Friday, July 30, 2010

All American Monsters of Hop - A Welcome Addition?

The excitement over the arrival of the first draft American craft beer at The Grove has underlined amongst other things just how far tastes have changed in recent years. This craving for more and more bitter, resinous, astringent pale ales is like a runaway train - and you do have to wonder just how much track remains. In terms of strength it seems the sky's the limit, as BrewDog's ABV record fixation has proved, but what about the practicalities. Are these stupendous monster beers salable; do they actually have a following, or will it be a case of us self-proclaimed hopheads having a half then doing a runner!

I know gimmicky is the wrong word to describe something that's quite obviously been lovingly fashioned with much care and no small amount of craftsmanship, but with an alcoholic content that could put an elephant to sleep, this is sadly only ever going to be an occasional diversion - for me anyway. Having just sampled my first Stone Ruination IPA this side of the pond, I have to say that whilst I did enjoy it, never in a million years is it going to get me hooked or change my drinking habits for that matter.

And this 7.7% debutant, priced at a whopping £5.50 a pint incidentally, is a baby compared to what's coming, namely Sierra Navada Bigfoot and Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA, both apparently only just short of 10%! Now whilst the town will be full of students desperate to show off their drinking prowess come September - at least until the money runs out - you do have to wonder who this expensive, head-cracking stuff will seriously appeal to.

I mean we've all been drinking American hopped beer for a long time now, and the aromas and flavours suit the British brewing style very well. Fantastic ranges of single hop beers have bought a new appreciation for pale ale and as a result a generation of converts are helping turn the tide back in favour of our cask heritage. Every brewery, pretty much without exception, has jumped on the band wagon to a greater or lesser extent, with an increasing number concentrating on the newer hop varieties to the exclusion of all else. And in many pubs these days, finding a beer untainted by ingredients from the States or New Zealand, can often be hard work.

We already have the taste then, but without the strength. Now to my way of thinking that should be game over/job done. Can anyone honestly consider them anything other than a bit of a novelty, especially when sat on the same bar as Thornbridge Jaipur and BrewDog Punk IPA? Is it really necessary, or even appropriate to showcase these beers? Well yes, of course it is, and though I shalln't be making a habit of staggering home after less than an hour in the pub, I am nevertheless hugely appreciative of getting the opportunity to try them - but then I'm not the one trying to sell them. I just hope in all seriousness that this isn't a gamble too far by The Grove and that the curious will come from far and wide to give this latest initiative a try. Only time will tell, and I guess if it doesn't work out, it may all be a distant memory by Christmas.

In the meantime much praise goes to Ian Hayes and his enthusiastic (to say the least!) staff for continuing to push the envelope (as our American cousins might put it) by bringing us some of the finest beers from around the world, and of course for providing Huddersfield's demanding drinkers with what amounts to an on-going year round festival, whilst waiting for everyone else to organise theirs! It goes without saying that if I could be granted a renewable liver, I might easily end up spending my entire beer budget at The Grove, working my way through the endless bottled range and back again before pouring myself down the hill to bed each evening. Realistically, I know I'll be back to my usual few halves of the somewhat less exotic this time tomorrow and wondering just what all the fuss was about!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Fest at The Shepherds Rest

Fans of the burgeoning Sowerby Bridge ale scene will be delighted to know that Sarah Dixon of the Shepherds Rest is having another summer beer festival. Although a couple of weeks later than last year's, the format will be similar, featuring around fifteen beers, a couple of real ciders, food and live music, with festivities beginning 5pm Friday 6th.

Anyone yet to visit this attractive Ossett Brewery pub should consider a day out in the town, where the Works, the Puzzle Hall and more recently the Jubilee Refreshment Rooms at the railway station can also be sampled. Sowerby Bridge can be reached using a combination of 503 & 574 bus services from Huddersfield. (map)
Sarah has promised us a list of the beers appearing, hopefully early next week.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Draft Craft at The Grove

Just when we think The Grove has done all it possibly can to corner the market in scarce and fascinating beer, it goes and pulls out yet another almighty stop that simply leaves us speechless. The announcement this week, through it's Facebook page, that draft American beer (that's craft - not mass-produced Duff) will become a permanent feature from this weekend, is fantastic news and will undoubtedly be the most impressive feather in this legendary boozer's cap to date.

Alongside the already hugely exciting line up of dedicated handpumps (that includes BrewDog, Thornbridge, Marble and Dark Star), we understand that not one, but two new pumps will be dispensing a changing range from the States. Sierra Navada's Torpedo IPA & Bigfoot will be amongst the first of an opening salvo that will also feature the magnificent Stone Ruination IPA, a true giant in it's class, weighing in at a little under 8%.

Anyone who has enjoyed sampling the wonderful hop-monsters of the San Diego region of southern California in particular, is in for a real treat right here in Huddersfield this summer. And for those who haven't - just be prepared to have your eyes, and taste buds, opened like never before!

Yorkshire Day at The Head of Steam

This weekend the Head of Steam will celebrate Yorkshire Day with a host of home grown beers.

Having seen the list of beers due to appear, there are many of the usual suspects such as Black Sheep, Copper Dragon and York. But also thrown into the mix are breweries uncommon around these parts such as Glentworth, Old Bear and Great Newsome. There will also be a couple of specials from Saltaire and Anglo Dutch plus local beers from Summer Wine and Brass Monkey.

So if you are around the station with a few minutes to spare, call in and celebrate our very own day with some lovely Yorkshire beer. (List)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thurstyfest 2 Review

Thurstyfest 2 opened its doors at 1200 on a warm, sunny Friday, which I am sure those who had arranged the festival had been praying for. On my arrival around 20 minutes later (I did cheat and get a lift), there were a few locals still putting the final touches to the tents and the seating but everything else seemed to be up and running.

Soon I was fixed up with my festival glass (£2 each) and my beer tokens (£1.25 a half) and joined Denis to survey the beers on offer. My first choice came from the inside bar, which provided the usual offerings from Tetleys, Greene King and Bradfield along with a Salopian beer. The pub does have connections with the Brass Monkey brewery so it was unsurprising to find three of their beers there as well. I settled for 'Monkey Puzzle', which was new to me and set about checking the beer list for the 23 handpumps outside.To say I was impressed would be an understatement.

The system here is that each pump has a beer on and one in reserve, so that throughout the three days of the festival around 50 beers will be available. On Friday we were treated to beers from some of Norfolk's smaller breweries, a few of which I had only previously encountered at CAMRA beer festivals. They included Fat Cat, Tipples, Wolf, Winters and Humpty Dumpty. Further along the bar came some from the North East; Maxim, Hill Island, and Stables being represented, and then another batch from the Cotswolds; Nailsworth, Prescott, Blindmans and Goffs amongst these. In addition, there were offerings from Toad of Doncaster, Castle Rock of Nottingham, and Halfpenny from Lechlade. Already I could see a challenging afternoon ahead.

Soon I was into full ticking mode, and was amazed at the amount of rare beer that Richard had sourced. I found two breweries new to me, Stables from Beamish Hall, whose 'Bobby Dazzler' was excellent, and Braydon whose 'Potwolloper' was less so. However, all the beer I tried was in good nick, and despite the warm day and the barrels being outside, everything was properly cooled.

Gradually the visitors started to increase and soon most of the outside tables were occupied, either by beer enthusiasts who had made the trek from elsewhere, or locals who were there to see what was occurring. It is a great venue to sit outside and watch the world go by, catching the odd glimpse of butterflies and birds as they go about their business, and overlooking the miles and miles of fields, you seem to be an eternity away from the industrial West Riding. Plus it's not everyday you can sit at a beer festival while the local farmer walks his cows past for milking!!

Anyway, back to the beer. What was good? Humpty Dumpty 'Little Sharpie' was well received, as was the Blindmans 'Buff', and the Best Mates 'Ardington Ale'. For those looking for something stronger, I found the Prescott 'Grand Prix' a decent drink, and the Hill Island 'Griffin Stout' was a good example of its kind. The best beer I found was probably the Ramsbury 'Sunsplash' however.

The festival runs until 10pm on Sunday, with music throughout the weekend. There is a BBQ all weekend and a hog roast on Saturday, (I know, I saw the hog being delivered). I just hope the weather holds out and the beer does not run off. Especially since I want another trip on Sunday to catch the second run of beers which look equally appealing. Richard and his team deserve great credit for putting on such an interesting festival, I just hope it is a success as I cannot wait for another.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thurstyfest 2 Travel Details

This weekend sees 'Thurstyfest 2' at the Rose & Crown in Thurstonland, and if last years festival was anything to go by it should be an event well worth visiting. The festival promises 56 beers 'from around the realm', ciders, a hog roast and live music. The pub is allied to the Brass Monkey Brewery so look out for their beers during the three days.

It is not the easiest place to get to however. The closest railway station is Stocksmoor but involves a fairly arduous uphill walk to the pub. May be the best way is to use Huddersfield Bus Co service 341 from the bus station (click on the number for the timetable).
K Line runs an hourly service from 1215 daily from Honley Rail Station returning 1225 etc to Honley Station, their service no. is 911 (but no Sunday service).
There is also a free bus put on by the festival running from St George's Square (outside The Head of Steam) and The Lockwood pub. The times are as follows:
Friday: Head of Steam 6pm, The Lockwood 6.15pm. Return 10pm.
Saturday: Head of Steam 1.30pm & 6pm, The Lockwood 1.45pm & 6.15pm. Return @ 6.30pm & 10.30pm.
Sunday: Head of Steam 1.30pm & 5pm, The Lockwood 1.45pm & 5.15pm. Return @ 5.30pm & 9.30pm.

The festival itself has been extended this year, starting at noon tomorrow and running all weekend, which is good for those of us who have other commitments on Saturdays!!!

(Thanks to Hutch for pointing out me that there is a bus to Thurstonland, when I thought there wasn't.) MAP

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Red Rooster Relaunch

As ever, news out of Calderdale is slow in the extreme (that's if it's forthcoming at all), so we can only apologise for this rather short notice bulletin.

Claire Revis, landlady at The Red Rooster in Brighouse, has decided to celebrate the completion of the pub's recent refurbishment by throwing a party this Saturday (24th). Now I have to admit a failure to notice that this gem of a pub needed much in the way of a facelift, so maybe a return visit is necessary - if only out of curiosity! The celebrations will include a mini beer festival with free supper and a raffle - all are welcome. (map)

Pure North Cider Press

Is cider the new ale? Plenty seem to be turning their hand to it's production in these parts, and from what I've sampled locally, making a good job of it too. Pure North apparently nestles in the Holme Valley (now anything that nestles in the Holme Valley gets my vote!) and pride themselves on their preservative free product.

Little more I can't tell you but contacting Rob North through the website would be a step in the right direction. I can't honestly say that I've run into this cider at any festivals yet but it's certainly one to look out for and we wish everyone concerned the best of luck.

West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms, Dewsbury

Back in the 70's & 80's I always did my best to drink bitter. I finally called it a day when handpumps at most of my favourite local pubs were replaced with electric dispensers, and the introduction of imported or brewed under licence lagers, with persuasive advertising slogans, began undermining a great tradition. And, shamefully, I was happy to let them. It would have been very easy to have carried on doing so too - indeed every time I see a chap my age ordering smoothflow (sadly distrustful of the real thing and unlikely to be redeemed), I think - there but for the grace of God...

But by 1993 my return from the dark side was complete. Having developed a conscience, been weaned off Red Stripe (thanks to Bernie Poulter & John Smithson of the Duke of York), ditched my contemporary band of brothers (whose use of a pub was purely for the pursuit of women, never a decent drink - the losers!) and joined a secret society of Hopback Summer Lightning addicts, I was all ready to embrace the new revolution.

There was a setback however. The untimely demise of The Duke of York had created a nomadic tribe of beer lovers now desperate for a new home. There were still several pubs in Dewsbury that were knocking out decent beer (the JFK, Market House & Turks Head will be fondly remembered by many) but the Duke had set a precedent having become a venue for real ale rather than just an outlet, and it would need something a bit special to fill the void.

"But as fate would have it, out of the shadows of despondency and despair, appeared a local beer-loving businessman with a plan. A plan to convert the unusual Italianate/Tudor style waiting rooms at Dewsbury's railway station into a beer mecca that would, with the unlikely help of a Lincolnshire brewery and the Co-op bank, provide the town's lost souls with just such a place. A vision that would also see the creation of a new brewery, and extend to the organisation of beer and music festivals that would put this new house well and truly on the map - ultimately setting in motion a groundswell of interest, both locally and nationally, that would lead to high-profile TV coverage and inspire similar hostelries all over the country/galaxy/Penistone line(?)"...etc!!!

In all seriousness, very few people seventeen years ago could have envisioned such a scenario or even the direct effect a project like this would have on turning the tide in favour of real ale once more, escalating the resurgence of craft brewing by providing room on the bar - but it happened and continues to happen, thanks to the foresight and hard work of Mike Field and Sarah Barnes, now ably assisted by Lisa Wood, Ros Arden and their team.

Without losing it's timeless appeal, The West has stayed focused and central to Dewsbury's scene, and even as I write, a new stage is taking shape in the beer garden where themed festivals and music nights are a crucial part of the pub's identity. Once finished there will doubtless be another festival to mark the event, including all the usual ingredients - fine ale, food & music - that are the life-blood here.

Back inside and I'm drinking Hopback Summer Lightning again. Glancing around at the splendour of it all, I hope that anyone discovering The West for the first time through these pictures is moved to come and take a proper look for themselves - it's the reason we started this blog and the only way to get a true appreciation. But be warned! It really is as addictive as the pub's slogan implies - indeed you may well miss the train, just make sure you don't miss the point. Once upon a time I almost did.

The WRLRR Lowdown:
Real Ale: 8 pumps include permanent Black Sheep Best Bitter, Timothy Taylors Landlord & Best Bitter
Regular Guests: Often include Anglo-Dutch Brewery of Dewsbury, Roosters & Durham
Lagers: Bitburger, Amstel, Grolsch Blonde, Extra Vedett White, Heineken, Carling
Belgian Bottled Beer: See changing board on the bar
Others: Marstons Oyster Stout, Thatchers Gold Cider

Wednesday Night is Curry Night and Saturday for the All Day Breakfast.
A couple of beer festivals are organised each year and live music is frequent.
For all the regularly updated news please visit the website. (Map)
Please Note: This post will be retained in the Picture Profile section on the left-hand sidebar and will be periodically updated.

Oktoberfest Latest

Rumour has been rife amongst the town's beer drinkers that this years 'Oktoberfest', Huddersfield CAMRA's beer festival, will not take place. 'A Swift One' has learned that this is not the case and it will go ahead as usual.

I was speaking to a source yesterday who advised me that, although there has been a change in the Beer Festival Committee delaying budget approval for the festival, plans are in place that should mean arrangements will be made in the next couple of weeks to get the necessary authority.

The beer numbers will be similar to last years event and it will be held at the same place, which was deemed a success both in terms of choice of venue and the number of beers available. As yet, much is in the embryonic stage but, all being well, the second week in October should see the Sikh Leisure Centre host it's second event.

We hope all goes well in the planning and Huddersfield again has a beer festival to be proud of.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's That Hop Again!

Lovers of Acorn beers will be well aware of their range of single hopped IPA beers, all of which are brewed at 5% and are intended to demonstarte the character of the hop used. The range has been going on for around two years now and has covered many of the common hops that us drinkers come across on a regular basis. We have already been treated to versions using European and American hops, and this year it's the turn of the New Zealand varieties.

And to give them their due, they have tried some fairly unusual hops. I have been treated to European IPAs brewed with Mittlefruh, Spalt, Marynka, and Lubelski, all of which were decent beers. The most unusual was a single hopped Celelia IPA, a hop I had never previously come across, but gave a clean tasting, interesting beer. But that was last Christmas time......

What's worrying me now is the Green Bullet IPA that is hiding in the cellar at The Star Inn. It is part of this 5% range and so promises to be good, but it's just that I do not like Green Bullet, or the flavour it gives beer. Nor does it like me, making me sneeze for some bizarre reason! I have tried my best to find out why we do not get on, but without much success. Checking lots of hop web sites does give me a bit of background information. They tell me it is high in alpha acid, but I have drunk beers with hops with higher rating (Pacific Gem being one), and they have all tasted fine and I have had no ill effects. Other sites mention it's flavour, which is allegedly grassy, resinous, and floral - who are they kidding? I just get an astringency from it which, for me is overpowering and sometimes unpleasant, almost like TCP in a pint glass.

Another problem is that sneaky brewers do not often warn me that their beer contains Green Bullet, so I unwittingly drink it without prior knowledge. I came across it recently in a Brass Monkey beer; I know it has appeared in a Church End's 'Cop Gun' (that's when the sneezing started) and no doubt it has been used in plenty of others I have tried. Maybe if it is mixed with other hops it may cut down the astringency, or may be if it is used differently in the brewing process, or in lesser quantities it works. May be its fairly cheap so brewers use lots of it in their beer. Or maybe I am just a wimp.

Having said all this though, even if the beer does have 'Green Bullet' written in large lettering across the pump clip, and its a beer I have not yet tried, I will still have to drink it. I just hope Acorn have got it right, they generally do, and they have brewed a beer to change my opinion. I certainly hope so and I will let you know.

PS.....Tried it on Thursday night, no sneezing, and a superbly balanced beer. None of the aggressive astringency I associate with the hop. Another Acorn classic.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bobtown Beer Bash

Roberttown Road Runners in conjunction with other members of the local Community have organised a Real Ale Festival to be held tomorrow, Saturday 17th July, at the Roberttown Community Centre.

'This will be our first attempt at organising such an event, but we are confident that with the aid of the local CAMRA lads and our own enthusiasm for the event, we can come up with an event that could possibly become an annual event. Please bear in mind that as stated this is our first attempt at such an event, and as such, we obviously don’t know how many people will attend - 200 to 1000, who knows?
We are getting 30 barrels of beer (2000 pints ‘ish) and when its gone its gone.'

For full details, directions and a list of confirmed breweries visit the website & Facebook page.

Leggers Update

Last year was a difficult one for The Leggers Inn. Dewsbury's canal-side stable conversion, now in it's twelfth year, suffered chronic staffing problems that ended up costing the pub it's annual beer festival and nearly resulted in a total change of management.

Things are looking up again now though, and with the evergreen John Smithson (my first real ale mentor) back at the helm, this popular first-floor hostelry looks set to enjoy it's best summer to date. With it's new and improved outdoor drinking terrace complete and the weather to go with it, Leggers will now put itself back on the festival calendar this year and look to rival the successes of The West Riding at the town's railway station.

It has to be said that there aren't too many more peaceful settings locally at which to enjoy a pint outdoors, and whilst a canal basin is probably not everyone's idea of tranquility, the setting here is surprisingly relaxing. In total contrast, the interior of the pub is dark, a little quaint and full of all manner of decorative memorabilia and clutter - just the sort of place that lends itself to the other end of the year where somewhere warm and cosy is the order of the day.

Of course it's been a difficult time for pubs in the area, with many, including Ossett Brewery's Shepherds Boy on Huddersfield Road, being put up for sale recently, but John remains upbeat about the future of the pub still referred to as Dewsbury's best kept secret: "We've had one of the busiest six months I can remember and now that the decent weather's here the place is going mad. The canal festival is coming up very soon and we're anticipating a bumper weekend for that."

With two very successful beer festivals already in Dewsbury this year, namely CAMRA's Heavy Woollen event at the Town Hall and the popular World Sup at The West Riding, it's now the turn of Leggers to shine once more. As yet no dates have been firmly fixed but John is hoping for mid-October, and as soon as details are announced we shall let you know. Between now and then though, and while ever the sun keeps shining, look no further than this gem of a pub for quality beer and friendly service in this unlikely yet ideal location. (map)

Rat & Ratchet Update

News has come to 'A Swift One' that there is soon to be a change at the Rat & Ratchet. Sam Birkhead (pictured), manager of the Ossett Brewery pub, is leaving for pastures new at the end of the month and his replacement will be Rob Allen, currently at the Shepherds Boy in Dewsbury.

Rob is well known at the Rat, having previously been barman and chef there before his move to Dewsbury, and is easily identifiable by his hat and ponytail. We have high hopes that he will continue running the pub in the same vein as Sam and that it will go from strength to strength.

It is a shame that Ossett is losing such a dedicated manager as Sam who has always tried to think outside the box with his commitment to the mild festival in May and his introduction of real cider to the pub. His stewardship has seen the Rat pick up seven awards from local & regional CAMRA in a little under three years - a quite remarkable achievement. We wish him well for the future.

Star Fest - The Best of the Rest

After a couple of days of serious research, it is time to make an educated appraisal of the Star Festival, (and I cannot mention Mallinsons apparently!!!). The set up is as always, I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say there are 46 beers available in the marquee as well as 9 that change constantly on the pub bar.

The beers have come from far and wide, and comprise the best selection that I have come across for some time at a festival. There are offerings from Knops in Scotland on the main bar, be quick or you'll miss it; Clearwater in Somerset; the second beer brewed by Windsor & Eton; one of only two barrels of Steel City 'Merton Ruination'; Blindmans are there, and Waen too... so a great festival of rare beers and breweries alike.
In addition there are beers from old favourites Pictish, Brew Co, Brown Cow, Goose Eye, Roosters and Five Towns to name but a few. In fact more beers than you could shake a stick at, should that be your thing! I have managed to sample a few, for quality control and research purposes of course. But what was good? Silly question, its all good, all cellar cooled and through handpumps and they can even serve beer without a sparkler should this be your desire. I know everyone has different tastes and my favourites may not be yours, but for what its worth these are what I have liked so far - and there's plenty more to come yet.

Of course I cannot mention Mallinsons, which I won't, and it goes without saying that they are superb, but I cannot mention that can I Will? So what else is good? Pictish 'Summit' hit the spot, light and hoppy, one from their single hopped range. The previously mentioned Steel City is also excellent and those who know the brewery will know they don't skimp on hops either; Goose Eye 'Awesome' is one of their superb caramelly tasting beers; I have also heard good reports of the Boggart 'Blackberry Blonde'; Derby's 'Pennys Porter' is a fine dark beer and Milk Street 'Whoops a Daisy' is a good and malty beer should these be your thing. The best beer I had though was from one of my favourite breweries, and one not often seen around these parts. This will surprise those who know me in that it is not a light and hoppy beer but a dark red, fruity one - the Blue Monkey '99 Red Baboons' was superb (and has a local connection, in that one of the brewers is Tom Evans, an ex-occasional relief manager at the Rat & Ratchet).

In these times of money being tight, it has been great to see the marquee so busy on what were usually the quieter nights, with visitors from far and wide - many of whom promised a reappearance later in the week. Another chance to tick 'tickers'!!! A great vote of thanks is due to Sam and the team, who have spent ages sourcing the beers, putting in hours of work getting the festival together and of course serving the beer. A special word for Grant who had the unenviable task of tasting all the beers before they came on the bar to make sure they were in tip top condition - hard work but someone had to do it!! Again Sam has managed to create one of the best festivals around. Why not give it a try, you will not be disappointed.
The Star festival resumes at noon today and continues all day tomorrow & Sunday. Beer List

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Star Quality Mallinsons

Did the The Star Inn Summer Beer Festival at Folly Hall, Huddersfield really get underway last night in somewhat controversial circumstances, or did that just occur to me this morning? Well I'm still not sure (it was all a bit of a blur after the first couple of hours), but for the first time in the pub's illustrious history, a judging panel - that included a respected local brewing team - was assembled to vote for a beer of the festival, and guess who won?!

Allegations aside, you could have picked out any eight ale fans from the crowd last night to do the blind tasting (and they were not all locals by any means) and the result would have been the same, such was Mallinsons dominance. And that's not being in any way biased or dishing out praise where it's not deserved - it's simply that they are producing some of the finest beer around at the moment. Not only that, but at this time of year when people crave light and quaffable session ales that they can really pig-out on, this is the brewery that delivers. And in the case of last night, not once but twice!

The winning Blue Sky Dreaming at 3.7% and second placed Triple S at a mere 3.6 were a real triumph of taste over strength and whilst the self-effacing Tara & Elaine (above) may have been just a little embarrassed by the outcome, the rest of us locals couldn't have been prouder. Okay so it's not the GBBF or even a SIBA regional but a pound to a penny that these two ales wouldn't have disgraced themselves, even at the very pinnacle of beer appreciation. To have a brewery in the town of this quality really does provide the icing on the cake for us wannabe journos too. I mean it's one thing having great pubs to fawn over or take pictures of, but quite another to in them!

A full and proper account of the festival, with no mention of Mallinsons whatsoever, will appear soon courtesy of Timbo - now there's a challenge! (More festival photos on our Facebook page.)

The Star Inn festival resumes this afternoon at 5pm and then all day Fri-Sun. Full beer list here. (Map)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Brewery News


'The launch of the Ridgeside Brewery beers will take place at O' Donoghue's in Wakefield this Sunday 18th July at 3:00pm. We will be launching with this month's special, which is 'Ridgeside Beast', a deep red 4.7% ale hopped with Fuggles and East Kent Goldings. The beer has already been delivered, and is being looked after by Denzil Vallance of The Great Heck Brewery, who recently took over OD's.'

There has been a certain amount of independent testing of 'The Beast' going on down at Ridgeside, for quality control purposes, and the response has been extremely positive.

Toad Brewery
Toad beers are having to be out-brewed for the moment at Sheffield after the fire at Doncaster.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Spoiled for Choice

Last night, those present in The Star at Lockwood were treated to one of those rare events. A bit like Haleys Comet, or Preston Guild, but probably more satisfying. We had two Mallinsons beers on the bar at the same time!!

First to come on was the 4th in their Viaduct series,'Oxspring DC', a 4.1% beer which I believe is their take on an American IPA and very drinkable it was too. Like most of the brewery's beers it was light and hoppy and packed with flavour, and unfortunately very moreish. Soon it was the only beer that seemed to be going through the pumps.

I must not have been watching very closely though, as another beer ran off and this was replaced by 'Hit for Six' which weighed in at 3.9% and even lighter - a brilliant session bitter. And of course very moreish too - it could have been a very long night!!

Hopefully, both beers will still be on the bar for a further chance to compare and contrast today, but I am not optimistic. The only consolation is that yet another Mally's beer is on the taunting pole so we have 'Wipe Out' to look forward to as well in the next few days, along with a couple of Pictish also waiting in the wings. And all this before the beer festival has even started! It could be a challenging week for local beer drinkers!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Ale Trail at the Food & Drink Festival

This year Huddersfield Food & Drink Festival runs between the 12th and 15th August in St. George's Square and promises to be an even bigger and better event than previously.

There will be real ale bars from The Star and The Sportsman, along with The Nook Brewhouse from Holmfirth, plus a vast array of food from various local delis and restaurants covering all tastes from Indonesian to Italian, Caribbean to Cajun, and not forgetting our very own award-winning pie producers from 'Udders to 'Ecky! It is an event not to be missed.

A new attraction this year will be of special interest to the real ale hunter. Sam at the Star, in conjunction with the festival committee, has organised a 'Real Ale Trail'. It involves eight town centre pubs, (from north to south these are; The Sportsman, The Vulcan, The Kings Head, The Head of Steam, The County, The Grove, The Rat & Ratchet, and The Star) and entitles you to a free festival glass.

All you have to do is visit one of the pubs to collect a festival flier (or download and print a copy here), get a pint or a half of real ale, then get the flier stamped. Do this at all eight and return your completed form to the Festival Information Centre to collect your limited edition commemorative glass.

And to whet your appetite some more, rumour has it that Mallinsons will be providing a beer for each of the pubs taking part! The trail starts on 26th July and runs until the end of the festival, so make a note to get out and see what the town's great pubs have to offer this summer. Full details can be found on the festival website and their facebook page.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Summer Village Festivals

Village pub and club beer festivals are without doubt becoming the most popular real ale events going. And no sooner had the Monkey Club in Armitage Bridge finished selling out of a quite phenomenal amount of beer (extra casks had to be acquired at short notice last Sunday), than both Rose & Crown at Thurstonland (23rd-25th July) and Hall Bower Club (14th-15th August) were luring us back into the sticks for yet more unadulterated consumption!

In their second and third years respectively, both offer a fun day out (or two if you can hack it!) with great selections of ale, food and music. Weather is key at these largely outdoor festivals but even during some heavy down pours last year, our spirits weren't dampened and all the ale was supped in record time!

Both these fantastic events have very quickly established themselves on the short-list of 'must attend' beer festivals in our area, having found a magic winning formula with incredible appeal. Miss them at your peril!


Thurstyfest (map) is once again offering a free bus service from town and these are the details:

Pick up times:
Friday: Head of Steam 6pm, The Lockwood 6.15pm. Return 10pm.
Saturday: Head of Steam 1.30pm & 6pm, The Lockwood 1.45pm & 6.15pm. Return @ 6.30pm & 10.30pm.
Sunday: Head of Steam 1.30pm & 5pm, The Lockwood 1.45pm & 5.15pm. Return @ 5.30pm & 9.30pm.

Hall Bower Athletics & WMC is much closer to Huddersfield town centre and can be reached on the 354/355 bus services or on foot, though beware of the very steep hill! (map)

Please note these details will be posted again a few days before the start of each festival.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Good News and Bad News

First the good news. This time next week will see the start of The Star Inn Summer Beer Festival. The usual rules apply, 46 beers in the outside marquee and as many as possible served on the main bar. The beer list is a closely guarded secret at the moment but as soon as we know, you will know.

It will run from 5pm Wednesday (14th July) and Thursday and all day Friday, Saturday & Sunday, so we hope to see all the old faces there and plenty of new ones for one of the best pub festivals around. (map)

It doesn't seem two minutes since we were getting excited about the re-opening of the Cellar Bar in Batley, with it's classy refurbishment and dedication to local breweries - so it is very sad indeed to hear that it has had to close.

It was hoped it would cash in on the interest in the Trans-Pennine Ale Trail, being adjacent to the town's railway station, but sadly this has not been the case and it has been forced to shut it's doors for the last time.

****Have heard from a source that the Cellar Bar is still open but under new management with real ales, Swift One will try to get the proper story as soon as possible ****

Friday, July 02, 2010

In Search of the Holy Grail

Or 'A Man With a Mission' !!

People who read the blog regularly will have realised that out of the editorial team, I am what is politely referred to as a beer 'ticker'. For those unfamiliar with the term, it means that I dash about the country sampling beers that are new to me and keeping a list of them. I play by my own rules, as most tickers do, but basically I record anything that I have drunk a half pint of in a pub, or at a festival.

My list started back in 1990 when I discovered the joys of different beers at 'The Barge & Barrel' in Elland and still continue 20 years later. I really started doing it seriously when I retired in 2008 and this is the story of a special day in my life this week, going for my 10,000th beer. To mark this occasion, which admittedly had sneaked up on me somewhat, I decided that I would try to drink the beer in my favourite pub, and make it one from my favourite brewery and if possible mark the event on my birthday.

Things started badly. Due to personal commitments I could not manage it on Wednesday, the chosen day (make a note in your diary to send me a card next year!!), so yesterday was the next best thing. I rechecked the total beers I needed and discovered that another six would let me achieve my target. I knew a trip to Manchester or Sheffield would give me my total, but felt I owed it to myself to stay reasonably local. A bit of research and the good will of one of my local licencees was called for to make sure that what I hoped would be my record beer was on the bar at 5pm.

So armed with a day-rider I set off for Brighouse, and first stop was Wetherspoons 'Richard Oastler'. It was really more in hope than expectation but here I found Summer Wine 'Erebus', a dark beer, not to my taste, but a tick nonetheless. Then it was on to the 'Ship'. I knew they had a house beer brewed for them which was new to me, Dark Horse 'Shipwrecked' and fortunately it was on the bar, although at 5.3% it was a bit weighty for lunchtime. Four more to go.

Back to town. A quick look in the 'Cherry Tree', 'Kings Head' and 'Head of Steam' surprisingly revealed nothing new. That left me with four beers required but just four pubs in which to find them. Desperation was setting in. A trip to the 'Sportsman' paid dividends though and I found a new Mallinsons, the 3.6% 'Wipe Out'. A good easy drinking session beer, and nice and hoppy too. I had at least achieved part of my plan, a beer from my favourite brewery. But could I still manage to find another three?

Next stop 'The Grove', and another success. I did not just find a new beer here but also a new brewery - Trinity 'High Light' became the next on the list. Another light hoppy beer and very pleasant too. Things were picking up. Would the 'Rat & Ratchet' provide number 9,999? I was more than impressed to walk in and find a new Fernandes on the bar. 'Nightjar' was 3.8% and again light and hoppy. It did taste of ginger but whether it was intentional I'm not sure, it just seems that everything out of that brewery is a little tainted at the moment. I was unconcerned - just one more to go.

So with one pub left and just the one beer needed it was off to 'The Star' and on the bar there it was - Green Mill 'Wheat Beer' (4.3%) a clear, easy drinking beer from Rochdale. I had achieved my aim, the 10,000th beer, in my favourite pub! All right I had cheated a bit as I did know there was a new beer on - the mobile phone can be wonderful invention sometimes!

What now? Well I am a mere novice in the ticking stakes when I compare myself to Denis or Robin locally, and am not even in the frame when it comes to the master ticker Brian from Sheffield. He has upwards of 40,000 and can be seen around the country with his shopping trolley collecting beers. Nevertheless, I totally enjoy it. I see new places, drink in nice pubs and meet some great people, many of who I am proud to class as friends. So, all being well, its off to Sheffield again today for more new beers. Here's to the next 10,000. Cheers!

Monkeyfest IV

With England out of the World Cup there's now absolutely no reason to spend tomorrow afternoon in front of the telly - and whilst the Monkey Club in Armitage Bridge is as good a place as any to watch the football, it's wonderful annual beer festival is best enjoyed outdoors.

With around fifty beers, including a special from Brass Monkey in aid of the Air Ambulance Charity, a barbeque and plenty of live entertainment to savour, we just need a repeat of last weekend's weather to complete the picture and provide the perfect antidote to England's abject performance at this summer's finals.

The festival gets under way at noon concluding at 9pm Sunday. (map) Beer list here.

Edit: Scrub the three beers from Toad Brewery - they have a production problem and could not deliver. Add one special from George Wright.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Sportsman at Food & Drink Festival

Representing the town's real ale pubs at this year's Huddersfield Food & Drink Festival in St. George's Square will be The Sportsman.

Sam Smith and the pub's staff will follow in the footsteps of Sam Watt and The Star Inn whose promotion of quality ale and home made food last summer was a triumph.

Also expect to see Elland Brewery at their usual stall although this is yet to be confirmed. For all the very latest on how the festival is shaping up, visit the website here.

Huddersfield Food & Drink Festival
Thursday 12 - Sunday 15 August 2010
St George's Square,


the yeaton cask at Kirkheaton

As reported recently another new pub has opened on the Huddersfield real ale circuit. This one is a bit out of town, but having called round I can confirm it is well worth the trip. It is the yeaton cask on Town Road at Kirkheaton.

The pub used to be the Junction Inn but has been totally transformed from its previous life into a light and airy place with walls taken back to their original stone, new fireplaces added and the floor now a mixture of stone tiles and wood. The decor is modern and gives the place a clean and welcoming feel, and is complemented by a new bar. Another feature, and an especially useful one during this current heatwave, is the furnished terrace out back.

The yeaton cask is owned and run by Jane Robson, who deserves much credit for spending time and money to achieve her dream. Jane is well known in local pub circles, I recall her from the Oddfellows (now The Drop Inn) at Elland in pre-Ossett days, and she has brought her experience to the bar here as well. The pub offers three regular beers, Taylors 'Landlord', Hawkshead 'Red' and a 3.8% ale brewed specially for the pub. The house beer's true identity is a well guarded secret - so there's a challenge for the experts amongst you!

In addition there are four changing guests which on my visit were from Goose Eye, Peerless, a wheat beer from Springhead and a mild from Bank Top - all in excellent condition. Sales of beer from the likes of Thornbridge and more locally Mallinsons have been very encouraging and Jane is even considering a permanent pump for the Derbyshire brewery's output. Non-cask lagers are from Staropramen, Stella and Becks plus there's Guinness to make sure all the bases are covered.

The prices I considered were sensible as are the opening hours (all day Wednesday to Sunday opening 4pm Monday and Tuesday). Food is not available yet but when the place has become more established the kitchen side will be sorted out as well. In the meantime I would like to wish Jane and her staff all the best in this new venture and appeal to everyone within a bus-ride of this excellent little pub to give it their fullest support.

Jane has saved me a job by kindly allowing us to use these pictures of the pub from her new website which includes an up to date beer list and virtual pub tour. (map)