Saturday, January 24, 2015

InterCity drinking: The between trains pint

The King's Head on Huddersfield Railway Station.
Picture: Steve Goodwill
Say what you like about the snow-induced travel chaos, for me it has opened up a window of unexpected ale opportunities.
My motor has been snowed or iced in for the best part of a week so I've been indebted to Northern Trains for getting me about in West and South Yorkshire.
On the way home from work I have to catch two trains, which has given me the chance of beer pit stops between trains.
My one-pint travel odyssey began on Monday in the King's Head where like Tim I heard about plans for the grand unveiling of the domed ceiling.
Now, this pub is among my favourites in Huddersfield and I often call in for a dark beer before heading home.
This time it was pretty much a pale affair with the exception of Golcar's Guthlacs Porter and Empire's Moonraker Mild, both of which I'd had recently.
So, with only 50 minutes on my travel clock,  I had to whittle down the choice to two beers from a host of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Derbyshire breweries.
First I chose a beer I hadn't had for a while, but which I think is a staple at The Kings Head, namely, Magic Rock's Ringmaster. I can't remember the last time I tried it, maybe before the name change or it could've been the NZ variant. But little did I know what I've been missing.
This 3.9% sessioner is described by the brewery as their flagship pale which you could drink every day. Sometime the tasting notes of breweries don't live up to the hype, but this was more of a tickable check list.
I would've been quite content to have had another half but I felt I had to move up through the gears.
My next beer was another that I hadn't had in ages - Thornbridge's Jaipur, 5.9%.
I try to judge beer on its merits and not be influenced by talk that Thornbridge, and particularly, Jaipur aren't as good as they used to be. But I have to say it wasn't a patch on the Magic Rock and was quite disappointing. There was nothing wrong with the way it was looked after as the King's has an excellent cellar, I just felt there was something lacking in taste for such a high ABV beer.
But I found it in spades on day two of my station to station trip. This time I found myself with a paltry 20 minutes between trains in Barnsley, which is just enough to hoof it to the Old No7 on Market Hill.
I have a soft sport for Acorn's New World hopped beers, which they do every couple of years or so. But I've missed quite a few of these 5% IPAs this time round, but I finally caught up with the eighth in the series, Rakau IPA.
Acorn's specials showcase New Zealand hops
Now, I'm not as knowledgeable as Tim about hop styles and characteristics so I had to look it up. According to Hopunion's website it's "well suited for new world styles where brash fruity character and big, but well constructed bitterness is desired" and its aroma is of "fresh orchard fruits, specifically apricot with some resinous pine needle characteristics are noted".
I'm not sure my palate is discerning enough to pick out "pine needle characteristics" but resinous, brash and fruity it sure was.
I didn't know it at the time but this was my beer of the week and pipped a firm favourite of mine (more of which later).
It wasn't a beer to rush but I just had time for a pint and to see it was alongside another Antipodean beer, AllGates Victoria.
AllGates Victoria is made from Ella hops
I came back the next night to try it and luckily it was still on the bar. This 4% pale showcases Ella hops, which were apparently first bred in Victoria, Australia in 2001. It's the more subtle sister of Galaxy, nice but not so much in your face.
Again this was a pleasant pint to savour and not one to clock-watch the timetable with.
As I said to Tim in a text, InterCity drinking is a bit like Twenty-20 cricket - all the highlights of the beer experience without the pleasure of watching a session unfold. In the quick form of the game have to be decisive and expect a dud innings once in a while.
But The Old No 7 was high up the batting averages, I scored a six and a four from the deliveries I faced. I just had enough time to glance at at the taunting pole before heading for the strange-looking pavilion that is Barnsley Interchange. 
Beers to come include, I think, another from AllGates and two from the consistently excellently North Riding, of Scarborough. So it should be worth checking out if you are in the area or can't face the interminably long journey from Huddersfield to Sheffield.
The final day of my Northern Rail weekly jaunt took me to Wakefield and Huddersfield.
I had a more leisurely 30 minutes this time before the train so I headed to Harry's Bar just off Westgate.
Harry's Bar, off Westgate and Smyth Street, Wakefield
This is my favourite pub in Wakefield city centre and I wish I could get here more often. So I had to make the most of my half-hour here. The choice was between Five Towns' Harry's Beer (on permanently and a big draw card here), a couple from Pendle, one I didn't catch, Revolutions Happy Families and Kelham Island's Pale Rider. I went for halves of the last two.
Now I am a big fan of Revolutions darker beers, particularly the Manifesto stout, but I've not seen much of their pale beers on cask lately.
The brewery's website tells me that Happy Families, 4.5%, is made with hops from three continents: England, USA and Australia. Incidentally, its name is inspired by Blancmange's debut album. The beer is straw-cloured and is designed to reflect "one big global, hoppy, happy family".
I have to say I didn't find it overly hoppy and was surpised by the ABV when I took a look at the pump clip. It drunk more of a light sessioner volume. Not an unpleasant beer, just a bit more subtle than I was expecting given the Yankee and Aussie hops in it.
My final half in Harry's was an old favourite, Kelham Island's Pale Rider, which I think was among the first real ales I ever drunk.
I haven't sampled it for a while and don't recall ever having it outside its Sheffield heartland. Unlike the Jaipur I'd had earlier in the week, I felt this beer lived up to my fond memories. It was excellent and only marginally eclipsed by Acorn's Rakau, which was the best beer I've drunk all week.
But I haven't quite done quite yet. I rounded the trip off where it began - in Huddersfield.
I had about 25 minutes to kill before heading home, so I nipped down to HDM Beer Shop on Wood Street, which is a short hop from the station.
HDM Beer Shop, Wood Street, Huddersfield.
Picture: David Litten.
Here I saw a raft of Hand Drawn Monkey beers on cask and a line of keg fonts. I saw my favourite Magic Rock beer, High Wire, which I've never had on keg before.
So I ordered a third. I've only had the cask version before and it is a beer I really enjoy, so I was keen to find out what it tasted like on keg.
A friend of mine, let's call him 'anti-keg', would probably have described it as 'cold and fizzy'. Not a beer to toss back when you only have minutes to spare. I was half way down Wood Street - thinking that perhaps keg beers didn't lend themselves to quick-format drinking - when the taste hit my palate. Fantastic, and the taste lingered from station to station down the line home.  A fitting end to a week of train travel.
Magic Rock's High Wire 5.5%

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