Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Quartet to make the Mouth Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

American Pale gets even Hoppier

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to All Our Readers

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Star reaches 10 years

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Some Christmas Day Openings

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

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

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

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

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

2 Bobs Brewing Co. Update

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

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

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


Monday, December 19, 2011

Saltaire Brewery

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

White Stout? You cannot be serious!

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Two New Breweries

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wetherspoons do Christmas

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

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

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

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Start of the Silly Season

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

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

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

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Will the Bubble Burst?

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Will for tidying this post up.  

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

That old pump clip whinge again

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 05, 2011

Save yourself a trip to the capital

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 03, 2011

What of 'Rock Star' ?

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

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

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