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.