Friday, March 28, 2014

A spring shower of beer festivals

Here's a selection of just some of the upcoming Yorkshire ale showcases (non CAMRA), courtesy of The Bloke from Hull.
Thursday 24-Sunday 27 April. Five years' celebratory weekend at The Sportsman, Huddersfield with special birthday brews from local brewers, Thu & Fri tapas with a Yorkshire twist 17:00-21:00 and Fri from Yorkshire based klezmer & Balkan band, Klonk. Sat open until 02:00.
Poster courtesy of @RatBrewery
Friday 25-Sunday 27 April. Third annual 'Rat Inn-Fest' at The Rat and Ratchet, Chapel Hill, Huddersfield HD1 3EB. More than 20 Rat Brewery ales including some brand new ones and old favourites. Meet the brewer/tutored beer preview on Thursday, April 24 from 7pm. Live music and BBQ (weather permitting) on the Saturday.
Thursday 24-Saturday 26 April. Third annual Haworth beer festival, with meet the brewer on the Thursday and a exclusive taste of the wide range of real ales, ciders, perrys and draft lager £3 entry. 
£3 a pint. Glasses will be plastic and FOC..or BYO or buy a special edition one. For more details follow the Haworth Beer Festival Facebook page:
Friday 25-Sunday 27 April. Scarborough Brewery beer festival, Unit 1B Barry's Lane, Scarborough YO12 4HA ten casks including local guests and barbecue.
Friday 25-Saturday 26 April. Definite date for fifth Rothwell beer festival in Rothwell Parish Hall, behind Morrisons next to the Parish Church on the hill. 
Around 44 cask beers, a joint effort between Rothwell Lions and the Parish Church, open 18:00- 22:30 Friday, 12:00-22:00 Saturday, around 47 real ales, live music Fri afternoon and Sat evening featuring "Vintage" (Sat), food, entry £5 including souvenir tankard, latest details at: 
Friday 25-Sunday 27 April. Second annual beer festival at The Sun Inn, 136 Westgate, Pickering YO18 8BB.
Saturday 26 April. Tenth Thorner beer festival. Part of a series of events to mark the 90th anniversary of the opening of Thorner Victory Hall.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spoons fest starts this weekend

This Friday sees the start of Wetherspoons Spring Beer Festival. It is taking its usual format with 50 beers available throughout all the pubs in their estate with the beers being available through the normal pumps on the bar until Sunday 13th April, so hopefully it gives the punter chance to collect all the beers on offer.

The White Hart, Todmorden
I have managed a sneak preview of the list, and there are a lot of interesting beers coming up. Many are special brews for the festival, with lots of breweries giving us chance to try something a little different from their usual fayre, either using different hops or going that extra mile and producing beers with flavours such as lemon, rye, juniper, plum or raspberry. (Can hardly wait !!)

A recent feature of their festivals has been the collaborative brews with other foreign brewers recreating their usual beers on British brewers plants with British brewers assistance. We can expect beers created in Australia, New Zealand, and The USA, but rather less common will be those from Norway, Spain, Sweden and South Africa. 

I will review some of the beers when they are actually available on the bars, but if you have a taste for something a little out of the ordinary, then a trip to your local 'Spoons may just hit the spot. Lets wait and see. 

Sportsman to celebrate fifth anniversary

The Sportsman, St John's Road, Huddersfield. Picture: BFH
The Sportsman in Huddersfield is to celebrate its fifth anniversary in fine style.
The St John's Road pub is hosting a series of events from April 24-26.
There will also be special birthday beers from local brewers to mark the anniversary of the pub, which has won a stack of local CAMRA awards in a short space of time. 
One ale that caught my eye was from The Sair Inn, which traditionally keeps hold of its Linfit ales up that steep hill in Linthwaite.
Here are the full details, courtesy of our intrepid news gatherer, The Bloke from Hull:
5 YEARS!! Worthy of one hell of a celebratory weekend!! Not one to miss, "HERE'S TO 5 MORE!"
Thursday 24th April - Tapas with a Yorkshire twist 5-9pm.
Friday 25th - Tapas with a Yorkshire twist 5-9pm. Live music at 8:30pm from Yorkshire based klezmer & Balkan band, Klonk. 
Saturday 26th April - 3pm mini welcome party for Jamie and the rest of the cyclists who are biking from Emirates Stadium to Huddersfield Town as part of the Pedal for Pounds 5: The Chapman Trail in aid of Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
Saturday evening - 7pm DJ 'Chicken Scratch'. Late night finish at 2am.
Special birthday brews from: The Sportsman Brewing CompanyMallinsonsBriggs Signature AlesRiverheadThe NookGolcarEmpireSummer Wine BrewerySair Inn.
Meanwhile, The Sportsman's sister pub in Wakefield, The Cricketers Arms, is hosting an American beer festival over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend. The details are on the Horbury pub's poster below, just click to enlarge.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Encore for Symphony?

'A fine orchestration of dry hopping'
Congratulations to Briggs Signature Ales whose Symphony#1 was the first beer to run off at The Star Inn's Spring Beer Festival.
According to the Folly Hall pub's twitter account the first wicket fell mid afternoon on Friday, closely followed by Mallinsons' Spring-Steen and Highly Sprung.
All three beers were brewed nearby at Mallinsons Brewery in Lockwood Road. So a job well done by Nick, Tara and Elaine.
I had the privilege of drinking all three beers on opening night when Nick was working behind the festival bar.
He told me the 4.2% beer was his recent Brass ale dry hopped with Citra and nelson sauvin. 
Brass was his second offering after Northern Soul debuted at The Star in late December.
Nick Briggs & Sam Watt at the launch of
Briggs Signature Ales. Pic: Steve Goodwill
And Northern Soul was my favourite until Wednesday night.
So I'll use this platform to call for an encore of Symphony. I know Nick described it as a 'one-off special' on twitter, but every now and then a festival throws up a beer that demands to be drunk again and again. This is one of them.
But in the meantime look out for Nick's next beer, Folk 3.7%, in bars in about two weeks' time.
Anyone wanting further information about this fantastic fledgling brewery should check out its website:
or look at this interview we did with the former Elland brewer after his beer launch late last year:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Star Festival - the singalong !!

Those of us lucky enough to know Sam at the Star at Folly Hall know she loves her music, and loves it loud as well ! But we were a little surprised when we saw the beer list and the pump clips for the current beer festival how many music themed beers she had managed to cram into it, either knowingly or unwittingly. Here is just a selection.

Mallinsons 'Spring...steen' is a homage to the 'Boss', just check out the pump clip. Not to be outdone Briggs Signature offering is 'Symphony No1' - with a clip showing an orchestra. Revolutions are noted for their music related beers; 'Dare' and 'Go Go' are on the bar here. Purple Moose has 'Calon Lan' - the famous Welsh anthem; Pilot has 'Vienna'; Brown Ales 'Quadrophenia', Salamander 'Queens Ransom' (again check out the pump clip) , Five Towns 'A Day At The Races', and Brew Co 'Ice Ice Baby'.

And that is without the tenuous connections that you can make with some of the other beers as you get further into your sampling session.Try Ilkley 'American Smooth' or Four Thorns 'Fiddling Beaver for example. 

Thanks to Charlie for his assistance in spotting some of the more obscure references, and apologies for any others I may have missed.

And Round Two.....The Elder Statesmans View !!!

It was a rare opportunity at the festival, to have two of the editorial team together, so we could sample even more of the beers on offer than usual. I did not, despite Mr Ambler's assertion, suggest which beers he should drink. I knew what he would be concentrating on, it just gave me a chance to sample some of those beers from breweries I had encountered in my brief sojourn in the North East.

If you have had chance to peruse the beer list then you will have noted a selection of beers from there, and others from Scotland. Plenty of them from new or unusual breweries - and a coup for Sam to get them all together under one canvas. Unusually for me I eschewed the Mallys as my first beer and headed for the Leazes Park Lite brewed at the Trent House pub in the shadow of Newcastle's St James's Park, and rarely seen outside the pub,let alone the North East. It was a 3.7% brownish ale, but plenty of flavour and not oversweet. Coquetdale were another rare brewery, this one from Rothbury, and two of their beers were on the bar. I sampled the 'Simonside Blonde' - it was blonde, obviously, and very drinkable. I nearly had a second but there were many more ticks to try so it will have to wait for later.

I thought it was time to head even further north and have a try of some of the Scottish beers on offer. Tin Pot 'Gold Pot' was a bit of a disappointment and tasted a little weird. The Abbott brewery was new to me, and their 'Pot Stirrer' was a 4.2% typically Scottish beer, with a good malty background, tasting a bit like Youngers No3 (for those old enough to remember). Next came Cromarty 'Happy Chappy', an acceptable, pale beer . But my pick of the Scottish beers I tried was 'Vienna' from Pilot, a beer brewed in the lager style and full of flavour. I followed this with a Portobello beer, from London, not Scotland. Their 'White' was a wheat beer and a very well crafted one at that. 

All in all, if you want to try something a little different then take a look outside the usual suspects and hunt out the beers from the north, you may well be surprised. 

Battle of the bloggers: Round One

A respected elder statesman of this blog has forbidden me from writing about a certain musical theme at The Star's Spring Beer Festival
So even though I went down to The River (Colne) yesterday I must concentrate solely on the opening night beers I had.
'No wedding day smiles, no walk down the ailse' just hops, malt, yeast and water. 
As the newbie round here, I suppose I better do as I'm told. 
I started with a 3.8% beer with no musical reference at all, Spring-Steen: A Brucy Bonus, which I understand to be Mallinsons homage to the Strictly compere.

Next up was a trip to the main bar where The Boss laid down some ground rules about blogging on arguably the best pub beer fest in the land - you know, the one which draws people from the likes of Southampton, Yeovil, Hull and the beer capital of Sheffield. I was directed by Timbo to sample Glentworth's American Hero 4.4%, which seemed somewhat removed from a beer about Britain's premier light entertainer. But I drank it and enjoyed it.
Next I had a marquee beer which I understand to be dedicated to a 1937 Marx Brothers film, A Day at the Races. It's a 3.9% beer brewed by Five Towns Brewery and is presumably to be quaffed at Cheltenham, Aintree or Ascot, depending on the state of the racing calendar. 
Afterwards came my beer of the night, Symphony#1 by Briggs Signature Ales. It was a fine orchestration of dry hopping. The base beer was Briggs' second offering Brass, but it was dry hopped with Citra and nelson sauvin.  A perfect blend of America, New Zealand and Lockwood. 

I could have drunk this 4.4% beer again and again but as it was a festival, I had to continue on my Yorkshire beers opening night theme. 
Given that the Mallinsons beers don't tend to last long at this fest I went for their second ale, Highly Sprung, 4.4%. I preferred it to the lighter Spring-Steen.
By now time was running short and I hadn't had a dark beer, so Brew Company's Ice Ice Baby was my final choice. It's a 4.3% oat stout made with Madagascan vanilla pods. 
Now, we've discussed the dos and don'ts of beer flavourings many times on this blog, but this was the right side of the subtle/cloying line. 
And so ended a fine three-hours down Albert Street, and I haven't even started on a host of new breweries yet. Well, there are still four days left!
All in all I think I've adhered admirably to Tim's rules and haven't buckled under pressure despite the raft of music pun hopportunities!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Star Festival March 2014

Star, Folly Hall, Huddersfield festival list....starts 1700 Wednesday and 1700 Thursday...1200 till close Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

  1. Malllinsons.....Spring Steen..A Brucy Bonus...3.8%
  2. Purple Moose..Calon Lan ...4.0%
  3. Strathavon..Duchess Anne Light ...3.9%
  4. Bluestones...AKA..4.4%
  5. Briggs Signature Ales...Symphony No1...4.2%
  6. Toolmaker...Fine Finish....4,3%
  7. Revolutions...Dare ….4.5%
  8. Thirstin...Fruity Mick...4.2%
  9. 4 Thorns...Outrangeous Toad...4.3%
  10. Clarkshaws...Gorgons Alive...4.0%
  11. Ilkley...American Cream Smooth...4.3%
  12. Revolutions...Go-Go...4.5%
  13. Slightly Foxed.. Star Special..4.3%
  14. Four Thorns.. Fiddling Beaver...4.3%
  15. Yorkshire Dales...High Hangers.....3.7%
  16. Corquetdale... Thrum...4.3%
  17. Pilot...Vienna.....4.6%
  18. Tin Pot....Gold Pot....4.0%
  19. Pot Strirrer...Abbott/Dunfermiline...4.2%
  20. Stancill....Toms Mild...3.4%
  21. Five Towns..Day At The Races...3.9%
  22. Corquetdale...Simonside Blonde...4.0%
  23. Pilot...Mochannino Stout..5.5%
  24. Five Points...Railway Porter...4.8%
  25. Luckie...Best Bitter...5.0%
  26. Black Edge ….Dark Rum ...4.6%
  27. Leazes Lane...Park Lite...3.7%
  28. Brown Ales...Quadrophenia.....4.5%
  29. Reedley Hallows.... Nook of Pendle...5.0%
  30. Ascot...Auroeole...4.0%
  31. Brew Co...Ice Ice Baby.....4.3%
  32. Glentworth...Crackerjack....4.1%
  33. Binghams...Vanilla Hoppy IPA...5.0%
  34. Wild Weather....Black Night...3.9%
  35. Boggart...Pale Ale...4.6%
  36. J.Church...Dark Disciple...4.3%
  37. Black Edge...Citra...4.3%
  38. Brew Co...Spring Has Sprung...4.5%
  39. Tring...Great Bustard...4.0%
  40. Yorkshire Dales...Feetham...4.0%
  41. Strathbaan...Due South...3.8%
  42. Mallinsons...Highly Sprung...4.4%
  43. Mouselow...Udder The Influence...4%
  44. Portobello...Wheat...4.8%
  45. Salamander...Queens Ransom....3.8%
  46. Cromarty...Happy Chappie...4..1%

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Fancy a brew, punslinger?

Scenario: seven strangers mosey into town. They all have different skills but share a common purpose.
The saloon door swings open, they file in one by one, the music stops and the piano player looks uneasy...
And now you see why I never made it as a screen writer - two many cliches, not enough substance!
There is a rather laboured point to all this.
The Rat and Ratchet on Chapel Hill, Huddersfield, is hosting a beer festival at the end of April. The unique selling point is that there is a lottery to be one of The Ratnificent 7. The prize is to brew a beer with the award-winning Rat Brewery.
The brewery, who recently won a bronze at SIBA Beer X for its much lauded White Rat, will pull seven names out of a (cowboy) hat for a collaborative brew during the festival on Saturday, April 26.
You can enter via twitter @ratandratchet or via Facebook:
Radio 2 drive-time chef Nigel Barden presenting SIBA bronze

Friday, March 14, 2014

SIBA-SEX at IceSheffield

In it's attempt to make the world of real ale sexy, SIBA pulled out most of the stops in Sheffield this week with it's big venued, laser-guided, plasma-screened extravaganza on ice. Well not actually on ice, they'd laid a carpet over the ice, but you get the picture.

Turning the arena into a massive warehouse style nightclub complete with booming sound-system (to keep that yeast agitating I imagine), multi-coloured strobe-effect lighting (am I drinking mild or pale?) and loosh furnishings (in case you wanted to make out with your pint) might at a glance look impressive - to a teenager making their club debut perhaps. 

But of course the only youngsters in sight were those stood reluctantly manning the pumps (SIBA haven't figured out how to make those look sexy yet btw!), and once your eyes had grown accustomed to the dark - well you guessed it - just the same crowd of scruffy old buggers in dirty macs and holdalls you get at every beer fest. Incongruous isn't the word.

Don't get me wrong, SIBA do a great job, teens are the future (eventually) and beer tickers, the ones I know anyway, are lovely people - but let's not get carried away. Putting on some glitzy show isn't going to make the product more appealing to youngsters (if that is indeed the intention) and the people involved in production and those who enjoy  serious consumption aren't going to feel comfortable with this, they just aren't. 

I said SIBA pulled out most of the stops - well if I was them and was thinking about how to improve next years event, bearing in mind the 95% male turnout, I would certainly be considering naked dancing girls in cages suspended from the roof - that is surely the future of real ale festivals. In fact if they'd done that last night, I might have stopped for a second pint.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Another Super Citra to Try

One of the success stories in brewing in the last few years have been beers brewed with Citra hops. It is hard to believe that they have only been around for abut five years and in that short time they have become a 'go to' hop for both brewers and drinkers alike. Many single hop Citra beers have become classics - if you see Oakham 'Citra' on a bar for example, you know it will be good, likewise Great Heck's version, and many others I could mention.

An American hop variety, high in alpha acids and imparting a citric fruitness to beer - clean and refreshing, and often, as I have discovered often to my cost, very moreish.

A couple of days ago I was perusing the 'taunting pole' in The Grove, when I saw an unfamiliar pump clip. Closer examination revealed a Whitstable brewery beer 'Citra'. I have always enjoyed Whitstable beers but have never come across their 'Citra'. As luck would have it it was on the bar yesterday, and I was eager to try it. What a revelation !

The beers I have mentioned earlier are great beers - but taken in comparison with the Whitstable offering - seem a little one dimensional. Plenty of hop flavour but may be lacking a bit of background and body. Not so this gem. Of course there is the hop taste you would expect with tropical tastes to the fore but they are perfectly balanced by an interesting malt base. One gets an initial hop burst, but that develops with a biscuity (if that's a word !)  taste leading to a complex and well crafted beer. In the short time I was there, as my intended half became a pint, then a pint and a half, other customers also commented on the beer and it seemed to be the afternoon's beer of choice, even for those used to the stronger, more hoppy flavoured beers.

Anyway - must dash - need to get back to try it again.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A united effort for International Women's collaboration Brew Day in Marsden

All pictures courtesy of Riverhead/Ossett
A pale ale created to celebrate International Women's Collaboration Brew Day will soon be on sale in Marsden and beyond.
Unite Pale Ale, 4%, was made around the world to the same recipe by mainly British and American brewsters to raise awareness of women working in the industry.
Locally Lisa Handforth, of Riverhead Brewery, devoted seven hours of her time to create her version of Unite.
I say her version, but more precisely it was very much a group effort as Riverhead put out a call for volunteers.
Lisa told us: "Throughout the day I had about 20 visitors to the brewery with a core of five friends helping all day.
"The beer brewed on Saturday is still conditioning and will be racked on Friday, then it will be available within a couple of weeks at The Riverhead Brewery Tap and in other Ossett pubs."
Lisa generously donated a day's wages to a local good cause and we understand parent company Ossett Brewery also made a contribution. 
She added: "We raised a total of £251 for Huddersfield Womens Aid."
If you want to try the beer then keep an eye on the Riverhead's bar over the coming weeks.
The pub, on Peel Street, is located downhill from Marsden Railway Station. The village is also well-served by buses.
For more information please visit:
To learn more about the international brewsters' effort then check out CNN's post about the event:

Friday, March 07, 2014

Some late news about The Rat

In the news: The Rat and Ratchet. Picture by Will
As the supposed news gatherer of this blog, I can't begin to tell you how galling it is to be scooped over and over again by a certain gentleman from Hull.
This time the BFH has told me about one of our pubs making the national press.
Huddersfield's very own The Rat and Ratchet, was featured in The Daily Telegraph's Pint to Pint section earlier this month.
The article (link below) by Chris Arnot states: "The Rat & Ratchet is a no‑nonsense alehouse with several drinking areas, a dart board, a high‑backed settle or two, exposed floorboards and a central island of impressive black-and-white tiles topped by a vintage jukebox and the sort of pinball machine that I last saw in a students’ union in the days before decimal currency."
Mr Arnot's opening gambit is about the style of pork pie you can find in the Chapel Hill based pub. He adds: "This is Huddersfield, not Melton Mowbray."  
And landlord Richard Prest is quoted about the regulars' love of bread and dripping on quiz night.
While cider maker 'Udders Orchard - run by former Rat custodian Dave Kendall-Smith - also gets a plug.
You can read the full article on the Telegraph's website:

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

A dry run in the valley of beer

The 1st Group
Apologies for the shock headline, but please don't worry. I haven't gone on some belated dryathlon or given up beer for Lent. There was a valid reason why I went on a group crawl around Kelham Island while drinking nothing stronger than lemonade (ABV content unknown).
Star Inn regular and keen photographer Steve Goodwill kindly invited me to join The 1st Group's trip to Sheffield on Saturday. But there was only one snag, I had various previous driving commitments which meant I couldn't drink alcohol in what is arguably Britain's beer capital.
So I tagged along to various real ale icons (with car in tow) to find out more about the club.
I was told the informal club evolved after a birthday celebration for Huddersfield based brewer Tara Mallinson some three years ago.
The premise was that club members - who are mostly drawn from The Star at Folly Hall - would meet on the first weekend of the month to try and take in some unfamiliar pubs.
Previous outings have been to The Dog and Partridge in Sowood during a particularly windswept winter's day high above Outlane.
But I understand the club's activities had stalled a bit recently until Steve Goodwill kick-started them again with a trip that no one could resist: the greatest (pub) hits of Sheffield.
So it was that a hardy bunch of beer tourists braved the long train journey from Huddersfield to The Steel City.
The brewing kit at Sheffield Tap
Their first stop was The Sheffield Tap which could accommodate the 20 or so members.
But I joined them trip at the second destination, The Wellington (aka Bottom Wellie), near the tram stop at Shalesmoor.
On the bar were a selection of Little Ale Cart beers, regular Millstone ale Baby Git and some lemonade.
I was soon brought up to speed about the club, which has roughly 30 members aged from about 20-years-old upwards.
After that introduction a second surge of 1st clubbers appeared and we filled the side room, the one with all the old Salamander pump clips on the back wall.
We were busy talking about all things beer when suddenly a Tupperware container of home-made onion bhajis appeared.
These had been made by a club member who kindly shared her culinary creations with us. As a beer-mad foodie I knew this was the club for me and I took out life membership on the spot.
After a few drinks it was time for a food pit stop. But because Sheffield Wednesday were at home we decided against the Hillsborough Hotel and headed instead for The Harlequin on Nursery Street.
Our route took us through the heart of Kelham Island where 'Tim the younger' pointed out arguably the finest sight in beer.
He stopped us at the junction of Alma Street and Russell Street, to admire the view. 
To our left was The Fat Cat (my favourite Sheffield pub) straight on was The Kelham Island Tavern and Shakespeares.
But we temporarily ignored those fine establishments for The Brew Company's brewery tap.
At The Harlequin they had three of their own ales on, including Crazy Horse on keg. This 5.1% IPA won Sheffield CAMRA's champion beer of Sheffield at their festival back in October. On cask the pub also had Hop Monster, 4.5%, and Simcoe, 3.8%.
Other offerings included two from Great Heck, which were Amish Mash, 4.7% and Porter, 4.5%. There were also single beers from Glentworth and Dr Morton's, plus two from Milton.   
Here the group fuelled up with burgers, cuts of meat and half-pints of chunky chips. After dinner there was a friendly disagreement over where to go next, The Fat Cat or The Shakey. It was what Sherlock Holmes might have called a three-pint problem had he been a cask addict.
Shakespeares on Gibraltar Street, Sheffield
I followed The Shakey splinter group but this proved to be my downfall. For here, lurking at the end of the bar was an 8% Russian devil. Five Town's and North Riding's Mad Monk imperial stout is a particular favourite of mine. So when you are on the lemonades it is simply not fair to see such a beer in a top drinking destination like The Shakey.
So I lost the stare out with the Rasputin pump clip and had to make a hasty exit as you can only stand so much temptation without caving in.
All I can say is that I am looking forward to properly joining the 1st Group on their next outing, which looks like being a tour of the lesser known inner ring road pubs of Huddersfield.  
Finally, many thanks to Steve Goodwill for the invite and the photographs.  

You can read Tim's post on the inaugural 1st Group visit here:

Rotherham Real Ale and Music Festival

Rotherham Real Ale Fest March 5-8 
This is  just a short post to remind people that it's not long now until the Rotherham Real Ale and Music Festival.
The charity fundraiser kicks off at the Magna complex on Sheffield Road this Wednesday and runs until Saturday.
It's theme as you can see from the logo below is ancient Rome.
The beer list is drawn from places which have a strong connection to The Roman Empire.
All the information you need - including beer list, session times, ticketing and getting there - can be found on the festival website.
It's also worth noting, if you are unfamiliar with the area, the £2 return BF1 beer shuttle bus from Meadowhall and Rotherham Interchanges. This runs at 20-minute intervals.

Monday, March 03, 2014

A meeting with the Ilkley head brewer at Whitelock's Ale House in Leeds

Pints of Joshua Jane and a half of Five Points at Whitelock's
After a tough day at the type-face on Thursday I headed off to Leeds for a real ale farewell for an emigrating friend.
A former colleague was about to up-sticks to North America, so we thought we'd go for a jar to mark his imminent departure from these shores.
There were no firm plans other than to start at The Templar Hotel on Vicar Lane and work back towards the railway station.
But things changed when I spotted this twitter:

It's our @Ilkleybrewery Meet the Brewer toniiiiight!! There's gonna be pork pies too! WOOOOO
So after a couple of drinks in The Templar (Bosun's, Slater's and Axholme), three pie fiends headed downtown for an audience with Ilkley managing director and head brewer Chris Ives.
The main bar at Whitelock's, off Briggate, was standing room only, but we soon learnt the actual event was further down Turks Head Yard in the top bar.
I'd never been in this part of the 299-year-old pub before, but was impressed with the setting for the beer talk. The lounge area featured a smaller bar with tables and stools around bench seats.
So after sampling some freshly prepared mini pork pies and some scene-stealing black pudding and hash browns patties we took our seats to listen to Chris's story.
He succinctly explained the origins of Ilkley Brewery and the success of its Mary Jane beer before leading us through the first of three Ilkley brews.
First up was Olicana Pale. It's a 4.4% beer whose moniker is derived for the Roman word for Ilkley.
Chris said its exclusive #1391 hop, from supplier Charles Faram, was linked to an English hop which dated back to the 19th Century. Interestingly our Victorian forebears rejected the hop as being too aromatic, but 150 years on I think it will find-favour with modern-day hopheads.
The Ilkley boss said the single hop beer was brewed with the intention of sustaining the hit throughout the drink, thus avoiding a 'dip' in taste.
In true meet the brewer fashion we were given a free snifter of each drink.
But cannily there were beer/smoke breaks between each tasting, so we each went for a half of the Olicana. The consensus was that we all liked it. 
According to the Ilkley website, the beer has now sold out after a limited release in February. But you can catch it at SIBA Beer X at iceSheffield (March 12-15).
Our next beer was Rye n' Dry, a 5% roggenbier made by Ilkley's American brewer Christa Sandquist. This beer really found favour with my emigrating friend who is a red beer fan. He hopes there will be plenty of this type of beer where he is headed.
Chris Ives also told his audience about the American beer scene and his various visits there. He reckons the Americans grasped the craft beer initiative about a decade before we did. He also spoke about the statesiders' desire to brew complex beers and about the battle to replace wine at the dinner table.  
Our final beer was another one, I think, Christa had a hand-in. A 6.2% black IPA called Pata Negra. Regular readers of this blog will know that this is a beer style that I am gradually coming round to. And it was my beer of the night.
Chris talked about the history of IPA - referencing Pete Brown's Hops and Glory book - before moving on to that contradiction in terms, the black IPA. 
I recall Chris saying that he felt he wasn't quite finished with this beer yet and hoped it to be more 'pale' than dark. But I beg to differ, this had the lovely, lingering aftertaste of a dark beer without the heaviness you associate with a stout or porter.
Having said that it was 6.2% ABV and I fell asleep on the train home, which is always is a good yardstick of a top dark beer!
The next day I thanked Whitelock's via twitter and was invited back for the bar's next meet the brewer event: Five Points Brewing from 6pm on Tuesday, March 11.
You can find more information about the event here:

All pump clip images courtesy of Ilkley Brewery.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

A Trip Into Darkest Calderdale

With 'Ale Ambler' keeping us up to date with life in Wakefield and Sheffield, I thought that I would take a look in the other direction.

Round and about West Yorkshire, there are plenty of smaller towns  that are easily accessible from the major centres, but for one reason or another, I very rarely seem to visit them. My resolution for 2014 is to correct this oversight, and share what I find there with you. My first trip out was to Sowerby Bridge.

I had heard plenty of good things about the place from seasoned drinkers, and it seemed to be a place on the up as regards pub and beer choice, so with a spare day (it happened to be a Friday – which is relevant later) I set off in to the unknown territory of the Calder Valley to see what was on offer.

The town has a population of around 10,000 and is situated about 3 miles from Halifax. It is stands at the confluence of the rivers Ryburn and Calder and at the junction of the Calder  and Hebble Navigation  and the Rochdale canals. In fact the bridge part of its title comes from a bridge over the river. And it boasts the deepest canal lock in England with the Tuel Lane lock, (not far from the Commercial – more of which later).

But enough of that, what about the beer I hear you say ?

The easiest way to follow my footsteps is to arrive at the town by rail. It has a fairly decent rail service with trains from Leeds, Bradford and Halifax from the East and Manchester Victoria and Rochdale from the West. The journey from Leeds taking around 45 minutes.

On arrival at the station, it is not hard to find your first pub. The Jubilee Refreshment Rooms are there on the west platform,a conversion from an old railway building. It opens for beer sales at 1200 noon, but also has a fine range of coffee and snacks if you arrive earlier. It was the beer I had come for though, and was pleased to find three pumps in operation on my visit, with an offering from the local Owenshaw Mills Brewery 'Stout 13' available, along with Elland 'Bargee' and Mallinsons '12 Hops Of Christmas'. I chose the latter, being a sucker for a Mallinsons beer. In fact, it was so good I had to stay for a second half. The refreshment rooms are what they say – maybe a bit Spartan but none the worse for that,with plenty of railway memorabilia and items and information of local interest around the place. Andrew behind the bar is a very knowledgable man about beer and what his customers want. So expect a dark beer always on the bar and a light, hoppy beer as well.Many of the beers served there are sourced locally.

The station is about a 10 minute walk from the town’s main street, and if it rains there is little cover between the two. But I was fortunate, and it was dry, and after a brisk walk I found my second pub. In fact it would have been the third on my list had the ‘Firehouse’ which had a promised 12 noon opening actually adhered to that. (I have since heard an unconfirmed rumour that the premises are closed for refurbishment which may explain the closure)

‘The Works’ is situated on Hollins Mill Lane , just off the main street to the left. It is on the right hand side of the road, set back a little opposite the public baths. It is a large open plan pub, converted from an old joinery in 2007 , with a mixture of bare brick and modern furniture. The clientele are a mixed crowd, with plenty sampling the food menu, but others just there for the beer. Us beer drinkers are well catered for with three of the Timothy Taylors range on offer, along with changing guest beers from Ilkley, Wilson Potter, and Moorhouses on my visit. I decided to sample the house beer ‘Works Wonder’ a 3.9% bitter brewed by Phoenix and  a very acceptable offering, to quaff whilst watching the world go by. The pub also has regular evening entertainment with comedy, folk and jazz featuring.

Leaving the Works and returning to the main street, and walking away from the station, I soon came across the new Wetherspoons pub, situated at the bottom of Tuel Lane by the traffic lights. It has been built on the site of an old pub, ‘The Wharfe’  that looks to have been demolished and the ‘Commercial’ has replaced it. It is a large pub, with plenty of seating throughout, and on my arrival was again fairly full of diners. The food was the usual fayre for the chain and the beer range – although with 10 pumps available – was a little disappointing from my point of view, with only one local brewer being showcased, and that was Elland, with their ‘Bargee’ and ‘1872 Porter’ on the bar. Other beers came from larger breweries such as Sharps . I chose the most unusual beer on the bar from Nine Standards in the Lake District and it was quite acceptable. I must admit that some of the seats and the tables are a little high in the pub, and may be difficult for the more elderly to cope with.

My final call was to be the Ossett pub the ‘Shepherds Rest’. Again simple to  find, but a bit of a hike from the Commercial. Just follow the main road and keep walking  away from the station, the pub is again on the left hand side of the road. This was totally different to the two previous pubs – more of a local feel and an emphasis on beer – and almost empty on my arrival, with two other customers. The beer range was predominantly from the Ossett range, with guests also from their satellite brewerys. I fancied the house beer, strangely enough, called ‘Shepherds Rest’ but that was not available when I visited, so I chose the ‘White Rat’ from the Rat Brewery in Huddersfield, and it was in good form. The pub itself has a couple of rooms and a rear area where there is a dart board. A comfortable place but may be a little out of the central area to attract the casual drinker.

Outside the Shepherds is a convenient bus stop, that saves the walk back to the station and the bus drops you off in central Halifax in around 15 minutes.

A pleasant little town with plenty of nooks and crannies and the canal running through the bottom end of the town, there is a lot to explore and I will be returning for a closer look in the not too distant future, and also check out a couple of the canal side pubs which seemed to slip past my radar on this visit.