1010078I’ll start this week with last weekend which I spent with friends watching the the Cock of the North road racing event at Olivers Mount, Scarborough.  If you get the chance, I’d recommend you go just for the experience of bikes passing you at 170mph literally yards away, but I’d book ahead to get yourself a paddock access ticket.  The paddock area is an experience in itself looking at the bikes close up, but there is also a bar near the start finish line.  Called the Irish Quarter, on the surface not that impressive, selling only mainstream bottled and canned beers and spirits.  But the fact that I’m sitting there drinking bottles of Becks (at a very reasonable £2.50 compared to beer tent) and chatting to the barman about Barry Sheene, Guy Martin and other famous road racers, hearing his stories probably makes it one of the most interesting bars I’ve been into in a while, whilst all the time riders and pit crew are passing, some coming into the bar, bikes are lining up outside to set off to race, all giving it a different atmosphere to the public areas.  I plan to visit for the Gold Cup and camp overnight, I’m told once the racing is done, it gets rather busier there and is a good night out, one I’ll hopefully sample.

calanspub1the-stubbing-wharfCalans is back! I’ll repeat that, Calans is back and it is so nice to finally be able to go back there for a drink.  I popped in on Friday night post the walk from Hebden Bridge to Todmorden and return.  On the way we passed the Stubbing Wharf and it was doing some rather nice trade which was really good to see, next time I am in the town I will pop in and report back.  Calans is restored as it was bar a few small changes to make it more flood resistant inside with a new 6 foot flood door installed to hopefully keep the water out next time.  Me and my friend Mike had the chance to relax outside, my beer of choice (from 5) on the night being Hophead by Dark Star (based near Brighton), I’ve always been a fan of their beers and this pint (and a half) did not disappoint as I would expect from Alan and Alyson, who were absent on the night, but the two girls on the bar kept up the usual standards when it came to the liquid refreshment.  The atmosphere is also the same as before with a lively crowd constantly topping up customers who leave with new punters throughout the night.  It was only its second night, but Hebden Bridge and beyond has taken it back into its heart very quickly which is only as much as they deserve.

20160617_120439 20160617_120501Now onto the Grayson Unity, opposite the town hall in Halifax.  The listed building status means the venue is authentic to the original des ign with the owner putting his own touch on the decor, the back room being a mix of mismatched sofas and chairs, the main bar a compact room with wood and glass tiled fronted bar serving 4 ales and Berliner Pilsner lager along with a decent wine and spirits collection.   A really nice chilled out space, the beer was in very good shape over the two ales I tried.   The place is instantly welcoming and that is always a good sign for me.   The owners plan that “the bar itself is small but friendly place where you can get a lovely drink in a unique setting” has been well and truly met.   The high ceilings give the place a perception of being bigger than it is.   I well recommend you pop in to try the place out, you can even bring your own (non smelly) food to eat from elsewhere while you enjoy the offerings from the bar.  The only downside of this bar is that is could get very full very quickly if a large group decide to visit.  But it will be interesting to see how the venue develops.

the-best-mafia-films-u1I’m going to finish this week on a more hollow note however.  How about a prime spot in a heritage listed building, complete with sun trap.  Sounds great doesn’t it.  I know of three separate parties now who have looked at this unit now, all of which have found different issues.   Badly planned or missing utilities which would be essential for food offerings, high rent even given it’s prime spot and worse of all the fact that the venue is locked up totally in the late evening.  Imagine having to close your bar at 8.30pm so you can clean down and get out of the venue before you literally get locked in for the evening.  The people who bring you this genius is Calderdale Council and the new Piece Hall, the same organisation that is also extorting £1200 per household in unadopted roads in Siddal to replace the Yorkshire Sets with tarmac on the piece of road they own outside their house (nearly double the cost if you are a through terrace).  If you don’t want it done or can’t pay, tough luck if the majority of the street want it, they’ll put a charge against your house and do it anyway and have to go and get your own stones back from the Mytholmroyd depot if you want them!…nice to see our council tax being used for good!

Some weeks the pub is your second home, other weeks you may only visit once.   You can have many such homes, but most people have a handful at most they can themselves a regular at.  I am one of those people, I class myself as regular at three pubs.  You can probably guess which those pubs are by the mentions they get in this column.  But like many people my time is limited, I’d like to get round to more of our fine pubs in the Calderdale area, however work, family life, and more recently napping in my case get in the way.  I’ll be caught in “Snoozers in Boozers” before my time is up I’m sure.

I try to make the effort to visit new venues that have opened or in many cases in the Upper Calder Valley re-open after the floods.  Still on my list I have still to visit The Grayson Unity, a number of pubs in Ripponden, not to mention a list of longer established venues like Dirty Dicks and the Commercial, Brighouse which are long overdue another visit.   A lot of the time I have my family with me, so it restricts the pubs we can go into, either from the pubs child policy or suitability of venue.   

Last week I got one visit to the pub, a flying one hour rest at the Market Tavern on the way home from work one night where I enjoyed three rather nice halves of ale.  Saturday night saw the 30th birthday party of Jason Fieldhouse, lately of the Commercial / Railway in Brighouse, The party being held at the LBO rehearsal rooms where a small bar was set up in a back room.  A nice chilled out party with plenty of jamming and good pints of Abbeydale Absolution with a bunch of great people from 5-75.  A night where I would have otherwise been at the pub with my wife, life making plans otherwise.

That is the thing about life, it takes you where it wants to, it’s like being on a train, you may have purchased a ticket to Halifax, but it’s the guy controlling the signals who is really deciding where you are going end up.  I know this better than most.   With most people lack to visit to a certain pub is not noticed, but in the case of this column it sometimes is by some.   In respect to this Calderdale is a victim of it’s own success with the number of good pubs, despite the weather gods attempts to wipe them out every few years.  

the-stubbing-wharfSadly a number of pubs still are not open post the December floods, another great example of how fate works.  However the Stubbing Wharf has re-opened in the past couple of weeks, adding another pub I have to catch up with (oh the first world problems).  It looks like they are back serving the range of real cider they were previously famous for, along with a range of six real ales from a range of breweries local, mainstream and further afield.  The pub menu is back with a mix of classic pub dishes and fancier fayre.   Obviously the inside and outside needed totally stripping back to a blank slate and it looks good inside from the photos with a decent outside space to boot.  

I was a fan of the old Stubbing Wharf and look forward to visiting again soon and a bonus is that Hebden Bridge will have a proper pub crawl again soon, defined as at least four pubs worth visiting by my definition.  From the Stubbing Wharf to the Fox and Goose, one of the best pubs in Calderdale for locally produced beer from the lesser known brewers and the best bar based cheese board around, onwards to the Old Gate for a great range of cask and keg beers, numbering at least 8 of each, along with more nice food.  Finally, hopefully soon onto  Calans when they reopen in their full time premises.  It’ll be good to see Alan and Alyson back in action behind a bar or decorating table, frankly I don’t care as long as there is beer behind it and a till.

Hopefully I can bring the news of this to you soon, until next week happy supping.

 

This weekend I visited York, home of many real ale pubs of repute.  The York CAMRA mini guide lists over 100 pubs serving real ale in the city and surrounding areas.  Looking at their listing at least half of these pubs are owned by the mid to large pub owning estates, selling their own beer with a couple of guest beers.  This is not a surprise as I’m guessing buying or leasing a pub in York is not cheap!    Particular hot spots for real ale are up on Petergate as you leave the Minster and exit through the city walls, Fossgate on the southeast side of the city on a street full of independent businesses and around the market / Shambles area of the city.

1000936I didn’t really visit the city looking to go on a real ale tour, more to find places which looked good as me and the wife explored the city, be they for beer, spirits or cocktails, being partial to a good Long Island Iced Tea myself.    The “problem” with York is it’s popularity, by 2pm most of the best real ale pubs were standing room only if you were lucky and stayed that way until we left the city centre about 9pm.   Also it appeared that half the population of Newcastle had come down for the weekend judging by the number accents in evidence, including one stag doo that had dressed the groom to be as an 8ft cock, balls included.  

The first pub I visited was the Blue Boar, a fairly typical food led pub with a homer simpson handful of mainstream beers and 2 guest beers one of which was a nice start to the day, if nothing spectacular, but the giant fish finger sandwich certainly hit the spot that went with it as well as the Cheesy Chips or should I say Chippy Cheese.   The next stop was at Evil Eye, sitting behind a bottled beer shop and internet cafe (yes they still exist).   With some fantastic decor including the beer garden wide mural, it was a really nice place to relax, with a mix of old school and newer tunes.   At least 200 different spirits caught my eye and had a great cocktail menu, the beer being from a bottle fridge which did itself no shame whatsoever mirroring the beers in the shop.   My Long Island Iced Tea was generous with the spirits and just what was needed as the day warmed up.

A wander later, I popped into the Burns Hotel, a Samuel Smiths joint, whilst my wife went treasure hunting in TK Maxx, finding my cheapest half pint in over 20 years of drinking, 70p for half a lager, admittedly the 2.8% variation.  A friendly pub, but one that has the custom of those left behind by the modernisation / tourist takeover of many York drinking establishments.  Getting bored I walked down to the river by Bridge Street and finding most bars jam packed as you would expect, The Lowther and the Kings Arms being the real ale pubs in this area.

1000957We popped for a drink at Winner Winner, a chicken joint and dive bar overlooking the restored Woodsmill Quay.  The beer is bottled craft beer with Brooklyn Lager on draft.  Onto the cocktail menu again, I had my second Long Island Iced Tea of the day, technically a better example than Evil Eye with less coke letting more of the spirits come through, my wife enjoying the Daiquiri, her Pina Colada being a bit too creamy for her liking.  People all wanted to sit outside where as we were happy to sit in a cooled bar next to a window with as good if not a better view, whilst they were left pub hunting, I don’t understand the logic of some people when they’ve looked over a really nice place to relax.  

20160604_194721We finally got into a proper real ale pub as evening set in, the Old Shambles Tavern off the famous street of the same name, a small bar with a back room and beer garden looking over the market.  6 real ales on tap all from small or independent brewers, my two beers were very nice and could have sat out back there all night if dinner was not calling my stomach.  It’s only been open 3 years, it’s previous guise being a gift shop, but they are doing a great job there and one I’d recommend visiting.    After the Chinese meal, we walked the 2 miles back to the hotel, finishing with a nightcap of rum.

 

100096720160605_123738So whilst by no means experiencing the best beer that York has to offer, it was a great day out in the city which is full of visual treats.   On the Sunday we popped into Leeds Centre for a few hours and parked at the Tetley Wharf site, the office building beautifully restored as a visitor and cultural centre, all it needs now is a brewery on site again!   Over lunch we popped into Friends of Ham, probably my favourite bar in town and the Summer Wine Pacer didn’t disappoint to put a great end to a great weekend.

One last note this week, a certain pub complained I never mentioned them a couple of weeks on social media.  So on Friday night, I eschewed my usual favourite pubs and visited this venue, putting off my visit to new bar The Grayson Unity.   I was in about 9pm, the pub having most of the customers congregating around the bar, the historic side rooms hosting a small number of people.   Five real ales were on, a mix of mainstream and smaller brewery offerings.  I ordered a couple of halves, already having had a pint at the Waterfront at Littleborough post walking.   I was disappointed however, one of the halves was in good condition, the other being frankly undrinkable and was left with only ? of a pint drank.  It may have been an off night, so as always give will the pub a second chance in the future.

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Pubpaper 858 – An East Coast Explore

Posted: 30th May 2016 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

1000766This weekend saw a departure from Calderdale to the east coast of Yorkshire with a trip to Scarborough.    A day out out in Whitby Bay and Robin Hoods Bay was sandwiched with time split between the north and south shore of the resort, finishing with drive back across some of the best driving roads between the coast and the M62 at Goole, finding a hidden gem of a pub half way literally in the middle of nowhere.

Whitby Bay is one of my favourite resorts on that coast, the right mix of pubs, scenic views, good shops, good fish and plenty of things to do.  Robin Hoods Bay was a place I’d never visited before, been recommended and it seemed rude not to pop into on the way back to my base resort.   The break didn’t really bring any beer gems or classic pubs, but it was never likely to.  My mouth, as a side effect of one of my drugs I am taking, was more sensitive than a Daily Mail reader who’s house price had dropped because of the BBC showing a program about illegal immigrants.  

Relatively bland beers alongside rum and cokes were the order of the day.  I have slagged off chilled Guinness in the past, but super cooled blandness was a blessing at times.   Don’t ask me why rum and coke, which some would say is sharper than a lot of regular ales suits me currently.    We finished both nights over the bank holiday at Blue Crush in Scarborough, located where the main road joins the coastal road in the North Bay, a nice chilled place during the day or night.  A couple of decent local session ales mounted in cooling bags sit above the bar, the one I tasted being in perfectly acceptable condition, there being far worse places to have a beer around this end of the resort.  Otherwise the only other beer I had in town was with dinner at the Golden Grid and that was a bottle of Golden Pippin which to be honest was acceptable, maybe a place to have wine with dinner, although the Fish Chowder I had was very nice.

1000840The Sunday saw the aforementioned trip north.  Firstly I can recommend the A171 between Scarborough and Whitby Bay if you’ve got a powerful car or simply want a casual drive.  Having recently took delivery of such a toy, wide open roads, tight curves, and stunning scenery make the trip worth it for this alone.  We parked the near the abbey and walked down the 199 steps into the resort.  After some shopping we stopped for a beer at the Jolly Sailors Inn, a Samuel Smiths establishment on the harbour front, the breweries beers usually being fairly solid without standing out, my best bitter wetting the lips nicely.  Followed by a boat trip, I  had some rather nice haddock fishcakes from the Magpie Cafes harbour front stall and an explore of the western headland, we popped into Resolution Hotel bar at the back of town, again a nice relaxed venue with a lovely looking roast dinner.  A couple of mainstream real ales were on the bar, although it was time for a coke here due to driving duties.  

1000895We then headed back to past the Abbey and drove the 7 miles to Robin Hoods Bay.  The walk down to the beach see’s a beautifully conserved town with the vast majority of the original buildings still present.  We had a beer at the Bay Hotel, famous for being the end of the Coast to Coast walk from St Bees, Cumbria.  A Theakstons pub, the Wainwright slipped down nicely and was all you expected of the beer, although the wind coming in from the North Sea conspired to chill it to lager temperature whilst we watched the kids trying to catch crabs in the rock pools.  It is a resort I should go and spend a night and couple of days exploring as there were a few nice looking pubs on the way back up the hill.

We stopped for dinner at the Three Jolly Sailors on the Coastal Road junction north of Scarborough,  the half of Black Sheep went well with the massive bowl of Mussels in Garlic Butter sauce I had.   Well worth stopping off for the food, but probably not worth adding to a real ale trail, the pub like most pubs I’ve mentioned are a good place to stop at and chill out whilst away on your break.  

20160530_16000620160530_151704On the way back home I “accidentally” took a few roads which are a drivers dream, wide open, lots of visibility and one which was a couple of miles of blind humps.    Looking for a break halfway we stopped off at the Gait Inn, Millington, near Pocklington.  A lovely pub, great decor inside, 3 non mainstream real ales (at the time from Titanic, Wold Top and Haworth Steam)  Great customer service, whilst sitting in the centre of a really pretty village.  My Wold Top was in top form and a lovely pint.  What more can you want from a pub, one I’d seek out again when in the area.

So all in all a great break even if wasn’t for beer reasons, that sometimes isn’t the be all and end all.

Pubpaper 857 – Is the pub your lives vocation?

Posted: 21st May 2016 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

I’ll start this week with a last reminder that Calans Too pop up tenancy ends this weekend (26-28th May).  Over the last couple of months this secondary venture by Alan and Alyson has been received warmly by locals and visitors further afield.   I popped in with a friend on Friday night for a pint after local walk and enjoyed a couple of nice beers in the form of Vocation’s Bread and Butter and Half Moon F’Hops Sake.   The second beer was courtesy of a lovely couple we ended up sharing the table with, Claire and Patrick.  We sat for about an hour and had a great chat about pubs, breweries, PubPaper and life generally.    This illustrates last week’s article perfectly regarding random pub chats.  We didn’t know each other from Adam, but that didn’t matter.   The exchange of information, some local knowledge swapped on both sides, you spend your life learning new things, it’s what keeps it interesting.

I also got to have a good chat with Debs at the Market Tavern this week, due to walking into the pub on a day it was closed, selective dementia being added to my list of medical issues.   There are little details you don’t notice until they are not done in other pubs you visit and thankfully such establishments I don’t come across very often.  But you don’t realise how much work goes into making sure the pub looks just right each day.   The polishing down of the brass tables and pump clips, the mopping down of the stone floor, the wiping down and maintenance of the wooden surfaces.  You think you have a lot of surfaces to clean in your house, even your small pub has many more, not counting the fact your house doesn’t host 200 people a day, all of which will cause at least a minor spillage.  But what I picked up during our conversation is that Debs and Snap genuinely enjoy running a pub, essential to being successful given the long days, even when the venue is closed.   There is also a genuine interest in their customers, this attitude has made it one of community pubs in the town alongside the Commercial / Railway.  Hopefully we will be seeing more of Snap soon behind the bar at the Market Tavern as well.   

Being the public face of the pub comes naturally to both of them, as it does to Trevor and Sue at the Railway.  The same can be said about Jason Fieldhouse who is the most natural bar man I know, it being hard to imagine him not behind a bar or guitar.   You can tell pretty quickly people who don’t enjoy it, it exudes across the bar every second they are serving.    You either love or hate working in a pub, for some people the job is way of making money through your education whilst allowing you to study or to pay the rent / life’s expenses until your career takes off, for others it is their calling and will be behind a bar from the age of 18 until they retire.   Wetherspoons at Barum Top seems to be a production line of people I know working there for a mix of the reasons above.   Ultimately some people will open and own their own pub if circumstances allow, look at Simon and the team at the Victorian Craft Beer Cafe with years behind them at the Puzzle Hall Inn, Sowerby Bridge.  Working in the trade also leads to being involved in the coal face of the beer industry, just look at Hugh at the Cross Keys, Siddal.     From pub landlord at a young age, to working in the printing industry before coming back to running his own pub (with Ruth) via working in the brewing trade, he is another person who loves being behind the bar and being the front face of the business, whilst others in the business are happier to be behind the scenes.

I love my pubs, but I’m one of those people who would rather be behind the scenes, hats off to those who are the public face, they are what make our pubs and makes my life more enjoyable.    Having someone who knows their beer makes a huge difference, I can walk into a number of pubs and ask with complete trust “what do you recommend” and know I won’t be disappointed with their choice and they know who they are.

 

Pubpaper 856 – Random Pub Conversations

Posted: 14th May 2016 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

The random wandering pub conversation.  We’ve all been there, where chat starts between a couple of people talking about one topic and several hours later it’s still going, participants have come and gone with only the bar staff being a constant, the topic of conversation has gone through 6 degrees of separation to get to it’s current theme with a few tangential turns on the way, usually including one avenue you didn’t want to go down.   The people involved during it’s lifetime are not all friends, many just pub acquaintances, but that does not matter.

Think of other public social spaces where this would happen, if you want a friend are in a coffee shop, would you be as accepting of a relative stranger pulling up a chair and joining in? Probably not.  This is why the pub is special when compared to other places where we socially interact outside of our friends and family.  Alcohol no doubt plays a part in breaking down need for our “personal bubble”, that is no bad thing, anything which helps us bond as a society is good.  

If you are sitting at a table then your privacy is respected unless invited in, but if you are propping up the bar then the consensus seems to be that it is an open forum for anyone to join in, be they based there or just coming to order a pint.  If the conversation involves any member of staff, then it definitely falls into public domain.    This is a great thing, you find out things about people you’d never find out otherwise, other people will have more interesting experiences than you and you them in different aspects of life.   

Sometimes this leads to you helping people out, both from an informational and practical point of view.  There was a case of this a few months ago at the Cross Keys, where through the pub’s social network someone found out I had the same medical condition as their father who was about to start treatment, leading to me spending an hour talking to them one to one answering questions and telling them what to expect.  This is nothing special, this happens everyday in some form in our pubs.  This also shows the community side of our pubs, people’s willingness to give (sometimes) complete strangers their time.

Most of the time it is lighter topics, from recommendations of pubs in Weymouth that sell a wide range of rums to discussing our experiences at a new bar in town (it comes as no surprise that a lot of pub chat is about pubs and drinking).   If I am at a familiar pub I’ll generally try and sit at the bar, the buzz around the serving area is what makes a good pub for me, the more banter the better and it is an accepted rule that the better known you get at the pub the more friendly abuse you can come to expect especially from certain landlords.

We are all social animals and crave interaction with other human beings.   You look at people in long term isolation in prison and you find after a while they start to impress a human personality on inanimate objects or insects which fly into their cell as a substitute.  That is how intrinsic this is to the human psyche.   Of course we all crave our privacy at times and often you can find me with a pint and paper in the back room wanting to just chill out.

The pub is even more important now for facilitating these “community links”.  In an era where the local row of shops with the butchers, the baker, the post office, the corner shop is pretty non existent outside of towns and bigger. Where we drive our cars to the local supermarket or shop online.   Where people know a handful of people well on their street.  In the pub there is always someone who knows someone and introductions can be made in a more chilled out and casual environment, especially after a few beers.

If you become friends with the landlord, this is facilitated even more.  I’ve been introduced to a number of people by Landlords, people who are genuinely interesting people and are involved in the pub and beer scene in some way.  You don’t have to be in the pub every day drinking 5 pints a night, just being a regular visitor brings you into the pubs social circle as long as you are open to being involved in it.    This may happen at coffee shops, but how many times do you hear “Oh, I know this man at Caffe Latte who does that”, not many.

The pub has been the centre of the British social scene for hundreds of years and I can see it being supplanted anytime soon.

As the famous George Gershwin song from Porgy and Bess starts “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy”.  The aforementioned season finally made its first showing this weekend and beer gardens ‘cross hill and valley were full of pale legged drinkers.   The tourists were out in force on Sunday in Hebden Bridge and the pubs were making hay while the sun shined.  It is really good to see the town relatively full again despite the number of shops and pubs which haven’t re-opened yet, although drying out should be complete on many premises now and an early summer re-opening should hopefully be on the cards.

1000693I popped into Calan’s Too for a pint after a rather warm walk in from the far end of Mytholmroyd.   Having only just opened for the day, the beer garden was already filled and we retreated to the shade of the empty bar.   Alan and Alyson were delightful as usual and the Fell Brewery Yolo I had was on top form.  Chatting to the two owners, the good news is that they are now allowed to start work on rebuilding their permanent base back in the town centre.   The new bar is being designed to be more flood resistant so when the next one occurs repair turnaround time will be in terms of weeks not months.   The pair have only two weeks left on their temporary licence at Machpelah Mill, those being the last two in May as this coming weekend (13th-15th) the venue is being taken up by the annual folk and roots festival.  The plan is to hopefully open in early June even if it temporarily has to run using a similar setup to their pop up bar for a few weeks.  Like other drinkers who have enjoyed Calans Too there will not be many who complain if that is that case.  My dad who visited with me noted “that normally he’d send a flat beer back but both beers he had were spot on” there.

We did aim to visit the Libertine in Mytholmroyd on the walk back to the car, but we found it at the start of its refurbishment (well, to be honest, the staff firing up the BBQ next to the venue). This is for what I believe is its transition from a pop up bar to a fully licensed micropub.  I look forward to seeing the finished project in a couple of weeks when it should be complete.  We stepped into the Dusty Miller instead, my first time since the December floods.  Still in a state of mid repair, but no worse a venue for it, the pub is running on a drinks only basis.   Four handpumps served a range of decent beers including an Elland and the shade in the side room was more than welcome as well as a good cool beer before we finished off the day’s ramble.   

20160508_200939Later that evening I popped into town for a bite to eat and a few beers with my parents and wife.   As we walked up to Wetherspoons I spotted the statutory notices have gone up at the proposed venue of the new micro pub opposite the bus station.   The application is on behalf of The Pumproom Micropub Ltd to open the AH Micropub.  As I previously mentioned I was chatting to the guy who is behind this venture and the idea sounds interesting.  He is planning to sell a number of his own brewed beers, alongside a range of ciders, spirits and coffee sourced from small independent suppliers.  His aim seems to be to give the customer products you can’t find in many other places.   Just round the corner the Grayson Unity is now being fitted out according to updates on their facebook page and should be open sometime in early summer although no dates have been mentioned yet.    It appears they are going to offer a range of local and regional ales alongside the expected coffee offerings which will be popular during the day given its location opposite the town hall.

Lets look at the new and existing out and out real ale outlets in the town centre.  AH Micropub and Grayson Unity joins Victorian Craft Beer Cafe and Dirty Dicks among  others (I’m only talking pubs in the town centre and not those on the road at the bottom of Halifax town centre).  All of them are offering different things to the ale drinker in small ways.  Of course all offer the mandatory handful of well kept real ales, some of these offering many more.    One is looking to offer small production run products, one is offering a wide range of both keg and cask ales (over 20 taps in total if you count the cider), one is a pure real ale joint with a range of small brewers and bigger ale brands, whilst one is looking to offer local and regional ales alongside a daytime focused offering.  Small differences, but those which make each pub very different to each other.

If variety is the spice of life, then it’s fun to taste it all!

c/o Chris Dyson at http://chrisdyson55.blogspot.co.uk/

c/o Chris Dyson at http://chrisdyson55.blogspot.co.uk/

There’s not been much pub action this week for me, so a bit of a catch up on all the pub news from Calderdale.  Calans Too is still going well from reports and a June date for their re-opening at their original premises is looking likely now it has received its “dried out” certificate from the inspectors.   I hope to visit again this coming weekend to catch up with Alan and Alyson, so hopefully more news once I’ve spoken to them.   On Thursday I popped into the Market Tavern and chatted to Debs and Snap.   The 1960’s weekend was their best weekend ever with standing room being a pipe dream over the duration of event, getting into the building being a challenge for long periods.  With only two on the bar, they worked relentlessly to make sure the thirsty punters were kept refreshed, a great effort from a great team and the best pub in the town centre of Brighouse.   The beer quality is still being kept high at the Market Tavern and this in turn is making other venues in the area raise their game and that can only be a good thing.  If you have a good real ale tour in an area it will only attract more drinkers and benefits all businesses in the area, be they pubs, shops, food outlets or restaurants.  Of course, some venues don’t follow this ethos and they deserve all they don’t get, even resorting to going into other pubs and deliberately self promoting their own venue in groups.

13096020_221921341521375_5996482523005416561_nIn Halifax, the new micro pub venture has finally got a name, The Grayson Unity will open in the next couple of months, although exact dates are yet to be announced.  The venue is located opposite the town hall (in the old County Court building), looking out onto the Broadway Plaza complex.   Being ran and owned by Spike from the long running Doghouse music events, “the bar itself is small but friendly place where you can get a lovely drink in a unique setting. Local and the wider Yorkshire producers and suppliers will be used with odd Lancashire curveball” (sic).  With this and the expected new venue opposite the bus station, the Halifax Real Ale pub scene could really take off again.   Take these, Victorian Craft Beer Cafe, the two Wetherspoon pubs (I know they are mainstream, but real ale tours always seem to take them in, especially if they arrive in the vicinity of breakfast or brunch), plus Dirty Dicks, Three Pigeons and finishing off at the Cross Keys, Siddal and you have a weekend of drinking, never mind an afternoon.  As I said about Brighouse, these people will eat and shop as well as drink, so the town of Halifax will benefit as a whole.

I hosted a party this past weekend, purely for the sake of it given the lack of good news recently. Close friends and family invited up, whilst making sure I had enough beer for all the guests and cooking way too much food.  I now have enough beer in reserve for my next party, and have a respectable cocktail bar in development!   The point of this is that as a culture, alcohol is still our social glue, it wouldn’t be a party without it.  Most people had met at least some of the other parties present at some point in the past, but by the end everyone knew pretty much everyone else, even though geographically spread by 200 miles. Beer, wine, spirits all lubricating this process.   The call to “lets meet over a coffee” does not appeal to me, even though I love the stuff, I’d rather have a pint if the good stuff is available nearby.  The pub is an even better proponent of this theory, I popped down to the Cross Keys, Siddal so my dad could check into his room for the night, one of my best friends staying in the other room.  We stopped for a couple of beers as it would be rude not to before returning home.   After the party, they both shared a taxi back, my dad retiring after a beer, my mate retiring much later after possibly one too many beers.  The best mate lives in mid Wales, but has visited a number of times and always stays there.  He is accepted as much as any regular by staff and punters alike, would you get the same after a few visits to a coffee shop over a period of a year, I doubt it.

And finally, Darren Carney from the Sportsman, Ploughcroft is being laid to rest on Friday and there is no more fitting place to celebrate his life than the place he loved and worked for many years.  I’ll be there to raise a couple of glasses of beer to him on the day, please do the same wherever you are drinking this weekend.

Pubpaper 853 – A Sad Loss and Happy Gains

Posted: 26th April 2016 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

13043239_10153954937373780_6284912195645074424_nThis week starts with some sad news.  Over the weekend, Darren Carney who managed the Sportsman at Ploughcroft for many years until last Autumn, passed away after a brave battle with cancer.  If you met Darren, you’d not forget him, always a smile and happy welcome whatever was going on, even till the very end.  I only became friends with Darren last year after years of knowing him and chatting to him as just a drinker in the pub he ran.   After I went public about my cancer, he got in touch as he had been diagnosed with cancer in the same location, giving support to each other over the past 8 months, sadly his cancer was far more aggressive than mine.  Once you got to know him, he was a very funny and caring man, who will be missed by many people, including myself.  So this weekend, please raise a glass on his behalf.

I’ve said in the past that there are some pubs you visit as much for the people as you do for the beer, in some cases the people count more than the beer.  This was the case at the Sportsman, the beer selection was always solid and reliable, well kept and good for a session.   The staff made the place, led by Darren until last year, always friendly, welcoming and cheerful, hopefully the legacy of his ethos will last well into the future.  It is where I held my 40th birthday party and they couldn’t do enough for us.

bar_upThe pub is a core element of my life and I am lucky to have so many good ones on my doorstep.   This weekend we went out for a meal, which didn’t impress so I’ll not mention the place.   In town we visited Cookies, a place which used to be a regular haunt for me, it’s not changed in 16 years and that is a good thing.   A range of german beers, decent spirits and a few real ales, add decent music and it is nice place to start the night.   After the meal we popped into the Victorian Craft Beer Cafe, busy as always on a Saturday night with Simon and Co keeping the beer flowing and the welcome warm.  There is always something new to try here which keeps me and my family coming back repeatedly.  The two beers I had here did not disappoint and I would have had the lovely mango cider (which tastes like it was freshly juiced) if we didn’t run out of time.

We finished the night at the Cross Keys where my dad was staying for a couple of beers, with a warm welcome as always from Hugh and Ruth.  Being the back end of the night Hugh joined us for a chat as we enjoyed our nightcap beers.  I write about this place a lot, but it deserves all the plaudits it gets.  Great beer, warm welcome and lovely original interior, what more could you want.  If you look at the pubs I mention the most, namely Victorian Craft Beer Cafe, Market Tavern and Cross Keys, you notice they are very different beasts, but all have common elements of good beer, nice welcome and pleasant interior.

DA_POSTCARD_HOLMFIRTH 46On Saturday I visited Holmfirth with my dad for the afternoon, popping into the newly refurbished Postcard Inn for a beer before heading into the town centre with some book shopping (inc a signed Brian Blessed book for £3.50).  We then visited the Nook and had some of their own brewed beers.  The berry flavoured ale was really nice and the onion rings impressed in size and taste.  The music taste of the customers here should be complemented judging by what was put on the jukebox.  The place lives up to its name with little rooms at every turn.  Before heading home we returned to the Postcard Inn.  A few of you might remember Kevin at Lewins about 3 to 4 years ago, who now runs the Postcard.   Four well kept real ales, good bottle range and some nice continental beers, it’s well worth visiting if you are in the town, located next to the main car park by the CO-OP.

I really am looking forward to this summer from a beer perspective, Calans both in its pop up location and at its permanent home, two new real ale micro pubs in Halifax town centre and the Calder Valley finally lifting from the lows of the Christmas floods.  Libertine to visit still among many others means my weekend will be full visiting pubs both old and new, and what a way to spend a weekend.

 

Pubpaper 852 – The Calderdale Micropub Scene

Posted: 18th April 2016 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

I know I said this weeks piece was going to be about my Manchester trip, but that is for another week now.


1000588This week is dedicated to the local Micropub sceneand firstly to Alan and Alyson at
Calans, which opened its pop up venue this weekend just outside Hebden Bridge in the basement of Macpelah Mill, on the junction with Station Road.  They are open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 2pm, closing at 10pm apart from Sunday at 8pm, scheduled until late May / early June when they hope to move back into their original courtyard premises.   The bar is a basic as it comes, a couple of tables, a rack of auto tilts, fridges with bottles out back and a cash register.  But they are keeping up great range of beers, with 10 ales on when I visited on opening night Friday, down to a mere 8 when I visited again on Sunday afternoon.   Craft ciders and wine are also served, but things are kept simple here and is the better for it!  Served straight from the cask, the beers are served in great condition and don’t suffer from lack of pump!   The beers are what you came to expect before their courtyard premises became a truly “liquid led” venue just after christmas with Vocation, Elland, Bridestones supporting local brewers, and regional brewers such as Abbeydale, Great Heck and Mallinson a solid back up to these beers.

1000591The fixtures do not maketh a pub and this pub proves that perfectly.   The original venue was always warm and friendly, although the former could be attributed to the “human” central heating system once it got busy.   It’s an oddity that a pub’s pop up venue is actually three times bigger than it’s permanent venue, but they were easily filling the larger venue and a bit more on Friday night, with Sunday showing a still healthy footfall.   The two owners garnered a lot of good will in the town and this has been repaid by the customers now.   The best of luck to them both in the next few months and if word of mouth continues to spread then it bodes a fine future for the bar in both its venues.   

the_libertine_night_market_700The micro pub scene is booming in the Calderdale region at the moment and just down the road is Libertine in Mythomlroyd, which has been on scene for a bit longer, and is establishing itself as a bit of a magnet for drinkers local and further afield.  Although I’ve not had a chance to visit yet, it looked more than full as I drove past on Friday tea time.  Based opposite Sainsburys it serves 4 real ales, a nice range of spirits and real ciders.  Adjoining the building is an outside cocktail bar and guest street food vendors each weekend.  Taking a very different approach to Calans, the benefit being that the building is theirs 24/7 so can be fitted out as they need, whereas Calans are renting an existing commercial space and need to be able to ship out certain weekends, such a the Folk Festival where it is already pre booked.  I’m looking forward to visiting Libertine in the next few weeks and giving a review right here, especially if the quality of the bar takeovers continues with Vocation and Northern Monk visiting in recent weeks.

It’s good to see the Calder Valley starting to pick up from the Christmas 2015 floods.  Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd now have a Co-op supermarket back and the Mytholmroyd petrol station is re-open, cashpoints are becoming the norm than a rarity in the area.  Hebden Bridge is still suffering from a glut of shops being dried out, halogen heaters being ubiquitous in the town, but more and more premises are being opened.   Moyles has opened again as a bed and breakfast and although the bar is not open, it’s positive it is running some level of business.  Lets hope this summer sees the area restored to it’s previous glory.   

I also got talking to a guy who is planning to open another micropub in Halifax town centre later this year on Friday night. I can’t go into too many details as paperwork is still being dealt with but the location will be convenient for public transport users and it will operate as a brew pub for their own beers.  Listening to him this should be a really good bar once up and running!

Now for some personal news and this is the last you will hear of this. My cancer is incurable, I’m not going to get any better.  I was offered an operation with 20% chance of cure, but would mean me losing the ability to eat, drink or talk.  The risk / benefit was not worth it.  I’m having palliative treatment to extend my life.  As long as I can drink and type I’ll be doing this column.  I can’t do any more damage to my body now, so will enjoying my beer even more, happy supping until next week.