Saturday, April 30, 2011

More Milds than You Can Shake a Stick At

******* As of Wednesday, all milds for sale on the Festival Bar will be for sale at £1.00 a pint, an absolute bargain ****

Friday was a memorable day,, not only for Royal Weddings, but probably more so because the Rat & Ratchet opened its doors for its long awaited mild, cider and perry festival.

We could not complain about a lack of choice, there were milds to satisfy every taste, from light to dark, from roasted to spearmint, and every other taste in between. There were 24 on offer, and all on handpull. Enough to keep me going for an hour or two. The problem was, where to start ?

I finally chose to kick off with a couple of Mallinsons. Their 'Special Dark Mild' and 'Mission Bell Mild' were both 3.8 %, a both typical milds, both easy drinking and a good start. I then wandered into the realms of the light milds with Ridgeside 'Mild & Dangerous'. Not to my taste at all.

Blue Monkey 'Blue Moon' was next on the list; stronger at 4.4% and with a bit of a strange aroma, maybe ginger or cinnamon but for some reason this did not transfer into the taste, which tasted a bit thin in my opinion. After hearing comments about the Roosters 'Spearmint Mild' I avoided this and tried the Saltaire 'Dark Matter'. Again 3.8% and again a bit tasteless for my liking, but this was soon corrected with Leyden 'Egg'. This was more like it, Leyden seems to be able to pack a lot of lot of flavour into a dark, weak beer and this did not disappoint.

The real stars of the show were both light milds though. Dunham Massey 'Light' was clean and refreshing and showed what can be achieved without making a beer of stupid strength. This was also true of the classic 'Trinity' from Redemption. Only 3.0% but full of fresh hop flavour, maybe to call it a mild might be stretching it a bit, a great beer for quaffing on a warm afternoon.

I am not a cider drinker so did not sample them, but I heard good things about several of them. The festival showed 18 different suppliers with some providing two or three, so should this be your thing then there is plenty of variety. Dave Kendall-Smith's 'Udders Orchard' provided a perry, a cider and a Whisky Cask cider, and there were two Rum Cask ciders to whet your appetite as well.

A good festival, well attended, and a credit to Rob and the team. Give it a go.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Any Excuse for a Stupid Beer Name !

Unless you have been away on Mars for a year or so, it will not have escaped your notice, however much you have tried, that there is a Royal Wedding coming off on Friday. A day for the nation to celebrate, and the brewers to brew. Any excuse for a new beer, and any excuse for a new name to go with it. It seems that virtually every brewery has a wedding special out, and some have been really hitting the heights to call them something unusual.

Wharfebank have been fairly conventional with 'Yorkshire Princess', does she come from Yorkshire ? I haven't a clue. Mallinsons with 'Prince's Pick' is again fairly safe, unless you have had a few and start to slur. But what of the rest ?

Acorn 'Up The Aisle' sounds ok, as does Moorhouses 'Royal Appointment', and Saltaire's safe but uninspired 'Nuptuale'. Two Roses have a play on words with 'Royale Wedding', and Northumberland have taken the more prosaic stance with 'Bonus Bank Holiday'. But what of the really daft names ?

White Rose have come up with 'Kate's Willy' if you pardon the pun !; Phoenix are treating us to 'Brides Nighty'; and I quite like Abbeydale's 'Royal Welding'. The best I have heard but have forgotten who brewed it must be 'Kate Loves Willy'.

This only a small selection but should anyone out there have better ones then let us know. I must admit I cannot really see Liz and Phil raising a glass of 'Kiss Me Kate' at the reception as they toast the happy couple. But there again, who knows ?

Springtime is festival time !!

They are a bit like buses, you wait ages for one and then 4 appear together ! This weekend sees 4 beer festivals within a few miles of Huddersfield, all easily accessible (depending on public transport) and all having interesting selections of beer.

I have already posted the Rat & Ratchet mild and cider festival, but if you want to travel further out of town then the 232 bus route gives access to two others. The 'Reindeer' at Overton is having a festival starting at 1200 noon on Friday and promising about 15 beers themed around some sort of event also being held on that day, but more of that later. The 'Cricketers' at Horbury also promises a festival, again from noon with around 20 beers served on an inside and outside bar. Plenty of the beers here are old favourites but there are a few specials thrown in for the 'tickers' amongst us.

Should you still want more, then the Barnsley Beer Festival, at Elsecar, on the Penistone rail line from Huddersfield has a massive selection of beers, both local and from further afield, to whet your appetite. If beer from the North East is your thing, then this could be worth a visit.

The only problem is that Friday has been designated as a Bank Holiday, and therefore bus times may be a little tricky. An hourly service at 1159 etc, operates from Huddersfield to both Overton and Horbury, on the 232 route. It returns from Horbury at 5 past the hour, until 5pm then 10 past. Overton is a little more complicated, having a return at 13 mins past the hour till 1713 then 2 hourly thereafter. Saturdays are normal service, basically hourly but with different times but Sundays revert to the formula above.
Elsecar is a different problem. On the Penistone line, but not all trains stop there, and at festival times will involve a change of trains, according to the rail website, at Chapeltown.

Anyway, should festivals be your thing, there are plenty to choose from, both in and out of town. The problem is knowing where to start !
And in case you are at a loose end next weekend, Halifax Mayfest is on. More details later.

Huddersfield Camra 2011 awards - the full story

Somehow the 'Bloke from Hull' has got hold of the information that has managed to elude me. I find this a little surprising as I am a member of Huddersfield Camra and on their mailing list but for some reason never got the details sent to me, so have had to make do with speculation and rumour about the winners of various awards until now.

However, this is the comprehensive list of local awards made by our local branch for 2011.

Pub Of The Year 2011 - Rat & Ratchet and Sportsman jointly
Cider Pub Of The Year - Rat & Ratchet
The Rat will be going forward to the Yorkshire Regional Pub of the Year award due to winning 2 awards
Club Of The Year - Marsh Liberal Club
Spring Pub Of The Season 2011 - The Star

Some well deserved accolades there, and congratulations to all the winners.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Two Roses Brewery

Last evening in the Star, I managed to catch up with the first beer from the new Two Roses brewery from South Yorkshire, and it was not a bad effort at all. 'First Edition Pale Ale' is a 4% offering, and as it says on the pump clip, it is 'a light and refreshing India Pale Ale'. Very drinkable and a good session beer, it is not aggressively hopped but uses hops in a more subtle manner than some, but is none the worse for that.

At the moment, their website shows 2 other regular beers, 'Black Beauty Stout' a 5% beer, and 'Barnsley Pride Bitter', a more traditional style beer at 4.4%. Lets face it, every brewery in the Barnsley area produces their take on Barnsley bitter. There is also 'Royale Wedding', a 4% beer presumably a one off.

The brewery is based in Darton, on the outskirts of Barnsley, and uses a 8 barrel plant commissioned from Dave Porter, and promises bottled beer as well as cask.

If you want to know more about the efforts they have made to actually get the beer into the glass, then take a look on their web site, there is a very informative blog, detailing the whole process from deciding to open a brewery, through the financial and legal processes involved right up to the first brewing efforts. After reading that it makes me wonder why anyone takes up brewing at all ! All we can do is wish them good luck and welcome them to the ever increasing number of Yorkshire breweries.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rat & Ratchet Mild and Cider Festival

As I promised last week, there are festivals coming thick and fast at the moment. The next local one will be the Rat and Ratchet Mild & Cider Festival that starts this coming Friday. I have heard that this Friday will be a Bank Holiday so there is no reason not to call down and support Rob and the team, especially if you want to get out the other half's way while she watches the Royal Wedding on telly !

Just to whet your appetite Rob has supplied us with a sneak preview of the beer list, all of which should be served through handpumps, but I am not sure yet if all are available at once. There are milds to suit every drinker, with a fair mixture of light and dark milds, and new beers rubbing shoulders with some old favourites.

Light milds

Naylors – Light Mild

Elland – First Light

Acorn – Lightness

Boggart – Light mild

Dunham Massey – Light Mild

Redemption – Trinity

Riverhead – White Moss Mild

Dark Mild

Naylors – Tawney Mild

Elland – Born to be Mild (new)

Golcar - Mild

Goose Eye – Black Moor

Ilkley – Black

Leeds – Midnight Bell

Little Valley – Midgely Mild

Great Heck – Voodoo Mild (new)

Mallinsons - Dark Mild (new)

Special (new)

Roosters – Spearmint Mild (new)

Saltaire – Dark Matter

Summer Wine – Resistance D.M

Salamander – Mildly Offensive (new)

Castle Rock – Black Gold

Elgoods – Black Dog

Magpie – Midnight Mild

Milestone – Classic D.M

Batemans – D.M

Rudgate – Ruby Mild

Adnams – Mild

Gun Hill

Fernandes – Malt Shovel Mild

Ossett – Mill Bridge Mild

So why not support Camra's mild month and get down to the Rat and sample whats on offer, and raise a glass to Will & Kate, (that's Mr Wales, not our esteemed editor !)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Huddersfield's CAMRA Pub of the Year

One piece of local news that has eluded me in the past few weeks, is the choice of the local Camra's choice for Pub Of The Year. I have heard rumours but until I had it officially confirmed I did not want to pre-empt any decision from them, after all, I have fallen foul of them in the past.

I received an e mail this morning inviting me to the award presentation, this afternoon, to the Sportsman, strangely though it is a joint award and nowhere does it tell me who the other joint winners are, I wait with bated breath !

The Sportsman has been transformed in the last 2 years from a basic back street boozer, much avoided by discerning drinkers, to a must visit real ale pub, well established on the local circuit and attracting drinkers from far and wide. The beer range is mainly locally sourced, Mallinsons always features, along with Taylors and something from the Black Sheep stable. There are now real ciders available, with a growing range of foreign beers, both in bottles and on draught.

Beer festivals are occasionally held, like this weekend, to celebrate the pub's 2nd anniversary. We have been treated to 'Meet The Brewer Nights' and beer tasting evenings and the pub is getting a reputation for its good, home cooked food.

Its success in such a short time is down to the vision of Mike Field and the enthusiastic leadership of Sam, and her team. They deserve their award.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Vote for Yorkshire Pub Of the Year

This summer, 'Welcome To Yorkshire', the regional tourist board, in association with 'The Yorkshire Post' and the BBC are holding a competition to let us vote for our favourite Yorkshire pub.

The idea is to select the best 10 to make a 'Yorkshire Pub Trail' and then whittle them down to 3 and finally one to be crowned the 'Yorkshire's Favourite Pub' at the Great Yorkshire Show in July.

With a county as large as Yorkshire there are obviously plenty of candidates, ranging from small dales pubs to large city establishments, from those beloved of real ale fans to those frequented by food fans, from the new to the old. My favourite may not be yours but lets get voting and make sure Huddersfield gets it fair share and see if one of our pubs can win the ultimate accolade, we have plenty to choose from after all.

To vote check out the Yorkshire Post website and follow the links there. The first round of votes will be counted on May 8th. What are you waiting for, get voting and lets get our pubs on the map.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sportsman 2nd festival

This Good Friday saw the start of the 2nd Sportsman Anniversary Festival. Strange to think the pub has only been open 2 years and is now one of the must visit pubs on the Huddersfield beer circuit, just goes to show what an attraction real ale can be.

The usual 8 beers on the inside bar were supplemented by 8 new beers, all from local breweries, and served on the outside bar. There were beers to suit all tastes, from the light and hoppy, to the dark and malty. The inside bar gave us the chance to sample beer from the 'Outstanding' brewery in Lancashire, one at 3.9%, another at 7.4%, but colourwise it was hard the tell them apart. There was also the 2nd in Summer Wine's 'Nerotype' series on the bar;a black IPA with columbus hops, bitter but with resinous undertones. Outside we were treated to specials from Mallinsons, Steel City and Little Ale Cart, all full of hop flavours; an Empire beer made with citra and columbus hops, Golcar 'Buos Annus' which was dark and malty and an Acorn vanilla porter should that be your thing.

Food is available, to soak up the ale, and as usual with Sam, she has managed to get beer or cider into each recipe, and if music is your thing bands playing Friday and Sunday night. It is well worth a call, but if you call for a quick pint don't be surprised to suddenly find you have spent the whole day there, its that sort of festival. Roll on the 3rd Anniversary.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is it really worth the effort ?

I am a lover of beer as much as the next man, but you may have guessed that I prefer my beer from the handpump, and of the light and hoppy variety. I tend to shy away from strong beer, unless it fits into those categories, and am very sceptical about breweries that make beer as a gimmick.

I have recently read an article listing the world's strongest beers .Two breweries feature 3 times, and seem to be trying to outdo each other to produce the world's strongest beer, but why ?
Is it likely I will call in the Grove on a Monday afternoon and decide that a nice session beer for the afternoon will be the 32% 'Tactical Nuclear Penguin' from Brewdog ,even if I could afford it? Unlikely. And that is only 7th strongest on the list.

They were gazumped by Schorschbrau 'Schorshbock' at 40%, and promptly brewed 'Sink The Bismarck' at 41%, (I wonder what inspired that name?). The next 'Schorshbock' weighed in at 43% to take it to the top, but Brewdog fought back, (its a bit like a game of tennis this), with 'The End Of History' at a massive 55%. I suppose they thought they was safe there, no one would be crazy enough to brew anything stronger. Would they ? Oh yes !

The world's strongest beer is now 't Koelschip 'Start The Future' at a ridiculous 60%. Why ? Is beer not for drinking and enjoying, not for sipping from small bottles that cost a stupid price. I for one, will not be sampling it, even if some kind soul bought it me. The whole concept goes against the grain with me, or are am I missing something somewhere ? If I want something strong, surely whisky or vodka is more affordable. It does not make any sense ?

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Crown, Huddersfield

A chance conversation reminded me of a pub that I have not visited for some time, so since I had a bit of time on my hands, it seemed an ideal opportunity to rectify my oversight.

The Crown is situated in Westgate, just on the corner of the bus station entrance, ideally sited to catch passing trade. It is a deceptively large pub, one room that has several separate seating areas, which, on my visit was pleasantly full with a mixture of lunchtime drinkers. The problem in my opinion, is that it is dominated by two large screen TVs that seemed to be dedicated to Sky Sports and because of the low ceiling made the place a little too noisy for my liking, and made it difficult to stand somewhere without obstructing someone's view.

It is served by a long bar along one wall, with plenty of attentive staff on my visit. It dispenses the usual range of lagers and smoothflow from fonts on the bar but there are also a choice of 6 real ales there. They appear to be dominated by larger breweries but there is a good selection available and some are unusual in the area. On my visit there was Draught Bass, Marstons EPA, Everards 'Tiger', Greene King 'Abbot Ale', Wells 'Bombardier' (must remember to tell Malcolm !) and what seemed to be the guest beer, 'Brakespear' Oxford Gold. My beer was in in good condition, and for a town centre pub, competetively priced. There is also a wide food menu available throughout the day.

It would not be a pub where I would linger for long but it is well worth a call if you are passing or have a few minutes to wait for a bus. Or if you are a fan of Bombardier !

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The 2nd Waterloo Festival

When I heard reports back from the 1st Waterloo Beer Festival, I added it to my diary as a must visit event for 2011. I had never been to a beer festival in an old deconsecrated church before. And coupled with the fact it is in one of my favourite cities, it seemed too good to be true. It did not disappoint.

This Waterloo was not on the outskirts of Huddersfield though, it was in the Merseyside suburb of Crosby. Easy enough to get to from Huddersfield though, a train to Liverpool then the Southport stopper brought us to the area and a short walk brought us to the festival. It was everything I had been told, and more. Held in the Old Christ Church it was a stunning venue. The old church with its striated sandstone interior was a perfect venue, light and airy, plenty of space to sit and plenty of space for the beer, and because of the nature of the church, the beer was kept naturally cool. The toilets were a bit of a problem though.

It is organised by Liverpool Organic Brewery, and they seemed to have got everything right. Entry for some of the sessions was ticket only, because of the success of the previous years event, but the Friday daytime session allowed payment on the door. Some may say the £5 entry fee was excessive, but with that came a festival glass,(all 1/2 pints) and a very professional programme with comprehensive tasting notes. All beer was £1.25 a half, irrespective of strength, paid for in refundable tickets of £10 each, and there were plenty of staff to serve on. Foreign beers and cider also featured, along with a good food stall.

But what about the beer. 142 barrels featured on stillage, featuring local breweries and plenty from down in the south west; a mixture of old favourites and new beers to keep everyone satisfied and a good balance of dark and light beers for every taste.

I started with Cambrinus from nearby St Helens, a brewery that has often eluded me and their 'Herald' certainly hit the spot, while Robin and I perused the programme for the rest of the days entertainment. We collected a couple of new breweries, Project Venus from Grantham, and Liverpool Craft Brewery, both excellent first trys, and then set about on some of the rarer beers available. Rob set to work on those from Abbey Ales in Bath and I went for those from the Bristol Beer Factory. Everything we tried was good and the tasting notes assisted us in the choice from the large range available. I ignored some of the newer beers from breweries we see over our part of the world,instead sampling some from Wapping, Southport, and the Liverpool Organic Brewery, all being light, hoppy and very tasty. In fact the only one below par was 'Ostara' from Allgates which the tasting notes made to sound superb, I was a bit disappointed, but one out of twelve was not bad.

We had decided to have a couple of hours in Liverpool to round off the day, but after the advice of the couple we had spent the day with, (a museum curator and a geologist actually, who says that beer drinkers are all bearded blokes with fat bellies !) we took in a couple of beer guide pubs in Waterloo itself, both different and both selling local beers, before returning. I was most impressed and will be looking out on the calendar for next years festival with eager anticipation, if you want a different festival this is certainly one not to miss.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What is a decent price for a decent pint ?

It is a couple of weeks since the Budget and the price rises promised are beginning to appear, some quicker than others I admit, but every local pub I have checked seems to have increased theirs.

I understand than I do drink in several pubs under different sorts of ownership; mostly owned by small pub chains or individuals, and therefore the rises are sometimes governed by rises across the group rather than the licencee themselves but I have come across some wildly differing rises that have confused, or even worried me.

Most places have been happy to add about 10p to the price of a pint, and that seems the norm across the board in Huddersfield, bringing the cheapest beers to around £2.30. Before you tell me, I know there are places whose beer are still cheaper than that, but this is a general statement. Other beers have increased pro rata of strength, so naturally the stronger the beer the more expensive it becomes. Again a fair system in my opinion. But I was a bit unprepared for some of the rises I found.

Before I go on, this is the exception rather than the rule but it does highlight a worrying trend. I was concerned that beer at the local Wetherspoons that had been part of their festival range and sold at £1.99, has now come on sale after the festival at £2.35 in some cases, surely this beer was bought in prior to the budget, so why the rise ? The same applies to another local pub chain whose prices increased the day after the budget. If the supplier bought the beer cheaper, why pass on the increase to the customer. It would be more acceptable, and more understandable to raise the price on beer bought post budget, as other local pubs seem to have done.

My concern with 'spoons was nothing compared to the amazement I showed when charged £3.23 for a pint of 5% 'York' beer in the Head of Steam. I assume, although cannot confirm, that they charge a rate per pint based on what they pay per barrel from the wholesaler, hence their bizarre price range, but I found this somewhat excessive.

All I can say is that the punter buys what he wants where he wants to buy it, and if the market supports a beer at £3.20 a pint so be it, but I would be concerned that my customers may go elsewhere. It is not uncommon now to find the same beer on sale in different town centre pubs with a variation of at least 35p per pint, and it is often possible to go out of town and save even more.

I am not saying that all suppliers sell the same product at the same price, after all, they all have differing overheads, but rather they understand why their profits may take a dip in comparison with their neighbour, as drinkers we are a canny bunch, and can, and will vote with our feet. After all, we have to drink to a budget too.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Festivals, festivals and even more festivals

This weekend sees the start of a serious season of beer festivals round and about. I have selected a few within a reasonable distance should you be at a loose end and fancy something different.

This weekend also sees Camra's National conference being held in Sheffield, so many of the pubs there have made an effort and are providing extra beers, or in some cases small festivals to complement this. No doubt plenty of interest there but expect it to be busy.

The Doncaster Beer festival is also on over the weekend, promising 80 or so new beers and some fairly interesting looking breweries that I have not come across.

However, should you not fancy a trip into South Yorkshire there is a local one at The Nook,at Holmfirth that may whet your appetite. Running from Thursday 14th through till Sunday it promises 40 plus ales, with live music.

The following weekend from Friday 22nd until Sunday, the Sportsman at Huddersfield is having its 2nd festival, and from Friday 29th onwards the Rat & Ratchet is holding its mild and cider festival with a promise of plenty of light milds to supplement the more usual darker fayre.
If you are over in the Wakefield area that weekend, (rather than glued to the telly watching the Royal nuputials ) then there are festivals promised at The Reindeer at Overton and the Cricketers at Horbury, both easily accessed by bus from Huddersfield.

So there you are, more festivals than ever. Just hope the weather holds and we can get around a few, will keep you posted.

Friday, April 08, 2011

A Swift One is Global

I am not sure how much access readers of 'A Swift One' get to the mechanics behind the system, but I have administrative authority to allow me to it. I accidentally clicked on an icon I had not seen before and was greeted with a map of hits on the site in the last week.

We are not trying to blow our own trumpet, (if you heard my attempts at music you could understand why !), but a quick scan through where the hits came from is quite revealing. I never knew we had such a following in the USA for instance, nor Germany. I take it the 'beer of the day' spot will not be much use to them ! What really amazed me was some of the other countries where people read us; Moldova, Estonia and Ukraine for example. I don't even know where they are, let alone knew they were interested in beer in Huddersfield. The real coup de grace,(just for our French readership !) is that 31 hits came from Iran. Is the 'Swift One' required reading for the Ayotollah with his breakfast ? Will he be making an appearance at the Huddersfield beer festival ? Who knows ?

All we can say is thank you to all our readers, local and otherwise, hope you enjoy it and tell your friends. And don't be afraid to leave us your comments, they are always welcome. Especially if you are reading this in Iran !

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Day In The Toon

As readers of 'A Swift One' will be aware, a couple of months ago, Robin the train and myself took a trip to London to check out the pubs in the capital, and it set us wondering where else we could try in the interests of research. We chose Newcastle, a city neither of us had visited for some time and which promised a good selection of both beer and pubs. This is the story of our day.

The city is about 2 hours from Huddersfield by train. We arrived about 10 am and made our way up to Haymarket where we were to meet our guides for the day, Alan from GOBBS guide, and Phil, who maintains a daily updated website of local ale pubs, who better to show us the sights.

Between us we decided on a route that worked in a rough figure of 8 to cater for the different opening hours of the pubs we were visiting, and an hour after arrival we were in Newcastle's newest Wetherspoons sampling their wares. 'The Five Swans' is on St Marys Place, about 5 minutes walk from Haymarket. It is a modern corner pub, airy and plenty of inside and outside seating offering beers from the 'Spoons range and some local beers as well.

Next port of call was another 'Spoons, 'The Mile Castle'. A large 3 floor conversion down towards the station, and another beer from the festival list. We followed this with the 3rd 'Spoons, and in my opinion the best. An old converted Gentleman's club near Central Station, again on 3 floors with bars hidden in all sorts of odd places and a superb staircase. 'The Union'Rooms is worth visiting just for the building, let alone the range of beers, (and the fact you can see buses passing the windows !).

By now we were all 'Spooned out and the clock had ticked by to allow some of the other pubs to open. Next on the list was the city's must visit pub. 'The Crown Posada' is steeped in history, and after the walk down to the pub, steep is the operative word. Hiding down a side street, called 'Side' oddly enough, it is towards the river away from the city centre. The interior is listed in Camra's inventory of pub interiors and the whole place is dominated by 2 stained glass windows facing onto the street. Long and thin, with a superb decorative ceiling, music from an old gramophone adds to the atmosphere of calm here. There are 6 beers on tap here, many locally sourced, so a half of Wylam 'Gold Tankard' hit the spot while chilling out.

The only problem with the 'Posada' is the walk back to the centre, all up hill. I was overruled in my request for a taxi, so we made our way back up the hill, and a flight of steps akin to scaling Everest which brought us to the next pub. Facing the castle and on the edge of the High Level Bridge (more of which in a minute) 'The Bridge Hotel' is a large pub, with plenty of seating in different open plan areas, again GBBG listed, and again a selection of locally sourced beer, but we went for the Cumberland Ales 'Corby Blonde' and pretty good it was too.

Our guides then suggested a walk into Gateshead for our next pub. Off across the bridge and at the end, on the left hand side hidden away is the newly renovated 'Central Hotel'. Well, to say newly renovated gives the wrong impression. The place had been derelict for many years until the Head of Steam chain got hold of it and sympathetically restored it. A long thin pub, with a new central bar, (but still using the original hand pulls) it is a credit to them. Especially if you can get chance to visit the back room, which is totally unchanged from its previous existence with a massive polished wood bar and was discovered intact when the pub was being renovated. A exciting food menu, and an equally exciting beer menu, we tarried here for quite a while, sampling offering from the rare 'Stables' brewery, and a couple of other beers rare to the area. A must visit pub. (cont)

The Toon Part 2

When you left us we were sitting in the 'Central' sampling the wares. Soon though it was time to leave Gateshead and wander back into Newcastle, in search of yet more pubs.

A walk across the Tyne Bridge, (at least I think it was that, Newcastle has its fair share of bridges) brought us back in about 10 minutes to the 'Bacchus'. Its address is High Bridge, but is nowhere near a bridge, just down a side street, but is another place not to miss. Newcastle Camra's pub of the year for the last 3 years it is easy to see why. Smart, comfortable, and with 8 handpulls serving beers rarely seen elsewhere in the city, it is a great place for tickers, and for food as well. A committed manager has brought a breath of fresh air to the local ale scene, and often features 'Yorkshire Dales' brewery specials on the bar.

Refreshed and replenished we were off again. This time to 'The Strawberry' just in the shadow of St James Park. Not a pub for Sunderland fans, sorry Iain, it is a shrine to the 'Toon' with Newcastle United memorabilia all over the place. Even the house beers are 'Toon Barmy' and '5-1', sorry Iain again ! A basic back street boozer though.

Next was another Newcastle must visit pub. 'The Newcastle Arms', on the fringes of Chinatown, is legendary amongst beer enthusiasts. It holds regular beer festivals supplementing the 8 beers on the bar. Again they are sourced from far and wide but we settled down with the house beer, Big Lamp 'Golden Star' while Phil tried to extract information and beer from the cellar from the manager. Failing on both counts we were the homeward leg.

It is a short walk down the 'Bodega' on Westgate Road, with its stained glass domes it is an airy, fresh feeling pub which serves 6 beers, mostly locally sourced. More or less next door is 'Tllleys' which is a street corner pub with a few beers on, but we were amazed to find keg 'Schehallion' from Harviestoun on a lager font. Not that we tried it though.

This brought us back to the Union Rooms and the railway station, with its 'Centurian' bar. Built in 1893, and ornately tiled, it has been tastefully renovated and is, apart from the pedestrian beer range, a great place to while away the time until your train arrives.

Newcastle is a great city for beer, and an even better city if you like pubs. Every one we visited was different and many had been restored sympathetically. It is well worth a day out to wander round and hunt them out.

(thanks to Alan and Phil, without whose help this trip would have missed out some classics. We will be back sooner rather than later)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Beer Of The Day, 2nd April

It was not an easy job, but someone had to do it. What was the beer of the day from the super selection at the Star on Saturday ? The choices were simple, or so I thought. Would it be light and hoppy, or dark and flavoursome? Or something in between.

Then where to start. The obvious point was the weakest. And the darkest. Five Towns 'Half Moon Porter', 4.1%. Apart from arguing whether the beer was really a porter or stout, it was superb. Tending towards dryness rather than sweetness but crammed with flavour it was everything I enjoy in a dark beer. It would take some beating.

But it was rubbing shoulders on the bar with Mallinsons 'Shiver Me Terrier 2'. Brewed again, to mark the passing of 'Mitch' the star of the pump clip, it was a stronger and different version of the original brew. A clean well balanced beer, plenty of hops there and a nice fruity finish. Another contender.

Later in the day a second Mallinsons beer appeared. 'Brightside' was another light and hoppy beer, fruity and fresh. Just the thing for a sunny afternoon. The beer is hopped with citra hops , but there is a subtlety about their use in the beer and the balance is just right. The choice was getting difficult now.

The fourth contender came in as a strong light beer. Five Towns 'Peculiar Blue' is 6%. Packed with hops - we had some disagreement over which one's were used - but they blended together to produce a spectacular beer. I have had the beer before but never better than this. Mr Bastow has certainly got it right this time. So after extensive testing, the beer of the day accolade went to Five Towns , but not without some very serious competition. Long may it continue.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Latest Ossett Outlet

The historic Kings Arms at Heath Common on the outskirts of Wakefield will become the latest Ossett Brewery managed house next week. From Monday 4th April Angie Cromack, currently landlady at the Ossett/Everards pub The New Albion in Flanshaw, will be at the helm. The pub is currently under the stewardship of Clarks of Wakefield. A photo article will follow soon. (map)