A Night In The Pub: The Kings Arms, Heath, Wakefield

Kings Arms, Heath, near Wakefield

Kings Arms, Heath, near Wakefield

There’s been a lot of chatter on the blogs (aren’t we bloggers awfully self-referential, it’s dreadful, ain’t it?) about whether the pub is dead, whether it’s dying or whether it’s just got a bit of a sniffle and needs a dose of Calpol. It may shock you to read that I’m not going to answer that question (there is loads of debate on the topic though – try Pencil & Spoon, Real Ale Reviews or The Pub Curmudgeon for just a handful of examples). Nope, what I’m going to do is say the following.

I like going to the pub, it’s just about my favourite place to socialise, some of the best moments I’ve shared with my best friends have probably been at The Kings Arms in Heath, our local growing up. I also used to love meeting my granddad for a pre-Sunday dinner pint at one of his locals, I’ve recently spent some very pleasant time with my dad in The Cross Keys in Holbeck and when I meet my girlfriend in town we invariably meet at North Bar or The Reliance (that’s a stalkers’ guide to following me around, there).

So while a lot of my writing about tasty beers I’ve drunk involves beer I’ve drunk at home, that’s not because I prefer drinking at home to drinking at the pub, it’s just because I go to the pub to socialise and if you’re really focussing on the beer, then you’re not socialising, are you?

Anyway, I just wanted to briefly write in praise of my old local, The Kings Arms in Heath. It’s where me and my closest friends always go drinking, it’s where our mums and dads sometimes join us (and it’s all the better when they do).

Is it a great pub? Well, not really. It’s properly historic, and set on gorgeous heath land, and often boasts a roaring fire. It also stocks a few real ales that are normally nice, if not thrilling. Yet it is, with a doubt one of my favourite ever pubs. It’s a place to catch up with friends, to escape the realities of the real world of jobs and bills and regress with people who have known me for two decades, whose humour may often be risque, but always has me in stitches.

The best nights to meet up are Tuesdays. Yes, it’s a school night, but it’s also quiz night. While the cheap nasty free sarnies of old may be gone, and the questions are often, well, a bit shit, it does just what you want. It adds a competitive element to the night, a slight edge, an excitement served up with your pint of Landlord, an inspiration for jokes and anecdotes. Yes, it means a cloudy head on a Wednesday morning, but it’s worth it.

So, is the pub dead? I don’t know, but surely there will always be a demand for places that encourage socialising, encourage reunions of friends and serve it up in a homely, comfortable setting? And if there’s not, then there must be something very wrong in this country. I’ll blame Cameron.

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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.