Wakefield Beer Exchange opened in December, shortly before I moved to town. Once the mayhem of Christmas was out of the way I visited for the first time, and since then I’ve jumped at every opportunity to return…
The Beer Exchange is light and spacious, with striking black and white artwork on the walls. It sits firmly in the ‘bar’ rather than ‘pub’ category, although it’s already developing a community feel, with chatty regulars and a sense of camaraderie despite having only been open for a couple of months. The friendly and knowledgeable staff are always ready with a taster from the six hand pumps and six keg lines, or a recommendation from the beer fridge; only one (admittedly large) fridge at the moment, but it’s well stocked with the mandatory Beavertown and Siren, alongside Magic Rock, Roosters, Vocation and plenty more. The draught beer range is generally weighted in favour of Northern, and often fairly local, breweries, with a few from further afield dotted in here and there, a recent notable example being Odell’s Brombeere blackberry gose. Wakefield Beer Exchange also functions as a mini bottle shop, with bottles and cans available to take away at a discounted price. How lovely to be able to pick up a chilled can of Gamma Ray on your way home from work!
A carefully considered selection of ciders (including my beloved Pure North), wines and gins round out the alcohol range, with North Star coffee and tea from Birdhouse Tea Co also available if that’s your sort of thing. Gin is the only spirit they sell, and at the time of my last visit there were 11 varieties to choose from, including the fantastic Rock Rose and Forest Gin. Local pork pies are on sale, as are Yorkshire Crisps, smoky spicy pork scratchings, and a jar labelled ‘Paul’s dad’s pickles’!
The Beer Exchange thoroughly embraced Wakefield’s Rhubarb Festival last weekend, with some special offerings including a couple of rhubarb gins which were reportedly very popular with the Wakefield Gin Club, especially the rhubarb and custard gin which I only managed to catch a glimpse of on Twitter before the bottle was drained dry. Good work, those people! Five Towns Roo Barb and Magic Rock Rhubarbarella were also hit hard, neither cask nor keg lasting more than a couple of days on the bar. There was, however, some Luddenden Valley rhubarb wine left over, wonderfully light with a subtle fruity tang. I’ve also heard tell that there were rhubarb pork pies available, and a rhubarb and custard fruit tea which was apparently excellent with milk and sugar..!
I must say, before I started exploring Wakefield I thought that I’d mainly be going over to Leeds for a beer, but having visited Wakefield Beer Ex and Fernandes (keep your eyes peeled for another post coming soon) so far out of my ever-growing list of places to check out, I’m starting to think that Wakefield may be a bit of a beery hidden gem.
Slowly but surely, West Yorkshire has beckoned me back. It’s odd how Leeds and its environs feel more like home than the London suburb in which I grew up, but the fact is this: with each move I’ve been drawn closer and closer to the area I fell in love with six years ago. From South London to the fields of Cheshire, to leafy South Manchester, to the hills of Holmfirth, and now to Wakefield, where they’ve just held their annual Rhubarb Festival..! Two of these moves have taken place in the last eight months, which may explain the relative silence from Molyneux HQ.
During that time I’ve been busy with various bits and bobs, including helping out with the writing and beer tasting side of things at Beer Hawk while their sommelier Maggie has been on maternity leave. From the end of the month I’ll be back to freelance work, and also have a mountain of blog posts to catch up on…
I’ll be travelling down to London for Craft Beer Rising on Friday, so come and say hi if you spot me in the crowd! See you then.
I’ve already written about the Champion Bottled Beer of Britain judging and GBBF for work, so here I’ll let the pictures I tweeted on the day do (most of) the talking…
After this there was Magic Rock at the Cock Tavern, then Thornbridge at the Craft, then donner kebabs. Fab day, lovely to catch up with everyone and I’ll hopefully see some of you at Leeds/IndyMan!
I recently moved to the outskirts of a little village near Holmfirth in West Yorkshire, to be nearer to my other half’s current place of work. We had to find a place to live fairly quickly, and knowing that there were a couple of decent bars in Holmfirth I wasn’t too stressed about finding somewhere with a good local within walking distance. I was, however, a bit disappointed to discover that in the village which is home to Summer Wine Brewery, you can’t find their beer in any pubs… Poor show, Honley, poor show.
Well, I had resigned myself to having to go into Holmfirth for a decent drink, but one evening I was browsing TripAdvisor (as you do) and I stumbled across The Pure North Cider Press Cafe. I’d heard of Pure North before, but hadn’t realised they were based around here. A quick Google Mapping of the directions later, and I was grinning ear to ear; it was a mere yomp across the fields from the new house. One sunny Friday afternoon when the other half was off work, we decided to brave the inevitable hayfever and set off over the fields in search of cider.
A short walk, some cows and a hill later, we saw Pure North’s logo emblazoned on a large upright stone outside a small building. We settled down in the shade of the covered decking area and a member of staff soon appeared to take our order. Now here is where my story falters, as I failed magnificently to note the names of any of the ciders we tried that afternoon! For what it’s worth, we enjoyed a number of different varieties ranging from around 4.5%, sweet and tart, to 7%, dry and farm-y as hell. After browsing their blackboard menu for a while, we had a rather good lunch of shredded pork on ciabatta with apple sauce, followed by huge scones with mountains of cream and jam. In addition to the extensive cider menu there was a small beer selection, including bottles of Summer Wine Diablo. Marvellous.
If you find yourself in the area, I strongly recommend a visit to Pure North. We’re going to return for a tour of the cider press soon, and maybe another scone or two…
“Ooh, I love a bit of ‘Spoons.” I’ve uttered this phrase a number of times, in the tone of someone admitting a secret that makes them feel slightly dirty. It’s like admitting you watch Jeremy Kyle. (Disclaimer: we don’t watch broadcast TV in our house, so no Jezza for me these days!)
Back at uni in Leeds, I frequented the Hedley Verity Wetherspoons. It was fairly near to the campus, easy on the student wallet and they kept their beer in decent nick. It was a fairly versatile venue, a good meeting place for my Ale Soc pals and Raspberry Sambuca-drinking coursemates alike; I have fond memories of spending an afternoon there with the other half long before we got together, drinking pints of Wharfebank’s porter and pretending not to flirt. At the bar you would get the occasional old boy making surprised comments about a young woman ordering ale, but that goes with the territory.
The thing about Wetherspoons is that for such a homogenised chain, different branches can be of hugely varied quality beer-wise. At some, the cask is always on perfect form, at others, you wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole. I must say, I’ve been in more of the latter. I feel like I may have been unlucky in this regard, as some people hold them up as an example of well kept cask across the board. As a company they obviously do value beer as part of their range, so it’s a pity that some of their managers don’t seem to be able to look after a cellar properly.
I missed the height of the Sixpoint cans craze as I had left uni by then and ‘Spoons was no longer a convenient meeting place. The other day a friend and I met in Wakefield for a long awaited catch up, and after spending some time wombling around the Hepworth looking at sculptures we decided it was time for a craft third or nine. Neither The Hop nor Harry’s were open yet, so we decided to relive our Ale Soc days and brave the Wakey ‘Spoons to see how their beer offering was faring.
Glancing at the cask range, nothing took our fancy, so we decided to investigate the cans and bottles in their ‘Craftwork’ selection. Between us we worked our way through the Sixpoint cans (Bengali Tiger was my favourite), Adnams and Lagunitas, before we were confronted with the option of Punk IPA or red wine as a final drink. The wine won. We also ordered a massive bowl of chips each, because carbs are good.
While we were there, a man brought a pint back to the bar and told the bar staff it was off. It was changed quickly and without a fuss, and the offending beer was taken off sale straight away. Excellent. The member of staff serving me did however ask what Lagunitas was, before stating that “most people just ask for the IPA”. With something like four IPAs on the drinks menu, you might be taking a risk by ordering that way… It did make me wonder how frequently anyone orders from the ‘Craftwork’ part of the menu. A quick scan of the bar led me to believe that we were the only ones crafting the afternoon away.
The topic of conversation that we kept coming back to was how bloody cheap everything was – I mean, £1.99 for a can of American IPA in a pub, bloody hell! – and whether that was actually a good thing. Of course, interesting beer being readily available in non-’craft’ venues at an affordable price has got to be a good thing, right? But it could devalue good beer in the minds of those who don’t think about economies of scale and buying power, and automatically assume that all beer should be as cheap as in ‘Spoons. I think that on balance it’s a step in the right direction, even if some aspects of it may be problematic.
Revisiting Wetherspoons, I found it to be quite charming. Perhaps if it were my only option, the novelty of drinking decent beer in somewhere a little bit grim might wear thin, but I think if I had a local ‘Spoons with a competent cellar manager and frequently rotating cask beer, I’d be in there quite a bit.
Hello beeries! This blog has been awfully neglected lately; life has been mad. I always admire those dedicated bloggers who can sit down after a hectic day and write a fantastic post, it’s a skill that I am unlikely to ever acquire. We can but try, and so here’s a brief update on what’s been going on in the life of Molyneux…
Well, IndyMan was absolutely killer, and I did mean to blog about it, I swear, but so many talented folk comprehensively covered it that I felt less bad about not writing anything. That, and the fact that we had moved flat literally about five days beforehand, killed that potential post. Papa Mol and the superb Suzy came up for the Friday afternoon session and crashed in my living room, which added to the mayhem! On Saturday morning, Suzy disappeared bright and early to go and work at another beer festival (superwoman? I think so!), and Papa Mol and I whizzed around to a few breweries to pick up some beer for him to take back down to The Hope in Carshalton & The Trafalgar in South Wimbledon. Keykegs, casks, e-kegs and doliums from Runaway, Quantum, Indy Man Brew House, Shindigger, and Squawk all made their way down to London, and I returned to the comfort of my sofa to nurse an well-deserved hangover… Beer of the festival? Can’t pick just one. Arbor’s two year old Goo Goo G’joob impy stout was a thing of beauty, Against The Grain’s Citra Ass Down was exactly the juicy, sticky American IPA that I adore, and Wild Beer Co & Toccalmatto’s Indigo Child was a delightfully sippable sour of some substance!
IndyMan wasn’t the only Mancunian indie of October, with the Independent Salford Beer Festival following a couple of weeks later. Organised by Jim of Beers Manchester, this small but perfectly formed fest was put on to raise money for St Sebastian’s Community Centre in Salford, and I must say, I haven’t seen a cask list that impressive for a very long time. I was back behind the bar pulling cask beer for the first time in yonks (after a year of keg at BrewDog!) and I loved every minute of it. Beer, vibe, attendees and my fellow volunteers: all great. Beer of the festival? Hands down, it had to be Five Towns’ Raven King. Dark, full of coffee, and compulsive. Well done to Jim for putting together such an amazing festival for a good cause, and I’ll definitely be back behind the bar next year.
Another highlight of October was the chance to visit Marble, one of my favourite breweries, where I got to try Earl Grey IPA fresh from the tank! Blissful, but you’ll have to wait a little longer for a proper write-up of that one.
The thing that’s been keeping me so busy throughout November, though, is my new job! As Twitter folks may know, I’m now working at Chorlton Brewing Company, primarily looking after sales stuff, but also working on other projects and helping out with bits and bobs around the brewery… I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m going to be doing rather a lot of bottling!! I even have my very own brewing wellies, which, having steel toe caps, are actually rather more robust than my DMs. Finding them in a size 4 was not as straightforward as it might have been.
So my dears, keep an eye on Chorlton Brewing Company. We are specialising in sour beer (happy Molyneux!) and our first, Amarillo Sour, will be out just before Christmas. Updates soon… x
I was too excited not to say a few quick words today: I simply cannot wait to be at the Independent Salford Beer Festival (24th-25th October) this evening! For one night only I’ll be back behind the bar, serving the good people of Manchester great cask beer from either side of the Pennines, and it’s all to raise money for St Sebastian’s Community Centre. Jim (of BeersManchester fame) has put together a rather exciting beer list, including the one and only cask of Five-Oh Brew Co’s Sorachi Ace Stout (6.5%)! Tonight and Saturday arvo are sold out(!), but there are still a few Saturday evening tickets left. See you there; it’ll be a blast. Don’t forget to say hi if you spot me on the bar!
I actually considered not running this post for a while, lest I am accused of writing only about contentious subjects post leaflet debacle; fuck it though, it’s what’s at the top of the write-up list (and hardly a hot button topic any more).
Bottles. Cans. There has been extensive discussion about the pros and cons, including this rather good piece by New Belgium on sustainability. Of course, cans prevent the beer from becoming light struck, but how does this actually translate to taste? One evening in the Northern Quarter, I joined Mike of Chorlton Brewing Company at Port Street Beer House to see if we could tell the difference.
We chose Founders All Day IPA as our test subject because A) it’s easy to obtain in various forms, B) differences in hop character would be easy to pick out, and C) it had travelled from America, so was already less than totally fresh. Obtaining a bottle and a can, both chilled, we set up a triangle tasting – three sample glasses were poured out of sight of the taster, two containing beer from one packaging, one from the other. This obviously isn’t a perfect test by any means, but we did the best we could on the spur of the moment in a pub garden! I tried not to look too hard at the beer in the glasses before I smelled and tasted it, in case there was a difference in appearance (the above photo was, of course, staged to illustrate a tweet).
Unsurprisingly, the difference was marked, both in aroma and flavour. Of the samples I tasted, two were hugely aromatic, with massive citrus bursts, while one was subdued and a little elderflowery. Yes, it transpired that it was the can samples which were hop bombs, and the bottle which was tired and wishy-washy. “But what about freshness?” you ask: if we read the labels correctly, the beer in the can was older than the beer in the bottle.
This little (poorly controlled) experiment confirmed my expectations: cans are great for hoppy beer! Yes, I know you all knew that already. As you were.
Earlier today, my attention was drawn to this leaflet. No, it’s not advertising a tacky pin-up Freshers club night. It’s the new Young Members leaflet from the Campaign for Real Ale, sent out to affiliated university real ale societies for them to distribute to students. This leaflet is supposed to encourage young people to join CAMRA.
I must admit, when I first clapped eyes on this, I thought it might be a hoax, a cruel joke at the expense of CAMRA in order to stir up antipathy; after all, how could such a huge organisation, full of reasonable people, put out something so archaic and offensive?
What sort of people do they want to attract? Slavering ‘lads’, drawn to the organisation because of the use of attractive women as window dressing? They can’t be hoping to attract young women or non-idiotic young men with these images. I understand that CAMRA want to move away from the stereotype of the beer-bellied beardies wearing socks and sandals, but don’t they realise that by putting these scantily clad models in their recruitment literature, they’re further entrenching the idea that it’s an organisation full of letchy, out-of-touch old men? Surely, this leaflet couldn’t be real?
Sadly, my faith in the sanity of CAMRA Head Office was misplaced. I soon received confirmation from my old friends at Leeds University Union Real Ale Society that they had been sent these leaflets, and that one of their members had started the petition to get them withdrawn. The leaflets were delivered two weeks ago, and since then the members who contacted CAMRA to complain were brushed off with claims that because there were women on the board, the organisation could not create anything sexist. There were also references made to some sort of ‘quality control’ process which the leaflet had undergone.
Not fit for purpose.
The YM committee were unaware that the leaflets had been printed and distributed, until today. I suppose that shows how much CAMRA respects the opinions of the people it’s trying to recruit with this outdated mess.
I’ve seen nothing but disappointment and disbelief in response to the leaflet, from CAMRA members and non-members alike (aside from one random person on Twitter who believes that it isn’t an issue). This marketing campaign should have been binned straight off the storyboard, and even if it had somehow slipped under the barriers of, you know, good taste and not alienating people, when the Young Members committee deemed it not fit for purpose, they should have been listened to.
This isn’t an attack on CAMRA members or the branches. This is just me saying that I’m sorely disappointed in the decisions of the organisation. I won’t be renewing my membership. If you agree that this type of thing isn’t on, please sign this petition which calls for a halt to the distribution of this leaflet.
FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS – I quote Franzi Florack, creator of the petition:
“This morning (14/10/14) CAMRA published a statement which confirmed that the flyers had been withdrawn. Unfortunately it does not acknowledge the sexist nature of the flyers and only states that they ‘would like to apologise for any offence this may have caused’- which neither admits fault nor discusses how this will not happen again in the future.
The statement further claims that ‘the campaign was discussed with young marketing professionals within CAMRA’s Young Membership Marketing Group (YMMG), which is made up of men and women, and they supported this creative’. Whilst this might be true, I have also been informed that the CAMRA Young Members committee saw the leaflets, too, and their protest was ignored.
In my last update, I asked CAMRA to issue
’1. A public apology to the university societies which acknowledges the sexist nature of the flyers
2. A public apology to the CAMRA Young Members board which acknowledges that these volunteers have been deliberately overlooked and a promise that this will not happen again in the future’
and neither of the two has been received.
As a result, this campaign will stay open until a public apology has been issued which acknowledges the sexist nature of the flyers and includes the above apologies. I do applaud CAMRA’s wish to work with ‘CAMRA’s young membership to create a new campaign’, however until fault has been acknowledged there is no guarantee that these voices will actually be heard.
Some people have been calling for CAMRA to create an inclusive manifesto and I wholeheartedly support that idea. These sexist representations of women panders to the sort of gender stereotypes that portray women as sex objects. They also make life difficult for women as well as discouraging women from drinking beer and getting involved in activism to save pubs and other important beer heritage sites.
I also include this screenshot of tweets from the CAMRA Young Members twitter account, which is at odds with claims in the official ‘apology’ that the leaflets were supported by the YM Marketing Group.
15/10/14: People had been asking for a higher quality photo of the leaflet, and Franzi kindly sent me the scanned copy. Click the pictures at the top if you want a proper look or, as CAMRA put it, if you’re ‘thirsty for more’.
The last month has been a busy one, involving beer shop holiday cover, Westfest, flat hunting, and pub quizzes; I haven’t had time to put
pen to paper fingers to keyboard (that doesn’t quite work, does it?). I have, however, drunk some noteworthy beers, and feel that it would be remiss of me not to mention them.
Partizan Saison – Mango and Black Pepper.
The subtle black pepper lifts the mango in the same way it does a fresh strawberry. Juicy and delicate, there’s no overstated sweetness. Thirst quenching and compulsive; I want to swim in this.
Poppyland Smokehouse Porter.
What I love about Poppyland is how very down to earth it all seems. The brewery website is full of notes written by Martin, the brewer: honest, straight-forward information about how the beers were made, and Martin’s thoughts and hopes. It’s unusual to come across a brewery which feels so distinctly ‘un-marketed’.
The Smokehouse Porter is an interesting concept, with its malt AND New World hops smoked in a fish smokehouse just down the road from the brewery. The beer’s smouldering bonfire character is livened by a bitter, fresh, citrus note alongside a pleasant, almost oily element. Rather intriguing, and a very positive start to my exploration of the Poppyland beers. Next on my list to obtain is one of their Goses…
Siren Half Mast QIPA.
That a beer of 2.8% could be this full-flavoured and fresh, booming with grapefruit and mango, is a work of genius. I’ve always said that if brewers could make non-alcoholic beer with the same taste and variety as the real stuff, I’d very rarely touch alcohol; for me, the fact that beer gets you drunk is usually an annoyance. Of course, there’s a time and a place for a little pleasant fuzziness, but generally I’m drinking for flavour, with increasing wobbliness a frustrating side effect. Half Mast is an accomplished step towards my perfect world.