Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beer of the Day - 30th August

It's a Bank Holiday Monday in the Sportsman, and with beer running off by the minute there was eager anticipation to see what may turn up on the empty pumps.

My initial reason to visit was to try and catch some of the wonderful Fernandes beers that Will has been taunting us all with throughout the weekend, I only managed one and that ran off quickly. It had the look of being one of 'those' afternoons until a familiar shaped pump clip appeared on the bar. I still was not too optimistic, I could not tell from the back of the clip which Mallinsons beer had arrived but I knew I had drunk most of those available around town at the moment.

A quick sneaky peek whetted my appetite, I had not had 'Hops Likely' and this was the forthcoming treat. I quickly downed my pint of Fernandes and joined the queue to sample the new arrival. I was not disappointed. Soon all our little group was on it, and quite a number of others in the pub too.

It was one of the stronger Mallinson's at 5.4% but did not drink its strength, in short, a dangerously drinkable beer. It was light and as the name suggested, not only were hops likely but there in abundance. A massive hop hit. I got fruit, bitterness, and a massive mouthfeel from it. The brewery website described it as 'lemon and citrusy', that was certainly the case. Just could not work out which hops Tara had used. It was super and stood comparison with all the others I have drunk over the weekend, and as often with Mallinson's beer, one was not enough.

The second was equally as good as the first and texts were soon flying around to advise those unfortunate enough not to be in the pub to get there and taste it. I am sure it will not last long, but if you miss it at the Sportsman I know there is a barrel lurking at the Star, and possibly the Rat too, so be patient. Good things come to those who wait, they say. This is one of those good things.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Beers of the Day - 28th August

Unlike Will, I have been struggling to find a beer this week I could class as 'my beer of the day' but then, just like buses, three have come along at once.

The first is from Allgates of Wigan, a brewery we do not see too much of on our side of the Pennines but a brewery I know well and respect from my trips over into Manchester. They brew a mixture of beers but generally concentrate on the light or the dark beers both of which they do well, (sounds like another local brewery doesn't it !). Anyway, their 'California' was on the bar in the Rat & Ratchet and very good it was too - named after a mine in their home town, I believe, rather than the American state. It is was a light, hoppy, refreshing session beer, just right for a warm summer's day, which unfortunately it wasn't when I drank it. Nevertheless, it was a fine beer and one that made you want a second pint.

The second beer comes from a new brewery this year. Raw from Staveley in Derbyshire are slowly building a reputation for making interesting beer and the 'Hop Rush Pale Ale' on the bar in The Star does exactly what it says. It is 4.8%, so packs a bit of a punch but the use of the hops in the beer are excellent. They give a massive bitter mouthfeel and follow it up with a dryness that gives it balance. There is little or no sweetness in the beer and although there is obviously some malt in the background it does not detract from the hop rush. Another excellent effort.

To finish you off, literally if you are not careful, comes the Church End 'Summer Terother'. Those who know Church End, who used to be a common brewery in these parts but are getting harder to find, will know their reputation for making fine beer. Sometimes they can be accused of being a little too adventurous in their ingredients but not this time. What they have brewed is a light, fruity little number which is dangerously drinkable. Why dangerous ? Well 7% is a little over the usual strength for a beer and this does not drink anywhere near that strength. It starts with a pleasantly balanced bitterness, and then the fruitiness takes over. Despite it's strength there is none of the vinous or alcoholic background I associate with beers of this gravity. It's just very good and an excellent beer to have a quick half of at the end of a session. It made the perfect end to a disappointing week.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fernandes Festival at The Sportsman

After a highly enjoyable Meet the Brewer night on Thursday, when six of the 18 Fernandes beers were available for tasting, it was down to some real festival business this weekend. Of the three Ossett owned breweries, Fernandes edge it for me with their huge number of titles and interesting experimental recipes. The core range seems to rarely make it to Huddersfield these days, which is a shame as Great Northern, Ale to the Tzar and Wakefield Pride are amongst my very favourite beers, but we do see plenty of seasonals and pale, hoppy sub-4% quaffers.

This festival follows on the heels of the successful Mallinsons event giving drinkers the rare opportunity to sample multiple offerings side by side and compare and contrast for themselves. And if there's one thing both breweries have been accused of in the past it's the similarity of much of their respective output - this kind of event certainly allows the brewers to put their cards on the table and give their critics the chance to put up or shut up!

This weekend's line up was predominantly pale with just a stout and a porter to add some balance. In my opinion, given the time of year, this was about right. Fernandes brew some very good milds too but it's the pale ales that stand out and the single hopped beers were the real stars. The Centennial, Cascade, Chinook and Explorer (Amarillo) were particularly accomplished and stand little chance of seeing the weekend out I would imagine.

With six beers on the outside festival bar, six indoors and the remaining half dozen replacing them, several visits to the pub may be necessary over the four days. But hey - it's a Bank Holiday, with unpredictable weather, predictable traffic and for many, the last chance of a few days off before Christmas - so what else you gonna do!
Check our Facebook page for the full list.

The Nook Summer Festival 2010

After finally establishing there was a festival at The Nook in Holmfirth over the weekend, and having a few hours to kill, it seemed a good idea to take a trip up the Holme Valley to see what was on offer. What I had not counted on was the road resurfacing up the road at Holmebridge nor the amount of visitors paying homage to the last episode of 'Last of the Summer Wine'. In short, Holmfirth was heaving.

Anyway, having finally made it there and avoiding the crowds, a short walk to the 'Nook' revealed an oasis of calm, at least on the customer side of the bar but there were frantic preparations still taking place to get the festival up and running. It was now 1215pm and the festival should have opened its doors 15 minutes before. Undeterred I set about collecting the beers from the on site brewery, that had previously eluded me, available on the pub bar.

If you know the 'Nook', or the 'Rose & Crown' to give it it's Sunday name, this will not surprise you. It has never been the most organised pub I have visited. It is one of those places that divides opinion, you either love it or loath it. Nothing seems to have changed there since I first visited many years ago, except it now brews a selection of its own beer. From those available I selected 'Bees Knees', their 3.9% honey beer. It was light and inoffensive but did not really taste like a honey beer. I followed this with a 5.2% 'Cherry Stout', pleasant enough with a hint of cherry but nowhere near as good as the 'Oat Stout' they produce.

By this time I was running out of new beers on the bar and the festival was still not ready, but fortunately as I just finished my half of stout, they opened the doors - metaphorically speaking - and were ready to serve. (Actually the festival is held outside the back of the pub in their yard covered with tarpaulin, which is ok in the dry but I don't fancy it in the rain.)

The system was a familiar one to local festival goers. Pay £1.50 for a glass and programme (£1 refundable if you did not want to keep the glass) and tickets at £1.10 per half (plus an additional cost for the stronger beers). Armed with the essentials I set about checking the beer list.

Again, punters will be familiar with the set up where all the beer comes through hand pulls but all the beer listed is not all available at once due to space considerations. So there were around 20 out of 40 or so on the bar at the start. This system is one that annoys me, and I know others, who after travelling a distance to the festival, find the beers wanted are unavailable until the next day. I know the reasons but that hardly improves my mood when I find some of those I really want to try are not there.

Enough of my ranting, you want to know what was on. For the lover of light beers, the range was disappointing, with most of them darker rather than hoppy, and a scan through the well produced programme revealed a rather pedestrian range of breweries available. Most were local breweries with Abbeydale, Rudgate, York, Kelham Island and Old Bear being the furthest travelled, and Howard Town and Lytham being the only non-Yorkshire breweries represented. I was a bit surprised to find the Nook 'Cherry Stout' on one of the festival pumps as well as being on the main bar, surely something else could have taken its place.

I started with Lytham 'Summer Ale' , at 4.0% which was inoffensive and easy drinking, but then struggled to find something else light which I had not previously encountered. I could have chosen Empire's 'Crazy Days' or Anglo Dutch 'Gods Own Ale' but as both were not new to me I ventured onto the dark(er) side.

Kelham Island 'Little Red Corvette' was a red ale, and a bit of a disappointment knowing the brewery's usual standards, so I then turned to the downright weird. I am not a lover of Old Bear beers and their copper coloured 'Currant & Raisin' did nothing to alter that opinion. It was certainly unusual though. Back to the light stuff, Empire 'Tempest' weighed in at 5.1%, (which had me ferreting through my pockets for an additional 15p) but I struggled to find the 'delicate citrus notes' described in the tasting notes. Another disappointment.

I was finding it hard to get a beer new to me that I could actually say I liked. Lytham 'Stout' came and went, and was a bit too heavy on the chocolate malt for my liking. Eventually, I did find the Saltaire 'Cascadian Black', again strong at 4.8%, this was described as 'a black IPA....with cascade hops' and it was quite pleasant, but more than a half would be overpowering. I had now run out of tickets, as well as new beers and decided to call it a day.

All in all, if you like dark beers and are not a beer ticker there was enough to keep you interested but if, like me, you search out new beer and want something a bit different to the usual fayre then this may not be the festival for you. The choice is yours. All I can say is that I was pleased to get into the Rat & Ratchet and find Allgates 'California' on the bar. The sort of beer I had been dreaming of all afternoon, light, hoppy, full of flavour and a sensible strength - the day was not completely wasted!!

If you intend to visit the festival then it runs through till Sunday, when hopefully some of the more unusual beers will have reached the bar. See our Facebook page for the full list.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Festival at the Nook - maybe?

'A Swift One' likes to keep up to date with the best around the local area, and as you will have noticed, this includes pub events and beer festivals. However one seems to have eluded us.

There is a rumour that there is a beer festival this weekend at the Rose & Crown (the Nook) at Holmfirth. At this stage, that is all we can say. Our usual beer festival source cannot provide the information, their website is also similarly blank. The last issue of 'Aletalk' that Bob Tomlinson produced does show a festival between Friday and Sunday and that there are some home made posters around the roads into Holmfirth making reference to it. So the choice is yours, do you want a 30 minute bus ride up the Holme Valley in search of an event that may not be happening, or would your time be better spent elsewhere.

Surely if you want people to visit an event you have taken time and money to organise, maybe a bit more information may assist them. Or may be its purely a local event for local people. No doubt we will find out in time.

On the subject of 'Aletalk' I have managed a quick chat with Bob Tomlinson, the editor for the last 14 years. He has stepped down from the role due to work and time pressures. The mantle of producing the magazine has now passed to a group of local CAMRA members. The next issue may well be delayed but I am assured it will appear. Good luck to them in their task and thanks to Bob for the sterling work he has done to make it such an informative tool for drinkers from near and far..

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fernandes at The Sportsman

The Sportsman's Fernandes Beer Festival weekend kicks off on Thursday with a Meet the Brewer evening with a difference. Since neither Paul Spencer nor Steve Hutchinson are available, ex-Fernandes Brewery Tap landlady Liz Crosby has stepped up to the plate and will give a talk and introduce the beers.

The format will be as before with tickets at £10 to include a hot supper, a newly designed Fernandes Brewery t-shirt plus all the beer samples you can manage (within reason!). 18 beers from the brewery will feature over the weekend and the full list can be seen here. Further details regarding ticket availability, food & music are on the pub's website.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beer of the Day - 21st August

Saturday at The Star brought forth an array of riches for the real ale drinker, (almost sounds Shakespearian !!) with three beers that were good enough to satisfy even the most critical. Two were new to me, one was an old favourite but I had forgotten how good it was when on top form.

We were treated to a new single hopped beer from Pictish, with 'Apollo' . At just over 4% it's a good quaffing beer, light and well rounded, with a slightly sweet background flavour bringing out the character of the American hop. Not aggressive like some hops, but more subtle and balanced to provide a very moreish beer that seemed to improve the more that you drank. Another winner from Richard Sutton, who rarely lets his high standards fall.

If that was not enough to satisfy me, then Phoenix 'Arizona' rubbed shoulders with it on the bar. What can one say about 'Arizona' that has not been said before. Suffice it to say it was in excellent form and held its own in comparison with 'Apollo'. Two real winners from across the Pennines.

The trio of gems was completed by Skinners 'Cornish Blonde', a 5% wheat beer that was one of the best of the style I have ever come across. Clear rather than hazy, it had a good mix of wheat and hops so that neither dominated but both complemented each other to make a classic. I have always had a soft spot for Cornish beers, Skinners in particular, and this has just reinforced why I find them a good, consistent brewery. I just wish they would do something about their pump clips, which although instantly recognisable, strike me as a bit juvenile, or am I just getting old!

Anyway, should you have a bit of spare time and fancy a beer today, maybe The Star is the place to visit. Think I may make a return trip anyway.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

36th Steel City Beer & Cider Festival

A favourite drinking haunt of many of the blog's contributors and readers, Sheffield will soon be hosting it's annual Steel City beer festival once more. For full details please visit the website.

Think I Got It Wrong!

It just goes to show that even 'A Swift One' can be wrong sometimes. I was reading my way through Scoopgen when I came across a festival list for the 'Mermaid' pub in St Albans. A bit far away for a beer festival at short notice, but reading the beer list I was pleased to see four beers from the Alehouse Brewery there.

If you recall a couple of months ago, I bemoaned the closure of the brewery and the loss of Kev Yelland to brewing. It seems I was wrong and Kev appears to be going strong at the Mermaid and still brewing - even with his favourite Simco hop.

It is certainly good news, just a shame that his beers do not seem to make it up north any more. I apologise to Kev for assuming his demise and hope to catch up with him soon for a full update.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beer of the Day - 17th August

By chance I called in The Grove yesterday afternoon. Generally when I go up I have checked the beer list on line so have more or less worked my drinking out in advance but this time went with no prior knowledge of what was available. Heading into the tap room, I surveyed the pumps and selected a Williams Bros beer that was not bad at all, but Brian was behind the bar and looked a little strangely at me.

'Haven't you seen the Thornbridge?' he asked. I confessed that I hadn't. To be truthful, I generally look at the guests first of all when I go in and ignore the regular pumps, but on spotting the 'Larkspur' clip, a quick half was tried on his recommendation.

It was superb. If you like your beer light, hoppy and refreshing but with a bit of strength behind it, then this could be the beer you have been searching for. I believe the base is similar to their 'Kipling' but with the scarcity of some New Zealand hops this year, Citra has been used to fill the gap. It is single hopped so it shows all the flavour that Citra imparts in a beer, with its orangey, grapefruity overtones, and the balance that the 'Kipling' background gives it makes it a well crafted moreish beer - even at 5.2%. So much so, that I think I could prefer it to 'Kipling,' which is high praise indeed. I will certainly have to go again today and recheck!!!

(Incidentally, if you haven't seen it, Thornbridge has one of the best brewery websites about, full of information and up to the minute news about the brewery and the beers. Take a look.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Arguably The Best Pub In The World

So claims the sign outside the Boathouse, as we alighted from the train at Wylam (Northumberland, on the line from Newcastle to Carlisle).

I wasn't even aware that the Boathouse is the best pub in the Northeast - I personally have a soft spot for the Kings Arms in Sunderland; and to boast that you can better the Square & Compass (Worth Matravers), the Market Porter (Borough Market) or the Fat Cat (Norwich), you are going to have to be very special indeed....

The Boathouse used to be pretty much the Wylam Brewery tap, but a dispute between brewery and pub means you don't currently get Wylam beers here, so if you are looking for the excellent Wylam "Turbinia - 10 Years" you will need to search elsewhere. Nevertheless there are 14 hand pumps (+ 1 for draught cider), and most of the 14 on offer are rarities or northern beers that don't venture down to Yorkshire often.

Just about every beer was new to me, but four pumps took the eye, three from Scotlands Fyne - "Hurricane Jack", "Jarl" and "Avalanche", and one from Stables of Beamish, Co. Durham - "Corker". All four are the type of light and hoppy ales we in Huddersfield adore, with grapefruit bitterness associated with Nelson and Citra hops, the "Corker" with a balanced ginger taste. "Avalanche" shaded it, and at 4.5%, was my preferred strength.

All beers up to 4.5% are £2.50 a pint (£2.60 4.6%+, halfs all £1.30 - superstrong beers individually priced), pub grub is available all day, very useful with so many ales to tempt you to stay, but after three hours and a couple of halves of Hadrian & Border "Real Lager", it was time to return to Newcastle.

Rumour is that Mallinsons will be appearing on the bar sometime soon, so one or two of us might have to trail even further for those dry hopped specials. Best pub in the world? Certainly pushing for a top ten spot in the UK, an essential stop off if you are in the Northeast - open from 11 till late every day (Sunday opens 12).

Apple Appeal

Huddersfield’s first cider maker would like to rescue your unwanted apples and pears from the compost heap. David Kendall-Smith, former landlord of Huddersfield’s Rat and Ratchet (renowned for its support of real ciders) has been making cider and perry for four years.

David’s real cider is made from locally-sourced apples, and perry from pears, but without an orchard of his own, David is appealing for householders to donate their unwanted apples from trees on their land. David said “many people have apple, or indeed pear trees on their land and often can only use a fraction of the fruit, I am asking for the excess”, he will collect the apples himself and offers in return a bottle of the finished product. Apples and pears will ripen over the next few months.

With the help of The Examiner, and the generosity of Huddersfield people, David managed to produce 70 gallons of cider and perry last year and some of his cider will be available at Huddersfield Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) Oktoberfest.

David is planning to purchase land to plant an orchard but in the meantime he hopes to harvest enough apples from the town’s gardens and hedgerows to make 100 gallons of real cider this year, and to double that next year.

Anyone who would like to offer some apples or pears can contact David on 07817367752, by email at dave@uddersorchard.co.uk or visit the website.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Greedy B*******ds Do It Again

As readers will have realised, the editors travel far and wide in search of beer and pubs to drink it in. We often travel outside Yorkshire to bring you updates from other parts of the country so it saddens me to write this article but feel I have no choice.

A little while ago, visitors to Salford were gladdened when Tim Flynn, from the New Oxford took over a closed pub and renovated it to a high standard with the intention of making it, The Black Lion, a sister pub to the Oxford with a range of different guest beers, more foreign choice and a good food range. The only problem being that, although the New Oxford was free of tie, the Black Lion wasn't and he had to run it under the umbrella of one of the larger pub groups. As it became successful, and made more money, the pub-co became greedier and wanted a bigger cut. Tim saw no other way that to cut and run, and the Black Lion closed. I know this is not unique, and many pubs have closed because of similar events, but surely a bit of give and take by the pub-co would have saved the Lion and we would not be mourning our loss.

Now I hear the same fate has befallen The Black Horse at Darwen. I don't suppose many readers will know the pub, and possibly will not care about somewhere in the depths of Lancashire, but let me explain why it has got under my, and many other people's, skin.

The Black Horse was another run down pub, just a back street local in a back street town (lets face it, who deliberately goes to Darwen?), until it was taken over a few years ago by an enterprising couple of blokes who saw some potential there. They built up its local trade and then gradually became more adventurous, for example organising beer and music festivals. Soon their festivals became 'must visit' events, attracting enthusiasts from all over. Even I have made the torturous trek across the hills. We were always treated to a superb festival with plenty of new beers, unusual breweries and the pub was well and truly on the map. The whole pub seemed to pull together to make the festivals happen, and the community spirit was self evident. The guys then set about brewing and soon the Graffiti brewery was up and running. More local employment, more choice for the locals and visitors alike.

Then things started to go wrong. The brewery closed, I do not know the reason, but I have my suspicions, and today I have read that the tenants have called it a day and left. Why? Well the greedy pub group has apparently hiked their rent up to an unsustainable level and consequently another landmark establishment has bitten the dust. It may well be that someone else will take the pub over, but no doubt it will be a smooth flow and lager joint, and the hard work that has been put in to save the place and bring the community together has been in vain. It's a sad day, not only for the drinkers of real ale and particularly the drinkers of Darwen, but for the drinking brotherhood as a whole.

And if it can happen there, it can happen here. In fact I can name several pubs that have closed, never to reopen in our local area, because the pub companies cannot see the wood for the trees, and demand their pound of flesh - very often two or three pounds in actuality. So let's support what we have, and be grateful that in our town we have many good pubs that are free of tie which are not only surviving but going from strength to strength. But let's also get behind the tied pubs too before they go the way of the Black Lion and Black Horse, and we are left to bemoan what we have lost.

Another Festival Success

Last weekend saw the 3rd Hall Bower Beer festival. I am not sure sure how they do it but the last three local festivals that needed good weather all got it, and when we arrived on Sunday afternoon there were plenty of drinkers already enjoying the sunshine at the outside tables.

The set up at the club was the tried and tested formula of paying for a glass and tickets for the beer, and at £1 a glass and the same for a half, no one could complain about overpricing. Inside the club were a range of about 15 handpulls all set up on a makeshift bar with a range of beers to suit all drinkers. Beers on the bar were replaced as they ran off so there was plenty to choose from.
As is often the case at local festivals, the first port of call is the Mallinsons pump before everyone else beats you to it. Their first two beers had run off on Saturday, but the replacements on Sunday were both excellent - Hall Bower Hop being exceptional. Clarks from Wakefield had also produced a couple of specials and both of these were also available.

Soon we were into trying all sorts of weird and wonderful tastes, many of them with a fruity theme. Not sure that the Coach House 'Banofee' worked, banana and toffee flavours don't quite do it for me. The Humpty Dumpty 'Lemon & Ginger' was better, at least they did blend together. The Green Jack 'Orange Wheat Beer' promised much but failed to deliver (I have had it before and it tasted better) but in my opinion the star of the festival came from Caledonian. Its not often I have said that but their 'Mexican Bandit' just hit the spot. Lager hops, a touch of wheat in the background, and the twist of lime made it ideal beer for a sunny afternoon. A winner.

Again, Lee and the team deserve lots of credit for putting on the festival and judging by the turnout their efforts were not in vain.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Beers of The Day 14th August

It is not often that beers from the West of England get a mention in these pages, but credit where its due, there are a couple of real gems on the bar at The Star at the moment, both from breweries that we have never previously highlighted.

Both beers were light, crisp and hoppy, and both were seriously drinkable. Just the thing for a pleasant summer's evening, that is if we ever get one. I doubt the beer will last that long. Neither brewery is new to the town, or to the pub but both are infrequent visitors here.

The first one was Monty's ' Desert Rats', coming in at 3.8%. Brewed in Montgomery, which I think is still in Wales, it has everything that Welsh beers don't usually have. There was no malty background, just bags of hop flavour bursting onto the tongue and almost forcing you into another pint. A super example of its type.

Along the bar Six Bells from Bishops Castle provided 'Skools Out'. (I assume they cannot spell in that part of the world, but they can certainly brew). A bit stronger at 4.2%, it was a similar beer to Monty's but the extra percentage strength gave it a bit more body with the same sort of hop attack.

Both were going well, so if you want to try them, I suggest an early visit may be in order, or you may be disappointed.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hall Bower Beer Festival

With so much emphasis on the town's gastro-fest at the moment you might be forgiven for overlooking a rather special event taking place up on Castle Hill this weekend. The third annual Hall Bower Athletic & Working Men's Club Beer Festival will get underway tomorrow lunchtime and promises to be the best yet.

Thankfully the worst of the weather will be out of the way and we can look forward to a little sunshine accompanying this mouth-watering list, that includes new beers from both Mallinsons and Clarks of Wakefield. Many thanks to Lee Millington at the club for the sneak preview!

Those wishing to avoid the arduous hill climb might consider the 354/355 bus service from town. (map)

What's at the Food and Drink Festival

Yesterday a bigger and better Huddersfield Food & Drink Festival opened for business, and judging by the amount of people about, looked to be doing a good trade - for a damp Thursday. Our interest, of course, was the beer on offer and this year there are four stalls from the local area specialising in our favourite tipple. At the top end of St. George's Square, nearest the railway station and making it's debut, is The Nook Brewhouse of Holmfirth which was selling the bottled versions of it's beers when I checked it out.

Close by, and another newcomer to the festival, is The Sportsman, where they are showcasing the 'LocAle' available. All handpulled, there are six beers on offer including Brass Monkey, Anglo Dutch and Golcar. I was particularly pleased to see that 'Silverback' was about again (there had been an issue with hop availability I believe) as it's one of the better Brass Monkey beers. In front of the George Hotel, the Elland Brewery stand is selling around five of their own beers covering a full range from weak to strong, light to dark. And across from them, The Star Inn, with two featured breweries, Mallinsons and Goose Eye. One light and one dark from each.

Encouragingly, all the stalls seemed to be attracting plenty of attention, so if drinking beer al fresco, amongst the myriad smells of some fabulous cooking, seems an ideal way to idle away a couple of hours, then get down there and take a look. I am sure you will not be disappointed. The festival continues until Sunday evening.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Festival Updates

The Huddersfield Food & Drink Festival gets underway tomorrow (is it just me or does it seem to have been going a fortnight already!) and as promised Mallinsons have a new beer to celebrate it's tenth year.

Those planning to do the Ale Trail between now and Sunday should look out for 'FAD About Town' (named by our very own Alison Spalding!) as it becomes available in the eight pubs taking part. The beer is refreshingly described as "blonde with a lemony citrus nose, a bitter citrus taste and a dry, lemony, citrus finish" - and will undoubtedly be a big hit.

Moving on a couple of weeks and details of The Sportsman's Summer Bank Holiday Weekend Fernandes Beer Festival (I'm sure Sam will come up with a snappier name!) are starting to emerge. The plan to include a Meet the Brewer evening on the Thursday (26th) looked like being scrapped with the brewers both on holiday but ex-Fernandes Brewery Tap landlady Liz Crosby has stepped up to the plate and will be there to give a talk and introduce the beers.

The format will be as before with tickets at £10 to include a hot supper, a newly designed Fernandes Brewery t-shirt plus all the beer samples you can manage (within reason!). We have been told up to 18 beers from the brewery will feature over the weekend and the full list (as it currently stands) can be seen here. Further details regarding ticket availability, food & music will be available soon.

Beer of the Day - 10th August

I said to myself that I would not do this, but unfortunately the beer was so good that it had to be mentioned. Of course I am referring to that M brewery again.

A visit to The Star Inn on Tuesday night revealed a bar that lovers of good ale can only dream about. On the bar was Mallinsons 'Huddersfield Pale Ale', that was rubbing shoulders with Goose Eye 'Geese A Kiss' and Wharfebank 'Tether Blonde' and on the strong beer pump, Mallinsons 'Fiery Mount', and that was just for starters !!

The 'HPA' was a top notch brew, light, hoppy and very moreish, the Goose Eye was a maltier brew that I am used to from Dave Atkinson, but very drinkable with a hint of caramel. According to him, it is a different brew to the previous one of that name, he had just forgotten he had used the name before - not surprising with the amount of beer he produces! The real star of the show was Tara Mallinson's 'Fiery Mount' though.

At 5% it is stronger than her usual brews, and the pump clip says it is a 'hazy ginger wheat beer', which is interesting in itself. That doesn't do it justice though. It is subtlety in a glass. The wheat gives it a soft, rounded background; the ginger is there, but not overpowering, as in some cases, and gives it a bit of a kick; the hops are also there, to add a little bite and fruitiness. I think it is basically 'Centennial,' but cannot be certain. All in all a superb beer, and one that will remain in the mind for a long time.

When I started the beer of the day I expected maybe one a week, not three on consecutive days, it just goes to show what a variety of beers we can find in Huddersfield, and how lucky and spoiled for choice we are here. Roll on tonight and see what gems I can unearth then, or if not I know I can return and revisit my old favourites, unless my namesake has drunk them all first !!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Platform 3 at WRLRR

As was mentioned last month in our piece on The West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms at Dewsbury railway station, the new stage, cleverly named Platform 3, will be at the heart of a three day music festival to mark it's official opening.

Local favourites the Jazz Dawgs will get things off to a lively start this Friday at 4pm with, no doubt, a dazzling display of dexterous diligence as dem dancin' dawgs digits deftly and dramatically define a diminuendic discourse of diatonic dualism in downtown Dewsbury etc etc ..... . For all the food & beer details please visit the pub's website.

Beer of the Day, 8th August

A quick call in the Kings Head, (why do I still want to call it the Station Tavern ?), yesterday revealed a bar full of beer to tempt any beer drinker, but passing over the Bradfield 'Farmers Blonde' and 'Hophead' from Dark Star, I went for the single hopped Pictish 'Citra'.

If you are unfamiliar with the brewery, they are based in Rochdale and have been brewing there for around 10 years. Their 'Brewers Gold' is a regular in the Star and often a guest in the Rat. Richard Sutton, the brewer, often brews single hop variety beers and this one is not to be missed.

Light and hoppy, with plenty of fruit background from the hop (more towards grapefruit or melon I found), Citra is an American hop that I am sure we will be seeing plenty more of in the future. I have already encountered Roosters and Ossett brewing with it and when other brewers realise its attributes I am sure they will follow suit.

Monday, August 09, 2010

This Weekend's Treat

If you read the sidebar on the blog, you will have noticed that this weekend Huddersfield drinkers are in for a treat or two.

Hall Bower club are having their beer festival on Saturday and Sunday. Although, not the easiest place to reach, it is well worth the effort if their previous festivals have been anything to go by. Go on, get up there and enjoy what's on offer.

Before you venture out into the wilds it should be worth your while to spend a little time in St. George's Square checking out the food & drink festival. Here you should find upwards of 30 stalls all promoting local products, from cheese to curry, from ostrich to venison, from fish to fowl. In addition, and possibly of more interest to our readers, are the real ale bars.

This year they have increased to four, with stalls from The Star, The Sportsman, Elland Brewery and the Nook, so hopefully there should be something there for everyone. Come along and see what is on, I am sure you won't be disappointed. And don't forget to do the 'Ale Trail' around the pubs, visit eight pubs, have a beer and get your programme stamped and claim your free glass. This has been extremely popular during the fortnight it's been running and looks set to become a permanent feature.

The festival runs from Thursday through till Sunday so there is plenty of time to sample everything and fit Hall Bower in as well.

Beer of the Day

In what we hope may be a useful addition to the blog, we are having a beer of the day. This will be selected from the pubs around town, and will be, in the eyes of the editors, the best or most interesting beer encountered that day. It will not be updated every day, but fairly regularly in order to give drinkers a pointer as to where to find something unusual to drink. Let us know what you think. Is it a good idea ? Is it worthwhile for you ?

The intention is to try to find a beer that may last more than one session, so that the entry is not obsolete before anyone reads it, but that is in the lap of the drinkers. Obviously, if we think its good, then hopefully others will too, so it is possible that it may have run off before the reader samples it.

There is the possibility too, that our tastes do not match yours, so we apologise in advance for recommending anything you may not like. I have even recommended beer that Will did not like before so even we are not exempt from having different tastes, (I still think the 'Sparrowhawk' was excellent, but I have never lived it down !!). We do not drink in every pub every day either, so our selection will come from the pubs we have visited that day, but the choice of pubs will vary to give a wide range of beer to choose from.

Anyway, less of the rambling and onto the beer of yesterday. The Grove had a new Thornbridge on offer.'Odells Colarado Red' weighed in at 5.9% and lived up to its claim of being a 'massively hopped red ale'. A quick check on their website revealed it was brewed in collaboration with an American craft brewer who has hopped it with no less than five English hops, including unusual ones such as Phoenix and Admiral and it has an interesting background from the speciality malts he has used. Worth worth a look.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

I must have too much time on my hands !!

As football fans will know the league season started again yesterday, and the blue & white Brazil sit proudly at the top of league one this morning. As I was idling my time away last night waiting for the 'Football League Show' to start I got to thinking of how many towns in the league have breweries as well, and could I transpose the towns and the breweries. It seems that I can !!

For instance yesterday, we could have had Golcar playing Castle Rock, this time Golcar coming out on top. Oakham travelled to the Bristol Brewing Co, Pictish against Camerons, Cumberland Brewing against Meantime, and so it goes on.

In the Championship, Ridgeside took on Flowerpot, and today Brains meet Kelham Island .The premiership gives us such gems as Marble, Wapping, Bull Lane, Banks and Lymestone to name but a few.

Try it yourself, it adds a bit more interest to the league tables, or may be you aren't as sad as I am !!!

Two More Breweries Close

After reading another beer related website it appears that the Highgate brewery, who brewed the Davenports fruit beer I was so scathing about, in a previous blog, have finally closed after many previous scares. I hope it wasn't my comments that upset them !!

Seriously though, it is a shame when breweries close, even though Highgate beer did not often reach these parts, and when it did it was not usually very good.

I have also read in the 'New Imbiber', (if you are are not familiar with the publication pick one up in The Grove or The Star, its well worth £1.50 of anyone's money to catch up with new breweries or new beers), that Kevin Yelland, late of the Rat and more recently the Alehouse brewery in St Albans has also stopped brewing. Kev was never afraid to try new things with his brews and his use of American hops, and beer brewed in American styles were legendary. Hope we see him back on the scene again before too long.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Golcar Scoop GBBF Award

The Champion Beer of Britain, as voted for at the Great British Beer Festival yesterday was Castle Rock 'Harvest Pale', followed by runner-up Timothy Taylor's 'Landlord' and in third Surrey Hills ' Hammer Mild'.

However of greater interest to local readers will be the joint bronze award in the Mild Category, picked up by the Golcar Brewery here in Huddersfield for it's 3.4% Dark Mild. This is a wonderful achievement when the depth of competition at GBBF is considered and we congratulate John Broadbent and all connected with the brewery. Golcar beers are a regular feature at The Sportsman in town so if you've yet to try the mild, or any of the brewery's output, then now's the time to get out and help celebrate this well deserved award.

As usual, the final three seem to have been safe rather than adventurous, but I cannot complain. Harvest Pale is a good quality quaffing ale and is available fairly regularly, even around these parts. We all know about 'Landlord' and its pedigree, if you will excuse the pun, but the Hammer Mild is new to me and I shall await it's arrival with interest.

Castle Rock are from Nottingham and have been brewing since 1998, producing a core range that includes the aforementioned 'Harvest Pale' (which according to the Good Beer Guide is 50% of their output), 'Elsie Mo', 'Hemlock' and 'Screech Owl'. What interests me about them most are the monthly specials that often include a wildlife theme due to the relationship with the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust - a worthy cause. These cover all sorts of styles and tastes, and although not easy to find, are well worth the search.

For once I do not totally disagree with the judges decision, and think Castle Rock are a worthy winner of the award. But roll on next year - lets get a Huddersfield beer in the top three!!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

In Praise of Fruit Beer?

While Will was in one bar of the Grove, waxing lyrical about the joys of American beer, I was in the other bar suffering one of the most unpleasant experiences I have ever experienced in a glass, thankfully I had only ordered a half but that was quite enough to set me off on a rant. I had the misfortune to encounter Davenports 'Strawberry Fields'.

Before I get going, let me say that I do not dislike all fruit beers. The Belgians do wonderful things with fruit for example, and some British breweries make a decent attempt. This was not one of them though. If you want a glass of something thick, syrupy and sickly this is the beer for you. It reminded me of the strawberry juice that you squeeze onto ice cream, not what I want in a beer at all. I am sure this is a beer made with strawberry essence, and lots of it at that.

I am not even sure strawberry and beer should go together anyway. I had a similar horrific experience with a Batemans strawberry beer a few years back, which almost made me a lager drinker it was so appalling. I do not think for a minute that brewers do things like this deliberately to annoy me but that certainly succeeded. After some considered reflection I have concluded that it is not the fruit that is the problem, but the way the fruit reaches the beer. Let me try to explain.

Coach House brew plenty of fruit beers, some are 5% and other are 4.4%. The 5% 'Blueberry' is one of the best beers I have ever tasted, clean and refreshing and many of the other 5% range are similar, with the fruit being incidental to the beer. I believe, although I am not totally sure, that these beers use proper fruit. The weaker varieties exhibit all the problems I earlier mentioned, being sweet and sickly and I would assume use fruit essence. This changes the character of the beer entirely and the fruit becomes overwhelming. Why do they do it ?

I can name any number of beers that suffer from the same problem, Wells 'Banana Bread' beer is a perfect example. Who, in their right mind, would want a beer tasting of sweet bananas ? Saltaire are also guilty sometimes of making beers that have the same characteristics.

Casting my mind back, I remember the Kitchen brewery at Aspley, (who can forget them?) where Rob Johnson threw all sorts of fruit and veg into his beers. They may not have been to everyone's taste. Lets face it, onions, potatoes, and parsley are not your usual flavours for beers. But none of the beers I came across tasted like syrup, I assume therefore, that he used the real thing and not concentrate in his brews. Why can't other brewers follow his example ?

I know this is my opinion, and that does not count for much in the great scheme of things, but there are plenty of good ingredients to put into beer nowadays, why use cheap essence as a flavouring ? And spare a though for the poor publican who has to clean his/her lines after one of these beers has been on the bar, it will take forever to take the taste away. There, I have said it,I must make my way round to the other side of the bar now to try the American stuff, to try to cleanse my palette.