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.