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.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Pump Room II opens in Halifax

As a drinker I have always bemoaned the lack of decent drinking places near the Bus Station in Halifax. Well, I can stop moaning now. Recently I featured the Grayson Unity and earlier this week Pump Room II opened its doors, even more conveniently just across the road from the bus station entrance on Northgate.

It is a small building, just one room in effect, that has a bar at the far end. The bar holds 6 changing hand pulled beers as well as 5 fonts with lager, stout and a couple of craft beers. The back of the bar is the barrel stillage, behind a perspex wall.

This is a fascinating use of physics - the barrels are kept cool by a cooler above the pub, but are stacked in rows of four, and there is a hoist to allow their removal and addition to the stillage. It is easy to see the oncoming beers - the barrels are there on view !

But what of the beer ? I was quite happy with my choice of a Brecon wheat beer and a Whippet stout,  out of those on offer, and they were reasonably priced. I inadvertently forgot to write the rest down but they were all from smaller breweries.

On my visit, early on Friday lunchtime, the pub was busy, and all the seating taken, so it was standing room only at the bar, and my concern would be that it may just become too busy, but time will tell.

It opens daily from 12 noon, until 11 pm, and is a welcome addition to the drinking establishments of the town, especially since it has taken the name of much missed demolished Pump Room. Hopefully it will be equally successful.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Beer Of The Day - North Riding Brewery 'Rum and Raisin Mild'

One of my favourite breweries is from Scarborough. Originally a brew pub at the eponymously named pub 'North Riding Brewery' has moved part of it's operation to an out of time industrial estate, from where it has been brewing for around 18 months.

Stuart Neilson is one of those brewers whose beers I also look out for and whose beers I almost always enjoy. He is a lover of hops and many of the breweries output are pale and hoppy, but every month the brewery does produce a few specials and I stumbled across one of them in the Sportsman yesterday.

'Rum and Raisin Mild' is 4.3%, and it is undeniable that it does what it says on the clip. It has a very pleasant malty base but this soon diffuses into a massive hit of rum and raisin. I must admit that the beer may be a little sweet but it is very drinkable. And very unusual. (Most of the rum and raisin beers I have encountered have tasted synthetic and unpleasant, this is not the case here).

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Rose & Crown, Cleckheaton

As a beer enthusiast, I have been drinking in most parts of Kirklees and Calderdale, but yesterday I broke my duck in visiting a pub I had never previously visited, in a town which I have rarely visited. It all resulted from a chat in a pub a while ago (like all good things do!).

The Rose and Crown is in Cleckheaton, (centrally sited in Westgate) and my reason for visiting was that it is a brew pub - and one that had managed to slip under my radar.

Externally it boasts that it is 17th century pub, and internally it does little to dispel that with flagged floors and lowish ceilings. I assume it has gone through periods of renovation though. There seems to be an emphasis on food, especially on a Sunday, but the bar boasted around half a dozen draught beers, and much to my delight, two (I think,I will explain) from the in house brewery.

The Whitechapel brewery is situated at the rear of the pub across a small yard, and a list on the brewery wall is a testament to the brewery output. I believe, although I cannot confirm, that this now the site of the Haworth Steam Brewery as well. There was one of each brewery's beer on the bar. The latter slightly darker and more traditional but both very drinkable. And at £2.60 a pint - a bargain.

The pub is open 12 noon daily (I am unsure about Monday and Tuesday though) and it promises that its own brewery beers will always be available there. It is just as well because I have never seen the Whitechapel beers anywhere else. The food menu looks excellent and there are plenty of bus links to Cleckheaton, with a bus stop just outside the pub.

There is also a beer festival promised towards the end of October. I will certainly be there.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Beer Of The Day Durham 'Magus'

Durham 'Magus' is one of the regular beers on the bar at The Grove, and one that I enjoy and consistently overlook. But yesterday I thought it was time to revisit it.

The brewery have been in operation since 1994, and are one of the more established breweries about and can turn their hands to any style of beer and I am a fan of many, but Magus was the one on offer yesterday.

It is light, hoppy beer, with an abv of 3.8%, crisp, fruity and refreshing. A perfect summer beer. There is little else I can say about it !

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Beer Of The Day - Hydes ' Lebelski'

One of the more traditional of the breweries from ovr th' hill in Manchester is Hydes. They have been producing beer since 1863 and when I first encountered them they were very traditional. However they have become more experimental in the recent past and now produce a fascinating selection of beers.

They have a side brewery called Beer Studio which provides a selection of their seasonal beers but I am more interested in the range they brew under the Provenance umbrella. These are suually single hopped beers using ingredients from a specific country. Some have been available locally in Wetherspoons.

The most recent addition to the range was lurking in a pub in Manchester yesterday so I had to sample it. 'Lebelski' is 4.4% and brewed with the Polish Lubiner hop. This is matched with Flagon malt to produce a very interesting beer. It is difficult to pin down a definitive flavour but there are hints of citrus, subtle bitterness, and soft malts all blending together to create a very drinkable offering.

It may be that it may not make it across the Pennines but if it does it is well worth a try.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Beer of The Day - Abbeydale 'Hop Smash'

I had been told of Abbeydale brewery's 'Hop Smash' but only expected to see it on cask, particularly with an abv of 7.4%, but I was impressed to see it on the bar in the Kings Head yesterday.

It is something special - and slightly unusual for the brewery. Firstly it is a collaboration, with Kuhnhenn Brewery of Michigan, and secondly it is a beer with additions. Let me explain.

It is an American style IPA and is packed with hops, but if that is not enough the brewers have given it a twist with fresh grapefruit juice and zest added at the end of fermentation. This give it a citrus twist to the hoppy notes, and leads to a dry, fruity finish.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Beer Of The Day - Mallinsons Mosaic

One my favourite hops from one of my favourite breweries, what more could I ask for ?

Mosaic is a single hopped beer brewed by the Huddersfield brewery, Mallinsons. It has been brewed before, but has been missing for a little while, leaving us addicts to rely on our bottle supply.

This was rectified this weekend when I found the beer on cask in the Star. It is still just as good this time. It has an aroma full of fresh fruit, and follows this with a taste of citrus and a long bitter finish. It is 4.0% and light coloured. And well worth seeking out (but not at the Star because we ran that barrel off !!)

Back on the Road Again

After our absence for the last couple of weeks we are now up and raring to go.

Steve Johnson's funeral was massively attended, a tribute to the affection in which he was held in every sphere that he touched.

We have heard that the 'Corner' -the new Mallinsons brewery tap is well on track for an Autumn opening, we will keep you posted.

And we have still been out scouring the pubs for our beers of the day and we will resurrect our 'Pub of the Week' but I feel that it may be better served as a 'Pub of the Month' - watch this space for our next contribution.

There are plenty of local beer festivals due in the none too distant future and we hope to cover as many as possible.

Thank you.