Monday, September 30, 2013

Green Hops Are Go !

As previously reported on a 'Swift One', this is the time of year when some breweries get to work and brew some beers made with this seasons fresh, green hops instead of the usual dried variety and this weekend I managed to get my hands on the Rat Brewery version.

'Green Rat' weighed in at 4.8% so was a fairly strong bitter. So what did I expect ? Well, not quite I got. I expected a clean tasting, fresh, hoppy beer. What I got was something a bit different, but nevertheless an excellent beer. The hops gave the beer a resinous, slightly oily mouthfeel, and an interesting flavour. None of the fresh hop taste I expected but a really good balance between grassy tastes and the malty background to give a really well crafted beer. The 'nose' was a little disappointing however, a bit bland in my opinion .It did drink a little 'heavily' and one pint was probably enough, but that is not to say I will not hunt it down and try another.

There was nothing on the pump clip to suggest which variety of hops were used, which was a shame, but the assumption is that they will be a locally grown English variety.

Nevertheless, green hopped beers are something different and the green hops give the drinker something else to try, even though due to the small window of opportunity to use them, they are only available for a short time. If hops are your thing, hunt the green hopped beers down and try them out. You may be surprised. I was.

(Sorry could not resist the photo...not exactly how a green hopped beer appears I must admit)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Navvy Fest Throws up an Interesting Conundrum

As promised, and purely in the interests of research, you understand, I look a trip to The Navigation festival at Mirfield yesterday. I had no previous knowledge of what was on offer there, but having been to previous festivals there I was hoping for plenty of new beers to try. I went with my 'tickers' hat on.

On my arrival I was slightly surprised when I saw the beer list. It was dominated by local Yorkshire beers, nothing wrong there, some very decent beers on offer, but it lacked the wow ! factor. I had sampled the majority of those available before. In fact, speaking to staff there, the fact a festival took place was a credit to Kev and his team as their beer supplier had let them down a week before, and they had to source what they could to fill the 30 odd pumps hence the preponderence of local and regular beers. They did, and the festival took place. But it got me thinking.

Do I, or we as tickers, expect too much from a festival ? Do we just go to collect the new beers we want and leave, or do we enjoy what is there and enjoy the day ? I must admit, in my case it depends how far I have travelled. In this case, I did not stay long but it was local. Had it been miles away I may have been tempted to hang on a socialise with my like minded fellows.

But what makes us select which festivals to visit ? This year has been different for me because of the plethora of new festivals in the north east to visit, new places and usually plenty of new beers. However, locally I am more selective. I make my choice initially on the beer lists, should they be available, or on the distance to travel and the cost of entry pro rata for available 'ticks'. It is not worthwhile or cost effective to travel miles for just a couple of beers - so I tend not to visit them, and I miss out on some very good events because of this. Others I know, are happy just to visit a festival because it is there. They do not 'tick' beers but just enjoy the varied selection on offer.

So who is right ? Maybe we all are, we visit for our own reasons,and enjoy them accordingly. Long may they continue. See you at the festival at Huddersfield this coming week !

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Navvy Fest This Weekend

One of the local festivals that seems to have slipped under the 'Swift One' radar starts today at 4 pm. The Navigation at Mirfield is usually worth a call, especially so during its festival, with around 40 beers usually available. Recently the festivals have been themed but this time it seems there will be a variety of beer from far and wide. It continues all weekend with opening Friday and Saturday at 1130 am. Will keep you posted !

Friday, September 20, 2013

Green Hops Are Go

As we await the appearance of the Rat’s new green hop beer Yorkshire Rat, as per a previous posting, two beers made from the same harvest of First Gold hops from Yorkshire’s new and only hop farm made their debut at the York CAMRA beer festival this week.

The hops were grown by farmer Chris Bradley and beer enthusiast Matthew Hall at Ellerker near South Cave, East Yorkshire.

They weren’t expecting to produce a commercial crop this year but after a successful season aided by the sunny weather, 40 kilos of green hops have been supplied to three Yorkshire breweries: the  Rat, Big River and Brass Castle.  On sale at York were Black Rod from Big River and Force 5 from Brass Castle.

This week I was lucky enough to be there for the harvesting of the Sovereign hops and the subsequent sorting and grading by a machine brought in specially from Germany. Most of these have been snapped up by Saltaire and Great Newsome breweries for special Autumn beers.

It is hoped that most if not all of these beers will appear together at the Beverley Real Ale Festival which will take place on the first weekend in October.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rat Brewery wins gold & silver in top beer comp & others strike bronze

On the podium: White Rat
Congratulations to Rat Brewery whose White Rat beer won overall silver in the SIBA North East awards today.
The 4 per cent beer also won gold in the Best Bitters category in the Society of Independent Brewers regional competition.
The Nook Brewhouse in Holmfirth also ended up on the podium with a bronze for its Oat Stout (5.2 per cent) in the Porters, Stouts, Old Ales and Stong Milds section.
And Bosun's Brewery, which we told you about when it started up in June, also got a bronze for Maiden Voyage (3.9 per cent) in the Standard Bitter category. 
Although it's brewed over the border in Horbury Bridge, it's run by Huddersfield raised father and son Grahame Andrews Senior and Junior.   
The announcements were made tonight at York Beer Festival (Sept 18-21) which began tonight.
White Rat just lost out on the main prize to Brass Castle whose 5.7 per cent Sunshine was crowned overall champion of the SIBA North East competition.
The Rat Brewery has been busy racking up awards since brewing resumed on Chapel Hill in 2011 after a seven-year gap.
The Ossett-owned micro brewery, which is based at The Rat and Ratchet in Huddersfield town centre, won beer of the festival at both Liverpool and Dewsbury festivals last year.
I recall going to a showcase of Rat beers in April this year and being wowed by beer after beer. There were no duds in sight and I seem to recall a slightly wobbly walk homewards after finishing with some high volume IPA with 'Bonkers' in the title!
A trawl through our archives to refresh my memory about all things Rat revealed a prophetic post by Timbo from summer 2012.
In it he talks about White Rat and hopes for more awards.
He said on July 19 last year: "White Rat' is one of their regular beers, often gracing the bar in the Rat & Ratchet. A light, quaffing beer with a pleasant hop combination, it is very moreish, definitely a favourite in the pub. And it seems elsewhere as well.
"In the last fortnight the brewery has been awarded 'Beer of the Festival' at two Camra beer festivals. Both Liverpool and Dewsbury branches voted for it and shows how far that the brewery has come in a very short time. Credit must be given to Paul (Spencer) and his team for their efforts, and lets hope these are the first awards of many."
You can read more of Mystic Tim's original post here:
Link to SIBA NE roll call of winners in York:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Honorary cider drinker tours the Valley of Beer and gets a score draw

Away end at Hillsborough
On Saturday I enlisted to join the Green Army as they laid siege to Hillsborough.
My one-day sign up to Yeovil Town was sweetened with the promise of beer before and after the big match in Sheffield.
It all came about as a couple of friends from work are Wednesday fans and another colleague is from Yeovil.
He wanted to sit with his Somerset brethren on Saturday, so I - a cricket fan who knows next to nowt about football - volunteered to join him and even up the numbers for The Glovers.
But before kick off there was the little matter of me as acting as a tour guide in the Valley of Beer. 
We met up and had about three hours to spare before kick off. We also needed a pit stop for food so the route really wrote itself.
We kicked off in Shakespeares Ale & Cider House, the reigning Sheffield CAMRA pub of the year. There was, as you would expect, a pretty good choice on the bar. 
My colleagues all went for Abbeydale's  Deception, which ended up being their joint beer of the day.
I was torn between an elderflower beer from Dark Star and Revolutions' Turning Japanese. But I opted for the latter after being told it was packed with hops.
Image courtesy of Revolutions Brewing Co
The Castleford beer didn't disappoint and was my beer of the day by a street. In fact, I would go as far to say it was the most enjoyable Revolutions Beer I've had. 
As I'm hopeless in the Oz Clarke/Olly Smith tasting notes stakes, I'll leave it to the brewers, who say Turning Japanese is a "pale, blonde-style beer with low-moderate bitterness and pine/lemon/lime hop flavour. Hopped with Green Bullet and Motueka."
As a New Zealand hops fan this ticked all the right boxes for me and I would have easily had another but we had one-eye on the clock.
With time of the essence and stomachs rumbling it was time for lunch at the Fat Cat.
My colleagues were amazed at the value for money of the food range.  We oohed and ahhed over having the cider sausages but it was the closest we got all day to the county drink of Somerset.
Here my friends continued their Sheffield beers theme with Kelham Island's Pale Rider. They liked it but not as much as the Abbeydale.

I chose badly and ended up with a middling half of Growler Gladness having been sucked in by the 'Madness' pump clip. Anyway this average beer helped wash down another fine pork pie ploughmans.
A closer inspection of the beer list on the way out revealed a dark Salamander and a Hambleton's I hadn't had before. Pity.
Time was again running short so we unfortunately had to skip the Kelham Island Tavern and go straight to The Gardeners Rest and its riverside beer garden.
View back to Kelham Island
Again my colleagues went local, trying a range of Sheffield Brewery Co beers, Five Rivers and Crucible spring to mind. Again they were well received.
On the back bar I noticed a new brewery for me: Three Daggers from Wiltshire. I went for that instead of one of those high volume curry beers I've been tempted by recently. The curry beer was over six per cent and I didn't fancy snoozing my way through the game.
Daggers Ale, at 4.1 per cent, was much more manageable. But it was maltier than I expected and not to my taste. It wasn't a bad beer by any means, just not for me.
Next it was on to the game itself, which cost a staggering £28 for entry into the away end. The price list in the bar was also eye-watering, £3.60 for a 500ml can of Carling. I gave it a swerve and wished for a cricket-style pass out at half-time to the nearby Riverside Cafe and Bar.
My 'Wednesday' colleague had told me about it on the way to the ground and said it featured real ales upstairs. Their facebook page shows they have two regular cask ales and four guests. They have beers from Sheffield and Yorkshire but also take requests for ales from further afield.
The bar, on Catchbarr Lane, is only open Friday to Sunday with a plan to extend opening hours soon. I will check it out on my next visit and report back.
Anyway back to the football: Yeovil snatched a well-earned point despite being down to ten men from late in the first half. It finished 1:1 and I'll spare you from a full match report.

Post game we walked to a favourite pub with Wednesday fans, The New Barrack Tavern. But it was heaving with blue and whites so we decided to blow the whistle on our match day session in The Sheffield Tap. Here my friends discovered it's not all reasonably-priced drinking in the Steel City. Three drinks, admittedly one mad continental beer, for a shade under £10.
I thought I couldn't go wrong with a Buxton Brewery beer which was getting some hammer in the crowded bar. But Moor Top wasn't good and, in fact, was my worst of the day. Totally unlike any of their other excellent beers that I've tried. Maybe it was near the cask end?
The 3.6 per cent chinook hopped beer tasted nothing like the Buxton's own citrusy tasting notes. My Yeovil friend didn't like it either.
And not a beer to celebrate a hard fought point in the Valley of Beer!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Old Boys 'Do' York

It has been a tradition for many years that a group of us from Huddersfield take a trip to York to get a bit of culture and sample a few beers in different surroundings, this years trip took place on Friday 13th. It has been the norm for the group usually to number around six, this time we managed eleven intrepid souls who met up at Huddersfield Railway Station. And hit the first part of the Friday 13th curse when all the York bound trains were delayed or cancelled because of a problem further up the line.

Undeterred we managed to grab the first available train and managed to get there not too long after our intended arrival time. The first call was the York Tap, handily placed on platform one of the station and a mecca for the real ale drinker. A wonderfully ornate building with a circular bar serving 20 draught beers, I selected a couple of beers from 'Tapped' brewery of Sheffield to set me up for the day, their 4.5% 'Bullet' being my preference. And we sorted out our route, sort of !

Next call was the extended 'Maltings' just by Lendal Bridge. It used to be a fairly cramped pub but the renovations have made it light and airy. There were still half a dozen beers available on the bar, most of the group selecting Flipside 'Random Toss'. Good but not outstanding. Some of the group had never visited Harkers' so this was the next pub on the route. A converted insurance building and very ornate, the pub is part of the Nicholson group and its beers come from their beer list. I chose their house beer from St Austell here. 

The group had split but regathered at 'The Three Legged Mare'. The only pub from the York brewery group that we visited. Most chose Ramsbury 'Popham Bitter' here but I managed to select my first dodgy beer of the day, nevertheless it was changed without fuss, to the Ramsbury. Another pub new to me was next on the list with the 'Lamb and Lion' just a few doors up from the Mare. We managed to gate crash a wedding party in the front room but the pub is like a warren so there was plenty of places inside but we all gathered in the superb beer garden. Just a shame that the Great Heck 'Golden Mane' wasn't. The second dodgy beer in two consecutive pubs.      

By now it was becoming a bit obvious that it was taking time to serve such a large group so we started to spilt up into smaller groups and visit different pubs. Or the same pub but with staggered arrival times. I had never visited 'Pivo' so this was must visit after what I had heard of it. Frankly I found it a bit disappointing. Another lovely building but the downstairs bar was cramped and the music in the upstairs bar was a bit too loud for my liking. However the Moorhouses 'Dr Rudi' went down ok here. 

Time was moving on and the need for food apparent, so after a quick pork sandwich, (another group tradition) it was on to one of the must visit pubs of York. The 'Blue Bell' has never changed in all the time I have known it, an oasis of calm in the bustling city, and steeped in history. Goose Eye 'Blue Bell Ale' was a shock on two counts - it was sweet and malty, and 4.5% - both unusual for the brewery. However, the problem with the Blue Bell is its size and 11 people do not fit comfortably here. So again it was time to split.

The weather had started to turn a little damp and I wanted to sample a couple of pubs closer to the railway station so I, and a splinter group, headed across the river and into Micklegate to try out 'Brigantes'. This is a totally different pub to any of the others we had visited - modern, and bright. And a range of half a dozen beers to sample. We had a new barmaid serving us and she made a good, but slow job of pulling 5 halves of Okells 'Saison'. It was worth the wait. A really flavoursome beer. I followed this with my beer of the day - Hop Studio 'Porter' - dark, sweet and rich. 

By this time the pubs were starting to fill with office workers leaving work and it was becoming hard to find a seat and get served. So a small number of us decided it was time to head for home, but not without sampling the better of the two York Wetherspoons ' The Punch Bowl' just under Micklegate bar. A typical range of Wetherspoons beers but the Marstons 'Wakatu' was ok, but served by a very unhappy barmaid who did not seem to appreciate serving halves.

After this a quick walk back to the York Tap, a final half and the train back to Huddersfield. It was another excellent day, good company, plenty of new and interesting pubs, and loads of different beer. Can hardly wait for next years trip.   

Friday, September 13, 2013

The best pub in Yorkshire plus brewery boom and Mallinsons in the spotlight

Old No 7, Barnsley: Yorkshire's premier pub

This week we've told you all about Yorkshire hops and tweeted about CNN waxing lyrical about real ale in God's Own County.
Well, yesterday CAMRA announced the best place to drink it in Yorkshire: The Old No 7 in Barnsley.
I've written about the pub in glowing terms before, so I'll leave it to the official blurb this time.
CAMRA describes it as: "The jewel in the crown of Barnsley town centre’s burgeoning real ale scene. This Acorn Brewery owned bar boasts seven real ales and one cider/perry, all on handpump. Two further ciders/perries are usually found behind the bar, plus an extensive range of quality foreign beers.
"The attentive staff and well-run bar attract a broad clientele including circuit drinkers, football fans and beer connoisseurs, who are all made equally welcome. Local CAMRA Pub of the Year 2012 and 2013 and Yorkshire Regional Cider Pub of the Year 2013."
It's a remarkable achievement for a pub that re-opened in August 2011 to be crowned as the best in Yorkshire. So congratulations to all involved. And good luck in the national final.
It will be pitted against the reigning champ Baum of Rochdale and 14 others. 
You can read the full list here on the CAMRA site:
CAMRA have been busy this week launching the 2014 Good Beer Guide with a plethora of press releases. And one of them talks about the explosion of new breweries in Britain. 
A staggering 187 have opened in the last 12 months, marking a 14 % rise. And West Yorkshire is leading the way.
The press release states: "Another area which has seen an above average growth in breweries is West Yorkshire, with 8 new breweries taking the counties total to a whopping 57 – the highest of any region in the UK."
GBG editor Roger Protz said: "West Yorkshire has always been a strong area for beer, with Leeds, Bradford, Castleford, Halifax and Huddersfield, as well as many more smaller towns, boasting hundreds of fantastic real ale pubs. In recent years numerous new breweries such as Collingham, Big River and Brass Castle have sprung up to supply the local demand."
Protz also believes the rise of brewsters (female brewers) is adding momentum to the thriving real ale market.
And one of the case studies named in the brewsters' press release are Huddersfield's hopsters Mallinsons
Out of this world: Mallinsons Beer
The press release states: "One female owned and run brewery making a name for themselves nationally is the award winning Mallinson’s brewery. Founded by CAMRA members Tara Mallinson and Elaine Yendall at a small six barrel plant in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, in 2008, they moved to a larger 15 barrel site in 2012 to help meet the growing demand."
It includes a quote from Co founder Tara Mallinson who says: "Myself and Elaine set up Mallinsons in 2008 because we selfishly wanted to brew beers we liked to drink. Brewing real ale is a great job, you get to experiment with new hops, rebrew old favourites and hopefully give the people who drink your beer a great pint."
So in summary Yorkshire is the centre of the beer universe and I'm very pleased to live here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Yorkshire Hops for Yorkshire Ale

'While Yorkshire is known across the world for its beer, the hops used to brew those beers have rarely if ever been grown in Yorkshire itself. British hops, while internationally renowned, have historically been grown in Kent and the West Midlands. Until now!

For the first time in generations, hops are now being grown commercially in Yorkshire. Started in 2012 near the north bank of the River Humber, Yorkshire Hops ( has this year produced its first commercial harvest.

Ossett Brewery is proud to announce that it is one of a  handful of brewers privileged to have received some of the precious crop!  Harvested on the 9th September, twenty kilos of fresh First Gold hops were collected from the farm to be turned into beer the following day.

The precious cargo of hops was rushed to Ossett Brewery’s subsidiary Rat Brewery in Huddersfield and on the 10th of September 2013 they were used to brew a brand new beer, Yorkshire Rat!

Yorkshire Rat will be a 4.0% abv easy-drinking pale ale. With the fresh green hops added to the brew at the end of the boil, citrus, spicy and grassy hop aromas should result. This is a very limited edition beer indeed and just twenty firkins will be produced, which will be available for sale into the free trade from Monday 23rd September on a first-come first-served basis.'
Interested parties should contact Ossett Brewery on 01924 261333 or visit
Paul Spencer (Head Brewer) 10th September 2013

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Summer - the down side ?

Before I start this post, let me make it clear that it is made purely from my personal observations and on the knowledge acquired through my chemistry O level 40 years ago, and is no way a criticism of any individual brewers or pubs.

These last few months I have come across more than the usual amount of cask beers that have been served in a less than perfect condition. That is not to say that they are warm but that their taste is not quite what I expected, and in some cases verging on the unpleasant. I started to wonder why ?

Discounting beers from newish breweries, many of which I had never sampled before and could not give a really fair opinion of, there are several from established breweries which have disappointed me. Nothing has changed fundamentally. The beer will have been produced in the same way at the brewery in am sure, and the same stringent considerations given to their production; the barrels will have been cleaned in the same way; and the pubs will have the same cellars and dispense the beer in the same way. So what has changed ? It has been sunny and hot for most of the summer months.

Would this change the character of the beer ? One would hope not. It should leave the brewery in the same tip top condition as always. But beer is still a living organism. Yeast is in the beer giving rise to the secondary fermentation that the product requires. Has the hot summer led to changes in secondary fermentation that the brewer cannot foresee ?

Consider a beer leaving the brewery in its cask, from the brewery cool room. It is then transported to the pub for sale. This is where I think the summer begins to play its part. Some brewers are lucky to brew on the site of the pub, and nothing will affect the beer since it has nowhere to be transported. Others have short distances to travel and hopefully the beer will not have time to be adversely affected by the heat. But what about deliveries a long way away.

Again the beer leaves the cool room but is either transported by van to the point of sale, or a wholesaler. The back of a van, on a warm day gets hot, and the beer will obviously get warm too. The yeast will start to work quicker, or harder and fermentation will speed up. The beer is then unloaded and placed in a cool pub cellar, or hopefully a cool room at the wholesaler. Fermentation will slow down again, but the yeast will be 'confused' and maybe its effects are affected (if you forgive the pun!). If it is then transported again on a warm day from the wholesaler, the process repeats itself. Surely this cannot be a good thing for the final condition or taste of the beer.

So, the beer leaves the brewery as the brewer intends, and is served in the pub as the landlord intends, but the middle bit may affect the product, leading to a deterioration in quality of the beer, to alterations in flavour, and to a shorter shelf life. If this is the case roll on autumn, an a return to normal.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Timbo returns

In case news has not reached you our North East correspondent has returned to West Yorkshire, and is a Huddersfield resident again. He is just catching up on the local beer and pub scene to see what has changed in the last five months. And is glad to be back. Watch out for more posts.

Managed Mallinsons Mosaic !!

For those readers who have long memories, you will recall that I waxed lyrical about the hop 'Mosaic'. This was back in June this year. Yesterday I came across Mallinsons 'Mosaic'. And what a revelation it was.

I have come across quite a few beers brewed with Mosaic hops,  an American hop variety released last year and has started to appear in beers from the early part of this year. The hop is a simcoe derivative and imparts a fruity, citrus and slightly earthiness to the beer.

The one beer I have wanted to try but have always managed to miss was that of Mallinsons. I know they have a way of dealing with single hopped beers that some other breweries seem to lack, and I always consider their single hopped beers as the yardstick to measure my appreciation of the hop character.

I was certainly not disappointed, their website describes the beer as 'pale blonde with a spicy, fresh nose, a bitter sharp grapefruit flavour,and a bitter, intense finish' and I cannot describe it any better than they do. It is just excellent.

Where they have succeeded where I think some other breweries that I have tried have failed is that they have brewed the beer at a sensible strength. It is 4%. Many of the previous ones I have tried, have been from 4.7% up to strengths as high as 8%. And the stronger the beer the less the hop characteristics seem to come through. Strangely enough I had a similar experience with last years must have hop 'Citra'. It seems that they both benefit from being brewed weaker to bring out more flavour.

So if you get chance, and like a hoppy beer, this may be just the thing for you. And if you are a brewer, may be strong is not always better. And thank you Mallinsons for rebrewing it - just for me  !!


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Stod Fold Brewery

North of Halifax, amidst rugged Bronte Country, not far from the road to Keighley, lies what is apparently a quiet, secluded place known as Stod Fold. Until recently, an internet search revealed just a self-catering holiday barn, kennels and a cattery. Now, new life has been breathed into the area with the establishment of an exciting new brewery, housed in inherited buildings.
It is the brainchild of lifetime friends and now business partners Paul Harris and Angus Wood who decided to join forces after careers in Brewing/Microbiology and Finance/Marketing respectively. They have created a small team dedicated to producing exceptional beers and with the sales expertise of Sam and Jonny, offer them to discerning real ale drinkers. Although anciently housed, the brewery combines traditional techniques, the finest ingredients, state of the art equipment and modern expertise to create beers of exceptional quality.

After around six months of organising and a month trialling, the beers have been released into the local pub trade directly and more widely across the region via Beverage Express wholesale distribution company. They have been well received at all outlets and also at a number of beer festivals. As some of the team regularly work in the London area, the intention is to use their business networks to establish a Southern foothold in the near future.

The initial selection of ales provides a genuine balance of old and new. The Gold and Amber are traditional Yorkshire ales with refreshing flavours, whilst the Blonde and superb Pils are modern takes on the brewer’s art that push the boundaries of taste.

Uniquely the brewery supports the Stod Fold Foundation charitable trust. It supports local charities that are close to its heart and those of its benefactors. The majority of the fund raising comes from pledges by Stod Fold Brewery and Stod Fold Barn who both contribute 1% of their gross sales to the foundation. More details can be found on the website.

Stod Fold Brewing Company, Ogden, Halifax, West Yorkshire, HX2 8XL
Contacts: brewery mobile 07870 498324, landline 01422 245951
e-mail, website