Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Quartet to make the Mouth Water

As we were sitting sampling the 'APA' in the previous post, we got to thinking how we would mark the end of the beer year. Instead of our usual beer awards we decided to put our heads together and reflect on the new breweries that had made the greatest impression on us in the last 12 months. These are the 4 we chose.

Locally we were impressed by the great strides made in a short time by Magic Rock. They only started brewing in May but have attracted plaudits from drinkers far and wide, and their beers have travelled the length and breadth of the country. They basically brew a core range, but each one is excellent, from the 3.9% 'Curious' to the 5.5% 'High Wire'. They certainly know how to brew hoppy beers, and are not afraid to experiment as their 'Curious NZ' proved. This is not the only string to their bow however, and their 'Surreal Stout' at 6%, is a classic of its style, although hard to find, and if you like a red ale then 'Rapture' could be the thing for you, even though I have found it a little variable in the recent past. Magic Rock have also entered the key keg market, and some of their stronger beers are available in this format. An excellent addition to the Huddersfield brewing fraternity.

Another fairly local brewery that has impressed is Buxton. Again, good enough to warrant its own pump at the Grove, and a consistent range of beer that covers every type and style. The brewery actually started in 2009 but moved to its home town in 2010, and this year have got the brewing right. Their basic bitter 'Moor Top' is 3.6% but I have come across their beer up to 9.5%. I am particularly impressed by their IPA's., 'Axe Edge' and 'Wild Boar' being the light versions, and 'Black Rocks' being their take on a black IPA, all are excellent. They can also brew decent black stuff too, try their 'Kinder Stout' at 4.1%, or if you feel really adventurous go for the 'Tsar' at 9.5% , packed with flavour.

Another 2010 brewery that has made great strides in 2011 is Redwillow, who brew in Macclesfield, which I admit is somewhere I have never considered a hot bed for decent beer. Seems I have been mistaken. They are another brewery that can turn their hand to everything and anything, may be even more so than the previous two. Light or dark, I have never found a beer of theirs that I did not enjoy. Their dark beers encompass a smoked porter 'Smokeless', and an oyster stout 'Fathomless' (brewed with the assistance of Brian from the Grove), and their light beers cover every style imaginable , including some I could not even imagine. Their 'Faithless' range started as single hopped beers, but by the time they had reached 'Faithless 7' the hops had changed into a wheat beer, one version dry hopped with Nelson, and another with lemon grass and Thai ginger. So look out for the teardrop shaped pump clips, and give them a try, you will be in for treat.

The final brewery in the quartet is one that had been previously brewing but changed its identity in 2008, but only this year have I come across their beers outside London. Brodie's are based at the William IV pub in Leyton, who have a massive range of their beers on. Again they are a brewery that can turn their hand successfully to every style of beer, from a 12.1% Russian stout 'Romanov' to the 3.1% 'Citra' and take in everything in between. Every beer I have come across from the brewery has been excellent, and different. 'Californian' is a good an American IPA as you can get, 'London Fields' is superb version of a traditional English IPA, and 'Superior London Porter' is about the best porter I have come across. Lets just hope more of their beers make it north in the coming months.

So there you have it, our choices for the new(ish) breweries of the year. Of course, you may disagree, and have your own list and your own favourites. But all we can say is that 2011 has been a great year for beer, and hopefully 2012 will continue the trend and we can have lots more good beer to sample.

American Pale gets even Hoppier

Yesterday a new Dark Star beer appeared on the bar at the Grove, nothing unusual about that you may say, they do turn over regularly, and had it not been for Will's eagle eye, (note the bird connection ?), it was one that would have passed me by. 'American Pale Ale' is fairly often seen there, so I have had it on several occasions, but the little green logo, 'Harvest Hop' was new to me, and what a difference it made.

The regular beer is 4.7% and does what it says, it is a pale ale, crammed with American hops. This time the beer had been brewed with fresh Chinook and Centennial hops, airfrieghted from the USA. It gave the beer a wonderful aroma, full of freshness and hop character, and a clean, sharp taste. The original APA is an excellent beer in its own right but the use of fresh hops takes it to a new dimension. My intention of a quick half soon expanded into three times that amount it was so good.

So if you do see APA on a bar, just check the clip for the small green logo, you may be in for one of the beers of the year.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


It seems that one of the things that 2011 can be remembered for in the beer world is collaborations, every one seems to be at it, from Marble to Fullers, from Dark Star to Brew Dog, from Thornbridge to Raw, and plenty others in between. May be everyone is an overstatement though, I can't see Glentworth teaming up with Skinners, or Northumberland with Allgates in the near future, but who knows ?

The one thread that seems to run through the breweries that involve themselves in collaborations are that they are what are classed as 'craft' breweries. That again is a bone of contention for me, what makes one brewery a 'craft' brewery when another isn't ? I know that the Americans have a definition for such a thing, but we English don't, so why do we use it ? What is apparent is that the 'craft' brewery collaborations seem to appear in more exclusive sort of pub, those that are disposed to American beers or key keg.

Before I continue I ought to make it clear that I am not anti 'craft' beers, nor collaborations per se. Its just that I cannot really see a point in some well known brewer, joining up with some other well known brewer, and producing a beer, when often the sum of the parts does not produce the goods. It seems to me that often the brewer's skills cancel each other out rather than complement them, so that one is left with a vague feeling of disappointment. That's not to say all collaborations are a failure, they aren't. But a large number do not seem to work, in my eyes.

And how does a collaboration of brewers actually work ? Who has the say in which style of beer they brew ? Who chooses the hops, or malts ? Who has the final say on the recipe ? Unless they are happy to let one lead and the other follow, I can see problems arising. And often the one's I have tried do seem to taste more like one brewery's beer than the other.

Often beers are produced by a collaboration of brewers anyway. In the larger breweries it is not unusual for a group of brewers to work in unison to produce a beer, and because they are from the same stable, they maintain the standards they have expected from the brewery, when someone from outside gets involved I find their standards often slip.

Maybe the way forward would be to brew on the lines that Wetherspoons use for their beer festival specials, a foreign brewer using his recipes to brew on British brewer's plant. I assume that the foreign brewers get advice from the local brewer, so is that technically a collaboration ?    

But at the end of the day, does it really matter ? The idea of brewing beer is to make something that people want to drink and that will sell. I cannot deny either part of that statement in respect of collaborations, may be its just me, surely not !!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to All Our Readers

We want to thank all our readers over the last 12 months, we hope we have entertained,and  informed, you all and will continue to do so next year.

Thanks to all the brewers, and pubs who have provided us with the material to write 'A swift one'.

We have enjoyed doing it, and hope you have enjoyed reading it, and we will be back in the New Year with an even better 'Swift One'.

All that remains is for us to wish you all a Happy Christmas and a great New Year to all of you, and to hope Santa brings you everything you wish for.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Star reaches 10 years

Today The Star Inn at Folly Hall is 10 years old. I know its hard to believe, it seems to have always been an integral part of the town's drinking scene. But its true, it must be - Sam says so. She, and her then partner, Tyrone transformed a basic back street boozer into one that has become a classic 'must visit' beer house.

It has a range of 10 interesting beers always on the bar (many rarely seen elsewhere), with over 6600 served over the years and is famous for its thrice yearly festivals. Sam has retained her policy of no music and no games machines, preferring to base the pub's success on the craic around the bar from its loyal band of regulars. It even achieved the accolade of 'CAMRA Yorkshire Pub of the Year' in 2002, and  has won a host of other awards in its lifetime.

If you have never visited, why not? Get down and try it out. I am sure you will be impressed.    Happy Birthday Star, wishing you plenty more. And many thanks to Sam and the team for all your efforts over the years.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Some Christmas Day Openings

In town The Star Inn will be opening 12:00-14:00 but not the Rat & Ratchet or The Grove, which is also closed Boxing Day. The Sportsman is also closed Christmas Day. The Cherry Tree is open 1100-1500. 

These Ossett Group pubs will be opening Christmas lunchtime if you are within walking distance: New Albion at Alverthorpe, Tap at Ossett, Old Vic at South Ossett, Kings Arms on Heath Common and Shepherds Boy at Dewsbury.

You definitely won't get a train but the West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms at Dewsbury opens 11:00-15:00.
Lisa at the Cricketers Arms in Horbury says she's open 12:00-15:00 and there'll be a cask of Black Sheep Russian Imperial Stout (8.5%ish) that's been quietly maturing in the cellar since early this year.

The Reindeer at Overton will be open from noon until around 17:00. The Little Bull at Middlestown is opening 11:30-14:30.
Boons in Horbury is open 12:00-14:00.
The Brewers Pride in Ossett is opening 12:00-14:00 with the restaurant 13:00-15:30.

On Boxing Day, the Star and Grove are both closed, but the rest of the usual suspects are open with the Rat opening earlier than usual at 1200 noon. 

2 Bobs Brewing Co. Update

"This micro has been brewing in Oxenhope for a while and is the project of Rob Bradley and Bob Walker. The plan in the new year is to start brewing "near Ossett". This is actually at Shaw Cross, so it's in the Heavy Woollen branch area by a few hundred metres. They are looking at installing a 15 barrel plant in a factory unit already being used by one of the partners.

The local launch of their beers took place at the Unicorn at Carlton near Rothwell (not Carlton near Carlton Towers or Carleton near Pontefract). The Unicorn pub is next door to Carlton WMC a few metres from where the 444 bus cuts left on its way along Westfield Road past the Rosebud towards Rothwell using two sides of a triangle, as buses do. The house beer which they've made for the Unicorn is called Horny Unicorn a very pale session bitter at 3.8%. On the  pumpclip there's the head of a donkey (a bit like the one in Shrek) with a unicorn horn between its ears.

 A second beer, gold in colour from their portfolio called Legless Blonde at 5.5% would have gone on, but they felt that the mix had been boiled to too high a temperature causing some of the sugars to caramelize. There are brewers who would have re-named it and passed it off as an unusual brew with a touch of smokiness. I thought from a small sample that it was nevertheless quite drinkable, but perhaps not a full pint of it. Another beer in the portfolio is Strawrunner also 3.8% but more beer-coloured than Horny Unicorn.  They will be packaging their beers in steel firkins obtained when Tetleys closed down in Leeds."


Monday, December 19, 2011

Saltaire Brewery

One of the most successful breweries in Yorkshire at the moment, although one we rarely see in our part of the world, is Saltaire. They are actually based in Shipley, rather than Saltaire, which is just up the road admittedly and were established in 2005, brewing on a 20bbl plant.

The brewery only uses local malts and full hop flowers in their brewing process, brewing a wide range of regular beers and specials. The ones I see about most often are their 'blonde' beers. 'Saltaire Blonde' is the 'straight' version, brewed with a mixture of German and Czech hops, at 4.0%. However, it is not uncommon to find their fruity or flowery beers, 'Elderflower Blonde' is a wonderfully aromatic summer beer, infused with delicate elderflowers, and 'Raspberry Blonde' likewise with a subtle raspberry flavour. On the dark side comes 'Cascadian Black', which the brewery call a black IPA, but I think of it more as a stout with the underlying taste from the cascade hops blending with the roasted flavour imparted by the malts.

I am more interested in their range of specials though. In the recent past I have encountered 'Trio', with citric bitterness coming from a flavour of three American hops, 'South Island Pale, 3.5% and using New Zealand hops, and 'Stateside IPA', a 6% beer, using Centennial, Cascade and Amarillo hops to impart a massive hop hit in a flavoursome IPA.

The beers that they are really remembered for though are two of my least favourite in their range (as regular readers know I am not really a fan of coffee or chocolate in beer), but I cannot deny they certainly do what they say on the tin. 'Hazelnut Coffee Porter' is 4.6%, rammed with nutty and coffee flavours, and if chocolate is your thing I have never found a more chocolatey beer than their 'Triple Chocoholic' made with chocolate malt, chocolate syrup and real chocolate. It even comes in bottles. Both are award winning beers with Chocoholic being SIBA's 2010 Supreme Champion Beer.

Locally, as I said they are not the easiest beers to track down, may be the best bet is the Cherry Tree, but trip across to Shipley and you will find plenty. Or call down at the brewery and pick up some bottles.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

White Stout? You cannot be serious!

Visitors to The Grove may be amazed to see a beer called 'White Stout' lurking on one of the pumps on the main bar. White Stout? Surely not. Is this Durham's way of reacting to the wave of black IPA's that have suddenly flooded the market? Appears not, according to their website.

I finally managed to sample some yesterday after it had been sitting on the taunting pole for a while, and it was a good, nay even, a great beer. It was light coloured, more like a wheat beer than a bitter, certainly nothing like a stout colour. The taste was soft, without any noticeable hop character, but did not drink like its 7.2% strength.  

Time to check out what the brewer was really thinking when he brewed it. It seems historically that a stout need not be black, any strong beer qualifies, but a stout needs a 'body' whereas often IPAs are thinner and obviously hoppy. The base is pale malt, wheat malt and flaked barley, none of the darker malts we normally associate with stouts, and this gives a 'thicker' base than we often find in light beers. There is no reference to the hops used in the brew on the website, but they do not give either the aroma or taste that one would associate with a light beer or beer of this strength. Notwithstanding, it is excellent and something different, an example of what can be achieved by thinking outside the box. Well worth a visit to The Grove to check it out.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Two New Breweries

Recent new additions to the local brewing scene include Pennine and 2 Bobs (haven't we been there before?). Details of beer availability will appear on our Facebook page soon.   

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wetherspoons do Christmas

If you are a lover of Christmas beers and are having problems finding some to satisfy your craving this year, then may be a trip to you local 'Spoons will solve the problem. This year there are 50 festive beers on offer in what is effectively a mini beer festival.

The list is sourced from around the whole of the country with offerings from Scotland and Wales as well as England, with a combination of old favourites and beers that are new to me. I have sampled a few and fortunately for me, none have had the spicy, fruity taste I usually associate with the festive season.

There are plenty to go at, but as is usual with Wetherspoons festivals, not all are available at once, so its luck of the draw as to what you find, and where you find it.    

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Start of the Silly Season

Christmas is coming, and with it the usual groups of once a year drinkers who only venture into a pub because it is a prelude to their works party or whatever, clogging up the bar asking for halves of something that they feel  comfortable with because they have seen it before, or see it advertised on telly. And last night I heard a classic from one such, and as far as I can remember this is how it went!

Man, with silly hat, walks into a real ale bar with several excellent beers on offer. With him is his female partner who orders a half of lager. 
Man "Pint of smooth please"
Landlady " Sorry, its a real ale pub, we don't have smooth."
Man "Anything like smooth?"
Landlady " No, sorry, just real ale"
Man " Ok, a pint of whatever is the darkest beer you have........and can you put some ice in it"
Landlady raises eyebrows!
Man, aside to partner," Its always too warm without ice".

With 16 days to go until Christmas, if this is the standard of drinkers, we could be in for a classic. Bet he would n't have tried it in the Slubbers when Dave Green had it, or he would have probably found himself sitting in Bradford Road!   

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Will the Bubble Burst?

On reading that another new brewery was to open in Knaresborough, I gave a sharp intake of breath and wondered. A bit of research revealed that this year alone we have 117 new breweries from all over the country, following on from 107 the previous year. That is one hell of a lot of breweries, and a lot of new beer to shift. In these times, with everyone saying that money is tight, can the market actually support all these new initiatives?

I know some will be older breweries renamed or which have moved to new premises and the like, and I assume they will already have a faithful following. Others are brew pubs who will brew mainly for themselves or    just send a small amount into the free trade or festivals, and they too will have a ready made market. If you drink at pub A, and they start brewing, most of their clientele will drink beer brewed on site, and they may even gain a small trade in passing beer 'tickers' wanting to try beer from a new brewery. Possibly a few may move on because they do not like the beer, but many of us are faithful to a pub, rather than the beer, and will adapt our taste in time to the new product.

What that leaves is the vast majority of new breweries, so what of them? Although there has been a rise in the  number of outlets for cask beer, are there enough to support the great increase in new beer on the market? Of course some are supported by good marketing campaigns (Magic Rock for instance), others by making their mark in the more specialist markets (Brewdog spring to mind), but the rest still have to sell their beer into the free trade. Initially this should not be a problem. Everyone wants to sample beer from a new brewery. But gradually this interest will wain and the brewery will need a consistent source of drinkers to support their endeavour, some times this will work (as with Mallinsons), but not every brewery will manage.

However, when I checked my source (actually Quaffale) to compare closures with openings, I discovered that less than 25 have closed in the last two years, which surprised me somewhat. Looking closer, only two have closed within two years of opening, and several have closed to reopen under different names, or at different locations (or possibly relocated to provide more brewing capacity). Maybe my pessimism was misplaced, maybe brewing is one of the few industries on the rise in these difficult times. If this is the case long may it continue, and lets get out and support these new breweries. I am more than happy to give my money to a small cask ale brewer rather than spend it at a supermarket on a cheaper, and usually, less good  product from a large  multi national. But that is another issue for another time.                

Thanks to Will for tidying this post up.  

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

That old pump clip whinge again

Readers of 'A Swift One' will be well aware of one of my pet hates, and that of other readers too, and this weekend I have found a couple more examples that just go to prove the point.

On the previous entry I referred to By The Horns producing a dead simple, easy to read pump clip. Great you may say, but how did someone at the brewery manage to release it without any reference to the abv on it. A simple, school boy error, and possibly illegal. Not much help if you have never encountered the beer before and have no idea what strength to expect.

If you take a look at the previous post, Will has kindly added a picture of the Fullers pump clip for the 'Black Cab Stout', nothing wrong with that you may say looking at it. Everything you want is there, it is attractive, easy to read and makes a good point of sale. Where the post picture and the actual clip differ is only slight, but in my opinion somewhat annoying. The lettering on the clip that looks grey is actually silver, and unless the light shines in the right place, it makes it very difficult to read - 'Cab' and 'Stout' are especially hard. Maybe I am being pedantic, but it makes an excellent clip less than perfect, and does tend to confuse the punter, or maybe its just me.

What I am in favour of, and wish all brewerys did, is something similar to the clip on the left. All the information I require is there and is easy to read on a crowded bar. Its not too much to ask for, or is it?

Monday, December 05, 2011

Save yourself a trip to the capital

Usually all us northerners get in the way of beer from London are those offerings from Fullers that are readily available in the free trade. 'London Pride' and 'ESB' are not hard to find but rarely seem to taste the same as they do in their home city, so do not often appear in my 'must drink' list. However yesterday must have made Huddersfield seem like a home from home for any exiled Londoners, with a new Fullers beer at the Grove and beer from two of the more recent breweries to open in the capital at The Star Inn.

Fullers 'Black Cab' is a dark, (obviously!) beer of 4.2%. More of a bitter in my opinion than a stout or porter. Smooth, yet hoppy, without the roasted or malty background sometimes associated with dark beers. A pleasant drinking, session strength beer, well crafted by one of the better breweries about.

However, what of the new kids on the block? 'East London' Foundation Ale has been around for most of the year, and is again 4.2%. One of only two beers brewed by them, and what I would class as a typical London beer. Well balanced without the hop characteristics I often prefer in my beer, it is an inoffensive, although unspectacular drink. I assume, although cannot confirm, the beer uses English ingredients, and has all the hall marks of a traditional English best bitter.

The other new brewery is one I had never encountered before, and was keen to try. 'By The Horns' Pale Ale is 3.9%, although for some strange reason there is no gravity on the pump clip. It is pale(ish) by London standards but again there seems to be something missing. The taste is very similar to that of the East London beer although is slightly more bitter to my palette, even then it is balanced rather than hoppy, and a beer that one could happily have a session on.

The real star of the day, if you forgive the dodgy pun, is from a brewery that, although not in London itself, often has its beers on sale there. Adnams seasonal beer 'Old Ale' is on the bar at the Star. For some reason I thought it stronger than its 4.1%, but everything else I remember in the beer is still there. As dark as night, and as smooth as silk, it is superb. Again without a distinctive hop character, it relies on the malt in the brew to bring out the subtle flavours of chocolate and red berries, and maybe a touch of toffee to blend into a magnificent winter warmer. Well worth searching out, and lets face it, the bus fare to Lockwood is far cheaper than the train fare to London!            

Saturday, December 03, 2011

What of 'Rock Star' ?

It is not uncommon these days for breweries to collaborate to produce beer, in recent times I have come across Marble, Ramsgate and Brew Dog, doing so, to name but three. This week the collaboration between Dark Star and Magic Rock, aptly named 'Rock Star' was launched. I had chance to sample some at The Grove, so how was it.

The blurb on the website says it is a 'American Brown Ale' both malty and hoppy giving aromas of lemongrass, strawberry and pine giving a background  flavour of hazelnut, caramel and summer berries, 'balanced, moreish and crisply classy'. It is certainly not a beer for the faint hearted, being 7%, but I was, to be frank, a little disappointed. I got some of the flavours mentioned above, but I did not think they worked together, I found the hops and fruitiness overshadowed by the maltiness in the brew, and the predominant taste for my pallette was that of the hazelnut. I expected far more of a hop background and this failed to materialise.

To be honest, I was not thrilled by it, which was a shame for the two breweries are two of my favourites. If you want to try ,t, it is on cask, and key keg at The Grove, to give you a chance to compare and contrast the two different types of dispense. I admit, I have based my opinion on the cask version, so may be the key keg version does bring out all the flavour but that will have to wait for another day,.    

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What else does Huddersfield have to offer ?

When it comes to local pubs I am as guilty as the next man for only using certain ones and not trying something different, so when I had a free day it seemed a good idea to have a wander around and see what else was available. My route, or more precisely, mine and Robin's, went from north to south, and started and finished at the Bus Station. All the pubs we called in were open at 1200 noon, and are are open all week should you wish to replicate our trip.

The first pub was the Slubbers, on Halifax Old Rd. The easiest way to get there is to grab a 363 bus,(every 20 mins) from the bus station, get off at Hillhouse and walk the 100 yards or so to the pub, otherwise its about a 15 mins walk. The pub is still the iconic place it has always been, now under the ownership of local Camra member Bill Brogan, and he has a range of 8 beers on offer. Thwaites, B & T mild, and Conwy were all available, alongside Taylors and what we tried were in good nick. The pub also has 'Steigl' lager on offer, rarely seen in our parts.

We took the short walk back into town and the Vulcan at the bottom of St Peters St. This is a pub that is not unknown to visiting 'tickers' and alongside their cheap food menu there are often 4 beers, sometimes locally sourced, (on this occasion Mallinsons, Summer Wine, and Copper Dragon) but in good condition and cheap at £2.10 a pint. The pub was the busiest we visited so they must be doing something right.

Then it was time to venture into the unknown and sample those near the Kingsgate centre, which are usually the haunt of students. Herberts Bar is on Cross Church St, and used to be the Minstrel in my day, but has been totally revamped into a cafe bar with stripped back bare walls and wooden furniture. 3 hand pulls were on offer, Taylors, Deuchars and a guest from Brass Monkey, with bottles of Brew Dog in the fridge. Again, a swift half and onwards. The Lord Wilson at the bottom of King St is a Wetherspoons outlet, with 3 basic beers on offer, and due to the slow service we gave up and went elsewhere. We put our head around the door of the Warehouse, on Zetland St and were surprised to see a draught beer on offer, Pedigree being available, but we did not linger. Likewise at the Varsity next door, but they had a bigger range with Taylors, Pedigree and Dogs B*llocks on the pumps there.

Next stop was the strangely named Rhubarb, but better known to us geriatrics as the first Yates, on the ring road across from the university. This is another pleasant conversion, and is light and airy, with a central bar and seating around the outside. There are 6 beers available here, but strangely 3 clips were turned round, and since Tim's Law applied, the beer we wanted was one of those. However, Golden Pippin, Golden Sheep and a Phoenix beer were available, and what we tried were in good condition.

Next stop was the Albert, which we reached by way of the steps from Queensgate, on Victoria Lane.The pub still has all its old character, but only standard beers on offer, so another swift exit to the County on Princess St at the side of Wilkinsons. This was another busy pub, again with a cheap food menu, but with a bar man, who would have won no prizes in a customer service contest, begrudgingly pulling our halves of Hobgobin and Pedigree. Again, Golden Pippin was on offer as well. We skipped the Commercial on New St, the clientele outside putting us off what may have been an excellent Sam Smiths but we never found out. Both the pumps in Molly Malone's in Albion St were turned round, and a quick call in the Plumbers where we had hoped for better, just revealed 2 pumps, John Smiths and Theakstons, which was off, so we said thanks but no thanks. And returned to the bus station.

Our wander round was very much like the curate's egg, good in parts, but I must say that although I may visit the occasional one again, it seems unlikely I will be revisiting many in the near future. It did, however, give us an idea what else was on offer in the Town Centre and gave a pointer as to where to while away some time if her indoors goes shopping in Kingsgate. A useful, but not all together, successful experience. Thankfully we ended the tour at the Grove, where we found the usual selection of interesting and well kept beers, and no Golden Pippin in sight !  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It shouldn't work but it does !

After having my fill of the beers on the festival bar at the Star Festival, I went down yesterday in the hope that things had changed on the bar, and how they had changed. Since I left on Friday, all but two of the 9 beers on the bar were different, and provided a great contrast in taste and style, from traditional dark beers, to vanilla porters, from spiced ale to best bitters, and there were two of the best beers I had had in some time lurking there.

Firstly there was Pictish 'Starkers', a 4.5%, festival special. Light and clean, hoppy but balanced, my sort of beer and a really stunning effort. It was going to take some beating, but.....I know I have written before that I am not really a fan of brewers messing about with beer; to me beer should be beer, malt and hops and all. I usually prefer ginger, vanilla and the like to be in my food, not in my drink. However, after coming across Church End 'Lemon, Lime and Chilli' I may have to make an exception. It was 5%, so had plenty of strength as a background for the flavours, and the hit of citrus in the beer was superb, it did mask the hops in the beer to some degree but made for a most refreshing taste, and a super palette cleanser.

Chilli seems to be the thing to add to beer at the moment, but usually in a darker brew. This was light, and the chilli was just a very subtle background flavour, and just hit the back of throat without overpowering the taste which came predominantly from the balance of fruit flavours. It blended perfectly, I must admit, it was a beer for a warm summer's afternoon, not a wet and windy evening, but was certainly my beer of the festival.      

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Star Festival - the review

At least this year the Star Winter Festival went ahead without the deep covering of snow that greeted last years, which was a great plus for everyone, staff and customers alike. At 5pm the usual crowd of the usual suspects were snaking down Albert St awaiting the doors opening. And as usual everyone had his or her own agenda, whether it be local beers, new breweries, halves or pints, and soon the marquee was filling with punters. 

For those who have been to the festivals here before the system was the tried and trusted one, 46 beers in the marquee bar, and 10 ever changing on the main bar. The only problem being where to start. There were plenty of beers to cater for all tastes, from light and hoppy, to dark and fruity, coming from breweries near and far, new ones and old favourites. I have a system at the festivals here, allegedly, so I started with Mallinsons ' Kiwi Classic Extra' at 4.4%. A good start, a beer packed with New Zealand hops.

Then it was time to hunt down some new breweries. Field Marshall, from Hull's Wellington Inn was next, a dark bitter, lacking a hop bite in my opinion followed by Brewshed's  (from Bury St Edmunds) 'Best Bitter' which did what it said on the clip, but again lacked something. The next two beers were stronger and both were IPA's, the first from Scotland, Barneys of Falkirk weighed in at 5.3%, and Shottle Farm from Derbyshire, was 4.5%. Both beers were decent examples of the style, but neither really hit the spot for me. Back to the old favourites, and Pictish. Their 'Startled' at 4.2% certainly did not skimp on the hops, and tasted like I had hoped. The real star of the show from what I drank however, was 'Hylda's Flycatcher' from North Riding in Scarborough who are rapidly becoming one of my favourite breweries. It was full of flavour and hop character, and a sensible drinking strength at 4.2%.

Of course, there are plenty of beers still to sample, and I still have to visit the dark side, but I heard good things about Boggart 'Walnut Porter', which sounds weird, but tastes good. Mallinsons 'Hot or Not?' was a chilli chocolate beer, apparently more chocolate than chilli. Two Roses ' Glorious' had its supporters, as did OMB ' Decaduck' and both are on my list for tonight. 

This is only my opinion so get down and try some of the beers, you may think differently. As I said, there is beer for every taste and Sam has done a fine job in sourcing so many interesting ones that are rare to these parts. And if cheese or pickles or chocolate are your thing, then they are there as well. Looks like another Star success .         

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Star Inn Winter Festival List 2011

Starts 5pm Wednesday and 5pm Thursday, all day (1200) Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Marquee beers

Mallinsons - Kiwi Classic Extra - 4.4%
Ilkley - Mary Christmas - 4.7%
Brightside - Solstice - 4.8%
Mallinsons - Hot or Not - 4.1%
North Riding - Neilsons Sauvin - 3.7%
OMB - Decaduck - 3.6%
Blackwater - Pre Raphelite - 4.5%
Brew Co - Cinnamon Coffee Porter - 3.9%
Wellington Inn - Field Marshall - 3.8%
North Riding - Hylda's Flycatcher - 4.2%
Boggart - Red Robin - 4%
Yard of Ale - Surtess Gold - 4%
Dancing Duck - Dark Drake - 4.5%
Wellington Inn - Eagle - 5%
Church End - Single Speed - 3.5%
Wharfebank - Nightshade - 4.9%
Cambrinus - Deliverance - 4.2%
Goose Eye - Ganders Guzzle - 4.2%
Flipside - Golden Sovereign - 4.2%
Enville - Cherry Gothic - 5.2%
Iceni - Saxon City - 3.8%
Liverpool Organic - Jade - 4.4%
Brew Shed - Best Bitter - 4.3%
Flowerpots - Bates Better Bitter - 4.3%
Crown - Chilli Stout - 5%
Flowerpots - Cheriton Porter - 4.2%
Crown - Primrose Pale - 4.6%
Wharfebank - VPA - 3.6%
Boggart - Walnut Porter - 5%
Milton - Prometheus - 6%
Barneys - Jaggery IPA - 5.3%
Wincle - Wibbly Wallaby - 4.4%
Brew Co - Cascadia -4.3%
Yorkshire Dales - Worton Warrior - 3.9%
Piddle - Thunderbox - 4.5%
Pictish - Startled - 4.2%
Brew Co - Showdown IPA - 4.8%
Maypole - Little Weed - 3.8%
Bank Top - Piet Heyn - 3.9%
Shottle Farm - IPA
Two Roses - Glorious - 4%
Gates Burton - Reservoir Premium - 4.6%
Worthington - Winter Shield - 4.5%
Elland - Beyond The Paler - 4.2%
Goose Eye - Into The Abyss - 4.2%
Junction - Runaway Train - 3.9%

On the inside bar (not all on at once but ever changing)

Magic Rock - Curious NZ - 3.9%
Brew co - Starburst - 4.3%
Abbeydale- Dr Morton's Rubrication - 4.0%
Pictish - Starkers - 4.5%
East London - Foundation - 4.0%
Southport - Dark Night - 3.9%
Black Hole - Metropolis - 5%
Wincle - Undertaker - 4.5%
Piddle - Jimmy Riddle - 3.7%
Adnams - Spiced Winter - 4%
Adnams - Old Ale - 4.1%
Worsthorne - Old Trout - 4.5%
Brightside - Darkside Stout - 4.5%
Yorkshire Dales - Isles Best - 4.4%
Fulstow - Autumn Gold - 3.7%
Kellham Island - Stockwell Rock - 4%
Prospect - Pickaxe - 5%
Flipside - Flippin' Best - 4.6%
Church End -Lemon, Lime and Chilli - 5%
Liverpool Organic - Empire - 5.3%
Cambrinus - Endurance - 4.3%
Botanist - Humulus Lupulus - 3.8%
By The Horns - Pale Ale -
Roosters - Jaks - 3.9%
Leyden - Christmas Cracker - 3.7%

Farewell Innspeak

One of the things that you could be confident of finding lying about in local pubs was a copy of 'Innspeak', the little magazine that was full of tit-bits of beer, quizzes, jokes and reviews. I had not seen one about for a couple of months admittedly, and when I discovered one in a local pub hidden under a pile of other stuff it explained why.

Sadly due to the editor John Gray's ill health he has had to stop publishing it, September's being the last issue. It first came out in September 1993 in a newspaper style and lately has been a glossy A5 magazine. I, for one, will miss it. Thanks to John for all his efforts over the years. Just hope some one else sees fit to take up his mantle.

However - just as I find a copy saying that the September issue will be the last one, I get an e mail from the 'Bloke from Hull' telling me that he is reading the November issue. Seems that the demise of Innspeak may have been premature, will keep you posted.   
Seems I was wrong, I have just got my hands on the November issue, so despite rumours to the contrary it seems to be going strong. Long may it continue !

Monday, November 21, 2011

Some Like it Strong

Yesterday I made my usual Sunday trip to the Grove, with the intention of checking out the Magic Rock 'Curious NZ', to see if my expectations for the beer could be met. Fortunately it was still on the bar, and lived up to everything I had hoped for; a wonderful blend of New Zealand hops made a very flavoursome, very drinkable session beer. I found it more to my taste than the usual 'Curious' (made with American hops) which I find a little harsh in comparison now, but there again that is just my opinion, both are excellent beers from an excellent brewery. The problem came when trying to work out what to try next !

I know the Grove often sells strong beers, but this time all the beers I fancied were super strong, thankfully they  do serve thirds so I could manage a few without causing myself too much harm. Dark Star 'Oktoberfest' was there, but not really to my taste, the blend of German malts being a bit overpowering for me. Better was the Marble/North Bar collaboration 'Little Jim', this weighed in at 6.9%, so was hardly a session beer. However, recent Marble beers have not really hit the spot, and after the initial taste promising much it turned into something a little ordinary despite its strength. I followed this with the slightly less weighty Buxton 'High Tor', a 6.3% red ale. Red ale is not my favourite style of beer, often finding the malts overtaking the hop flavours, and sadly I found this to be the case here. Lots of strength in a beer was proving that lots of great taste does not necessarily follow. But then I found the perfect antidote to all the malty beers I had come across.

One of my favourite breweries of recent times is Redwillow from Cheshire, never afraid to experiment, they have made some weird and wonderful beers, one of their best was 'Faithless VII' which was a wheat beer, the version I sampled being dry hopped. This time it was the bog standard version, and it was exceptional. 7.9% is a high strength for a wheat beer, but this time the strength is not compromised by the taste. Everything I want in a wheat beer, and more, a superb way to end a session of thirds. All that left me was a Thornbridge/Kernal collaboration at 7.2% to sample at a more sensible time. Guess where I will be this afternoon !       

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Star Winter Festival Approaches

Just in case it had slipped your mind, the Star Inn Winter Beer Festival will be opening its doors next Wednesday evening. The set up will be same as usual for those who have visited before, and if you haven't you have missed one of the best pub festivals around. 

There will be 46 beers available in the marquee with an ever changing list on the 10 handpulls on the bar as well. Open from 5pm on Wednesday and Thursday and all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it is a great place to find those rare beers, bump into old friends and generally pass a few days of your life. We will be there, hope you will too.  Just hope the weather is better than last time, unless you like snow of course!

Slaithwaite Moonraker Festival

This weekend sees the annual Moonraker Festival at Slaithwaite. It will be on Friday from 6pm and all day Saturday starting at noon at the Slaithwaite Conservative Club on Britannia Road. If previous festivals there are anything to go by it is a good place to while away a few hours in good company with a good selection of beers to choose from.

This year their provisional beer list shows plenty of interesting stuff. With beers from near and far, there should be something for everyone's taste. Local breweries, Magic Rock, Riverhead, Milltown, Empire and Golcar are all making appearances along with Fuzzy Duck and Robinsons from the other side of the Pennines. From further afield there are beers from Dorset Piddle, Goffs, Tring, and Oxfordshire. There is also a chance to sample the 'Curious NZ' from Magic Rock and even a rare barrel of Halifax Steam 'Jamaica Ginger' that has  escaped the brewery. Seems like a chance not to be missed.

One to look out for this weekend

If you are out and about this weekend one beer to look out for is Magic Rock 'Curious NZ'. The guys at Magic Rock have decided to brew their 3.9% session beer a bit differently. Usually it is made with American hops and pretty good it is too, but this time they have changed the hops and used those from New Zealand to flavour the beer. Knowing their track record, and the what New Zealand hops bring to a beer I am expecting great things from them.

It is easily recognisable by its green pump clip, and I have seen it on several beer lists. York Station Tap has had it, it has turned up in London too, but closer to home it is on the taunting pole at The Grove. Just hope that it is still about when I can get back there, sounds like one of those 'must drink' beers. I will let you know.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yorkshire Cider of the Year

Not only does Huddersfield produce some of the best beer about but it has now triumphed in the cider field as well (or should that be orchard!).

Yorkshire's 'Cider of the Year 2011' has been named as 'Udders Orchard -  'Whisky Cask Cider'.

You can congratulate Dave Kendal-Smith in person for his achievement when the award is presented this Sunday (20th) in The Rat & Ratchet, Chapel Hill, Huddersfield at 3.30pm.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wakey festival thoughts

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The 11th day of the 11th month of 2011, was once of those days that doesn't come around very often, (don't ask me, I am no mathematician !), so it was just a question of where to be at 11;11 on the day. Since Wakefield Beer Festival opened its doors at 11;02 (it was Rembrance Day after all) it seemed a good a place as any to mark the event.

For the last few years it has been held at the Light Waves centre, convenient for the bus station, and with a large sports hall converted for to beer hall for the weekend. There was plenty of seating in the hall with the beer stillaged around the outside. Most beer was served direct from the cask, with some on handpull. My only problem with the venue is the lack of toilets which does become more crucial as the session wears on. Being a Camra run festival did mean that beer was served in thirds, as well as pints and halves so it gave the opportunity to sample plenty of the beers on offer. They were reasonably priced, most being £2.60 a pint.

Armed with a glass, and a list, I set about trying some of the new breweries that had previously eluded me. First up was Cap House. Based in Batley but with connections to the Reindeer at Overton, I always managed to miss them at previous festivals, and had heard good things about them. 'Miner's a Pint' was a good introduction to their range, a nicely balanced session beer, followed by 'Love At First Brew', a more traditionally English style beer but quite acceptable. Big River from Brough was next up, with their 3.5%,'Ropewalk', another  decent session beer for its strength, and my third new brewery was Brass Castle from Pocklington with their refreshing 'Cliff Hanger'. Three new breweries and all brewing good beer, things were looking hopeful for the rest of the session.

It was then down to selecting beers that were new to me. Most of the beer on offer was from fairly local breweries and many I had previously encountered so that narrowed my choice down a bit but Foxfield had sent a couple down and their 'Blurred Encounter' was another good beer from a brewery who always impress me. I rarely see anything from their sister brewery, Tiger Tops, brewed in Flanshaw, so I tried a couple of theirs, 'Orange Order' with real orange peel did not really do it for me, but 'Black Arts' at 4.5% packed a lot of flavour into a beer that leaned more towards a black bitter than a porter or stout. I had never managed to sample Sportsman 'Beautiful Blue' before but I found it too thin for my liking, with little hop flavour. It was time to stop experimenting and find something I knew I would like. Mallinsons 'Take Your Aim' was what I expected, pale and plenty of hops; Dark Tribe 'Captain Floyd' a traditional English bitter; and East Coast 'Hoppers no18' was full of Cascade hop bitterness.

From my point of view, the star brewery of the show was 'North Riding' brewery from the pub of the same name in Scarborough. 'Maori Magic' set the tone, with its blend of New Zealand hops, but my beer of the festival was their 'Neilson Sauvin'. Only 3.7% but it showcased the use of the hop superbly and left me wanting more. So instead of trying another new beer, that was where I finished, with another. For a fairly new brewery it was excellent, the best example of a Nelson beer I have ever had, and that is some praise.

As  always, Wakefield Camra, put on a good festival, and it is good to meet up with old friends. I was a little concerned when I saw the list, but with a couple of exceptions it showcased what excellent breweries we have in Yorkshire, and what superb beer they brew. Long may it continue.     

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Brambles Opens its Doors

Holmfirth has been one of those places I rarely visit, especially for beer. I have found the pubs there uninspiring and the beer range equally so. However when I heard The White Hart had closed and been taken over by Jonny Holmes, late of the Swan and Commercial at Slaithwaite, I hoped for better things, and a trip up there to check it out proved I was right, Holmfirth now has a pub to be proud of.

It is situated in a prime position in the town, just across from the bus station and a small car park, ideally placed to take advantage of the hordes of trippers who come to the town.

It actually opened its doors for business last week after a complete refit and renovation, but I thought I would give it a few days before I visited. I cannot remember the pub in its old state, but can recall it was not the sort of place I would want to drink, Jonny has changed all that. It is now called 'Brambles' and has the feel of a cafe bar rather than a pub. Outside it looks welcoming, and inside does nothing to dispel that. It is light and airy, plenty of glass and steel, and exposed stone walls in some parts reinforce the contemporary feel. The decor is sympathetic and understated but just adds to the ambience of the place. It is a large space that is naturally divided into different areas, with plenty of seating and small tables geared up to cater for all sorts of tastes.

I called in around midday, and it was fairly full already with a mixture of people, either drinking, drinking coffee, or sampling the food. I discovered it opened at 10am, and according to Jonny does good business from the time the doors open. Most of the early trade come in for coffee, but the food and drink picks up during the day. The food menu is interesting and different and from what I saw coming out of the kitchen looked and smelled superb. The central bar serves 8 real ales, one house beer from Empire on my visit, and others from Phoenix, Brew Co, Milltown, and Great Newsome, that were reasonably priced and in good nick. There is a selection of lagers and foreign beers available too.

All in all, this is what Holmfirth has been lacking for years, and is a great credit to Jonny and his team, I can only see it going from strength to strength as word gets about. I will certainly be returning before long.  

Monday, November 07, 2011

Another excuse to visit York!

Not that you really need an excuse to visit one of the most beautiful cities in the North, but next week (Wednesday 16th November to be precise) sees the long awaited opening of the 'York Tap'. The bar is at the railway station, so is handily placed to attract passengers, as well as those dedicated souls who make the journey purely to visit the pub. It is housed in the old tearoom at the station that dates back over a century and has been renovated, but retains its stained glass and skylights which will be on public view for the first time in years.

But enough of the history, what about the beer? Those of us who have visited the group's other three pubs will know roughly what to expect but not to the extent of what 'The York Tap' intends. 32 beer taps are promised on the circular central bar with 18 dedicated to 'real ale'. But not just any real ale. The owners promise plenty of interesting beers from interesting breweries. Already in the pipeline are specials from Ilkley brewery, and Magic Rock who are brewing a version of 'High Wire' with New Zealand hops. There will be other rare beers too, with collaboration beers from Thornbridge with both Kernal and Dark Star, plus beers from Hardknott, Tempest and Black Isle. There are even beers promised that will be brewed exclusively for the pub by some of the best brewers around.

If you are a lover of the foreign stuff then you are catered for too with fonts dedicated to 12 of the best the world has to offer, with American and Belgian beers both featuring as well as a massive range of bottles. No doubt a trip across will be in order very soon, it may even be one of those occasions where I never even leave the station - it might even be worth the train being delayed! (website)          

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Manchester - the good and not so good

Manchester is somewhere I have always found to be a good drinking city, and for some reason, somewhere that I have not been round for a while, so yesterday, myself and 'The Train' decided that a revisit was in order. 

Our trip started at the Microbar, in the Arndale Centre. It opens at 11am and is a good place to while away a few minutes a work out a plan of campaign for the rest of the day. Ridgeside 'Stargazer' was the choice of beer here, from the three available, and set the day off well. It is easy to go down to the Northern quarter from here but we decided to leave that till later, and set off towards Salford. A swift half of Stonehenge ' Eyeopener' in the Bank, at the back of Piccadilly Gardens, (part of the Nicholsons chain) and then a short bus ride on the no3  Freebus took us to Salford Central.

A short walk up the road and we were in the New Oxford. This has always been one of my favourite pubs, both for ticks and atmosphere. The atmosphere was still there, and the craic, and the eclectic juke box,but the ticks were missing. Out of 12 beers only 2 were new to us, and neither of these would be classed as exciting, the rest of the beer range was ordinary, but maybe we had just chosen a bad day to visit. However, this gave us more time to explore elsewhere.

Next on the list was the 'Mark Addy', a pub I had visited before just after it had opened earlier in the year, and one we had heard good things about. It is a few minutes walk from the Oxford up the road from Salford Central station towards Manchester on Bridge St, on the right down some stairs, overlooking the river. It was busy when we arrived, with plenty of people eating and sampling the 6 beers on the bar, (well actually 3 as they were running off rapidly). Here, an IPA from Allgates was the choice, hoping something interesting may appear from the taunting pole to fill the gaps. Unluckily for us, they didn't, so it was back out into Bridge St and our next pub.

It is easy to miss the 'Gas Lamp' (50a Bridge St), which is another downstairs pub on the right, with just the small entrance visible from the street. The pub itself is small, but comfortable, with the white tiled walls giving it the feel of a public toilet to some extent, but it was not the worse for that. Here there are 2 beers but we could not complain about the choice with a beer from Geeves and Brodies 'Californian IPA' on the bar. It was one of the beers of the day, a proper Ipa but a bit expensive at £3.80 a pint.

Back into the daylight, and a short ride took us to the northern quarter. First stop was the 'Angel'. This is a pub I cannot make my mind up about. The beer range is ok, but was not exciting yesterday, but it often gets beer from unusual breweries so is worth a call. Here I tried 'Saddleworth Mild', in good nick, but hardly mind blowing. Next was the 'Smithfield' in Swan St. Again a pub that used to be a must visit. Not any more. Even though the place has been decorated, and lost its smell of chip fat, (the kitchen has been made into a seating area), the beer range was average, and the clientele left a lot to be desired. Never mind, we may fare better across the road in the Bar Fringe. But no, another iconic pub for tickers that seems to have gone down to the average beer range. Another swift half and onwards. I did find a cask from the long defunct 'Kitchen' brewery hiding in the beer garden though !

The 'City Arms' on Oldham St did not detain us, their 3 beers not required, and on to the 'Castle' across the street. This is the only Robinsons outlet in the city centre, and has been recently and tastefully, refurbished. Plenty of rooms at the back of the front bar gives the feel of a tardis, and with the full range of Robbys beers on offer we settled with a couple of their specials.

One pub I had not visited but was keen to do so was the 'Port Street Beer House' a mere stones throw from Piccadilly Gardens. I had heard great things about the place, it only drawback is is 4pm opening during the week. The doors duly opened and we were greeted with a range of beer to gladden the heart of any beer drinker. It was just a problem of what to choose from the 8 on offer. I went for Hardknott 'Atomic Narcissus' and East London 'Foundation' - both beers rare around our part of the world, and both in excellent form, although not cheap. The only drawback in the place are the toilets, 3 storeys up ! not so good if you had a few. It is only a 5 minute walk back to Piccadilly station from the pub, so is a good place to finish a wander about before catching a train.

It was quite an eye opener. Some of the pubs I had previously considered 'must visit' places had fallen down the pecking order, to be replaced by other, newer pubs. But, nevertheless, Manchester is still worth a visit, I will be back before too long to sample them again. 


Friday, November 04, 2011

Beer is a personal thing

Reading the comments on the previous post made me think a bit. We all have our own likes and dislikes in all sorts of things, and beer is no different. What Leigh liked, Alison didn't and vice versa, and neither agreed with the vote of the festival which selected a totally different beer.

People who know me know that my preferred sort of beer is a light, hoppy number, even though I do try all sorts of styles. Is that down to my upbringing, where I live, or is it just me ? I can discount the first, I was brought up drinking keg Bass products, or the odd pint of Tetleys. so that has hardly set up an interest in hops. Maybe where I live has been a factor. We are lucky to live in Huddersfield where there is a great choice of all sorts of beers from all sorts of breweries to keep us entertained, but this is a fairly recent development. Would the same have happened if I had been brought up in deepest Dorset, or on a Scottish island ? I doubt it.

This was reinforced by a chance conversation with a friend from the former, who likes the darker, maltier beers because that is what he was used to in his youth He spends his time trying to find them on our local bars, preferring to drink bottled beers rather than hoppy beer if his search is unsuccessful. If I go down south, then I am sure I would be spending time trying, probably equally unsuccessfully, to find something to my taste. 

Another factor could be the taste of our favoured brewery. If the brewer favours light beer it seems we, as the consumer will be treated to light beers, or alternatively if he,or she goes for the more malty beers our taste will reflect that too. Of course, the more pubs available, the more different choice available. So obviously, the less number of pubs, the less choice. In a village of one pub we are only treated to what the pub owner, or the owning company think we will drink, or what is available from their list, so we are forced to drink their choice, or travel to another pub.

Or may be it is personal taste. Does a light beer suit my palette better than a dark beer? Who knows? All I know is that those people who chose Boggart 'Rum Porter' as the beer of Huddersfield Festival must have different tastes to me, I cannot stand the stuff.

It looks like a great subject for a Ph.D, and I am sure there is no definitive answer. Some people are happy to drink the same beer day after day, without any complaint; others like to change beers every pint; and there are even people out there, (they must be aliens or just not blessed with any sort of taste) that drink lager. All I can say, drink what you like,so long as it keeps the pub's till full, and your pub open.        

Monday, October 31, 2011

Beers of the Festival - Huddersfield

For those of you who have been unable to sleep without knowing the results of the beer of the festival at the recent Huddersfield Oktoberfest, I can now put you out of your misery.

Mild - North Riding Brewery - Fat Lads Mild
Bitter - Mallinsons - Citra
Strong - Summer Wine - 7Cs of Rye
Stout/Porter - Boggart - Rum Porter
Speciality - Ascot - Oktoberfest
Cider - Udders Orchard - Whisky Cask
'Charlie' Award for Beer of The Festival - Boggart - Rum Porter

An interesting selection I must admit, and not quite what I would have chosen, but there again, each to his own.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pictish does it again

As regular readers will know I have a soft spot for Pictish brewery, almost everything they brew hits the spot with me and this this weekend I have been treated to three of their classics.

Their 'Brewers Gold' is always on at The Star, and often at other pubs in town as well and a the moment is in exceptional form. Since it is there all the time, I usually overlook it but after several encouraging comments I tried some and realised what I had been missing, a real winner. A single hop beer that many breweries brew, no one has reached the peak that Richard Sutton has achieved with his version. The same can be true of his 'Sauvin Blanc' that appeared on the bar at The Rat & Ratchet on Friday. Another single hopped beer, this time with Nelson Sauvin, it weighs in at 4.8%, slightly higher than the usual strength of session beers but this is a beer that just demands another,and get the picture. It is not a typical Nelson beer, but uses the hop with more subtlety and with an appealing malt background to make a rounded beer with less harshness than is often the case with New Zealand hops.

This was followed on Saturday by their 'Stella' in the Star. Another light beer with a pleasant hop character, and another single hop variety beer. I must admit, I have never knowingly come across the hop before, but I will certainly be searching it out again. This time a more quaffable strength of 4.2% and again very moreish.The way Pictish use their hops never ceases to amaze and intrigue me, and this time I found a pleasant bitterness, but underscored with sweetness and again a very rounded beer. The hop itself does not possess the aggressive citrus notes often found in Southern hemisphere hops, coming from Australia rather than New Zealand, although still high in alpha acid at 15%. It gives a flowery, rather than fruity taste, but is none the worse for than. Definitely one to look out for in the future. It does have a drawback through, you feel a right prat ordering a pint of 'Stella', it goes completely against the the grain ! Nevertheless, guess what I will be drinking this afternoon ?!!!!