Monthly Archives: August 2015

GBBF 2015 In Tweeted Pictures

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…

CMHVtkIXAAAS8t4Such a #craftwanker that even my water tastes of citrus

CMHwKMuWsAAMSSYFirst beer of the day on a rooftop overlooking Olympia with Truman’s

CMMpS30W8AAnURPLovely horses, lovely Harveys

CMIHxp1WcAALjFPFirst of GBBF – Lagunitas Sucks with Ancho and Pulla chillies

CMIjZ8LWoAAQrRiBeery selfies happened

CMIiEAVWUAAAfnx#craftwankers 4 lyf

CMI3bPhWEAM4gecEven more beery selfies were taken

CMI_zkAXAAAHgnSOh shit there’s an impromptu tasting occurring

CMI4RssWEAA2T4C #MolyneuxsOnTour

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!

Pure North Cider Press Cafe

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.

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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…

Wetherspoons Revisited

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“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.