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.