Saturday, October 31, 2015

A few words about one beer and two festivals

Art Decade - a vintage beer.
If you are anywhere near Ossett and Salford this weekend I suggest you make a detour to catch a simply wonderful beer.
Art Decade is a collaborative effort between Five Towns and the man behind the Salford Independent Beer Festival.
I first had this 6.4 per cent IPA at Wakefield Beer Festival, where it was on good form but on Thursday I had it at The Old Vic's O to K beer festival in Ossett where it was a revelation. But don't just take my word for it, the boss of A Swift One was in attendance too and he was equally as effusive as me.  
The beer was brewed for this weekend's Salford Independent Festival, where plenty of Wakefield folk are heading too. Lucky sods.
So if you are in the vicinity of Manor Road, Ossett or the Saint Sebastian's Community Centre, Salford this weekend then I suggest you catch it while you can.
Check the website for ticket availiabilty at Salford and the impressive beer list.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

600 and counting !!

Yesterday I had a pint of Mallinsons 'Brewers Calypso' in the Rat and Ratchet. Nothing unremarkable in that you may say. A very good brewery, and a good beer. Except that on checking I discovered that it had been my 600th different Mallinsons beer.

I must make it clear that this is not their 600th different beer brewed but the 600th I have tried - some - especially in their early days - were dry hopped specials for events and festivals and only available for a short time (in some cases, very short times !). But my milestone made me think how far one of our favourite local breweries have come since their first appearing on the bar in the Grove on 5th June 2008, aptly named 'At Long Last', and how far and wide I have been in search of their beers.

I have visited many festivals in search of one, or two beers all around the county. At one stage they were brewing beers especially for the New Oxford In Salford, and The Crescent in Salford, so several visits were made over the border. More recently I had to trek out to the Fox and Goose at Hebden Bridge for a house special there, and there has been a full brew length for the Sportsman, both of which were unique to the respective pubs.

From the outset Tara and Elaine have been the most approachable of brewers, and have been to listen to the drinkers advice or suggestions on their beers. Some of us have even been given the privilege of 'assisting' them to brew a beer. I managed it with Pete Byrne as a joint birthday present and we came out with 'A Swift One' but they have been kind enough to let plenty of others into the inner sanctum and see what sort of beer they could fashion.

Many of their beers have been themed, particularly in the early days and we have had several beers named after viaducts, buses, plants, wonders of the world, rivers and more recently birds and butterflies. They have even allowed us to use our pictures on their pump clips.

Their success can be measured in the fact that a couple of years ago they were forced to locate to larger premises from their initial site at Plover Rd in Lindley, and are now based in Lockwood Rd, and the origin two man (sorry, woman !) band of brewers has been augmented by Nick.

The beers are still excellent, and are always worth trying.And they are not frightened of experimenting a bit, but seem to be at their best with the light and hoppy stuff. So its onwards and upwards for them, and onwards for me towards my 1,000th Mallinsons beer. But that may be a year or two yet. All I can say is thank you for the experience Tara, Elaine and Nick.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A round up of CAMRA beer festivals

The Saturday session at Sheffield Beer & Cider Festival
This month I've been spending rather a lot of time with CAMRA.
Whether their beer festivals have been in Huddersfield, Wakefield or Sheffield - I have been there.
It began in Huddersfield on October 1 with the branch's Oktoberfest.
We wrote about it at the time (see lower down the blog roll) but since then the results for beer of the festival have been announced.
Briggs Rhapsody #2 won the Charlie (best in show) and the bitter awards. Other local winners included Riverhead, Small World, 'Udders Orchard who won the mild, stout/porters and cider categories, respectively.
But there wasn't an overall local winner at Wakefield, whose festival wrapped up last weekend.
Titanic's Plum Porter topped the public vote, but I understand it was a close run thing from Five Town/Beers Manchester's Art Decade and Fernandes' Black Voodoo
The latter's Rhubarb & Custard was the first beer to run off but it did not feature in the festival top ten.
Today I went to Sheffield CAMRA's beer festival whose best in fest had already been decided upon.
Crafty Devil Brewing, of Cardiff, won it with Mikey Rayer, All Dayer. North Riding/Beers Manchester came second with Red Citra and Saltaire's Triple Chocoholic was third.
I didn't get a chance to try any of them as, I'm told, they all ran off on Thursday.
But there was plenty of good beer and cider to be had. I stuck local, which seemed to be a my theme at all three festivals. My picks were Stancill's American Pale and Blue Bee's Attack of The Geek, which unbeknown to me won the strong bitter category at Huddersfield at the beginning of the month. The latter was so good it required another visit to the bar. It was described to me as a good summery drink and a fine way to bring down the curtain on British Summer Time.
Congratulations to all the festival organisers and the brewers. Same time next year?  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wetherspoons Autumn Festival Starts Tomorrow

If you are not as lucky as my collegue, Ale Ambler, and have to  stay nearer home, Friday 16th October sees the start of the Wetherspoons Autumn Beer Fesival. It offers its usual selection of 50 beers (so the sadder amongst us can play 'spoons bingo), and they promise beers from all corners of the country some brewed by foreign guest brewers as has been the norm for recent festivals.

Locally not all the beers will appear on the pub bars at once, so it is a case of having to revisit several times to get the beers you want or visiting several different pubs. Quite a good marketing stragedy actually.

I managed to get hold of a beer list and have had a quick look at what is available for the three weeks of the festival. It starts with a 3.7% beer from Liberation in Jersey, and top of the shop is a 6.5% Red beer from Banks. And it covers every possible style and strength in between.

Most of the beers on offer are brewed at bigger breweries - presumably because of the amount that needs producing - and some are rebrews of previous festival favourites, but a quick scan of the list provided me with 40 new beers. Over two thirds of the beers are stronger than 4.5% with 16 above 5% so the drinker cannot complain about value for money.

It is pointless going through the list now, as it depends on what beers are available at which pubs initially but most of the larger ones will have the full selection on through the festival, and there will be 3 1/3 pints available for the price of a pint, which when you consider the amount and strength of the beers on offer is a good thing.

So all I can suggest is get out and get ticking - I will be.

Have just discovered that all 50 are on at once at the Union Rooms in if you want to quickly fill your card, head there !!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Wakefield CAMRA's beer festival starts on Thursday

A flashback to last year's festival

This is just a brief reminder that Wakefield CAMRA's beer festival gets underway at 11am on Thursday (October 15).
The festival,which runs until 11pm on Saturday, has shifted from November back to its old time slot on the ale calendar.
It's at The Space on Waldorf Way, off Denby Dale Road, near the railway viaduct at the back of Sainsbury's Ings Road store. It's roughly equidistant between the city's two railway stations, Kirkgate and Westgate.
Follow this link for the beer list and this one for venue and ticketing information.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Small World Beers and Bury Trips

The Bloke from Hull writes
Just over a year ago in June 2014 beers from the new Small World brewery began to appear in the Huddersfield area and it was not long before some SPBW (Society for The Preservation of Beers from the Wood) West Riding branch members had tasted them. The feedback was great. On their recommendation the brewery was approached and a visit arranged. 
Around 30 branch members filled the coach on a bright Saturday morning in July and it was not long before we had left the motorway for the outer reaches of Huddersfield district. Located between Shelley and Shepley, the brewery is in one of the units on the Barncliffe Mills trading estate, formerly used for textile production.
We were greeted by owner Dave Hill and operations manager Pete Forder and there was no preamble just a huge surprise. They had borrowed a few wooden casks from Neil and Maureen at The Junction in Castleford. Especially for us, two beers, Long Moor Pale (3.9% ABV) and Thunderbridge Stout (5.2% ABV) were available from the wood. These were via handpump in the lovely upstairs wood logged brewery bar / hospitality area, nicely constructed into the rafters of the building.
For the enthusiasts Long Moor Pale was also available from a steel cask on the downstairs bar. Some of us took up the challenge and, yes, we did taste the difference which not only pleased us but also Dave. Alongside on the downstairs bar were Barncliffe Bitter (3.7% ABV) and Summer Bank (3.7% ABV). 
Once everyone had a drink and made themselves comfortable around various parts of the brewery, Dave and Peter circulated amongst small groups and even individuals to answer questions. We were also allowed to wander off on our own to inspect the various parts of the brewery – even to take photographs of the wooden casks in the cellar!
Of particular interest, amusement and hilarity were the unusual half pint polycarbonate glasses that appeared. These had the appearance of a standard pint glass that had been sliced into two vertically from base to rim. And of course this was a photo opportunity that was certainly not missed.
As the hospitality continued, the food arrived. Firstly, courtesy of Dave’s wife Penny, light snacks of cheese, meat and crackers appeared and rapidly disappeared. Then it was time for the now famous Barncliffe Chilli, expertly prepared by Peter’s wife Joanne. Great scran indeed! And then – more lovely beer.
After around four hours of wonderful hospitality it was sadly time to set off to our next destination. Our thanks go to Penny and Dave and Peter and Joanne. Just great.
Following some snoozing and sobering up we arrived in Bury near the market and as time was on our side several of us ventured into the market to buy some of the world famous Black Pudding. While some chose to eat it hot there and then others bought some for later. A treat indeed. 
Undoubtedly, the highlight for beer was the Trackside, part of the East Lancs Railway. They were having their “Summer Diesel Gala Weekend”. Alas, as a result, there were no steam trains but nevertheless it was very interesting for many to recall their notebook youth days. And not forgetting the extremely rare red telephone box with postbox and stamp vending machine on the platform. As a consequence there was a constant but fast moving queue at the bar for a fine selection of lovely beers. 
A very interesting new pub was The Clarence which is a smart place with Silver Street Microbrewery in the cellar which could be viewed on the way to the loos. At the bar there were several guest beers alongside the three house beers (which could be purchased as 3 x 1/3s by CAMRA members at a discount). There were plenty of other good pubs too.
As always time to depart came around all too soon and after more snoozing and sobering up on the bus we arrived in Leeds on time. Several of us chose to visit the great new Leeds Brewery pub, The Lamb and Flag which was conveniently located at our dropping off point. And to round off an exceptional day a few of us crossed the road for some more great beers in The Duck and Drake while watching great blues band Crosscut Saw.

Postscript: Apologies to BFH, Small World and SPBW for the lateness of this post, which was an oversight on my part, Ale Ambler.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Your last chance for Oktoberfest in Huddersfield this year

Today (Saturday) is your last chance to get along to Huddersfield CAMRA's Oktoberfest.
I paid a visit to the Apna Venue leisure centre on opening night and headed straight for new Meltham brewery Three Fiends.
I searched on the main bar and was surprised not to see either of their ales on the handpull bar.
There was a good selection from Rat, HDM, Nook, Empire, Half Moon, Milltown, Reedley Hallows, of Burnley, Briscoe's, of Otley, and Three Kings, of North Shields, among others on the front line.
Normally, I stick to handpull at festivals as I'm not a great fan of beer on gravity. I like my beer through a sparkler and with plenty of life.
But here quite a few beers that I wanted were on stillage. So I put aside my method of dispense snobbery and stuck to my mission. I first tried Three Fiends Two Faces, a 4 per cent bitter, which was fine.
I was drinking with a group of people, one of whom was new to beer festivals and was a lager man - let's call him Dr Boeuf to preserve his anonymity!
So we set about trying to find beers that might suit the good doctor. Milltown Platinum Blonde was suggested and duly tried, but this too was on gravity and so lacked the 'fizz' he was accustomed too. I had the Milltown  Black Jack porter on handpull, which was good.
Next up, knowing Dr Boeuf's love of football and puns, was The Rat's Sepp Ratter. I think this found favour.

At  this point I bumped into The Bloke From Hull who suggested a number of breweries, including Half Moon, whom he had brewed with.
I tried their Iceni, on handpull, which was my favourite beer of the night. a 4.3 per cent blonde beer. Afterwards we had a couple from Empire, Handsome Jack and I think Veteran's Ale, which Dr Boeuf really liked.
Next we tried Mallinsons Amazon Attack! which was another beer the BFH had a hand in brewing. This was on gravity, as I think were all the Mallinsons. Dr Boeuf seemed impressed by this special, as was I, which was a hike up the gravity stakes at 5.2 per cent.
But he was even more wowed by Magic Rock's Villainous at 6.5 per cent, which got his vote of beer of the night.
Another friend in our group particularly liked both the Reedley Hallows, Riverhead's Damson Mild and Old Mill Traditional Mild.  
We rounded it off with Golden Years, a collaboration brew from North Riding Brewery and Five Towns at 5.6 per cent, which must be amongst the lowest ABVs beers these two have jointly created. OAP DIPA (9.6 per cent) and 300 (7.3 per cent) spring to mind.
A fine end to an enjoyable night. The beer festival runs from 11am to 11pm today (October 3). Don't miss out.

The Huddersfield Examiner has put together a nice montage of pictures from the event, including plenty of pumpclips. You can view it here   

Thursday, October 01, 2015

An Interesting Couple of Hours In Mansfield

Normally I do not do posts from outside our immediate area, but yesterday I had occasion for a family birthday to travel into the East Midlands. As people who know me know, I do not do birthdays. So the opportunity was there to clear off for a couple of hours and check out the local bus and beer scene.

I usually travel from Bolsover - the scene of the birthday and a beer desert - to Chesterfield, but I had heard good things about Mansfield, and since the two towns are virtually equidistant I thought it would be good to take a look.

I was armed with the Camra 'Good Beer Guide' phone app (an excellent acquisition for £5) to guide me around. I parked up by the bus station - at least I knew I could find the car again ! - and set off down the hill.

My first call was 'Court House' - a standard 'Spoons outlet - with a disappointing beer range. Oh bugger I thought. I hope things improve. Well, they did but not quite as I expected.

My next pub was just off Church St. I found that easily enough (the Court House is in the Market Place and all the main streets seem to radiate from there) but could I find 'The Olde White Lion' - not a chance. I did fortunately look up a side road, and my eagle eye spotted some casks so made my way there. Up White Hart Street, and on the left hand side is the 'Beer Shack'. A micro pub, and a gem. Five beers on handpull, no keg, no lager except one bottled, and a vinyl record player playing old LPs. The beers were mainly locally sourced and covered most styles and were in good nick. And a long chat with Lisa (I think) revealed the pub had been open a couple of years and is part of a small chain with other pubs in Hucknall, and oddly, Burnley.The pub is closed on Sunday and Monday but despite what the beer guide says it is open the rest of the week, from 12 noon and all day.

With some better directions from Lisa I retraced my steps back to Church St and found White Lion Yard on the left hand side nestling near a Chinese shop. The 'Olde White Lion' is visible at the top and was my next surprise. It is a pub hewn out of the rock in the 15th century allegedly
, with the beer bar at the far end, with three beers available on gravity dispense. Again a locale was on offer, so I tried that, at a reasonable price and went outside to chat to the eclectic range of customers outside. Strange but decent people.

I had another pub to visit so I retraced my steps past the Shack and at the top of the road, diagonally across the road was the 'The Railway'. A pub previously owned by Batemans it had three beers on offer, but seemed to geared for a busy lunchtime food trade, so a swift half of another Locale (you can probably tell by know I have mislaid my beer notes !) and onwards.

I have had my quota by now so it was back to the bus station for a bit of bus spotting. I was here that I suddenly twigged - I had walked about 15 minutes to get to the Court House and then got clockwise round my route. If had left the bus station carpark, walked across the front of the bus station and gone anti clockwise I could have reached all the pubs within 5 minutes - hindsight is a wonderful thing !

If I have whetted your appetite for Mansfield it seems I only scratched the surface with pubs but got the better ones in the short time I was there. I will certainly revisit, and if you have a trip into the Midlands it is worth a short detour off the M1 for the unusual pubs there.