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.