend,making it a festival of 6 halves !! The problem was that although there are 40 beers listed only 4 were available on the bar on our arrival, plus another 12 or so on cellar runs, meaning that the remainder were shown on the festival list as 'not ready'. A bit of blow when you have travelled to get there for certain beers. Maybe an own goal here.

The pub does have 10 or so beers on the bar,but not from the festival list, so I assume the others will arrive as these run off. Maybe a festival into extra time. Nevertheless, a quick scan of the programme did give us somewhere to kick off. Where better than Mallinsons. Their 'Group C' weighed in at 5.4% and may have been a bit on the strong side to start, but was OK. And it gave us time to work out the tactics for the rest of the game. With some of the beers on offer being the same as Dewsbury it took a bit of working out where to go on the list. Soon my programme took the look of Capello's game plan with ticks, crosses and arrows all over.

Having dispensed with Will's 4-4-2 system in the first minute, a bit of strategic defence was called for. Next up came Slaters 'In The Net' at 3.6% but a bit uninspired, and Kelham Island 'Night Moves' a dark special at 4.0%, a bit better but nowhere near the classics I associate with the brewery.

Half time arrived, and a cellar run became the order of the day. Not the 6 beers that one of the Scousers nearby went for, but just 2 . Back on the attack with tried and trusted breweries, neither which disappointed. Another Mallinsons special, 'SA 2010' at 4.6% and full of hop flavour, along with Salopian 'Ska', at 4.0% an ideal beer for the weather and again bursting with hops. Maybe Salford had edged the lead over Dewsbury. Then I made a mistake, eschewing other beers in the cellar I opted for George Wright 'Black Mountain', 4.3% and not especially black, and of the standard I should have expected from previous beers from the brewery. Another own goal.

All in all, a reasonable festival, but with some reservations. Effectively a 2-2 draw with Dewsbury. However, the extra time spent in Salford at other pubs made up for it and I could claim a success on Friday on penalties, with new beers and rare breweries at the other pubs we visited. Just hope if you visit, some of the more interesting beers have arrived on the bar, or at least are available.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Day 2 at World Sup 2010

Another scorcher and another decent turn out for the second day of Dewsbury's festival of World Cup beer. Before I comment on the ale, it was interesting to note last night the names of three breweries that metaphorically 'dived in the box' by rebadging their entries. I understand that this happens quite frequently, especially at themed fests, but with the exception of my colleague I don't think too many present were screaming for a red card!

In such warm conditions my natural instinct is to avoid rich dark beer, and familiar ale from Cropton & Rudgate (TTIAO was Ruby Mild apparently) was overlooked in favour of easy-drinking specials from Mallinsons & Leeds (the latter being very similar to the excellent Midnight Bell).

Pale beers with attitude such as Ossett's Sup Up (6%) & Summer Wine's IPA (6.6% - not listed but on the main bar) were almost barley wine like in their heady, sweet complexity and better drinks at this 'pushing it' strength were the marvellous Moonshine cider & delicious Broadoak perry. I'm not normally a fan but these are great alternatives to beer when the sun's belting down!

I had high hopes for the Abbeydale & Nook offerings, expecting they might give White Rose & Phoenix some competition but was disappointed by both - the Abbeydale in particular as the brewery have been a firm favourite for many years. The Roosters was one of the rebadges (YPA I was told) and a perfect beer for the occasion but couldn't quite match the Salamander with it's interesting fresh outdoor flavours.

With changeable conditions set to spoil the remainder of the weekend it's unlikely I'll be back to finish off but this has been another resounding success and it's a big well done to Sarah & Lisa for their organisation and hard work.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Day 1 at World Sup 2010

It's now two beer festivals in the space of three weeks from the West Riding/Dewsbury & Heavy Woollen CAMRA bunch - and they can certainly pick the weather! It was even hotter today than at the Town Hall earlier in the month, and a similar forecast for the rest of the week will surely guarantee another sell-out.

My tactic for the opening session of this footy themed festival was to play the percentages - sticking largely to the tried and tested 4-4.2, ensuring I could go the distance. Some of the stand out performances in this category came from Abbeydale, Phoenix & Hornbeam, making their World Sup debuts with light & lively offerings. The Phoenix in particular had my taste buds well beaten for pace as it accelerated from sweet & fruity through to a dry & bitter finish faster than Aaron Lennon with his shorts on fire.

World Sup judging gets underway

It wasn't all good news of course and whilst there were some surprisingly lack-lustre efforts from Northumberland & Marstons for example, these were actually pretty acceptable when compared to the 'own goal' offerings from Cottage & Old Bear - the latter being about as interesting and relevant as Theo Walcott's World Cup diary! And on the subject of own-goals, the judging panel decided on Beartown's Bear Literate as beer of the festival, an unfathomable choice in my opinion, but do give it a go.

It's too early to think about an overall favourite just yet, especially with the likes of in-form Roosters, Mallinsons, Leeds & Salamander to try, but they will all have to go some way to beat the Platinum Blonde from White Rose of Sheffield with it's generous use of Summit hops (a Nelson Sauvin clone?) - certainly my 'man of the match' so far!

More tomorrow.

More On The World Sup

I managed a short time at the festival on Thursday afternoon, sitting out on the decking with a beer was just the way to idle a few minutes away in the warm June sunshine.

Those who have visited previous festivals here will be well aware of the set up, but in case you are a newcomer, it is set up in an area to left of the main entrance to the station, and the pub and beer is basically served on stillage from within a shed. On the bar are 6 handpumps dispensing beer of all sorts of strengths. Glasses are free, (drinking ones, not spectacles !) and there is no admission charge. Just select your beer, find a spot to sit and soak up the rays.

The list shows 30 beers of all styles, plenty are specials just for the World Cup, some specials just for the festival, some are old favourites and unfortunately some are rebadges for the festival (at least 3), but Liz behind the bar made no secret of this and told me what they were without any problem (see comments).

In the short time available I managed the Mallinsons '3 Lions Roar', a dark beer with fruity overtones, the Wentworth 'Summer Lovin', not my favourite, and the excellent Hornbeam 'One Dream' brewed with Bravo and Beata hops according to the programme and one not to miss.

All in all, a decent festival, with music at later sessions and food available from the pub and with the beer priced reasonably I hope it does well. If the weather holds I am sure it will.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

World Sup 2010

As a precursor to the world's greatest sporting tournament, the West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms in Dewsbury is holding a fabulous footy flavoured feast this week.

If World Sup 2010 is as brilliant as it's predecessors, Beer-jing 2008 & World Sup 2006, then expect to be tackling some great ale - but don't forget this will be more than a game of two halves, so get your drinking boots on for an early kick-off (5pm tomorrow)! Full beer list here.

Heavy Woollen Wanderings

I spent the second half of Saturday afternoon using the 202 bus route from Huddersfield to Leeds to visit a couple of beer venues in the Heavy Woollen area of Kirklees.

My first stop was the CAMRA award winning Old Colonial Club in Mirfield where the Ale For Heroes Beer Festival was taking place. Eight cask beers were on sale on my visit:

Thwaites Highwayman 4.0% ABV

70th Dunkirk Spirit – Mystery Brewery 3.8% ABV

Hardy Hansons Vintage 1832 4.6% ABV

Cottage King Arthur Full Steam Ahead 4.3% ABV

Copper Dragon Best Bitter 3.8% ABV

Copper Dragon Freddie Trueman 4.0% ABV

White Rose Stairway To Heaven 4.3% ABV

Great Newsome Holderness Dark 4.3% ABV

I sampled most of the beers and found all to be of excellent quality. Of particular interest was the mystery brewery beer but I was not able to guess who the brewer was!

A while later I was back on the bus and having travelled through Dewsbury I arrived at the Fox and Hounds at Hanging Heaton located next to the legendary cricket club. This is a Punch pub run by enterprising licensee Rachel Martin. Four cask beers were on sale as follows:

Tetley Cask at 3.7%

Rudgate Ruby Mild 4.4%

York Guzzler 3.6% ABV

Acorn Darkness 4.2% (on special offer at a bargain £2 / pint)

Again all were in fine fettle and I can agree that the recent CAMRA Pub of the Season Award is well deserved.

As I left to take the bus back to Leeds I noticed the coming next list – Old Mill Blonde Bombshell, Idle Sod & Roosters IPA.

Altogether a great afternoon in appalling weather.

David Litten

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Remember Tipsy

The blog has just received the sad news that Tipsy, the erstwhile feline occupant of the Rat & Ratchet, has passed away at the grand old age of 17 plus (or 84 in cat years). She resided at the Rat for 12 years before moving into the less traumatic pastures of East Yorkshire when Andy & Maxine Moorhouse left the pub.

She was a fixture in the pub, always about, but always haughtily above the customers. I am still traumatised from playing the quiz machine one day when a sleepy Tipsy fell off the top of the machine into my lap. She was not amused.

The sad news came to us via Andy, who many of us still remember from the pre-Ossett days of the pub, and whose great beers we still miss. We remember you all fondly.

Lockwood Update

I called in at the new look Lockwood on Saturday and things have much changed. The pub has had a tidy and polish and looks great. It is now run by Richard (Brass Monkey Brewery and Rose & Crown at Thurstonland) who has put it in a trusted manager.

There are currently seven cask ales – on my visit they were as follows:

Tetley Cask - 3.7% ABV

Brass Monkey Bitter - 3.8% ABV

Brass Monkey Chimp Off The Old Block - 3.6% ABV

Bradfield Farmers Blond - 4.0% ABV

Bradfield Brown Cow - 4.2% ABV

Empire Avalon - 3.9% ABV

Empire Golden Warrior - 3.8% ABV

I tried six of these and found them all in excellent condition.

Other features are Belgian bottled beers (including Orval, Liefmans, Kwak, Delirium Tremens) and a choice of four Malt Whiskies at the bargain price of £3 for a double!

Food will be available soon as will the upstairs function room and there is no problem remembering the opening hours as the pub opens at 12.00 every day.

While in the area I also visited the Lockwood and Salford Conservative Club. This was my first visit to the pleasant and friendly club and it was pleasing to see four cask beers available – Tetley Cask, Black Sheep Bitter, Copper Dragon Bitter and Copper Dragon IPA. I had the latter at the bargain price of £2/pint and very good it was too.

David Litten