Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Festivals galore over the next few days

Oct 31-Nov 3
Hallowe'en isn't just the season of the witch. It's also a time for a scary amount of beer festivals.
One such begins on All Hallows' Eve at the devilishly rebranded Rat and Ratchet.
I haven't seen the Chapel Hill pub's new 'rat on red' logo in the flesh yet but pictures of the mural certainly convey the trick or treat mood.
The pub reopens at 4pm on Thursday and the festival runs until Sunday, with 45 beers promised over the weekend.

Twitter teasers from @RatBrewery have suggested beer monsters may be able to get their hands on its spiced pumpkin ale Rat O'Lantern (4.5%) while the latest litter includes Verminator (6% brown ale) and old favourite Ratsputin (7.4% Russian imperial stout). 

On a less scary note but on at roughly the same time is Marsden Beer Festival, which we previewed a few days ago (see below). The three-day event at the Mechanics Hall features 20 beers from breweries near and far. It runs from 6pm on Thursday until the witching hour on Saturday.
That just about gives you enough beer recovery time for a special brewery anniversary festival at the HDM Beer Shop from Wednesday, November  6 to Saturday, November 9.
It will celebrate a "whole annum" of HDM Brewing Company, which launched last November.
We are eagerly awaiting details of the beers that will be on show at Wood Street, but so far all I know is that colab brew with Cats? Eye! Records is being bottled and will be available on the Saturday.
HDM Brewing Co's 1st birthday bash 

Love Music : Love Beer

The Revolutions Brewing Company has been  crafting music-inspired  beers since October 2010 and supply beer directly to most of  West & South Yorkshire, York &  Selby and parts of North &  East Yorkshire.  Their cask and bottled beers have been enjoyed across most of the  UK  and the latter have been enjoyed in many parts of Europe.

I first met Andrew Helm and Mark Seaman at the Wakefield CAMRA beer festival in November 2009. They were soon to start a new brewery in the area with several unique selling points based on music.

They had met at a business seminar in early 2009 and found that they shared an interest in both beer and music. Subsequently and not surprisingly, they met up a number of times to discuss these and the idea of starting a brewery cropped up on more than one occasion. It was over a pint in Tetley Dave’s Shoulder of Mutton in Castleford that Andrew (a keen home brewer with a Brewlab course behind him) and Mark (for many years a quality control consultant in the Middle East) decided to become business partners and launch Revolutions Brewery.

It was not long before they came up with the unique selling point of brewing beers to strengths based on record speeds – 3.3%, 4.5% and 7.8% and linking them to some of their favourite record titles.

They began brewing by “Cuckoo Brewing” at Brass Monkey Brewery in Sowerby Bridge. Because they liked dark beers and there was a demand, the first beers were dark, thus distinguishing them from the “light and hoppy” brews from many other West Yorkshire breweries. Perhaps the most well known and extremely tasty of these was Clash London Porter weighing in at 4.5% ABV.

In June 2011 Andrew and Mark secured premises at Whitwood, Castleford and installed an eight barrel David Porter kit and the first brew followed in July. The local hard water was soon found to be ideal for mid-brown beers including the unique Kraftwerk Braun Ale (4.5% ABV) made with German hops and yeast.

Due to the brewery’s success (including deals with Nicholson’s and Market Town Taverns) the neighbouring unit was purchased in May and Paul Marshall (of Lone Wolf fame) has been taken on part-time and to model t-shirts. Sadly, I failed the audition!

They now brew two to three times a week producing both a core range and a series of one off specials accompanied by fabulous artwork close to that of the original record sleeves.

In addition to the usual real ale outlets, Revolutions support local bands, music venues and special events with unique beers, thereby introducing both their beers and favourite music to the new wave of modern vinyl junkies.

The guys are not averse to collaborations, the most recent being the two with another music aficionado Malcolm Bastow, the head brewer at Five Towns. Together they have created the David Bowie LP inspired Scary Monsters Black IPA and Super Creeps Pale Beer. On a recent interview on Radio Leeds, Malcolm stated that they should be tried together and compared which can be done at the Wakefield CAMRA beer festival at the Space on Waldorf Way from next Thursday.


Further info:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Visit to Fawcett's Maltings in Castleford

A chance meeting with James Fawcett in the summer resulted in a recent visit for myself to Fawcett’s Maltsters at Castleford, West Yorkshire. The Maltings are not normally open to the public to visit and it was a great privilege to be given a tour by Brian Hickman.

 The firm produces a high quality, extensive and unique range of Pale Ale, Crystal and Roasted Malts using generations of skill and expertise whilst embracing technology to provide one of the key ingredients for the real ales that we love.

The Fawcett family has been making malt in Castleford for over two hundred years. Beginning in the late 1780's, the company was properly established in 1809 and became a Limited Company in 1919. It continues to operate on the original site by one of the oldest family controlled and run businesses in the UK and today the seventh generation of Fawcetts are actively involved in directing the business.

The company always uses the finest raw materials that each new growing season provides. All barleys are bought on sample which means the Company is not exposed to blending variations associated with barley "bulking" operations. The best barleys ensure the supply of quality malt, season after season.

Malting grains develop the enzymes required to modify the grain's starches into sugars and developing other enzymes that break down the proteins in the grain. Starch is then converted to sugar and fermented into alcohol by yeast in the brewing process.

Three methods of malting are used depending on the quantity required and the types of malt used for best results.
Fawcett's remain as one of the few Maltsters,still operating a traditional Floor malting. Barley or other cereal grains are dried to a low moisture content and then stored. The grain is immersed or steeped in water two or three times over two or three days to allow it to absorb moisture and to start to germinate. When the grain has a moisture content of around 44%, it is then transferred to the malting or germination floor, where it is regularly turned over for around seven days . The malt is then kiln-dried to the desired colour and specification.

The second method of malting used is by means of the Saladin Box which can deal with much larger batches in less time than the labour intensive floor method. Invented by Charles Saladin, it consists of a large rectangular container and a set of vertical screws attached to a crossbar, that move through the bed of barley, raising the barley from the bottom to the top, about two or three times a day. Combined with mechanical air flow through the barley for cooling, this allows for deeper beds of barley to be processed. 

The third malting method is the modern, automated germinating kilning vessel (GKV) where a tower system is used. Gravity is used very effectively in this design, as water and grain are transported to the top of the tower, where steeping takes place. The germinating grain moves through each stage by dropping to the next level in the tower, finishing at the bottom of the tower as kilned malt.

Several types of malts are produced. Pale ale malts are produced from the best winter barley varieties available - Maris Otter, Pearl, Flagon and Halcyon are the main varieties used today. Spring varieties such as Optic, Tipple, Propino, and Golden Promise are also used for specific contracts. Also produced is an extensive range of coloured malt products from the palest caramalts through the crystal colour range to the darkest chocolate and black malts. As with white malt, consistency is vitally important. The roasting machines roast between 0.5 tonne and one tonne of product at a time. Other specialized products are small quantities of oat malt, wheat malt and Rye malt .Wheat malt can also be manufactured for the making Belgian-style White and Wit beers.

A full time laboratory responsible for checking and analysing every barley and every malt product and an analysis is provided with each delivery so that customers know exactly what to expect from the malt.

The company is proud to be associated with a broad and diverse range of customers which include national, regional, family and microbreweries, and in recent years the Company has entered the export market supplying to breweries in Western Europe, Scandanavia, the USA, Africa, Asia and Australasia.

Fawcett's supplies malts into beer products that have enjoyed spectacular success in recent years. The company is the  supplier to a large number of micro breweries that have won prizes consistently in local and national brewing competitions in the UK, the most recent successes being Elland 1872 Porter (CAMRA Champion Beer of Great Britain) and Great Newsome Frothingham Best (Worlds Beer Awards -Best Bitter up to 5% ABV).

Long may they continue.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Hop in York

Way out of our jurisdiction this one but nevertheless York is a very popular drinking destination with some of our less impoverished readers. 

Ossett Brewery's first North Riding enterprise sees them setting up shop opposite the diminutive Blue Bell at the top of Fossgate, providing the walled city with it's first real ale pizzaria. 

All the hallmarks of classic Ossett restoration can be found in this deceptively large venue where live music and comedy will feature regularly. 

The usual beer policies apply with at least four ales from the stable and a similar number of guests, many from local breweries, sharing the bar with an interesting range of craft keg. 

Initially the first Wednesday of the month will be comedy night and £15 gets you a ticket to the 'club' at the rear and includes a pizza prepared in the kitchens impressive new stone-baking facility. 

Check out the website for details.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Compare and Contrast - two

If you are a regular reader of 'A Swift One' you may remember a post on the 20th September regarding the harvesting of Yorkshire hops from a farm in North Humberside that Dave Litton was fortunate enough to visit on harvesting day. I have been trying to hunt out the beers brewed from the hops to see what they actually tasted like. The beers being brewed with the whole green hops within days of harvesting. I have eventually managed it.

The first beer I came across was Saltaire's 'Sovereign Harvest'. This is a 4.8% beer, and is light coloured. It certainly looked the part in the glass but the proof would be in the tasting. I was impressed. It was not a beer with a massive hop hit (but Saltaire beers rarely are, preferring the more subtle approach) but well rounded and the strength seemed to help with the hop taste which was certainly fresh tasting and had a slightly oily feel on the tongue though not in an unpleasant way. But as always I needed another beer to compare it with.

I managed that yesterday when I finally hunted down The Rat Brewery's 'Yorkshire Rat'. This was 4.0% and again a light coloured beer which was served crystal clear. I was amazed how close the flavour was to the Saltaire beer. The fresh, green taste was there, again more subtle than aggressive but again a well crafted beer.

If this small sample of beers showcases what Yorkshire hops taste like after just one year of production then I feel the future looks bright for them. I can hardly wait for next years crop to compare and contrast again


Compare and Contrast - one

We can all remember our schooldays when we were faced with the term 'Compare and Contrast' - it seemed to follow me around. Through literature, art, music and science, I seemed to have to compare and contrast all sorts of genre - yesterday, I had the chance to put it into action again...twice.

The first occasion was in The Hand Drawn Monkey beer emporium, when I came across a new beer from them, that was available both on draught and key keg. 'Jephers the big red dog' was a 5% collaboration between HDM brewery and Brew Dog, Leeds to celebrate the opening of that pub. The beer was a red{ish} beer. with ginger, orange and pink peppercorns - and obviously a way of getting at least one of my five a day !
I sampled it first on handpull - and found it frankly disappointing. Lacking condition, and with only the ginger coming through it was not the best of their beers I had tasted, but after a chat with Rob, who was at HDM at the time, he pointed me in the direction of the keg version. I ought to explain that the beer was actually intended to be a keg version and only a couple of pins (4.5 gallon casks) had escaped into cask so to drink it was a privilege and a rarity despite what it tasted like !

The key keg version was certainly better, and the contrast was quite remarkable. The colour was the first thing I noticed - the cask version being a deeper red. The condition was better, although a little more carbonation would have helped (but Rob accepted this as a flaw in the beer when we discussed it), and the taste was also different. The blend of flavours was better, the orange notes came through, along with a hint of peppercorn, but the dominant taste was still ginger although more subtle. I was somewhat surprised that I actually preferred the keg version.

It seems that it has been a beer to divide opinion with on line feedback covering both ends of the spectrum.
But maybe its a test worth trying again should I come across other beers on both cask and keg at the same time before I come to a final conclusion - as in all good science experiments!! 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Marsden beer festival's ale list

Marsden Beer Festival is just around the corner (Thursday, October 31- Saturday, November 2).
We posted the date in a festival round up a week or so ago, but today the beer list arrived, courtesy of The Bloke from Hull.
I've been a few times to this event and have good memories of it, having had one of my favourite Mallinsons specials here, Icy Blast.
Alas they are not on the 20-strong beer list this time but there is a fair selection of beers from near and far: from Empire, of Slaithwaite to Coastal, of Cornwall.
The festival is Marsden Mechanics Hall, which memory tells me is above the library and not far from The Riverhead pub in the centre of Marsden.
It's free to get in and the organisers are doing a special deal for brewers and CAMRA members on beer tokens for the opening night (Thursday, 6pm). Instead of the usual £2.80 a pint it will be a measly £2 on production of a current CAMRA card. Halves go from £1.40 to £1. Bargain Thursday!
Without further ado, here's the beer list and tasting notes:
Liverpool Organic, Best Bitter, Liverpool, 4.2%, Golden: Hoppy bitterness balanced with pale malts: crisp, refreshing finish with a hint of citrus fruit.
Abbeydale, Brimstone, Sheffield, 3.9%, Russet: Well balanced beer, russet in colour brewed with Amarillo hops.
Empire, Beard Singe'r, Slawit, 3.9%, Pale: Delightful, pale ale, delicately hopped giving a clean refreshing taste leading to a tongue tingling finish.
Titanic, Plum Porter, Stoke, 4.9%, Dark: A dark, well rounded porter. Brewed with Goldings hops and natural plum flavouring. A real winter warmer.
Milltown, American Pale, Huddersfield, 4.0%, Pale: A superb easy drinking pale ale brewed with a selection of American hops.
White Horse, Village Idiot, Faringdon 4.1%, Bonde: Well hopped with Challenger/Bramling Cross hops and brewed with pale malts. Light and fruity.
Springhead, Maid Marian, Notts, 4.5%, Pale: Well balanced pale coloured beer with the addition of fresh oranges to give a citrus fruit aftertaste.
RawBlonde, Chesterfield, 3.9%, Blonde: Refreshing pale ale brewed with German hops to give that dry lager style beer.
MedievalDragon Slayer, Notts, 8.0%, Dark: Dark, ominous premium strength ale…at 8% it’s not for the fain hearted…….Beware!!!!
Walls Brewery, Gundog, Northallerton, 3.8%, Amber: A traditional bitter, amber in colour with a full hoppy flavour.
Coastal, Faeries Gold, Cornwall, 4.2%, Golden: A delightful golden ale with a smooth mouth-feel and a long lingering aftertaste.
Otley Brewing, Oxymoron, South Wales, 5.5%, Dark: Black IPA style bitter using German carafa malt and five different hops. And finally dry hopped.
Kirby Lonsdale, Singletrack, Cumbria, 4.0% Pale: Super intense citrus and floral aromas, highly hopped with a bitter finish from the use of new world hops.
Springhead, Bees Knees, Notts, 3.9%, Golden: A pale golden coloured beer brewed with local honey giving a fruity aroma and a hoppy finish. An easy drinking session ale.
Goffs, Merlin, Gloucestershire, 4.3%, Straw: Golden yellow ale with spicy citrus taste and floral hoppy aromas. Easy drinking and refreshing.
Empire, Robo Hop, Slawit, 4.0%, Pale: An easy drinking pale ale brewer with plenty of hops to give citrus tones and a slightly bitter aftertaste.
RCH Brewery, Hewish IPA, Weston, 3.6%, Lt Brown: Lightly hopped bitter with a subtle sweetness and fruitful taste. Floral, citrus hop aroma which lasts well to the finish.
Wentworth, Yankee Doodle, Rotherham, 4.8%, Pale: Smooth drinking American pale ale with a crisp, hoppy taste and an easy finish.
Great Oakley, Wot's Occuring?, Northhants, 3.9%, Golden: Mid golden session bitter with a bitter-sweet mouth feel and a subtle hop finish.
Milltown, Jack'o'Lantern, Huddersfield, 4.2%, Dark: An ominously dark mysterious Halloween ale with a smooth, silky taste with a little of something about the night!!!!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Steel City Festival reminder & beer list

Image: Sheffield CAMRA
Here is just a quick message to say the beer list has been posted for the Steel City Beer & Cider Festival, which starts this Wednesday (October 23).
The Sheffield & District CAMRA event at Ponds Forge boasts around 150 different beers sourced mainly from local breweries in South Yorks, North East Derbyshire and North Notts.
The list reveals Huddersfield also has good representation with three each from Magic Rock, The Rat, Riverhead and Sportsman, two from Mallinsons and one from Thirstin.
But it's far from being a locale love in with beer from Surrey, Bristol and Scotland to name but a few.
The on-line beer list is well worth examining. If you click on a pump clip then most enlarge to reveal greater detail. Likewise hover over the brewery name and a click-through usually takes you back to its own website.
Most of the festival's details can be found by clicking on the bottle image above.
But here are two links for more details:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Riveting reading about all things beer

Image courtesy of editor Mark Gibson
This week I've browsed through two magazines with a common theme: beer.
First, I picked up an October edition of Beer Matters, the free magazine from Sheffield & District CAMRA. Then a hot-off-the-press copy of O to K from Wakefield CAMRA landed on my desk.
As well as the usual format of beer and brewery news, both magazines focus heavily on their respective upcoming beer festivals.
Sheffield devotes three pages and a full page advert to its showcase event while Wakefield splashes it across its front and centre pages.
Let's kick off the review with the 'Valley of Beer' mag as their festival is the first in time.
Image courtesy of editor Andrew Cullen
Beer Matters has all the relevant information I need as a festival goer: 
The 39th Steel City Beer & Cider festival begins at 5pm on Wednesday, October 23 and runs until the following Saturday. I now know the session times, the location (Ponds Forge), the prices and some of the beers on offer - including a few from our local breweries Magic Rock and The Sportsman. I also know which bands will be playing and what I can eat.
But what caught the eye was the advert below, which encapsulated most of the above.

Image courtesy of Sheffield & District CAMRA
A good start to the magazine was continued with a feature telling fresher students where they can get a good pint within skiving distance of the city's two universities. It's illustrated with a handy map mocked up on a pad of A4, so first-year literature students now have the benefit of continuing their bookish discussions over the road at The University Arms or Interval Cafe Bar, while engineering students can finesse their grand designs at The Red Deer or The Bath Hotel either side of West Street. 
Then we are onto the staples of any ale magazine, news about the beers we are most likely to encounter (Four Horseman of the Hopocalypse/Radar Men from the Moon etc.) via a brewery by brewery low down. 
Then it's on to the pubs themselves, featuring news about the future of the Anglers Rest at Bamford and villagers plans to turn it into a community pub, and a lighter piece on The Rutland Arms' fourth birthday party plans.
I won't review every page but it's all here, reviews (GBG/GPG), awards, beer festival adverts (Shakespeares, Oct 31-Nov 2) and other dates for your diary.
What gets me about this monthly treat and similar magazines is that they are free. It's in full-colour, took a couple of sittings to devour and is a handy reference book for upcoming festivals, yet it cost me nowt. Amazing value! 
You can pick up this month's copy of Beer Matters in all good Sheffield pubs until about October 28 when the next edition is due.
If you can't make it to Sheffield then you can read it on-line via the Sheffield CAMRA website:
I'll dissect Wakefield CAMRA's equally fine publication soon to tie in with their big festival date (November 7-9). O to K is in pubs now.
Have a good read.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Its a red takeover - or play 'Spoons bingo !

Yesterday saw the start of the Wetherspoons Autumn Beer Festival. An eagerly awaited collection of beers and the chance to play that exciting game of 'Spoons bingo. Let me explain.

There are 50 beers available over the 3 weeks of the festival, all numbered from 1 - 50 with 1 being the weakest and 50 the strongest. Not all the beers are available at once, coming on the bar at their pubs as others run off, so meaning that several visits to the pubs are required to collect all the beers - a cunning move. Split them into 2 cards of 25 each and set yourself targets - lines, all four corners etc etc. It adds a new dimension to beer drinking.

I managed a couple of pubs on opening day, and frankly was not that impressed. Firstly to find that several pumps had that favourite beer of 'Spoons being on the bar. 'Sorry not available' seemed to feature too much for my liking - surely to have all the pumps working on day one is not too much to ask. Secondly the choice was a little limited, despite travelling I still encountered the same beers (more or less) in both pubs. And thirdly, there are too many autumn beers - scanning the list it seems that there has been a red beer takeover. Usually not easy to find, they seem to dominate the list, along with pseudo American beers.

It is a tradition at Wetherspoons festivals that they invite well known foreign brewers to brew on English brewers plants. This time they have invited 10 American brewers to show what they can do. Those I tried were ok. Not exceptional, but worth trying. It was still obvious from the background flavours that they had been brewed over here, in a couple of cases it was even possible to guess the brewery.

Despite my initial misgivings I will still be revisiting over the days to try to get a 'full house'. Lets face it, where else can you try 50 beers at just about £1.10 a half. In fact if you select 3 beers you can get them in 1/3 pints for the price of a pint. A real bargain. Just time for a final moan then. The strongest beer at the festival is 8.5%, but that is not sold in 1/3 pints, only in halfs, because of its price. Seems a slap in the face for sensible drinking !

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A mini tour of Commonside and Walkley

Last summer I was taken on a magical mystery tour of Sheffield pubs. I thought I knew the city quite well ale-wise but I was proved wrong.
Local lad and fellow beer blogger Wee Beefy took me on a brilliant whistle-stop tour of pubs in Crookes, Walkley and Commonside. 
Today (Saturday) I returned to visit three of the pubs. This time I didn't have a handy tour guide who knew where everything was. 
But it turned our a lot easier than I thought as the 95 Walkley bus, from Pond Street, drops you at the junction of Commonside, where two of the pubs are.
A cider pig sandwich washed down with Blue Bee Light Blue
A short walk uphill led me to The Closed Shop, which is run by the team behind The Rutland Arms near Sheffield station. That means two things - good ales from Blue Bee Brewery and excellent food.
On the bar were a couple of pale Blue Bees, Axholme Special Reserve 7.2%, Kelham's Easy Rider, Doom Bar and Reverend James.
I was unsure what to go for so I asked for expert help. I was told the Blue Bee's Light Blue and Lincoln Green Brewing Co Quarterstaff stout were particularly good.
Having taken the barman's advice, I adjourned to the split-level seating area with my Light Blue 3.6% and picked up Sheffield CAMRA's magazine Beer Matters.
As chance would have it there were a few paragraph about the hoppy sessioner I was enjoying.
It turns out Light Blue is brewed for summer and this was a last outing to celebrate its runner up spot at Stockport Beer Festival.
It was the perfect accompaniment for my cider pig sandwich (12-hour cooked pulled pork with barbecue sauce and smoked cheese).
Both were gone too soon, so it was back to the bar for the recommended stout, Lincoln Green Brewing Co's Quarterstaff.
I've not come across this Nottingham brewery before. A trawl of its website shows it was set up May 2012 by husband and wife team Anthony and Lynette Hughes. It take its name from the colour of Robin Hood's cloth.
The core range is named after all aspects of the legendary outlaw as is the seasonal special, Quarterstaff 5%.
Co-owner Mr Hughes, describing Quarterstaff on the brewery website, said: "A true stout, this has flaked barley and black malt to give a robust malt profile and plenty of blackcurrant, earthy flavours coming from the hops. 
"I'm delighted with the smooth, deep flavour of this one, which takes its name from the weapon used by Little John in his battle with our hero Robin Hood."
Well, I'll gladly be walloped by Quarterstaff again. It turned out to be my beer of the day by a short head from the Light Blue. 
It perfectly suited the rainy weather outside and put me in the mood for more dark beer. In fact I would have had another jar of it in The Closed Shop had I not had two more places to visit.
Hallamshire House's snooker table
I didn't have to travel far to the Hallamshire House as it is just over the road. My abiding memory of this pub from last time was wall-to-wall Thornbridge beers, a full-size snooker table and a quirky beer garden.
But it was a day for staying indoors, so I bought half of Thornbridge's Brother Rabbit 4% and played a frame of scratchy snooker.
The 'crisp golden ale' didn't grab me but I do like the feel of this pub and could have easily whiled away some hours here trying to build double-digit breaks! 
But because of the lack of guest ales I decided to move on.
The Blake Hotel, Blake Street, Walkley.
My route to the nearby Blake Hotel involved tackling one of the steepest streets in Sheffield. 
I arrived slightly out of breath after this short but stinging hike. But I manfully made my way to the bar to look for a restorative tonic. 
On it, I think, was a choice of Pennine, Acorn, Navigation Stout and a few others. Again I was impressed by the level of knowledge of the bar tender who gave me a good description of the colour, style and characteristics of the beers. 
I went for my second Nottingham beer of the day in the form of Navigation Stout 4.4%. 
The main bar was pleasantly crowded so I took my beer and a newspaper off the rack and went into a side room of this spacious pub.
The Navigation was a pleasant enough beer but it didn't knock any spots off the excellent Quarterstaff. But it should be said that The Blake held my beer of the day during my August visit, which I'm pretty sure was a dark beer.
Time was marching on so I walked back up another hill to Commonside and caught the frequent 95 service back into town.  I noted that the bus route opened up future possibilities off an extended crawl taking in The University Arms, The Red Deer, The Bath Hotel and on the return leg The Rutland Arms.
Food for thought.  

Another top award for Mike Field & Co

Stalybridge Buffet Bar team pick up another award
The team behind The Sportsman have won a prestigious award for their latest venture.
This week the Stalybridge Buffet Bar won Pub of the Year at the Manchester Food & Drink Awards
The landlady is Sam Smith, who divides her time between running what is an integral part of the real ale trail and the treble-award winning The Sportsman in the centre of Huddersfield.
The buffet bar on Stalybridge train station has also been among the awards of late. It recently won its local CAMRA branch's pub of the year.
Now it's claimed another. The latest award was announced at the glittering Gala Dinner event held in the Great Hall in Manchester Town Hall. 
The bar's press release tells us the Manchester Food and Drink Awards are a benchmark for excellence in the hospitality industries, and for foodies. 
The Stalybridge team were up against tough competition and it’s a tremendous achievement after only a year in charge. 
The MFDF Awards shortlisted was curated by the MFDF Judging Panel, made up of the region's leading food and drink critics and experts.
The shortlisted venues were then mystery shopped by the judging panel and the scores of from these visits were then combined with votes made by the public over the last month via the MFDF website.
Stalybridge Buffet Bar Co-owner Mike Field said: "After only 12 months in charge we are delighted to have won this important award. 
"The competition was very good and the warmth of our reception by the audience at Manchester Town Hall showed how much the buffet bar is loved by local people. Believe me it has been a team effort but I must single out Sam and Caroline for their contributions.
"I would like to think it was, at least in part, due to the refurbishment carried out last year when the station closed that we caught the judges eyes. My partner, Sarah Barnes, worked tirelessly to get the job done.
"More needs doing and rest assured that we will keep up the good work."
Pictured are Mike Field, his partner Mary, managers of the Buffet Bar Sam Smith and Caroline Barnes with the award.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The winners from Huddersfield Oktoberfest: Mallinsons crowned champ

The results are in from last week's Huddersfield Oktoberfest 2013.
Mallinsons won the "Charlie Award" for overall beer of the festival for Nelson Sauvin, which also won the bitters category. Congratulations to everyone down at the brewery in Lockwood.
There were joint winners in the mild section with Moonraker Mild from Empire, of Slaithwaite, sharing the award with Sussex Mild from Harvey's.
Rat Brewery's Rat Against The Machine saw off stiff competition in the strong bitter class to pip HDM/Bexar's Whisky Aged Monster and Squawk's IPA.
Competition was close too in the stout/porter class with the champion beer of Britain, Elland 1872 Porter, just edging out Magic Rock's Dark Arts.
Speciality beer went to Bird Brain's Silly Old Coot, which was ahead of Bob Meister from the New Inn Brewery at Roberttown.
Meanwhile Udders Orchard took out the cider and perry competition with its Whisky Cask Cider, nudging out Pure North's Fusion Cider by a couple of points.
Well done to all the winners and everyone who entered.
For what it's worth I was a little off the pace with my voting.
I backed HDM IPA for the best in fest and Magic Rock's Dark Arts in the stout/porter  class, which both came second.
I was also partial to HDM Pale and Mallinsons Summit in the Water in the closely contested bitter section.
As you can see I had a fairly 'drink local' night last Friday. I guess it reflected the vast number of LocAle breweries on offer at Oktoberfest and the boom in micros in the area.
Huddersfield had a bit of a stranglehold on the hand pumps, which is what you would expect from a locally organised festival.  But there were some strangers on the wickets too. I tried Tickety Brew's Pale, which improved with each sip. I was out drinking with Malcolm Bastow, from Five Towns Brewery in Wakefield,  and he tried it to, giving it a thumbs up as a balanced beer.
All of the Five Towns beers were on gravity, so I went for Gale Force and Five Years Special, which I hadn't had before. 
Both were good but as someone who likes a bit of fizz in his beer, I wondered what they would be like through a sparkler.
However I think it has got me over my reluctance at trying on-gravity beers, after a few bad experiences elsewhere.
I told Huddersfield CAMRA's Bob Tomlinson how much I enjoyed the festival and the food. I know there were one or two unfavourable comments about the food and the prices, but taste-wise I had no complaints and it was probably the best food I've had yet at a CAMRA festival.
I hadn't been to a CAMRA festival for a while - nearly a year - as I'd been concentrating on pub festivals. But I think this event has put me back in the big festival fold.
Many thanks to the organisers and staff for their excellent efforts last weekend.