Friday, January 31, 2014

Some good news about Hudds ale

Movers and shakers - O'Hooley & Tidow
UPDATED with interview & working link for mobile users: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_REuW6-iVdU&feature=youtu.be
Yesterday we brought you bleak news about the fate of some pubs in Paddock, Huddersfield.
When I read Tim's lament on pub closures it was a 'oh no, not again' moment.
However, to sugar that bitter pill, let me tell you some good news.
Yesterday a music video, which is a boon to Huddersfield's beer scene, was posted on the Internet.
Regular aswiftone.com readers will know that folk artists O'Hooley & Tidow have recorded an ode to real ale in Hudds called Summat's Brewin' for their forthcoming album The Hum.
Well we now have some moving pictures to go with that fine song.
And anyone who has done any drinking in Huddersfield will recognise one or two faces!
Belinda O'Hooley has kindly been in touch this afternoon for a mini email interview.
Ale Ambler: Please can you tell me about the making of the video?
Belinda: We were inspired to write the song after reading an article in the Huddersfield Examiner about the rise of micro-breweries in Huddersfield - some of which are run by women. We decided to research this and interviewed Tara & Elaine of Mallinsons Brewery in Lockwood, and Lisa at The Riverhead Brewery Tap, Marsden and Sam Smith at The Sportsman pub in town.
We also filmed at The Hand Drawn Monkey in town.
We are absolutely mad about real ale, so it wasn't difficult to write a song about one of our favourite things in life. We enjoyed making the video as we are so proud of Huddersfield which we think is a brilliant place to live.
We hope we have managed to reflect the spirit, strength and resilience of the people of Huddersfield despite the economic downturn. There is a real sense of community in Huddersfield, people coming together and wanting to celebrate beer made the proper way, without cutting corners - which is one of the things that makes Huddersfield great.
O'Hooley & Tidow are on a nationwide tour now 
Ale Ambler: The opening part of the video, where where was that shot, please? It looks like Marsden/Cupwith area to me?
Belinda: It is. We parked the car off Rochdale Road and walked past Cupwith Reservoir to the stone chair, where we tried to find the best spot, away from Sunday ramblers, so that we could set up the camera and play the song without attracting too much attention. However, throughout the filming we had people walking past enquiring what we were up to...
Ale Ambler: You showcased a lot of Huddersfield brewers in your video, have you had any feedback from them yet, please? And are you on free pints for life?!
Belinda: The video was aired yesterday for the first time and we received a message from Tara at Mallinsons Brewery saying that they loved the video and that she listens to our album in the delivery van and sings Summat's Brewin' at the top of her voice. 
 Also, Sam Smith (landlady at The Sportsman) loves the video and has called it The Huddersfield Beer Anthem. Sam is busy sharing the video, plus playing the album in The Sportsman. She has attracted extra attention from some of the male viewers of the video (for her pint-pulling skills I think). 
Lisa from the Riverhead Brewery Tap was trying to watch it on her phone yesterday but couldn't, so we've posted a mobile friendly version on YouTube for all you non-Luddites out there with your smart phones. *(see footnote)
Ale Ambler: I gather you've had more national radio exposure this week, what can you tell me about that, please?
Belinda: Yes we have. Lauren Laverne from BBC 6 Music played a song from The Hum yesterday as her 'headphone moment'. She tweeted that she loves the album, and after the track Kitsune was played, many people were tweeting about it and saying that Heidi (Tidow) sounds like a folk Tracey Thorn, which she's chuffed to bits about. 
Mark Radcliffe, on BBC Radio 2, has played Summat's Brewin' on his show already as well as two other tracks from The Hum. He has invited us into the studio to do a live session on Wednesday, February 26. Who knows, we might play the beer song live on Radio 2!
Ale Ambler: Finally, congratulations on the fine song and video. 
Belinda: Thanks very much and cheers! We would love it if people shared the video and got in touch with CAMRA, who up to now, seem unaware of the song. We would love it if it became the official Huddersfield Beer Anthem and something really positive for the people of Huddersfield. Thanks to everyone who has played a part in making the video and also making Huddersfield the real-ale capital of Britain!
Album out February 17. Pre-order: http://ohooleyandtidow.com/
Footnote: 
Like Lisa Handforth, head brewer at Riverhead, I had difficulty viewing the Summat's Brewin' video on my phone. I apologise to mobile users for the 'artistic' use of white space they experience while viewing this post on their phones.
Here is a YouTube link to the mobile friendly version of the video: http://youtu.be/_REuW6-iVdU
Below should an embedded video for desktop users.
Either way, please enjoy this brilliant showcase for West Yorkshire's premier brewing (boom) town.
Please scroll down our blog roll for earlier posts on Summat's Brewin', and read more about it here: http://www.folkradio.co.uk/2014/01/video-exclusive-ohooley-tidows-summats-brewing/ 
The Hum album launch is at Marden Mechanics on Saturday, March 8. The gig starts at 8pm. Tickets cost £10 and are available from Mikron.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Another one bites the dust

With thanks to the Huddersfield Examiner, 'The Bloke From Hull' (he gets everywhere!) brings to our attention the demise of yet another Huddersfield pub and another area where the beer choice has been restricted to just one outlet.

In the middle of next month the last pint will be pulled at the 'Royal Oak' in Paddock and it will join its fellows 'The Angel', 'The Tam o'Shanter' and 'The Commercial' in oblivion. The only bright spot being the reopening of 'The Ship' before Christmas, but only initially on a one year lease. There are a couple of clubs but it seems that Paddock will become a beer desert before long.

I do not propose to enter the financial arguments as to why this happens - I think we can all have a guess at why anyway but it is getting the norm rather than the exception for the town's suburbs to loose their watering holes. I was brought up in Crosland Moor, plenty of pubs there in the 'olden days' - there are two left up the Moor now - the same applies to Waterloo, Lockwood, Deighton, Birkby and many others. 

I can look back on pubs being closed and demolished to expand the ring road, or build pointless shopping centres in the town centre. They were a part of our heritage, part of our growing up, and hold a place in our consciousness, the same situation has now blighted the out of town areas.

We need to save what we have left - before it is too late - and we need to return the pub to its proper place - the focal point of a community.   

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A visit to The Huntsman, Thurlstone

Thurlstone/Millhouse Green looking towards Royd Moor
My recent Colne Valley pub trek whetted my appetite for another ale ramble.
On Sunday I thought about returning to The Sair at Linthwaite for better pictures (and more Linfit beer) but the weather forecast looked grim.
However, a Internet search suggested a bit of a break in the rain in South Yorkshire mid afternoon. 
Another click took me through to the The Hunstsman Inn's website, which has an up-to-date on-line beer list. http://www.thehuntsmanthurlstone.co.uk/
It showed me they had Dukeries Santa's Beer'd 3.9%, White Rose Lighter Shade of Ale 4.2% and Acorn 11th Noel 5.8%, plus the beers waiting to come on.
The website also told me that the Christmas beers, which turned out to be in tip top condition, were £2.50 a pint while stocks last.
The Huntsman Inn, Manchester Road, Thurlstone, near Penistone.


So with that piece of economic information in hand, the next stop was Penistone Train Station and a slow mile march up The Trans Pennine Trail to The Huntsman in the pretty moorland fringed village of Thurlstone. The pub is a roadside inn on Manchester Road. It offers the weary traveller three guest beers (largely LocAles) plus permanents Timothy Taylor's, Black Sheep and Tetley's.


Once inside I asked the barmaid if she minded me taking some pictures of the pump clips. She politely informed me I better ask the landlord, Andy Plummer, who happened to be standing right next to me at the bar.
That introduction made, I explained that I intended to profile the pub for this blog.
Andy couldn't have been more helpful. He explained how he served a lot of LocAle beers and showed me the impressive Barnsley CAMRA list of breweries within 20 miles.
A scan showed Barnsley, Huddersfield, Sheffield and, I think, Wakefield based breweries.
Andy explained he sourced the three main Barnsley breweries: Acorn of Wombwell, Geeves of Stairfoot and Two Roses of Darton.
Sadly, one name on the list was defunct, Oakwell of Barnsley Bitter fame. They ceased brewing last year. (*see footnote). I should point out that Acorn has been brewing its own Barnsley Bitter for more than a decade now, using. It's very authentic as it uses the original 1850s yeast strain.
What's on next at The Huntsman
Next, The Huntsman's landlord picked up the taunting board to give me a better look.
Here my gigs-less eyes alighted on a new Geeves beer. I thought the father and son team had offered up their own version of Barnsley Bitter. But I misread the clip,  it was actually named Barnsley Biter and featured a photo of a small dog! The Geeves website reveals: "This time we have brewed a contemporary take on a classic brown ale. In terms of style, it can be broadly placed in the 'bitter' category, but slightly more on the sweeter side with lower levels of bitterness. 
"We've used three English hops in this beer resulting in lovely hedgerow leaf flavours, a little English hop spiciness and sweet, floral berries. At only 3.7%, it makes for an ideal session bitter that will both slake a thirst and amuse the taste buds!"
Others beers in the cellar, which grabbed my attention were two from Lincoln Green, Nottingham, which were part of a barrel swap, and a couple each from the Concertina Brewery in Mexborough and Huntsman regulars Cottage
I ordered another pub favourite, White Rose, and The Dukeries, which was new to the place. I'd drunk a rare dark beer from White Rose before the Christmas, but the Lighter Shade of Pale was, as the name implies, a return to type: pale, hoppy, soon gone. In other words an ideal starter. But it was the Christmas beers which stole the show for me. The Santa's Beer'd from Worksop based Dukeries was the golden beer that you can next to the gravy boat in the picture below. 
Sam's meat and potato pie and some beery condiments
Now I realise this isn't a food blog, despite my best attempts to sneak more grub pics on this site, but the pastry on this meat and potato pie was delicious and went well with the Dukeries.
If I've started your stomach rumbling then The Huntsman does food on Sunday lunchtimes, Tuesday evenings and for special occasions like the recent Burns' Night celebrations. The food is made by Sam's Pie and Peas, of Thurlstone. And very good it is too.
Pub sport is alive and well at this Barnsley pub
Right, back to beer. Next came another Santa's Beer'd and the Acorn to finish with. I moved out of my dining spot in the main bar and went into to the games' room, which was decorated with pump clips from down the years. While playing pool, I noticed the sun had broken through, so afterwards I walked down the stairs into the pub's beer garden. Here I drank my last Christmas beer on the sun terrace in late January.
The Acorn website describes the 11th Noel as a "rich ruby coloured ale, roasted malts and American hops combine to release rich berry fruit flavours".
It was a fine end to a good session. I'll call again soon, specifically to try The Geeves Barnsley Biter and another pie!
Footnote:
The silver lining over Barnsley Bitter is that Stancill Brewery obtained Oakwell's brewing kit before the demolition men moved into Pontefract Road. 
Regular blog readers may recall Barnsley CAMRA's secretary's Nigel Croft's post about it in August. We also put on a footnote on stating that Stancill's plans to set up in Barnsley had hit a snag.
Well, it seems the brewery is now located in beer capital Sheffield, not far from The Gardeners Rest in Neepsend. 
The brewery posted a picture on Facebook on Saturday of its Barnsley Bitter in production. Stancill hopes to have it and a mild in bars by the first week in February.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A late intro to Hudds' country pubs

The approach to The Wills O' Nats, Meltham
Back in March when I was invited to join this blog the powers that be suggested I should visit some of the Huddersfield country pubs I encounter during my cricket rambles.
Looking back nine months I discovered I had not featured a single country pub apart from some distant ones in Bradfield.
Last Saturday I set about trying to rectify that with a walk from Meltham Cricket Club - sadly no play just a crow giving the pitch the key test - to Linthwaite.
My first port of call was the Wills O' Nats pub on Blackmoorfoot Road for some beer and food. I come here once or a twice a year and know they usually have three guests on plus regulars like Black Sheep.
On the bar last Saturday was Partners Blonde 3.9%, Ossett Galaxy  and Brew Company Hop Ripper 4.3%.
I sampled halves of all three.
The name derives from William son of Nathaniel
I hadn't drunk Ossett for a while until just before Christmas when I'd been quite impressed with their British hopped beer Jester.
So I was keen to try the Galaxy first - it also being one of my favourite wonder hops of last year, or was it 2012?
As Timbo described earlier on this site, the beer is the first in Ossett's World Cup of Hops 2014 beer range, which features hops from different nations all at 4%. 
Galaxy has been getting some good reviews on here and elsewhere. One of our readers described it in the comments section as "a great beer - one of the most enjoyable Ossett's for a while. Can't wait for the next!"
My half had a nice aroma and a pleasing first taste, soon leading to bittering.
Next was the Hop Ripper, a more golden coloured ale from Sheffield outfit The Brew Company. This was probably the best of the three I tried and another with a bitter finish. And it reminded me that I haven't been to The Brew Company's freehouse The Harlequin lately or the Riverside where they have a permanent beer on.
'The Ultimate Burger' 
The first two beers didn't last too long so I went for Partners Blonde from Dewsbury with my food.
I thought the pale beer was OK but it seemed a little bit thin as they say in beer speak circles. 
But in hindsight I thought I’d drunk the beers the wrong way round. I should have started with the Partners sessioner, then the Ossett and finally had the Hop Ripper. 
However as a burger accompaniment the Dewsbury beer worked perfectly fine. 
I think the excellent food, the fire, its prime walking location and the good service are the best selling points of the Nats, a regular winner of Huddersfield CAMRA's rural pub awards.
With a stone floor around the hops bedecked bar, you can trudge in with your hiking boots or damp dog and nobody gives you a sniffy glance. 
As I’d come out without a map, I asked helpful bar staff the best route to my next destination, The Sair
I was given easy to follow directions. And two people also recommended I seek out Linfit’s Enoch’s Hammer, which sounded like a heavy ABV barley wine.
I didn't find it but more of that next time...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

No Navvy Festival

There has been a rumour that there is a beer festival this weekend at the Navigation at Mirfield, this is incorrect. The next one is due in May and we will update with further details later.

Ossett Brewery goes World Cup Crazy

Firstly may I apologise for not blogging recently due to a fault with my internet connection, which is now, hopefully, corrected and I am back in the cybersphere (if thats a word !)

Whilst I was away I came across the first of the Ossett brewery 'World Cup Of Hops' beers. And pretty decent it was too.

Let me explain. This year to celebrate the Football World Cup, Paul Spencer, the Ossett head brewer has decided to produce a range of beers, using the same background pale malt base, and the same strength. All are 4% but each month a new beer will appear utilising a different hop, each one coming from a country playing in the finals.

So we can await Junga from Poland, Aramis from France, and Amethyst from the Czech Republic, amongst a collection of nine different beers. The first one up, was the fairly new Australian hop Galaxy. It was a very drinkable beer, as I said, light coloured with a subtle malt background to showcase the bitterness of Galaxy, and bring out its fruitiness, with hints of passionfruit. 

The beers will be widely available, throughout the brewery's wide estate, and I have also come across Galaxy in the free trade. Just as an aside, is the choice of Endeavour a tongue in cheek choice of hop for England, especially since it is listed for November - at least four months after the event finishes !! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Leeds paper session part two

Picture courtesy of Templar Hotel, Leeds
2nd leg:
The obvious way to continue this New York Times' inspired session would have been to head for The Cross Keys on Water Lane.
It was after all the other Leeds pub mentioned in the paper's homage to Yorkshire's real ale scene.
I've been there once before and had a great time washing down haggis scotch eggs with Kirkstall's Three Swords on Burns' Night.
But lurking in the back of my mind was a long-held ambition to visit a pub I'd heard a lot about but had never been to - The Templar Hotel.
I remembered the vocal campaign to save the pub which is being waged by customers and MPs after it was left under a cloud by developers.
But I had little compass on it until I walked out of one of Leeds' fancy arcades and saw its tiled Melbourne Ales facade bathed in the streetlights.
After drinking in the architecture I finally made it through the doors and was equally impressed by the long-bar, the booths, the wood panelling and the Knights Templar histories.
Front entrance. Picture c/o Templar's twitter account
This beer chronicler also noted Goose Eye chinook, Bradfield Farmers Blonde and two from Ridgeside , among others, on the bar.
My friends and I ordered pints of Farmers Blonde, Ridgeside Stargazer and Snake Charmer, which came to eight quid something. Then we took a seat in the rear snug.

As I was drooling over the nelson sauvin hopped Stargazer from up the road in Meanwood, I looked up and saw they had Masters Snooker on several screens throughout the bar.
Now, I know the prospect of TVs in real ale bars may fill some traditionalists with dread, but not me.
This was done in an understated way, the volume wasn't ramped up to ear-splitting and I could just hear John Virgo saying: 'Where's the cue ball going?'
People were quite happily playing cards nearby, chatting or just having a quiet pint.
Beer wise, one of my friends stayed on Farmers Blonde during our visit while another friend and I shopped about.
He was on the Ridgeside Snake Charmer, an American hopped beer which he really rated. So I jumped on that next and gave it the thumbs up too. 

The brewery is also behind a special beer highlighting the pub's plight in the wake of the planned Eastgate development.
I'm uncertain as to what the current state of play is with this. Talk of a casino seems to have died down and there is some suggestion the pub's facade may be saved. But precious little seems to have been said about preserving the wonderful interior.
The pub appears to be safe until at least April 2014 but let's pray the lovely pub on Templar Lane remains untouched for future generations to enjoy.
But before we leave The Templar, a quick word about the service, which can make or break a pub visit in my opinion.
This was first rate, we were offered tasters when we couldn't make up our minds between the Goose Eye and Slater's Top Totty. And the bar staff switched to Eurosport when the snooker went off BBC2. Talk about listening to the customers.
But our Leeds session wasn't quite done yet. We made our way down Briggate and turned into a yard to reveal Whitelock's Ale House.
Two pints of Joshua Jane and a half of Five Points RailwayPorter
Leeds' oldest pub, aka The Turk's Head, will be 300-years-old next year. We called quite late when it was atmospherically lit by candlelight and some other subdued lighting, so we didn't see its full dimensions. But knew we were somewhere steeped in history where they know a bit about serving good beer after 299 years in the trade.
Actually, the current management took over in May 2012 but seem to be doing a fine job if last Thursday's visit was anything to go by.
I was going to order Ilkley's Joshua Jane,  a Yorkshire nut-brown ale made with US hops, which I'd enjoyed a bottle of recently.
But then my eye alighted on Five Points Railway Porter 4.8%. I think Tim the Younger had told me about this brewery the last time I bumped into him down The Star. 
So I opted for the dark beer from Hackney and it was the perfect finale to a fine three-pub session.
I'd started with a black IPA at The Victoria, drank pales at The Templar and finished with a porter in Whitelock's.
I love the lingering taste of a good porter or stout to reflect on my session during the long train journey home. I could still taste it six stops down the line.

For those of you wanting part one of this Leeds beer odyssey then here is the link:


Picures: All from The Templar Hotel facebook/twitter account, except the one at Whitelock's, which is mine. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

An Old Gray Lady inspired session 1


An American newspaper gave Yorkshire's real ale scene an unexpected boost earlier this week.
The New York Times published its 52 Places to Go in 2014 list which pits Yorkshire at number 22.
What's remarkable about the entry is that the usual white rose icons like York Minster, Richard the Third and Fred Trueman don't get a look in - it's all about beer.
Their are plugs for Sheffield's The Fat Cat and Kelham Island Tavern; Leeds' The Victoria Hotel and Cross Keys; three pubs in York and blogger Leigh Linley's book Great Yorkshire Beer.
So thanks to 'The Old Gray Lady' of US journalism I was inspired to visit The Victoria Hotel and a couple of other Leeds bars.
Purity's Saddle Black 5.1% at The Vicroria in Leeds 
The Victoria, on Great George Street, lies behind Leeds Town Hall. It's a Nicholson's pub and a place I make a bee-line for whenever I get the off chance to drink in the city.
There were plenty of people in when I called on Thursdsay evening. A couple of beers were turned round, so I started unconventionally with a black IPA.
I ordered Purity's Saddle Black 5.1% for a number of reasons. Firstly, I'd enjoyed the Warwickshire outfit's beers while at the terrific Wellington Pub in Birmingham city centre last year.
Secondly, I saw the cycling logo on the pump clip, and I was only a stone's throw from where the 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart will be on July 5.
It was a nice drink if a strange one for me to start with. But then again black IPA's are supposed to be unconventional, so maybe it's perfectly acceptable kick-off beer?
A quick visit to the Purity website reveals the brewer's description of the beer.
It says: "Saddle Black (is) a full-flavoured hoppy black beer, dedicated to cyclists and available in cask from the end of November until March 2014. Saddle Black is brewed using smoked, chocolate and black malts and New World hops Chinook and Cascade. Together these create a well-rounded beer with aromas of citrus, chocolate and espresso."
Part way through my session, I was joined by two friends and citizens of Leeds. So we bagged one of The Vic's famous booths to begin our Leeds session in earnest.
The aforementioned turned round clips were flipped barside to reveal two handpulls of Lancaster Ales Blueberry Ale 4.3%. So we all went for that.
It was a pleasant pale beer, which sparked an inevitable conversation about Bradfield Belgian Blue and  also revealed that one of my friends is a big fan of Saltaire's Rasberry Blonde.
Next up we went for a native beer. Now Leeds Pale 3.8% is a beer I've fallen in and out of love with over the past few years. But the pint in The Vic was superb and has put this beer firmly back on my radar.
After something to eat, which I think is a fine feature of Nicholson's pubs, it was time for a move. But not before we had one last good look at The Victoria Hotel, with its fine decor and plush front room.
The blue plaque outside reveals the hotel was built in 1865 to help people attending the Assizes at Leeds Town Hall. Accommodation included spacious dining rooms, bars, private sitting rooms, a large meeting room, 28 bedrooms and a billiard room.
Now, I don't think it's a hotel anymore and I didn't see any signs of that game of yesteryear, billiards - but this Victorian beauty is still thriving.
Why not pay The Vic and other Leeds pubs a visit. 
Join us shortly for part two, which will feature a prolonged supping session watching Masters Snooker in The Templar Hotel and and a nightcap porter in Leeds' oldest pub, Whitelock's, Established 1715.

You can read the New York Times article about Yorkshire's pubs here: 



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Spreading the beer gospel on't radio

The Hum released February 17. Image c/o O'Hooley and Tidow
Folk duo O'Hooley and Tidow have once again been spreading the real ale gospel on the airwaves.
Regular aswiftone.com readers will recall how their Summat's Brewin' song - an ode to real ale in Huddersfield - was previewed on Radio 2 in November.
Well, on Sunday night the musicians had a showcase on Radio Leeds where they talked about their forthcoming album, The Hum, which features that new beer anthem.
They also played a Ewan MacColl cover and talked about collaborating with former Chumbawamba guitarist Boff Whalley. 
Then Belinda and Heidi discussed that song which name-checks plenty of brewers we write about on this blog.
Summats' Brewin' lyrics mention local brewers Mallinsons, Milltown, Magic RockSportsman, Riverhead and Summer Wine.
Radio hosts The Dubervilles asked them how the song came about.
O'Hooley and Tidow replied: "We are very interested in real ale. We've done a lot of research - lots. We found that Yorkshire, and Huddersfield in particular, seems to be a hub of the new real ale revolution.
"People are rejecting corporate, kind of bland tasting lagers. In replacement they are going for these really lovely craft ales.
"One of our favourites, actually is brewed by two women, Mallinsons - we are not under commission or anything, there are other beers!
"We just thought there just really had to be a song written about this."
You can listen to the whole show for the next few days here:
The Summats' Brewin' section starts at 44m 52secs. But the The Ewan MacColl cover about the navvies building the M1, Just a Note, is also well worth a listen at 19m 45secs.
It too features on the The Hum, which will be realeased on February 17.
The album launch is at Marsden Mechanics Hall on March 8.
And keep your eyes peeled for the forthcoming video of Summat's Brewin', which was shot on location at nearby Riverhead Brewery in Marsden.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

York CAMRA's awards at The Guildhall

York Guildhall
Last night I was kindly invited to a splendid beer shindig in historic York.
Malcolm Bastow, of Five Towns Brewery, asked me if I wanted to come along with his family and friends to York CAMRA's presentation night.
He was due to pick up two prizes for his cricket themed beers Ashes and Bodyline, which won gold and silver respectively in the LocAle awards at York Beer Festival back in September. 
Malcolm also mentioned something about free beer and food, so I thought it was only polite to graciously accept his invitation!
The fine setting for the prize-giving was the York Guildhall. The idea was each brewer would provide his or her winning beer and each bring a party of 10.
The majority of us in the Bastow delegation started with the Five Towns Ashes, which won gold in the 4% to 4.4% category. 
It was a 4.3% pale beer made with wonder hop mosaic. It had plenty of taste at a sensible ABV. Five Towns usually specialises in easy-drinking, high strength beers but this was a lowish ABV corker.
It was a really good opener, which got me ready to work up the scale. I jumped up to a 5.7% beer next with Brass Castle's Sunshine, which was a winner both in the York CAMRA and SIBA North East competition, which ran alongside the festival on the Knavesmire in mid September.
I'd been drinking slowly and had heard people purring about this beer, so it came highly recommended and didn't disappoint.
The brewer describes it way better than I can, so here is what they have to say about it on their website: "Our take on the 'winter warmer'. An East Yorks version of the fashionable US West Coast hop-forward IPA. 
"Bitterness is balanced by malt sweetness in our IPA and dry-hopping rounds out the aroma. Three hop types in this one, to justify the 'sunshine-in-a-glass' claim. Just what you need to brighten a grey winter (or even summer!) day!"
It also comes in black as Eclipse, a black IPA dry-hopped with citra. So I'll seek that one out soon.
Time was running short for me transport wise, so I did my usual and looked out for a dark beer to finish with. There was a choice of Roosters Londinium Coffee Porter 5.5% or WharfeBank's Treacle Toffee Stout 4.5%. I hadn't had the treacle, so I went for that and some free cheesecake, which turned out to be a winning combination.
I should point out that the beer was self-service, so I pulled my first ever pint. I'm glad to say all that time spent idling at various bars has paid off. I must have soaked up some bar skills as there was no frothy volcano head just a tight two finger head, which meant I could saunter back to my perch for the awards ceremony without shaming myself in front of the beer cognoscenti.
The awards themselves were handed out one by one to the brewers.
The roll call of winners can be found on York Camra's site: http://www.yorkbeerfestival.org.uk/2013/
My abiding memory of the ceremony was the announcer telling us that 10 Norwegians had enjoyed last year's York Beer Festival so much that they have already booked their plane tickets for this year's festival (September 17-20).
After experiencing York CAMRA's tremendous hospitality last night I shall be booking my (Northern Rail) ticket shortly for their next do.
The approach to York Guildhall

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

West Riding celebrates 20th birthday

The West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms is celebrating its 20th birthday in style.
The pub on Dewsbury Train Station, part of the TransPennine Real Ale Trail, is hosting a light supper with a 1994 vs 2014 beer line up tomorrow (Wednesday) from 6pm.
I'm intrigued by what we were all supping 20 years ago. I wasn't much of a beer drinker back then and just have hazy memories of sampling Olde English malt liquor and Sapporo as an exchange student in America. But I digress.
Back to Dewsbury 2014. The WRLRR facebook page today informs us: "Tomorrow is our 20th Birthday!!! We'll have a special birthday beer on that our staff members Jim and Adam helped brew at Great Heck, as well as two other beers brewed specially for our birthday by Fernandes and The Brew Company
"Also other beers on the bar from Magic Rock, Roosters, Batemans and Black Sheep. Who's coming to help us celebrate??"
Then on Friday there is live music from Eric The Viaduct & friends from 8pm.
I must confess, I haven't been to the West Riding for about a year but have happy memories of the place and the Ale Day Breakfast.
I think I first went in shortly before James May's & Oz Clarke's Drink to Britain TV programme brought the award-winning pub to national attention in 2009.
But I haven't done the ale trail since its well documented problems.
However, I won't let that cloud my judgement and I really must pay The West a visit to wish it a very Happy Birthday.

Our anniversary beers on sale from tomorrow.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Interview with a brewer: Nick Briggs

Nick Briggs with Star landlady Sam Watt
As a 'ticker' there is nothing finer than coming across a new beer that no one else has ever drunk before.
I achieved just that in Huddersfield last Saturday in The Star with many other people at the launch of Briggs Signature Ales.
While supping its debut beer, Northern Soul, I managed to snatch a few words with Nick Briggs to compliment him on his very quaffable creation.
I also had a fair few 'what next' questions to ask him, but he was a man in demand and had a pub full of people to meet and greet.
However, Nick kindly agreed to do an email interview to tell us more about his plans for his new brewery.
We'll employ the usual Q&A format, which worked well when author and blogger Leigh Linley was last in the aswiftone.com interview hot seat.
But before that, a thank you to photographer Steve Goodwill for supplying all the pictures and to Holme Valley correspondent raisathedog for arranging it.
Nick pulls a pint under expert supervision 
Ale Ambler (AA): First of all, Nick, congratulations on a memorable launch night at The Star at Folly Hall. You seemed to be getting plenty of positive feedback on your beer. Which hops were used in Northern Soul?

Nick Briggs (NB): Cascade and Centennial, I wanted to use some of my favourites for my first beer.

AA: I note from your twitter account, @BriggsSigAles, that we should, 'Look out for Northern Soul in pubs across West Yorkshire!'
Have you had many enquiries from pubs about your beer since Saturday night or even beforehand?

NB: Yes, I have been approached by several good pubs in Huddersfield and beyond. The beer should be coming on bars soon.
A man and his beer
AA: I gather that having your own brewery has been a long-held dream of yours. How you did you get into brewing, was it the traditional homebrew route?

NB: I did a bit of home brewing, but it wasn’t very good. In fact if my homebrew was anything to go by I wouldn’t have carried on. It was a passion for beer that made me pursue a career in brewing rather than my early skill.

AA: Please tell us a bit about your career in beer.

NB: I started my career at Elland Brewery as trainee assistant brewer and general brewery hand. I was very quickly made a full time brewer at Elland and later co-Head Brewer. 
I enjoyed three good years at the brewery - in which time my beer improved from the original homebrew, I hope! It received National recognition from CAMRA and SIBA. 
In the summer of 2013 a position became available at Mallinsons Brewing Company, whose beer I had long held in high regard. I applied for the position and was lucky enough to be successful.

AA: Star landlady Sam made it clear in her launch night speech that you will continue to work for Mallinsons as well as brewing your own ales there. How will that arrangement work, please? Will you brew on set days?

NB: It is a business arrangement that involves me renting Mallinsons spare capacity as and when it is available. I brew the beers and do other work involved with Briggs Signature Ales in my own time. That way the two companies are completely separate and I can focus on my work for Mallisons wholly.

AA: How have Tara and Elaine from Mallinsons helped with your own venture? Is a collaborative brew with them on the cards or would that be too much like the day job?

NB: Tara and Elaine have helped me enormously, allowing me to use their plant for my own venture is more than I could have expected. They have given me advice on many aspects of the industry that I had little experience in. I would certainly be up for collaboration in the future.

AA: Do you have a favourite beer in their portfolio?

NB: It’s impossible to single one out. Their range of single hopped beers are some of the best I’ve ever tasted, that’s one of the reasons I was so keen to work at Mallinsons.

AA: When you brewed Northern Soul at Mallinsons in Lockwood, was it at the back of your mind to make it significantly different from their pale and hoppy beers, which we know and love?

NB: I was very wary not to brew a Mallinsons by any other name, I would have been doing my employers an injustice to do so. I made sure the malt bill was very different and the overall feel of the beer was quite separate from a Mallinsons beer.
Briggs Signature Ales Northern Soul
AA: The Northern Soul pump clip was quite striking. How did that artwork come about, please?

NB: I wanted to produce, as you say, striking pump clips that would catch the eye and intrigue. So with the help of my wife Emily we created a range of character based pump clips, starting with Northern Soul. The next instalments will be revealed with future beers. The fantastic artwork was produced by the Huddersfield based artist and illustrator Martin Simpson: http://www.martinsillustration.com/

AA: As usual, the ticker in me is thinking what is coming next from Briggs Signature Ales? 

NB: There will be more beer from Briggs Signature Ales available the early part of the year. I can’t tell you what it will be called because I haven’t decided yet.

AA: Can I expect a dark beer in your range?

NB: I have every intention of producing dark beers, I’m not ruling anything/style out for the future.


AA: Finally, I'll thank you and leave you with that cheesy job interviewer's question: 'Where do you see yourself in five years from now?'

NB: Thank you for the opportunity for the interview, I look forward to reading the finished article on the fantastic blog. In five years time I hope to still be brewing good beer in Huddersfield. I am planning a small bottle range.

Brewery Contact information:
Briggs Signature Ales,
info@briggsales.co.uk

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Its Reflection Time

A New Year always brings a time for reflection, and beer drinkers and beer bloggers are no different. Yesterday I got to thinking back on some of the beers that seem to have changed over the years since I have been drinking, and why.

I will not name names, it would not be fair, but I feel that some of the beers that I have always considered to be in the vanguard of brewing are not the beers that they were. We all have our top ten beers, but if you look back a few years and try them now, are they still the same or do they still give you the wow factor?

I have touched on this before but can still not find a definitive answer, and brewers seem somewhat reluctant to discuss the matter. The beer that you found in 2008, with a massive hop hit and pushing the taste envelope, seems somewhat staid nowadays. Is it because your tastebuds have changed? Possibly after all you are five years older.  Is it because the ingredients have changed over the years? Maybe, after all hops and barley are living organisms and different years may bring forth better or worse crops. Has the brewer changed the recipe? This is a tricky one. And the one I will expand on a little.

Lets suppose that a brewery brews a beer that becomes very successful, possibly winning awards even. The brewery obviously wants to take advantage of that success and wants to brew as much of the beer as possible to satisfy the drinker and make money as well. They only have a small plant. What do they do?

Some will outsource the brewing to a brewery who have spare capacity. Is this the same beer? I believe that any change in ingredients, (water, yeast, hops and malt) will affect the taste, and effectively produce a different beer, albeit only slightly different to the original, but still different. Other breweries in an attempt to save a little money may cut down on some of the basic ingredients, again a different beer in my opinion. The original recipe required a certain balance, to mess with the recipe changes the taste.

It must be a difficult balance to achieve, and one that I am glad I do not have to do. 

Another factor to consider, is that the beer you thought was wonderful then, may still be wonderful now but just that other breweries and other beers are more wonderful. And your old favourite slips down the pecking order.

I don't know the answer, in fact I don't think I want to know the answer. I just want to enjoy the beer. In fact I may just have to have another and do some more thinking. Happy New Beer to you all !!