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 ?!!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sheps Festival this Weekend

A local festival that seems to have slipped under the radar opens this Thursday (27th) and runs through till Monday (31st) at The Shepherds Boy, on Huddersfield Road, Dewsbury. Thanks to 'Bloke from Hull', firstly for reminding me about it and secondly for providing a preview of the list.

If you don't know it, the pub is one of the Ossett chain, and stands by itself on Huddersfield Road, about half a mile from Dewsbury centre and is well served by bus if you don't fancy the walk. It is worth a call at any time, but the additional beers added for this festival makes it even more appealing.

The beer list is very Yorkshire biased, only two coming from over the border to break the monopoly, and is a mixture of old and new. No new breweries but plenty of beers to suit every taste. It promises the first appearance of the new Rat beer, 'Ratcatcher', and seasonals from Bradfield, Phoenix, Dr Mortons and Revolutions, (Bradfield 'Poppy Ale', is the best beer they brew in my opinion), and plenty of other old favourites to whet the appetite. It is well worth an afternoon of anyone's time to call and check out.      

Monday, October 24, 2011

An excuse to take the kids out

As those of you with children will know, this week is half term, another week when the delightful little creatures should be at school and aren't and will spend the week getting under your feet. I have a suggestion that may help, and possibly win you some brownie points into the process from 'er indoors.

Why not suggest a trip to Blackpool ?

I know, you think I have finally lost the plot. But bear with me. Leave the little darlings somewhere in Blackpool, I would suggest chained to some railings or the like, and get yourself down to the beer festival at 'The Shovels'. The pub is down the South end of the town, on the B5261, Common Edge Road, which is not far from Squires Gate airport, and easily accessible from the Town Centre by bus. Its yearly beer festivals are legendary, and one of those must visit events in the beer ticking calendar. There are loads of beers on offer, and having seen a beer list, plenty from breweries I have never heard of, coming from near and far. Not all are on together but the selection there should guarantee something unusual whichever day you go. The festival runs all day, all week so there is plenty of opportunity to make the necessary arrangements. You will  not be disappointed

If you cannot make it this week then add the pub to your memory bank for places to visit next time you venture to the West Coast. It usually has half a dozen beers on offer, at sensible prices, and a large food menu, and is a vast improvement on the rest of the pubs in the town, even if it is a bit off the beaten track.

Just a hint if you do intend to go, and are travelling from Huddersfield by train, go via Halifax. The train is direct and is cheaper than changing in Manchester, and there is not much in journey times.      

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Look out for Conwy

A chance chat with one of our local club representatives revealed an interesting snippet of information over the weekend. Conwy Brewery of North Wales are intending to make deliveries themselves into the West Yorkshire area, presumably instead of having their beer delivered direct from wholesalers. Not very exciting you may say, but have you tried their beer? 

As the name suggests, they are a brewery from Conwy, (or Conway to those of us who prefer to speak English and not sound as though we are gargling as we hold a conversation!), and started brewing in 2003 on a 5.5 barrel plant. Success soon followed and they moved premises in 2007 and increased their plant to 12 barrels. They are a regular supplier to the 'Monkey Club' at Armitage Bridge, so you can guess who gave me the story. Their beers are usually well received there and if they are going to deliver direct, no doubt their beers will appear more often on our local bars.

Their output is generally regulars rather than specials and the ones that I have tried have always been excellent. 'Clogwyn Gold' is  3.6% , and is an easy drinking session beer, well balanced and golden in colour, obviously. 'Welsh Pride'  is 4.0%, and  has more of a citrus, hoppy zing to it. Their 'Cwrw Mel' is one of the better honey beers around, clean tasting rather than 'sticky', and at 4.5% it has enough strength to bring out the subtle flavours of the honey in the background. The real star of the their portfolio is 'Shipwrecked IPA', at 5% not over strong, but again with a good balance of hop and malt, and being triple hopped with Goldings it is far too drinkable. One is never enough.

I am not really a fan of Welsh beer, breweries like Brains and Felinfoel do very little for me, but North Wales breweries seem to have got it right, and Conwy seem to be in the vanguard. It will be good to see it more readily available in our area.       

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bloody electronics

In case I don't get chance again, I apologise in advance for the lack of blogs that may occur in the near future. My lap top has developed a mind of its own and may have to go to the lap top hospital to be made well again. Some days it works perfectly, other days not at all. Will try and manage the best I can for as long as I can, but if you don't hear from me for a bit, I haven't fallen out with 'A Swift One', just been hijacked by technology. Timbo

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another Coup for The Grove

As regular visitors to The Grove in Huddersfield will know they often have some interesting beers from unusual breweries on the bar. But not only that, they are able to source some fairly unique beers from more common breweries too. That was the case on Sunday.

I was a little disappointed when I ordered a pint of a new Marble beer and it ran off in front of me. However its replacement soon cheered me up. The Grove had managed to secure one of only 3 barrels made of a collaboration between Marble and Fullers breweries. The beer was called 'Old Manchester Ale' and weighed in at a hefty 7.2%. One of the other barrels is at the 'Marble Arch' and the last one at a beer festival in Holland, so the chances of catching up with it are pretty limited to say the least.

The beer itself showed all the talent of the brewers from two excellent breweries. It was chestnut in colour, and tasted like it says on the clip, a rich old ale, a style that seems to have gone out of favour recently. It was heavy and rich and warming, but despite the strength, not sweet, and very moreish, dangerously so. Well worth a call to check it out.

Also on the bar, was a dry hopped version of Thornbridge 'Kipling'. This again surprised me, but not in the way I expected. I really enjoy 'Kipling', with its mass of flavours from the use of New Zealand hops and I anticipated great things from the dry hopping. I was sadly disappointed. The dry hops used seemed to totally deaden the flavour of the original beer and what is usually a beer packed with taste had become very one dimensional sadly. But there again, you cannot win them all.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Huddersfield Beer Festival 2011

Managing to drag myself away from the 'Spoons festival, last night I made it to the Huddersfield Beer Festival. The venue is one of the better Camra festival venues about, plenty of space and plenty of seating, with the beers racked at one end of the hall, and stalls, including one selling some of the most superb curries available at a festival, at the other.

The doors opened at 6pm and shortly after the usual suspects were gathered around their tables scanning the beer lists for the new and unusual on offer. And we were not disappointed. This years list had a bias towards the South East with plenty of beers that are rarely seen in Huddersfield, including some from London and a good selection of local beers to make up the numbers. There was a decent balance of the old and new too, for those who were not just tickers, but wanted to sample their favourite beer. Admission was £3, or £1 to Camra members, and beer prices were reasonable, at around £2.50 a pint. Beer was available in pints, halves or thirds, which made life a bit easy for those of us wanting to sample a larger selection (over 100 available in all). Cider drinkers were also well catered for with over 50 available.

So what did I find to drink. As usual, my first stop was a Mallinsons 'Munchies Mirlees Tale', (strange name!), and as usual they did not disappoint. A 3.8% beer full of Mallys hop flavours, giving the rest of the list plenty to live up to. It was then time to start sampling the Southern stuff. Abigale 'Samphire' was a typical Kentish beer, brownish and with no disernable hop character, but East London 'Pale Ale' was an excellent beer from a brewery that has only brewing a few weeks. If this is the standard of their other beers, then it looks like London has another great brewery. I followed up with offerings from Canterbury Brewers, and Canterbury Ales, both acceptable but neither outstanding; Botanist 'Humulus Lupulus' was a disappointment; I enjoyed Tonbridge 'Blonde Ambition' and Royal Tonbridge Wells 'Golden Ticket' was a good, stronger beer.

It was heartening to see the venue filling up during the evening, not, as I expected, with the usual local beer enthusiasts, but with plenty of young people, both male and female, eagerly trying out what was on offer, and just as enthusiastically talking about what they had sampled. They are the beer drinkers of the future, and those that will protect the efforts of the brewers into the next generation, I hope they were impressed.

Strangely, throughout the whole evening, I never sampled a dark beer, nor one from a local brewery except for my first, but there is always today to rectify that. Out of the small selection I tried, what was the best? Maybe the Mallinsons but Brodies 'Citra', a 3.1% beer from another superb London brewery ran it very close.

Just a word of thanks to Michael Robinson, the local Camra chairman, Rob Allen, and Carl Brabbiner, for their interesting beer selection, all the volunteers for their efforts in staging the festival, and all at the APNA venue for allowing it to be used.          

Sorry there are no photos, but I have discovered it is usually better to charge the camera's batteries before trying to take pictures !!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How is the 'Spoons Fest Going

Last Wednesday saw the start of the Autumn Wetherspoons Beer festival, and after a week plenty of beers have flowed through the pumps at their many outlets, but what have I found so far to whet my appetite ?
To be perfectly honest, not many have gripped me to the extent that I would go out of my way to get another pint, but that may be more a reflection of my taste than the beers on offer.

The festival is nationwide, and therefore is catering for more than just my taste, and I have found plenty of dark beers, and plenty of southern style beers, (which I have always considered to be more malty than hoppy, and more like a traditional style beer than something more innovative), however many I have tried have just not hit the spot and I have found it hard to distinguish between them.

Many of the breweries are what I would consider 'safe' breweries. Those that are well established and have been producing beer for years, such as Batemans or Banks & Taylor for example, and the drinker knows roughly what to expect; a decently crafted beer, but nothing out of the ordinary. Even some of the newer breweries have played it safe, Thornbridge 'Brother Rabbit' is on the list, a good beer, but one that has been around before, Oakleaf   'Ten Little Acorns' is similar, chestnut coloured and subtle rather than exciting, Double Maxim 'Andersons Best Scotch' likewise, but I suppose the clue was in the name !

Nevertheless, despite some disappointments, I have found some good beers in and amongst. Adnams 'American Style IPA' is well worth a try, with its blend of 5 American hops and citrus overtones;and St Austell 'Proper Black' holds up well with other black IPA's I have come across, (you can see a theme here can't you !). Roosters 'Last Stand', Sean Franklin's swan song, is excellent and reminds me what the more recent beers from the brewery have been lacking.

There are 5 beers brewed by American craft brewers, the one's I have sampled have been OK but again nothing special, except for one, and this is the beer that I consider to be the beer of the festival so far. Stone 'San Diego Session IPA' is a classic. Brewed at Wadworth, even though you would never guess, it is crammed with American hop taste, bitter but not astringent, with plenty of interesting flavours going on. Well worth hunting out and trying, and well worth £2 for the experience.

The festival is still running, and goes on until the 23rd October, so there is plenty of time to get out there and check out the beers, and for me to catch up with the ones I am missing.          

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Grove World Whisky Tour

On Tuesday 25th October, the Grove will be hosting its version of a World Whisky Tour. For a £22 ticket you will be treated to 12 whiskies from around the world, along with tasting notes and food to complement them

Sportsman Halloween Extravaganza

Over the weekend of Halloween the Sportsman are having a series of events to whet the appetite of any passing wizard, warlock or witch, and the odd interested beer drinker too.

It starts on Thursday 27th Oct when the jazz band, the Quarry Hill Hot Club are playing there, with their version of 'swinging gypsy jazz' inspired by Stefan Grappelli and Django Reinhardt .

If this is not your thing then why not try calling round on Saturday the 29th when funk band 'TBC' are making an appearance and Dangerous Dave will be spinning dancebeat, reggae, and dance hall (I cannot wait !).

In between, on Friday, and more in line with 'A Swift One', comes another beer and food evening with 10 beers of all different tastes and from different countries, complemented by home cooked food, no doubt with a beer theme knowing the Sportsman. It costs £20 a ticket, starts at 8pm and the tasting will be done in the cellar to give a proper Halloween feel to the occasion.

Seems like a good excuse to get the broomstick out and celebrate in style.      

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Yorkshire Dales Brewery

One brewery that seems to have slipped through the net, when I have written about those that are not afraid to experiment or try something different, is the Yorkshire Dales brewery. They have been producing beers for 6 years now, from their 5 barrel plant in Askrigg in North Yorkshire. I will concede that their beers are not always easy to find but when I see them on a bar I always give them a try.

Their core range has beers to suit every taste, from a light easy drinking bitter ('Buckden Pike', which the brewery website describes as a blonde pilsner style ale, using Saaz hops), to smoked porter ('Garsdale Smokebox') via various other styles between. 'Buttertubs' is perhaps the most commonly seen and is a 3.7% golden beer with plenty of citrus flavours. This is also reflected in' Nappa Scar', which is stronger and brewed with three American hops. My favourite is 'Muker Silver', named in honour of the Muker Silver Band, and is brewed in the Helles style, to give a clean refreshing taste and plenty of taste.

In addition to their core range they produce plenty of specials and seasonals, and they are not afraid to try to make beers of all sorts. They do not always succeed but I cannot deny they are interesting. In the list of beers I have come across they have included Dunkels, Marzens, Rauchbiers, Porters, Stouts, Bocks and several single hopped beers. The only problem for the unwary drinker is that often the beer name gives little information as to what the beer in the glass will actually be, since they name many of their beers after features in the North Yorkshire landscape, so its a case of try it and see. I cannot say that I have enjoyed all their range but I do enjoy the variety they produce.

If you come across their distinctive pump clip on a bar, but are not sure whether to give it a go or not, try a half, it may lead to another, and another.....

Oktoberfest preview

Next Thursday night sees the opening of the Huddersfield Oktoberfest at the regular venue of the Sikh Leisure Centre in Springwood, just on the far side of the car park behind the fire station.

Information received by ' A Swift One' leads us to believe that there will be the usual interesting selection of beers from our local breweries, with beers from all of them being available, with a mixture of their old favourites and some new beers to tempt the punters.

The major point of interest for me, at least, is the amount of beers sourced from Scotland and the South East. Many are new to the area and should give us chance to sample some of the newer breweries from Kent that are rarely seen north of the M25, along with some beers from the more unusual London brewers.
The Scottish representatives are also from some of the harder to find breweries and should make a good contrast with the Southern beers. There are even a few Welsh beers to tempt us.

Lovers of all styles,and strengths of beer are catered for, with plenty of milds and dark beers available, along with some weird and wonderful speciality beers, and lots of bitters to tempt the 'hop monsters' amongst us. There will also be a cider/perry bar with rare and unusual offerings there too.

The festival starts at 6pm on Thursday, (£3 entry,£1 with camra card) and runs from 1200 noon Friday and 11 00 am Saturday.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Give the Barge & Barrel a miss for a week or so

Should you have had the Barge and Barrel, at Elland  on your list of pubs to visit in the next week or so, I would cancel your trip, the pub will be closed between Monday 10th Oct 2011 and Friday 21st Oct 2011 for refurbishment, with a cost of an estimated 1/4 million pounds. No doubt our editorial team will make a call there when done to give their opinion of the new look.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Wetherspoons Festival Starts

Wednesday sees the start of another Wetherspoons beer festival, which runs in all of their pubs until the 23rd October. The format is the usual tried and tested one, with their festival beers just replacing the beers usually on the bar, so all are cellar cooled and handpulled. The beer range is about 50, and covers every strength and style, so somewhere amongst the list there should be a beer for everyone - the problem is finding it!

Locally we have 'The Cherry Tree' with its 10 pumps, and the 'Lord Wilson' with its 3, but if you feel adventurous why not jump on a bus or a train and see what is on offer further afield. Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester all boast several outlets, all within easy walking distance of each other. Brighouse has the 'Richard Oastler', which in my opinion is one of their better pubs, both for beer range and quality, and for the building itself. Halifax has one too, and there are a couple in Bradford so there are plenty of chances to hunt down the beers you want.

The breweries represented are varied as well, and again some foreign brewers have come to our shores to brew their favourites on British plants. Some of the breweries are rarely seen in our part of the world, Brains, Wadworth, and Mordue for example; others are more common, Roosters and Moorhouses spring to mind but most of the beers are specially brewed for the festival, or are those more usually bottled.

So, if you get the chance, get out and about and see what you can find, who knows, you may even become a 'ticker' !