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.