Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016, and thank you

I am sure there are not many of us that will be sad to see the end of this year, that is those of us that have managed to survive until the end of the year, I have a record collection that is now almost 100% comprised of dead people. As I have alluded to previously, the editorial team have all had personal problems that have precluded us writing as much as we, and hopefully you, would have liked. And it has likewise prevented us getting out and about as much as usual.

On the plus side, Huddersfield has acquired a couple of new pubs and a couple of revamped ones. The Corner has hit the ground running, and the Arcade is great for keg and bottled beer. The work goes on at the Kings Head but it is gradually developing, and the Plumbers has opened again.

Out of town The Market Tavern in Brighouse is a must visit venue, and Halifax continues to spawn good micro pubs to make the town well worth a visit. Another place to go is Bradford which has now got a decent amount of real ale pubs in a lot smaller area than previously.

Sadly we have lost Ron Crabtree from the Sair, and Steve Johnson from the Grove and the Dog and Partridge.

On the beer front things have developed much as one would expect. I have encountered around 100 new breweries, not all good admittedly, and presumably some others have fallen by the wayside. Several local breweries have started key kegging, and canning beers as well as the more usual casking and bottling. There have been new hops appearing in various breweries beers, but I must admit that personally none seem to have a 'wow factor'. But it does seem that that the availability of cask beer is growing.

Hopefully 2017 will see a continuation of the good parts of 2016, and weed out the less good and we can be out and about reporting the great and the good locally. We hope to see you there.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas to all our Readers

Merry Christmas to all our readers. It has been a challenging year personally for each of the editorial team and we are aware that we have not been able to post as frequently as we would have liked. However, we have all reached the end of 2016 intact - which is a miracle in itself watching the news - and will take 2017 head on. Trying to bring you updates on beers, breweries and pubs around our area.

Thank you for reading us. Any comments and suggestions are welcome, whether positive or otherwise.

Thanks Timbo, Ale Louse, Ale Ambler

Saturday, December 24, 2016

On the 23rd Day of Xmas

This was allegedly 'Mad Friday' so I thought I would play safe and stay near to home, so I had a trip around Huddersfield. There were plenty of beers about but not many of them had the 'wow' factor. I know it is that time of year, but I did expect something a little more exciting.

The best of the bunch was on keg at the Arcade Bar. If you have not been there, why not?

It was a 8.3% double IPA collaboration between Magic Rock and Cloudwater, two breweries with excellent pedigrees, and 'Big Dipper' showed that. Sadly, although good it wasn't as spectacular as I expected.

Anyway, onwards..and with only one drinking day until Xmas, let's see what The Star can offer me today.

Friday, December 23, 2016

On the 22nd day of Xmas

A visit to Bradford gave me a chance to compare and contrast two beers from one of my favourite breweries. I visited the Record Cafe in North Parade (a must visit part of the city if you happen to be there) and discovered to my pleasure that they had North Riding 'Us Session IPA' and 'US IPA' on the bar at the same time.

The former was 3.8%, and contained Chinook, Galena, and Summit hops. As session beers go, it was pretty tasty, although when compared with its bigger brother there was a lack of malty background.

The latter was 5.5% and contained a combination of Centennial and Falconers 7 hops.

I would have been hard pushed to choose a favourite between the two. All I can say is that both of them were better than any other beers I had on my travels, and I did try some old favourites. A testament to an excellent brewery.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

On the 21st Day of Xmas...

Day 21 brought a trip to Halifax and Brighouse. Plenty of decent beers and decent pubs to visit.

Things started well with 6 new beers in the Victoria. Two of those could have been mine beer of the day, but I have chosen a cask beer over a key keg. This being from Black Jack.

They have been brewing in Manchester since 2012, and brew a range of beers - covering almost every style. I am not a fan of everything they have brewed but I really enjoyed their 5% 'Devils Bedpost'.  It was the first time I had encountered the beer but it has been around since 2014 apparently.

Not quite an IPA, not quite a bitter, it was difficult to define. It was light coloured, and pleasantly hoppy, there was no indication on the clip but I suspect they were Australian. It had a pleasant citrus taste without being overpowering.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On the 20th Day of Xmas...

A planned trip to Sheffield failed to materialise, so it was a beer free day. Well, drinking wise. I did buy a long awaited can but more of that another day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

On the 19th day of Xmas

Today I revisited an old favourite, on the bar at The Grove. Castle Rock brewery 'Harvest Pale' was the beer of the day. A brewery that used to be seen around our area but in the recent times seem to be hard to find. Their specials were always interesting and their core range consistent.

'Harvest Pale' is hardly a Christmas beer - thankfully - but rather a 3.8% pale ale that seems more suited to warm summer evenings. Yesterday it was crystal clear in the glass, and crisp and fresh in the taste. A fine session beer and a great one to revisit.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

On the 18th Day of Xmas

It's time for one of your five a day !

I am always a little wary of fruit beers, they rarely seem to live up to my expectations, but I have found one that started good and just seemed to get better, and it is a draught beer too.

Red Squirrel 'Raspbeery' is what is says. It is a beer. And it has raspberries in it. Lots of them by the taste of it. It has a pinkish hue in the glass, and very little in the way of hop flavour but it is the fruit that is the star of the show.

At 4.5% it is strong enough to have a solid background to back up the fruit but there is a massive tartness from the raspberries. I thought initially that it was sour and overpowering, but the more I sampled I realised (apart from being very moreish) that it was a classic tart beer, (you know what I mean !!!). Should you wish to get hold of the bit of the barrel left after my exertions, it is on the bar in the 'Star'.

On the 17th day of Xmas

This is not about a beer but a pub.

We all talk about 'our local'; the pub we feel at home in, where we meet our friends, where we are part of the furniture in some cases.

Today I was in 'The Star' at Folly Hall, a pub that I call 'my local' although I live around 5 miles away, and I looked around at the customers. Admittedly I am not sure where everyone came from, but there were visitors there from Waterloo, from Salendine Nook, Paddock, Crosland Moor and Milnsbridge, none of which are exactly local.

But then throw in the visitors from Hebden Bridge, London, Ipswich, another from London, and Newcastleplus a few others then you have a non local 'local'.

It is a testament to the place that it attracts such a mix of people, and something that makes the place what it is. I am proud to be a small part.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

On the 16th Day Of Xmas...

Before the chaos of the previous post I managed to wander down to the Rat & Ratchet. This is a pub I used to use almost daily but because of various circumstances my visits have become less than frequent. That being the reason I have missed out on the Rat Brewery 'Grapes Of Rat' prior to today.

I never managed to get the cask version (a pin went in 5 hours on launch night), but had to satisfy myself with the keg variety. (There is a bottled version too but at £15 it seemed a step too far),

I had heard lots of interesting things about it, some good, some less so. My chance for a subjective assessment. Well, to be honest, I wasn't that impressed, but when I thought about it the reasons may be quite complex.

The beer is a barley wine and is 10%. I am used to cask barley wine, which usually gives a warmth as you sip it, savouring the complexities within. By chilling it for keg, there is a distinct change in character. There are still complex flavours there but they seem to be diminished and it was difficult to pick any specifics out. It also did not seem to drink its strength -which is a shame for a barley wine. So it is possibly the mechanics of the brewing at fault rather than the beer itself.

I would like to revisit the beer, may be in cask or bottle to see if they are better options than the keg. And I will try the keg again to see if I was just unlucky. And if I can get hold of more barley wines on keg I will try them to see if my assumption is correct. Research is a hard job !!!

The Seasonal Rant

He obviously doesn't drink where I drink ! Yes it's that time. The once a year drinkers are out in force today. I am unsure if today is 'Mad Friday' or is that next week. Whichever, today is very irritating Friday.

I had a route around the town, and it served me well for a couple of hours (but on the down side who really want's to start beer ticking at 11 am - except for research purposes obviously!) but then it was as if someone opened a tap of people and it all went downhill.

As readers may know, I occasionally serve the occasional beer, so standing on the sensible side of the bar is not too unusual....however today , on the customer side of the bar, it seemed as though everyone wanted to make as life as hard as possible for the bar staff. 'I will have a gin, (not that one, the one I had last time)' ..We will have the weakest beer you have,...but I don't like that, have you anything stronger'..'Have you no smooth-Carling-Guinness-Etc Etc' ...The obvious answer is why are you cluttering a pub with decent beer, so I cannot get served. just go somewhere where they may satisfy your needs ...Please..

The overwhelming desire to harm the customer is overwhelmed by the desire to let them have a happy Christmas, despite the fact they fail to understand the work the poor bar staff put into their day.. Ho Ho Ho and all that...just waiting till we can get our revenge !!!

Ps I am not referring to any place in particular, (except I can name two in Huddersfield at least !!!)

Friday, December 16, 2016

On the 15th Day Of Xmas...

It just to go wrong didn't it ? Had to call in the Calder in Brighouse and spied a new Stancill beer on the bar. Being in a bit of a rush I never read the small print. Their 'Mistletoe' was 4,3%, light, fairly pleasant, but it was green. Bugger. And checking my notes I had drunk it last year as well. Double bugger !

Thursday, December 15, 2016

On the 14th Day of Xmas....

Today was a time out for some father and son bonding. I had to see my offspring over a matter and where better to chat than over a beer or two. I had a couple of plans but since he had managed to  finish work early we arranged to meet up in Huddersfield. The objective then was to find a pub not full of Christmas revellers. Fortunately the Sportsman fitted the bill on this occasion.

Not only that, I espied a beer I had particularly wanted to try on the bar. Hawkhead ' Northern Imperial Stout' was sitting there tempting me. Admittedly it was 9.5% so not the beer to start a session with but it would be rude not to sample it before leaving.

It was a perfect winter beer, but dangerously drinkable for its strength. Obviously it is a dark beer, but deep and complex, a myriad of flavours mixing each mouthful different tastes. Chocolate, coffee and roast malts are all there, along with fruits in the mix. There is a bitterness but the overall effect is a winter warmer, just a shame it was 11 degrees outside !

If you cannot manage to get to the Sportsman, then the beer is also available on keg and in bottles.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

On the 13th day of Xmas.....

Well I needed a bit of shopping and the bus sort of took me to Bradford.

I went my usual haunts. As always the beer was interesting and excellent. But...

The 'Peacock' on North Parade was my objective. I know very little about the place except, it seems like a very small Indian Restaurant with a few hand pumps.

I called in there a few weeks ago and was told that the pub was going to get some 'proper' Indian beer on. (proper in this case brewed in Birmingham), from the Indian Brewery Co. I have never tried it so this was the opportunity to see how it travelled. It was excellent, a 4.9% IPA full of hop and flavour. It was certainly worth waiting for.

Should you have a need for Christmas shopping off the beaten track I can heartily recommend North Parade in Bradford. Plenty of pubs, plenty of good beers and plenty of variety.

On the 12th Day of Xmas....

As part of my usual Monday trip around Huddersfield, I happened to call in the Sportsman, (weli it would be rude not to!) and there found a new Mallinsons beer awaiting my delight.

The beers from the brewery are hardly rare, with one of them being available at most of the town's real ale pubs, but what was a little unusual about 'Simcoe XL' was its strength. I am used to their beers falling into the 3.8% to 4.2% bracket. This was 4.9%. And the name promised much. And it did not disappoint.

Typical Simcoe characteristics but more intense. Bitter, assertive and with underlying fruit notes, and with enough strength to give it a rounded body.

Not only is it available on cask but it can be found in key keg too, will have to search that out for comparison purposes !!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

On the 11th day of Xmas ..

Circumstances - (i.e family concerns) took me took me to Chesterfield today. Not a bad place to go for the odd beer or two actually, just takes a bit of walking between pubs.

But it was good to come across a few breweries there that we never see in our area. Instant Karma and Pigeon Fishers being two. (The latter is one brewery I have tried to find for around two years - today I got two new beers in 30 minutes !!0

The one - must visit - pub in Chesterfield, is the Chesterfield Ale House, in West Bar (find the Bus Station and keep walking).  Plenty of bottles and cans, but what attracts me are the 6 handpulls. Constantly changing - themed rather than brewery based - and everyone is excellent. And served by staff who know their beer

Today -apart from the previously mentioned bird brewery - had Credence '5 Hop Blonde'. It was excellent, at 5% a 'proper IPA' with 5 hops (obviously).Certainly one to look out for again when I am not driving.

On the 10th day of Xmas.....

My Lap top failed again !!!! Honest it did. But if you fancy a beer call at the Star and try Briggs Signature 'Mash Up 2' - 3.9% and a very drinkable session beer

Friday, December 09, 2016

On the 9th day Of Christmas ....

Sorry purists, have been drawn into the keg side. No I have no reason to apologise, I am quite partial to the odd keg beer, and looking at the clip, this was a little on the odd side.

Wild Beer are from Somerset, and a pretty fine brewery. I have sampled plenty of their beers in the past but always on cask, bur when I was a little short of choice in the Victoria Cafe in Halifax today I was drawn to their 'Sleeping Lemons'. 

The version I had was 3.6%. And checking on the brewery web site this is the summer version.(The winter version is 6%). It is a lemon gose. Sharp and sour, fresh, clean and with plenty of zing. It would be a perfect summer beer, and to tell the truth, it's not a bad beer for a grey December day either.

If anyone has a sighting of the 6% version let us know, I would be interested to try it.

On the 8th Day of Xmas......

I don't  really believe in Santa Claus, but as my previous post proved, there is always a place for  kind person to provide me with excellent beers, as is the case with Vocation. As I said, I had fully intended to return to the Market Tavern for another dose of their 'Chop and Change' but circumstances dictated that I had to trip into Huddersfield. And it would have been rude not to sample the odd beer or two.

My first call was the Sportsman; good beers but nothing with the wow factor, but I had overlooked the two empty pumps. I was returning my glass to the bar, I am a tidy creature, when I espied a green pump clip that had a familiar look. 'North Riding' Mosaic Pale had arrived. It arrived quietly without bells and whistles and almost eluded me. It was as excellent as ever. A great hop, a great brewery, and a great beer. There is a Santa Claus after all...

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

It is the Season to Be Jolly - Ho Ho Ho !!

Well its about 3 weeks before Christmas, so I thought I would be wrong I was.

Readers of 'A Swift One' in previous years will know of my passion for Christmas Beers (sarcasm - tongue in cheek, etc) but .... Today I had a trip round Leeds. I started early to miss the crowds in the pubs I wanted to visit. I planned to avoid all the stuff with rum, raisins, cinnamon, turkey and stuffing in it and hit the hoppy stuff.

It was a bit weird. I never saw a Christmas beer. Not that I am complaining. In fact after 1 pm it was bloody hard to see a beer at all. I have whinged before about once a year drinkers but it seems they have been replaced by a group (or may be several - every pub seemed to have one) who want to hang around in front of the bar so I can neither see the beer on the bar, nor get to the bar to order it. And this includes women of the opposite sex too who seem to think that texting is more important than me getting to the bar.

I understand this may occur in the few days before Christmas when the one a year drinkers appear but not now...if this is a foretaste of the next three weeks I am off to bed to hibernate. I had to totally change my route and plans because of them but may be it was for the best.

I did find a pub (thanks Jason) where there was a combination of excellent beer and for most of the time free of Xmas. And no Xmas beers either.

Sadly my hop search for hops was not too successful here, but on returning to Brighouse a quick call in the Market Tavern revealed a Vocation 'Chop & Change'. Result.

It wasn't until I returned for a second one that I read the strap line, 'Mosaic and Citra'. That is why it tasted so good. Now that is what Xmas is all about. Thank you Mr Claus. I may return tomorrow, and the day after and the day would be a waste to let the once a year drinkers have it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Connecting the dots

North Riding Mosaic Pale at Harry's Bar, Wakefield
CAMRA's pub of the season. Picture: GBK 
On Sunday I had my first proper session in ages. Well, since the last Star Beer Fest - and two weeks is a long time between drinks!
My beer journey in rural and central Sheffield last weekend saw me trying some good beers from the likes of Abbeydale, Thornbridge, Salamander, Howling Hops and a new brewery whose name escapes me - it was that sort of a session.
But there was one beer that I had no trouble recollecting as it stood out above some very good  ales.
My fan worship of all things out of North Riding Brewery and its brew pub in Scarborough is a matter of record on here. But I won't be changing the record any time soon as the Mosaic I had at The Kelham Island Tavern on Sunday was among my favourite drinks on cask this year. It's very easy to get reflective as the year end looms but I'll stand by that assessment, the mosaic was that good. 
I don't keep a record, so it's difficult for me to reel off a list of what I was drinking earlier in the year, but North Riding's name just keeps cropping up.
I was delighted to see not one, but two beers from the NRB stable on at the KIT. A dark IPA from its brew pub in Scarborough was on the bar with its paler colleague. The mosaic was up first and it was a shame it came towards the end of my session. It was the sort of beer I would have gladly built a session on. Take your pick of the hoppy adjectives, this beer was spot on in terms of taste and condition.
The black IPA followed. It was good but it's a beer style I've struggle to come to terms with no matter who is the brewer. I just can't get quite get my head around a dark India Pale Ale. I like to think I don't drink with my eyes. For example, I don't have any issues with hazy, unfined beers, but the Black IPA seems to be a mystery just out of my reach. But I'll keep trying.
But I've digressed, let's get back to North Riding's Mosaic Pale. It has cropped up twice more over the weekend. A tweet from the Sportsman in Huddersfield shows it has recently taken delivery of nine NRB beers, including Mosaic Pale.
and tonight I saw a tweet from @Gingerbeerking about Harry's Bar winning Wakefield CAMRA's latest pub of the season award. Among the presentation pictures was one showing it's dedicated NRB pump. I'll leave you to guess which beer was featured!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Star Winter Festival 2016 Review

Well, I managed to get my tastebuds sorted out just in time. Last night saw the opening of the Star Winter Festival, and, true to form, ' A Swift One' was there sampling the wares.

This festival was held inside the pub due to various external circumstances, but there was still a large selection of beers available, and the internal festival led to a more intimate atmosphere, which seemed more in keeping with the season.

There are 14 beers on a pop up bar, all handpulled and cellar cooled, along with those on the bar handpumps, and supplemented by another selection on cellar runs. Plenty to satisfy any taste. The pop up bar beers are £2.90 a pint.

I spent the evening on the light side,almost, leaving the darker stouts and porters for later in the festival. I had plenty of new breweries to sample and a plethora of new beers. I especially enjoyed Musket 'Trigger', a very easy drinking session beer; Brew York 'Yarsa' was 3.7% and again, very pleasant, and High Weald 'Chronicle' a similar strength beer, but a little darker, all the way from Sussex.

A couple of the breweries on offer had their own stories. Urban Huntsman has taken the cuckoo brewing system to a new level being a 'gypsy' brewery, brewing on whatever plant they find available. This time from a pipe factory in Warwickshire. And Don Valley has taken over the plant and the recipes of the erstwhile Owenshaw Mills Brewery, whose brewer seemed impressed with their take on his beers.

Oh,and if you need a recommendation for beer of the festival, I have a couple of personal observations. Mallinsons 'First We Take Manhattan' is a dry hopped special, and is absolutely hop packed, and should you fancy something a tad stronger for a night cap then Five Towns/North Riding 'Mad Monk' should hit the spot. It is an 8% Imperial Russian Stout, and is excellent, but to be treated with respect.

It was good to catch up with plenty of old friends and even better to be able to taste and enjoy my beer again. Thanks to Sam and the team for another great effort.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Star , Huddersfield List

The Star Festival starts tomorrow at 5pm. (and 5pm Thursday) and All day (noon) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday...This time the festival will be held inside the pub (ask the staff, they will explain why ) but as many beers as usual are available ..but some will be via cellar runs..

The list is as follows,(hopefully)

Brewery Beer
Cornish Crown One Hop, One Grain 4.1
2 Dowlands Hidden Colour 4.2
3 Musket Trigger Pale Ale 3.6
4 Serious Moonlight Stout 4.5
5 Urban Huntsman The Nomad 3.9
6 True North  Intergalactic Planetery 3.9
7 Don Valley Hitchcock 3.9
8 High Weald Chronicle 3.8
9 Tonbridge Coppernob 3.8
10 Blue Angel Abyss 4.8
11 HopJacker Pyrites 4.1
12 Mallinsons First we Take Manahttan 3.8
13 Chin Chin Pretty Visitor 4.8
14 Brew York Jarsa 3.7
15 Serious Redsmith IPA 4.5
16 Alechemy  Photon 4.3
17 Black Flag Chameleon 3.8
18 Yorkshire Dales Askrigg Greets 4.4
19 Drygate Himeros 4.2
20 Brass Castle Lemon Spritz ( w Black Jack) 5
21 Neepsend Iffrit 4.6
22 Wild Beer Millionaire 4.7
23 Five Towns/Revolutions Five Years
24 Scarborough Paper Tiger 4.4
25 Red Squirrel Raspbeery 4.5
Main Bar
26 Nelson Midshipmans Dark 4
27 Downlands  Watchmakers Bounty 5
28 Five Towns/ Nt Riding Mad Monk 8
29 Nth Blythe For A FewDollars More 4.1
30 Don Valley Ribble Head 4
31 Shipstones Orginal 3.8
32 Blue Square Moonlight Blonde 4
33 Chin Chin Screaming Eagle 4.7
34 Yorkshire Dales Green Mea 3.7
35 Whippet Winter BBA 4.5
36 HopJacker The Long Con 3.8
37 Mallinsons So Long Marianne 3.9
38 Oldershaw (Home Ales) Maid Marion 4.2
39 Whippet Little Curre (Rum & Raisin) 5.2
40 Revolutions In a Big Country
41 Lancons Pale 4.1

Any Mistakes are mine...have an angry lap top !!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Now and then

During the past fortnight  I've visited four pubs and a beer festival.
Destinations have ranged from Sheffield, Huddersfield and Otley.
My first port of call was The Wisewood Inn, Loxley, which is a mile or so from Hillsborough
I've been past on the bus a few times but had never called in until recently. I was told it's a free house and had just had its first birthday under its present management.
I won't do a full review as I've got a fair bit of ground to cover but I was impressed by the condition and clarity of the beer. My standout from among the four or five handpulls and keg lines was Abbeydale's Evil.
After a good Sunday lunch there I headed back into town and The Wellington at Shalesmoor, which reopened at the end of October.
The pub, formerly home to Little Ale Cart beers, is now the tap of Neepsend Brewery. I was pleased to see that it was a tasteful conversion. Not a great deal had changed bar the absence of Little Ale Cart beers. From memory, in their stead were two or three casks of Neepsend plus some guest ales and keg lines.
I just had enough time for a pint but managed to have two Neepsend beers which were new to me. 
The Neepsend theme continued a few days later when I called in at The Star, Lockwood, Huddersfield. There was a mandarin beer from Neepsend on there, plus a very nice beer from Shiny whose name escapes me. I don't think it was Pail, which I like too.
I don't normally do midweek drinking but I was tempted out by the news that The Star has recently started doing food on a Wednesday night. I think it's a single dish menu which changes from week to week, but it is the sort of tasty and value for money fare that we associate with Sam's beer festivals. Talking of which, The Star's winter festival starts on Wednesday, November 23 and runs until Sunday. 
I'm not privy to a beer list but I intend to report back after an early visit.
Last weekend saw me going off patch to Otley. I was part of the Five Town's 'posse' and thankfully Malcolm knew the way.
The festival was in the clubhouse of Otley Rugby Club. There were nearly 70 ales on in various forms of dispense. There was a long bar with beer on gravity, a smaller bar with handpulls, cider in boxes and a pop up craft keg bar. Malcolm kindly bought me Abbeydale/Brew Dog Sheffield's 'Peach Iced Tea Beer' collaboration. I was so impressed by it that I broke with tradition and actually voted in a beer of the festival competition.   
 On the way back to the bus station we went to a lovely bar, which Malcolm was familiar with having dropped off beer there. The Old Cock was my idea of a country pub: low ceilings, beams, a good fire, plenty of people and good beer. We had one eye on the bus back to Menston railway station so it was an all too brief visit. However, we did  manage a bit of 'quality control' on Five Town's Old Norrell, which I hadn't had for a while and enjoyed, a beer from Blue Bee (Dana?) and Rat Brewery's After Rat Mint.
That leads me neatly on to my last nugget of news: The Rat and Ratchet on Chapel Hill, Huddersfield will launch The Grapes of Rat, a barrel-aged 10% barley wine, on Thursday, December 1 at 8pm.
These brewers are keeping us busy!    

Friday, November 04, 2016

The Hop Wakefield Reopens

The Hop on Bank Street in Wakefield has just emerged from it's three month refit - and what a transformation. 

Included in the Mark II version is a main bar extension, doubling the capacity at the expense of a third of the beer garden. This chapel-like lounge has a real fire, comfy pews and even some stained glass to admire.

The bar itself offers a total of nine cask (usually four or five guests plus Ossett & associated micros) and eight keg (including Rat Brewery) products. The small stage adjacent to the main bar has also had a makeover, but the real metamorphosis is at the rear of the pub. 

Where once the back bar, toilets (now upstairs) and Jam Inn stood, there's the impressive Weekend Alter Ego Bar.

Stretching the entire length of The Hop, this new bar offers a range of craft/keg beers with Brooklyn, BrewDog, Magic Rock and Backyard at the moment, along with four casks from the core Ossett range plus White Rat (also available on keg). 

You can enjoy the ales from the comfort of an assortment of seating - booths, stools, leather armchairs etc - and the room is available for function hire.

A big bonus, if you're making a night of it, is the hot food available in the new upstairs Kebab Shop. The kebabs can be eaten in the shop or are available for take away, and price-wise compete well with the Westgate equivalents in an altogether nicer environment. 

Outside, and despite the extension there's still plenty of room for alfresco supping when the weather's kind, with a new giant brolly and a handful of statues being the main new components. 

Opening times are: 4-11pm Monday to Thursday and all day Friday to Sunday with food from 7pm  Fridays & Saturdays only.

Tel: 01924-367111

I can

A lost weekend
The sold out test match in Huddersfield left me high and dry last weekend.
My plans of a town centre session were ruined by neglecting to buy a ticket for the England vs New Zealand game. So, as not many of my kind of pubs have plasma screens I decided to watch it on the telly at home.
But I was determined not to miss out on a beer-related encounter with the Kiwis so it was time to see what was left of my summer stash of cans in the garage.
Now, as a rule we don't tend to do bottle/canned beer reviews on here as we like to encourage people to drink in pubs.
But I'm going to break with tradition, just for once, as I think the beer choice, particularly the range of canned beer, in supermarkets and farm shops has improved since I last looked.
The selection above came from Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Cannon Hall Farm Shop. It's just a snapshot of what's available.
My first, from Backyard Brewery,  was The Bee 17. Apparently it's from Falkenberg in Sweden. It's distributed by Carlsberg who bought out the old Falcon Brewery. This beer is brewed in the back yard of that brewery, hence the name.
I'm quite partial to pilsners but don't see them as often as I'd like. If you'll excuse the pun, this beer did as exactly as it said in the tin. It's a 'hop struck pilsner' made with Saaz and Williamette. A nice drink, weighing in at 4.7% and one which I would buy again. I think it came from Sainsbury's.
Next,  I went for Northern Monk's Eternal , a session IPA at 4.1%. It is one of the Holbeck based brewery's core beers. This one I found at Cannon Hall Farm Shop, which, incidentally, seems to have expanded its beer range and its size since my last visit. It's made with Simcoe and Centennial, very drinkable and is on my shopping list!
As we were playing New Zealand it made sense to keep with the theme and go for Antipodean IPA. But this was made much nearer to home by Harbour Brewing in  North Cornwall. It's a cliché but this is one of my favourites. It's widely available in Morrisons and in my garage. It was a fair bit stronger than my previous beers at 5.5%, but people looking for a less heady brew can always plump for Harbour's Session IPA at 4.3%.
Perhaps I should have been more patriotic and opted for English hops as it was around this point that Kiwi scrum half Shaun Johnson slotted over what proved to be the decisive drop goal and made in 17-16.
It was tempting to drown my sorrows but as a long-standing GB and England RL fan I've been here before.
So it was few days later that I returned to home territory with Northern Monk's Northern Star. It's a mocha porter, which gives you just the right amount of coffee hit. But its 5.9% volume  means it's more of an end of session beer for me.
There are at least two more test matches to go for England, against Scotland and Australia, so the plan is to visit some of the excellent independent beer retailers in striking distance of me (Beer Shack at Scissett, Bier Huis of Ossett and Arcade Beers in Huddersfield) and to stock up on some more 4 Nations themed beers.
It may seem unpatriotic of me, but as a hop head, I am particularly looking forward to the Australia vs New Zealand game. And I won't be too crestfallen if they meet again in the final at Anfield . But after its all over I'm back off down the pub for a cask and keg odyssey!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sessions at the North Riding Brew Pub, Scarborough

North Riding Brew Pub in Scarborough
A few days ago I had a holiday in Scarborough and had the opportunity to drink in lots of places that were new to me.
But truth be told I never managed to spread my wings as I became a regular, so to speak, at the North Riding Brew House on North Marine Road.
Now, we see quite a bit of Stuart Neilson's beer in Huddersfield, Sheffield and Wakefield. His ales are much admired by all of us at A Swift One. But I had never drunk at the fountainhead.
The pub is a stone's throw from Scarborough Cricket Club and a good javelin throw from the sea.
There are two bars. The front bar, or the snug, features a few handpulls and plenty of seating. 
The back bar is more spacious and has a longer bar, a pool table and a large screen TV.
On my first visit there were cask ales from Blue Bee, Revolutions North Riding and several others. On keg there were ales from Kernel, a wheat beer from Bad Seed (I think) and North Riding's American Pale Ale, which was one of the best kegged beers I've had.  I wish I could tell you the percentage and the hops but all I can tell you was it about 4.5% and I could have drunk much more if it hadn't of run off.
That became something of a recurring theme during my visits: the speed that North Riding's beers ran off. And no, before you ask, I wasn't a major contributing factor, as I had a fair bit of ambling to do along the Cleveland Way and had to have a clear head on those paths with precipitous drops down to the sea.
The reason for the quick turnover of ales was simply this is a popular pub. It was busy on most of the nights I was in there.
On my second visit I went for Symphony of the Night, which I think was brewed in the pub rather than the bigger NRB site at East Ayton, which is distinguished by the more modern pumpclips. I also tried their Citra and Yojimbo,which was nearly 6%.
,Just as I thought it couldn't get any better, the third day yielded NRB's Belma which was so good I had to return to it. Next came a beer I had trouble pronouncing, Iudex Gundyr, which thanks to Google I now know may be a reference to computer game character.
My final night continued the upward curve of good sessions. I'd been waiting a day or two for a beer from the larger North Riding Brewery called Dandelion & Burdock, which recalled the pop drink of my youth both in taste and smell. And it had a pleasing kick at 4.5%. I thought that was going to cap my visit only for it to be upstaged by the brew pub's Peasholm Pale. It features Citra hops and its ABV is 4.3%. This was the unfined version. I was told the brewery had done a few unfined beers to bring out more taste. I had nothing to compare it to but can only say, in simple terms, that it was one of the best beers I'd had in a long while. I didn't care if it was slightly hazy, not when it tasted as good as that. I only wish I'd seen it earlier that evening and had tried the 'normal' version so as to gauge any difference. But once again I'd missed it earlier in the week because I was so engrossed in other interesting ales from the brew pub and from the new brewery.
If you are in Scarborough do make a trip up North Marine Road because you won't regret it. I'm already looking forward to my next visit.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Beer Of The Day - Redwillow 'Faithless LX'

One of the breweries I always look out for are Redwillow. They have been around for the last few years, and used to be a familiar sight around our parts, but are gradually becoming more difficult to track down.

However, on a trip into the dark side (sorry Bradford !)  I encountered their latest beer, or at least the most recent I have seen, their Faithless LX  was on key keg (sorry purists) and was excellent.

It was an 8.0% offering. and bloody excellent. The last beer I can remember tasting as I expected

Another Timbo Apology

Due to a re-occurence of the infection in my mouth and the damage it is/has caused I will not be writing for a while. I am still in circulation but trying to objectively describe beer that I can or cannot taste properly is not fair to the reader or the brewer.

I will be back !!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Beer Of The Day - Liberation 'Pilsner'

As I mentioned last week, the Wetherspoon festival started last week, and i have managed to sample quite a few of their beers. Unfortunately, most are not quite to my taste, except for one that really stood out.

Liberation are a brewery that are rarely encountered, even though they have been around since 1871. The reason being that the are based in Jersey, so beer festivals seem to be the place to encounter them, and I have come across a few at previous 'Spoons events.

This time they have created one of my favourite styles of beers and done a fine job too. Their 3.9% 'Pilsner' is their take on a cask lager, It is a totally UK creation with the UK Pilsner malt being complemented with Pioneer and Sovereign hops.

The resulting beer is crisp, clean and light, with a hint of citrus and a background sweetness making a wonderfully rounded beer.

I came across it in Halifax, but it is doing the rounds of 'Spoons if you want to catch it.

Beer of the Day - Kelham Island ,IPA of the Dead

The Kelham Island Brewery in Sheffield has been on the go since 1990, one of the older hands in the micro brewery revolution. It has produced plenty of beers in its lifetime, but lately I have not been too impressed with some of their output. At least until yesterday.

I called in the Market Tavern in Brighouse, (as an aside, if you have not visited it, get down there, it is excellent) and discovered a new Kelham Island IPA on the bar. 'IPA of the Dead' is their new beer for October. It is 5.9% - a proper strength for an IPA, not like these 3.9% versions. And the strength gives it the chance to have a proper body, and consequently it drinks its strength, if that makes sense.

However, apart from the body, the beer has a good hop balance, according to their website 'a fusion of hops from the old and new worlds'. It leads to a clean finish, with hints of citrus in the background.

Certainly worth a second pint, or a third in my case. And the bother it caused me for missing my bus !!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry

I thought I'd resort to a literary headline to beef up my rather shambolic but nonetheless enjoyable session in Sheffield on Saturday.
Actually 'best-laid plans' suggests a high degree of planning, whereas my session was anything but.
I thought whichever platform my train pulled in would determine my route for a football-free, quiet session.
Platform One would mean catching a bus up West Street with the aim of a pit stop at The Bath Hotel, moving on to Crookes for pizza and a pint at The Punchbowl before walking down towards The Closed Shop and then up to The Blake before heading back to town.
Platform Three would mean a walk under Hyde Park Flats in the direction of Lady's Bridge for a riverside crawl to Neepsend and back along the tram route.
The train stopped on platform one but missed buses and trams soon saw me hoofing it towards The Harlequin in search of food and some Exit 33 beers, of which I am very partial.
No sooner had I grabbed a half of their Mosaic then a large group of blokes on a crawl turned up. At this point I should point out I don't subscribe to the view that real ale pubs should be like libraries where silence is golden. They are open to everyone: young, middle-aged, old and even lager drinkers.
But just this once I fancied a quiet pint or two on a Saturday without any football.
So it was time to move on, even though I would have liked to have stayed longer. The plan was to head for The Gardener's Rest for a beer by the river but a missed bus saw me changing tack again.
It hadn't been to The Fat Cat for a while, so I went there - only to be greeted by a wedding party, who had obviously made a smart choice of venue. Seating was at a premium so a quick half of Neepsend's Undine was all I managed there. That planted a seed in my mind and I was off in the direction of The Wellington (Cask & Cutler) at  Shalesmoor as I'd heard that Neepsend intend to make it their brewery tap.

My 'luck' held and, you've guessed it - the doors were closed. So I found myself in the bizarre situation of heading towards West Street during Freshers' Week in search of that fabled quiet pint.

I headed down to The Bath Hotel where there was a beer by Fyne Ales on the bar. I went for that and sat back and soaked up the Grade II splendour of the pub.
Time was pressing so I cut through the Devonshire Quarter to the Devonshire Cat.
Here, I found my beer of the day: Lincoln Green's Gin and Beer It, 5%. It said 'gin infused, hoppy with hints of juniper, leading to a bitter finish'. I quite like Lincoln Green's beers but I normally seek out their dark beer, Tuck. But after this fine effort I shall spread my wings. It was followed by a new Abbeydale  beer for me, Illumination, 4.8%. Apparently, this green bullet beer has been around since 2004, but I cannot recall having it. It was my second favourite beer of the day.
After a saunter to the market there was just enough time to grab a half at The Rutland Arms before the train home. I went for something strong from Hopcraft and pondered over my 'best-laid plans' session. On the whole, nothing went to plan but it was still memorable, all the beers were in good nick and one was exceptional.
If you'd promised me that scenario at the start of the day then I would have gladly accepted the offer.
So, next time out I'll have to come up with even more ridiculous stipulations, like no right turns or avoiding the cracks in the pavement, for a surefire quality session!

Friday, October 07, 2016

Wetherspoons Festival starts Next Week

On Wednesday 12th October, Wetherspoons promises the start of the 'World's Biggest Real Ale Festival'. We have been here before haven't we. This time though there is a twist. All the beers are brewed with British hops.

I managed to get a beer list yesterday, complete with tasting notes and the hops used. At first glance it seemed a bit ordinary, and with only 30 beers on offer, not as large as previous years. There will be 5 collaborations, two with USA brewers, and one each from South Africa, Australia, and Italy. Almost every style of beer is catered for from milds to pilsners, but reading the notes there seems to be a leaning towards the 'mahogany' coloured beers.

What really interests me are the hops used. There are a fair range, but Challenger,and  Admiral, seem to predominate but there is a fair spinkle of other varieties too, with one new hop appearing, (so new it has no name at present) . Purity includes CF133 in their beer, but as a combination rather than a single hop .

No doubt over the couple of weeks of the festival I will try a few, and should I come across a gem or two I will let you know. I will be interested in what I find, and see what British brewers can do with British hops, I hope they are good enough to start to turn the tide away from the reliance on foreign imports,

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Beer festivals are in vogue

Beer festivals are coming thick and fast over the next few weeks.
In the space of only a couple of days I've seen plugs for Wakefield Beer Festival at The Space (October 13 to 15), Sheffield Beer Festival at Kelham Island Industrial Museum (October 19-22) and Castleford Beer Festival at Queen's Mill (November 4 to 5).
I did all three last year and they were good, but I have not been doing as many festivals lately.
However, I hope to get into Sheffield this weekend for a quiet session and hope to report back shortly.
I'll leave you with some links for the festivals I've mentioned above.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Oktoberfest starts in September

Just a quick reminder that Huddersfield CAMRA's Oktoberfest starts this Thursday.

The eagle-eyed of you will have spotted that that two thirds of Oktoberfest is actually in September but with Cask Ale Week lasting nearly a fortnight, what's a few days between friends!
I've not seen a beer list so all I know is what is on the poster: 60 beers and some ciders over the course of three days at The Apna Venue Leisure Centre, near Huddersfield bus station.

There is more information about session times and admission prices in Ale Talk and on the Huddersfield CAMRA website here.

Before I go, I'd just like to say how much I enjoyed The Navigation's beer festival in Mirfield on Friday. And thank you to Derek for recommending some top notch beers from London.

On the downside, poor planning on my my part meant I missed The Sportsman's Scottish Beer festival. I hope it went well.

UPDATE: The Oktoberfest beer list is on the @huddscamra twitter feed.
And if you are heading to the festival don't forget to call in at Mallinsons' new taphouse The Corner, which opened earlier this month. Full details can be found here.  

Beer Of The Day - Howling Hops Pale Ale

The title may be a slight misnoma. This is certainly the beer of the day, and the week, may be the month and is high on the list of beers of year. I would suggest you call at The Star and try it, except my co editor ran it off !!

Howling Hops are a London brewery, having started brewing at the Cock Tavern in Hackney in 2011 before outgrowing their plant and resiting to a nearby warehouse four years later. Their beers are usually available outside their home area in bottles but the occasional cask or keg does escape north.

Pale Ale no1 is 3.8% and heavily hopped with citra, mosaic and simcoe. The aroma is superb and the taste even better. The hops are superbly balanced and the taste is hoppy, rather than overly bitter. It is beer that cries out for a second pint..or third..or.....If you see it get it while you can, it will not be there for long

Friday, September 23, 2016

'Back to Basics' at Fernandes Brewery Tap

This year's themed beer festival at the much misunderstood Fernandes Brewery Tap in Wakefield is a curious one. In fact not so much a theme, more a history lesson. The title 'Back to Basics' appears to be a reminder that however clever new brewers are at reinventing their craft and pushing the boundaries, basic beer styles are pretty much written in stone.

As the program notes explain though, this is more of a test of an individual brewer's skills since this festival is purely showcasing the Fernandes brand and the talents of Steve Hutchinson in particular.  Of course it shouldn't be forgotten that whilst Fernandes appears to be an independent micro brewery, it could also be described as a test bed plant for parent brewery Ossett. It would be fair to say that nothing gets out of here without a good vetting from the overlords.

That said, the brewery is responsible for some of the best beer to emerge from the Ossett estate (four breweries) in the last nine years - in fact several of the more recent popular recipes are included here, though the re-badging for this festival means you maybe guessing as to what's what -  an unpopular ploy if you tick!

In terms of recommendations, the IPA#1 is outstanding, as are most of the Pale Ales here - especially #2, #3 & #4. If you lean towards the malt then both Best Bitter & Brown Ale should hit the spot. The notes encourage you to try a half each of the two keg dispensed beers in the same pint glass with the stout poured over the Double IPA to produce a Black & Tan. My experience of this wasn't as 'magical' as I'd hoped or been lead to believe - more gimmicky than anything else, but a nice attempt at trying to bringing a little fun to the fair.

An interesting festival with a bit of beer history thrown in - should you pick up a copy of the limited edition expanded festival notes, several of which are available on the bars and the tables. Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the brewery's take over by Ossett when it would be nice to see something really special - like a greatest hits compilation perhaps? Just a thought. 

'Back to Basics' is on all day Friday, Saturday & Sunday and operating on both the first floor Bierkeller bar and second floor cask bar. 

Its Navvy Fest again

Just as my taste returned, what happened ? Well, I could have tripped out to Hebden Bridge for the Calderdale Beer Festival, or nipped down to the Scottish Beer Festival at the Sportsman, but....

Previous readers will know of my affection for the Festivals at the Navigation at Mirfield. So I visited there today. And found a London Beer Festival.

Eight breweries were represented, showcasing some of the more established micros from the capital, but interspersed with some newer breweries as well. Around 30 beers on offer, covering all styles, and all cellar cooled, handpulled and at a bargain £3 per pint. For the really dedicated thirds were available too, so there was no excuse not to sample plenty of different ones.

I used my tried and tested system. Start with the weaker and head towards the stronger, and try to start with the more unusual breweries. First up were two beers from the One Mile End brewery, 'Temperance Session' and 'Salvation Pale'. Both light and hoppy, and both excellent. I just hoped the rest were as good. Hammerton 'Life On Mars' was frankly not quite my style, nor was it to my taste - a bit too caramel for my liking. London Brewing 'Skyline APA'  reverted to my favourite style, plenty of hops and a good malt base. Unfortunately I was skipping up and down the gravities.

Another session beer was required, ironically called 'Session Pale Ale' from Bexley brewery. Crisp, fresh and with a citrus and floral aftertaste, brewed with a combination of UK, USA, and new Zealand hops. I followed this with Clouded Minds 'N29' - another session pale with a pleasing mix of 4 hops. Both were excellent.

Hammerton 'N1 Pale' was a beer taken for pleasure - I have always enjoyed it, and I followed this with another score beer Belleville 'Picnic Sessions' - good but I expected a little more for its 4.4% when compared to some of the weaker beers.

Time was moving on and the festival was filling up - everyone seemed impressed with the range. It was time now for a trip onto the dark side. Clouded Minds 'Hazel Nutter' was just not to my taste, a mixture of hazelnuts and chocolate predominating, sadly Bexley 'Old Mill Autumn Ale' wasn't either. A bit too bland for my liking. But my final beer 'Thames Surfer' from Belleville redressed the balance. A 5.6% IPA with plenty of taste.

As usual, the Navvy met all my expectations and it was good to catch up with old friends in a pleasant environment for drinking. Roll on their Spring fest.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Corner opens this Saturday

Shortly before noon tomorrow I predict you will see a large but orderly queue forming outside this door.
Mallinsons' new taphouse, The Corner, opens at 12pm on Saturday, September 17 in the centre of Huddersfield.
The bar is situated on Market Walk across the street from the Nat West Bank and near Reeds Rains. 
It's less than a five-minute walk from Huddersfield Railway Station.
The name is apt as it's smack bang in the corner of an area known locally as Wappy Nick. As you enter the alleyway look for a green door and the tell-tale Mallinsons' symbol of Castle Hill on the first floor windows. 
Last night, Thursday, I was lucky to be invited to the trade launch.
The bar is a joint venture between Mallinsons' brewsters Tara & Elaine and former Sportsman landlady Sam Smith.
But that true statement doesn't quite tell the full story as the fixtures and fittings all bear the stamp of friends and family who have all chipped in to make the The Corner what it is (more of which later).
From the outside it looks like a small place but don't be fooled as it is positively Tardis-like inside.
A short flight of stairs leads to the main bar where seven handpulls and ten keg lines sit. Mallinsons' beers will occupy two each of these, and may be a third handpull if they've got a mild on. Last night we were treated to Mallinsons' Wappy Nick, Mild Thing and Nelson Sauvin (all between £2.40 and £2.50 a pint) on handpull and Spruce Goose and Citra on keg.
That arrangement leaves plenty of room for guest ales. On the wickets we saw Blue Bee, XT, North Riding and Outstanding.
On keg there were a couple from Track, three from Outstanding, a cider from Pure North, a lager from Holt's and a NZ DIPA from Roaring Four of London.
The beers were chosen by Tara and the emphasis seems to be on sourcing good beer that the Mallinsons' team like to drink rather than pleasing the tickers. That said, the Roaring Four was new to me.
Elaine, who kindly gave me a tour of the premises, said: "We always wanted to have a pub which had all the beers we enjoy drinking."
Having good beer is obviously a key element to success but having a good team to make things run smoothly is another essential ingredient.
And The Corner has one of the best front of house operators in the business. Sam Smith won a clutch of pub of the year awards just down the road from The Corner and needs little introduction.
Elaine said: "We've known Sam for years since she started running The Sportsman and we've always been impressed by her."
On the trade night there was an attentive team behind Sam who made sure that we were all fed and watered properly during the mini heat wave.
By now you'll be wondering what it looks like inside and where are the pictures. Better photographers than me (and ones who have contributed images to Mallinsons' pump clips) are due to visit over the next couple of days and we hope to post them soon.
For now you'll just have to take my word for it that it's a treat inside. It's a really comfortable and relaxing place to go for a drink. Virtually everything you see, from the bars to the tables and the chairs has been part of a collective effort. Elaine told me it had been a real "labour of love".

Friends, family and the team themselves helped to build the bars and the tables we supped from.You will have noticed I said bars. Upstairs there is an equally large area where a smaller bar with two keg fonts is situated. It has function room or a neat overspill area written all over it.

After a few drinks, a wonderful platter of meats, cheeses, olives and other goodies suddenly materialised.
The bar has a kitchen and there are plans for a lunchtime menu followed by an evening menu with small plates of food with an international theme. Judging by last night's feast the munchies we all experience after a few beers will be well and truly kept at bay.
I haven't even touched on the bottles, cans, wines or gin offerings yet but whatever your favourite tipple it seems safe to say The Corner has got it covered. 
It is a very welcome addition to the Huddersfield beer scene and I look forward to visiting again soon.
The Corner is based at 5 Market Walk, Huddersfield HD1 2QA. It opens tomorrow from noon.
The normal opening times will be 11am to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, Noon to 11pm on Sundays and 11am to 11pm Monday to Thursday.
You can take a video tour of the taphouse by visiting the Examiner's website  here.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

York Beer Festival 2016

The festival venue is a 20-minute walk from the railway station.
York Beer festival kicked off yesterday afternoon on the racecourse.
More than 450 beers are on offer at The Knavesmire over the course of the next three days.
It was my first visit to York CAMRA's festival, which I gather has shifted a few hundred yards from its previous location towards the concourse.
Apparently, poor drainage had played a part in that decision but I'm glad to report the going was good to firm thanks to the Indian summer.
With so many beers to go at it was a bit of a lottery as to what to chose first. So a right to left wander along the very long bar ensued. The first thing that caught my eye were how many Wakefield and Huddersfield breweries were on the main bar. I saw Robin Hood (Altofts), Mallinsons, Three Fiends Tigertops, Trinity and Five Towns all on handpull.  
Further up the bar were more local brews and dedicated bars from the likes of Rooster, Bad Seed, and newcomers Brew York, who walked away with the locAle prize for Tonkoko milk stout. It was memorably described to me as being like 'liquid Bounty'. I'm not quite sure what Tim would've made of it with his forthright views on flavoured beers but for me it was sweet without being cloying and the coconut taste really came through.
I also tried another of their beers, Kiwi. But not having read my programme notes properly, I was surprised to see was a dark amber coloured beer rather than the NZ pale I was expecting. But the notes were spot on about the combination of maltiness and the hops.
The brewery has its base on Walmgate where it also has a tap room, which is open from Thursday 5pm and all day Friday and Saturday (noon to 11pm). You can get a 10% discount off all drinks at the tap room during the festival if you show the brewery's advert in the festival programme.
I was with the Five Towns posse at the festival, and Malcolm had it on good authority that Rooster's Baby Face Assasin was on top form on cask. It was my beer of the day by a distance.
In the background I could hear the tannoy announcing the locaAle and Siba North awards.
I saw quite a few awards go to the likes of Harrogate Brewery, Hambleton, Roosters, Black Sheep and Brew York. But I won't list all the category winners as I wansn't in note-taking mode and I expect they can be found on the Siba site shortly.
But there is a good review about the event on the York Press website here.
All in all, I thought it was an excellent festival in a brilliant setting. We sat near the winning post in front of the grandstands until the sun went down on a memorable day.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Beer of the Day: September 12

Today's beer of the day is an old favourite: Ratsputin.
I'd heard it was on at The Rat & Ratchet and the brewery advertised it was from a wooden cask too.
Better qualified people than me can tell you just what this does for a beer. For me, it was quite simply the best dark beer I'd had for some time. 
Very potent at 7.4 percent ABV but I gather Russian imperial stouts tend to be on the high side of the percentage scale.
Anyway catch it, and some other beers from last weekend's Rat-Inn Festation, while you can.
And, if you like your dark beers in Huddersfield then Magic Rock's Dark Arts is on cask at The King's Head. For a town well known for its love of hoppy pales, Hudderfield does a fine trip to the dark side too.
Post script: I have been out of the loop for quite a while for various reasons I won't bore you with. 
But I intend to be more active on here from now on.
One upcoming local festival that I am hoping to get to is Fernandes' Back to Basics in Wakefield  from September 22 to 25. 

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Another Apology

I know there are people out there who hang on my every word - no I don't !! However, due to a medical condition and the tablets I have been given to counteract it my visits to the pub will be curtailed for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.


Saturday, September 03, 2016

Beer Of The Day - Vocation 'Smash and Grab'

One of the up and coming new breweries in the West Yorkshire area are Vocation brewery from Cragg Vale near Hebden Bridge. Every beer I have had from the brewery has been good and, in some cases, excellent. However, one has been missing from my list.

'Smash and Grab' is their DIPA, brewed at 8.5%. It is fairly readily available in cans but is as rare as hens teeth on draught. On previous occasions when I have heard of it and rushed to the pub to get it, others have beaten me to it.

However, I called in the Victorian Cafe Bar in Halifax yesterday, and guess what I found on keg !!

It was a good as I had hoped. The strength gives it a good, malty backbone, but despite this it scarily does not drink its strength. There are plenty of hops there as would be expected and each mouthful brings different flavours to the fore, so it is hard to say that one dominates but I got hints of toffee, citrus fruits, and pine, to name but a few.

As I said it is available in cans, but I was overjoyed to get it on keg - it was worth the wait.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Day Out In Harrogate

Yesterday I had a spare day, and I thought I would visit a town that I have rarely visited, do not know, but has been highly recommended for its beer choice. Harrogate beckoned. It is only an hour by train from Huddersfield with a frequent service. So I turned up there at around 11a.m to see what was on offer.

I had my trusty CAMRA beer guide app, and its map so I was confident that I would manage ok. I was sadly mistaken ! I knew that the majority of pubs I wanted to visit opened at 12 noon but they were some exceptions, and the first port of call would be the Winter Gardens - the towns Wetherspoons. I thought it would be easy to find so I followed the directions on my app, (out of the station,right past the bus station and down the hill). Incidentally I recall passing a North Bar on my way down the hill on the right and a micro pub on the left but never got chance to call in.

When I reached the spot where my app told me the pub was I was slightly confused - it was a chinese restaurant. A street map on a post confirmed I was where I thought I should be but I was baffled. However I spied a tourist info centre nearby and a very thoughtful girl, gave me a map and placed crosses where the best pubs were.

As it happened the Winter Gardens were round the corner on Parliament St. It is certainly the most impressive 'Spoons I have ever visited. A massive space with lots of historic and architectural details, and a large outside seating area. Shame the beer range was a bog standard 'spoons range with only the Daleside house beer to keep me there. However, it gave me chance to compare my map with the hard copy and transferred my details to make my searching easier.

It seemed most of the pubs I wanted were in the Montpelier area which was  pretty concentrated  and my next choice was just round the corner and opened at 11 am so I headed there. It actually opened at 12 (thanks Camra) but never mind the next choice was 'The Blues Bar' which again promised 11am opening.

This is on Montpelier Parade, which is easier to find if you look out for Betty's and walk down the hill. The pub was open and was not quite what I expected. A small pub with an emphasis on music judging by the memorabilia displayed. Beer wise there were 4 pumps, 3 in use but the only interesting beer was Fernandes 'Polaris' but in good nick.

Just down the hill and across the road was the 'Fat Badger', in a large hotel. There were plenty of beers on offer but all bigger brewery beers, a quick half of Saltaire here.

I was now a bit snookered. My next choices were all open at 12 and I was early but I managed a few minutes people watching in a park while waiting for them to open.

At the start of Crescent Road is 'Hales Bar'. This is a wonderful pub - obviously old with many quirky things on display. Again though a disappointing range on the 6 pubs, but I managed a Rio themed beer from Wadworth. Just across the road is 'The Old Bell' which is another older pub - this feeling more traditional but again it was hunt the guest beer. A new Roosters saved the day here.

It was time to climb back into the Montpelier area and revisit Major Tom's Social - the pub I had visited on the way down that was closed. It is in The Ginnel and is quirky in the extreme. Downstairs is a eclectic bric a brac sort of shop, upstairs is the bar. This is basic but very large. Again there wer

e three beers on the bar but the only one required was the Roosters house beer. This was reasonably  priced but the others seemed a little expensive.

As I left here and looked up the road I could sense I was close to the railway station so I headed there. The sense was right, the close was wrong ! But a few minutes later I was sitting in the Harrogate Tap.
Here a full range of beers on offer and thankfully a couple of ticks. Binghams 'Vanilla Stout' and Gun 'Velo Dog' being my choices here, and just in time for a train.

I am unsure how I feel about drinking in Harrogate. The pubs are interesting and pleasant and the beer not overpriced but the range of beers was often safe and pedestrian.

Beer Of The Day - Binghams 'Vanilla Stout'

As you may be aware, Bingham's 'Vanilla Stout' won this years CAMRA Beer of Britain at the recent Great British Beer festival. Myself and a fellow editor were discussing this at the weekend, and whether it was a good choice. As it happens, neither of us really knew since neither of us had sampled it. However....

Binghams are a brewery, brewing on a 10 barrel plant in Ruscombe in Berkshire. They have been brewing since 2010 so are obviously experienced at what they do, and have a fairly large portfolio of beers. However, they are a brewery whose beers I rarely find. Until yesterday.

I called in the Harrogate Tap and there the champion beer was on the bar. I had to sample it to see if it was worthy of its accolade. Well I am unsure. It is a 5% stout, and did not really drink that strength, nor did the infusion of vanilla pods bring much to the beer. It was pleasant enough but in my opinion, not sufficiently pleasant to justify its award.

I am sorry Bingham's. May be the beer does not travel well, or may be my sample was tired but it did not give me the wow factor I had expected.