Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Brewers Pride, Ossett

How many times have we been asked the question “which is your favourite pub?” Guess it depends upon how often you are in one; but usually the answer tends to be the one you use most. You know the customers, the staff, the beers….what you can and cannot get away with etc. But I digress…

I was first introduced to The Brewers some 20+ years ago by the then head brewer at Clark’s in Wakefield; we occasionally had the odd half of light ale together in Henry Boons. One afternoon whilst chatting to David Garthwaite he suggested we had a wander up to what was then “Boons End” - and even to this day a lot of people still refer to it as such. I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, and the memory of the pub at the bottom of the hill stuck in my mind. It took a couple of years before I ventured there again, this time in a taxi - and I thought I would find it easily. One wrong turn later and find it I did, and have since ventured down that hill and back more times than I care to mention.

The pub is situated one mile down Healey Road from Ossett in the middle of an old industrial area. The look I get from everyone I take there is one that reads “where the hell is he taking me now?” The area does not detract from it's appeal; but merely heightens it as you feel, once inside the doorway, that you are in a country inn. It is a “four square” simple style pub; originally the Millers Arms (from the mills surrounding it I guess) with “best room” and bar almost one large area plus rear tap room.

It was purchased from Clark’s by the well known Bob Hunter, around the same time as he sold his award winning “Beer Engine”, taking it from a good local’s pub to a super one. He joined forces with Bob Lawson to open the Ossett Brewery in an extension to the rear, and fulfilled a lifelong ambition to brew his own ale. Bob's commitment to the brewery and the option of having staff members Sally and Jo and their then partners to take on the lease, led Bob to relinquish control and simply let the four of them get on with the day to day running of the pub.

Once the brewery partnership had gone its way and Ossett Brewery had moved to much needed larger premises, a spell of bad health for Bob led him to be persuaded to sell the pub to Sally and partner Jon. And the investment made to the pub I know they both love has been immense over recent years; revamped drinking areas, vastly improved toilet facilities (some of the best you will encounter in a basic pub), large catering kitchen, green oak covered smoking shelter... the list goes on.

The bar has the usual keg selection without any smoothflow or it's ilk. The recent addition of Belle vue Kriek and Addlestones Cider augments the numerous distinctive continental brews that include the likes of de Koninck, Vedett Extra White, Kuppers Kolsch and Timmermans Straw.

But to get to the point; ALE?
Yes sir; 9 hand pumps….. and you can pretty much guarantee what a drinker will have….
From Right to left (line 1 to 9)
Line 1 - a medium range light hoppy ale; Phoenix, Durham, Roosters, Oakham and so many many more pass through this very popular pump.
Line 2 - is always Bob's White Lion; brewed in the old Ossett brewery extension to the rear of the establishment (more later).
Line 3 - tends to lend itself more to a variety of beers of a lower gravity and in the darker months is often a mild.
Lines 4 and 5 - are usually more traditional beer lines but also open up to new brewers and new brews.
Line 6 - tends to rotate around Hopback Summer Lightning, Bob's Chardonnayle, Kelham Island Pale Rider or Ossett Excelsior with the odd other light coloured beer appearing around the 5%+ mark.
Line 7 - is usually a dark beer varying in strength.
Line 8 - is Rudgate Ruby Mild; a very loyal following but if it ever got taken off I think Lord Felton would flay John alive!
Line 9 - tends to be the top of the shop; not always dark but usually in excess of 6% - so be warned.

On top of this a large range of bottles and some very good wines including fruit wines compliment one of the best standard ranges of beers in the country. Maybe not all things to all men but you would have a struggle not to find something you like. The addition of a small rear “Belgian style” bar to support the restaurant is worth a look when open. And they know what they are doing; if you think a beer is off you will get an alternative without question; but for those who are not sure (e.g. those not used to a wheat beer) can simply ask for a taster.

Food wise they have been unlucky, as the original chef they wanted to start off their gastro-enterprise died at a very young age; a more talented and warm hearted person you could not wish to meet. Since then they have invested hugely in the upstairs Millers restaurant and a wonderful catering kitchen that can turn out everything from mini fish and chips at under £3 to high end dining. Whatever you want to eat, whether it is a light bite with a pint at lunchtime or a five course meal to celebrate an anniversary; they can provide.

So get out a little; wander down the hill and immerse yourself in a traditional Yorkshire boozer with so much to offer all folk…just don’t suggest it belongs to Ossett brewery; they would love it too! Those of you who have visited almost any Ossett pub will see what they have almost all been modelled on. Plagiarism it is not; but it is still a most sincere form of flattery.

I have been very lucky in life to have visited some of the finer real ale establishments around the country; including the two pubs that have won the national pub of the year twice. I guess the only reason The Brewers has not made it is because of its location; off the beaten track with some pretty poor transport links. The Brewers Pride is open all day, every day and there is regular live music from acoustic inside to rock bands outside in the summer. Summer Bank Holiday weekend sees the pub's annual beer festival.

Whilst this may not be every persons “favourite pub”, it is mine. But if you are coming, please don’t bring a busload without letting the pub know in advance…otherwise you may end up having me work behind the bar! (map) (website)

Script: BJ, Photos: Will

The easiest way by public transport is from Dewsbury bus station on the 117 and shortly after leaving Ossett bus station, hop off and walk down the hill. The 102 does go down the hill but runs so damn infrequently it is somewhat frustrating and finishes too early in the day for a decent session.

From Wakefield the same bus can be caught; but I am advised that for the sake of the extra two minutes walk, take the 126 or 127 to the top of Southdale Road and then sharp right onto Healey Road. The walk back up the hill can be a killer; but try offering a driver a pint and he may give you a lift. The walk from Ossett bus station is less than half an hour should you choose.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Beer of the Day - 26th September

This weekend again provided a couple of gems for the drinkers of Huddersfield. One beer that should be fairly widely available, one less so. To deal with the latter first, The Star was privileged to have a barrel of Steel City 'Master of the Spooniverse' on it's bar. As readers will be aware, this is a brewery we rate very highly because of their commitment to hops and their skill in crafting beer. This was no exception - 4.2% and packed with flavour. It was brewed in memory of beer ticker Chris Fudge, who sadly died earlier this year, and in everyone's opinion, a classic.

A trip to the Grove provided another excellent beer. I have always liked Crouch Vale beers, especially their single hopped ones, and there were a couple on the the bar there to tempt me. Their 'Brewers Gold' has been in the brewery's portfolio for some time, and is considered one of their regular beers. It is 4% and provides everything one would expect from the hop with a bitter but fresh fruitiness giving a clean tasting refreshing pint. It even won 'Champion Beer Of Britain' twice, in 2005 and again in 2006. However I was more than interested to try their 'Apollo', another single hop beer. The pump clip states 'intensely hoppy' and they have got it right. The beer provides a massive hop hit which is balanced by a bitter and fruity aftertaste. A classic hop from Oregon made into a classic beer from Essex.

A quick look at their website shows what we northerners have been missing. The brewery, who have been in production for nearly 30 years and are based in South Woodham Ferrers, not only provide a range of regular beers but also brew monthly specials which very rarely reach our part of the world. The specials list show a commitment to using unusual hops which we northern drinkers would more likely associate with Acorn or Pictish breweries, but if their other beers are as good as the 'Apollo' then may be a trip down to Essex may be in order! Unless of course, someone can get a regular supply for us up here to sample. Hint hint!!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Day Out In Liverpool

As readers of 'A Swift One' will be aware we sometimes go out and about to see what other places have to offer as regards beer and pubs and yesterday I tripped off to the city of Liverpool to have a look at a pub crawl in a part of the city I had only briefly visited before. My original intention was a short pub crawl centering on Dale Street which provided four pubs in the new Beer Guide, one an old favourite and three new to me. It did not quite turn out that way, that but more of that later.

Dale Street is an easy walk from Lime Street railway station. Turn right out of the station, cross the road and walk down the side of St George's Hall, then across the roundabout at the bottom of the road by the entrance to the Mersey tunnel and up to the right. All the pubs I went into open between 11 and 12 o'clock so you can be home in plenty of time for tea!!

My first call was an old favourite The Ship & Mitre. An old art deco building on the right hand side of the road (in fact all the pubs I visited were on this side of the road), it is a pub with plenty of choice for the beer enthusiast with over 12 ever changing guest beers on hand pulls around the circular bar which serves four different rooms. Here I found offerings from near and far and settled for a beer from the uncommon Gertie Sweet brewery, and an uncommon beer from the Leeds brewery - both reasonably priced. All their beers are available in 1/3 pints for those who want to sample more of the range. I was disappointed to find I had missed their Autumn beer festival by a week when over 70 beers were on. I suppose I would never have moved on had this been the case. What I did find was a copy of 'Merseyale', the local CAMRA group's superb magazine with a copy of the Liverpool pubs passport. This shows 80 plus pubs in full colour with an easy to use map. It suddenly opened up another few pubs in the area and expanded my crawl considerably.

The next pub on the list was The Vernon Arms, a few minutes walk down Dale Street. This was a new pub to me, having only been reopened a couple of years ago and a fine job they have made of it too. Retaining the old tiled front, the pub is on a street corner with two entrances to the fine looking Victorian bar. I am not sure if it is original but it certainly looks the part. Here I opted for a beer from Derwent brewery and another from the local Liverpool Organic out of the eight on the bar. The latter was off but was changed for a new barrel without hesitation.

The next two pubs on the list were also Beer Guide listed. I suspect they are under common ownership but cannot be sure. Both sold Okells beers from the Isle of Man. Thomas Rigby's is on the main road and The Lady of Man is set back in a shared courtyard behind. As well as the Okells's beers, each had a guest beer which I opted for, both from larger breweries. By this time the pubs were becoming more crowded with office workers, all out for a beer and some lunch (all the pubs mentioned do food by the way). Again Rigby's looks a Victorian pub with an imposing frontage, but lacking the ornate tiling of the Vernon. The Lady of Man is a smaller one- roomed pub which I suspect could get very cramped when busy.

By now I had exhausted my list of Dale Street pubs but the newly acquired map soon led me to another GBG listed pub, just off the main drag. Ye Hole In The Wall is actually on Hackin Hay, which connects Dale Street with Tithebarn Street behind. This is another small, busy pub with a tiled frontage and a myriad of small rooms off the central bar. There was a beer festival on the go here, but with only larger brewery beers showcased on my visit. A quick half and off again and up the road into Tithebarn Street.

The Railway is the first pub I came across on my way back towards Lime Street. Another imposing looking building but very busy, and after struggling to get served I gave up the ghost and tried the Lion Tavern. Easy to find, by Moorfields station, it is another striking corner pub, painted red and white. Again however, from my point of view, the beer range was a bit uninspired, so just another quick half and off again.

The James Monroe is on the opposite side of the road, and again on a corner - this one painted grey. It is in the guide so it was a bit of a shock to walk into what was, to all intents and purposes, a restaurant. Here I found three hand pulled beers and selected a beer I had not come across from Wychwood. There was only one table not set up for dining though, so after an uncomfortable few minutes I decided to call it a day.

From here, it is an easy walk back to Lime Street but I decided to take a longer route and include the Cains showcase pub, Doctor Duncan's, in my itinerary. Just down from the station and the nearby bus station, it is another large pub which has the entire range of Cains beer on offer. I settled for the 'Voyager' and spent a few minutes watching the world go by.It's literally a couple of minutes back to the station from here so is a great place to end a crawl.

All in all, I was very impressed with what a previously unexplored part of Liverpool had to offer. The pubs are mostly wonderfully preserved and although not heritage listed by CAMRA, are all historic in their own way. The beer range varied from the exceptional to the bland but that should not detract from what is a good way to spend a few hours in the city. I was just a little surprised how few local beers were on offer in the pubs I visited, with the area being home to many up and coming new breweries. Perhaps I just caught a bad day. Don't let that put you off trying it though.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

York Festival Ale Trail

Anyone visiting York's annual Food & Drink Festival this weekend will have the opportunity to join a Real Ale Trail that takes in twelve of the city's finest hostelries. It's the usual drill - pick up a card, collect your stamps and claim the t-shirt. For a list of the participating pubs, visit the festival website.

And if twelve is not enough then seek out the Rook & Gaskill, just outside the walls, where an Indian Summer Beer Festival is taking place. A fair few Indian Pale Ales are promised amongst the 18 or so beers available. (map)

A Beer Guide Whinge

I have said a fair amount about the Good Beer Guide in the last few days, concentrating on local issues. I will have a whinge about it in general too though. Something which occurred to me when I realised I had overlooked The Sair's exclusion.

It is certainly a useful tool for carrying about and finding pubs in unfamiliar areas, I am not denying that, but my complaint is the arbitrary way that these areas are split up. For example it shows Huddersfield, and then separate entries for surrounding villages like Meltham, Marsden and Slaithwaite whilst leaving Bradley lumped in with the town centre pubs. This could be fairly confusing to a visitor hoping to get The White Cross in on a walking tour of the town's finest.

Take Leeds. The City centre is covered, but there is an entry for Holbeck as well. How many passing through Leeds know that the Holbeck pubs listed are as close, if not closer, to the railway station than those listed for the city? And who really knows where Holbeck is? I certainly don't if I use the guide's criteria. Sheffield suffers a similar fate, with a strange split between Sheffield Centre and Sheffield North.

In contrast, Manchester City centre is listed without any splits. Liverpool likewise, although it does show different areas outside the centre. Maybe this method should be adopted throughout, using the postcode as a starting point and anything under that postcode listed as a sub-district of the nearest large town/city e.g. Huddersfield:Meltham.

I realise I am being a little pedantic and I know there is a map to help, but this is not necessarily on the page that you need when searching for those unfamiliar pubs, and the small scale means it is of little use, especially in West Yorkshire where there are so many entries seemingly on top of one another. I just want it to be as easy to use as possible when I'm out and about, and think that with a little more thought there would be less likelyhood of some decent pubs being overlooked by the touring drinker.

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Brewery in York?

The Junction on Leeman Road has reopened as the Junction Brewhouse. What a transformation: the pub is completely unrecognisable from previous incarnations. Pool tables and fruit machines are no more and the pub is comfortable, welcoming and imaginatively laid out. There’s a big back room which is neither cavernous nor regimented, thanks to the clever use of varied furniture and a raised area in one corner.

The smaller bar at the front is lighter, with a wooden floor and bench seating; throughout there are interesting beer and brewery-related pictures on the walls. The beer range is extensive and interesting: Copper Dragon Golden Pippin, Rooster’s Yankee and Fuller’s London Pride were just three of seven we had the choice of. The planned on-site brewery may well be open by the time you read this, with the first beer likely to be called Trainspotter. (map)

Beer Guide Shock

When I read the latest 'Good Beer Guide' I managed to miss something fairly obvious. This year, for the first time in many, we are without The Sair at Linthwaite. The former CAMRA pub of the year has amazingly dropped out of the guide.

I am not privy to the local campaign committees thinking on this matter, but in my opinion, for what its worth, this is a poor decision. I have known previous years where the beer at the pub has not been up to scratch and other times when brewing has even been suspended in favour of bought in beer, but in the recent past the beer has been back to its usual standard, according to my sources, and the pub has not changed in any significant way. Maybe it has fallen behind some others in the area and the committee thought other pubs more worthy of inclusion, but it is a sad day when an iconic beer house, for that's what The Sair is, is dropped.

It is also worthy of note that the local committee have not chosen any clubs to represent the town or it's surrounding villages. I mentioned before that Marsh Liberal has been dropped, but the clubs at Armitage Bridge and Hall Bower, who may have been considered suitable replacements, are also not included. All three show a commitment to real ale and host successful beer festivals, so again I find the thinking a little strange. I know there are only so many spaces in the guide for the area, so sometimes pubs and clubs who we think justify inclusion get left out, but I feel the attitude of the clubs to real ale in these parts should at least gain some sort of recognition. Obviously not this year.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Beer of the Day - 18th September

You know what it's like when you are sitting in a pub, lots of beer but none to your taste, and you start thinking, 'its not going to be my day today', when suddenly a beer runs off, and like the sun rising over the mountains a pump clip appears that fills your heart with joy and your mouth with anticipation. (I should write poetry really!!).

Well that was the situation the The Star yesterday afternoon around 5pm when the familiar sight of a Steel City beer appeared on the bar. We were treated to 'The Seventies Are Dead' at 4.2%, and as would be expected from the guys from Sheffield, not shy in the hop department. In fact crammed with hop flavour that exploded on the tongue leaving a pleasant bitter finish. It can only be described as another classic from what is a brewery with a rapidly growing reputation.

The beers are brewed at the Little Ale Cart plant in Sheffield at the moment and appear sporadically as both the brewers hold down other jobs. But every beer I have sampled by them shows their love of hops, in particular the 'Holy Trinity' of American hops as brewer Dave, lovingly describes them. This one is no exception. If you get the chance, get down to The Star and try it out. I am sure you will be impressed - I certainly was.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What's New In The 2011 Beer Guide

As all beer enthusiasts will be aware, September is the publication month of the beer drinker's bible, 'The Good Beer Guide'. The 2011 version has just come out and, as the resurgence of real ale continues to gain momentum at a bewildering rate, has to be the most essential purchase of the year.

Obviously the first thing to do is to check if your favourite pub has made it through, and I am pleased to say that there are hardly any changes in our area from last year. We have lost Marsh Liberal Club in favour of The Sportsman, but otherwise the status quo has been maintained. There are seven entries that cover Huddersfield itself plus others that include places up the Holme and Colne Valleys. The Commercial at Slaithwaite makes a welcome appearance, rubbing shoulders with its sister pub The Swan, to illustrate just how much Jonny Holmes has done to bring real ale back to this corner of Yorkshire.

The real treat comes when you check the number of breweries in the county. We now have 35 (if my maths are correct) with three new additions this year - and none falling by the wayside according to the guide (and although I beg to differ - I'm not going to argue with the guide editor about it!). It just shows what an up and coming area we live in for real ale, and what a choice we have. Obviously some beer is more accessible than others. How many people have drunk a beer from BareArts in Todmorden for example? But that is being picky - West Yorkshire brewing is certainly on the up and we should celebrate that fact.

The guide is set out in it's usual format with pubs listed by counties and brewers in alphabetical order. There's also a handy index to sort out those problems that some of us, with less than perfect handwriting, have when trying to match up beer names with breweries! All in all this is a worthy addition to anyone's bookshelf and is a useful tool when you end up stranded in a strange town looking for a decent pint. More than once it has come to my rescue, and I have no doubt that the new guide will serve me equally well as it's predecessors - so lets all grab a copy and head out to see what we can find. Cheers! (Order here)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dark Star - a Southern Success

One brewery that is often seen around these parts but seems to get little recognition is Dark Star of Sussex. Their 'Hophead' is often to be found in the Kings Head and they now have a dedicated pump in The Grove. In addition a couple of their beers have been guesting in The Star in the last few days. So what do we know about them?

The brewery started in the cellar of the Evening Star pub in Brighton as a hobby but soon demand was such that they needed larger premises and they moved in 2001 to a purpose built 15 barrel plant in Haywards Heath. Earlier this year they tripled their capacity after another move, this time to an industrial estate in Horsham.

Like most breweries they have a core range with seasonals and monthly specials. Many of their beers are widely available, and in my opinion, rarely fail to impress. The Good Beer Guide lists six, all of differing styles, and their website lists many more.

The aforementioned 'Hophead' is one of their more popular beers. Described as having 'a fruity/hoppy aroma' and a 'citrus/bitter taste' it covers most bases that the hoppy drinker requires. I am more interested in their less common beers though. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, their 'Tripel' is a superb beer but a bit hefty at 8.5%, but if you want something a little less taxing then they brew 'American Pale IPA' at 4.7%, full of American hop flavour as would be expected from Chinook and Centennial.

At this time of year 'Hylder Blonde' makes an appearance; a 4.2% elderflower beer, delicate and lightly hopped, ideal for a warm evening. This is backed up by 'Espresso', again 4.2% but dark and rich and enhanced with real espresso coffee beans, and has previously been voted 'The World's Best Speciality Beer'. 'Winter Meltdown' will also be around soon, which has a subtle ginger and spicey background taste. If you want the full list of available and upcoming beers, their website is more than informative.

The brewers are certainly not afraid to experiment with hops and styles either. Their beers cover the whole range of hops currently available, from the English to the New World and they mix malts to recreate old forgotten classics. They also use foreign yeasts to brew authentic style foreign specialities. All in all, a very consistent brewery, whether the beer be light, dark or something in between. Long may they prosper.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Battle of Britain Beer Festival at The Old Colonial Club

There are one or two new beers to try at this weekend's Old Colonial Club festival, celebrating both the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the landlord's birthday (don't think he's seventy though!). Around 20 beers will be available at this Mirfield Good Beer Guide entrant including a special from Mallinsons. Full details and the beer list so far can be read here. (map)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Reindeer Beer Festival

Right on our border with Wakefield is the Reindeer Inn at Overton, and this weekend will see the pub's third annual Beer, Cider & Music Festival. This popular well organised event is yet another out of town success story and, judging by the beer list, is sure to add to it's quickly establishing reputation. (map)

The full list of ciders & perrys including tasting notes can be seen here.

Beer of the Day - 9th September

The highlight of an interesting range of beers on the bar at The Star last night came from Five Towns, a brewery based in Altofts near Wakefield (not as some think, in Arnold Bennet's Potteries!) that is getting a reputation for good, consistent beer.

'Niamh's Nemesis' is not for the faint hearted, weighing in at 5.7%, but is a very drinkable light beer with subtle rather than aggressive hoppiness and plenty of flavour. It has little in the way of maltiness or sweetness but cannot be called too bitter either, just a good rounded example of a strong, light beer.

It has appeared several times on the bar at The Star and never lasts long. I understand the brewer himself is only part time, fitting in his brewing with his day job as a nurse. The brewery has been on the go since 2008 with 'Niamhs' listed as one of the four core beers in the Beer Guide. A brewery to look out for.

Check out the brewery's blog here.

A Quick Trip Around Leeds

Yesterday I had some time to kill, so decided to revisit some pubs I had not been to for some time in Leeds. I have never classed Leeds as a brilliant drinking town, which is a shame because it offers some wonderful historic pubs, but none seem to have a range of beers to attract the 'ticker'. This is what I found.

I decided to start at the Palace which stands in the shadow of Leeds Parish Church. The pub was much as I remembered it, large and airy with plenty of room inside plus outside seating as well and is now part of the Nicholson's pub chain, a little more of which later. It offers eight or so beers, but these are mostly regulars from bigger breweries. There were beers from Sharps, Caledonian and Bass but I chose the only new beer on the bar to me, Thornbridge 'Brian Turners Golden Ale'. It was priced at £2.90 which was a bit of a shock, but in good condition. Not a bad start - but it wouldn't last.

I then made my way up Eastgate, bypassing the Three Legs and the Horse & Trumpet, to Whitelocks in Briggate. This is a Leeds institution and is a pub steeped in history, apparently going back to 1715. Totally the opposite of the Palace, seating here was at a premium inside. It is rather gloomy, probably because it is situated in a small alleyway, but there is some outside seating available . I found a range of eight beers on offer here too, but again nothing out of the ordinary. I settled for their house beer brewed by the Leeds brewery, but there were beers from York, and Theakstons on the bar as well.

My next port of call was the North Bar in New Briggate, near the Grand Theatre. Another long, thin pub, and easy to miss as it just looks to be a shop front. It is modern inside and it's decor gives it a fresh, clean feel. The bar is at the far end and alongside the four handpumps it offers a vast array of foreign bottled beer. I ignored these and settled down with Roosters 'Wild Mule' as I watched the workers of Leeds scurrying past the front of the pub going about their lunchtime business.

Onwards and upwards. My next pub was one I had not visited for years. The Victoria stands on Great George Street, behind the Town Hall. A superbly ornate building with plenty of room inside and again a decent number of beers on the bar. This is another in the Nicholson's chain, whose speciality appears to be food, or more precisely every sort of sausage you could imagine! The beer range was a bit staid, though I did manage to find a Morrissey Fox that was new to me. The Victoria is certainly worth a call if only for its splendid interior.

Just down the road stands Mr Foleys on the Headrow. It is the pub I usually visit because it's beer range is different to the rest of Leeds, often having something unusual to offer. Not this time though. Four York beers from their regular range plus some rather uninspired guests. Never mind, can't win them all.

It was getting on a bit now so I omitted the Town Hall Tavern from my itinerary (all Taylors beers usually) and headed for the Leeds Brewery Tap just down from the railway station. Again, a very modern pub conversion and a place that's always busy because of it's location. It has a basic core range of three Leeds beers and their seasonal special, plus a couple of guests. I was impressed to find Acorn 'Pacific Jade' on the bar here and settled down with that to gather my thoughts.

In my opinion, if that counts for much, Leeds has plenty of interesting pubs to visit, and whilst I only scratched the surface here (albeit a decent cross-section), for the beer enthusiast the range on offer was bland and uninteresting with the larger breweries predominating. If I had been in 'beer ticking' mode I would have been very disappointed with what was available. It is not in the same league as Manchester or Sheffield I'm sorry to say, and even in Huddersfield we offer a better range. Sorry Leeds, must do better, or it will be a while before I come back around your pubs again.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

If You Like Your Beer Hoppy......

... then take a trip to The Grove. Yesterday it proved to be a real Mecca for the hop enthusiast - trouble was you had to like you beers strong as well. It was pointless trying to work out a beer of the day, but if you're willing to go strong, you will be rewarded with some real classics.

Starting with the weakest first, Durham provided 'On The Hop' which came in at a sensible 4.2%, and proved that the brewery has not lost its knack of making quaffable, light beers. This was just as one would expect from them, rounded, clean and with a hoppy kick. Nothing too excessive, but a decent beer from a good brewery.

Then it started to get a bit silly. Next up was Oakleaf 'IPA' which was 5.5%. The increase in strength was more than matched by the increase in hoppiness and bitterness and was close to what, in my opinion, a true IPA should taste like. Not a 3.9% watered down version but a beer that deserved respect. Could anything else on the bar match this ?

Well, yes and no. The next up in strength was Thornbridge 'Halcyon' at 7.7% making a reappearance at the pub after a month or so. Again we were rewarded with a beer of great hop flavour, and full of interesting fruit background with grapefruit and mango to to the fore. Incidentally I never saw the pump clip so I am unsure if this is 'Halcyon' or the 2009 'Green Hop Halcyon' .

By now, strength was no problem and to finish (me) off was Dark Star, 'Tripel' at a mere 8%. I don't know how they do it, but like Thornbridge, every Dark Star beer seems to be to my taste and this was no exception. It was a great take on a Belgian Tripel and full of resinous hop flavours and I assume brewed with a Belgian yeast to give an authentic flavour. Another great beer. (I left the Brewdog 'Punk IPA', not exactly shy on the hop front, and Thornbridge 'Jaipur' with its wonderful array of hop flavours for another day!)

So, if you are a hop monster, may be its time to pitch a tent in the beer garden at The Grove and get stuck in while you can.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Triangle Beer Festival

And, as has just been pointed out by the ever-observant Brian, the mysterious Messrs. Smith & Marshall of West Yorkshire's newest brewery Landlords Friend, will be putting in an appearance at this year's Triangle Beer Festival.

On the bus route from Sowerby Bridge to Ripponden, this cricket club festival has already built up a good reputation and following, despite it's brief history. Further details, including a full beer & cider list with tasting notes, can be found here.

Another New West Yorkshire Brewery

We have been informed by 'Bloke from Hull', strange how he gets to know things before we do over here, that another new brewery has opened in the county. This one is called 'Landlords Friend' and is based in Mytholmroyd. Very little else is known about them except they apparently brew two beers; Mr Smith and Mr Marshall.

It is rumoured that they are available at Milans in Halifax, which again is a bit of a surprise because I have never associated them with real ale in the past. As always, we will keep our ear to the ground and keep you up to date with any further details.

True to form the bloke from Hull comes up trumps yet again. The brewery is the brainchild of Chris Holroyd who owns Milans and also Kershaw House at Mytholmroyd. He has been brewing for a couple of months and his beer is available at Milans in Halifax. Mr Smith is a 3.7% session bitter, Mr Marshall is a light 3.8% beer. No doubt on of our intrepid team will try them soon and update further.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Pure North Cider Update

The latest cider producer in the county is Rob North who has been working hard up at the Pure North Cider Press on his farm at Deanhouse, Holmfirth nestled in the Holme Valley. He launched his first serious cider at his local pub, The Cricketers Arms on July 24th 2010.

At 6% ABV Pure North Cider is full bodied with a subtle dry aftertaste, bursting with a natural apple aroma.

Rob’s cider has been lovingly nurtured, pressed by hand and delivered with care not only to the Cricketers but also to the Nook in Holmfirth and the Sportsman in Huddersfield town centre and has been well received at all three. The cider is made from a blend of traditional cider apples, fermented naturally, free from all preservatives and is full of anti-oxidants.

Purity - No concentrates, sugars, sulphites or colourings.
Natural - Pure apple juice, fermented slowly the traditionally.
Nurtured - Hand crafted and lovingly matured.
Quality - Produced locally in limited supply.

To find out more, please contact Rob North on 07720 398706
or by e-mail: info@purenorthciderpress.com
Website: http://www.purenorthciderpress.com/

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Beers of the Day - 31st August

After the wonderful beer about over the weekend, I was doubtful that this week would produce much of a similar quality. Seems I was wrong. Tuesday did not start too auspiciously though. I did have one of the worst beers I have encountered for some time in the Cherry Tree. It would not be fair to name it but suffice it to say it had little or no condition, and even less flavour. I abandoned my effort part way through my half.

My next stop was the Rat & Ratchet. There on the bar was Riverhead 'Sherbet Lemon'. It is not a new beer, having been around a few times before, but this was at it's best ever. 4%, light and refreshing, and very drinkable with a decent lemon flavour - I assume from real lemon or lemon rind as I have never come across a hop giving such a fresh lemon hit before - with just a hint of fizz, so maybe real sherbet in there too. It was as good as the previous beer in the Cherry Tree was bad.

The Star also provided another classic. Those who managed to drink the Raw 'Hop Rush' last week commented how similar the new arrival was. This was Steel City 'New World Disorder'. Gazza and Dave always manage to make beers that are full of hops and bitterness, and again, their new offering does not disappoint. It was brewed at the Little Ale Cart plant in Sheffield and at 5.2% has plenty of body as well as flavour. Yet another great beer from a couple of part time brewers whose reputation seems to grow with each new brew. Get it while you can, I doubt it will be around for long.