Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hawkshead US PA

I have previously spoken in glowing terms of Hawkshead Brewery's offerings, they seem to be a brewery that can turn their hands to any style of beer, be it strong or weak, dark or light. I am always happy to find their beers on a bar. Usually their output is concentrated on their regular beers, not that there is anything wrong with that, but occasionally they brew something new.

This week I have come across their 'US PA'. It is a stunning beer. A 'proper' IPA, 6% gives it lots of body, and the strength to carry off its hop combination. As would be expected, the hops used are all American varieties, Cascade, Simcoe, and Columbus. The beer has a fruity nose, and the combination gives a massive hit of citrus fruits on the tongue, and a fine citric-bitter finish.

Surprisingly, I first came across the beer in 'Spoons, but have since found it in the Grove, both times the beer was on excellent form, and very moreish, which is dangerous for a beer of its strength. Another classic beer from a classic brewery.       

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

All Change at The Rat

During last weeks spell of internet inactivity, one of the  events that I missed out on covering was the last day of Rob Allen at the Rat & Ratchet. He of the cowboy hat and ponytail has moved to pastures new, of which more later, and been replaced by Katie Green. Katie came from the Shepherds Boy in Dewsbury, which is where Rob came from when he became manager, coincidentally. Katie is no stranger to the Rat though, having worked there before taking over the Sheps.

Rob has left the pub trade completely, but has gone into partnership to sell beer. He has obtained premises on Wood St, and is converting them into a beer shop, hopefully selling more than bottled beer. We will keep you posted .

Good luck to them both in their new ventures.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fieldhead Fest

The Fieldhead at Quarmby is holding a small festival over the bank holiday weekend. From the 1st to the 4th June, 30 beers including 2 or 3 "Jubilee" specials will supplement the normal 4 on the bar.

The pub is well worth a visit (even outside festival time), particularly if the weather is fine, as there is one of the best beer gardens in Huddersfield, with wonderful views of the Colne Valley and Pennines beyond.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Navvy Festival approaching

One of my favourite local pub festivals is on the horizon again, and this time promises a selection of beer from Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. There should be 40 beers available at any time with some in reserve should they be required. The festival runs through from the 28th June until 1st July at the Navigation pub in Mirfield, a short walk from the railway station. Sounds like another winner !

Nook Brewery Tours

If you at a loose end over the Jubilee Weekend, and can drag yourself away from watching all the celebrations, the Nook Brewery at Holmfirth are promising brewery tours throughout the weekend from the  Ist of June through till the 5th.

The cost is £4 per head and run at 2pm and 4pm daily from the Carniceria, Victoria Square. The price includes the tour and a cream tea, or ale.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Barge & Barrel Festival

The pub where I first discovered the joy of real ale was the Barge and Barrel in Elland. I used to go across quite regularly until I found other pubs which satisfied my needs better closer to home and gradually my trips across there became more infrequent. However, when I heard that Andrew, the new licencee, was holding his first beer festival it seemed a good chance to reacquaint myself with the place.

Since my last visit it has been done up and is now a far cleaner pub that previously, when it had taken on a slightly careworn appearance. It has new signage outside but the interior of the pub is much the same as before, with the central bar serving a large seating area and a small pool room and snug. 

The festival itself was in the snug, with 18 barrels dispensing beer on gravity, rather than through handpulls which seems the norm at pub festivals these days. There was beer on hand pump though and the regular 6 beers on the bar had been augmented with another 6 pumps filled with beers from the festival list.

A festival glass cost £2 but was refundable, a programme cost £1, with proceeds to charity and beer cost £1.40 per half, so for £10 I was set up for an afternoon's sampling. The beers on the bar were interesting although not especially unusual, but those on stillage made up for that. The majority of them came from the Midlands with a few from over the Pennines and plenty of breweries rarely seen in these parts. 

I sampled Beowolf 'English Horseman', a 4.2% English style best bitter, good but not too exciting. Likewise was the Mallard  'Decoy', but things improved with the Milestone 'Green Man', with its subtle use of malts supporting an interesting blend of New Zealand hops. Star 'Wandering Star' from Salford, was a more malty brew, but still pale with some hop character. However the real star was a beer from Blythe in Staffordshire. 'Ridware Pale' was 4.3% with plenty of hop taste and a flowery freshness.

All the beers I had from stillage were in good nick, plenty of condition and crystal clear, but rather than sample another from there I decided my final beer had to be the 7% festival special from Milltown. 'Epic' was unusual for them, I have never encountered a strong beer from the brewery and was interested to see how they fared. To be quite honest, it did not really hit the spot with me, it did taste strong but the balance I had hoped for seemed to be missing, with it tending to be rather malty and cloying. 

If you want to have a look, then the festival is on all weekend starting at 12 noon. All in all, not a bad attempt for a first festival, and hopefully the first of many. It will not be too long before I return.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

They cannot be serious, but they are!!!

Other Hops are Available
Once upon a time there were two bears, there would have been three but one was on holiday due to European Working Time directives. They set up a brewery, they were bruins! (I know its crap and trust me, it doesn't get any better!) . The bruins set up a brewery in the woods and everyone said how good they were. They went from strength to strength, brewing more and more beers and the bruins' beers could be found in all four corners of the Kingdom. They had all sorts of ideas about bruin (sorry brewing), and wanted to use the best ingredients that the world could offer. They bought hops from all over the place, really pushing the envelope of brewing. They started to brew single hopped beers, using interesting and unusual hops that came from places across the sea. They heard that Koala bears had been brewing with a hop called 'Stella', they had to get some and see what they could do. They made a 'Stella' beer, and made it again and again, and even put it in bottles. They used a light blue pump clip and a light blue label for their beer. All was going well, until one day the big bad wolf came across the bruins' 'Stella'

The big bad wolf was a bit dischuffed, in fact he was not happy at all. The wolf, we will call him Bev for the sake of argument, took one look at the bruins' pump clip and took exception to it. He was a brewer too and thought the bruins pump clip was far too close to his advertising for comfort. After all their font on the clip looked just like  the font on his clip. All right, the background was red but that made no difference. The bruins used the name of the hop, as many other brewers have also done, with no intention of upsetting Bev. In fact, how could a name of a  hop be confused with a trade mark ? Surely it was in the public domain. Even Bev's beer, sorry lager, tasted nothing at all like the bruins beer. It had been made by a different process, tasted totally different, and even looked different. It was served in a different glass, poured in a different way. Surely no one could confuse the two?  But Bev and his mates have been making their beer for years, and did not want the bruins muscling in on their territory. They asked the bruins to change their beer, or at least their point of sale. Change the name, change the font on the pump clip. After all, they were using Bev's trade mark, or so he said. 

I rarely get political on 'A Swift One' but this seems a case of a massive world wide industry throwing their weight about, and trying to stop a small regional brewer making a living. I know that it is easy to change the pump clip to satisfy Bev, but change the name? It is the name of a hop, not anyone's trademark. It is descriptive, which is more than Bev's lager. The punter can read up on the hop, find out more about the ingredients in his beer. It describes the product at the point of sale. And if someone cannot tell the difference between the bruins' product and Bev's product, then Bev's massive advertising revenue issurely a waste of money. To satisfy Bev, and to to stop him blowing the bruins' house down, no doubt they will have to accede to his requests. It is a shame at the very least, that the big bad wolf has nothing better to do; and a sad indictment that he is not content to let everyone live in peace and live happily ever after.     

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Relief Tinged with Sadness

As someone (thanks Pete) pointed out to me, the First Division play-off final is not about two football teams but rather a contest between the best two drinking towns in the country. Why not forget the football (unless the blue and white team come out on top) and just vote for the city or town where you would rather spend your Saturday's next year.

Sadly though, before I wrote this I read of the death of Dave Wickett, a man who has done much to place Sheffield on the beer map. The head brewer of Kelham Island died after a fight against illness at far too young an age. I never knew him, but frequently raved about his beer. He will be sorely missed.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Calypso - another new hop to try

As regular readers know, one of the things I like to try are single hopped beers, and should those beers be made with a new variety of hop the pleasure is doubly increased. Yesterday, to make up for the disappointment of the previous post, I came across one such beer, made by one of my favourite breweries. It was a win-win situation.

Pictish 'Calypso' is a 4.2% beer, light coloured, and with subtle rather than aggressive hop flavour. I had been told by someone who has had another brewery's take on the beer that it had an almost overpowering taste of mandarin, but I did not experience this, whether that being down to Pictish's brewing skills or the use of a different amount of hops I cannot really be sure. My first impression was more of apples or pears in the background, and a pleasant tang of citrus on the tongue. For a hop fairly high in alpha acids (12% or thereabouts), it was not especially bitter or astringent. Other flavours did come through during my pint, mostly fruit flavours but difficult to distinguish. It is an American hop, derived from Nugget and another hop whose name eludes me at present.

So should new hops be your thing, keep a look out for it. The Pictish version is available in the Rat at present and another barrel is in the cellar at the Star, and no doubt other breweries will find it and try it. At first try it seems a winner, but only time will tell.

At tale of three festivals - well almost !

Friday was a good day in the 'Timbo Beer Calendar', chance to get to 3 beer festivals without paying an arm and a leg in fares to get there. It was a day to go to Halifax. There were pub festivals at the Three Pigeons, at Dirty Dicks and the Camra do at Square Chapel. All within easy walking distance of each other as well, seemed like a plan.

Luckily for me Dirty Dicks opened first at 1100 am. It is a 'must visit' pub for me in any event, and the chance of extra beers that their festival promised only made that better. So, settled there as the doors opened I was well impressed by the range on offer. They had augmented their usual bar with another 5 handpumps to make a total of 15 beers available, (they promise to have 40 on offer through the weekend, all through the pumps so when one runs off it is replaced by another festival beer). The initial range was good enough though, and I was soon sampling Landlord's Friend 'Mr Smith', a local Halifax brewery that I have found difficult to find in the past. A bit malty for my taste though. I much preferred my second choice, Cap House 'Pure Diamond', light and subtly hopped, a brewery certainly on the way up. I followed this with Empire 'Twilight', again light and hoppy and very drinkable, and Geeves 'No1'. Another beer from a newish brewery - the brewery I had had before, but the beer has somehow passed me by. A good start to what I hoped would be a good days ticking.

Sadly, I was too confident too soon. I thought I would let the crowds die down at the Camra festival so made my way down to the 'Three Pigeons', again promising a beer festival along the same lines as Dirty Dicks, with additional pumps providing a larger range of beer than usual. I had not accounted for their poor timekeeping. The makeshift bar was still in the process of being put together, and there seemed no chance of it operating in the near future. There was a range of beer on the pub bar but the 8 pumps  offered only one interesting beer - shame because the list I picked up had some good stuff on -   but Whittlebury was a new brewery for me so I chose a half of their 'Spring Frolic'  and settled down for a read. Fortunately someone had left me a beer list for the Camra festival. Another disappointment. Was it worth my while calling in for a couple of beers, or should I cut my losses and run.  

I chose the latter option. Back to Dirty Dicks to sweep up Old  Spot 'FSB', at 6.4% it was a 'Firkin Strong Beer' but sadly not to my taste, and back to Blighty. I have to say that if Dirty Dicks had been the only festival on I would have been well impressed, good beer range, knowledgable and friendly staff and beer in pleasant surroundings . An ideal way to spend a morning. Shame about the others, but one cannot have everything.         

Monday, May 07, 2012

Thornbridge 'Wye'

Or should that say Thornbridge 'Why'? If you are slightly baffled let me try and explain.
Last week when I wrote the post on fruit and vegetables I had intended to follow it the day after with a write up about the latest Thornbridge beer 'Wye', which the pump clip said had the flavour of cucumber. I had never come across a beer tasting of cucumber so naturally I was keen to see how a beer could accomodate such a subtle flavour. It has taken all week for it to reach the bar in Grove so yesterday was my first chance to give it a test.

It did not hold back in the tasting stakes. At 4.7% it was fairly strong and a mid brown or amber colour. The nose certainly had hints of cucumber there and the taste certainly did. It did actually work as a beer, but as I got further into the glass it seemed to loose the balance between the taste of beer and the background cucumber.

What intrigued me was to how the flavour actually got there. Is there a hop, or combination of hops, that gives a cucumber hint to beer? I certainly don't know of one. Or has someone at the brewery painstaking  peeled cucumbers and used the rind to make the flavour? Possibly. Or is this s step on from dry hopping and whole cucumbers just lobbed into the boil? Who knows.

Whoever thought it up, and however they made it happen, the question is 'Wye'? As a novelty one off I quite liked it, but would not fancy a session on it. Maybe a step too far in the taste stakes.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

It may not be strong, but its good

This weekend the drinkers at the Star have been treated to a couple of excellent beers that have been weaker than our usual fayre but both have been comparable with anything we have drunk in recent times.

Goose Eye 'Spring Wells' was the first. Unusual for the brewery this came in at 3.6% rather than their more usual 4.2% or 4.3% offerings, but even allowing for the drop in strength there has been no skimping on flavour. The beer was bursting with hop flavour, I am not sure of the hops used but they gave a massive grapefruit hit, but with enough malt background to make a really well balanced drink. And the strength made sure that you could risk another, and another....and then it ran off!! It is good to see the brewery back to their prime, as a couple of months ago they seemed to be concentrating on more malty, biscuity beers.

Just as I was bemoaning the Goose Eye running off, and debating whether to bribe the last purchaser to buy his beer off him, I was more than impressed by its replacement. Church End 'Low Rider' appeared on the bar, I bought it blind before even reading the pump clip, which showed the confidence I have in the brewery's output. I rarely find a poor Church End beer. And I was not disappointed. This time, closer inspection revealed a 2.8% beer, 2.8% with masses of flavour. I have had the occasional beer before at this strength, and found them ok, but lacking in something. This certainly was not lacking anything. Again  well balanced, with a background strong enough to hold the hop flavours. The hops certainly came to the fore and made the beer drink well stronger than the gravity suggested. Another one to look out for.  

So with the summer approaching, or maybe the rain will just be warmer, possibly there will be a move back to weaker, more session strength beers, which I for one would welcome to balance the stronger beers that seem to have taken over bars in recent months.

Friday, May 04, 2012

OBE Club

Many will be familiar with established breweries awarding their own marque of excellence to pubs they consider the perfect outlet for their produce. Black Sheep, Timothy Taylors and Fullers for example have all recognised those houses where their beer has been consistently good, and the ensuing publicity has been mutually beneficial.

Now local producers Ossett have decided to take this approach one step further by launching the Ossett Brewery Excellence Club. As well as receiving the 'OBE', pubs will also have the opportunity to sell an exclusive series of beers only available to club members. 

We imagine that all Ossett's pubs and clubs will be automatically awarded the honour, so if you're local then tracking these limited editions down shouldn't be a problem. For those not so lucky, the brewery website  keeps a list of the pubs so far bestowed. 

The first 'OBE one'* is King Offa (4.3%) and is out and about now featuring a heavy dose of the Santiam hop - a brewery favourite and possibly their most successful ingredient. By the time you read this, The Shepherds Boy in Dewsbury should be serving it (check Facebook for confirmation though) and we understand it's at The Rat & Ratchet (Hudds) and White Horse (Emley) too.

*A rather rubbish Star Wars pun but thoroughly merited on this very special day.
May The Fourth Be With You!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Now here's a festival you did not expect!!

One of the town pubs that I often overlook is The Crown on Westgate, just below the bus station, a good place to catch your breath after walking from the Railway Station. It is always busy, even mid afternoon, and although difficult to get a seat sometimes the service is always swift and comes with a smile.

I called in today because a little whisper told me there were some different beers on to their usual fayre. There are usually six beers available, reasonably priced and kept in good nick, but fairly standard stuff. This time I was a bit gob-smacked. There were six, admittedly all from the Marstons stable, but at least three were new to me. At £2.25 a pint, it was well worth a call - even better when I realised two were from the Marstons single hop range, and another seasonal from Jennings.

A couple of Banks' beers and a further Marstons made up the bar. An hour well spent and somewhere I will definitely call again. The only drawback being that there was no evidence of a festival list, or a time span for the festival, so it will be a case of hit and miss. I will keep you posted.  

Rat & Ratchet Mild Fest

Starting tomorrow, The Rat & Ratchet is hosting its annual mild festival. They hope to have 20 beers available on the bar at any one time, with plenty of others to fill the gaps when the first draft run off.

I have had a quick look at the list, and there are milds from near and far, light and dark, weak and strong. I will not let the secret out as to what is actually there, you will have to visit and find out for yourself. But if you like milds, get down there, you will not be disappointed.