Friday, August 30, 2013

The Nook Brewhouse is on the fringe

The countdown to the Holmfirth Food and Drink Festival begins next week with a real ale and cider festival.
The ale showcase at the Market Hall (Thursday, September 5-8) marks the start of the fringe festival ahead of the main event at the end of the month.
The four-day festival will feature 30 plus beers and ciders from Yorkshire breweries. The festival is a partnership event by Kirklees Council and The Nook Brewhouse. There are plenty of the latter's beers on and others drawn from West, East, South and North Yorkshire.
There are also four ciders from nearby Pure North and one from the Little Badger Cider Co of Huddersfield.
A festival glass will cost you just £1. 
Details will be also released at the festival about the Holmfirth's real ale trail, featuring pubs and bars within a stone's throw of each other. 
I don't know Holmfirth well beer-wise but I might seek out Brambles Bar and Cafe on Towngate
I've never managed to make it there yet but have enjoyed festivals at landlord Jonny Holmes' old pub, The Swan at Crimble. So maybe the fringe festival is the chance to rectify that.
Also on the fringe is Holmfirth's Farmers Market, which will be celebrating its 18th birthday with a specially brewed beer from The Nook Brewhouse on Sunday, September 15. The market runs from 9am to 2pm.
The main event, the food and drink festival ( Saturday, September 28-29), will also feature a real ale bar by The Nook Brewhouse on Towngate car park. While Bier Huis of Ossett will have one on the library car park. Expect draught and bottled real ale from the likes of Five Towns plus food, snacks and sauces.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Barnsley Bitter back on track

Picture: Barnsley Camra/Stancill Brewery
News from Barnsley CAMRA secretary Nigel Croft:

On Saturday (August 24) I was invited down to Oakwell Brewery to see the removal of the brewery plant slowly and very carefully being unbolted, lifted and transported about 100m (300ft) to its new site Stancill Brewery, Beevor Street, Barnsley.
The owners Tom Gill and Adam Hague told me that they hoped the brewery will be up and running by the middle of October with a range of beers including Barnsley Bitter 3.8% abv. 
This will be identical to the one brewed on the Oakwell plant when it closed earlier this year. The beers will be brewed on the same brewery plant with the same brewer Jonny Stancill using the same water and ingredients.
In addition to Barnsley Bitter, Jonny Stancill will be brewing a Dark Mild, Blonde Ale, Best Bitter and a Ruby Ale all available to the free trade and with a distribution of about 30 miles from the start of production.
“Keeping the original Barnsley Bitter brewing here in Barnsley is a must,” said Tom. 
“Keeping the excellence of Jonny brewing the beer is also a must," added Adam.
Jonny acknowledged the enthusiasm of both Tom and Adam and their passion for the brewery and real ale.

*Footnote by Ale Ambler: A quick Facebook check tonight reveals Stancill Brewery have hit a bit of a snag. 
From Stancill: "HELP NEEDED. Due to unforeseen circumstances our move into the new Oakwell venue has been delayed by two weeks due to some issues at their side! Does anyone know any units or other suitable places in Barnsley that we could consider as part of a venue back-up plan?! Friends, please help us get our beer on bars ASAP and SHARE this post!"

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bank Holiday weekend beer festivals

If you are at a loose end this bank holiday weekend then here are a few ideas.
Close to home there is The Holmfith Summer Beer Festival at The Nook from Friday until Sunday, August 25.
Please ignore the misprinted end-date on the festival flyer but this is the best image we had. Unfortunately, their neat beer list doesn't display too well on here but you can access it fine via the Nooks' website here:
The theme is celebrating 150 years of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and as you would expect there are a few tipping a nod to bat on ball.
Concertina have Joe Root Beer (4%) while Ossett have Corker (4%) and Great Newsome have Line and Length (4.1%). But Five Towns nearly has an over-full of cricket beers. I'll highlight just one, a new one for me: Corridor of Uncertainty (5.5%) with Nelson Sauvin hops. 
And cider wise, Pure North have Sticky Wicket (6%).
If you fancy a trip further afield then why not head to the home of liquorice: Pontefract.
The Robin Hood on Wakefield Road is having a beer festival (Friday to Bank Holiday Monday) and it features the official launch of the James and Kirkman Brewery
Drinkers at Fernandes in Wakefield will fondly remember the days when David and Maureen James were behind the bar and brewing at Avison Yard. They left in 2007 when Ossett took over. David then moved to East Coast Brewery in Filey.
I gather Dave and Maureen have been in the Robin Hood pub for a little while now. While James and Kirkman started brewing on-site recently. 
I understand from Bob Wallis's Wakefield CAMRA site (  that Mandy Kirkman - Dave and Maureen's daughter - is half the Kirkman part.
According to Bob's helpful site: "Brewing on a three barrel plant from the Hesket Newmarket Brewery commenced in May 2013.
"The first brew was the eminently quaffable Stargazer at 5.1% which means that the Robin Hood can at last be listed as a LocAle Pub! Soon after came the amazingly tasty 3.2% Star Light, with a third beer made with local honey in the fermenter."
The festival runs from Friday to Monday from 2pm till 11pm daily, although the pub opens at noon each day.
The brewery launch is at 4pm on Bank Holiday Monday.
Here is the beer list: Tiger Tops, Happy Hops 5.0%; Cross Bay, Zenith 5.0%, Halo 3.6%, Sunset Blonde 4.2; Five Towns Bodyline 5.4%, Corridor of Uncertainty 5.5%; Saltaire Amarillo Gold 4.4%, Hazelnut Coffee Porter 4.6%; Cotleigh Tawny owl 3.8 %, Seahawk 4.2%, Durham Citra 3.9%, Bedes Chalice 9.0%; Abbeydale Belfry 4.5%; Dr Mortons Thinking Fountain 4.3%, Brown Cow Merrymen Pale Ale 4.1%; Townhouse Flower Dew 4.0%, Summer Pale 4.3%; Salamander Maribu 3.8%, Timewarp 4.0%, Brewmeister Ten 10.1%, Stold Fold Gold 3.8%, Great Heck Black Jesus 6.5%.
There are also two specials especially for the festival: Clarks Robin Hood 4.6% (one cask only) and James & Kirkman Festival Ale 4.3%.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Brewery re-opens

The Barge & Barrel in Elland will be offering cask ales from its own microbrewery from August 14. The Punch Taverns pub has undergone a large-scale refurbishment and the attached microbrewery, which has always been one of the pub’s unique selling points, has been incorporated back into the pub.

Since re-opening the pub in November 2011, lessees Greg and Eddie have built a loyal cask ale following in the pub and are now taking the business further by introducing the long-awaited micro brewery ales.

Eddie, who has previously won awards for his cask creations, said: "We were looking for a site with real ale potential, where we could brew to our own award-winning recipes. Having spent a year assessing customers’ tastes and completely renewing all the brewing kit required for this style of operation, the ales will be launched on August 14."

The pub will now offer three cask-conditioned ales, which are brewed according to the tried and tested recipes and will be sold exclusively at the Barge & Barrel. Real ale aficionado and licensee, Andrew Firth, said "Our drinks offer at the Barge & Barrel is second to none in the area, and I get a lot of great feedback regarding the quirky choice of beers I select for our discerning customers. The addition of our own brews is the icing on the cake."

The food operation, which complements the offer at this cosy canal-side pub, is run by a well-known local operator, with a great following. The traditional home-made pub food is very popular, especially Shirley’s Roast Beef Sunday Roast. Buffets can be ordered for all occasions in the function room.

Punch Taverns’ senior partnership development manager, Heike Funke, said: "This is an excellent example of a traditional pub going from strength to strength. With its cosy open fires, great ales and quality food as well as facilities such as the function room, this is a pub of the future. We wish the owners and their team at the Barge & Barrel all the best."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New Beers, New Festival, New Inn

After a quick whizz round the beer stalls at the Huddersfield Food Festival it was off on the 229 to Roberttown for opening time at the inaugural beer festival at the New Inn, which was recently crowned as Heavy Woollen CAMRA pub of the year.

Several beer nuts were there to sample the unusual beer delights on offer but I was first yet again! Around 35 beers were available from the specially assembled temporary bar in the function room. As the others took their seats in the bar area I was straight in at the deep end with the champion beer at Dewsbury CAMRA festival – the New Inn brewery's very own Bombay Bob.
I had tried it before twice at that festival, once when the brewer Joe himself gave me glass and said “here, try this” and once later on when the festival was in full swing.  Bombay Bob is an unusual powerful six percenter containing Indian spices and herbs together with citrus hops, resulting in a refreshing summer drink with more than a hint of ginger, spices and citrus fruits. Not to be missed.

This was followed by some very interesting beers from breweries around the country, many of which were new to me. From the north, came Mosaic from Bear Claw in Berwick – a single hopped tropical IPA (another to maintain one’s strength at 6%). From the south, Plympton’s Ruin from Garage and Small Paul’s Gillingham Pale Ale were tried. Welsh beers sampled were the hoppy Llangolen bitter and two contrasting beers from the vegan Neath Ales brewery, Marvellous Medicine and Jack Knife. Not to be outgunned by these natural contributions, Yorkshire was also represented in the vegan stakes by Bad Kitty, a sumptuous vanilla porter from Brass Castle.

For those who had never tried them, there were nine Bob noted beers on offer, all hand crafted by Joe in his half barrel plant in the cellar. It was just a pity that we did not have the time or capacity to try them all, not even in halves!

On the organization front, everything had been really well thought out by the festival team and it was most pleasing to have an experienced team of familiar faces behind the bar. This was all under the supervision of Bombay Bob who was watching at all times from his spot nearby and always ready to lend a hand or two!


Friday, August 09, 2013

Land of Hopportunity

Earlier this summer Matthew Hall and partner Chris Bradley held the first open day at Yorkshire Hops at Chris’ farm in Ellerker, East Yorkshire. The attendees included brewers, Andrew Whalley from Charles Faram hop merchants, James Fawcett from his maltings at Castleford, noted beer writers Barrie Pepper and Sam Parker and friends. Light refreshments were supplied by family and friends whilst alcoholic beverages were provided by Adrian and Vicky from Yorkshire Ales.

Things have moved on rapidly for Matthew since planting some plants on a trial area of land at nearby Elloughton last year. The success there, including selling the resultant green hops to the local Big River Brewery prompted Matthew to seek a larger location to expand his endeavours. He has teamed up with Chris, a good friend of his dad, to transform his hobby into a commercial business.

Since 2006 Chris has been growing cereal and energy crops and was keen to diversify to create the most northerly commercial hop farm in the UK. The duo got their heads together and formulated a business plan. With more than 1000 breweries in Britain and well over 100 breweries in Yorkshire alone there simply has to be a market not just for hops but more especially “Yorkshire Hops”.

Visits to the traditional hop growing areas around Hereford and Worcester proved extremely thought provoking in that the methods used seemed quite antiquated using machinery and systems from the 1940’s and 1950’s. This was followed by a trip to Germany to seek out the production methods there. The net result was the purchase of plants from the Hop Association, and harvesting and grading machines from Worcester and Munich.
This February the first hectare of land was converted from grassland into a hop garden. 300 tonnes of turf were cut and removed; around 500 wooden posts were erected, 11km of wire affixed, and a seemingly endless run of hop netting attached. Over 3,600 Sovereign and First Gold variety plants were then planted in 16 rows of 227 and after just a couple of days, the first few tips were appearing on the tall hops.

 Simultaneously, Matthew has been driving the marketing side via social media, using Facebook and Twitter to enlist sponsorship from members of the brewing industry. Local breweries including Big River, Brass Castle, Wold Top and Brown Cow have shown their support alongside Saltaire and Bridestones from the West Riding. Other individual sponsors have signed up. Indeed, Chris has mentioned that it is the interest from brewers that has been the main inspiration for the project to succeed. On the other side of the trellis, Phil Saltonstall from Brass Castle has indicated his excitement by the scheme and is looking forward to producing entirely local beers later in the year.
Activity remains brisk with the hop burrs turning into hops in early August. It will not be long before the first green hops will be ready for picking. To retain their freshness, the whole crop will have to be harvested within a five-day window and added to the brewing process within a day of being graded to capture their distinctive aromas. Crops in future years will be dried and packed and will not be so time critical.

 The trial are at Elloughton continues to be monitored for growth of other hop varieties and it will not be long before preparations will kick into action at the main site with the arrival of a further supply of 3650 plants to be planted on a neighbouring hectare of land. 

With the national hop acreage dropping year on year and the concern that within 10 years the UK may end up buying in most of its requirements, it is heartening to see such a business bucking this trend and most importantly in Yorkshire.
Spurn Pint

For more details about Yorkshire Hops, visit who can also be found on Facebook and also twitter @YorkshireHops

All Hail the Master Brewer

A summer Saturday in early August saw real ale lovers from across the county say their farewells to head brewer at Kirkstall Brewery, Dave Sanders, who has now moved on to pastures new at Saltaire brewery. Members of SPBW (Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood) West Riding Branch gathered with CAMRA members from Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Keighley, Huddersfield, Hull and Halifax & Calderdale and raised several glasses to the master craftsman of real ales, who has headed the emergence of the new Kirkstall Brewery not far from the Leeds Liverpool canal in the shadow of the original brewery.

 Perhaps Dave’s most notable creation has been the multi-award winning Elland 1872 Porter and in 2011 Dave was recruited by owner Steve Holt to revive the long tradition of brewing in Kirkstall and developed a superb range of award winning beers including Kirstall Pale Ale, Best Yorkshire Bitter, Three Swords, Dissolution IPA, Black Band Porter, Generous George and the powerful Drop Hammer.
 In recognition of Dave’s fantastic achievements at the brewery Steve presented him with a couple of superb historical items: a tin from Leeds Co-operative Society (with whom Dave began his working life) and a fabulous impossibly rare beer bottle from the original Kirkstall Brewery.
We wish him well.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Festivals this weekend (Aug 8-11)

The Bloke from Hull has been his usual prolific self today, telling us about beer news from here, there and everywhere.
Several bits caught my eye, including a festival I'd not spotted: The New Inn's MicroFest in Roberttown (Saturday and Sunday, August 10-11)
There is an impressive range from all over England and Wales. I've posted the beer lists here larger than usual to improve reading (but please click on the images to enlarge further).  

There's plenty of ale from the rainy (Ashes retaining) side of the Pennines: Front Row, Privateer, 4T's, Arkwrights. And a fair few from the shiny side: Five Towns, Sportsman, and nine from The New Inn Brewery, including  Bombay Bob, a 6% curry beer). 
Now this is about the third curry beer I've come across recently. I'm not sure what I think of them yet but at the moment I prefer my coriander on top of a korma rather than in a pint pot. However I'm willing to give them a try.
Further a field, there are beers from Devon, Dorset, Wales, North Shields, Settle, County Durham, Berwick Upon Tweed, Northamptonshire and the list goes on.

Obviously the New Inn's micros' celebration coincides with Huddersfield Food and Drink Festival (August 8-11). But as the latter lasts four days then there is plenty of time to do both. 
Hudds Food & Drink features mobile versions of some of Huddersfield's finest pubs: The Kings Head, The Sportsman, The Monkey Club and The Star
The Nook will also have a bottle stall, Zephyr have craft and world beers while Vox has beer and cocktails. So something for everyone.
The festival is also running its town real ale trail until Sunday. Pick up a leaflet in participating venues and collect over eight stamps to claim your souvenir glass - something us festival goers aren't short of!

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Dronfield magical mystery tour

I've been meaning to make a proper fist of The 3 Valleys Beer Festival for quite sometime. But for some reason I've only made a ham-fisted attempt at the Dronfield based event before. Perhaps it's been a mixture of my inept planning, unforeseen events or a labyrinthine bus schedule which might tax even the seasoned London Underground traveller.
I missed the traditional festival date in June but on Saturday I was determined to make amends and made tracks to the edge of Derbyshire for an unexpected part two. The format was a dozen pubs connected by a free bus service split into three routes. All started at Dronfield, blue route took you as far as Unstone, green to Dronfield Woodhouse and yellow to Appleknowle.

I didn't have time or the stamina to do all 12 so I concentrated on the yellow route, walking a short distance from the railway station to The Dronfield Arms. A nice open-plan pub on three levels. The bar was at street level, with a restaurant downstairs and a beer garden and large car park out back.

The main bar featured three permanent beers: Abbeydale MoonshineBradfield Blonde and a house Best Bitter. There was room for some guests too, notably Great Heck's tasty Powermouse (3.6%). But my focus was on the pop -up bar in the beer garden.
My eyes alighted on Black Jack Brewery's Mosaic beer (5.2%). Probably not the wisest choice by volume for my first of the day, but it turned out to be beer of the day. 

Also on were Great Heck's NavigatorOxford Ales' FestivalDoncater Brewery's The Plant PorterScarborough Brewery's CascadesSlater's Haka (war dance optional) and some cider boxes. After a pint I was joined by my tour guide, fellow blogger Wee Beefy
We then set about tackling the back bar in earnest and meeting up with his vast entourage of friends.  

The band struck up at the far side of the car park and we adjourned to sit on some hay bales to listen to some Irish tunes and a fiddle player. A good time was had by all, especially a Pug who seemed to be enjoying his dog chew as much as we were enjoying our beer. Now bales of hay created a bit of an occupational hazard when the wind got up a bit, but I didn't mind picking the odd bit of straw out of my beer, it just added to the atmosphere. 
Now with time running out fast, we decided to hop on the festival double-decker along the yellow route. We were destined for The Travellers Rest at Appleknowle amid reports of a good list. But en route Wee Beefy pointed out the pubs in between like The Coach & Horses (Thornbridge beers), The Royal Oak, and The Inn at Troway.  
There was a  big tell that we'd alighted on a good pub in The Travellers: when we disembarked from the bus nobody was getting on for the return leg from picturesque Appleknowle. The car park was full to brimming of people enjoying music emanating from the trailer of a HGV.
Meanwhile just inside the pub, in the cloakroom so to speak, was a bustling pop-up bar, mainly with Blue Bee beers on. Wee Beefy joined the queue while I ventured inside the pub and stumbled across two new Abbeydale beers. I went for Oxymorton (4.1%) which, unbeknown to me, contained the "trial 366 hop. Assurance for mango, grapefruit and pineapple" with low bitterness. And marvellous it was too. I was just off back inside for another or its stablemate Profundity when sadly it was time for the long and winding road home.
Although we only managed two venues out of 12, I was more than pleased with the trip and aim to tick off the rest of the pubs when next summer's festival or festivals rolls around.  

Friday, August 02, 2013

The Old Peacock

Another hot night and another prestigious opening as Ossett Brewery went football-crazy in the shadow of Elland Road stadium yesterday. This lavish refit of the tired Old Peacock has to be the highest profile launch to date for the burgeoning brewing company's pub arm.
The double take guest list had me reaching for my autograph book rather than a camera as the city's haut monde swanked up to have their first look. The incongruity of cocktail party glitterati talking beer and footy was quite jaw-dropping - just so the remarkably up-market make-over of a pub destined to mainly profit from thousands of Leeds United fans.
That said, the Peacock is capable of a big transformation on match days when all the furniture will be removed to create a standing only bar capable of serving several hundred. The restaurant area will also switch to knocking out budget-priced snacks which I imagine will undercut and out-perform anything the football club can manage (apparently a contentious issue the two parties have crossed swords over before).
Another feature that the recent weather has highlighted is the size of the beer garden (very little of which is included in this photo). Once completed by the addition of more picnic tables, this should be immensely popular if the summer holds up - and the outdoor serving hatch direct to the kitchen is a smart move.
Back inside and the unique décor features a collage style wallpaper documenting LUFC's triumphs through the ages, though it was pointed out to me that anything mentioning Manchester has had to be censored. And if you run your hand over the walls you can feel the tell-tale bumps where the naughty words have been cleverly expunged!
I never imagined being the slightest bit jealous of Leeds fans but here they have a remarkable pub that will surely be the envy of every supporter of football and real ale that visits. It's proximity to the stadium will ensure it's not a flashpoint for rival fans and the building of a brand new police headquarters next door won't harm. I fully intend to pop in for a pint or two when my team come calling next year and for the first time ever I'm actually looking forward to my next visit to Elland Road.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

A Wharfedale beer in the wood to celebrate Yorkshire Day

Picture: Courtesy of Stewart Ross
Oh to have been in Castleford tonight, celebrating Yorkshire Day.
The Junction Pub is hosting six beers in the wood brewed by Yorkshiremen from now until August 3.
One of the beers on for Yorkshire Day itself is Wharfedale Brewery's Blonde. I think the seeds were sown for the timber cask version of this 3.9% ale at the Junction's birthday festival a few weeks back.
Wharedale's Brewery's chief consultant Stewart Ross was in attendance with Malcolm Bastow, of Five Towns Brewery.
Five Towns' beers are ofter found in the wood at The Junction and have quite frankly been brilliant every time I've been down Carlton Street. And I think Mr Ross admired them as much as I did that day.
Wharfedale established in 2012 but have been brewing at Five Towns in Outwood while the finishing touches are being put on their own brewery in Ilkley.
Mr Ross told "Building work is progressing on both Wharfedale Brewery and the pub, The Flying Duck. Although brewing is still taking place at Five Towns Brewery in Wakefield, I am hopeful that we may be able to do the first brew on the new 2 ½ barrel plant by the end of August. 
In terms of the pub, fingers crossed for an opening in September."
I've been wanting to try a Wharfedale for a little while now but haven't had any luck. Well, I know they have a beer on in Castelford for at least today but where else can I sup it? 
Mr Ross told us: "The beer has been appearing on the bar in various local pubs including The Swan in Addingham, The King’s Arms in Silsden, The Old Cock in Otley and The Brown Cow in Keighley. Wharfedale Blonde has a regular pump at The Wheatley Arms in Ben Rhydding. 
"Further afield, our beers have been appearing at various beer festivals and will shortly make an appearance on the bar at the CAMRA national pub of the year, The Bridge End Inn, Ruabon, Wrexham." 
Well it looks like a trip to Ilkley or Otley is in order to put the Wharfedale beers to the test.
Or maybe I could sneak a post-work session at The Junction tomorrow and hope the beer is still on the bar.
Other beers to look out for in the Cas pub are: Ridgeside Thunderstruck/Innuendo, Old Bear Airedale Pale, Wentworth Bumble Beer, Walls Beaters Choice and Hobsons Best.
And the entertainment continues on Sunday when there will be a jazz band playing.
Happy Yorkshire Day/weekend everyone.