Monday, December 31, 2012

Say Goodbye to 2012

What can I say about 2012? In global terms it has been the year of a very successful Olympics, the year when it has never seemed to stop raining, and the year the blue & white Brazil finally managed to extricate themselves from the lower eschelons of the football league -  not to mention English and Yorkshire cricket on the up again. But what does this have to do with a beer blog? Frankly not a lot but I have to start somewhere.

In brewing terms there are more and more new breweries coming on stream, I have sampled more than 100 myself, some good, some less so. And I have aired my concern previously that soon the bubble will burst and we may have a situation where supply outstrips demand and we start to lose breweries rather than gain more. All we can hope is that the good ones keep going. Locally, we have over a dozen, that seem to do reasonably well, thankfully, and keep us interested by producing new beers on an almost daily basis. 

2012 has also been the year when 'craft' breweries have cornered a market niche all of their own. I don't want to go into the 'craft' brewery debate at the moment, that will be for a later date, but I am frankly getting a bit cheesed off with some of them. Likewise with the key keg debate. Key kegs seem to be here to stay, and in general terms I have no real issue with them. I just wish that if I want a key keg beer I could pay a reasonable price for it, not the hiked up prices that the brewers seem to expect us to pay. This is my gripe with the 'craft' brewers too. Why are their beers more expensive than 'non craft' brewers? The ingredients are usually the same, the cost to produce must be much the same, so why is there such a difference at the point of sale. The same applies to 'craft beer' pubs. They seem to be on the increase. We all know who they are, and you will no doubt say that it is my choice to drink there or not, but why is the beer so expensive there? And if we are in an economic recession, (all right, may be in strict terms we are on the way out of one), who can afford to drink at these inflated prices on a regular basis? 
It sounds as though I am a real curmudgeon. And maybe I am. Or just a realist. My hopes for the new year will be for every brewery to make superb beers. For prices to remain reasonable. For the good pubs to  go from strength to strength. For beer duty to be abolished. And for people to realise that beer is good for you. It should be on prescription!

But seriously folks. Thanks to all who read 'A Swift One', to those who take the time to comment on it, and hope you all have a very enjoyable and successful 2013. We are looking forward to the challenges it will bring.   

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Back On The Road Again

One of the things that has been put on hold for the past few months have been my trips out to check on the ever changing transport scene and the even more quickly changing beer scene, but Thursday opened up a window of opportunity after the Christmas excesses, so it was up and away. I had three places I wanted to visit but the easiest was Manchester. So fully equipped it was off and out across the border.

Manchester has been the subject of one of my pub crawls before on 'A Swift One' so regular readers will have a rough idea of where I would be heading. And being a creature of habit, I started with a 'Spoons breakfast at the 'Paramount' and a half of some odious Christmas beer I erroneously thought was new to me. My next stop was to be the 'New Oxford' in Salford.

I had not been to the 'Oxford' since earlier in the year, and, although it has long been one of my favourite pubs, I was a little concerned after hearing other drinkers reports of the pub. My first shock was that the pub was open around 1145 am, it does not usually open till midday. That was a welcome sight since Manchester had kept up to its reputation and the rain was starting to fall fairly steadily. My second shock will become apparent shortly.

I was greeted like a long lost son by Jean the barmaid, who promptly thrust a piece of paper in my hand and said 'You'll be needing this, they are all available' . A quick glance around the pub revealed many fellow tickers..I had accidentally fallen across my final beer festival of the year.

I was totally unprepared for this. So it was a case of ticking 'on the hoof'. It did not take long for my system to kick in though. A couple of beers off the bar from a new brewery seemed the way to start, and I was pleasantly impressed by my choices, one light and one dark, from Manchester's newest brewery, 'Privateer'. Time to check on the list for what else was available. A quick glance revealed even more new breweries, none of which I encountered, or even heard of before. So it was time to fill in the chit, and wait for my namesake, the irrepressable Mr Flynn, to produce the goods from the cellar.

Soon I was sampling 'Welly 3' a 4.2% offering from Healeys in Ulverston. A little hazy and may be best called a work in progress. Better were Talke o' the Hill 'Citrade' and 'Alesager', the former with a good hit from the citra hops, and Deeply Vale 'Still Walking' which also impressed.

My next selection included another beer from Privateer, and Deeply Vale; 'Saturn Ale' from Townhouse brewery who I particularly rate, and confusingly a Rat Brewery beer which I had not seen in Huddersfield. All were good, and despite being taken straight from the cask, were well conditioned.

As they say, time and buses wait for no man, so reluctantly I had to say goodbye to the 'Oxford', my fellow tickers, the craic, and the rest of the beer list, and make my way back into Manchester whilst I was still able to reasonably function. A great way to end the year, and better so, for being totally unexpected.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Apologies from the team

Regular readers will notice that there has been nothing new from us in the last fortnight. We are sorry about this but to circumstances beyond our control, mainly, we have been unable to keep you up to date in our usual erudite fashion. Hopefully all our problems are over and normal service will be resumed shortly. Let us take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year and plenty of good beer and great pubs to drink it in. Timbo

Ps I knew no good would come of drinking Xmas beers !!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Flowerpot Men

Well it has to be said that the boys from Ossett have done Mirfield it's biggest service since the educating of Sir Patrick of Enterprise with this absolute stunner of a pub. The locals have been crying out for a boozer of this quality for a decade or more and whilst it's taken that long, the wait has been most definitely worth it.
It's been around twenty years since I last set foot in here and I can't recall any of it, but hell if it had looked anything like this back then I might well have settled down in the town of my birth. I've included one or two hastily taken shots here but there will be more to come, of that there is no doubt!
The pub officially opens to the public on Friday 14th and will feature beers from the four Ossett controlled breweries plus a guest or two and a dedicated Fullers pump. Real cider will be available in due course. 

Someone's Listening

And that would be Acorn Brewery.
Whilst polishing off a pint of 4.1% Cracker I was reminded of Tim's Christmas beer tirade of the other day. It would seem that a non-conformist approach is being taken by some brewers when it comes to producing seasonal ale after all.
This rather moreish bitter/lager amalgamate with it's crisp citrus clip is exactly the kind of beer that normally goes into hibernation during the yule. I must admit a partiality to the odd quirky herb concoction at this time of year, but there's no rule that says a Christmas themed beer must have the consistency of tar.
So well done Tim, and to the lads and lasses in Barnsley for listening. 'From small beginnings* come great things' as they say.
Acorn Cracker can currently be found at The Huntsman in Chidswell and elsewhere too I imagine. 
* Reference to an acorn of course... not Tim's brain I hasten to add!   

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Star reaches 7,000

Last week The Star at Folly Hall managed to reach its 7,000 th guest beer on the bar. And just for good measure it had a connection, albeit unintentionally, with 'A Swift One'. The beer was Mallinsons ' Dabchick' which my co editor has produced the pump clip for as part of their bird series.

Congratulations to Sam, for continuing to provide us all with plenty of interesting and new beers over the many years, and also to Will for his superb photos.

Its time to chuck stuff in beer again

Bah Humbug ! And a happy Christmas to you too. 

I have no real problem with Xmas, no I have but that's another story. This is about my dislike of brewers buggering about with beer. Beer should be made of water, hops, malt and yeast in my humble opinion. There  is no reason why a lot of  breweries have decided that Xmas is a good time to throw all the ingredients of a Xmas pudding into my beer. I do not want a sweet, sticky beer full of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and the like. I want a beer to taste of beer, and more preferably, hops.

A look at any real ale bar at this time of year generally reveals at least one of these so called 'Xmas beers'. I can maybe tolerate the odd one, but when they are taking over pump space for better beers then my tolerance becomes a little thin, especially when they have no warning on the pump clip as to what they contain. They often sneak up on me without warning, and I am faced with a beer that is  sickly and frankly not pleasant. And even worse, because I am a beer ticker I have to drink the stuff. After a wander around collecting new beers at this time of year, it is a real pleasure to find a beer with a Xmas name that is light and hoppy, and unadulterated. And rare. 

If brewers want to celebrate the festive season why not brew 'normal' beers with a Christmas theme, instead of  emptying their store cupboard into the mash tun, thinking that people actually enjoy it.

Or, is just me. The drinkers version of Scrooge !! 

I could have featured several pump clips on here to show what I mean but I have no intention of upsetting any particular brewers at this time of good will. Especially since I hope to enjoy their proper beers for years to come !!

John Gray - RIP

The name John Gray may not be familiar to many of our readers but the magazine he used to publish certainly will be. John was the brains behind 'Pubspeak' and later 'Innspeak', which combined his journalistic knowledge with the Halifax Courier with his love of pubs and beer. I got to know him many years ago when I lived on the other side of the hill, and always found him warm hearted and good company with a story for every occasion.

I had heard rumour of his passing a few weeks ago but I only found it confirmed in 'Ale talk' this weekend. He passed away on the 1st November after a long illness. He will be sadly missed.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Flowerpot to Reopen

A community pub in Mirfield is set to reopen at 4pm on 14th December after a huge joint investment of £360,000 by Ossett Brewery and owners Punch Taverns.

The Flowerpot, situated in Lower Hopton, has been closed for two months whilst refurbishment work has been carried out to update all areas.

The pub has been redecorated in a contemporary design with a modern feel, whilst accentuating some of the original features of the pub, including three open fires, Yorkshire stone floors and exposed structural beams, to provide a warm and cosy atmosphere.

The pub has introduced a new menu of traditional, homemade bar snacks and sharing platters.

The Flowerpot, which has maintained a good reputation for quality drinks, will now serve a range of continental bottle beers and nine cask ales, with some of Ossett Brewery's national award-winning ales on tap on a permanent basis (Yorkshire Blonde, Silver King and Excelsior) and others will be seasonally rotated and sourced from local microbreweries.

Outside, work has been done to improve the large car park and the beer garden has been landscaped to make the pub more family and dog friendly - a children's play area is even planned for the summer. A cycle rack has been installed, which will facilitate cyclists who ride on nearby routes.

And with the new look, comes a new team behind the bar.

Ossett Brewery, an award-winning independent brewery based in West Yorkshire, will be operating the pub using their high quality service standards.

Jamie Lawson, Operations Director, said: "This is our first Punch site and we took the opportunity to work with Punch as they shared our vision for the pub. We could see the Flowerpot's potential, considering its location looking over the River Calder, as a local community, family-friendly pub in a picturesque setting.

"The pub looks fantastic, it has a real traditional, community feel, but has been given a modern twist with the new décor and contemporary finishes. With the large car park, we can also attract visitors from the surrounding areas.

"We have appointed one of our very experienced and also local managers, Chris Osman, to oversee the day-to-day running of the pub and I have every confidence he will help the pub go from strength to strength.

"We have lots of events planned, with a Christmas Family Evening from 5pm on Sunday 16th December. The evening will feature Christmas carols played by LB Brass Band, free mulled wine and mince pies, a children's lucky dip and a hamper raffle drawn on the night. This will be a perfect opportunity for local residents to meet Chris and the new team.

"We are really excited about the reopening and we look forward to welcoming some old and new faces back to the Flowerpot," he continued.

David Rowland, Senior Partnership Development Manager, said: "It's great that Punch can invest in its pubs and with the refurbishment the Flowerpot has been completely transformed.

"I am excited to be working in partnership with Ossett Brewery, and considering their reputation as high quality brewers, they will be able to strengthen the pub's image as a destination for good quality and authentic real ale.

"We expect the opening night to be busy with local residents eager to see the new look and I look forward to seeing the customer's reactions."

Flowerpot, 65 Calder Road, Mirfield, WF14 8NN, Telephone: 01924 496939.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Hastings - a brewery, not a battle

One brewery that seems to have slipped under my radar, well they have been going since 2010, is Hastings brewery. Starting in September of that year but moving to larger premises in the town in the following year, they have concentrated their efforts selling close to their home town. Their beer first came to my notice at the Star festival last month, but today I have found one of my beers of the year that has come from their brewery.

The festival showcased their 'Blonde' ,'Best' and 'Pale', all very acceptable beers and very drinkable beers, but  their 'Porter' which has appeared on the bar this weekend is one of the best dark beers I have had in some time. It is 4.5%, not massively strong but crammed full of flavour. It is not sweet, like some porters, but there are a  myriad of things going on in it. Roast coffee, chocolate and a hint of liquorice are all there, but balanced with none of them overtaking the others. It is a very cleverly crafted beer. Not thick, but on the lighter side. A porter not just for those long winter nights, but as their web site says,' a true all year round porter'. 

If you cannot get it at the Star, and you'll have to be quick (sorry, Gary) it looks like you may have to get down to Sussex and try it there, it does not travel far from the brewery. I am booking my summer holiday there as we speak!!!