Thursday, January 21, 2016

Wakefield CAMRA's top pub: Robin Hood

Robin Hood at Altofts. Wakefield CAMRA'S pub of the year
A chance remark last week led to a rather memorable Saturday session.
I was in Wakefield for a planning meeting for East West Fest II (May 12-14 at the Red Shed) planning meeting when I casually said to Gingerbeerking, 'Please let me know when you are going next to the Robin Hood at Altofts."
"Saturday" was the fired back reply.
Not being ones to stand on ceremony we agreed to meet up there. But we took different routes to Wakefield CAMRA's newly crowned pub of the year.
Mine was the direct one, a 15-minute walk uphill from Normanton Station whereas GBK had the rather more circuitous and interesting route, checking the Locale provision in several rural Wakefield pubs.
I arrived to find him checking the beers/breweries on the bar. They were all the requisite LocAle distance of being within a 21-mile radius of Wakey.
There was Mad Dog & Englishmen from Empire, Old Moor and Barnsley Bitter from Acorn and Topaz from Geeves.
All four were in good nick and, I believe representatives from Acorn had been in the night before and given their own beers the official seal of approval. But it was another Barnsley based beer that grabbed me from the off,  Geeves' Topaz. A single hopped session beer at 3.8 per cent. 
Sessions seem to be becoming a bit of a recurring theme for me of late. I think my days of gallivanting here there and everywhere in search of something new may be becoming more infrequent.
May be it's an age thing, but I'm more minded to let the beers come to me these days. This was the third good pub session I've had in a row (Jacob's in Bradford, The Kelham/Shakespeare's in Sheffield and now Robin Hood, Altofts).
The latter warded off some stiff competition to claim the district pub crown after only 11 months of the new management team being in charge. The Junction, Harry's and The Black Rock were all in the running.
So what singles it out? Well, I'm not a member of Wakefield so I don't have any inside track. But based on my sole visit, I'd say it it's a combination of factors: beer quality, service and attention to detail.
As far as I understand it the pub is run by a team with no previous experience in the ale trade, but when you put together their individual talents in retail, business acumen and a Doctor of Chemistry then it's a pretty heady brew.
Forgive the pun, but that leads me to another aspect. The pub will become a brew pub when on site microbrewery Tarn 51 Brewing cranks up shortly. 
There is also talk of some hot food being introduced. But nothing is being rushed, each aspect seems to being honed before the next one is introduced.
GBK and me had the privilege of drinking in the company of brewster Dr Haley and co-owner Rob, who told us of their hopes for the community pub. Judging by the number of people who kept funnelling in on Saturday, I'd say they are well on their way to achieving their ambitions.
We were in the snug/tap room where I believe Hayley's forthcoming beers will feature, bringing the number of handpumps up to six.
No date was given as to when that might be. I get the impression the team will want everything to be just so before the eagerly anticipated ales hit the bar.
So this post is very much part one of two. I shall leave you with a few pints of Five Town's Middle Un, which came on just before I left. It made the trudge back to Normy Railway Station in the snow like walking on air.
The Robin Hood is based at 10 Church Road, Altofts. It is on or near a number of bus routes. 
The pub is on Facebook and on Twitter: @RobHoodAltofts as is the brewery: @Tarn51brewing.

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