Digest #3: Saltaire, landlords, the formations of humanity & Leeds

I’ve begun to quite like this digest-style posts. Like a family newsletter, but just about me, and possibly less interesting. Saves me from stretching out  my writing to fill space. Although it does unfortunately mean I don’t really engage with much that I’m writing about – well, not seriously. Maybe I’ll do more of that one day.

Salt Aire

Saltaire from the Leeds-Liverpool Canal

Saltaire from the Leeds-Liverpool Canal

I went to Saltaire (check it out: www.saltairevillage.info) last weekend. It really is an amazing place, and it reminded me how lucky we are in Yorkshire when it comes to natural scenery and awesome historic, industrial architecture. I’ve recently finished reading the latest book from The Idler, called Back to the Land, in it, several essays stress the importance of being near nature, greenery and unspoiled spaces to our own happiness, and reports links between urbanisation and depression. It all sounds awfully credible too me, so we’re fortunate to have magnificent dales in Yorkshire like those surrounding Saltaire and well, just about everywhere in the county, really. Between them and our stunning local park, there’s enough greenery to keep me jolly.

The main thing Saltaire is famous for though is the magnificent Salts Mill (www.saltsmill.org.uk). This glorious mill was built by one Titus Salt, a kindly man and mill owner who built the village of Saltaire, the church, the shops, damn near everything (except a pub, he was a Quaker) for his workers, so as to keep them from poverty. How very lovely.

Nowadays, the Mill has a mixed life. Some of it is offices for boring old businesses, but much of it plays home to galleries exhibiting work by Bradford’s very own David Hockney – a great artist who has some very interesting things to say in the aforementioned book by The Idler, look at his impressive work here: www.hockneypictures.com – plus other artists, a great book shop, an art shop, and some smaller not-permanent exhibitions, often rooted in the history of Saltaire and The Mill. There’s a great antique shop too, where I nearly bought a watch and my wife-to-be bought some tins (I’m veering into dull family newsletter ground now).

Saltaire is also on the Leeds-Liverpool canal. Which is great, and seems to pass through loads of interesting places. Bargers must have good taste.

Since this is still, nominally at least, a beer blog as well as me rambling about stuff, it should be pointed out that Saltaire has a brewery, and pubs these days (the most amusigly named, and apparently best, pub is called Fannies [titter]). The brewery is wittily called Saltaire Brewery (www.saltairebrewery.co.uk) and makes some great beers. I had a half of their blonde while in Saltaire and it was a great, light, session ale, with plenty of bitter hoppiness. They make some odder, and more exciting beers too, including a Hazlenut Coffee Porter and a Double Chocolate Stout. Check ’em out.

Navigation Tavern, Mirfield

Navigation Tavern, Mirfield

Navigation Tavern, Mirfield

Shock horror, I’m actually blogging right now about a pub. That’s not happened for a bit. It was my stag do a week or so ago. It was jolly good fun, me and some chums doing the Transpennine Real Ale Trail (I’ve mentioned this before here & here). One of the highlights though has to be arriving at the Navigation Tavern in Mirfield, some 10 or 11 hours in to the trial, having already booked rooms to stay there for the night. As we were pre-warned there was a Motown disco in full swing, we were not, however, warned about the landlord there, Kevin.

The greeting was, perhaps, not as warm as we’d hoped for: “we’ve given your rooms away now lads, you’re not much use to me at this time!” was the opening gambit. We were apologetic, and Kevin seemed to warm to us while we were there (except when one of us sprawled out on the chairs – he was not amused by that). The pub is a proper old community pub, everyone there seems to know each other, it does a range of great ales, and Kevin is clearly the man that the pub revolves around. He was either funny, or terrifying, and we couldn’t quite work out which. We had a good time though, and the rooms cost £30.50 with breakfast, which, plastic eggs aside, was stupendous, and served with the same mix of humour and threatening behaviour as our rooms had been the night before, especially when he found out that my father-in-law to be was a vegetarian – what a look of shock and disgust. It was a proper Yorkshire pub experience.

Away from Mirfield, the other truly awesome pub was the Station Buffet Bar in Staylbridge (www.buffetbar.org). This station side bar looked like it hadn’t had cosmetic work done since the 70s, and the menu hadn’t changed its prices since that decade either. £2.50 for pie, pies and black beans? Yes please. A truly quaint little pub the kind of which you just wouldn’t expect to exist any more.

Stalybridge buffet bar

Stalybridge buffet bar

The Formations of Humanity
Yep, the title did promise that I’d get round to talking about this, and I have look. It’s a subject that surely can’t fail to fascinate. How did we come about to be the dominate creature on the planet? To function in ways that no other creature does, to think in ways that no other creature does. Why do we appreciate and create art and music, and build tools, and yet nothing else does. Obviously I don’t have the answer, but it’s something I keep thinking and wandering about, and I’m keen to learn more about. I’m reading Alice Roberts’ The Incredible Human Journey (read what the Guardian said about it here) in the hope it might teach me something. I’m all ears if anyone has any better sources of info..

Leeds
There’s been loads of interesting debate going on about my home city recently, most notably just here: http://theculturevulture.co.uk/blog/?p=7098. Seems a lot of people are a
little unimpressed by what Leeds offers culturally and how the city present’s itself to the outside world.

And Finally…
If I could get a month or so off work, I’d
bloody love to go WWOOFing, learn some skills in farming and go back to nature for a bit. How very middle class of me.

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Meanwood Drinking: Ridgeside Brewery & a new pub?

Meanwood Institute, a lovely Meanwood building

Meanwood Institute, a lovely Meanwood building

I’m back. I’ve been quiet for ages. Largely because I’ve been a bit lazy. And I’m going to continue in a relatively lazy fashion by linking to one of my man beery writings for Leeds Guide.

Imagine my excitement when, flicking through the often tedious Yorkshire Evening Post, I spot a story on a new brewery in Leeds. Then, I read on and find out it’s in my hood of Meanwood. Then I read on some more and discover it will be named after the beautiful (it really is beautiful, I’m not just saying it) Meanwood Ridge.

Suffice to say. I was thrilled. So much so that I emailed Simon, the intrepid former engineer behind the brewery, straight away and requested to interview him both for my blog and Leeds Guide. The blog interview is going to wait because there’s no beer to try yet (thus, not as much fun to be had), but we decided to chat with Simon before he opened up and run a story in the magazine.

You can read what he had to say (and my ongoing promotion for Meanwood in the magazine here: Ridgeside Brewery

They have a website too, which is bit bare, but it’s here if you’re interested: The Ridgeside Brewing Company

Meanwood is fast becoming the place to be for beer fans. I was very excited to note than in Meanwood’s swanky new Becketts complex (some apartments and a few empty shop units) Market Town Taverns, the folk behind Arcadia, one of my favourite Headingley pubs, are applying for a license for a new boozer. VERY exciting news for me. MTT’s pubs are always cask ale focussed, with a good array of continental beers (mainly German and Belgian) to boot.

While I’m promoting Meanwood, I’ll also mention that our neighbourhood Italian, Via Verde, is also well good. I wrote about that for Leeds Guide too, just here: Via Verde

Now if only North Bar would open a sister pub up here…

Sheffield Taps: Meet The Brewer – Thornbridge

I went to a meet the brewer event at the Sheffield Taps last night. I drank more than I should for a school night, have a slight haze in my memory, took no notes, took no photos and now can’t really write much.

So here are a collection of thoughts, in note form about the evening in general. It’s not going to tell you much, you could find out loads more by reading Mark from Real Ale Reviewsfar more proper post.

1) My primary drinking companions Mark from Real Ale Reviews and Rob from HopZine are thoroughly good chaps, and a pleasure to go out drinking with

2) Sheffield Taps is a GREAT pub. It looks amazing with its wooden panneling and old tiles,  and the beers, just row. Loads and loads of ale on hand pull, some great world beers on tap and one of the best bottle selections you’re likely to see

3) It’s worth a £9, 45 minutes train journey to visit Sheffield Taps

4) Thornbridge make some truly great beers. Kipling and St Petersburg  especially

5) Take away cartons of beer are a brilliant invention

6) Taking away beer on the train when you’re already quite drunk is NOT good for a hangover

7) Skate kids like getting free beers from brewers

8 ) The smell of hops never gets old

9) Having a pub on a train station doesn’t help make sure you get your train. Oops.

10) (last one) I should have listened to the brewer more, and chatted less. Oops again.

The Ship Inn Forecast (A micro-brewery in Newton-by-the-Sea)

I’ll start by apologising for the pun. Sorry.

Assuming you’ve forgiven me and are still reading, I’ll tell you a little bit about one of the nicest pubs I’ve ever visited.

It’s called (as you’ve probably guessed) The Ship Inn, and it’s in Newton-by-the-Sea, which, you may or may not know, is on the North East coast, north of Alnmouth and Amble and south of Berwick. It’s a stunning, and much under-appreciated area. Miles upon miles of coast, unspoilt, bordering on rolling sand dunes and masses of countryside, lovely old buildings and them lovely Geordie folks. It’s also, so I’m told, in the least rainy and sunniest county in England. Awesome.

My girlfriend and I love the North East coast. We go there a fair bit, despite the almost 3 hour drive, and love walking along those amazing beaches.

You’re probably not here to read about all that though, you’re here for the beer, right, and the North East coast has a proper gem hidden amongst the dunes and beaches. The aforementioned Ship Inn.

It’s part of a small U-shaped terrace of houses from pre-1700, now owned by the National Trust, with a lovely grassy square in the middle. The pub has functioned as an alehouse since the 1700s.

The Ship Inn is run by one Christine Forsyth and her daughter Hannah. Christine decided she wanted a change in her life, fell in love with Newton-by-the-Sea (well you would, wouldn’t you?) took a risk, bought a pub, did it up and gave it the TLC it needed.

She then decided to make her pub a home from both great food and quality, micro-brewed ales brewed in the building itself.

She’s done good.

The food is reasonably priced look here, and great, with loads of lovely, locally produced grub – I had locally caught crab salad and it was stunning. The beer though, is even more impressive.

They got the equipment second hand, found a brewer in the shape of Michael Heggarty and started brewery 6 or 7 regular beers. In two visits (one for a restorative half during a walk, and one for dinner) I tried a  few. The Ship Hop Ale is a light golden beer with a nice, fresh hop character, the Dolly Day Dream is a lovely ruby ale rich in flavour and, best of all, is the Sea Coal, a dark wheat stout with smoky notes sat alongside rich chocolate and slightly tart raspberry flavours. I mainly drank that.

Really, you shouldn’t need the motivation to visit this stunning pub and try their great beers to come to the North East coast. Take the pub away and I’d still happily go there once a month for the scenery alone.  But come up (or down) walk, soak up the rugged beauty of the place then, when the night draws in, head to this glorious pub, which makes the coastline even more perfect than it already is.

If I can retire near here one day, I’ll be a very happy man.

Reet Good’s Beer Blogger Awards 2009

Golden Pint Logo 2009That chap Mark Dredge over at Pencil and Spoon thought it would be good to have some kind of end of year poll/awards for beer bloggers (it says so here). I agree, so here are my picks for the year.

Before I begin, I should point out that I’ve only been at this blogging lark for a few months and my knowledge and experience in the game is still somewhat lacking, so I will have to leave a few bits blank and maybe display my ignorance elsewhere. But I’m cool with that.

Best UK Draught Beer I tend to be a drinker of bottles of Belgian stuff more than anything else, but one reliable pint is always Outlaw’s (Rooster’s experimental arm) Wild Mule – packed full of sweet fruity flavours and a great bitter finish.

Best UK Bottled Beer Crown’s Unpronounceable IPA – packed full of hoppy bitterness with a summery hint of blackberries coming through underneath. (read more here)

Best Overseas Draught Beer Tripel De Garre – a rich Belgian tripel from a Bruges bar called De Garre. It’s very strong packed full of fruit, aniseed and licorice flavours and comes with an accompanying cheese. They only let you have three a visit. (read more)

Best Overseas Bottled Beer De Dolle’s Stille Nacht – a special Christmas beer brewed every year by the bonkers Dolle brewers. It’s 12%, dark to the point of blackness and with lingering tastes of plum and citrus.

Best Overall Beer Probably Outlaw’s Wild Mule again. I’ve supped it more than anything else this year. Some of the more extreme Belgians may be more exciting, but an overall beer should be one for any occasion, and Wild Mule does that.

Best Bottle Label or Pump Clip I can’t say I’ve been wild about any labels or clips, particularly, but BrewDog’s general branding has been great for them and seems to sum up their attitude and beers very well.

Best UK Brewery Having picked one of Crown Brewery’s brews earlier on, I’m going to plump for them here. Especially as it’s a small, one man set up, well done them!

Best Overseas Brewery Sierra Nevada, just for their consistently brilliant beers.

Pub/Bar of the Year In England, North Bar, easily. It’s where I consume most of my beers and the team their are great. Further afield, Kulminator in Antwerp, t’Velootje in Ghent and the Bruges Beertje in Bruges are all outstanding. (read more)

Beer Festival of the Year I only went to the Wakefield CAMRA festival this year. It was alright.

Supermarket of the Year Sainsbury’s was pretty good for their range of beers and good offers.

Independent Retailer of the Year Beer Ritz in Leeds. Great range, lovely staff, good prices, what more could you want?

Online Retailer of the Year Not used any.

Best Beer Book I’ve not read one this year, but I’ve been reading Pete Brown‘s back catalogue and have Hops and Glory lined up next.

Best Beer Blog Zak ‘The Beer Boy‘ Avery probably just edges ahead of  competition from Pete Brown, Real Ale Reviews and Pencil and Spoon.

Best Beer Twitterer Anyone from: http://twitter.com/#/list/tomas311/beerbloggers

Best Online Interactive Brewery BrewDog are the only brewery I’ve really seen use the web well this year, although they’ve made some big misjudgements too…

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year Maybe Sierra Nevade Porter and osyters at the North Bar Sierra Nevada event at Cross Keys.