Keep On Runnin’: The Otley Run, 17 pubs in 13 hours can it be done? No.

Okay, I’m not in some stupid meathead university club that requires all members to do some form of initiation involving humiliating acts or forced drinking – you know, the normal idiots who try to cram in a month’s worth of drinking into one day. I am, however, friends with a chap called Sturdy.  He’s getting married soon, and, to celebrate, his stag do involved a trawl through the Otley Run.

Folks living in Leeds will know all about the Otley Run. It’s a pub crawl from Headingley (the most studenty bit of Leeds) to Leeds city centre, and it’s infamous for annoying students in fancy dress stumbling in to the road and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

I’ve lived in Leeds for eight years now, and I’ve never done the Otley Run, because I’m sane. Neither have Sturdy, or Rob, his best man, or, indeed, any of the stag-doers. It seemed we were in good company.

Don’t fret. I’m not going to take you on a blow-by-blow, pub-by-pub account of where we went and what we drank. That would be boring, and anyway, by pub nine my memory is, well, hazy.

What is remarkable, though, is how many of these, quite frankly, shit pubs served up quality booze. Yep, I drank far more pints of Tetley and John Smith smooth flow that I would have liked, but I reckon a good 6 or 7 of the pubs I visited had a decent drop of hand-pulled ale. As I said, I don’t remember the whole evening, but I definitely got in pints of Black Sheep, Leeds Pale, Tetley’s and something Morris themed in one of the early drinking holes.  Which is nice.

A real beer lover would probably remark on the fact that some of these ales weren’t well kept, but, pft, I’d had three pints by 1pm, what did I care?

One final admission, I didn’t make it through all 17 pubs, I got to the Eldon (pub 12) and 11pm (that’s 12 hours in, we started at 11am), having had 12 pints, loads of water, a really bloody bad burger from Hyde Park Corner pub (don’t go there if you can avoid it, it’s really shit), and a Gregg’s pastie. Which was nice.

The highlight was Arcadia, which really is an awfully nice drinking den. Full of quality ales and a relaxed atmosphere, it’s not officially part of the Otley run, as they ban large groups of students and fancy dress. We, though, were well behaved and our matching T-shirts were mainly kept below jumpers. Also quite impressive are The Three Horseshoes in Far Headingley, and Woodies (again in Far Headingley). I don’t actually remember being in The Packhorse, but I’m sure it was great. It always is.

Lowlights were the aforementioned burger at the Hyde Park, and indeed, the entirity of that enormous pub. Plus, all the trendy, student-centric drinkeries in the centre of Headingley. The Box (all big sports screens, shit music and idiots), Headingley Taps (lovely building, unpleasant clientele), The Skyrack (just generally horrible and too full of students). We missed out The Arc (we visited the similarly-named Arcadia instead) and that was a good move, because that place is nasty too.

So, what did I learn? Firstly, 12 pints is my absolute limit, secondly, Sturdy has some very pleasant friends, thirdly, most pubs in Headingley are worth avoiding, which makes Arcadia even more of a gem. Fourth, real ale is more generally available than you’d think.

Local MP Pours Carlsberg Down The Drain

Greg Mulholland and his nasty lager

Greg Mulholland and his nasty lager

This is not a story for Cooking Lager.

Greg Mulholland MP recently decided to boycott Carlsberg. To make this clear, he and a handful of cohorts marched to the Carlsberg-owned Tetley’s brewery in Leeds and poured cans of the green-branded lagers down the drain.

Nope, he didn’t try their lager and realise it was pretty shit.

Rather, he was protesting about the closure of the Tetley’s brewery and the moving of Tetley’s cask production outside of Leeds.

I wrote about the event for the day job here.

Now, I like Mulholland’s sentiment. It’s a damn shame that the brewery is closing. Jobs will be lost in the area, and the Tetley’s brewery is an institution.

However I have a small problem with the boycott.

In a shock turn of events. Carlsberg actually make REALLY good beer.

Don’t believe me? Get yourself to North Bar or Beer Ritz and order a bottle of Carnegie Porter. Drink it. Love it. Then google it. Want to see who brews it? Yep, it’s Carlsberg.

So, I’ll happily boycott Carlsberg lager, Carlsberg Export and Carlsberg Special brew. I’m not right fussed about Tetley’s either. I doubt I’ll drink it any time soon when there are far nicer pints around. I will, however be drinking that Carnegie Porter in the cellar, sorry Greg!

Bitter Tetley Men


So, it’s official, Tetley’s will be leaving Leeds and the brewing of Tetley’s cask ale will be leaving Yorkshire full stop. The smooth flow production is staying in Yorkshire, but who gives a shit about that? Not I.

I’ve spied that Greg Mulholland MP is campaigning for a boycott of Carlsberg and good on him, in a way. I don’t drink the stuff anyway, so it’s an easy sacrifice to make.

Or is it? Maybe not, as Carlsberg also brew some pretty snazzy beers in their own country, including the splendid Carnegie Porter which I have a bottle of in my cellar right now.

Anyway, I wrote about this news for Leeds Guide and you can read my opinions here:

http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/news/future-plans-for-tetley/13597

I wrote another piece back in October too, that’s here:

http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/feature/save-tetleys/12521

STAGGING IT! And the Shropshire Union Canal Beer Club

Assorted beer club beers

Assorted beer club beers

As I write this blog post, my body seems to be in some kind of post-barge stress disorder. I may have been firmly on dry land for well over 24 hours (and I was only on a boat for two nights), but still my mind is still gently rocking me back and forth. When it will stop, I know not. But I hope it’s bloody soon.

So, what am I on about? Well, this week was a STAG DO! but not in the way you think. We didn’t hit the nearest swanky town, fill ourselves full of beer and then call into the nearest strip club. Oh no, for this was a classy, sophisticated, well behaved affair. This was a barging trip, between Bunbury (there were two English graduates on the trip, and neither of us made an Importance of being Earnest joke, indeed, I only just noticed the link n0w) and Chester on the Shropshire Union.

Our relatively sober, good behaviour was partly due to us all being sensible grown-ups with self-control and a knowledge of our own limits, and partly down to the worry that a hangover on a barge could be about as pleasant as being in a furnace with a temperature, or on a building site with a migraine.

However, this being a stag do, there was obviously going to be some drinking. But this wasn’t normal drinking. It was beer club. The stag do organiser had told us all to bring some interesting beer with us. That beer was going to be shared, tasted and rated. This was beer club.

Now, most beer tasters would be horrified at this tasting. Our scores were out of 10 for each beer, with no real criteria. We were tasting our beer out of plastic cups with a skull and crossbones on (their was a slight pirate theme upon the barge, we even had a Jolly Roger before some Chester bastard nicked it in the night), the beers were drunk roughly in order of darkness and most of the beers were just from the supermarket. A sophisticated beer tasting this was not. But, it was a laugh. And that’s what matters.

Our  barge was called the Speckled Hen, so, we started we Old Speckled Hen. It came straight in at 7 out of 10, mainly for being inoffensive, yet pretty tasty. If unspectacular, our tasting then took us to a few more beers whose notes have been lost in time. We had an Abbot Ale that was far too cold (again, this wasn’t a very scientific tasting) a bottle of St Peter’s Best that scored a lowly 1.87 (“stylish bottle, but fizzy and too shallow” said our shared notes). We had a Ginger Tom which seemed to go down well, and moved on to a Barbar honey ale, which promised much, but disappointed us with a strange mash of flavours (“strong, bitter, sweet and smooth a confused ale that doesn’t know what it wants to be: 3/10”) and a Wells Banana Bread Beer that tasted like that nice medicine you get as a nipper.

After The Banana Bread Beer, we moved on to darker, stronger things. We started with Duchesse de Bourgogne, the Flanders red ale. Many of my drinking colleagues hated the vinegary kick and the sweet flavours. I, however, have been a fan for years, and happily finished off the spares. A Westmalle Dubbel was strangely lacklustre, lacking any depth of flavour, bu Grimbergen Dubbel abbey beer wowed us all, although our notes seem to say “salty and liquoricey. Deliciously hollow – 8.3/10”, which is an odd turn of phrase.

Next up was the dark stuff. Old Tom’s Strong Beer showed initial promise with a nice meaty kick, but then failed to give anything in the finish. Old Growler looked a bit suspect, despite scribbling that it was “like an angular wet dog”, we all declared it “malty, drinkable, really gets in your mouth” (whatever that means) and gave it a mediocre 6.5/10. My beer for the tasting was Meantime London Stout. I loved it, but my companions found it a little bland. Which was odd.

After stouts, some unwise drinker had decided to bring a load of chocolate beers with him, to largely dreadful affect. Meantime Dark Chocolate Ale faired better than the rest, but even that only got the following response: “like alpro soya milk. bleurgh. 4.2/10”. The rest, though, Old Tom’s Chocolate Beer and, worst of all Flors Chocolate got 1.3/10 and our notes just said “nauceous”.

Foolishly, we left the lagers until our palates were well and truly baffled and we had ingested a load of salty snacks. Lucky Beer came in a Buddha-shaped bottle, and was slightly limey and sweet. We quite liked it. Our last beer, Kastell Cru faired less well, the standard one being far too unremarkable to be worth the price, while the Rose version really unimpressed and had us somewhat un-PCly declaring it “quite possibly one of the gayest beers”.

Yes, this was a massively unscientific beer tasting, yes, it might tell you very little about the beers, but it was bloody fun. After that we hit Chester, found a few nice pubs and, it true stag fashion, finished the night on a barge, with cups of green tea (decaff). Wild.

Richmond Brewing Company

Stump Cross Ale

Stump Cross Ale

One of the many good things about writing a beer blog, is that people who know and love (or like) you will often see an interesting beer while out on their travels and bring it back to you to try.

My parents did that very thing on a recent trip into North Yorkshire. As they were on their way home from Richmond, they called me to say that they’re picked up four bottles of beer from the Richmond Brewing Company. Two for me, and two for my brother.

Next time I saw them, I collected the bottles, and sure enough, they looked interesting. One was called Stump Cross Ale (named after Stump Cross in Pateley Bridge, obviously) and promised to be “a rich full flavour English bitter” brewed with limestone filtered cave water and the other was Richmond Station Ale, “a golden coloured, fruity crisp ale” named after the historic Richmond Station in which the brewery is based.

Alas, these beers did not live up to my hopes.

Richmond Station Ale

Richmond Station Ale

Presumably neither are bottle conditioned (at least neither claim to be so anywhere upon them), and while I don’t believe this is the be all and end all, as CAMRA might, it can often lead to a blander, less exciting beer, and that was the case here.

Both were far from diabolical, but neither seemed to pack any punch, both tasting decidedly similar and strangely watery. While the Station Ale did have a nice malty taste lurking somewhere in there, it tasted more like the kind of beer you’d expect a massive brewing corporation to churn out that the work of a small, independent brewery.

A damn shame, but there are plenty more beers in the sea.

If you wish, you can discover more about Richmond Brewing Company here