Brew A Beer for Leeds with Leeds Brewery

Ok, so it was only hours ago that I apologised for being rubbish and not posting anything, but I’m posting something now.

The plight of Leeds’ Tetley Brewery is something I’ve covered before here, and unfortunately Greg Mulholland MP’s strong words and protests unsurprisingly did nothing to stop Tetley’s closing their Leeds brewery and shifting production of Leeds’ famous (but pretty unspectacular) Tetley’s beer to outside of Leeds. Boo.

Being the press-savvy sorts that they are though, Leeds Brewery are brewing a special beer to commemorate the closure of the Tetley Brewery.

This ain’t any old beer though, oh no. It’s to be a ‘crowd sourced’ beer with the good folks of Leeds encouraged to go to www.goodbyetetleys.co.uk and register themselves before being able to have a say on the beer’s name, design and taste.

As a bonus, the more people who register, the cheaper the beer will be when it first goes on sale at a special beer festival in June to celebrate the beer’s launch. Smart, huh?

Even better (for me) is that the taste will be partly decided by a special celebrity tasting panel INCLUDING (probably) YOURS TRULY which is very exciting indeed (for me).

I’ve written loads more on this on the Leeds Guide website just here.

Tom’s Occasional Blogging Digest

Sorry guys. I’ve been rubbish at blogging stuff. I make excuses every time, so I’m not going to make any this time. I am going to a small blog post now, complete with sub-headings, pictures, links, and words.

I hope you like it.

Meanwood Developments
Regular readers here will know I live in Meanwood and I love it. Perhaps a little too much. It’s well good. No students, lots of park space and trees, loads of proper Northern folk, and loads of amazing neighbours. And now, we’re only getting a bloody Waitrose. The building works have been annoying, but when I can get 15 different varieties of olives, hummus and sunblushed tomatoes, it’ll be worth it.

A Bloody Waitrose!

A Bloody Waitrose!

But wait, it gets better. Now, anyone who’s read my now very occasional beer blogging will notice me banging on about North Bar regularly. It’s my favourite bar in Leeds, and that’s a fact. AND THEY’RE BUILDING A NORTH BAR IN MEANWOOD!!!!! I’m excited about this. You can probably tell.

The Benefits of Being a Beer Blogger
Sometimes people are daft enough to give you free beer. Amazing. One such mad company is Daas beer. I wrote about their Daas White and Daas Blond and then they sent me their new, dark, bronze coloured Daas Ambre, a 6.5% marmaladey delight, with loads of spice and cinnamon to boot. It’s well good, and it’s organic and soil association certified, so you can drink guilt free. Hurrah!

¡Viva Espana!
I went on holiday  recently to Spain. I love Spain. We stayed in a small mountain village in southern Spain . The views are beautiful, the atmosphere is relaxed and the Spanish just know how to live. What’s not to love? Tapas, good weather, a laidback attitude perfect.

Currently Reading
While abroad, I picked up the reading bug big time, and it’s still with me. I’ve got so much books piled up to read (I went to Meanwood Community Shop and bought 10 books for £8.25, bargain!) that I needed to find some way to track it. So I started using GoodReads.com, it’s pretty smart really. Have a look here.

Probably the best thing I’ve read recently is Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. I’m not much of a runner, and I really don’t like stuff that tries to be self-consciously inspirational (I’m not sure you can deliberately set out be inspirational or motivational, surely it just happens by accident? I hate motivational speakers too, more on that later), but this book, about extreme long distance running, a South American tribe who are awesome at it, and the damage padded trainers do to your feet is excellent. I’ve taken up running, and I’m doing it using shitty flat trainers. Go me.

Bettakultcha
This thing is great. A dead simple premise, 20 presentations occcur at Temple Works in Leeds, the presentation have to be 5 minutes long, and be based around 20 power point slides. Beyond that, that are new rules (well there are few about not using it for self-promotion). I’ve been to two now and seen some great stuff – Web Comics, Sex With Robots (yep, really), Leeds Hack Space, Test Space Leeds, an anti-enviromental rant – and some bad stuff (the last Bettakultcha had the worst and least motivational motivational speaker I’ve ever seen. I hate motivational speaking, and this idea of bettering yourself, achieving goals and climbing the ladder. People should be more happy with what they’ve got, and anyone just chucking quotes at me and trying to make me want to achieve and be all I can be can fuck off, frankly – rant over). The fact that I can get through the motivational speakers and still recommend this event should speak volumes about it’s quality. It’s just good fun. Go. http://bettakultcha.blogspot.com/

STAGGING!!!

A train

A train

It’s my stag do this weekend. I’m doing the Transpennine Real Ale Trail. Which I’ve written about before here. I did a small test run with my dad last weekend and he drank me under the table. Which is impressive. Wish me luck!

I’m done now. Bye!

It May Be An Oldie, But It’s a Goodie Too: Durham’s Evensong

Durham Brewery Evensong

Durham Brewery Evensong

You expect the Durham Brewery to be situated in some idyllic monastery. Their bottles come with a nice cross logo with some intricate Celtic twirls around. You can see what I’m talking about by looking to your left right now. However, if you follow this link here, you’ll see that it’s actually in a rather natty looking industrial estate – ah well.

Their olde worlde schtick is aided by this bottle of Evensong I’m drinking as I type. It’s brewed to a recipe dating backing to 1937 (that’s over 70 years hence).

It’s an old recipe and it’s a damn good one – the ruby-tinged darkness hints at the fruity notes alongside the smokey-coal-like, flavours of a stout or porter. It almost flits between flavours of a mild and a stout, picking up hints of both and melding them together into a rich, densely flavoured winter beer.

Perfect for when the sun begins to set.

Jazz Beer: Crown Brewery’s Django Reinhardt

Crown Brewery's Django Reinhardt

Crown Brewery's Django Reinhardt

Avid readers of my blog (are there any other than my mum? Probably not) will already know about Crown Brewery and my love for them. Read me raving about it here and here and visit their website here.

So, this is one of their jaaazzz (one can’t say jazz without stretching that “a”) beers, a series of beers named after classic jazz musicians. As far as I can tell the musician and style of beer aren’t really linked, beside it being a nice name.

I’ve not had any of Crown Brewery’s other jazz beers, indeed I’ve never even seen one before, and I didn’t realise the series even existed until I browsed the brewery’s own website.

So, what’s this beer like? Well, it’s a Double Damson Porter.

What’s that mean?

Well, I assume the double relates to the use of  a Belgian yeast strain (maybe?) the damson relates to the fact that they brewed the beer using damson for the sugar, rather than boring old sugar itself, and the porter refers to the fact it’s brewed dark and rich using roast malts, like what porters are.

Now, I don’t like criticising this beer. Crown Brewery have always impressed me, and this beer was brewed with the assistance of Zak Avery, a man whose company I’ve enjoyed while perusing his excellent store Beer Ritz and whose blog I religiously read/watch.

But, this beer has not quite hit the spot for me. It poured a lovely deep, dark brown, almost black colour with maybe a hint of damson-y purple (but that might be my brain playing tricks), but it also poured completely and utterly flat. No head, no carbonation, no nothing.

I’m no fizz enthusiast, indeed, I prefer my beers too flat to too carbonated, but the complete lack of carbonation left the flavours rather flat and the nose nigh-on nonexistant.

So while I enjoyed those deep, roasted, espresso flavours of the malt, that bitter kickback and those lingering, sharp, tangy fruit notes, it just all seemed to attack my palate at once, rather than presented itself nicely and ordered as I hoped.

And my hopes were high. I had this on draft at North Bar back in December and while I took no notes, I remember being massively impressed. It was vibrant and fully flavoured.

So, what went wrong? Well, my guesses would be:

1) this beer is just better on cask

2) my habit of not getting round to drinking bottles of beer meant it was passed it best

3) I just got a bad bottle (bottle conditioned bottles are, by their nature, inconsistent)

One of the three above points would also explain why the aforementioned Zak Avery loved it while I did not.

I’d say that I’d like to try it again and see whether this was a one off. But, as far as I know, there’s none of this left. So we’ll have to wait for the next time it’s brewed.

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.

The Fox & Newt: A Leeds Brew Pub

Fox & Newt

Fox & Newt

I lived a minute or so’s stroll from The Fox & Newt last year. It was my local for two years, yet I hardly ever went there. Why?

Well, when I first moved in, it was pretty fucking horrid. It was dirty, there was regularly tussles and unpleasant drunks outside and once they had a Shed Seven tribute band playing. Enough said, really.

But some time last year, this nice little pub in Burley by Park Lane College got taken on by new landlords who reinvented the place. They started doing food, they cleaned the place up and furnished it nicely. Unfortunately they also started putting on some diabolical local bands in order to attract more customers.  But just go when the bands aren’t playing and it’ll be fine.

The best thing that the Fox & Newt did, though, was to decide to push cask ale. They have four pumps constantly on and stock stuff from local breweries like Wharfedale, Leeds, Elland and Saltaire. They also set up a proper microbrewery downstairs and brew four of their own regular beers which, while not owt to right home about, are perfectly good and varied ales. They’ll give you a tour if you ask nicely, something I intend to do for this ‘ere blog sooner or later.

But I think the Fox & Newt might struggle. Aside from when a band bring down a good handful of fans, it’s never a very busy establishment and the pub seems intent on attracting the plentiful students who live in the area. Since they’re based outside the city centre and surrounded by student halls and a college, this is a sensible move, but are they going to suddenly find a massive spike in students drinking real ale, or will they be going for cheap lager and wine to keep costs down and increase drunkeness?

Move the Fox & Newt into Headingley, Leeds City Centre Chapel Allerton or (ideally) my end of town, Meanwood, and it would probably be a thriving community pub, unfortunately, if your main market is students, a push for real ale might be the wrong way to reach your audience.

A Tale of Two Cities: Drinking in Leeds & Sheffield

A pictureless, detail-scant blog (I made no notes while drinking, I feel odd doing that in bars, with friends – it’d just be rude) from me to sum up my drinking experiences fron the last few days – in Leeds and Sheffield (hence the witty name of the blog).

We begin on Thursday night, in Leeds. A friend comes up to visit and we have an invite to the first birthday of Veuve Bar de Champagne in Chapel Allerton, Leeds. On our way to the bus, we pass North Bar and just can’t resist popping in (it being the favourite bar of me and my girlfriend).

It’s Christmas time, which means North Bar are doing their advent calendar beer. So, for each day of Christmas the first person into the bar gets a free beer from the calendar. Then for the rest of the day that bottle is available for cheap. I’m lucky, for when I go in the beer of the day is Goose Island Matilda – an American craft beer brewed with a heavy nod to Belgium.

It rich, dark gold in colour dry and very easy drinking for a 7% beer with slight wild, spicy notes that recall that king of beers that is Orval.

We went on from there to Chapel Allerton and Veuve, where we enjoyed a free glass of prosecco and more than our fair share of canapes (we’d had no dinner, see) but left when we saw that no more sparkle was going to be offered.

Luckily, just up the road is North Bar’s tiny sister bar Further North (cleverly named because is pretty much exactly in line with North Bar, but further north, see). What to order was a no-brainer when I spied that they had Marble Brewery‘s Ginger on tap. It’s light in colour and, surprisingly very gingery to taste. But, unlike a lot of ginger beers, Marble’s offering doesn’t allow the sweet spice to overwhelm their beer. While it’s very definitely there, the bitterness and alcoholic kick still packs a punch in the background. I finished my night with a half of Roosters Outlaw Stout that I don’t remember a great deal about, it was nice though.

Friday night was Sheffield (after a half of Elland‘s powerfully hoppy Nettle Trasher at The Reliance [which has some link to North and Further North]) and firstly Richard Hawley live at The Crucible. It was good, slow, sonorous and powerful – with some good Northern wit from the one-time Pulp man. But this ain’t a music blog, so I will move on.

I was up in Sheffield with my brother, a friend of his and my brother’s girlfriend (who lives in Sheffield). Post-gig it was decided that we’d go to Champs. It sold, I was told, real ale at amazing prices (with several Kelham Island brews for as little as £1) but it was a sports bar and a regular pre-club bar. Sounds odd, I thought, and I was right.

Champs does not look like a place that should be selling great real ales. Its walls are full of sporting memorabilia, the clientele are mainly enjoying lagers and spirits and the staff seem positively pissed off that they have to spare you (they’re much more interested in creatively stacking shot glasses in interesting patterns). When we finally get served, I get excited by spotting Thornbridge‘s Jaipur on tap, and persuade two of my companions to join me in a pint. I’m shocked as our bartender yanks it out of the pumps with no grace or care at all and passes it up far too cold.

It didn’t stop the beer tasting great though, powerfully hoppy but with an underlying honey-d sweetness, and very suppable, despite being 5.9%. Where it weaker, I would have had another half, but I stopped myself and went for a pale ale from Thornbridge whose name escapes me, it was light, a little sweet and with a nice hoppy finish, mind. Then midnight came along and we were swiftly kicked out with little grace. Suffice to say that, if it weren’t for its great beer selection, I wouldn’t darken Champs’ door again. If I do go back it will be during the day when, so I’m told, it’s much quieter and the staff are nicer.

So then, Saturday. The day starts well with a trip to Elland Road for Leeds v Huddersfield. We draw 2-2, but it’s a good game, even if Town are dirty buggers. This bears no relevance to anything else in this blog.

That evening, my girlfriend and I decide to head out to Cross Keys (thus making it four out of four of the North Bar-associated drinking holes in three days) for a slap up dinner. It’s a great pub, all roaring fires, exposed brickwork, beams and brilliant service. The food, traditional English grub done to an astonishingly high standard, was superb, as always. I had a great smoked haddock fish cake with a poached egg and tartar sauce followed by duck breast with chesnut stuffing. I washed that all done with a couple of pint of Saltaire‘s Winter Ale a slightly toffee-flavoured dark winter ale, a real warmer for this time of year. My girlfriend enjoyed a couple of bottle s of the splendid Flemish red Duchesse de Bourgogne – it comes with a sour kick at first, then a sweet, strawberry-esque finish.

In related news, I decided to use the NHS iPhone app for tracking your drink intake. Suffice to say that if I want to stay averaging 4 units per day (the recommended amount for me) I’m going to have to have a relatively sober week.

Find out about North, Further North, Cross Keys and The Reliance here. I’m sure you can find out about Champs somewhere if you want, but I don’t really recommend it.

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.

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.

19th Wakefield CAMRA Beer Festival

Lightwaves

Lightwaves

It was with some trepidation that I decided to make a trip down to the CAMRA beer festival in the glorious Light Waves leisure centre in Wakefield.

Why trepidation? Well the fact that I hadn’t been to Lightwaves since sometime in the early 90s as a wee nipper didn’t help, nor my fairly strong memories of it being like an utterly improvised man’s Metrodome – which itself wasn’t all that. To me, Lightwaves means a crap leisure pool (only one slide? pah!) and unattractive changing rooms, and certainly not a venue for trying quality real ales.

But, go and I did, CAMRA membership card tight in hand, with the hope of enjoying a couple of decent half pints.

Alas, I made the mistake of going on the last day of the festival – a Saturday – by which point many of the beers I did want to try had already flown out of the barrels. This Jaipur IPA I keep hearing so much about passed me by, as did every single beer by relatively little-know Wakefield brewery Five Towns – all of which I’d heard were damn good.

I had five tokens for half pints (at £1.20 each) and damned if I was going to use them. So what to buy. Well, it’s not an easy choice to make. There were some 80-odd beers available (or not available if you go down on the last day) and while some tasting notes were great, others barely went further than “a golden session ale” or a “traditional best bitter”, which doesn’t really help when trying to make choices.

Fernandes (always a reliable and very local brewery) had a decent dark bitter by the name of Pikeman and Ilkley (I like drinking local beer) did a splendid caramel-flavoured, slightly spicy Darwin’s Tipple. Best of the bunch though was an imeprial stout from Barnsley’s Acorn brewery (which is normal reliable but unspectactular). While their Gorlovka may have required paying an extra 20p on top of the token (it being 6%) the rich, malty fruit stout was well worth that slight extra cost.

As is customary there was also a raffle and tombola, and as is customary I won nowt at either of them. I shan’t hold that against the festival though, and at least I now like Lightwaves just a little bit more.