Thursday, 27 January 2011

Huddersfield area pub crawl


     Most people know that Huddersfield has some cracking pubs, and its probably also been established already that there are some cracking pubs on the outskirts, so I can’t promise any bamboozling surprises on this crawl write up, but I can assure you that I would heartily recommend every pub.

Back in November me and Davefromtshop caught a sleeper train to Huddersfield – not one with beds in you understand, instead one which needed them, given that it took 1 hour 50 minutes to get there. It took so long in fact that we missed the hourly bus out to our intended first pub.

Being Sunday no pubs were open before 12.00 so we walked to the bus station and back to check the timetable and see how long it takes to walk there from the station, before returning to stand balefully outside the Head of Steam like alcos.

Once in, we had some White Bear Original. I can’t say I was won over by it, lacking any stand out flavour and with a strange Whitbread full mash like aftertaste hanging around. Given that the 3 bottles of their Bruin I bought have been off, I decided that they would have to produce something far better before I’d try them again, so sipped their biter and then headed ff to the bus station.

We headed out to Sowood, a large parish area than a village I would say, the effect being that we didn’t really know where to get off and neither could anyone on the bus suggest where. Despite this we soon found a local who directed us towards Forest Hill road and the Dog and partridge.

This is a tiny two roomed pub with small windows running along the front of each room and a timeworn bar, low beams and fireplaces. Its run by an enthusiastic landlord with an incredible 50 years in charge, who helped us to get back to the bus route, and thanked us warmly for making the effort to visit - its seldom you meet that kind of publican these days. There are 3 real ales, Black sheep plus two guests, on this occasion an astringent but enjoyable beer from Brass Monkey called Gold Monkey. Dave suggested this was following a recent trend of using what I may well have misremembered as Nelson Sauvin hops – intensely dry flavour that can, when used liberally, make a beer orangey and sharp and very dry.

We also had halves of a Great Newsome beer that neither of us could remember the name of, which is a sham,e because it was marginally better than the Gold Monkey.

A walk to Outlane followed for the bus, but we just had chance to nip for a half of Taylors at the Waggon and Horses, a large two roomed eateries that reminded me of an inter war hotel. The landlord was acceptably kept and enthusiastically priced.

Back in Huddersfield we contrived to get separated and missed the opportunity to cram a quick pint in somewhere in town, so headed off a little earlier than planned to Marsden, and the excellent Ossett brewery owned Riverhead tap.

We started with a pint of Town Terrier from Riverhead and a fantastic dark malty German style beer Marzendlen. This was so exquisite we had to have another 3 halves of it, before caving ion and trying the Sparth bitter and Ossett Galena. Although this refusal to leave cost us a trip to Greenfield, I can’t speak highly enough about the excellent Marzen beer and the comfortable relaxing pub that we sampled it in.

With darkness nearing we caught the bus to Slaithwaite (Slowitt) and walked form the main road up to the Commercial, opposite the Huddersield narrow Canal. This is owned by the landlord of the nearby Swan Inn and serves an excellent range of about 8 ales always with one or two from Empire brewery. We both had a pint of their Moonraker mild which was on sale at a sensible £1.90 a pint – had we not been mid crawl we could have stayed on it all night.

Alas we had to grab some food from the chippy and walk up to the delightfully named area of crimble to visit the Swan. This is a more traditional affair but with slightly less beer choice, never the less we enjoyed 2 pints of what according to my scribbled on sheet of paper was Empire Mallrs Lallrs. Yes, that’s right, I have no idea either. No doubt the long walk up the hill was to blame for our inability to read and write.

Off next to Linthwaite (Linfit), where we reached the Sair by climbing up the horrendously steep Hoyle Ing, which was only possible thanks to the knowledge of the bus driver, since you can’t see the Sair Inn sign heading towards Huddersfield.

We breathlessly stumbled into find faint orange lights and candle light, low beams, flagstone floors, an eclectic jukebox and a fire in every room. Alas there was no Linfit ale on the bar, I hadn’t heard that they’d stopped brewing but they do only sell the beer there nowadays, so it was a bit of a surprise. Instead we had a pint each of a bizarre Otley beer that I can’t read, and 2 fantastic halves of Phoenix mocha, which we would have preferred to have had as our pint.

We soon arrived back in Huddersfield, and just had time to get to the Kings Head on the station, a large pub split into 3 rooms, a noisy and cosy bar snug, a large concert room sized bar and an adjacent room that doesn’t appear to get used very much. From the amazing number of beers on offer, all were from Yorkshire, and we both had a half of Bobs Brewing super chief, which was very nice.

We now had to get home, which at that time of night involves a detour to Leeds. We had an hour here so tried the Scarborough Arms, which was a little disappointing, in which we had halves of Lees mild, and then took a long walk to a leeds brewery pub at the side of the river Aire. Until Dave rings me to confirm, I am afraid I can’t tell you what the pub was called, or what we drank, but I know it was a pint each of a Leeds brewery beer that may have been brewed for the pub, and it was a decent pint as well.

All in all then, a fantastic and varied day out, with country pubs, town pubs and city ones, notable for the Sair, Riverhead Tap and Dog and Partridge especially, and unforgettable on the basis of the excellent Marzen from Marsden.

And please be aware should this tempt you out West, travelling around West Yorkshire is inexpensive with a day saver , but unfortuntaely fares into the county from sunny Sheff are very high.

Next time I'll tell you about more January jaunts in lincolnshire and South Derbyshire.

Wee Beefy.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Sheffield pubs update

I am finally back on the site after B.T contrived to piss away my Internet connection for 3 weeks and my computer got ill - twice. Its still not fixed but can now mercifully access tinterweb, and here I am to bring you up to date.

Me and Davefromtshop, Wee Fatha and Mr P went to the South in October - a detailed trip report will follow in the next few weeks.

For now, I am able only to update you on dearest Sheffield and its weird beery ways.

The Blake on Blake Street has reopened, possibly but not definitely 4 years after anti competitive pub closure specialist enterprise inns ( although you could insert the name of any faceless bank owned foreign pub company ) closed it and put a restrictive covenant on the lease preventing its reopening as a pub. This weak minded two fingers to free trade was designed no doubt to protect other nearby gems they owned that didn't sell real ale, seemed unnervingly similar to other pubs and were being run into the ground to prime them for housing stock. It says a lot about the company's interest in viable pubs, and about how crap they know some of their boozers are....

Mercifully the pubco lost and James Birkett of Sheaf view pedigree has opened it up selling a range of ales, bottled foreign beers and cider. Its changed a bit since my last visit 11 years ago, when I recall only the far side of the bar area and part of the room with the entrance now in it. Perhaps the passage of time has made me remember it smaller than it is now…

Anyhoo, supposing you are fit you can reach it by walking up Whitehouse lane then Burgoyne road from the Hillsborough Hotel and across the park, or downhill from South road, likely Industry Street and right at the bottom.

Have only made it in twice but the highlight last time ( apart from the range and the convivial atmosphere ) was the Globe porter from Glossop and a Dark Star IPA.

Up in sunny Handsworth changes are afoot, albeit slowly.

I may have previously mentioned that the Cross keys was up for sale, or it maybe just the lease - not very good at technical and legal stuff am afraid. Landlord Lee has decided to move on to another challenge and although he was in before Christmas on my last 4 visits there have been other people behind the bar.

It’s a real shame, but, possibly down to the uncertainty, or perhaps because the beer is cheaper next dooreven after a winter price cut at the keys, there seems to be considerably fewer customers in these days. Not because of that, but I wasn't in at new year as I usually would be, and a friend of mine reported the pub virtually deserted after 22.00. I know myself that in the past after an initial scrum from 20.00 to 21.30, from 22.00 is a quiet period and then it fills up again nearer 23.00 and onwards, but that sounds like bad news. Poor trade begets poorer trade, people are maybe less inclined to visit if it always seems empty. Mind you, as a miserable arse whinger I quite like the silence, but not at the expense of viability. And I can confirm that the beer has been fine or every good the last 4 times have been in.

Meanwhile the Old Crown continues to sell Bradfield and Acorn beers and now advertises Marstons, and real ale is £2.30 a pint. The added attraction of Zlatec lager on draught, giving the non real ale masses a decent alternative to lemonade like Carlsberg, perhaps helps explain the pubs popularity.

Food is available now, am cerain there are no kitchen facilities in the Cross keys, and as far as I know the accommodating side still operates. The sad thing is, whilst a pub selling local real ale is a bonus, one wonders if this is a sign that Handsworth with its recent traditions of dreadful pubs and dreadful beer, can’t support two real ale pubs.

Previously the unshakeably Whitbread tinged New Crown was the flagsip with two real ales on and food available. I went in the New Crown about 9 months ago, only to find one real ale and the loudest and most antagonistic licensee/landlord you could meet, ramping up football rivalries and behaving generally in the manner of someone who he should have been asking to quieten down or leave.

The Magnet was the sacrificed ale, which now I suppose is the case across the UK, but that only leaves Greedy King old speckled hen. So unimpressed was I by this great example of how not to run, and encourage all the worst aspects of a pub, I have not been back to see if they have persevered with the GK ale.

The Turf, which is a very traditional pub in terms of interior and exterior, is another I have not visited for ages, but this time years. That said, the pub itself seems very nice, its just that they never have, as far as I know, sold real ale, so I have supported those that have instead. Meanwhile, the White Rose has those huge long swan neck dispense things and may not sell real ale anymore, and the Norfolk Arms is a nursery.

Just a 10 minute bus journey towards Attercliffe and the excellent Sportsman continues to do well and sell one or two real ales, regularly showcasing beers from the excellent Barlow brewery and Concertina, and this week those from Grafton in Worksop.

Paul tells me he has some Barlow Imperial Stout ageing in the cellar along with some already vintage last rites. I believe last time it was on the last rites retailed for £3.00 a pint, although I wonder if this will change for the matured version. Full marks though to Paul for his dedication to real ale and sensible prices, and to his customers who are never afraid to give him feebdback on the beers, and aren't frightened of the stronger brews which so rareyl make it on to the bar in Sheffield these days....

Finally, news from new regular Wee Beefy venue the Rutland Arms on Brown Street. There are about 8 handpumps dispensing local and further afield beers from micros and the occasional regional, as well as an absurd number of ciders, and draught and bottled continental beers including Vedette. Food is good and sensibly priced and served until 20.00, or it might be 21.00. There is often a beer from new brewing outfits in Sheffield such as those operating on others plant, like Blue Bee and Steel City Brewing.

The final draw I have to say is an incredible juke box with a fantastic range of music - although being an old before my time 36 year old it was really only 70's rock, blues and a few decent early noughties metal tracks that I parted with my money for.

Heartily reccommended.

So that just about wraps up the Sheffield scene for now.

Hopefully I will have chance to update more regularly in future, to Tell you, amongst other things, about my Lincolnshire and South Derbyshire trips and Huddersfield escapades.

Wee Beefy.