Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Christmas From Us All

Just a brief line to thank all our readers for their continued support and our good wishes to all of you and your nearest and dearest for Christmas and the New Year. We will continue to try to keep you up to date with the local (ish) beer scene in our inimitable way in 2015.

Timbo, Ale Ambler, Ale Louse

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Briggs & Mallinsons staged a stellar tap takeover at The Star, Huddersfield

Elaine Yendall, left, Nick Briggs and Tara Mallinson
This is the post that so nearly got away.
Aswiftone is indebted to Steve Goodwill for providing us with words and images about one of the ale events of the year.
Regular readers will be recognise that Steve has provided the blog with a feast of photos over the last 12 months following the launch of Briggs Signature Ales last Christmas.
Well, he saved our bacon last Saturday night by stepping into the breach for the aforementioned brewer's first anniversary celebrations at The Star in Huddersfield.
Everybody knew that the anniversary, which included a joint tap takeover with Mallinsons, started at 7pm down at Folly Hall. Yet, two rather optomistic scribes decided - independently - to chance their arm by turning up five hours early for an afternoon-only session.
Needless to say we were well and truly taunted by several one-off beers, which were so near but yet so far. I texted Steve to let him know which beers were headed his way and he kindly volunteered to ride to the rescue.
So after taking this opportunity to wish all our readers seasons greetings, I'll bow out of this post.
Words and pictures by Steve Goodwill:
Last Saturday night saw one of Huddersfield's premier pubs (and the Mallinsons/Briggs unofficial brewery tap) hosting an event that is becoming increasingly commonplace in progressive drinking establishments, namely a "Tap Takeover", combined with Briggs Signature Ales 1st Anniversary. Which really doesn't warrant an in-depth explanation, suffice to say 6 out of the 10 hand-pumps at The Star in Lockwood were dedicated to Briggs and Mallinsons Brews, including a number of one-off specials. Regrettably, due to all the regular contributors of Aswiftone being otherwise engaged, I thought I might just try my hand, I just hope I don't make a fist of it (with prior apologies to the English Language)! 
Elaine samples one of the takeover beers
So to the beers, three each from both breweries but where to start? Well, as a well known pedant I strongly espouse the ascending gravity method, so I started with one of my favourites, Nick Briggs' "Northern Soul" original pale ale at 3.8% abv, well hopped with Centennial and Cascade hops and a good opener, whetting my appetite for the special version to follow. The "Northern Soul, Anniversary Special" certainly lived up to expectations being the standard offering but "quad hopped" with additional Nelson Sauvin and Citra in the cask, giving an added citrous bite and making it my beer of the night!
Mallinsons was next on my ascending scale with Bravo and "Top Tap Takeover" both weighing in at 4.1%, Bravo being from the brewery's popular Single Hop range that imparts a nice fruity floral taste and the alliteration beer being a variant of the Lockwood Bitter. After discussions with the brewsters it seems that the "Top Tap Takeover" was something of an experiment in the use of the hop essence called "Hop Burst", which is a recently introduced pure hop oil product designed to replace actual hops when "dry hopping". Elaine from Mallinsons then informed me that rather than use double or triple the recommended dose of Hop Burst as on previous attempts, they actually used eight times the standard amount, as earlier attempts were left somewhat lacking in aroma and hop bite....not this time though, hop aroma by the bucket load. On the down side though it did have a strong residual saccharin sweetness that I personally couldn't quite get on with, though a couple of the punters were being rather effusive about it. Ah well, can't win 'em all, as they say!
There then followed a glowing tribute to Nick Briggs and BSA by Sam the landlady with Nick giving a generous return speech, thanking the Star and everyone present (except the local CAMRA branch, who were conspicuous by their absence) for their continued support. We were also introduced to his support group consisting of Martin Simpson of "Martin Illustrates", of Lindley, who produces the esoteric and expressive pump clip artwork (a most useful in-law), his friend and website designer Conrad Pigford and his wife Emily together with other members of his family, who I'm sure are suitably proud of his on-going success.
Right, just two more to go. The last one on the Mallinsons list was the beer with the psychedelic pump clip "Totes Experimental Citranel" (Totes are evidently nothing to do with gambling, it seems), Citra & Nel-son Sauvin hops being used in the boil then dry hopped with Citra and a word, "Heavenly!" Definitely my kind of beery salvation (or should that be salivation?). 
With the evening inevitably blurring to a close, just time for the last libation "Black Metal", this being a black IPA variant of Nick's latest evidence of his continuing success, "Metal", also dry hopped with another undoubted success story, king of the "C hops", the versatile and very scrummy "Citra"!
A very enjoyable night was had by all, including a party of hardy aficionado's from Liverpool who I'm sure would agree with me that we are indeed very fortunate in Huddersfield to have the holy trinity of Mallinsons, Briggs and The Star to light up our lives!
Here endeth the first lesson.

Here commences lesson the second.
I managed to be in the pub on Sunday, and all the beers were still available, and all still in good form, and as a treat another Mallinsons special appeared . 'Super Nelson' was a dry hopped nelson sauvin beer with more nelson. A beer not for the faint hearted, but an excellent end to a great takeover. Thanks to all who it possible . Timbo 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Briggs Signature Ales and Mallinsons news

This weekend sees a couple of monumental events in the careers of both Briggs and Mallinsons beers.

It is the first anniversary of Briggs Signature Ales, and to celebrate the event what better way to do it than take over the bar at the Star, in company with his collegues at Mallinsons. This will happen tomorrow night (Saturday 20th) from 7 p.m. We are promised some special beers unique to the event from each brewery. Congratulations Nick!

And, just in time for Christmas, Mallinsons will be opening a bottle shop at their Lockwood Road brewery. It will open from Monday 22nd December between 10am and 4pm. At present it is cash only, and they ask you to be patient in their answering of the door, it depends where they are in the brewery. Guess where I will be at 10.05 on Monday!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Manchester before Christmas

The Marble Arch, Rochdale Road, Manchester M4 4HY
The Christmas music piped up just as we piled off the train at Manchester Victoria.
But this blast of brass was the closest some of us got to the festivities all day. Not that we are entirely Bah Humbugs on this blog, it was just a bit chilly out and there was surely a pub with a roaring fire waiting for us somewhere.
The idea behind the 'First' group's monthly outing was to combine Manchester's Christmas Market with a tour of the city's pubs.
A few hardy souls did stick to the game-plan but let's say the majority weren't singing from the same hymn sheet.
The splinter group's first stop was a fine sight. The red granite exterior of The Marble Arch in Ancoats was bathed in wintry sunlight, giving it an almost holy glow.
Inside was a revelation too, with a sloping tiled floor leading inexorably to the bar. There we found a wide range of Marble Brewery on cask and some keg beers from other breweries.
I was ready to be cliched and drink Manchester Bitter, one of my favourites. But it wasn't on, and I saw a new beer from Marble, Antipodean: a New Zealand Pale Ale.

This four percenter won unanimous praise from the Christmas market naysayers and turned out to be beer of the day for many. There was no hop info on the pump clip but Neslon Sauvin came out top in our guess the hop competition.
The perceived wisdom in beer circles is that Marble beers are not quite as good as they used to be. Although we only tried one beer and it's difficult to make an informed decision from that, the evidence before us suggested otherwise. I have never closed my eyes to Marble but I shall look forward to more of their beers based on this experience.
After much purring over Antipodean on cask, it was time for the keg debate to rage. Our group consisted of the keen, undecided and the anti-keg.
Two beers were kindly shared among the group, one from Beer Moth, a 7% plus percent affair, and a collaboration involving Magic Rock at a shade over 6%.
The Beer Moth was cold and fizzy, while the Magic Rock combo was less lively and more like normal temperature. 
I think the consensus was for the Beer Moth but our keg dissenter liked the other beer.
After a promising start, I was a little underwhelmed by the next two pubs: The Angel up the road and The Smithfield. Both bars seemed to have little for me on this occasion and I chose badly instead of sitting them out.
Crown & Kettle, Oldham Road M4 5FE
But The Crown & Kettle  was a return to form, both in look and beer.
I'd been instructed to marvel at the ceiling but not to be alarmed if a flake or two fell on me. You see, one side of the chandelier clad beauty was scraped back, while the other was beautifully decorated in claret and gold. Both were covered by netting.
After observing the architecture - including the church-like windows and arches - I returned to beer-blinkers mode.
A scan down the bar revealed a collaboration from the Riverhead and Rat breweries, involving coriander  and something else; Ossett's Nervous Turkey; Arbor's A Winter's Pale and a beer from the mysterious Vagrant Brewing Company.
I was tempted to try the latter but I am a bit of an Arbor junkie so I went for their Aussie Pale Ale. This 4.7% trip to the New World was my beer of the day by a whisker and we had some good ale that day.
The pub was busy but we found a table in the back room and settled down to talk beer.
One of our enterprising group went to enquire with the bar staff about Vagrant. The bartender promptly went on the Internet and told us all about this cuckoo brewery who work out of Black Jack.
I don't know which site she used but I suspect it might have been this informative Q&A on Manchester Ale News
Later, when we did a trip 'wash up', The Crown & Kettle and The Marble Arch stood out for welcome, helpful bar staff and beer.
Next up was a Robinsons pub, The Castle Hotel on Oldham Street. Here another splinter group formed, those who filed into this beautifully brown-tiled Grade II listed pub and those who sloped off down a side street for a chip or fish butty.
Castle Hotel, Oldham Street, M4 1LE

Suitably nourished, but miffed not to have seen the Holland's Pies until it was too late, we headed out 
of the Northern Quarter to the Port Street Beer House.
Port Street Beer House, Port Street M1 2EQ.
Last three pictures courtesy of Steve Goodwill
I wondered if we were going to the dentists when we suddenly turned 90 degrees off the street into a pastel-hued hallway. But my fears were allayed when we bore right into a packed ground floor bar.
Here the choice, for me, was between two more Arbor beers, Oyster Stout or a saison with clementines. But as the light was fading, it was time for a dark beer. It continued the remarkable run of Arbor beers I've had.
The only gripe I and others had was the price of our different beers. I think mine was £1.90 for a 4.6% and a First colleague complained to me about not getting much change out of a tenner for four halves.
But I can't say I wasn't forewarned as the excellent Manchester Pub Guide, published by CAMRA, told me it was a "rather expensive experience". 
From here we went to the first of two food orientated bars. The first was Pie & Ale, which lived up to its billing.
Pie & Ale, Lever Street M1 1FN
But these weren't any old meat and potato pies but pigeon, game and a horse pot. I abstained but never have I heard so many people enthusing about knowingly consuming horse meat.
After a veritable Grand National sized field of horse puns, we got back on track to beer. I think all of us were looking forward to Mallinsons Citra but it promptly ran off as we were about to order. Then I think another beer went, so my choice was between the house beer, brewed by Wells & Young's, and a pilsner.
I went for the pilsner, I can't remember who it was brewed by. All I recall was that it was OK and it's the second pilsner I've had lately which has left me nonplussed. It's normally a beer style I tend to favour but I wonder if I'm growing out of it. Time will tell.
We talked long and hard about staying for another as new beers were coming on the bar, like Summer Wine Brewery's Hit Man.
We were tempted but it was time to go to our final destination: Common on Edge Street.
It was another food and drink type place.
The pub, which is basically a series of converted shops, is known for its artwork. But it was packed when we visited on early Saturday evening, so I don't recall looking at the walls.
One of our group stumped me with a question as we were standing at the crowded bar. We could see the ABVs for the cask and keg beers but no percentages for the cocktails, which were advertised prominently on a sign hanging over the bar.
Later as I watched one being made - and saw all the combinations of spirits and liqueurs going in - I guessed they don't tell you the strength as you may need some algebraic formula to work it out or they don't want to scare you with a 45% plus monster.
Beer-wise we were all delighted to get a second chance at Summer Wine's Hit Man, only for it run off before our eyes. Some opted instead for a golden beer from Prospect, of Standish.
Looking around, the clientele here tended to be of the younger hipster end. They seemed to be enjoying the food, which seemed to be of the burger and nachos variety.
Inevitably, talked turned to planning the January expedition. This had been prompted by a text from aswiftone contributors Aliain who had suggested a Wakefield district trip to the likes of The Junction in Castleford, the newly re-opened Robin Hood at Pontefract and the bars of the Merrie city itself.
I suspect we will combine it with a mini tour of Leeds, taking in Northern Monk's Refectory in Holbeck and maybe the pubs of Water Lane.
Well, the world is your oyster on a West Yorkshire day rover.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Bah Humbug - again !!

Those  of you who have been following 'A Swift One' over the years may recall I have visited this subject previously, but I make no apologies for visiting  it once more . It is THAT time of year again. The time when the world seems to go mad, and the shops and pubs are full of people whose one intention seems to be to get in my way.

My gripe is not with Christmas per se, although I would prefer it to be staggered throughout the year, so maybe different parts of the country celebrate it in different months and I could move around and miss it. My gripe is with the brewing industry. Not all of it, but just those brewers who mislead me into drinking beers I do not like, and had I been aware, would have avoided.

Let me explain. I do not like my beer messed about with as a rule, and especially not so with spices. Many brewers seem to think this it is a tradition to make beers with such things at this time of year. Lets face it, if I wanted a Xmas pudding (which incidentally I don't) I would buy the real thing. I do not want to order a beer and suddenly find it has all the ingredients of a pudding in my glass.

Before you start and say it is my own fault for being a 'ticker' and 'needing' to score the beer anyway, let put you right. I am happy to be given the choice so if I see a beer called 'Noel' or 'Christmas Cracker' I roughly know what to expect and it is up to my feeling at the time whether to subject myself to it or not. What I object to are those breweries who disguise their Christmas beer under names that give no clue as to what is to come.

I had a trip around Leeds yesterday, and came across a couple of beers that perfectly fit that description. 'ECB' - what is that ? Ah English Christmas Beer, my fault for not reading the small print maybe. However, 'Nippy Nights' - no clue there. But a spicy concoction. Strangely 'Miseltoe Myth' which I expected to be of this ilk, was light and hoppyish. Some were a little easier to work out admittedly using words like Christmas, Santa, elves etc. etc so I knew to avoid them. But I got to the point of treating every beer I had never previously encountered with suspicion. Thankfully I did not get my fingers bitten again but I will be very pleased when January comes and we can see the back of the Christmas pudding mix.

So please brewers if you are going to make a Christmas beer with spices, and I have no objection if you do, can you call if something I can associate with spices, so I can avoid it if I want and don't inadvertently end up with a beer the taste of which lingers for hours.

Friday, December 12, 2014

West Riding LRR Celebrates 20 Years in The Guide

Time really flies doesn't it? I remember walking into The West at Dewsbury station for the first time as if it was yesterday. Goodness knows where it all went - though not sure I want to. Two decades is a slice though, and to maintain standards consistently enough to be recognised without interruption by the Good Beer Guide is truly impressive.

Last night a special presentation by Andy Kassube of  CAMRA was made to Mike Field & Sarah Barnes, whose latest venture at The Old Turk we reported on just last month. The West Riding, it has to be said,  doesn't look any different all these years later - and incredibly neither do Mike nor Sarah! 

For many of us mere mortals - ravaged by relentless time and good beer - the pub played an important role in bringing us an endless stream of quality ale from all over the UK, right at the start of what was to blossom into a full blown brewing revolution. And for this more than anything, we are truly grateful. Cheers - and here's to the next twenty!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Empire Brewing Award at The Commercial in Slaithwaite

Huddersfield Oktoberfest 2014 - Mild of the Festival 

Now in it's fifth year since reopening, The Commercial at Slaithwaite has firmly established itself as the village's top attraction for ale lovers. In beer terms it's anything but commercial, with the emphasis very much on small brewery output,  in particular the locally produced Empire range.

The very keenly priced Commerciale is always to be found here but it's the award-winning Moonraker Mild that has brought in the crowds this evening. The Huddersfield Oktoberfest best mild award has found it's way up the Colne Valley this year and into the deserving hands of  Russ & Lorraine Beverley (pictured below with Bob Tomlinson). 

Our first experience drinking Empire was one Sunday lunchtime a few years back in the Fieldhead at Quarmby where a certain Strikes Back was being served. And what an impression that made! If memory serves, a similar award was bestowed on the brewery that autumn - and very few could argue. The beer set a standard to be followed up by the likes of Mallinsons, Summer Wine and Magic Rock, breweries that have since put Huddersfield very firmly on the map - and the rest, as they say.... 

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Junction at Castleford

Reasons for taking so long to visit the 'home of the wooden cask' have been mainly a combination of idleness on my part and the somewhat scant availability of my tour manager (who could never be accused of dragging his feet incidentally).

But getting to Cas has been greatly simplified since my job-switch to Wakefield in the summer, so when an opportunity arose recently to join the ubiquitous Bloke (or Blerke if you're coastal) From Hull at The Junction, it was time to board the badlands express.

Whilst not a complete stranger to the town, I had never done any drinking in it, or eating for that matter - a situation soon rectified, in no small degree on both fronts, by my inestimable colleague.

There's lining your stomach before a few beers and then there's getting totally pie-faced at the Pop-Inn cafe on Wilson Street. No short measures here. £3.50 for a mountain of pie, mash, veggies and Yorkshires was the best value anything I've ever had I reckon. And top quality too - just be sure to skip breakfast.

The Junction has had a remarkable transformation recently and though waiting to have it's exterior buffed up, the bar and snug are quite something. And the attraction here is far more than just the experience of having all the real ales drawn from wooden casks, this really is the sort of pub I would happily spend more time in than is good for me if it was at all local.

Hosts Neil Midgley & Maureen Shaw (above) are at the heart of things and quite justifiably proud of this extraordinary oasis in a town  predominantly doing keg and a handful of cask from the giants. The beer choice is their's, and right now allegiances are strongest with Ridgeside (with whom the pub struck up an instant bond when the brewery formed) and Elland. 

Our beers on this particular chilly afternoon couldn't have been better scripted. The award winning 1872 Porter from Elland for the man, and for me, the indescribably beautiful Coda (a 5.6% IPA) from Ridgeside - the late and much-missed Simon Bolderson's lasting legacy.

A tour of the cellar, an extra pint, a brief history from Neil, another unscripted beer, a chat with the locals by the open fire, more extra-curricular ale, all resulted in two missed trains - and it could easily have been three. And it's not often I lose track - which probably says more about this pub and it's regulars and it's relaxing atmosphere and it's great beer than anything else.

If you're thinking about going - just do it. David Litten is probably on some sort of commission at both pub and cafe - though won't admit it - so contact him through the usual channels if you need a guide - just make sure you put aside plenty of time. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Star Winter Festival Review

Last night the doors opened on the 13th Star Winter Beer Festival, obviously 'A Swift One' was there, and this is a quick resume of what we found.

I won't bore you with the technicalities, the system is the tried and tested one, with 46 beers on offer in the marquee. But what of the beers available ? There were beers from all over the country with plenty of unusual Yorkshire breweries represented, along with a few from the North East, and a couple from Scotland and Wales as well. It was just a problem where to start.

I did have a bit of help here actually, when Bad brewery's 'Comfortably Numb' was recommended to me. A very impressive beer, full of flavour, and very moreish at 3.8%. This is a new brewery to me and led me to try their second beer 'Love over Gold' which was equally as good. Whilst I was in new brewery mode I tried Twisted 'Conscript' - a fairly traditional tasting bitter and The Olde Potting Shed 'Swanee River' which was similar but stronger.

Time to take a look at some of the local specials, and they don't come more local than Mallinsons whose brewery is just over the road from the pub. Their 'Elved' was a dry hopped version of one of the beers and was excellent, I would have tried another had not research got in the way. But 'Super Calypso' was another good choice, with a massive fruity hop hit. Since I had tried them it would have been churlish to overlook the Briggs beers. 'Symphony no3' was a quad hopped (whatever that means!!) special, and 4.6%, and very pleasant. I must admit to have been less impressed with 'Christmas Carol', a 5.5% dark beer with hints of cherry. But it was not my style of beer unfortunately.

There were still plenty of beers to sample and I tried my best. Everything I tried was in good condition, and there were plenty of good beers available, but I still managed to save some of the interesting sounding ones for later in the week. Great Heck 'Mount Mosaic' sounds good, Pictish 'Away In A Mash Tun' is apparently a typical Pictish offering, and the Three Daggers beers sound interesting.But before you leave take a look at the main bar, and if you have the capacity have a try of the North Riding/Five Towns '281 DIPA'. Admittedly it is 8.5% but it is my beer of the festival so far packed with hop flavours (but is is only a 4.5 gallon barrel, so you will have to be quick !)

So if you fancy a weekend away from the Christmas shopping get down to the Star, and give it a go yourself. Thursday night is another of the festivals 'Bake Off's - this time Christmas themed, and on Saturday night the 'Monotones' play live.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Star Winter List

Star Festival List, (starts tomorrow at 5pm)

Beers 1-46 served in outside marquee, 47 onwards in the pub as space allows

55 FIVE TOWNS 281 DIPA 8.5

Monday, December 01, 2014

A curious tale of Dickens, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Iron Maiden: aka Liverpool pubs tour part three

Pictures by Steve Goodwill
The final part of the First Group's trip to Liverpool.
After leaving Liverpool's Georgian Quarter pub crawl, we were in for an architectural treat of a different kind.
We had visited quite a few Grade II listed buildings on our tour of city pubs but not one with a bizarre history involving Charles Dickens, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and some Victorian rogues.
Liverpool One Bridewell  on Campbell Square was a jailhouse from about 1850 until the 1930s.
The pub's website maps out its rich history. Novelist Charles Dickens was a special constable for a day in the 1860s as he researched his tales and sketches for The Uncommercial Traveller.
But it wasn't the only literary work penned there as Frankie Goes to Hollywood wrote Two Tribes there after it became a recording and rehearsal space in the early 1980s!
Moving swiftly on to the modern day, the Bridewell is part pub, eaterie and event space.
After walking in through the red-brick archway and court yard, the bar is immediately to your left. Ahead lies a long corridor of former cells now replete with plasma televisions.
I've flirted with the subject of pubs in TVs before in an earlier Liverpool post but now I'll tackle it head-on and present an contrary view.
Shoot me down if you want, but I am not against TVs in bars. I realise I may be swimming against the tide here but as long as they don't drown out conversation what is the problem? Why are they so taboo in real ale pubs?
Here the amount of screens was a bit over the top but on a Saturday afternoon full of sport I thought it was providing a valuable service and saved us from surreptitious glances to our mobile phones to check the scores or craftily listening to Five Live on headphones.
Anyway, time to climb off the hobby horse and return to the tour.
I scanned The Bridewell's bar but wasn't grabbed by anything. I recall seeing the JW Lees/Marco Pierre White's The Governor beer, which is apparently on permanently. But I couldn't see much else to tempt me. To be fair, I think we caught them during a change over period but they do a wide range of other drinks if you are not in the mood for beer, which strangely I wasn't that particular day.
Next, we moved on to what turned out to be my favourite pub of the trip, The Baltic Fleet
The Baltic Fleet, Wapping, near Albert Dock 
Approaching the pub, you can't help but notice the shape. Some call it a 'flat iron' pub while others go for triangular. Closer inspection reveals an abundance of doors, which John, our local guide, told me were used to dodge the excise men back in the days of yore.
Apparently there were more exits underneath the pub in past, one leading to the docks, possibly for quick access to the press gangs from the merchant navy, and rumours of another tunnel to the red light district.
But now the the cellar is home to the Wapping microbrewery, who had at least three beers on when we visited.
I recall seeing Wapping's Summer, which promptly ran off but was replaced in next to no time, and their Stout, which ended up being my beer of the day.
I made my way out of the packed bar, which seemed popular with Scandinavian speaking Liverpool supporters, and back round to the other side, to a corridor lounge near a wood stove.
I don't know which I liked best, the woodsmoke or the coffee undertones of my drink? It looked as though we were just too late for food, which was a pity as it is well known for its Scouse dish. I could have quite easily have done a session here but time was running out on our day rover and we still had two pubs to visit.
Our next port of was to be The Lion Tavern on Moorfields back towards the city centre.
The Lion Tavern on Moorfields
And here was another architectural wonder. You didn't know where to look: the tiles, the glass or the woodwork. But I would've missed the best feature if John hadn't have shown me. In one of the back rooms was a domed cieling with a lantern hanging down from it. As a wise beer scribe once said on here: "Do you ever look at the ceiling?" when you walk into a pub.
After admiring the architectrure, I made my way round to the bar but it was heaving. All I could see from a fair few feet away was the Iron Maiden/Robinson's Trooper ale. So I ignored Eddie The Head on the bar and loitered near a serving hatch where I noted some fine looking pork pies.
You can tell by now that I was ravenous, but the chance of devouring a sizeable pie in a half-pint pit stop in a busy pub was slim.
My last hope of grub lay at The Ship & Mitre where I was told they did a mean Scouse. 
The Ship & Mitre on Dale Street
I once again found myself at a serving hatch, only to be told the Scouse had sold out. Undeterred I ordered some food from The Galley and cast my eye around the crowded bar. We had arrived at peak time on a Saturday night but I'm told the pub is constantly busy, which of course is great for ale quality.
I could see a Mallinsons on one of the 13 wickets from where I was standing, which I think most of our group had as their thoughts turned to returning to Huddersfield.
At the time of our visit, the pub was just on the cusp of doing a beer festival with a difference. The festival wasn't in the pub itself but in Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight for the 2014 Wirral Beer Festival.
I quite like the idea of going on tour with your favourite bar, we see it at The Huddersfield Food and Drink Festival.
Talking of which, my food arrived and some kind souls let me perch on the end of their table as I set about it. The queue at the bar hadn't subsided so there was little chance of washing it down with a farewell jar.
But I will definitely return to Liverpool to revisit some of the ten pubs we visited and some that I didn't.
It was an excellent day out and was a jolly useful reconnaissance mission for next time.
All that remains is for me to thank John and Adam, our guides, and Steve Goodwill for the pictures and the invite to The First Group's monthly tour. 
Roll on Manchester in December!

Here are links to parts one and two of our city of Liverpool pub tour.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Brighouse gets a new pub

This post was intended to be my review of my visit to the Shakespeare festival in Sheffield, but a short notice domestic hiatus prevented my attending. However, every cloud has a silver lining and my afternoon visit to Brighouse proved very beneficial.

My bus into Brighouse follows the back route into the town, rather than the main road, and goes in past the old Sugdens mill, and over the river and canal into the town. Between the two,on Briggate, used to stand the 'Black Swan' - a pub which I abhorred with a passion - which had closed some months before. I have seen workmen there for some weeks, but never knew what was going on. But yesterday, I saw a new pub, 'Millers Bar' had risen from the ashes of its predecessor. It seemed a good time to call in and see what it was about.

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. It has been completely transformed into an airy, open plan place, with a feel of wine bar rather than a pub.It still smelled new, a feeling reinforced by the wet paint signs in the toilets, and felt welcoming. I was a bit concerned when I walked in and saw a combination of lager and key keg fonts to greet me, but a walk round the bar revealed a bank of hand pumps, with some decent beers on.

I had a brief chat to a very approachable bar tender, who advised me that the pub had been open for around a week, but only from late afternoon at present, except at weekends when it opens at 1pm. The beers would be a mixture of regulars and rotating guests. The regulars were two from the Taylors stable, a rotating one that would always be from Stod Fold, and Saltaire 'Blonde'. The two guests were Phoenix 'Arizona' and Oates 'Liquid Equinox'. I opted for the latter,which was in good nick, but at £1.65 a half, a little expensive in my opinion.

I was a little surprised to find Saltaire 'Blonde' on key keg, as it was on draught as well, but I was told it was selling well, and some preferred it to the draught version.

I took a small tour of exploration and at the back of the pub was a newly built beer garden, overlooking the canal, somewhere to try out on a nice warm summer day, not a foggy November afternoon. In time it is hoped that the pub will be open all day, and will be serving food, but until then the opening times will be restricted.

Now I have found it, I will return It is a welcome addition to the local drinking scene, and from a personal point of view, somewhere to call when I should be shopping !!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

They don't have to be strong to be good

It is a common misconception that for a beer to be good it has to be strong. Obviously, in some cases that will be true, but recently I have come across some very tasty beers locally with an abv below 3%.

Hand Drawn Monkey were the first brewery that I really noticed brewing low strength beers. Their 'Smaller' versions of their beers were full of flavour but admittedly in some cases there was a lack of body in some of them. They have also had some beers on their HDM bar from Bexar County brewery which have not reached 3% both light and dark and packed with flavour.

However it was one of the innovative breweries from over t'hill which first made me really take notice of the style and prove what flavour can be packed into a weak strength beer. Tickety Brew hail from Stalybridge, and are not afraid of mixing flavours in their beers, but their 2.8% 'Table Ipa' was a revelation. It did not compromise on taste and I had to look twice at the ABV to confirm I was drinking a weak beer, such was its body.

I have come across others along the way but another that really stood out was Rat Brewery's 'Collaboration no3' - Ratler. This is a totally different style, being more of fruit based beer with a light hoppy background, and when I first sampled it last weekend, it so good good that I eschewed my usual tipple in the pub and drank several of them, so impressed was I with the result.

So, if you see a beer with a low abv, do not automatically assume that it will be weak in taste as well as strength. Give it a try, you may be surprised. I certainly was.

An apology

For those people who like to kept up to date with the Huddersfield Beer Scene, I must pass on my apologies for not updating you as usual. For some reason, my laptop has been playing up and has not allowed me to post in my usual manner. I think I have found a way round it, so hopefully normal service will be resumed in the near future.

If you have not made the note in your diary, the next Star festival starts on Wednesday 3rd December, and Sam promises a wonderful selection of beer for our delectation. As usual, there will be full days drinking available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. With Wednesday and Thursday starting at 5pm.

If you at a loose end this weekend though, there is a good beer list for the Shakespeare festival in Sheffield, which starts on Thursday at 12 noon. I have been to previous festivals here and they are well worth a visit.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The pubs of LIverpool: Part Two

The second instalment of the First Group's Ale Odyssey to Liverpool:
After decamping from the bijou bar of The Roscoe Head, we headed for the more expansive rooms of 
Earlier, when I'd told friends I was going on an ale excursion to Liverpool, they all told me: "You must visit The Phil."
I was expecting something special as we rounded Hope Street - and it didn't disappoint.
Gold leaf gilding on the archway entrance and stone balustrades above, made for an impressive facade.

Inside, the Grade II listed Victorian era pub had a semi circular front bar bar, which was sadly lacking in enticing ales.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of  Nicholson's pubs and usually there are more than a few beers on to interest me. But apart from a Purity, which I'd had before, there was nothing to tempt me. It serves me right for being a bit of a beer snob.
But I didn't let that spoil my visit, I took my drink past the Brahms and Liszt rooms into the dining room with its chandeliers and plate glass ceiling panels.
I got a few stares from the group for drinking coffee, perhaps I should have opted for a brandy and a cigar as it would have fitted in more with the surroundings, which were a bit like a gentleman's club that Sherlock Holmes' smarter brother used to patronise.
Speaking of gentlemen, everybody was saying you must visit the gents toilets as they are the finest in the land.
I paid a visit and and duly noted the "particularly attractive roseate marble" as mentioned in Ken Pye's Discover Liverpool guidebook.
After marvelling at Britain's finest pub toilets, it really was time to go to our next destination, The Belvedere 
It lies on Sugnall Street and is another Grade II listed pub in Liverpool's Georgian quarter.
The bar itself was small with just enough room for some high-backed chairs and loitering room. 

It's a little while since our visit, but I recall Liverpool Organic and Wirral-based Brimstage Brewery on the bar.
I went for the latter's Trapper's Hat, a 3.8 % pale beer, and took it into the spacious side room to the left of the bar.
According to Brimstage's website it was their first brew and remains very popular.
Sadly, it didn't do it for me, but having had a 7% heavily-hopped beer earlier in the session my taste buds were elsewhere.
I then got a serious case of drink envy when I saw one of our group cradling a great goblet of gin.
It turns out the pub is a 'GinNasium' with a fine collection of gins from home and abroad.
I'd consciously done little or no research before this trip so as not to go with any preformed ideas, but here was a flaw in my blank canvas strategy.
After the gin and beer it was time for a walk through the back streets to Ye Cracke, which I was told was popular with students.
Ye Cracke or Ye Crack? You decide!
After ordering a Soul Boy Beers (Blakemere) Simcoe, 4.3%, from the corridor bar I was shown some of the signs about the famous students who had frequented the pub in the past.
There was an engraved mirror on the lounge wall which commemorated a meeting of The Dissenters who aimed to put Liverpool on the map - among their number was John Lennon, so mission accomplished then.
And I gather the impressive mural near the mirror was painted by one of Lennon's tutors.
There were also a few hand-drawn images of Lennon on the wall and pictures of well known Liverpool landmarks like the 'Wigwam' and Anfield.
And there seemed to be some kind of art experiment going on in the far back room, so it look likes the pub's artistic tradition is being continued.  
The back room also aforded me a curious view of the 'war room', through a Georgian window with no glass in.
Apparently, ie. the Internet tells me, this is one of the oldest parts of the pub and the place where people who insisted on talking about the Boer War (1899-1902) were stationed.
After the history lesson it was time to move on. Our next destination was The Grapes on the junction of Knight Street and Roscoe Street.
The Grapes on the corner of  Knight Street
This pub was genuinely busy but the layout may have helped accentuate the numbers. Space was a bit at a premium as the horseshoe bar left enough for about three or four-deep to stand by the hand pumps. In two corners there were a few tables for people to eat at or to enjoy a pint in a group.
I made my way to the bar and ordered a Black Jack Small Saison, 4.5%, which was good. But I recall one of our number praising a beer he had ordered, but what it was has now slipped my mind. The only other thing I recall was a garish looking Hobgoblin (post) Hallowe'en style clip with a pumpkin coloured hose over the hand pull. This prompted a pre-Christmas rant by me about glittery pump clips, which I won't rehearse here as it isn't even December yet.
Talking of which, I'll round off this tour of Liverpool pubs next month with visits to The Liverpool One Bridewell, The Baltic Fleet, The Lion Tavern and The Ship & Mitre.

Part one of the Liverpool blog is available here

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The 'First' trip to Liverpool: Part One

The Dispensary, Renshaw Street, Liverpool
Last Saturday a group of seven intrepid ale explorers set off for Liverpool.
This was new territory for me but fortunately I was with a bunch of people from the Huddersfield First group who knew the lay of the land.
The group meets, mainly, on the first weekend of the month and takes a tour of pubs near and far.
Our first port of call was The Dispensary, on Renshaw Street, which is a real five-minute walk from Lime Street railway station.
There we were met by two native guides, John and his son Adam, who would lead us on a fantastic tour of the pubs of central Liverpool.
Funnily, the bar was dominated by West Yorkshire Breweries: The Rat, Ossett, Fernandes and Saltaire, so we didn't exactly need an introduction to those breweries.

I went for Ossett Brewery's MMM 7%, despite having moments earlier sworn off the strong stuff after a rather too enjoyable stint on the high ABVs at Wakefield Beer Festival.
But I was delighted to have caved in so early as this was a nice hoppy strong ale. The beer, which celebrates Ossett's 3,000th brew, got the thumbs up from the group, who were sat in the upper section of this cosy main road pub.
During my steady half I looked up to see the football was on several screens in the pub as Liverpool were playing Chelsea at Anfield.
This prompted me onto the inevitable subject of TVs in real ale pubs. You hardly see them in Huddersfield and Sheffield bars where I tend to drink, despite both being sports-mad cities. In Liverpool there were more screens but not in every pub.
Anyway, I'm digressing from the point of this post. After a half it was time to move on a few streets to The Roscoe Head, which is a gem of a pub.
Roscoe Head, Roscoe Street
John informed us that this was the only pub in Liverpool to have appeared in every edition of The Good Beer Guide since it was first printed in 1974. Apparently it's one of the "magnificent seven" in the whole country.

And walking in from Roscoe Street you can see why: tiled floors, snugs, woodwork, ornate plastered ceilings. It reminded me of The Bath Hotel in Sheffield with its main bar and side room where you can be part of the crowd or slope off into the snug with your newspaper.
We took up residence in the Roscoe's back room, which I was told used to be decorated with neck ties.
Now, all I could see were some very impressive trophies for cribbage - think Jules Rimet.
I chose a Chequered Flag from Prescott Ales in Cheltenham. It was a 4.1% amber ale and slightly malty, which is not my favourite style of ale. But I'm glad I tried it as it took me out of my comfort zone of pale and dark.
I could have easily whiled away some hours here but the tour was moving on to out next destination: The Philharmonic. 
I didn't realise until slightly later that were were in the midst of the Georgian Quarter pub crawl, but there were plenty of clues along the way: mainly the architecture, which turned out to be a bit of a theme on this tour.
It turned out to be a fairly full day, so I'll break this post into two parts. So join us next time for the final chapter of this Liverpool blogpost when we will be visiting the opulent Philharmonic Dining Rooms and a host of other fine pubs.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Slaithwaite Moonraker Beer Festival

Slaithwaite Moonraker Beer Festival runs from Thursday to Saturday this week.
The annual charity event is being held in Slaithwaite Conservative Club on Britannia Road.
Here is the beer list and tasting notes (breweries in bold):
Autumn Light: Golcar Huddersfield 4.0% Golden amber lightly hopped bitter with malty overtones. 
Barncliffe Bitter: Small World Beers Huddersfield 3.7% Pleasant light drinking bitter, golden hue, crisp initial taste with a lasting bitterness through the finish. 
Blonde Ash: Grain Norfolk 4.0% Belgian witbier style, this cloudy wheat beer has flavours of bubblegum, orange and coriander. 
Commerciale: Empire Slaithwaite 3.8% Pale golden ale, fruity, slightly spicey with orange citrus notes. 
Cophill Best: Gooseye Keighley 3.9% Rose and Crown (Slaithwaite) special. A fine "session" ale. 
Daily Bread: Abbeydale Sheffield 3.8% Copper English bitter. Malty flavours with a smooth bitter finish. 
Dark Arts: Surreal Stout Magic Rock Huddersfield 6.0% Spicy hop notes, flavours of chocolate, liquorice, blackberries and figs. Rich and satisfying finish. 
Dark Satanic: OMB Sowerby Bridge 4.1% Stout brewed for rugby league world cup. 
Farmers Blonde: Bradfield Sheffield 4.0% very pale, brilliant blonde beer has citrus/summer fruit aromas making it an extremely refreshing ale. 
Golcar Mild: Golcar Huddersfield 3.6% Nice malty award winning mild. 
Golden Hop: Milltown Huddersfield 3.8% A combination of English/American hops give balance of bitterness and flavour' delicious session ale. 
Howling Fox: Slightly Foxed Sowerby Bridge 3.5% Exceptionally pale with hoppy notes blend of exciting new hop varieties from New Zealand, dry flavour. 
Katy's Blonde: OMB Sowerby Bridge 3.6% A fruity and full bodied blonde beer. 
Long Moor Pale: Small World Beers Huddersfield 3.9% Pale ale, grapefruit/citrusy notes with a light bitter finish, brewed with Centennial and Cascade hops. 
Maiden Voyage: Bosun's Horbury 3.9% Chestnut brown traditional English Ale using Fuggles hops. 
Moonraker Mild: Empire Slaithwaite 3.8% Award winning Mild, overall winner of the 2014 Oktoberfest. 
Mosaic: Summer Wine Holmfirth 4.0% Pale golden ale brewed with Mosaic hops. 
Movember (The Trucker): Empire Huddersfield 4.3% Blonde, mix of US & New Zealand hops give a tropical passion fruit flavour. 
Movember Bitter: Ossett Ossett 3.9% Golden dry and bitter with hoppy finish. 
Nelson Sauvin: Mallinsons Huddersfield 3.8% Golden coloured ale, with a lovely grapefruit nose, a hoppy citrus taste followed by a similar finish. 
Octahop: Fernandes Wakefield 4.0% Blonde, robust hoppy flavour, full bodied, very fruity with a hint of citrus 
Pigs Do Fly: Potbelly Kettering 4.4% A Single hopped beer using Styrian Golding, an easy drinking Light Golden Beer. 
Platinum Blonde: Milltown Huddersfield 4.0% Blonde lager style beer with American Hops creating a spicy, floral, citrus aroma. Clean / refreshing. 
Quick Brown Fox: Slightly Foxed Sowerby Bridge 4.5% Autumn special. Brown as Autumn, deep malt flavours balanced with the earthiness of English hops. 
Rat Attack: Rat Huddersfield 3.8% IPA Golden tropical fruit aroma and taste with dry aftertaste 
Ringmaster: Magic Rock Huddersfield 3.9% Original Pale Ale . The U.S. Hops give a floral, 'grassy' aroma with citrus flavours. 
Saltaire Blonde: Saltaire Shipley 4.0% A straw coloured light ale, soft malt flavours, delicately hopped with Czech and German hop varities. 
Terrier: York York 4.2% Award winning Golden Ale. Fruit & hops dominate aroma & flavour, clean bitter finish. 
Under Full Sail: Bosun's Horbury 4.5% A continental pilsner beer. 
White Cloud: Riverhead Marsden 4.5% Pale Ale. A hoppy bitter with citrus character. 
White Rose Glory: Mallinsons Huddersfield 4.0% Golden ale, with citrus and mango aroma. Taste is mixed fruit hop, finish is soft, clean and bitter. 
Zenith: Summer Wine Holmfirth 4.0% Pale Ale. Centennial hops citrus, lime & lemon grass combine to give a zingy punch & bitter finish. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wakefield Beer Festival's top ten

Bob Wallis, of Wakefield CAMRA, has kindly been in touch with the results from last weekend's Merrie City ale festival.
Congratulations to Fernandes Brewery and CAMRA stalwart June Bradbury who once again came top of the pile with Black Voodoo.
This time it was served from a wooden cask as were two other beers in the top ten.
Here's the top ten:
Fernandes, Black Voodoo 6% 
Five Towns, Grounds for Divorce 7.8% 
Five Towns, Strangebrew, 7%
Titanic, Plum Porter, 4.9% 
Bob's Brewing Co, White Lion 4.3% 
Bob's Brewing Co, Chardonnayle, 5.1% 
Untapped, Crystal 6% 
Five Towns, Raven King Porter, 6% 
Celt Experience, Brigid Fire 6.3% 
Fernandes, Wyte Magik, 5.2%

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Wakefield Beer Festival 2014

I'm looking forward to some dark beer out of the wood this week.
Today sees the start of Wakefield CAMRA Beer Festival, which has 120 ales on offer over three days.
The theme of the festival is beers from the Celtic fringe of Britain, so expect ales from Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man etc.
But it's two beers that have travelled slightly less further afield which have caught my eye.
Wakefield-based breweries Fernandes, of Kirkgate, and Five Towns, of Outwood, both have beers served from wooden casks.
Fernandes has Black Voodoo on, which won last year's beer of the festival, while Five Towns has Raven King on, which recently scooped first prize at the Independent Salford Beer Festival.
I've tried and enjoyed both of those beers before out of conventional casks, so I'm really looking forward to trying the "wooden" versions and all the flavour that type of cask imparts.
Five Town's also has another beer in the wood on, Strange Brew, a 7% APA. I understand the casks for the Five Town's beers have come from The Junction at Castleford, which has done pioneering work in promoting beer in the wood.
Right, that's my finishing beers taken care off, but what about my starters and mid session ales?
I'll have to do some more scouting of the beer list.
It's available on-line here but you need to click 'view' when you get through to the festival site.

Wakefield Beer Festival is at The Space, Waldorf Way, off Denby Dale Road, from November 6 to 8.
The venue is about midway between Wakefield Westgate and Wakefield Kirkgate railway stations. It's not far Sainsbury's on Ings Road.
You can pay on the door, apart from Friday night when entry is by advance ticket only.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Mallinsons are going a bit experimental

Readers of 'A Swift One' will be well aware of our affection for Mallinsons beer, an affection that seems to be held by lots of others as well judging how quickly it seems to fly off local bars. We are well aware of their usual style - light, hoppy and around 4%. But recently things seem a little different, and the next month or so will bring us styles from them that seem a little unusual.

A scan of their excellent web site gives a hint of things to come. Of course there are the usual styles in there, such as their single hopped 'Galaxy' and 'Motueka', and their dual hopped 'Bravo Nelson' - all beers to look out for obviously. But also in the mix are 'US Mild' (and I quote the tasting notes from their website) 'Dark brown...slightly roasted with hints of citrus hops'; their first red ale 'Baton Rouge' .4.3% and brewed with US Calypso and Citra hops; and the most surprising, 'Spruce Goose'. Nothing unusual in the notes 'fresh fruity and tropical aroma, and the strong fruity hoppy flavour' but the strength certainly is. This is 6.3%, a massive hike in strength for them. The strongest beer I recall that they have brewed has been in the mid 5% range.

Add to this their latest bird beer 'Saw Sharpener' brewed with the new Belma hops, and we have a range of beers that should cover every palette, and put to bed the comments that Mallinsons can only brew one type of beer. I can hardly wait. 

If you want to sample them then I suggest visits to the Sportsman, Star or Rat and Ratchet may prove beneficial. That is unless I get there before you !!