Friday, June 28, 2013

Mosaic - the hop monsters view

One of the new hops on the block is Mosaic. I have heard good things about it and I admit I have tried it before but it has been good but never had the 'wow factor', at least not until yesterday.

With single hopped beers my usual go to breweries are Mallinsons and Pictish. Unfortunately people who will remain nameless have drunk all the Mallinsons before I have had chance to taste it, and I have not seen a Pictish version. I have had to wait until I found a single hopped beer in the North East to make my judgement, and just to make it easier, I managed to find two single hopped beers in two pubs within 2 minutes walk of each other. Result !

Mosaic is an American hop, and has been available for less than 12 months, so brewers are just discovering it and finding what they can do with it. It is the daughter of Simcoe, and has been described on one web site as 'Citra on steroids'. This all bodes well for the lover of hop flavours. It gives a fruity, tropical tastes and has floral notes according to another website. 

So what did it actually taste like. The first beer I tried was North Riding 'IBUless', a 4.7% beer offering. I would not disagree with the above tasting notes but I got a massive hit of bitter orange on the nose initially followed by an even bigger hit in the taste. Maybe more of the flavour of pith rthan orange fruit but nevertheless a great taste, and very fresh and moreish. I know Stewart at North Riding does like his hops and has certainly not skimped here. It was hard work to refuse a second one but...

Just round the corner I found another 'Mosaic' beer. This time from Arbor, another brewery who know how to use hops but this one had an abv of 6.8%, and was called somewhat originally, 'Mosaic' !. This was a different beast. It certainly tasted its strength and somehow seemed to have had some of the fresh zestiness of the previous beer toned down, maybe because of the strength, but the deep fruitness of the hop background did come to the fore. It was again a great example of the use of the hop and it just shows how two good brewers can turn two different results out of the same ingredients.

If you do come across Mosaic, and are a hop enthusiast I am sure you will not be disappointed, asnd if you come across it in Huddersfield, in a Mallinson's beer, please leave a pint for me !   

A comfortable place to hang out

Tonight sees the grand unveiling of HDM Beer Shop's post-expansion works.
We've had a few sneak previews of the new room on Wood Street over the last month but it's up and running from 7pm today (Friday).
Owner Rob Allen kindly took a break from varnishing at his Huddersfield town centre bottle shop/bar/lounge to tell about his plans for the new joint. 
It turned out to be quite a wide-ranging chat about his career in beer, cask vs keg and a progress report on HDM Brewing Co.
Picture: Jason Booth

So instead of posting a War & Peace length blog, we will roll the interview out over the course of the next week or so.
First, we will let Rob get down to brass tacks to tell us about the new beer range.  
Rob, 32, said: "There will be four permanent Summer Wine keg lines, four permanent Magic Rock keg lines, a permanent West St Mungo Lager, brewed in Glasgow, brewed to German purity laws."

Picture: Jason Booth

He added: "There will be four other keg lines, using some from HDM and some guests.
"We are launching with 11 keg lines and will be increasing to 15 by September."
"Then we've got four cask lines, which will feature permanent Mallinsons, a permanent HDM, and a permanent Sqwark, a new brewery from Manchester."
Tune in next time for an informed debate about cask vs keg.
To be continued...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Monarchs of the Glen travel south

Picture: Spurn Pint
Today I've clocked up some beer miles without ever leaving Kirklees. 
I've supped in Alloa, been back and forth to Falkirk but saved the delights of Loch Lomond for another day. But this celebration of Scottish beer cost me £1.30 a half and a cheap day return to Mirfield. 
I'm pleased to report The Navigation Tavern's Scottish summer beer festival is every bit as good as their last homage to the craft beer kings from North of the Border.
The Caledonian ale showcase began today and continues until at least Sunday.

The only problem was where to start, but that was soon overcome with some expert advice from behind the bar.
My starter was Brockville Pale (3.9%), which was one of 11 Tryst offerings on the 30-strong beer list. 
That led me to Beeches Cats Whiskers (3.9%) which was easily my favourite in the low ABV stakes.
Next, I was ready for a bit more heft away from light session ales. It came in the form of Red Rye (4.5%)  from Barney's Beer, a microbrewery from Edinburgh.
Normally I hate red beer with a passion but this one re-wrote my rule book. What was so good about it? Well, I'll just nick a phrase I heard tonight: "I like beers with a beginning, a middle and an end."
It left me wanting more, but  there was much more to try and I had to reluctantly move on.
And I was glad I did because it led to my beer of the night: Tryst's Sherpa Porter (4.4%). The tasting notes said it was "an easy-drinking porter, combining seven malt varieties".
My last half was Fraoch by Williams Brothers of Alloa. I'm told this is widely available in bottles at 5%, but this was a slimmed down version at 4.1%.
It had a sweet but subtle honey taste but perhaps it was not the best beer to have after a porter. In retrospect I should have finished with another dark beer like Blackhouse smoked porter from Fallen of Stirlingshire. Well there is plenty of time left for me to correct that! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Scottish summer beer festival at the Navigation, Mirfield June 27 until finish

View down to Mirfield, January 2013
Back in the snowy depths of January I traipsed over the frozen wastes in search of Scottish beer.
Actually,  I caught Northern Train's Huddersfield to Mirfield Service and it virtually dropped me at the Navigation Tavern's front door.
I set off as though attired for an ascent of Ben Nevis but was somewhat overdressed for a slight dusting of snow. 
Timbo had told me that the pub's winter beer festival was well worth a trip. He wasn't wrong. It was so good that I visited on consecutive days for more trips to the dark side of beer.
And now landlord Kevin O'Donnell is hoping to repeat the success of six months ago with another Scottish beer festival, which starts this Thursday.
The Navi's summer festival will feature 30 to 40 beers. Some will be from the same breweries that captivated me in January but all will be different beers.
The exact beer list is being kept under wraps but Mr O'Donnell told A Swift One to expect ales from Loch Lomond, Knops, Inveralmond, Strathbraan, Ayr, Beeches and Fallen and some others that I couldn't spell! 
Mr O'Donnell said: "Everybody loved it last time. It was the quality of the product. Well, it was unbelivable. It was a surprise to myself. 
"If they come out of the cellar like they did last time then we will have some pleased clientele." 
The Navigation Tavern's Scottish summer beer festival runs from Thursday, June 27 to finish.
And as it says on the Heavy Woollen CAMRA website: "Not to be missed." 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Facelift for Shep

The Shepherds Boy on Huddersfield Road in Dewsbury has benefitted from a much needed facelift in recent weeks and is once more the ideal venue for both indoor and outdoor imbibing.
Having lost it's original beer garden to future development, the new 'secret' area behind and below the pub is a remarkably peaceful spot in which to enjoy a pint, bearing in mind the proximity to main road and rail line. 
If you are yet to sample the Shep's latest features (including new landlord Stuart Hindle's dry humour) then make a date this summer to visit this often overlooked gem of a pub where an excellent selection of well kept ale is only half the story. (map)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Valley of Beer part 3: Locked onto the garden of sunny delights like a limpet

Yesterday afternoon I anchored myself to a bench a yard away from the Kelham Island Tavern's "Alefresco Bar".
I normally plant myself in the back room next to Bosch's painting of The Garden of Earthly Delights whenever I visit the Russell Street pub. But on Friday I abandoned the over-sized goldfinches and hellish scenes for the what must be one of the best uses of space beer gardens on the planet.
I clung on like a limpet to my vantage point at the pub's Midsummer beer festival for about four hours before it was time to slip away.
Needless to say, it was a good afternoon in good company chewing the fat about all things beer.
I kicked off with a light-dark combo of Bob Brewing Company's Primevale and Blakemere's Deep Dark Secret - Liquorice Porter. I preferred the former as the skies had cleared in Sheffield and it really was a pale ale day.
There were a couple of new breweries to me on the beer list, Dixon's of Wainfleet and Merton Abbey, but I did what I always do when confronted by a choice of Abbeydale beers - drink them!
Intergalatic (5%) and Dr Morton's Phone Dip (4.1%), were both pale and extremely drinkable but different. The latter was made with hop of the moment, Mosaic. Curiously, another good example yesterday was over the road, North Riding's IBU Less Mosaic in Shakespeares. It had a bit more heft at, I think, 4.8%.

Talking of the new kid on the block, Shakespeares is a jolly fine pub, which broke the Kelham Island Tavern's nine-year stranglehold on Sheffield CAMRA's pub of the year title.
Well, judging by yesterday afternoon, the old king was on top form and looking to regain its crown.
The healthy competition in Kelham Island, with three top pubs within a stone's throw of each other, is just a boon for real ale types. Amazingly, I didn't even make it into the Fat Cat on Friday, as I was bound to The Kelham Island Tavern for a session. My only detour was a slightly disloyal half in Shakespeares to try another top beer from North Riding of Scarborough.
I don't know if it's my middle age or laziness, but recently I've become a big fan of one-pub sessions, employing a simple but effective left to right drinking formula.
Yesterday that wasn't possible because there were too many beers for this lightweight to try in one day. But then again the festival continues today and tomorrow (June 22 and 23).
Enjoy it, I did.
Link to beer list:
Link to cider & perry list:
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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Beer Festival News

Real ale festival fans have a bit of multiple choice this coming week. There are showcases in Barnsley and Sheffield whilst Marsden has the Riverhead re-launch next Thursday.
Today sees the start of The Kelham Island Tavern Beer Festival on Russell Street, Sheffield. The multi-award winning pub promises 30 plus new and rare beers over the course of four days, plus a selection of cider and perry. Looks like it starts at noon. I'm hoping to go tomorrow to sample some and to do a review.

Also on Saturday, June 22, from 5pm to 1am  is a celebration of Geeves Brewery's 100th gyle at their brewery tap.
The Summer 100 event at The Anglers' Rest, Wombwell, will highlight the handiwork of father and son team Pete & Harry Geeves. There will also be a selection of guest ales and Yorkshire ciders, and outside bar, food and acoustic music.

The pub is on Park Street, about a mile from Wombwell train station. Catch the 200 bus to the centre of Wombwell and get off at the library stop on Station Road. It's a short walk from there. Alternatively, The Anglers' Rest is well served by the 222 or 226 buses from Barnsley Interchange, which stop right outside.

Next weekend (27th - 29th) The Riverhead Brewery Tap in Marsden is showcasing its own range until closing time on the Saturday. A new beer will also be unveiled.

All the information you need is on the the festival and beer list posters, please click on them to enlarge.
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Monday, June 17, 2013

A bit of fruity stuff!!

One of the breweries that has rarely featured on this site is Sam Smiths of Tadcaster. There are several reasons for this but two of the most obvious are the lack of variety of their cask beers, in fact, there is just the one 'Old Brewery Bitter', and the shortage of Sam's pubs in which to drink it.

It is a well known fact that to find the beer outside their own pubs is a rarity, so to find it involves a trip to one of their tied houses. It is worth hunting out though, a decent beer, and it is more often than not sold at a decent price. But this is not about the draught beer but rather about something that I discovered yesterday on the bottled beer list at Tilleys in Newcastle.

I am not a drinker of bottled beers, so I rarely peruse the lists in pubs but having nothing better to do whilst sipping my beer I glanced through the list at Tilleys and was surprised to discover some Sam Smiths bottled beer there. Surprised on more than one level; initially, to see it outside their own pubs, secondly, to see that the brewery, which I had always considered fiercely traditional, had kept up with the times. The list contained four of their bottled fruit beers. 

This prompted further investigation and provided further surprises. There are only four fruit beers on their list, so Tilleys had them all. There are apricot, cherry, strawberry and raspberry varieties, which seem to cover quite a range of tastes. I had to try one, so I sampled the raspberry. It was not bad, not quite my thing, but I can see the appeal, especially for the fairer sex, with the initial tart background - sorry bad use of word! - giving way to a residual sweetness. But had I compromised myself by drinking a non cask product?

Well, it appears not after checking their web site. The beer has quite an interesting history. It is finished off at Sam's but starts life at the All Saints brewery in Stamford, handcrafted using organic barley and wheat, where it undergoes initial and secondary fermentation, and then transported to Tadcaster to be mixed with the appropriate fruit juices and bottled.

If you come across it, and fancy something a little different, give it a try. It does not break the bank and is a pleasant drink on a warm afternoon. I may even try another one soon.      

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sportsman's Hudds hat-trick on Monday

   The Sportsman, Huddersfield.              Picture: Spurn Pint
A Huddersfield pub which has just celebrated its fourth birthday will score a hat-trick of beer awards on Monday.
The Sportsman will be presented with Huddersfield CAMRA's pub of the year award for the third time running on June 17.
Landlady Sam Smith's bar was the joint winner in 2011, the outright champ in 2012 and now it has done it again.
Continuing a bit of 2013 trend - having been to CAMRA winning pubs in Sheffield, Castleford and Barnsley - I decided to wander down St John's Road and have a session at The Sportsman on Friday night.
The first thing that struck me as I walked in was that there was a good range of beers for a session: pales of varying strengths, a ruby red, a mild and a stout. 

Seconds out, round one was Mallinsons Galaxy, followed by Millstone Stout. I'd had the Galaxy before and it didn't disappoint, but I don't think I've ever had a dark beer from Millstone, but it sure hit the spot.
Round two was Marble Pint and Mallinsons Danger Hops. Both old favourites of mine and in top nick. Enough said!

Lord knows why I didn't work my way along the bar as I missed out Wilson Potter Ruby Red, Fulstow Brewery Marsh Mild and the house brewery's 6.8% monster, Naughty.
For my last drink I went back to Marble Pint and noted their Draft 
was also on the taunting pole.
And there was a Two Roses dark beer on there too. I think it was Black Beauty Stout, presumably to follow on from the Millstone which looked like it had just run off.
So, plenty to sample over the next few days, including a special one-off Sportsman Brewing Company ale for the presentation evening on Monday.
Well done to Sam and her team.
There seems to be a bit of confusion over the exact time of the presentation. The Sportsman's website says it starts at 6pm and ends at 11pm but Huddersfield CAMRA, who are also staging a branch meeting there, say 8pm.
Anyway, that looks like Monday night sorted!
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Festival at The Sheffield Hop June 13-16

One of the few Ossett bars I've yet to visit is The Hop in Sheffield. There is no specific reason other than I find it difficult to escape the magnetic pull of the Bermuda Triangle of beer (Kelham Island) whenever I'm in the Steel City.
Well, there is a prime chance for me to redress the imbalance over the next few days as The Hop is staging a beer festival (Thursday, June 13 to Sunday, June 16).
The bar is easy to find (West One Plaza in the Devonshire Quarter, off West Street) and well served by public transport (tram & bus).
The premise of the "Over the hills and not so far away festival" is 30 plus beers from Manchester, Cheshire, Lancashire & Yorkshire.

On the IPA bar you can find Mallinsons Danger Hops  and a 6% "APA" from Abbeydale Brewery called Ascension, which is made with US hops. Manchester brewery Blackjack also wade in with Citra.
From the main there is a chance to drink a beer that is getting plenty of traffic on Twitter of late, Great Heck's Yakima (7.4%).
But it's not just a pale ale showcase as there are a few porters on from Treboom and Sheffield Brewery
And a glance down the list shows stout,  chestnut and copper bitters. There are also pies and music
So something for everyone.
Staff Copy.  

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Valley of Beer part two - down to the river

Last weekend I did a Bruce Springsteen and took myself down to the river. But I didn't ride into the valley where the beer gardens are green. I walked up river to the Gardeners Rest at Neepsend and took up residence in its verdant terrace, right by the water.

Now, the River Don caused The Gardeners terrible trouble during the Sheffield floods of 2007. It was shut for months but was painstakingly refurbished.

Well, the river was like a mill pond last Friday as I enjoyed a jar of Cromarty's Atlantic Drift and Alchemy's Cockleroy Black IPA.

There were plenty other like-minded individuals who were enjoying 'taking the waters' by the Don.Within minutes memories of work were washed away by  watching the river slowly move from left to right. There wasn't much traffic apart from a mallard and her ducklings. But still no sign of that elusive Kelham Island kingfisher, so I guess I'll keep have to keep coming back!

Anyway, back to the beer. The Cromarty was a great starter. I've become a great fan of ale from North of the border since The Navigation's Scottish beer festival in January.

As usual I'll leave it to the brewery's website to describe their work. Cromarty recently said: "We also released a 3.5% all American hopped session beer last week called Atlantic Drift. Made using some amber and cara malts to give a sturdy backbone for a heap of Amarillo, Cascade, Calypso and Mt Hood hops to stand up and shout from! "It should be hitting the taps for your thirst-quenching enjoyment." Well it's arrived and it did hit the spot on a hot sunny day.

As for Alchemy, well, I didn't initially know I'd ordered a black IPA. I just asked for something dark to contrast against the Atlantic Drift. Perhaps it was a good thing because I don't normally like black IPAs. I've only had a handful that I've actually rated. So I came to this beer without a prejudiced mind and thoroughly enjoyed it.
It was just a short session but memorable. I always think I'll come back to this golden quarter of pubs and dedicate a session to just one of them. But it's always a case of while I'm in Kelham Island I better go and see what's on the bar at the Fat Cat, The KIT and Shakey's'.

I need to go back to the Gardeners and stay there for a while, perhaps learn the rules of bar billiards and pluck up the courage to buy the silent blonde in the corner a drink!
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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Service - what service ?

As any businessman, or woman, knows, one of the ways to make be successful is to have knowledgeable staff and a strong point of sale, so why yesterday, did I encounter three different pubs who appeared pretty clueless ? Admittedly, these were all in Newcastle City Centre, but the concept applies across the board, wherever you drink, and in what ever field you sell in.

I will not name names, but two of the pubs were part of a national chain, and the other a pub that has only been open less than a week. My first encounter with the staff problem, was that of being the invisible customer. People who know me, know I am 6ft and not easy to overlook. But standing at a fairly quiet bar, waiting to order my beer, I was passed by whilst little old ladys were served with latte and tea, and a group of young kids with pints of lager. Both of which arrived at the bar after me. A good start to the day ! But I did eventually get my beer, so I could not complain too much.

Not until I called in my second pub. Here I again wanted one beer, from a choice of six and was immediately served by an attentive barman. He pulled my beer, and took my money and promptly topped it up with another beer. I pointed out his mistake and he repeated the process, even down to topping the beer with another different beer ! Attempt number three was a success, but it did little for my confidence in the staff. (I know, I work behind a bar, and have probably done the same myself in the past, but not twice ! before the comments start flooding in)

My third encounter involved the point of sale information, or in this case disinformation. The second multi national, 6 beers on the bar, 2 with pump clips that from my point of view were less than informative. They were clear, white on black, with the abv prominently displayed, so that was ok, but the legend 'Pub X IPA' was less than helpful, as was 'Pub X Mild'. I know that the pub does not have beer brewed especially for it, and when I asked the bar staff who brewed the beer, their answer was that they had no idea and made no efforts to find out for me. I walked out. Another sale lost.

I am not being critical of bar staff in general, I think they generally do a good job often in trying circumstances, but there are times when the service falls below that I would consider acceptable, and yesterday was one of those days.     

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Huddersfield link to new Bosun's Brewery

That mysterious figure, Spurn Pint, has informed us about another new brewery.
Bosun's Brewing Co, just over the Wakefield border in Horbury Bridge, is run by a father and son team from Huddersfield.
Ex soldier Grahame Andrews has set up a micro brewery with his dad, also Grahame - an ex Navy man.
The Andrews clan have been on brewing courses and have been helped by a master brewer.
Their first brew, Maiden Voyager, has sold out to pubs.
Given the duo's Huddersfield connections, I'm reliably informed Bosun's beers are lurking in the cellars of quite a few town and district pubs.
We are told the brewery's first offerings are at The Head of Steam, Slubbers Arms, Herbert's Bar, Yeaton Cask, Honley Conservative Club and possibly one or two more.
If you happen to be Wakefield way, then try: The Cricketers Arms, Horbury; Horse & Jockey, Horbury Bridge; Little Bull, Middlestown; Brewers Pride, Ossett; and Hammer & Stithy, Ossett.
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