|The view from Manchester Road, Linthwaite|
Birthday blog part two:
My celebrations continued into Saturday when it was time to head to the spiritual home of this blog: Huddersfield.
At the train station I picked up a free Discover Huddersfield booklet on our real ale trail. The information sheet, originally compiled for the Food & Drink festival, gives details of ten city centre pubs to visit.
But that's one for another day, as my two destinations lay beyond the ring road.
I walked up to the bus station and caught a bus to Marsden but disembarked just after The Royal Oak at Linthwaite.
Here lies Hoyle Ing - otherwise known as the the mini-Everest up to The Sair. But it's well worth the effort as there is a stunning beery reward at Lane Top.
|The Sair, Linthwaite, HD7 5SG|
Don't be fooled by the slightly careworn exterior, this is part of the attraction. Walk inside and you see the splendour of a fine country pub, with its own micro-brewery, Linfit Ales.
I've only been in twice before but these were whistle stop visits. This time I wanted to have a session to soak up the atmosphere.
The entrance corridor leads into a junction of rooms. The main bar area takes up about half the floor space, to the left are two separate rooms if you want to escape the barroom banter.
But I didn't as that is also part of the appeal of this place, it's a community pub which offers a warm welcome.
I'd been a few weeks ago and tried the Swift and Autumn Gold, both pleasing beers. But this time they had three more beers on, which were new to me.
I kicked off with the Special Bitter 4.3%, a lovely mid-range ABV bitter, which I nearly drank again in quick succession.
But I'd had my eye on the Old Eli 5.3%, which I'd heard a bit about last time. It was an amber/golden hoppy beer, which I could have sessioned on had it not been the wrong side of five percent!
I know 2014 is only a month old but this is among the best of the year so far for me, along with another five percent plus beer (more of that later).
The Sair's bartender kindly offered me tastes of all six beers on offer, and they were uniformly good.
The next step was another hike up the alcohol scale with the 6.6% Leadboiler.
I drank it slowly in front of a roaring fire, listening to the eclectic jukebox which seemed to fluctuate between blues and Motown.
The jukebox lies behind the fish tank in a tight snug to the left of the bar. Nearby is the front room, which I understand to be one of the oldest parts of the pub.
In it, over a stove, is a sketch of the veteran landlord Ron Crabtree. I didn't bump into Ron during my visit but I saw plenty of reminders of him, including a 30-year achievement certificate from Huddersfield CAMRA. Maybe I'll get to meet the great man next time?
So it was back down the hill to the bus into town for another trip down Chapel Hill to that fine pub on Albert Street.
|The Star Inn at Folly Hall, HD1 3PJ|
When I walked into The Star I saw Tim behind the bar, empty glass in hand, pointing to the strong pump. What can you say about that level of psychic service?
The beer in question was the 5.1% beer I alluded to above, Five Towns Sledging. I wrote about in part one of this birthday blog. Say what you like about the England cricket team imploding, it certainly inspired a fine beer.
Next up was Mallinsons Columbus Nelson 4.3%, which the brewers helpfully discuss on their website: http://www.drinkmallinsons.co.uk/our_beers.htm
They say it is "another of our dual hopped beers. This time, Columbus was used for bittering, Nelson Sauvin for aroma. Described as, 'pale straw colour with a light citrus grapefruit nose, bitter lightly fruity hoppy taste and a long bitter tart finish'."
I had just finished a glass of it when brewer Nick Briggs, of Mallinsons & Briggs Signature Ales, walked in - so I gave him some immediate positive feedback.
I also took the opportunity to ask him how his first solo beer, Northern Soul, had been going down since it was launched at The Star in late December.
Nick said it had been well received and had featured mainly on local bars so far. Talking of which, Northern Soul got a visual shout-out on the video of O'Hooley & Tidow's Summat's Brewin' video. You can see the pump clip briefly when Rob Allen pulls a pint in HDM Beer Shop on Wood Street.
Nick is putting the finishing touches to his second Briggs Signature Ales offering, Brass, which I think he said would be about 4.2% and be hoppier than his first beer. Look out for it soon.
|Taunting pole at The Star , February 1|
Next I turned to Hamelsworde's Hemsworth Challenger Golden Best 4%. I hadn't drunk much from this brewery on draught so I was keen to give it a go. It was a malty beer, not one of my favourite styles and one I usually struggle with. But I was glad I persevered with it as it grew on me as I drank it. There was another Hamelsworde beer on the taunting pole, which may be available by the time you read this.
I finished with another Five Towns Sledging and chatted with some of The Star's regulars about their memories of The Sair, which included the now mythical, Enoch's Hammer. It seems it was an 8% barley wine type beer named after the 19th Century Marsden blacksmith who made the cropping frames and the sledge hammers the Luddites used to smash them with.
Let's hope Linfit brew it again in a few years' time to mark the 200th anniversary of the end of the Luddite Revolution.
So ended a beery, celebratory couple of days taking in two fine pubs in Sheffield and the same in Huddersfield.
Can't wait till next year!
Footnote: The blog on the Sheffield part of this journey into beer can be found here:http://www.aswiftone.com/2014/02/actual-official-birthday-sessions-in.html