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)
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