Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fieldhead Festival

News reaches us that the Fieldhead on Quarmby Road (Quarmby, Huddersfield) has its first festival this month.

Starting at midday on Friday 17th June and running till close all weekend, 20 beers, local and national, will be available. Basket meals and light bites until 7pm each day. On Saturday evening vocalist/guitarist Don Quixote will entertain.

Bus 357 leaves Huddersfield bus station at 30 minutes past the hour, but there is no evening or Sunday service, so a bit of walking might be required.

If you haven't visited this pub before, this is perhaps an ideal opportunity to check out this real ale local with possibly the best beer garden in Huddersfield.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sportsman Launches Their First Beers

Yesterday, whilst the majority of the Town, or so it seemed, had disappeared over the Pennines, those of us who remained were treated to the first attempts at brewing by Sam at the Sportsman.

On the bar were their first two beers. Alpha Ale, a light 4.3% bitter, and Pigeon Bridge Porter, at 4.7%. And at £2 a pint they were both well received. I had already sampled The Alpha a the Dewsbury beer festival, but I found the condition and the flavour far better in the pub. It was a refreshing beer, may be a little lacking in hop characteristics but still very quaffable, but the real star of the show was the porter. To quote 'Martin the Mildman', and he certainly knows his milds, it was 'a mixture of roast coffee, dark chocolate and burned toast flavours with a hoppy finish', I would not disagree, there was masses of interesting stuff going on in the glass, and all who drank it seemed to be very impresses.

The two beers have been 'cuckoo' brewed at Golcar Brewery but the on site brewery should be up and running shortly and further beers will hopefully come from there, if these two are anything to go by, they should be well worth trying.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Star reaches 6000

At around 6.00 pm on Saturday, a new Mallinsons beer appeared on the bar at The Star, nothing unusual about that you may say, but 'Sorrel Sykes Gate, was the 6,000th beer to have been served though the hand pumps in the bar. A great testimony to Sam and her principles of how to run a great real ale pub, and the dedication of her customers to try out new beers sourced from new and far. Long may it continue !

Friday, May 27, 2011

Key Keg - the mystery unravelled

Drinkers in The Grove will recently have noticed that on their foreign beer board there are several beers that are shown as 'Key Keg'. The question is what is key keg and what difference to it make to your beer? And why is it different to other forms of beer, if it is at all ?

Beer drinkers are used to their beer being served in many ways. The easiest being gravity dispense straight from the beer cask, but we can also have our beer in bottles, with the beer either bottle conditioned or pasturised, served through a beer engine on handpull, or served, under pressure from a pressurised cask.

Cider and wine drinkers are used to their choice of tipple served straight from a box with the product in a plastic bag inside the box but not served under any pressure other than gravity. Could this be a way forward for beer dispense ?, 'Keykeg' believe so.

To make the concept of Keykeg it as simple as possible, the old idea of a cask, bulky and heavy, awkward to transport and store, let alone clean, is replaced by a box containing a polythene ball.
The ball is filled with liquid, (eg beer) and because of its makeup is flexible, and is housed within an outer cardboard container. The liquid is then dispensed by filling the space between the outer housing and the inner ball with pressure which forces the liquid out of the bag, without the pressure coming into contact with the liquid at all. There is no requirement for the space to be filled with co2, air will do the job just as well, it just has to have sufficient pressure to force the liquid out of the ball.

As the liquid evacuates the ball, the ball will sink so that eventually the box will flatten. It can then be disposed of quite easily. There is no need to return the box, as is the case with kegs.

The makers suggest that the keykeg beer has a shelf life of up to 9 months, and once opened the beer is fresh for up to a month.

I can see plenty of advantages to the system. Not the least of them being its cheapness. As I have already mentioned, it does away with having to return barrels, and the brewer having to subsequently sterilise them. They are easier to handle and transport than beer barrels, and easier to store. They allow small volumes of beer to be available for parties and the like.

Full details are available on the 'Keykeg' website, along with what the company views as their advantages, most of which I have outlined above, but the do make a big play of their environmentally friendly potential, both in transport and production.

But what of the taste of the beer ? I have sampled a few beers served through keykeg, mostly from the more innovative breweries such as Brewdog, or from foreign breweries who I assume find the system easier to transport beers from overseas. Generally the result has been quite acceptable, though may be lacking a bit of the sparkle I expect in draught beer. However the beers I have sampled have been stronger beers which I assume need a fairly long shelf life, which may benefit from the system.

Whether this is the option for every pub I can not say, but it certainly seems an option for pubs with a small turnover of a particular beer, in the same way that some pubs keep boxes of cider.
It could even be an option for beer festivals. But to expect it to replace the beer barrel may be a step too far at this stage, but there again, time will tell. We can only wait and see. In the meantime, if you want to see what all the fuss is about, call at the Grove and sample them yourself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book your July Holiday In Huddersfield

July sees a great month for beer festivals in Huddersfield, with three of the local festivals coming up.

First will be the 'Monkeyfest' at Armitage Bridge; promising 50 beers,over the weekend of 2/3rd July with music, and a barbeque. If previous attempts are anything to go by, then this is a must visit event.

The Star Summer Festival follows a couple of weeks later, starting on the evening of Wednesday 13th, with full day opening Friday and over the weekend. We are promised an interesting selection of beers in the marquee and on the bar.

The last two of the quartet will be the Hall Bower Festival the following weekend, which has again be well worth visiting in the past, along with 'Thurstyfest 3' at the Rose & Crown, Thurstonland.

All in all, a great time for the beer drinkers of the town, and a chance to get out and about to sample beers in wonderful surroundings. Just hope the weather is kind and they get the support that their efforts deserve.

Sportsman Brewery Launch

Should anyone be around in Huddersfield on Sunday afternoon, I know that its unlikely with the blue & white Brazil at Old Trafford for the play off final, then The Sportsman brewery will be having its official launch at the pub.

There should be their first two beers available, one light and one dark, on the bar.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Black Sheep Imperial Russian Stout

I had heard great things about this beer from several people and was interested in trying it, but it seemed my only hope would be to find one of the bottled versions until my visit to the Dewsbury Beer festival, where, there it was, on gravity, just tempting me to try it. It was certainly not a let down.

Black Sheep are not renowned for brewing outside their comfort zone, and only rarely do we find new beers from them to sample, so this was a coup for more than one reason. Let me explain.

The beer was initially brewed for a competition in St Petersburg in Russia, where the brewers of Masham were to be going head to head with another 11 brewers of the style to create the perfect example. The brew run was small, by Black Sheep standards anyway, consisting of 50 barrels. These were split, so that 20 were to be casked for selected pub outlets, and 30 to go for bottling. And there was a 'pin' to be transported by clipper to Russia for the judging.

I was often getting feedback from others that had been lucky enough to sample it in certain pubs in Leeds and York, and was gradually becoming more sure that my only chance to try it would be in its bottled version, that was until I happened across it at Dewsbury.

I must admit that I am not the world's greatest fan of Black Sheep beers, but I know that they can brew decent dark beers, as I rate their 'Riggwelter', but would the 'Russain Stout' stand comparison? Well I must admit that it did. It is unusual in my opinion for tasting notes to mirror what I have in a glass but this time they were spot on.

The brewery website mentions aromas of pineapples and banana, which I did not get, but also port wine, which I did. The taste was a hit of liquorice, and raisin which took over from a short flavour of peppery hop, and developing into a warming finish. It was all there, in abundance. At 8.5% it is not a quaffing ale, but at that strength it is a beer to be savoured and all its complexities enjoyed.

If someone can brew a better 'Russian Stout' than this I should be interested to sample it, and if you want to try it, look out for it in bottles. It would make a perfect antidote for the darker nights of winter. I just hope the Russians appreciate what a small Yorkshire village can brew, and that they give them the award their effort deserves.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The 2nd Dewsbury & Heavy Woollen Festival

Friday dawned and brought with it the problem of which of two beer festivals to visit, whether to go up into North Yorkshire and give Skipton a go, or stay nearer to home and take a look at Dewsbury. Having a preview of both beer lists, and with the chance to try out the new Sportsman brewery, there was really no contest, so midday found me queueing outside Dewsbury Town Hall to sample what was on offer here.

The afternoon session was free for Camra members, and at £1 for a refundable glass, and £6 for a beer ticket, I was soon equipped to enter the fray.

The beers were, as usual at Camra festivals, on a mixture of handpull and stillage and arranged in 2 separate bars, one dedicated to Scottish beers. The other a mixture of old favourites and 'spotters' beers, along with a well stocked cider bar. I must admit the larger bar was a bit shambolic as trying to locate some of the beers I wanted was a problem, maybe a straight alphabetical system may have been better.

My first choice was obvious and I settled down, with my 3 companions, to sample the Sportsman 'Alpha'. It was 4.3% and the tasting notes promised 'a refreshing citrus aroma and and grapefruit finish'. What we all got from the beer was an overwhelming taste of paint, which was unpleasant in the extreme. However, it was the first beer from a new brewery so we thought it may have been an infection in the beer or something similar, how wrong we were !

We all had agendas of what to drink, and our second beers were all different, but again the taste of emulsion came through those of taken from the larger bar on handpull, but we were beginning to get a little suspicious when those on gravity and those from the Scottish bar did not have the flavour of Magicote. It was early in the day, and some of the beers we tried were the first beers out of the pumps, in halves, so may be this was the problem. Not the beer itself, but something had tainted the beer lines themselves.

Having discussed the problem, we thought maybe the best way forward was to concentrate, for a while on the Scottish beers, and the those on gravity. From this selection we managed to find untainted beers, and soon managed to get some new beers that tasted as the brewers intended; Cotswold Spring 'Old Sodbury Mild' was well received, Kelburn 'Pivo Estivo' was excellent, but my favourite was Highland 'Orkney IPA' which I could have gladly stayed on all day if there were not plenty of new beers yet to sample.

Soon, it was time to return to the handpulls though, and the choice of beer became a lottery, some tasted tainted, others not. I tried the new Copper Dragon beer ' Conqueror', Nook 'Summer Bitter' , and Bridgehouse 'Barnstormer' all had the underlying paint flavour, but St Georges 'Paragon Steam' did not. By this time one of our number had become so frustrated that he left. I tried another half of the Sportsman beer and this time it was as it should have been, and although not giving the hop hit I expected, was not a bad beer for a first effort.

We had all got fed up with the risk of getting tainted beer from the bar and selected our final couple of beers from stillage. The best of the lot was Black Sheep 'Imperial Russian Stout', at 8.5% it was everything I had hoped for in an Imperial Stout and more, a truly excellent example of its type.

Soon we had exhausted our list of new beers and decided to leave, but not before a long chat with one of the festival organisers about our findings. He was sympathetic and as equally baffled as us as to what may have caused the problem in the beers, but could offer no explanation beyond what we had already suggested.

So, all in all, a day of highs and lows. Some really excellent beers, and some less so, but whether that was the fault of the brewers it is hard to say. All I hope is that the problem can be eliminated for their next festival, and that those punters new to beer festivals were not so put off by some of their beer tasting of Dulux that they will never try real ale again. A shame for those who had obviously spent plenty of time and effort putting the festival together.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Say goodbye to Tetleys

As has been known in the brewing world for some time, Carlsberg are closing their Tetleys plant in Leeds. It seems the doors will finally close in June this year.

Some of us remember Tetleys as a fine beer, others as a mere shadow of its former self. If you knew where to look I found their beer excellent, the problem was knowing where to look. Their dark mild stood comparison with any other of its type, but was not easy to track down; their bitter was variable, in a good pub with a quick turnover it was good, in others pubs the quality could be questionable.

However, if you want to say goodbye to Tetleys in your own way, then Leeds Brewery are having a week long pub crawl around Leeds pubs that used to be favourites haunts for the beer, and which will entitle you to a free T Shirt with a stamped card, or they are having a three day event, at the Midnight Bell in Leeds from Friday 10th June showcasing beers from the old brewery and specials brewed by Leeds Brewery for the occasion. For full details check out the Leeds Brewery website.

So there it is. The end of many years of brewing heritage. Even though I rarely drink Tetleys, and when I did I had no idea I had done (ask Sam she will explain !!) I have a sadness about the loss of a famous brewery. I will be making a trip across to Leeds to raise a glass to them to mark the end of an era, hope many others do too.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dewsbury & Skipton Beer Festivals this weekend

This weekend sees Dewsbury Town Hall host their Camra beer festival, and thanks to the 'bloke from Hull' we have managed to get a sneak preview of their festival list, and it does not look a bad effort at all.

Beer has been sourced from all over the country, with a special emphasis on beer from Scotland which has its own dedicated bar. Most of the larger Scottish breweries are showcased, often with their regular brews available at the festival, but some rarer one appear as well such as Highland and Kelburn, and Fyne 'Avalanche' makes an appearance, (its worth the trip just for that !).

On the regular list, there is a good balance between local beers and plenty from further afield, such as Worcester and East Anglia. Again plenty of old favourites but there are new beers as well to keep us tickers happy and we are promised the first outing for the 'Sportsman' brewery from Huddersfield, so that should be worth looking out for.

The festival runs from Thursday evening at 6pm, through all day Friday and Saturday. Full details can be found on their website, along with an incomplete beer list, (at the moment). Looks to be a good way to spend an hour or two over the weekend though.

However, should you fancy a trip out into the Dales, then the Skipton Beer Festival is also on this weekend, showcasing a different selection of Yorkshire beers, this time with the emphasis more from the North of the county, should this be your thing. The beer list here tends to show more old favourites rather than new beers but the new Kirkstall brewery does make an appearance here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More Local Breweries Appear

If we thought Huddersfield was the up and coming centre of the brewing universe, then Calderdale cannot be close behind. We have already mentioned the first efforts from Sowerby Bridge's 'Owenshaw Mills Brewery' and we have heard of another brewery in the area coming on stream next month. Look out for the 'Slightly Foxed Brewing Co'.

A joint venture between landlord Simon Trapp and businessman, Matt Bell, their intention is to provide beers for the local area and beyond. Their press release shows an intention to brew three core beers; 'Slightly Foxed' will be a 3.8%, session bitter made with American hops, 'Fox Glove' will be 4.3%, in the style of a best bitter, with English and European hops, and 'Bengal Fox' is intended to be a 5.2% IPA showcasing New Zealand hops.

These will be the first three beers available, hopefully around in mid to late June, but they will be augmented later by some darker beers and some seasonal and special brews.

Good luck to them, we hope to try the fruits of their efforts soon.

Another brewery that we will be able to try in the next few days at the Grove, also promises great things. The 'Kirkstall' brewery is in Leeds and the new venture of Dave Saunders, who was previously the brewer at The Elland Brewery. He managed to brew some pretty good stuff at Elland so I can see no reason why the beers that come out of Kirkstall should not be their equal, or better. Watch this space !

Is This Crazy or What ?

If you look on the site on Shortlist.com for the previous post, then scroll down a little further and you will see an amazing article about a beer machine, not a machine to make beer, but rather one that speeds up the service of beer.

The weird and wonderful system can fill 4 glasses at once, and it has been timed that 44 glasses can be served in a minute. Its unique system fills the beer from the bottom of a special glass rather than the top. These special glasses are locked on the dispenser and the beer fills them, when they are full, the magnetic bottom automatically slots into place, bonds the glass and the beer is ready to be served. No spillage, no waste.

Sounds an ideal antidote for standing around queuing for your beer in crowded clubs or at busy footie matches but not an idea I can see taking off in our local real ale pubs. But it may be the way forward, who knows ? Take a look and see for yourself.

Are these the best beers around?

During the week my attention was drawn to an article on Shortlist.com in which 5 celebrities of the beer world selected 20 of their favourite beers, covering both British and foreign selections. I thought I would share their thoughts on the British selection with you.

It does not make it clear whether the list is in any sort of order but first to appear was Dark Star 'Hophead'. I am quite happy for this choice, it is always a beer I enjoy, and rarely falls short and fails to deliver. I have never yet met anyone who does not enjoy it.

Badger 'Golden Champion' is their next selection, ideal for summer barbeques with a hint of elderflower; I must admit it would not appear on my list though. The same is not true of their next choice, I think Meantime 'London Pale Ale' is a gem of a beer, from an excellent brewery, and another beer which seems to attract universal approval. Another London brewery to feature is Camden Town, with their 'Camden Pale Ale'. I have only encountered this beer once, at the Southampton Arms in Kentish Town, where it was excellent, and well worth its place on the list,and well worth a trip out of central London to sample it.

Next come two darker beers, I am not sure about the choice of Hooky 'Dark' which I have always found a bit thin for my taste, but the next choice Harviestoun 'Ola Dubh 40' is certainly a worthy choice, and a beer I had not realised was available in bottles. It is a version of the 6% 'Ola Dubh' which is dark and full flavoured and matured in 40 year old Highland Park whisky barrels to make a decadent beer with all sorts of interesting flavours going on.

Another couple of lighter beers then appear. 'Crop Circle' from Hop Back is a great, summer session beer and one that is readily available in bottles. Just the thing for sitting around watching the sun set on a balmy summer evening. The same can be true of St Peters 'Organic Best Bitter', which is another beer that transfers effortlessly to the bottled form.

Wychwood brew the next choice, Duchy Original 'Old Ruby Ale'. I must confess to never having seen this beer, but I am assuming from the name it would not be one of my favourites, but I have known to be wrong before so who knows ?

The ubiquitous 'Abbot Ale' from Greene King makes an appearance in the list, I don't think its a beer that is as good as it used to be and one I often avoid, but I do know others who really rate it, and not because it comes cheap at Wetherspoons either.

The final range selected I have no argument with, and they are all beers that are often available locally in the Grove. All pack lots of flavour into the glass, and are all massively hopped. My sort of beer in fact. Thornbridge 'Kipling' is there, with its great use of New Zealand hops;Marble 'Manchester Bitter' is also included, as Brewdog 'Punk IPA'. Three more beers that showcase the art of their respective brewers and all, in my opinion worthy of their place in the list.

So there you have it. Their taste is not always the same as mine, but the core of beers that have been chosen cover every type and style, there must be some there to your taste as well. Just try and make a list of your favourites, it is not an easy task at all.

An Apology

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the update facility to 'A Swift One' has been inhibited for the last few days so we have not been able to post. Hopefully, this has been resolved and normal service will be resumed.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Antidote For Friday

After my disappointment on Friday in Halifax, I hoped something for something better on Saturday. I was not let down.

Yesterday at The Star there were excellent beers on every pump, it wasn't a case of trying to find a beer I liked, but rather which of the collection impressed me most to sample a second pint. Light hoppy beers dominated the bar, but there was 'Black Beauty Stout' from Two Roses if you fancied something dark. It was excellent, to say this was only the 2nd beer from the brewery then they seen to have quickly hit on a winning formula; dark, rich and full of flavour, certainly one to look out for in the future. The same brewery also had 'Royale Wedding' on the bar, 4.0% and again nicely balanced, presumably a one off special, but it showed how versatile the brewery are. I look forward to their next beers with interest.

Another beer from South Yorkshire was Glentworth's 'Citrus Tree'. A light beer, (has anyone ever see a dark Glentworth ?) at 3.9% and just the thing for a summer's afternoon. Refreshing, with a hint of sherbet lemon in it, another beer I could have gladly drunk lots of. The rest of the bar was also Yorkshire sourced. Great Heck 'YPA' was there, one of Denzil's best beers, but this was eclipsed by Mallinson's 'NZ3'. Three New Zealand hops gave this a massive hop kick, plenty of interesting background flavours, and was very moreish, so moreish it had run off before I got to a second in fact. To finish off a wonderful showcase of local beers Five Towns 5.7%,St Georges Ale was also available. Again light and seriously hoppy, I believe with a New Zealand hop, it was a wonderful way to finish a session.

All in all, a great showcase for the good beers that Yorkshire has on offer at present, and that not only does the county have a massive number of breweries, the beer they brew can stand comparison with anywhere else in the country. I just hope the coach trip from Leicester Camra that turned up during the afternoon were as impressed as I was with the range on offer.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Its Festival time in Halifax

Friday saw the start of the Halifax Camra beer festival, held as usual at The Square Chapel, a stone's throw from the railway station. One of the nicer venues for a beer festival, and somewhat historic, it is one of the local festivals I try to fit into my intinery for the year. This year it has happily coincided with a festival just up the road at the Three Pigeons, and another at the Pump Room so to kill two birds with one stone (to pardon the rather dodgy pun), I trekked across to Calderdale to see what was on offer.

I started at the Mayfest. £3 entry, and refundable £2 for a glass, and off upstairs to the beer hall. I was a bit surprised that there were no programmes available when the festival opened, and I did not realise how much I relied on one to plan my drinking for the afternoon. It was a case of going to the bar, seeing what was on offer, going back to my seat, checking if it was a new beer, then going and buying it. A bit of a time consuming process.

The beer range, as would be expected, covered all styles but in my opinion was a little uninspired. For someone who had visited other festivals recently, trying to find something new became a trial, and without a programme, somewhat frustrating. That is not to say there were not some interesting beers on offer, they just took some finding. Most of the beer was served from stillage, with a few on handpull, and as is usual at Camra festivals, thirds were available. Most cost around £2.60 a pint, a bit of a logistical problem when the beer tokens were £5 each.

So what beer was on offer. Local breweries were represented by Bridgehouse, Bridestones, Little Valley. Mallinsons, Two Roses, and Old Spot, to name but a few and there were plenty of beers from over the Pennines, with Arkwrights, Fuzzy Duck, Lytham and Burscough all in evidence, along with some midland breweries.

I started with 'Balmy Days' from Hopping Mad, a good 3.9% palette cleanser; an probably the best beer I tried. The others were a bit disappointing, and some downright awful, but that is the risk in buying beer blind. Soon I had tried Mr Grundys 'Passchendale', Fuzzy Duck 'Cunning Stunt', and Two Roses 'Barnsley Pride', none of which inspired me, and without tasting notes a bit difficult to describe. All average bitters, and a bit on the brown side. Old Spot ' Its Mild' did what it said on the clip, as did Goose Eye 'Amarillo Pale' - but I expected more from it, and I finally tried Bridgehouse 'Moorland Bitter' at 5.2%, but again it did not hit the spot.

Soon I got fed up with what I considered average beers, maybe it had been my choice of beer that was unlucky, maybe not, so I left to try the other two nearby festivals.

The closest was the Pump Room. Promising 20 beers on offer, and all handpulled, but again I was disappointed. Not all were on, and the one's that were seemed to be a selection from a wholesalers list, and nothing new or very inspiring. I took a half of Tring 'Wooden Wonder', found it almost undrinkable and replaced it with a Salopian 'Surrealism' which was better but at £1.40 a half, a bit expensive. I was the only person trying the beer, the others in the pub drinking lager. So I hoped the festival at The Three Pigeons would save the day. I was sadly mistaken. I was the only drinker in the pub, and the beer range, on the main bar and a makeshift bar in the back room, was pedestrian. It did have all styles of beer on offer but nothing very interesting. A quick half of Northern 'Two Tone' and then off.

All in all, a very disappointing day, I had expected much from the three festivals, and none delivered. The beer range was average, and the quality in some cases left a lot to be desired. Unfortunately none of the festivals were well patronised either, which is a shame for those who have made the effort to put the events on. But that is the lot of the beer ticker, we cannot be lucky all the time.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Owenshaw Mills Brewery

This weekend has seen the arrival of yet another new West Yorkshire brewery, and another with Huddersfield connections.

The 'Owenshaw Mills Brewery' is somewhere in Sowerby Bridge I believe, information is a bit scarce and to be honest, the brewery sneaked up on my blind side, so at the moment I know very little about it. I understand that the brewer is Les Measures, who used to be a brewer at the Sair a while ago before setting up by himself.

The first beer I have heard about was 'Duck Hop' at 4.1%, and was on sale at the 'Shoulder of Mutton' at Lockwood, so I hot foot along there to try it last night. It was not easy to find on the bar, I do not think I have even seen such a boring pump clip, even though it did give all the information I wanted .Hopefully the beer would be better than the point of sale. It was a bit of shock to pay £2.80 for it though.

It was a decent first attempt,a light coloured beer, but with Les's love of hops it was disappointing to find very few in the brew. A reasonable beer but I had hoped for better, but after all it is his first effort. I await the next with interest.
At the moment the Shoulder is the only outlet I have heard of for the beer, and as I said before, information is very scarce. When I know more I will let you know.