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.