Is Beer The New Wine? This One Is: Chardonnayle

Harry's Bar

Harry's Bar, pinched from BeerInTheEvening.Com, making the pub look more picturesque than it actually is

There have been mutterings on various blogs about whether beer is the new wine, can be the new wine, or even if it wants to be the new wine. No-one seems to have asked it yet, but I guess that it’s not too fussed either way. You can read bits of the debate on Woolpack Dave’s blog here and Pete Brown’s blog here.

I have more or less conclusive evidence that beer not only CAN be the new wine, but IS. I give you exhibit A – Chardonnayle.

You what?

Yep, Chardonnayle.

What’s Chardonnayle? Well, I can’t tell you too much. I ordered a half of it for my girlfriend at Harry’s Bar in Wakefield – an Ossett Brewery (leading the Real Ale Revolution, apparently) pub – and it seems to be one of the brewery’s own beers. However, internet research pulls up a few conflicting bits of information. It was, it seemed, brewed at the Red Lion brewery, Ossett, which later became Bob’s Brewery (FUN  BEER FACT: I used to live across the road from the titular Bob).

All this waffling and barely researched bollocks is introducing a truly interesting (although not necessarily truly good) beer – Chardonnayle.

It’s presented with a pump clip that looks like a fancy wine label. This 5.1% beer smells slightly of lavender and elderflower and the taste is really crisp, barely bitter at all and with loads of grape-ish fruity flavours. I didn’t really like it, my girlfriend was quite keen, but the woman next to me was drinking it pint after pint, so she liked it.

While most of my internet research on this subject has been sketchy to say the least, one thing I have found is the notes about this multi-award winning beer. They are from this rather odd Wakefield CAMRA website for Bob’s Brewery and they explain what’s gone into this beer. They say this:

“complex stylish strong pale ale with hints of lemongrass & fruits like Chardonnay wine, with Willamette hops for aroma”

Which explains not very much, really.

I don’t have much to add, apart from noting that Chardonnayle is actually a registered trademark, and is worth trying for interest, if nowt else.

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Transpennine Real/Rail Ale Trail

Train

A train

So, my girlfriend sent a link to my blog out to a host of her friends who she thought might be interested in reading my badly proof-read musings on pubs and beers. It turns out a few of them were quite into it. None more so, though, than a chap called Gareth, organiser in chief of the Bowland Stags, a group of chaps brought together by Gareth’s stag do last year (they toured breweries, it sounds like a hoot) in their quest for quality booze.

“It’s not just a piss up,” says Gareth, “with emphasis on the word ‘just'”.

Their next trip, it turned out, would be starting at Wetherspoons in Leeds station for a very swift pint, before hitting the tracks and calling in at a number of quality pubs in or around stations on the Trans-pennine line (or a trek away, if you call into Slaithwaite – pronouced “slough-it”, unless you’re very posh ).

It sounded to me like a great way to spend a Saturday, and a sure fire way to write off my Sunday. I was right on both counts, and an errors or typos here can be explained away by this strange pain in my head and slightly queasy feeling in my stomach. It just must have been that beef sarnie or pork pie. Right?

So, as I said, we started at Wetherspoons in Leeds. Not really a promising start, I sipped at my pleasant enough – but far too cold – pint of Thwaite’s Liberation, shivering in the cold station, still tasting toothpaste and waiting for my companions. Sure enough, Gareth, Alan and Simon headed to the bar came back with their pints (a pint of Moorhouse for Alan, being a Burnley man, a Leeds Brewery Winterspark for Gareth – which he was impressed with, go Leeds! – and something I forget for Simon) and all agreed that it was served too cold. A bit of whining about Spoons commenced, before we made a dash for our first train of the day – to Dewsbury.

Sure enough, the first train was delayed (quelle surprise), but we refused to let this dampen our spirits. We whipped out our mobiles, found the website for our first proper pub, the West Riding Refreshment Rooms, and digitally slavered over their beer selection.

West Riding Refreshment Rooms

West Riding Refreshment Rooms

When, some 10 minutes late, we got to Dewsbury, we found a real treat instore. The West Riding Refreshment Rooms are, essentially, an old waiting room turned into a pub, and it’s great. Made up of three small rooms, one is taken over by a small bar serving up far more real ale than they should be able to fit, with 8 pumps on a bar than can barely be 6 foot long. The atmosphere is thriving and bubbling, as the pub’s crammed full of Huddersfield Town fans watching Liverpool draw with Man City before heading to the Galpharm to watch Town defeat Hereford (obviously I didn’t predict the results; this is all written with the benefit of hindsight).

We find a quiet (ish) corner and delve into our pints. Simon and I decide it would be rude not to try Anglo-Dutch‘s Kletswater, since it’s brewed in Dewsbury. It turns out to be quite a surprise package, a light, zesty, slightly caramely session beer with starts off exciting, gets quite boring by half way down the glass, but delivers well in the final third. A sneaky blighter indeed. I had intended to try and detail what my companions drank, but for some reason my memory is a little hazy… With such a choice on display though, we commented with surprise that many of the football fans were indulging in pints of Carling. We chose not to challenge anyone on this though.

We finished our pints in Dewsbury ahead of schedule, so the next plan was to hit Huddersfield and visit between one and three pubs. The Huddersfield boozing started at the King’s Head on the station. It’s an odd old pub. Clearly, no-one’s bothered to change the furniture, or indeed, clean it, for a good decade or so. We noted that it’s one of the few places in the world where you can go for a piss and be hit by a stench as you leave the gents, instead of when you enter it.

That aside, the beer selection is, as one would expect from a pub on the Real Ale Trail, splendid. I’m a sucker for anything local, and since they were selling a beer from Bob’s Brewery, the titular Bob having lived next door to me for much of my youth, it seemed only right that I went for a pint of his Healey Ale, a good, refreshing pale ale. Perfect for a long session like today.

Huddersfield Train Station - home of The Head of Steam and King's Head

Huddersfield Train Station - home of The Head of Steam and King's Head

We had to drink most of our pints outside, so as to escape the smell inside, meaning we were soon off to pub number two, The Head of Steam. After settling down with a mint of Empire‘s Moonraker Mild – this pint proved a triumph, and can probably lay claim to being the best of the day – fruity, malty and rich – we were assured we’d have time for a round of beef sarnies and chips and still get our next train. They lied. We finished our sarnies and watched our train speed off. We were stuck in Huddersfield for half an hour, what to do? First, we got another beer in (a great treacly stout, called Treason, from local brewery Summer Wine for me), then we had to make a plan.

(As an aside, it was while we were in the Head of Steam that we wondered why more stations don’t have platform-side pubs. I’d use the train much more if every journey could coincide with a good pint, and it makes waiting for trains a thousand times better).

The answer was easy. Dewsbury’s pub had recommended making a call to The Sportsman, just a few minutes from the station. So, with half an hour to kill, we made our way. I picked up a half of Newky Black from great Wakey brewery, Fernandes, and enjoyed a 6% killer of a rich stout. We then rushed (literally in Gareth’s case, who earned 7p by winning a bet that he could be first to the station) back to the platform and jumped on a train to Slaithwaite.

The Swan

The Swan

Now, here’s where the claims of the Real Ale Trail get a bit murky. They reckon The Swan in Slaithwaite is 2 minutes walk from the station. They don’t mention that it’s actually over 5 minutes walk, or that it involves several big hills. We were lucky to bump into a bloke carrying several bottles of Brewdog beers (a sign of someone who knows their booze) who assured us we were on the right track, and sure enough, there it was, just over the next hill.

The Swan was a proper locals pub. Loads of good beer, sport on a big telly, and a crowd that was mure than just real ale enthusiasts but folks from Slaithwaite enjoying a decent tipple.  My drink of choice here was the ever reliable Saltaire‘s Copper Ale. It’s malty, slightly spicy and a little fruity. Splendid.

Two pints of Beyond the Pale and three pork pies in The Railway

Two pints of Beyond the Pale and three pork pies in The Railway

Soon enough, it was time to head on to what would be my last spot (my Lancastrian companions would all make two more stops on their way home; I felt I was drunk enough to not go too much further).  So, we hit Greenfield and The Railway Inn. This pub was, as the name suggests, built to house weary travellers straight off the train, and we were ready for some refreshment. As well as selling loads of beer, they also do splendid pork pies, with a range of mustards (although Simon wasn’t particularly impressed with any of the mustards, claiming they needed more spice. As a non-mustard eater I couldn’t contribute to this conversation). We all got a pint of Elland Brewery‘s Beyond The Pale – a floral, multi-award winning pale, why it wins awards is clear – while seated inconviently right infront of the big screen, blocking the view of the regulars who were there for Manchester United v Everton. We followed that with a very swift half of Millstone‘s Tiger Rut, another classy pale ale with strong citrus notes, and then it was time to seperate.

With a slightly spinning head, I got my train to Huddersfield, nodding off and awaking just in time to leave the train, before making my way back to Leeds. I did try to read some of Pete Brown’s Three Sheets To The Wind on the journey, but my concentration couldn’t quite keep up with it.

It’s worth noting here, that aside from a £4.80 ticket from Greenfield to Slaithwaite, I did this whole journey (including a bus at the start and end to Meanwood and back) for a mere £6.20 with a Metro Day Rover Bus & Train. I’d recommend it.

It’s also worth putting in that I’m currently feeling the effects of the drinking documented just above, so I apologise for any errors that may appear. And for the increasingly scant details as the day went on. It was a long one, but a good one, and I’d like to thank the Bowland Stags for inviting me along.

More on the Real Ale Trail here. All photos (except the fuzzy one of beer and pork pies, which is mine) are nicked from their website too.

Two Nights’ Drinking: Pilsner Urquell, Moonshine & Reliance’s Best Bitter

Moonshine

Moonshine, because I didn't take any photos

Thursday night was always going to be a good one. The combination of a trip to try some food at Calls Landing stew and oyster bar (great cheeses and stew, plus, unexpectedly, two real ales: Theakston Best and Copper Dragon on tap), then a rum tasting at Boutique (I may have been an hour late, but one can hardly complain about free daiquiri, rum punch and rum and ginger), then a trip to Leeds Brewery’s nicest bar, Pin can never been a bad night, really.

Events at Pin picked up though when we realised that they were giving punters free half pints of Pilsner Urquell – all you had to do was hand then all your contact info and you were away.

Having little concern for personal privacy and data protection, I merrily signed away on my work email, address and phone number in return for a free drink and was pleasantly surprised.

It’s not a life changing beer, by no means. But the skunky, sweetness on the nose (it smelt a lot like the scent the nearby Tetley brewery unleashes once a month – or maybe that smell was prevalent in the bar) was a highlight, and it was very drinkable indeed. Golden with a decent creamy head, it gives off a citrusy flavour and a nice hoppy bitterness with the citrus spice well balanced with the creamy smoothness. A nice session beer, and well worth signing away your privacy form if not handing over cash.

Back to tonight, and a trip to my post-work local The Reliance (handily situated next door to my office). Barnsley’s Acorn brewery have been brewing a Reliance Best Bitter for the pub for a while now and though it means they only ever have one guest at a time these days, it’s a very reliable house special.

A dark nut-brown ale, the hops and malt are well balanced. The flavours would please both a fan of dark, stronger beers (despite being less than 4%) while not putting off those looking for an easier-drinking session beer. In short, a great post-work pint.

More interesting in Abbeydale Brewery’s Moonshine – the other offering at The Reliance. An intriguing pale ale with strong floral notes on the nose and a citrus hit on the palate (predominately grapefruit). It’s dead popular in its homeland Sheffield and you can see why. It’s interesting without being downright odd, and would win over fans of blander pale ales. As for me, I’ve been supping this for a few years now, thanks to a Sheffield-living brother, and it’s won me over to Abbeydale’s product. It’s a quality (and local) brewery.

So, what better way to finish than a forced conclusion of hooray for Leeds’ bars!

Find out more about Pin and The Reliance

Caldera Pale Ale

A can of Caldera Pale Ale

A can of Caldera Pale Ale

The first thing you notice about this beer is that it’s IN A CAN. Surely no good beers come in a can these days. Look at the shelves of any respectable beer merchant and it’s all bottles and bottles. No cans.

Cans have connotations of nasty, cheap lager, not quality, hand-crafted ales. Yet one craft brewery in Oregon is making the stand for the can. Why, well there reasons are that cans protect the beer from light and oxidation – thus keeping a better quality of product when it comes out of the can and hits your tongue. So far so valid. They also claim that the can is less easy to break than glass (more on that later) and is lighter and more likely to be allowed in beaches, sports arenas and the likes, where bottles have long been banned.

That claim of cans being harder to break is disputable. This blog post has come some seven days later than it should have done. Why? Well because the first 355ml of Caldera Pale Ale ended up all over the street outside my house when my box of beers fell to the floor, resulting in four breakages from the 10 beers bought. Surprisingly enough, the can was one of the victims. We didn’t see that coming.

Turns out our pavement had a bit of a treat with this one. While the can makes this beer look more like some cheap fruity soft drink than a quality pale ale, the flavour tells you something quite different. On pouring the beer looks fantastically golden and clouded, with a bitter hoppy nose with hints of citrus.

The can suggests that you “keep [it] cool, just like you”. I’m not so sure. While serving it nice and cool means it’s thoroughly refreshing, with a sharp, bitter, crisp front and an intriguing floral (sagey perhaps?) flavour comes through, it’s only as the drink gains some heat that it shows off its real class, with a rich, warm malty flavour hitting in at the end – the kind of strength you’d expect from a 5.5% ale.

The old adage “never judge a book by its cover” comes into good use here. This can may not look like much – it looks pretty crap, if we’re honest, but the beer inside puts a number of more well-known American Pale Ales to shame. By far the best beer I’ve ever had out of a can.

355ml, 5.5%, for more info see www.calderabrewing.com. This beer is available at Beer Ritz.