Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Sportsman - 4th Birthday Bash Beer List

This weekend's menu:
1. Sportsman - Celebration Ale - 6.8% - A strong IPA from our own brewery. Very easy drinking; a bit naughty!
2. Sportsman - Merriment Mild - 3.8% - Rich and nutty dark mild
3. Mallinsons - Dangerous Pineapple - 3.7% - Great hoppy session beer
4. Mallinsons - Jasper - 4.2% - Pale and hoppy
5. Mallinsons - TC's Funky Pint - 3.7% - Fruity and bitter blonde
6. Empire - Here's to 4 more - 4.1% - Dry and hoppy pale ale
7. Empire - Santana - 4.3% - Crisp and pale.
8. Golcar - Four Chestnut Mild - 3.8% - Chestnut mild
9. Golcar - Fork Handles - 4.1% - Traditional amber ale
10. Riverhead - Birthday Blonde - 3.8% - Straw coloured mellow session ale featuring Mount Hood hops
11. Riverhead - Town Terrier - 4.5% - Refreshing lager style beer with generous use of Centennial and Cascade hops
12. Riverhead - Black Flood - 4.5% - Rich chocolatey malty porter.
13. Brew Co - Hoppy Birthday - 3.8% - Pale ale single hopped with Topaz hops
14. Brew Co - Birthday Boy - 3.8% - Pale ale single hopped with Cascade hops
15. Brew Co - Celebration Stout - 5% - Sweet treacly stout loveliness
16. Brew Co - Four - 4% - Traditional golden ale
17. Nook - Birthday Banana - 4.5% - Banana infused pale
18. Nook - Blueberry Birthday Blond - 4.5% - Blueberry infused pale
19. Nook - Cheeky Stout - 5.2% - Cherry Stout
20. Nook - Spring Into Spring - 3.8% - Pale session ale

Thirst Innings

OK, I declare there will be no more puns about what is a serious topic for me: the quest for real ale in The Drakes Huddersfield Cricket League.
Saturday just gone marked the start of my annual search for decent beer on the boundary. I took in just three games on opening day and so the sample is far from complete. But the front-runner is Scholes Cricket Club, which has three guests pumps. I found Hook Norton's Lion and Cosmic from Black Hole Brewery in Burton. Leeds Pale was also due on the bar.
Sadly I was driving round the grounds but there were plenty of people imbibing in the excellent clubhouse during the match with arch-rivals Honley. Bar manager Paul Ibbotson spoke to A Swift One and it's clear he is passionate about real ale. He said pale beers, as one would expect at cricket matches, were very popular but he is keen to extend his range to include dark and copper beers.
On a good weekend he can can shift three nines and says there is no trouble keeping real ale even at a club that is not open every day. Although the beer on the bar was from further afield on Saturday, Paul is a keen supporter of local beers and nips down to the likes of Empire and Milltown for a cask or two. He and other very helpful club officials also shed light on the availability of real ale elsewhere in the league.
They furnished A Swift One with a copy of the Drakes 2013 handbook, which gives a flavour of which clubs have cask ale. One such was Shepley CC who had Elland's Beyond the Pale on its dedicated real ale pump during their opening match with Hall Bower. The yearbook talks of 'various beers and lagers including cask ales from Elland'. But I'm told the pump rotates.
The club also hosts an award-winning folk festival each May, which features real ale. The next one is May 17-19 and is co-sponsored by Elland Brewery. I also called in briefly at neighbours Shelley CC who just had cask Tetleys on from what I could see in their Tardis-like clubhouse.
So a promising start to the season for me, if somewhat dry - and I don't mean the weather. But the refreshing tea and excellent home-made cake at Shepley and Scholes kept my spirits up during the fact-finding mission. I'll keep you posted on the other grounds as the season progresses. Next time it's the bus and quite a lot of them go past The Star at Folly Hall, a good place to study the fixture list.
Staff Copy

It shouldn't work = but it does

Regular readers will be well aware of my dislike of people messing about with beers, and putting things there that should not be there, and just do not belong. But like anything, there is always an exception. This is the one.

One of the most forward looking breweries in the North East is Temptation brewery. Their beers seem to be everywhere and it seems that they can turn their hands to any style of beer.

I have recently come across one of their beers, it is 4.3%. Pale and crammed with stella (can we call it that!) and cascade hops - seems quite normal so far - but each cask has the equivalent of two American water melons in it and is finally dry hopped with whole watermelon chunks and further cascade. Now if someone said 'Watermelon Pale Ale' would work, I would say they were mad. I am wrong it is an excellent beer. Full of hop freshness and the clean taste of watermelon.

It has now acquired a bigger brother and an even better beer. 'Watermelon Wheat Beer' is 5.4% and has all the background flavour of a well crafted wheat beer but with a massive tang of watermelon complementing it. A wonderful beer from a very forward looking brewery.    

Goodnight Folly

It is with a sad heart that I have to advise you of the passing of Folly, one of The Star Inn's dogs at Folly Hall. She died peacefully on Monday evening at home with her 'mum' after a long illness. 

She was 11 years old and was synonymous with The Star, having been there almost since the pub opened. We all have our own memories of her, but she was the only dog I have met who barked at people when they left, not when they arrived! 

Our thoughts are with Sam and the family. Sleep well Folly. You will be missed.   

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Fitting Tribute to a Dark Beer Fan

A strong mild brewed in honour of the late Maggie Morris is just one of the 120 beers on offer at Hull Beer Festival this week. Maggie’s Cherry Mild is a 5.5 per cent beer brewed by Mark Storey at Big River in Brough, East Yorkshire.
It is one of several beers that have been brewed over the past few months to commemorate Maggie, who was a Hull CAMRA member for more than 25 years. A Swift One readers will recall that Mallinson’s Mrs Bloke was joint top beer of Huddersfield Octoberfest in 2012.
Maggie, who died last year, was the partner of David Litten - The Bloke from Hull – who leaves his moustachioed calling cards in pubs up and down the land.He has kindly provided the picture of the festival venue, Holy Trinity Church in Hull city centre.
The event, now in it's 35th year, moved there in 2012 and was such a success that they ran out of beer rather early. But organisers have doubled the beer order this year and you can view both the beer and cider lists at where there are also ticket details.
Hull Beer Festival runs from Thursday, April 18 to Saturday, April 20.
Staff Copy

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Return of Hoptopus

Last year Elland Brewery treated us to one of my beers of the year, Hoptopus. An IPA style beer, light in colour, but rich in hops and very drinkable. I assumed it was a one off and I would never encounter it again.
I was wrong. Yesterday, on a fact finding mission round the pubs of Newcastle, I happened to call in The Bodega, and there, on the bar was its brother 'Hoptopus 2'. It delivered what it promised on the pump clip, no not octopus, but an IPA with 8 hops. It is a sensible 4.9%, light coloured and is packed with hop flavour, both in the nose and the taste. A check of the website says that it is a 30 minute IPA, and that the 30 minutes is taken up, at the end of the brewing process, by adding 8 different hops to the boil at different times to create the finished beer. It certainly has worked and Elland have created an excellent beer. It may be even better than its younger brother.

My only critcism, and its only a small one, is that because of the number of hops used it is difficult to get the taste of any one individually. They do combine very well though, so maybe I am just being churlish. I was surprised to see the beer up here, but I am aware that there is a barrel at the Star at Folly Hall, waiting to tempt you do there. It may even tempt me to hop(topus) on a train and get back for another pint.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

37th Newcastle Beer Festival

One of the beer festivals that I have heard good things about, but have never managed to visit is that at Newcastle, and since I live here, it seemed an ideal chance to redress that, so yesterday I called in to see what I had been missing. It is a Camra run festival, and after paying my £3 admission (no longer being a Camra member), my £1 glass deposit, and collecting my tickets, (£1.50 per half irrespective of beer strength) I grabbed a small table and set to work.

I had seen the list previously and knew that there were a couple of new breweries for me, so it was straight into action. Bear Claw, from Berwick, was the first one I found, and their 'Chet Wood' promised chinook hops. Well, it certainly had hops, I found a couple of leaves floating in my beer !! Which I found a little disconcerting since it was hand pulled, as all the beers on offer were. It wasn't bad but I hoped for better to come. I returned to my table, gradually more Yorkshire drinkers appeared and joined me, and it was good to catch up with old faces and compare notes. As the group grew it was strange that we all seemed to concentrating on different styles of beer; I was after the hops, others were sampling the stouts, or wheat beers, or local beers. It was a little different to the previous festivals I had visited.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. And the hop search. Allendale 'End 39' got near, with its combination of American hops; Beer Geek ' Noble Geek' was more bitter than hoppy; Gloucester 'Priory Pale' was pleasant,and fruity but as yet still nothing was giving me that hop burst I craved. I overheard one group waxing lyrical about Empire 'Strikes Back', and even considered getting that despite the fact I always eschewed it whilst in Yorkshire. But my salvation came from an unlikely source, Stewart from Scotland. Their new seasonal IPA was called 'Ka Pia' and 5.2%. A new hop variety from the Pacific. I was very impressed, it had all the flavour I expected from a Southern hemisphere hop, and the strength gave it a decent body as well. Things were looking up. 

I, then decided to sample some of the beers that my friends had commented about and went through a couple of Belgian styles, Out There 'Laika' being an excellent take on a wheat beer, with all the  flavours of orange and coriander, and Brewlab 'Dame Van Der Nacht' being a spin on a Trappist beer, not sure if it worked or not though.

One of the features of the Newcastle festival is that the organisers throw down a challenge to local breweries to produce a beer within certain parameters, this year a beer between 4.5% - 5% brewed with two hops and two malts. I think I counted 16 who had got involved, all brewing a new beer for the occasion, and it was from here that the beer of the festival had come. I believed that I had missed it, with it having gone off on Wednesday evening due to its popularity but miraculously it reappeared just as I was searching for my final beer. And it certainly deserved its accolade, and it had a shed full of hops in it as well. Mordue X2, was 5%, a light, fruity IPA with 70 IBU and really hit the spot.

I enjoyed the festival. I never found a beer that I actively disliked, and as I have said there were a couple of classics, and there was a decent balance of old and new, local and distant, light and dark beers. May be another visit may be in order !

(I would have provided pictures of the event except for a very large advert in the programme making all sorts of dire threats if I did.)     

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

It's mine, all mine!!

There are some of us that follow birds about, the feathered ones I mean, and have places that they want to get to to see their holy grail. Likewise the travelling football fans finding a new ground or the train enthusiast finding a new engine, or a new bit of track; that was me today.

One of my loves from years ago is Lindisfarne, no not the island, though I am sure it's a very nice place, but the band. A north east musical combo, playing damn fine music. But what is this irrelevant rambling got to do with a beer blog? 

Well, the band used to rehearse and spent a goodly amount of their time in North Shields, especially in a pub called 'The Magnesia Bank'. Now, I have wanted to go to the Maggy Bank for years, a sort of beery-musically fused pilgrimage, paying homage to my musical heroes.

I have tried to find the place before, but never managed, but with more time, and a bit of guidance from some locals, today I managed it. 

It was well worth the visit, a street corner local, lots of wood and brass, a stage in one corner, and me. No I mean me, just me. I was the only customer. I felt a bit sad, surely other people would have the same idea, but no. 

But where does the beer fit in? It has had several years in the 'Good Beer Guide' but for some reason not this year, although the beer was fine. Even though there are only four beers on the bar, mostly from the 'Jarrow Brewery', the ones I tried were good and reasonably priced.

So there, if Lindisfarne is your thing, get up to the Maggy Bank and reminisce, just a shame the music on the juke box did not reflect the pubs history though. But step outside, turn right, and there's the Tyne, but sadly no fog today!!!!

Hamelsworde Brewey - a top spot

A fruitless search for elusive hawfinches at Wentworth Castle on Sunday had a silver lining. The birds were nowhere to be seen but I did spot, without the aid of binoculars, a stall of craft beer. It was part of an open day at the castle in Stainborough, Barnsley. The stall, run by Bier Huis, offered a veritable feast of bottled beer (Concertina, Revoloution etc) but the one that caught the eye was from a brewery new to me.
I'd heard on the ale grapevine Hamelsworde had had their launch night a few weeks' ago at Bier Huis' store in Ossett, but I have not come across their beers in pubs yet. The brewery's website,, reveals they will be at festivals in Doncaster and Worksop this month.
The website also reveals Hamelsworde is the ancient name for Hemsworth, which is recorded in the Domesday Book. The micro brewery, run by Dan Jones, is slightly more recent and has been test brewing for a year. His website shows a number of different brews, with write ups.
The two beers I bought were Scalded Shoulder 5.2%, a golden wheat beer (single hopped with Saaz) and Jumping Pirate 4.9%, “a light golden ale in a Bavarian style, brewed with German Hallertaur and Tettnanger hops, has floral, piney and citrus notes”. What did they taste like? I wish I knew. We have friends coming over soon and the bottles will be part of a long-running beer swap. Will the Hamelsworde beers last until they get here, who knows? Should we run book on it or are you all fed up with sweepstakes post Grand National?
Staff Copy

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

El Dorado...another classic from America

In the recent past, there seems to have been an influx of hops from Australasia, and pretty good they are too,    however I still yearn for some of the hops that come from across the pond in the USA. 

In my travels around Newcastle, and despite my whinging about the general lack of hops in the beer here, I did find one recently that really set my taste buds going. Ironically for a beer drunk in Newcastle it was brewed by Black Jack from Manchester, and was the first single hopped beer of theirs that I have come across.

 It was called 'El Dorado' and was single hopped with a hop of the same name from the States. And it had everything I want from a hop. Massive mouth feel from the high alpha acid in the beer, and a crisp, clean freshness with a fruity background. A real winner.

The hop has been around since 2010 but I am not sure how easy it is to get hold of in England,since as I said, I have never come across it knowingly. However it is a wonderful addition to the range of hops that come from North America, certainly one to look out for.    

Monday, April 08, 2013

Its beer Will, but not as we know it !!

You lot down there are lucky, you can go round to several pubs in the town and from the selection on offer you are able to select a light, hoppy beer full of taste and flavour, it does not work quite the same up here. Oh yes, there is plenty of beer, there is no argument about that, and a lot of it is very good. But where are the hops ?

We have all drunk beer from the North East and complained that is often too sweet and malty, almost in the Scottish style. However, there are plenty of new breweries in the area now and many of them seem to be moving away from what we may call the regions classic taste, to something lighter and less malty. Unfortunately that does not seem to mean hoppy though. May be I am being a little hypercritical, and no doubt some local enthusiasts will hold me to task over this but I have tried lots of the local beers and only the occasional one hits the spot, and to compound the problem, very few of the local pubs seem to have Yorkshire beers on offer.

I am not going to name names but I am gradually working out the better local breweries and getting to know those who I can trust to provide something that may approximate to my taste. But even those which promise hops in their beers name, often seem to fail to provide the goods at the point of sale. And while I am at it, lots of the beer here is excessively strong for a session, with many of the speciality beers often weighing in at over 5%. And still they don't have enough hops.

Anyway, there is light at the end of the tunnel, in the short term anyway, and that first pint of Mallinsons  on Saturday will taste like nectar. But it always does, its just that time away from hops makes you appreciate how good they, and how lucky you Yorkshire drinkers are !!!

Told you I would be back !!!!

Now those kind fellows at Sky have got my internet working I can be part of the team again, so what has happened since I last blogged. Ah well, have been enjoying the sea air and the beer and pubs on the north east, purely in the interests of updating you fine readers you will understand.

There are plenty of good pubs up here and in time I will introduce you to a few, but today seems a good time to review my frequent trips to the 'Union Rooms' in Newcastle City Centre. It is a Wetherspoons outlet, but one of the better ones, in fact possibly the best one I have visited. It is a stone throw from Central Station, so an ideal place to start a crawl of the city. This is its drawback actually, it does get very busy at weekends with all sorts of weirdos enjoying the party culture of Newcastle. The pub has three bars, all separate and all quite distinctive. The main bar is semi circular and usually has half a dozen beers available. These change regularly, often daily, and are often interesting beers not often seen elsewhere in the estate. This be is usually the busiest bar but a bit of exploration will reveal two more bars.

One is upstairs and commands  view over the next door church garden. It his its own range of beer and usually has three on offer, being different to those downstairs. Downstairs there is another bar, covered by a glass roof, making it very light and airy. Another three different beers are available here usually in a quieter environment than the main bar.

 You are probably aware of the current ,Spoons festival, and can see the connection between that and my frequent visits to the Union Rooms. It is just too good an opportunity to turn down, and just to make it even better every pint on  a Sunday costs less than two quid. It just too good to miss.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Inn-Fest at the Rat & Ratchet

At just eighteen months old, the Rat Brewery is already a well established micro with a wide distribution (through it's Ossett connection) and even a few awards to it's name. We take it somewhat for granted in Huddersfield of course - and that's why this weekends in house festival is an important heads-up.
It would be easy for the brewery to just trot out it's staple recipes, so good are they, but there comes a point where, through familiarity, even big fans can find themselves overlooking the 'house' beer. No chance of that for the next couple of days though as every pump is given over to the latest output.
Many beers will be known to regulars such as White, Black, Brown etc but whilst ever there's a clever (or not so clever) play on words out there, a new beer won't be far behind. This festival welcomes Bohemian Ratsody, Brew Town Rat and Ratatouille amongst others.
A quick run through the dozen available yesterday failed to find a disappointing ale with some truly outstanding stuff in and amongst. And those sad to see no Rat Against the Machine this time need look no further than the sublime Project Rat #3, my favourite - so far!
Inn-Fest continues from noon today at The Rat & Ratchet, 40 Chapel Hill, Huddersfield.  
For the full beer list see Facebook.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Dates for your April Diary

Huddersfield drinkers can enjoy a month bookended by beer festivals. This Friday sees the start of a three-day festival at The Rat & Ratchet on Chapel Hill. A quick look @RatBrewery on Twitter reveals an all Rat line up, with White Rat at £2 a pint for the duration of the festival. Their beers tend to have catchy musical names, like Brew Town Rat, but mercifully the pronunciation nightmare that is Good King Wencesrat is not featuring. Well, maybe next Christmas? The brewery has gone from strength to strength since launching in September 2011. It has won beer of the festival awards at Liverpool and Dewsbury. For the complete festival list, see our Facebook page.
Then to close the month out, The Sportsman will be celebrating its fourth birthday with 20 one-off anniversary brews. The pub on St John's Road has achieved much in its short history, with numerous CAMRA awards and an English Heritage conservation award. The birthday bash takes place between 7.30pm on Friday, April 26 and 4pm on Sunday, April 28. There will be music on Friday and Saturday nights.
Staff copy