Pubpaper 886 – Festive Pub Time

Posted: 2nd January 2017 by santobugtio in Uncategorized

I hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year and got to visit all the pubs you wanted to and sample all the beers your taste buds desired.  Looking at the facebook feeds from our various real ale pubs from across the Calder Valley they seemed to do good trade across the season, it’s just a pity some scum have taken advantage of the season in Siddal.  There were break ins at both the Siddal Place and Cross Keys, with three charity boxes taken from the latter establishment via a broken window.

I planned to visit more establishments over the season, but health again got in the way of a number of visits, including my New Years Eve and a second planned visit to the Cross Keys. (the New Years Eve event at the Cross Keys appeared to knock off at a respectable 2.15am with them reporting it was the best New Years Eve ever, their first ticketless event).   But I managed to pop in just before Christmas where Hugh and Ruth were in good spirits for the festive season and a few well deserved halves were imbibed, a New Years Day visit was also fitted in where Exit 33 and Vocation beers went down rather nicely.   It was good to catch up with Hugh post the festive season and see how it had been treating them and the team. All the best to them and all our pubs in 2017 and hope they enjoy increased trade and personal success.

One establishment I did visit a number of times was the Pumproom, a place I’m enjoying more from an atmosphere and beer perspective.  Tony is building a good team there with Tom Dyson on board from Wetherspoons full time now.  There is a good crowd building up including a number of other real ale pub landlords which is always a good sign that the beer is being kept well and interesting.  A mix of the regular real ale drinkers and those killing time while waiting for a bus works well, while the beer range from Elland to as far as the Northern West is satisfying most palettes.

I paid a visit to our more tourist oriented neighbours over the festive season and Hebden Bridge was seeing some a nice upturn in trade both shop and pub wise between Christmas and New Year.  Me and a friend took a walk out of town and popped into the Stubbing Wharf for a beer.   A solid range of beers presented itself at the bar, each sampling differently, with both meeting approval.  Food trade was brisk with all the downstairs tables taken mainly for that purpose when we entered, forcing us to wait upstairs for a table to become free, the crowds extending throughout the pub, although it had emptied slightly as we left.  A walk along the canal back into town and a bit of shopping observed the Old Gate is busy as always on both exit and return.  

The town has mostly recovered from the floods of a year ago with only one pub still closed, the White Swan re-opening with a decent refit from a brief look in the window.  Calans sadly got missed out on my trip, but will be included in my next trip for sure as it would be good to see Allan and Alison again.   Instead we popped into Drink for some bottled ale, and whilst there it would be rude not to have a quick beer from their collection at the bar.  The beers sampled slip my mind, but both were tasty and nicely kept.  A nice relaxed vibe is present in the place with a good mix of retail and on premise drinkers.  Prior to the festive season I made a number of visits to Libertine in Mytholmroyd, A nice range of cask and keg beers keep me and my fellow drinkers happy,  ranging from Vocation at Cragg Vale to the joy that is Titanic Plum Porter, a wonderful beer wherever I’ve tried it. The town which is now back up to 3 pubs again, a full recovery of venues from a year ago, abhet some without full facilities.

All th best until next week and enjoy your beer!

Pubpaper 885 – Ain’t no party like a Cross Keys Party!

Posted: 11th December 2016 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing
Original 2012 Day1 Beer

Original 2012 Day1 Beer Lineup

Just over four years ago the Cross Keys opened for business under the control of Hugh and Ruth.   There were a number of real ale pubs around the town centre already including the survival at that time of the real ale triangle (Royal Oak now Dirty Dicks, Three Pigeons, now demolished Pump Room), but no new establishments had been opened in recent times.  In fact the town had suffered the loss of Lewins earlier in the year which had been a bastion of Yorkshire beers over the previous few years, with up to 8 pumps on at once.

It took me a fair few weeks to get down to the Cross Keys in person, but once I did I became a regular and have been ever since.  The beer hasn’t changed and still remains the well kept regularly rotated collection of 6 or 7 beers it always seem to be, maintaining its serial Good Beer Guide entrant status.  A number of interior upgrades over the years have improved the pub creating more room, but the original bar, back room and and tap room layout has survived.  Live music has become a staple for Sunday afternoons, covering all genres, a time slot which was their own until others started to copy recently, success creating imitators.

P1080656_SMALLThe pub is still going strong on all fronts, despite the new competition from the four new town centre real ale venues, its dual locale as as a neighbourhood pub and edge of town bar certainly helping.  Congratulations to Hugh and Ruth and all the team over the last four years and here is to the next four and their continued success.    The regulars and visitors seem happy with the way things are going and that is all you can ask for.  I agree with one of my fellow beer writers that it is one of the best pubs around full stop, never mind in the Calderdale area.

The Christmas period is well upon us now and pubs are filling with people who don’t know the rules of the bar, have hardly been to the pub since last christmas and hence have relatively low alcohol.    All these extra customers and trade are great and many pubs rely on this income to last through January, February and March until the bank holiday takings kick in (although not the idea business model).  The higher margin food offerings are critical for increasing income.    But look at our main real ale pubs across the Calderdale Valley.  Most of them are wet led pubs, some with bar snacks, some with cheese or baked sausage rolls, pork pies or pasties.  At most they might have a special food led night once a week or month (see Victorian Craft Beer Cafe and their Thai food night).

Calans, Fox and Goose, Drink, Libertine, Pump Room, Victorian Craft Beer Cafe, Alexanders, Grayson Unity and Cross Keys all cope as wet led successfully throughout the year.  Simply their ale choice, range and quality sell the place and keep people coming back.     It’s not that the food led pubs are not doing well, at least half the bars in the Halifax or Hebden town centre are food led venues and keep nicely busy, the Moorings, Old Gate or White Lion being prime examples in the latter town.  The Old Gate of course dominates it’s bar with a large number of cask and keg ales as it always has, keeping it’s feet in both camps.

Dirty Dicks Food and Ale EmporiumHalifax town centre is a bit less independent when it comes to it food pubs sadly, with a number of pubs companies owning the most of the food led premises.   Sowerby Bridge has proportional gained more food led premises now we have lost Puzzle Hall Inn and the Works.  From memory wet let premises are now Turks Head, Hogshead, Jubilee Refreshment Room, Blind Pig and Bull of the Bridge / Sowerby Taps (please feel to correct me).  Most have 3-4 real ale taps on bar at tops in these, so domination of such ales are not so heavy as those listed as those in the previous paragraph.

Jumping back to Dirty Dicks to finish off this week. It appears that it has been sold by Sean Garvey Taverns to the Rogers Leisure Group as of the end of last week (w/e 10th Dec).  Reviews have been mixed since the takeover, with a number of people commenting on the ale.  It shall be interesting to see how things pan out over the next few weeks, although Sean Garvey had been concentrating on his other pub in recent months it has been rumoured.

Pubpaper 884 – Unusual Haunts

Posted: 5th December 2016 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

This week has seen a few lunch time pub trips and a stop over in Haworth post Santa Train for a couple of beers. Venues I’d normally not visit, it’s good to have a bit of variety before I inevitably return to my usual haunts.  I also popped into Libertine, Mytholmroyd with a friend for a few hours last Wednesday night.

I’ve discussed the loss of pubs in Sowerby Bridge recently, so it is interesting to revisit a venue that I’ve not attended in a long time.  The Moorings has been around since I’ve lived in Calderdale and is a food led pub, their beer choice being from the Greene King camp or mainstream brands.  On my visit only the Greene King IPA and Black Sheep were on, leaving Black Sheep the only option given I don’t drink Greene King beers.  The beer was as expected, solid and uninteresting, however the food was better thankfully.  The haddock fishcakes were very good and would be ordered again and my wife’s garlic mushrooms were nice.  Staff were warm and welcoming, the large interior comfortable with nice wide views over the canal basin.

Just outside the Calderdale area I visited one of the Vintage Inns chain, the Hare and Hounds on the hills above Mirfield and Cooper Bridge.  The menu is the same across the chain, but the real ale selection is better than the Moorings with Leeds Pale Ale and Abbeydale Moonshine on offer, the latter being my drink of choice over lunch.  A regular at some of the area’s better real ale pubs it was in good condition, Moonshine is a nicely flavoured pale session ale from Sheffield.   Onto the food, we shared garlic mushrooms and tomato flatbread, the mushrooms a touch salty, the bread hitting the spot nicely.  Inside it’s large space is comfortable.  I’ve visited this venue many times in the past with work and tried a good number of the dishes, none of which disappoint, but neither surprise.

Libertine in Mytholmroyd has changed into it’s winter Apre Ski guise and also celebrate their 1st birthday next weekend.   Congratulations to the owners for setting up a nice chilled venue with a good range of real ales off their four paddles.  On a quiet midweek night we took the warm spot in the back corner near the heater and enjoyed a few glasses of a new Great Heck pale session ale I’d not encountered (the name escapes me and isn’t listed on their website, brewery or pub).  Throughout the night groups came back and forth keeping a nice atmosphere rolling.  We also had to have a drink of Titanic Plum Porter, one of my favourite darker beers, one I don’t see enough in pubs.  A good range of spirits and winter drinks only adds to the attraction.   The effort has gone into the decor with walls, ceilings and exterior all suitably decorated.

The last pub this week is the Old White Lion in Haworth, a nice homely pub in the main square at the top of this tourist town.   Split into a number of areas, some bar, some dining, it supports both type of customers nicely.   Three real ales on the pump, a mix of mainstream and less known Yorkshire brewer including Goose Eye on this visit, although all well kept from the two beers I tried. a mix of family and drinking groups all co-existing nicely.  There are a number of pubs in and around the Haworth main square including the Kings Arms and Black Bull, with the Fleece Inn further down the main street and the Old White Lion is on a par with them.

I am looking forwards to see old friends and old haunts over christmas as my health allows, I’ve still got a number of pubs I’ve to visit and report on and some revisits are well overdue.  This year has been tough on me, but I’m pleased to have kept touch with some of my favourite venues despite this.   We have a great set of pubs in Calderdale old and new, enjoy them Christmas and beyond as they deserve all the support we can give them.

When you aren’t drinking out at the pub then thoughts of licensed drinking can drift into your mind easily, prompted by news of a pub opening or changing, talking to friends on their related experiences or simply that craving that you can’t satisfy at this very point.  Of course, we think about eating and drinking on a regular basis and frankly we are bombarded with food marketing, but these are essential to living and surviving day to day and never have I been more aware of this in my condition.  Cookery programmes are teasing out your tastebuds 240/7 and if you are a wine or spirit drinker pulling you towards the fridge or cupboard most hours of the day.  As I have mentioned before in previous articles, beer isn’t mentioned too often still on food or drink programmes and beer programmes are non existent, despite the very small peak in such productions a handful of years ago.  Any advertising for beer is generally for mainstream lager or real ale and big box discounts, the exception being around Christmas time.

The market for beer is growing of this there is no doubt,   Look at Halifax and Calderdale, more bars are opening and surviving longer than the average business and in this current economic climate that is all we can ask for.  They are not cannibalising each other’s trade and instead creating a informal chain of venues or a local scene.  You can’t see this in big cities like Leeds and Manchester for the woods of bars hiding the special trees out there in the mass of licenced premises, but you certainly do in our local towns.  When I think of going out, it isn’t just to one pub, it’s at least 2 even if it means I drink less in each due to driving.  In Halifax, a planned evening out will consist of Pumproom, Victorian Craft Beer Cafe and Cross Keys minimum, Hebden will be Calans, Fox and Goose and an other according to mood and needs.  They’ve thrown pretty much every biblical plague at us in the Calder Valley and we’ve kept going.   As a side note Sowerby Bridge is the exception here as we have lost Puzzle Hall and the Works over the last year, but it is important to note these have been open for many years now, so initial failure is not to blame, rather Enterprise or their agents being greedy bar stewards or personal financial or individual circumstances of which I briefly delved into a few weeks ago.

These bars jobs might not be employing tens of thousands of people and making headlines on the 6’O Clock News like major car factories do   But over time a lot of these small service sector businesses will add up to that same number of jobs, them being all local being a bonus.   Beer as a sector is still being under represented on TV  and in the media.   Beer related magazines are virtually non existent outside of craft beer circles and clubs whilst wine and food magazines are fairly well represented on the racks.  This hasn’t changed in 5 years and can’t see it changing in the next 5 at this rate.  

Ironically I actually get to write about visiting the pub this week, if only because I frankly couldn’t last much longer without a fresh pint.   I popped down for an afternoon at the Cross Keys on Sunday for a few halves whilst enjoying the usual live music, this time from My Brother Jake.   Half the pub full from the local cycling club, the rest filling nicely from a mix of friends and family of the artist and Sunday regulars.    There is a phrase that you can be in a room full of people and be totally alone and some people like myself are comfortable like this, others less so.  The fact you are around people makes all the difference not that you are interacting with them.  I’d seen the artist before several times and the acoustic guitar set made for a very pleasant afternoon out whilst u waited for my family to return from the pantomime, them enjoying the second act with me.   Sampling 4 of the  6 pumps on the bar all of which were well kept as expected of Hugh and Ruth’s joint just re-enforced how draft real ale makes all the difference over its bottled cousin as I mentioned last week.  

Beer, Atmosphere and People are key and that is what makes our pubs!

Pubpaper 882 – Other Peoples Drinking

Posted: 22nd November 2016 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

It had to happen at some point in time and last week was the first time I missed writing a Pubpaper in over 6 years.  Yet another weekend hospital visit,,the third in a month, finally stopped me in my tracks.  But I’m back (from a writing point of view and frankly missing the pub like mad, something you don’t realise until you have no choice in not visiting!  I’ve realised it is the social side I miss most, being able to live with the same well kept good session ale all night.  I don’t need go out looking for something new to try all the time.  At home I’ve got a selection of nice real ales including new ones sitting in the pantry but the motivation isn’t there to drink them when no one else is doing the same or there isn’t the atmosphere at the venue.

My dad is the same, he can have a load of beer in the house, but if anything he’ll have a whisky or rum as a nightcap whether at his house or mine.   Beer for me has become the drink for social gatherings, be they wherever.  As much of it is liking my beers freshly poured from the pump,  some will say that bottle conditioned beers can be as good,  but I’d disagree, you can’t beat the freshness of a pint.  When I visited the Cloudspotting Music Festival back in July, I took a number of beers, but not many left the car boot as although some of the real ale was “decent session” at best, I was happy to pay £3.00 a pint for a nice well kept pint.

However if I can’t visit pubs myself what I can do is recommend pubs for other people to visit.and it’s also great to hear independent feedback on other favourite venues.    On Sunday, my parents were taking an afternoon out in Hebden Bridge between visits to me at the Hospice.  Asking for recommendation for lunch, I suggested the Stubbing Wharf just outside the town, I’d heard good things both pre and post flood, before heading into town for a pint of one of the handful of pubs serving real ales.  The beer there has always been a stable, consistent range but well kept from my experience.   The food apparently did not disappoint with the Sunday dinners hitting the spot for a good price, accompanied by good well kept session ales as I had previously experienced.  A friend of mine who had eaten both before and after flooding said the standards were higher before the flood, but were still very high now.  

My parents never did get into the town itself to try one of the other bars such as Calans, Drink!, Old Gate or Fox or Goose.  However fellow guests at the hotel they were staying at in Halifax had visited the town and Calans for the first time and were impressed by the place after my folks recommended it to them, both from a beer and atmosphere point of view.   My parents did manage to visit a new bar in the Halifax town centre over the previous Friday, the Pumproom getting the honour post dinner at the Percy Shaw.   Intending to stay for a pint before heading back to the hotel bar, they ended the visit 4 pints laters, always a good sign, with 3 beers from the pump rack going down well and them definitely wanting to visit again.  Only the Alexandra bar to introduce to them now from the new bars in Halifax!

A bit part of doing this “job” is letting people know about venues I enjoy visiting whether it be online, in print or in person.   If I don’t like a place, it doesn’t get mentioned,  places I like you’ll see repeatedly, whilst others are mentioned merely in passing.    I have the enjoyment of discovering these places as do all us beer drinkers, meeting the great people who run, own and work behind the bars of these venues.  It’s great to see Tom Dyson join Tony and his partner and move behind the bar of the Pumproom whilst the Cross Keys has developed a “family “ behind the bar in all but genetics throughout it’s close on 5+ years of existence.  The dynamic behind both the Market Street Tavern and Calans is very much a core partnership team operating the venue with close friends and family.  

These sort of management teams are present all across our pub estates, but they are the teams which work and make going to those pubs a pleasure…..and long may I have that pleasure in my life!

I have never missed writing an article for this column in 6 years and this week was the closest I’ve come to it so far. I’ve contracted a pretty serious chest infection and spent 4 days at the Hotel Calderdale Royal Hospital being pumped full of their finest Chateau de Antibiotic. Not much scope for drinking sadly as the onsite bar is pretty non existent.

I moved to Calderdale in 1998, living in various places on Beacon Hill before settling in Bank Top. Back then, with no kids or real responsibilites I drank a hell of a lot more. My pub scene then still has some hanger-oners, but most have dropped by the wayside. My usual Halifax haunts were Brass Cat, Upper George (only one off this ist I visit now), O’Neills, Old Cock, and the thee pubs whic made up the real ale triange, even though it wasn’t really my scene then. For those who don’t remember the triange was the Pump Room (now demolished), Three Pigeons and Royal Oak (now Dirty Dicks).

I even went to Collesium and Maine Street for my sins. Imagine now paying £6 to get into an over priced venue just so you could carry on drinking post 11.30 at night.  Looking back it’s amazing how much the drinking culture has changed, nightclubs are now visited for the musical genre, DJ or atmosphere. If you want to drink till 2am now, Wetherspoons can do the same job for £2.50 a pint as the club will do for £4.50 plus per pint.

Many local pubs had “private parties” for regulars most Friday and Saturday nights which went on till 1 or 2 in the morning, some a lot later, escpecially on New Years Eve when it ran till 4-5am. How many of us used to catch a cab at 10.30 back from town to the local so you made sure you were in before the locks got shut at 10:50. This was all just part of the drinking game back at the turn of century.

At the turn of the millenium me, my now wife and another couple headed into Halifax, after a pretty decent pub crawl We came to the once in a 1000 years event at Midnight 1999 and Halifax did it in the only way it knew, an unbelievibly shit way by pretty doing nothing! Most of the pubs were charging way over the odds for entry, but we ended up having a drink to see in the year 2000 in some bar or other before catching a taxi home not long after. We’ve not done a New Years Eve out in town since!

Looking back, the pub scene was healthy back then, however it was well before the crash. I judge this in retrospect by how my local pub (The Cock and Botte, Baank Top) was doing back then. In 2000 it was full both weekend evenings and on Sunday afternoons you couldn’t move for drinkers all session, almost a regular party each week. From about 2002 onwards you saw the numbers slowly but steadily drop across these three sessions until about 2006 it was down by about 50%, the 2007 crash knocked those numbers even more until some sunday afternoons you could count customers on two hands. Not long in the future the landlord gave the place back to Enterprise Inns. The pub reopened as freehold, free of tie and totally redeveloped in 2010 and has been thriving for the last 6 years.

Looking at the pub and bar scene now, it is unrecognisable now in many aspects, and familiar in others. Many of Halifax’s pubs stil serve a very similar range of beers to some the same customers as they did in 2000. We have lost many pubs to other business types and we’ll nevr get them back, but those that have survived are those which have a sound basis for trading. But the re-rise of the Real Ale pub and Craft bars is what has changed the picture of the modern pub scene. Micropubs are dominating new openings around Calderdale, 4 in the last 2 years in Halifax, Hogshead in Sowerby Bridge, 3 in Hebden Bridge, plus one in Mytholmroyd and Brighouse each all in the same time frame. These join the establshed names on the Calderdale real ale scene, Fox and Goose, Big Six, Three Pigeons, Red Rooster, Head of Steam, Travellers Rest and many more. When the best elements of the pub scene are being copied in new venues, it is only good and lets hope that continues.

Pubpaper 879 – Back to home pastures

Posted: 1st November 2016 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

Unfortunately I have to start this week’s column with some bad news, no doubt carried by the editor already.  The Works in Sowerby Bridge closed its doors in the past couple of weeks for what could be the last time.    The venue was obviously shut at short notice as seasonal function bookings were left in the air and it appears insolvency specialists have been appointed to tidy up its financial affairs.   The Works was a pub I’d only visit occasionally in recent years as other venues had stole my personal thunder, but in it’s early days was a weekly visit.  It was one of the original pubs which led the Sowerby Bridge revival which saw it become the weekend mecca it was for a good 6 years or so from the late noughties into the early part of the next decade.  I liked the place and still did for it’s nice relaxed space, decent range of real ales which were generally well kept and formerly I got on with Sarah-Jo, who was a key part of the management team until a few years ago.   Sowerby Bridge has had plenty of new venues since the Works, but it’s sad to lose and original, as we have the Puzzle Hall Inn down the road.  Hopefully someone will resurrect the venue, but the question is to be asked, was the reason it was closed that it was simply not viable or the company simply ran out of money.

My illness has been taking a heavy toll on my body over the last few weeks including being admitted to hospital, so my visit to Preston and Clitheroe didn’t go ahead, instead we stay firmly within the Calderdale borders.  I had one of my best friends up for a long weekend just past and on previous visits has only seen the Cross Keys in Siddal from our extensive list of great pubs.   On the Saturday we went for a few beers in Brighouse, visiting the Market Tavern and the Railway-Commercial.    The Railway is a pub I pop into occasionally but should be more often, it was good to see Trevor, the landlord, again and to catch up with my friend Jason whilst he was on shift.   A couple of nice beers went down really well here.  If you’ve never been to this pub, there is warm atmosphere in the bar and as I’ve said before the decor is like someone has dropped a fully fitted bar into someone’s front room which adds to that feeling and worth a visit if in town.  

Sandwiching the visit to the Railway was a couple of trips to the Market Tavern where Debs and Snap are continuing to make a success of this innocuous little building, now extended by the outside drinking area overlooking the market stalls.  On Saturday afternoon the bar was full and we had to sit in this outside area whilst some rather nice real ale, wine and lemonade was consumed by the party, although the weather being so mild made it far more pleasant that it should be in later October.    Constantly rotating beers, with a well kept cellar and charging reasonable prices along with a crowd that is nothing but friendly make this the go to place in the town centre.  The interaction between Debs, Snap and the customers also is second to few.

Sunday we popped into town into the afternoon and caught up with Tony at the Pumproom in Halifax.   He’s still reporting good trade with plenty of new faces coming into pub as well as more regular drinkers.   Again a nice range of beers from local and regional brewers and all well kept, all visible directly behind the bar.  His location is paying dividends with passing trade and “bus wait-ers” adding to his customers all the time.   The recipe he started with is still the same as when he started, good real ales and beers, good quality spirits and good customer service.  It’s a winning combo elsewhere, so why change it.    A couple of beers at the Victorian Craft Beer Cafe followed to round the day off nicely.  

It’s good to get back to home bases after a few weeks away drinking and they are all still as good as ever!

There’s plenty happening on the Calderdale pub scene at the moment with another new real ale venue in Hebden Bridge.  Nido, a cafe bar has opening its doors in the last month just up the road from Drink? And the Old Gate.  I’ve not been myself but fellow beer writer Chris Dyson alerted me to the place and I hope to get over there soon to give it a fuller review.  From its Facebook page it looked to offer 4 real ales including those from Dark Star, Great Heck, Siren Craft and Bowness last week.   It seems they’ve brought in a good range of brewers since they opened, offer a good bottled selection as well as a good range of spirits and cocktails.  All good signs that the Calderdale bar and pub scene is growing strong again, something which is good for all pubs.

lah-exteriorHowever this week I leave the area yet again and head over to Harrogate where I had a rather nice weekend away to celebrate my wedding anniversary.    We visited three venues over the duration of Saturday.  First during the day was the Alexandra, part of the Nicholsons chain which is better known in London and the home counties.  In the evening we spent extended stays at the Harrogate Tap and North Bar (sister bar to the Leeds site).  We intended to visit The Little Ale House, but time ran out and hunger diverted us for a late dinner at Wetherspoons (The Winter Gardens), The Little Ale House for the next trip.   

The Alexandra is a food led pub, with a large open layout, one side facing towards the Stray.   Food is fairly standard fare, the ales could be described similarly.   On 6 pumps (of 8) they offered 3 Sharps beers (which are the Molson Coors real ale brand), Leeds Pale Ale, their own Pale Ale plus one other.  Not trusting of Sharps I went for Leeds Pale Ale and their own version of the same over lunch, a perfectly good pint, but nothing you’d go out of your way for.   Which is not something you say about the next place, the Harrogate Taps.  I’ve visited here before back in Aug 2015, so knew a good range of beers was waiting for me.

img_20161022_172137The bar is located on the platform at Harrogate station in the old waiting / refreshments room.   The room itself is as you would expect, finding yourself surrounded by lovely wood work, a stone and tiled floor and plenty of original features.   Onto the beer, this isn’t a problem, with 12 pumps, 10 keg lines and wide range of bottles you aren’t going to beat the bar.  The real ales were from a mix of brewers both known and new to me.  Like the other pubs in the Pinovar chain it also sells a number of beers from their own Tapped Brew.  From the day North Riding Mosaic Pale, Credence Pale, Arbor I Speak for the Trees and Bad Seed Summer Ale all went down very well and were obviously well looked after.    Outside of the beers sampled you found Tiny Rebel, Oakham, Hopcraft and Marble represented with more mainstream tastes catered for by Saltaire and Dark Horse beers.    Looking at the bigger picture, the customer service is great, the staff knowledgeable and atmosphere friendly.   We was about to move on, but after travelling to get away from Calderdale we ended up bumping into my Guitar teacher from Elland and shared one more drink before walking down to the next pub. .

img_20161022_192959North Bar Harrogate is, like many new bars, very stripped back, so much so you can when the plywood on the bar was pressed!.  Located over two floors, the main bar area and  chilled lower ground area greet you as you enter.  The building itself is located a few hundred metres above towns Conference Centre.   The bar offers three beers on pump and about 14 on keg lines plus a good range of bottles.  This mirrors what you’ll find at the sister pub back in Leeds.  Normally I take a photo of the bar as an aid memoir, but forgot here so apologies for lack of detail.  But like Harrogate Tap,  a number of kegs turned over to their own brewing operation, this time North Brewing Co.  I had three beers here, a couple of keg beers and a real ale.  All of them hit the spot and the cellar work was spot on given their condition.   The pub also offers a simple menu of good local food and quality rum among other similar spirits to keep my wife happy.   Again the staff are really friendly and know their beer.   The atmosphere is nice and chilled and all of the above is all you can ask for, over and above good beer.

Wetherspoons was Wetherspoons, that’s all that needs to be said.  Next article I’ll probably be out of town still, this time in Preston.  So more from my travels in 7 days time.


Pubpaper 877 – Manchester Beermoth and Oast House

Posted: 16th October 2016 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

This weekend saw another visit to Manchester for the day, it being 6 weeks since my birthday trip to the same city.  The girls of my family were going to see Frozen on Ice at the arena, so myself and my parents decided to kill time over a few drinks in the city centre.  I had wanted to visit Beermoth, just off the main Arndale centre corridor, on my last trip. However having the family with me precluded us from the venue due to the level of custom.  This time there was no such issues, the bar filling nicely but not crowded, although we ended up sharing a table with a solo drinker (who’s wife was at the theatre) and enjoying some good conversation with him for an hour or two.

The Beermoth started as a beer shop in the Northern Quarter of the cit y, with the bar opening at the end of last year.   The bar, on Brown Street sits at the base of of an office block as most new venues seem to in city centres and from the outside would be pretty non descript if it wasn’t for the window size prints on the side announcing the bar.  Inside the bar there is a soft area at the far end with large booths along the front window, stooled natural wood tables in front of the bar (watch out for the natural kinks in the wood) and an additional upstairs area with extra seating.  The design is modern and somewhat stripped back, clean wood, exposed venting, uncluttered.   Nice touches include hop vines wrapped around the top of the bar and booth areas.

The bar extends most the length of the building with the bar being kept clear of pumps and keg machinery, the operational end of the business being located against the back wall.  The pumps and keg lines are non marked with the beers detailed on sheets above, of which there are 17, 7 on pump and 10 on keg.  Prices start from around 3.10 for beers like Roosters Italian Job (4.7%) and Track Ozark (4.4%), moving up to 4.20 a pint for beer from Magic Rock and Quantum with top end rarer imported beers coming in at 6.20 per ? of a pint.  There is also an extensive selection of bottled beers, again with a similar price range.  Me and my dad stayed on the real ale for our visit and all the beer was really well kept and the customer service was excellent.  

Normally my mum is the loser in these places as she only drinks the occasional wine or half a lager, but these also sell excellent coffee and tea so all parties were kept happy.    Between us on the table we sampled the aforementioned Roosters Italian Job, and Track Ozark, the latter of which went down rather well.  We also tried Dark Star Revelation (5.7%) and The Tiny Rebel Full Nelson (4.8%).   All arrived at the table in top condition, the main thing you can ask from a real ale serving bar.   A very different bar to my last recommendation of Wharf in the Castlefield area, but equally worth of it, with a good atmosphere, informed and friendly staff and good beer, if you get all three life can’t be too bad for you.

After this we intended to go for a drink at Mr Thomas’s Chop House, but the girls were on their way to meet us and it was looking rather busy, so we headed down to the Avenue leisure complex at Spinningfields (off Deansgate) and to the Oast House, which takes up the central area of the complex with a permanent wood / brick main building and over winter the large open area to the front gets filled with two large tee pee style tents to give customers some respite from the British weather, although in summer it’s filled with tables and cushions for the large steps which make up the boundary of its operating area, which is where we located ourselves.

The real ale selection numbers four with two regular strength session ales and two stronger ales in the 5-6% range.   They also serve a range of good bottles, cocktails (which started my wife on the sangria for the rest of the night) and a good range of European beers.  We arrived on the cusp between the shopping crowd and the Saturday night revellers, but the security staff were good and allowed us in as a family with kids and I must say the busy crowd were no hassle either with them.  Being flexible when it comes to interpreting licensing is something you appreciate when visiting big cities and local pubs alike.   The two session strength beers were kept well and tasted good, although a little lively on the pour initially.    

Our last stop of the night was Dmitri’s Taverna on Deansgate, a place I’d recommend any day for the food from starters to meze to puddings plus they serve 3 ales, Bombardier and two Charles Wells beers, more than you usually get at such restaurants.

3s_final_p1200661This weekend myself and the family popped over to the Marsden Jazz Festival on Saturday.   Only finding out about the event on the Friday night when I met a friend there for a walk and beer after work, a ton of free performances, lots of pubs and pop up bars and good food appealed.   In recent times the town had got a reputation for trouble from those doing the Transpennine Ale Trail.  The pubs in the town have really cracked down on the stag, hen and other large parties who were descending on the town each weekend, banning fancy dress and other related paraphernalia, as well as the police increasing their presence.  Last time me and the same friend were in the town it was late July, and we were half freezing outside by the river drinking a pint from the Riverhead Brewery Tap.   Roll on 10 weeks and we were doing the same on a Friday night except this time it was pleasantly warm outside and the pub was full as always at that time of the week.  The randomness of the British climate!

Riverhead Brewery is one of the Ossett micro breweries, alongside Fernandes and White Rat.  They produce a range of ales from 3.6% Bitters to 5.5% Strong Ales, 5 different beers at a time from their onsite brew plant    Alongside their regular ales at the festival they added a special pump for “Jazz”  at 3.8%,  although I’m guessing this was a rebadged brew from their collection of recipes.   As expected they also serve a number of the other sister micro breweries beers as well as from the parent Ossett brewery.  The beers from this family of breweries generally are not going to knock your socks off, but will provide a solid set of session beers across various styles.  Inside, when you can get in, is a classic wooden clad interior, stone floored, bar furniture spread around the various nooks in the pub with a dining area upstairs. Real ale wise they normally run 6-8 pumps at a time, half being their own.

js33403699A couple of visits to the pub on the Friday night and on arrival on the Saturday afternoon saw three beers sampled (was driving on both occasions), two of those from onsite.   The visitor beer was White Rat, a 4% pale ale, a pleasant hoppy beer I’ve had many times before.  Moving onto the home brewed beers, I also had Butterley Bitter (3.8%) and the aforementioned Jazz.   The Butterley Bitter is a classic clean and drinkable best bitter that’d flow all night, whilst the Jazz had a bit more depth of flavour coming through in the hop stakes.  The former beer is named after the famous stepped slipway and accompanying reservoir above the town on which the slipway is now sadly being replaced by a more anodyne concrete design to suit “more modern standards”.   

As well as here we visited the New Inn on the main road in their pop up tent, again the pub being so packed it was a battle royale to get anywhere near the bar.  This is the first time in this venue and it looks a nice place when there is room for you, but given this is the town’s biggest event of year and free gigs are held inside and out all over the town, we are not to be surprised.   I couldn’t get close to the bar to check the wickets, but it looks like they offered 4 ales at least from my distant view.  In the beer tent I tried a couple of beers, first of all Vocation Bread and Butter, one of my favourite session ales which went down well, followed by the Dark Horse Brewery produced Hetton Pale Ale (4.2%), a beer I’m sure I’ve had before, but in the long distant past.   A nice session beer with a nice touch of hoppiness and bitter, one I’d drink again.   The burgers from the BBQ went down well to warm us up as tea time started to rob us of the daytime heat.  

img_20161007_211035On the way home we popped into the Market Tavern in Brighouse for a last beer.  I’d not been in here for a good 6 weeks before Friday night where I’d stopped off for one, again on the way home, allowing me to catch up with Snap and Debs who are still running a superb operation there, the beer and company as good as always.  The Exit 33 Golden Cascade and Vocation Bread and Butter both hit the spot very nicely.  A repeat visit by me and my family after the Jazz Festival was as much as they deserved and a warm welcome was extended as always. I like pubs where the people who run them have time for you and not just your £3.00 you pay for your beer, as for us all, we can get beer anywhere, Tesco, Wetherspoons, our favourite local or micro pub.  But we choose our venue because of the people there, both staff and patrons and long may that continue!