Tuesday, April 01, 2014

LATEST



CAMRA PUBS OF THE YEAR
It's that time of year again when Camra branches reveal their favourite boozers. Good beer is the key, although atmosphere, level of service, value for money and community focus are also taken into consideration.

Congratulations to the splendid King's Head, Huddersfield's top boozer.

Jimi Hendrix is on the pub sign but the beer is never purple or hazy. The pub favours lighter ales but always has at least one dark one on and the splendid Golcar brewery is a regular, along with beers from other local breweries such as Empire and Magic Rock. Bradfield and Oakham breweries are also favourites here.

The staff are friendly, the fires are roaring and the place is rocking on Sundays when excellent covers bands are on. According to the Huddersfield Examiner, The Star and Will O'Nats ran the King's close but this is the right decision (although as I say every year: why does the Grove never get a look-in for this title?)

North Manchester's winner is the marvellous Port Street Beer House. When it first opened, I thought it was a second-rate Grove of Huddersfield, but I've been made to eat my words after many visits to a pub that feels like home - a good mix of hand-pulls from the north plus more exotic kegs and bottles. They are served by friendly staff in a place that may be rather anonymous from the outside, but is like a wooden Tardis on the inside (my home isn't exactly like this).

If ever you have to describe a street corner boozer, The City Arms, in the centre of Manchester is it. Hunched between the Waterhouse and the Vine this narrow, cosy pub more than holds its own and is Trafford and Hulme's winner (confusingly). It's got plenty of wood which I always love in a pub.

The Corn Dolly is Bradford's top of the pubs. Perfectly reasonable but I'm a sucker for the Sparrow in that city.

Halifax's is the decent Cross Keys in Siddal, done out nicely with plenty of good beers and makes a nice crawl with the Three Pigeons and Shears.

Harry's Bar is my favourite Wakefield pub and it's Camra's favourite too. Small. always busy and cosy in winter with the fire going.

The splendid West Riding Refreshment Rooms is top of the pile in Dewsbury. Great railway pub, very lively.

Yet again Kelham Island is Sheffield's ale king. As I've said before, there are better pubs in the city.

South Manchester and Stockport's fave is The Hope, in Heaton Norris, which only reopened a year ago after a refurbishment by its experienced owners. It's an impressive square building with big windows and Hardy beer signs and offers 11 cask ales, four of which are The Hope's own Fool Hardy Ales.

Wigan's number one is the Crooke Hall Inn, in Crooke, on the outskirts of Wigan which I think was once owned by my great grandparents (it's now owned by Allgates brewery). I went many moons ago and I seem to remember it's a rather peaceful place by the canal. Town centre pubs The Anvil and the The Raven were second and third respectively.

Other winners include:
Abercolwyn: Albion Ale House, Conwy
Barnsley: Old Number 7
Glasgow/W Scotland: Laurieston Bar, Glasgow
Keighley: Brown Cow
Liverpool: Liverpool Pigeon, Crosby
Macclesfield and East Cheshire: Young Pretender, Congleton
Rochdale, Oldham and Bury: Carrion Crow, Oldham
Southport: Freshfield, Formby
Tyneside: The Bodega, Newcastle
Westmorland: George & Dragon, Dent
York: Wheatsheaf, in Burn, near Selby




NO ROOM FOR THE PUMP
One of Halifax's best pubs, The Pump Room, is to close at the end of March and is expected to be demolished and replaced by a car park.

The Pump Room is in the way of an ambitious and controversial scheme to build a new shopping centre - ambitious because the centre aims to attract big retail names, controversial because it means the end of a building put up in 1791 and the final bell for one of the best pubs in the town.

Its heyday for me was the early 2000s when you could watch rugby on TV and enjoy at least eight local real ales. The ales are still on and still in good order but the pub is now overshadowed by the nearby Three Pigeons and Dirty Dicks. The former is a nicer pub, the latter offers cheaper ales.

The last day of trading for the Pump will be March 30, according to Camra.

I hope its demolition is worth it and the shopping centre does not become a white elephant or draw trade from the rest of the town. There is a danger that a town like Fax will be relatively overfaced with shops. On the other hand it could become second only to Leeds as a shopping destination in West Yorks.

Pic of pub by Deltrems on Flickr



DUNHAM GOOD
Some breweries never let you down, no matter whether their beers are light or dark. strong or session - and Dunham Massey is one of them. So it's great DM's getting national recognition after winning Camra's Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain title at the Winter Beer Festival in Derby for their 5.2pc porter. Cairngorm Black Gold won silver and Exe Valley Winter Glow bronze. Marble's Stouter Stout got bronze in the stout category.



RUGBY LEAGUE'S EXTRAORDINARY SEASON
After months of ominous silence by rugby league's rulers that threatened to deflate the ballooning optimism that built up during world the cup, suddenly the sport is back with a spring in its step.

First of all a quality sponsor for Super League, First Utility, an underdog energy firm taking on the big boys in the same way that rugby league fights for attention in the sporting world (thanks goodness the sponsor's not a cash loan site).

Secondly, a large slice of Sky pie, giving Super League clubs a 63 per cent increase in funds. Shame the BBC don't get the odd Saturday afternoon game, but hey-ho.

Thirdly and most importantly of all, relegation is back, with two clubs going down at the end of this season, and promotion returns next season with the top two leagues of 12 splitting into threes league of eight during 2015. Great ideas - making the Super League stronger and making the Championship teams fight in more than one game for a place in the top league.

Five of the 14 championship sides will be relegated at the end of this season to prepare for next season which will no doubt make most games absolutely do or die.

Add the all-new Salford Red Devils, it promises to be a corker of a season. Wigan v Saints grand final, London and Bradford to go down. Leeds to win the cup. Fev to win the Champ big one.



ALAS POOR GOWRIE
After a couple of months of rumour and rumblings of discontent, it happened - one of Manchester's best-known pubs, the Lass O'Gowrie, closed.

Not for good, as some thought - the pub will reopen in February after a makeover. But landlord Gareth Kavanagh departed in bitter circumstances, telling the Morning Advertiser and Manchester Evening News his pub was rated below average by owners Greene King which wanted him to spend 40 grand on a makeover. This demand came after he had won a long rent battle with the brewery and won the Advertiser's national competition for pub of the year in 2012. He said the closure of the BBC office opposite had hit takings by 40 per cent.

The man who runs the nearby Salisbury, John Rowlinson, has taken on the Lass, promising local ales and homecooked food. Greene King said the Lass had 'lost its reputation as a real ale pub'.

The pub is looking a bit tired and needs a makeover and the beer choice has not been up to usual standards recently, but this is excusable considering what happened at the end of the year. The best thing you could say about the beer choice is that you never realised you were in a Greene King pub! Oustanding and Facers were among the regular stars.

You have to got to feel sorry for Mr Kavanagh who has tried everything to gee up trade - food, nice little outdoor area for the smokers, TV sport (a rarity for real ale pubs) and the theatre nights upstairs, especially the stage versions of old TV shows and the wonderful posters.

Perhaps the all-rounder nature of the pub was part of the problem. The TVs do dominate when they're on and it's hard to get away from them. The location, of course, does not help. It would be wonderful to swap the bland Bulls Head, opposite Piccadilly station, for the Lass.

The Oxford Road station area is an odd one for pubs - plenty of trade, you would have thought, from the station, students, Cornerhouse folk and Palace Theatre people, but only the Temple and the Lass stand out


Morrissey book review
He submitted an episode of Coronation Street which ended with Ena Sharples saying: 'Do I really look like a fan of X Ray Spex?'



My Manchester Evening News column -
matinee gigs for the over-40s




Triumph amid the tears: Badly Drawn Boy review, Manchester Evening News 



The best guide to find pub righteousness, the Good Beer Guide, is out. There are no changes in Huddersfield and Bradford but quite a few in Leeds and Manchester.It also features a West Yorkshire village I've never heard of before - Goose Eye.

Hudds has Grove, King's, Rat, Slubbers, Sporters, Star, Vulcan and White Cross in the good book.

Elsewhere in Kirklees the gaudy and loud Brambles is a newy in Holmfirth (the Nook's still in from last year). The Flowerpot in Mirfield is another newy, joining the town's Navigation and Old Colonial. The Pear Tree drops out. Dewsbury loses the Huntsman and Shepherd's (West Riding and Leggers still in )

In Bradford, entries are the Castle, City Vaults, Corn Dolly, Fighting Cock, Ginger Goose, Haigy's, New Beehive, Sir Titus Salt and Sparrow.

In Leeds, in come the Friends of Ham (hip but nice), Ship (forgettable), Stick or Twist (Wetherbarn), Templar (a classic old boozer full of classic old boozers). Still in are Hop, Foleys, North, Palace, Scarborough, Veritas, Victoria, Whitelocks.

Away from Leeds centre, Fox and Newt in Burley, Arcadia, in Headingley, and the Grove and Midnight Bell, in Holbeck are still in.

In Halifax, the smashing and revamped Shears is in but Dirty Dicks and New Prospect depart. Still in are Big Six, Sportsman, and Three Pigeons.  Elsewhere in Calderdale, the Barge and Barrel, in Elland, returns to the book (Drop Inn still in from last year). Todmorden's newie is Calderdale pub of the year and piemaster the Masons, joining the Polished Knob and Staff of Life.

Splendid Sowerby Bridge still has the Jubilee, Puzzle, Shepherd's and Works but loses the White Horse.

The lovely Crescent, in Ilkley, is a newie (along with regular Bar T'at). The Fleece falls out in Otley but town's Bowling Green, Horse and Farrier, Junction and Old Cock are still in.

Manchester newbies are the Crown and Kettle (which is looking a little smarter than a year ago  ), Font (studenty), Joshua Brooks (ditto), Molly House, Rising Sun (a bit characterless), and Wharf (ditto). Out are Wheatsheaf, Smithfield, Piccadilly, Peveril, Old Wellington, Jolly Anglers. Still in are: Angel, Bar Fringe, Cask, Castle, City Arms, Knott, Marble Arch, Micro Bar, Paramount, Port Street, Sandbar, Waterhouse.

A few changes in real ale/craft beer hotspot Chorlton. Beech Inn, Marble Beer House, Parlour and Sedge Lynn are new entries, joining Bar, Electrik and Pi. Out go Horse& Jockey and Oddest.

Salford's Crescent drops out of this year's Guide but another old favourite the KIng's Arms is back in. The Eagle is another new entry. The Mark Addy and New Oxford stay in from last year. The Racecourse and Star drop out.

Tameside is good for an ale crawl with Hyde, Mossley and Stalybridge each having four entries. In Hyde - Cheshire Ring, Godley hall (new), Queen's Inn and Sportsman. Mossley has Britannia, Commercial (new), Dysarts and the Rising Sun, while Stalyvegas has the Society Rooms (new), Labour Club (new), Refreshment Rooms and the White House.

They've reorganised the Sheffield entries, creating a new Kelham Island section featuring Fat Cat, Harlequin, Kelham Island Tavern, Riverside, Shakespeares, Ship Inn, and Wellington. Most of these pubs used to be in the central section which now features the Bath, Dev Cat, Henry's, Hop (a newie), Old House, Red Deer, Rutland, Sheff Tap. A newie in Shef South is the splendid Broadfield, ex-student grothole now very nice for food and ales. The best pub in Sheffield, the Sheaf, is still in the south section.

Loads of changes in York with some great pubs dropping out, such as the Golden Ball, Three Legged Mare and Blue Bell. Guy Fawkes and Rook&Gaskell are also out. In come Old White Swan, Pivni, Snickleway, Volunteer and York Tap, joining regulars Brigantes, Maltings, Minster, Phoenix, Slip, Swan and Waggon&Horses.

In Wakefield, new entries are an old favourite, Henry Boons, plus the Inns of Court. Regulars are Alverthorpe, Black Rock, Bull and Fairhouse, Fernandes, Harry's, Hop and Red Shed

PS Goose Eye is near Oakworth. The Turkey Inn is the entry - looks a corker.

The final 16 for Camra pub of the year have been chosen - Wales' champ is the Albion, see below. Yorkshire's is the Old No7, in Barnsley, decent but not spectacular. The Baum in Rochdale, reigning national champ, is Greater Manc pub of the year again And the national winner is Lanc-y pub Swan With Two Necks, Pendleton.



OLDER BITS

HYLDA BAKER: I speak without fear of contraception - you’re sat sitting there supping while we should be going to Blackpool hallucinations.



BARNSTONEWORTH: Yorkshire Premier League 1922: Haggerty F, Haggerty R,Tompkins, Noble, Carrick, Robson, Crapper, Dewhurst, MacIntyre, Treadmore,Davitt.


BEST BREWERIES:
Where were the northern beers in the list of Great British Beer Festival winners in 2006? Were the judges all from Chiddingfold-on-Sea and used to watery, headless brews? Here's THE 10 best breweries.


BEST PUBS:


BOWLING GREEN, OTLEY: Stuffed snarling badgers, gas masks and a skeleton were among the 3,500 items inside. The landlord, Trevor, was a rather forbidding character. It looked like you had to pull a thorn from his paw to get on with him.




NELL BRYDEN: She called me sweety when I bought her CD off her. I don't think anyone's called me sweety before - mind you I was dressed as a Mars Bar at the time.




TED CHIPPINGTON: Walking down the road the other day, this bloke came up to me and said: 'Can you tell me how far is to the railway station?’ I said: (gruff voice): ‘One mile.’ He said: (gruff voice) ‘One mile?’ I said: (gruff voice) ‘One mile - roughly speaking.’




CUD: Was Carl's voice up for it? Would new guitarist Felix fill the considerable boots (Hey Boots!) of the assistant headteacher from Tadcaster? Would the band gel like the greasiest Ted? Yes, yes and yes! Carl bellowed like a moose, holding a note like Pavarotti. Felix is the indie Jimi Hendrix and the band were tighter than a gnat's chuff.



DOCK PUDDING: People flocked to Cragg Vale to taste Doris Hirst’s championship winning pudding


ROBERT ELMS: Ludicrous clotheshorse


THE FALL: A member of the opening act assaulted Smith with a half-eaten banana and the band played on while MES chased the banana-assassin into the parking lot, where a scuffle ensued.

GOOD BEER GUIDE HIGHLIGHTSForget all the other pub guides - unless you want to take your granny for Sunday lunch in an unbearably twee Cotswold village where they rethatched the roofs in 1973.Includes pubs in west Yorkshire, west Lancashire, Manchester, Sheffield and York.


RAY GRAVELL
There used to be/Detonations on the telly/It was Grav discussing rugby
There used to be/From the radio great warmth surging/Grav conversing.


VAL GUEST: He hated Arthur Askey, but he made his directing debut with him in Miss London Ltd, about an escort agency. It probably wasn't that kind of agency,although, you never know - "A handjob Arthur?" "Well stone me!"


HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT: I went to see the Bootleg Beatles as the bootleg Mark Chapman


HUDDERSFIELD: Pubs, trains, beer, buildings (see index)


LEEDS: Britain's most overrated city is just Wakefield with delusions of grandeur and good PR.


JEFFREY LEWIS: He says he's not even a glass half-empty person, he's glass half-full - half-full of nothing. There's also some delightful rhymes - on one song about a dead pig he sings: "He's called Jonathan or Jason/It depends which way he's facin'"


LORD OF THE RINGS: It's all completely huourless and is desperately in need of Brian Blessed SHOUTING LIKE HE DID IN FLASH GORDON. "HAWKMEN,DIIIIIIVE!" (When he was in his patrol car in Z Cars did he shout: "POLICEMAN, DRIIIIIVE!"?)


MARBLE GINGER It’s ‘gingier’ than Liverpool supersub David Fairclough in a carrot-top love-in with Tori Amos


STERLING MORRISON: Interviewer:Is New Wave rock 'n' roll or is it folk?Morrison: I'm afraid it's folk singing and this pains me.



CHIC MURRAY: It was raining cats and dogs. I stepped into a poodle.


NORTHERN FILM LOCATIONS:Hell is a City - Grim Up North Noir with Stanley Baker as a copper so hard-boiled he's been left in the pan for a week.Everyone smokes. Trains stop at GMEX.Levenshulme, East Didsbury, Huddersfield, Medlock, Burnage, Withington andOldham are the other locations.A Kind of Loving - Alan Bates throws up on Thora Hird's carpet. Thora, in Dame Edna glasses, calls him a pig. Steep park where he gets Thora's daughter pregnant is in north Manchester, also Preston, Stockport, Salford.


ERIC OLTHWAITE: It were always raining in Denley Moor, except on days when it were fine; and there weren't many of those - not if you include drizzle as rain. And even if it weren't drizzling, it were overcast and there were a lot of moisture in the air. You'd come home as though it had been raining, even though there had been no evidence of precipitation in the rain gauge outside the town hall.


PIES: There’s been a run on Hofmann’s “growlers” since he won the World Cup of pies


REAL ALE TWATS:'I'm remindful of The Lamb and Tuppence in Pontypridd, a splendid little pub which serves Bishop's Gleet'


JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH: Go caravanning in Dyfed or Clwyd/Order a pizza and get it delivered/ How to be happy in a sad, sad world


SOUTH PENNINE DAY RANGER EXCURSION Emley Moor mast follows you round like Mona Lisa's eyes


EDDIE WARING A choirboy Kaiser Chief sang at his funeral


WIGAN INSULTS:
To someone who’s ugly:Who knitted thi face an dropped a stitch?
To someone with a terrible memory:It’s a good job thi balls are in a bag

PUB NEWS



CAMRA PUBS OF THE YEAR
It's that time of year again when Camra branches reveal their favourite boozers. Good beer is the key, although atmosphere, level of service, value for money and community focus are also taken into consideration.

Congratulations to the splendid King's Head, Huddersfield's top boozer.

Jimi Hendrix is on the pub sign but the beer is never purple or hazy. The pub favours lighter ales but always has at least one dark one on and the splendid Golcar brewery is a regular, along with beers from other local breweries such as Empire and Magic Rock. Bradfield and Oakham breweries are also favourites here.

The staff are friendly, the fires are roaring and the place is rocking on Sundays when excellent covers bands are on. According to the Huddersfield Examiner, The Star and Will O'Nats ran the King's close but this is the right decision (although as I say every year: why does the Grove never get a look-in for this title?)

North Manchester's winner is the marvellous Port Street Beer House. When it first opened, I thought it was a second-rate Grove of Huddersfield, but I've been made to eat my words after many visits to a pub that feels like home - a good mix of hand-pulls from the north plus more exotic kegs and bottles. They are served by friendly staff in a place that may be rather anonymous from the outside, but is like a wooden Tardis on the inside (my home isn't exactly like this).

If ever you have to describe a street corner boozer, The City Arms, in the centre of Manchester is it. Hunched between the Waterhouse and the Vine this narrow, cosy pub more than holds its own and is Trafford and Hulme's winner (confusingly). It's got plenty of wood which I always love in a pub.

The Corn Dolly is Bradford's top of the pubs. Perfectly reasonable but I'm a sucker for the Sparrow in that city.

Halifax's is the decent Cross Keys in Siddal, done out nicely with plenty of good beers and makes a nice crawl with the Three Pigeons and Shears.

Harry's Bar is my favourite Wakefield pub and it's Camra's favourite too. Small. always busy and cosy in winter with the fire going.

The splendid West Riding Refreshment Rooms is top of the pile in Dewsbury. Great railway pub, very lively.

Yet again Kelham Island is Sheffield's ale king. As I've said before, there are better pubs in the city.

South Manchester and Stockport's fave is The Hope, in Heaton Norris, which only reopened a year ago after a refurbishment by its experienced owners. It's an impressive square building with big windows and Hardy beer signs and offers 11 cask ales, four of which are The Hope's own Fool Hardy Ales.

Wigan's number one is the Crooke Hall Inn, in Crooke, on the outskirts of Wigan which I think was once owned by my great grandparents (it's now owned by Allgates brewery). I went many moons ago and I seem to remember it's a rather peaceful place by the canal. Town centre pubs The Anvil and the The Raven were second and third respectively.

Other winners include:
Abercolwyn: Albion Ale House, Conwy
Barnsley: Old Number 7
Glasgow/W Scotland: Laurieston Bar, Glasgow
Keighley: Brown Cow
Liverpool: Liverpool Pigeon, Crosby
Macclesfield and East Cheshire: Young Pretender, Congleton
Rochdale, Oldham and Bury: Carrion Crow, Oldham
Southport: Freshfield, Formby
Tyneside: The Bodega, Newcastle
Westmorland: George & Dragon, Dent
York: Wheatsheaf, in Burn, near Selby



NO ROOM FOR THE PUMP
One of Halifax's oldest pubs is to close at the end of March and is expected to be demolished and replaced by a car park.

The Pump Room is in the way of an ambitious and controversial scheme to build a new shopping centre - ambitious because the centre aims to attract big retail names, controversial because it means the end of a building put up in 1791 and the final bell for one of the best pubs in the town.

Its heyday for me was the early 2000s when you could watch rugby on TV and enjoy at least eight local real ales. The ales are still on and still in good order but the pub is now overshadowed by the nearby Three Pigeons and Dirty Dicks. The former is a nicer pub, the latter offers cheaper ales.

The last day of trading for the Pump will be March 30, according to Camra.

I hope its demolition is worth it and the shopping centre does not become a white elephant or draw trade from the rest of the town. There is a danger that a town like Fax will be relatively overfaced with shops. On the other hand it could become second only to Leeds as a shopping destination in West Yorks.

Pic of pub by Deltrems on Flickr




ALAS POOR GOWRIE
After a couple of months of rumour and rumblings of discontent, it happened - one of Manchester's best-known pubs, the Lass O'Gowrie, closed.

Not for good, as some thought - the pub will reopen in February after a makeover. But landlord Gareth Kavanagh departed in bitter circumstances, telling the Morning Advertiser and Manchester Evening News his pub was rated below average by owners Greene King which wanted him to spend 40 grand on a makeover. This demand came after he had won a long rent battle with the brewery and won the Advertiser's national competition for pub of the year in 2012. He said the closure of the BBC office opposite had hit takings by 40 per cent.

The man who runs the nearby Salisbury, John Rowlinson, has taken on the Lass, promising local ales and homecooked food. Greene King said the Lass had 'lost its reputation as a real ale pub'.

The pub is looking a bit tired and needs a makeover and the beer choice has not been up to usual standards recently, but this is excusable considering what happened at the end of the year. The best.thing you could say about the beer choice is that you never realised you were in a Greene King pub! Oustanding and Facers were among the regular stars.

You have to got to feel sorry for Mr Kavanagh who has tried everything to gee up trade - food, nice little outdoor area for the smokers, TV sport (a rarity for real ale pubs) and the theatre nights upstairs, especially the stage versions of old TV shows and the wonderful posters.

Perhaps the all-rounder nature of the pub was part of the problem. The TVs do dominate when they're on and it's hard to get away from them. The location, of course, does not help. It would be wonderful to swap the bland Bulls Head, opposite Piccadilly station, for the Lass.

The Oxford Road station area is an odd one for pubs - plenty of trade, you would have thought, from the station, students, Cornerhouse folk and Palace Theatre people, but only the Temple and the Lass stand out



NEW PUBS
I was kindly invited to the new Flying Duck in Ilkley by one of the investors in the pub. What a lovely place it is.

Ikley is a thriving town with many independent shops, a place where you’d think there would be plenty of real ale pubs. But its neighbour Otley is the bees-knees for ale in these parts, and although some Ilkley types look down on Otley as Grotley, too many of the pubs in Ilkley have a grotty air about them.

For years Bar T’At was the only pub in the town worth visiting. Not any more.With The Crescent and now The Flying Duck, Ilkley is at last becoming a real ale destination.

The Flying Duck was originally a farmhouse (built in 1709) and is believed to be the oldest pub in town (it was formerly know as the Albert and also the Mallard).

It has a lovely cottagey feel, with its stone exterior and oak and stone floors. It is bigger than you think inside - two rooms downstairs are separated by a real fire; there’s a snug upstairs and bigger function-type room next to that. The beams in the Grade 2 listed building are among the original features. The place has been tastefully decorated and already has a cosy feel, unlike many new pubs. The work to transform the pub took seven months and cost about £200,000.

The pub is a brewhouse of Wharfedale Brewery which is founded by the pub investors who are also connected to the successful Ilkey Beer Festival ( tickets for which sell out quicker than Glastonbury).

The brewery is headed up by Michael Allan, supported by Five Towns’ Malcolm Bastow. Consultant is Stewart Ross the founder of Ilkley Brewery.

Two quaffable Wharfedale beers were on the bar Blonde (light refreshing) and Sezer (I think - pleasantly smoky). There are nine real ales on in all. Prices are decent for this part of the West Riding.

Thanks to Robin and Stewart for showing me round.

Other new pubs:

The North Bar Social in Otley opened earlier this year and is a lovely place - a quirky retro feel with its furniture and lighting, it offers something different in the town (too quirky for Otley?).

Crowd of Favours is Leeds Brewery's new venture, an old chippy next to the Duck and Drake, in Leeds. Feels a little cosier and characterful than other Leeds pubs. Four Leeds beers on (in good order) and four guests.



A NEW LOOK FOR AN OLD FAVOURITE


One of my favourite pubs, the Rat and Ratchet, had been looking a bit tired. Before this year, the last time it had been done up was nine years ago.

But now it has had a spanking new makeover which puts at the top of the tree for pubs in Huddersfield.

The main change is the makeover of the front room. It has been opened up, some steps removed and a new window and fireplace installed. It feels like you’re in a country pub even though you’re on one of the town’s dingiest roads.

A new tiled checked floor has been fitted in the entrance (tres snazzy) and the exterior has been scrubbed up to reveal the lovely yellow brick, New signs are up as well.

And a new jukebox has been installed at last. Oh yes! I know Camra fundamentalists like to hear the sounds of their own voices in pubs - foghorning about hops - but there is nothing like being in the Rat on a Friday or Saturday night with the jukey playing 60s or new wave stuff.

I hope they give the rest of the pub a lick of paint and perhaps put in some new posters. But this is a minor quibble - a great pub has got even better.




 
PUB SHORTS
I've always been found of Conwy, with its castle, narrow streets, lovely seafront, and great chippies, but now it has one of my favourite pubs, The Albion, pictured, is a wonderful multi-roomed, smoked glass-doored, tiled-passaged (I love a tiled pasage in a pub) place, awash with lovely North Walian ales. It was shut by Punch in 2010 and reopened in 2012 by four local breweries - Purple Moose, Conwy, Great Orme and Bragdy'r Nant. It has had a £100,000 refit to restore it to its former 1920s glory and is a Camra heritage pub and branch pub of the year.

Another branch pub of the year is the Masons, in Todmorden, which has secured the Calderdale gong. Four ales, in good order, an old-fashioned jukey and the best steak and ale pudding I've ever had. Just down the road, nearer town, is the Bare Arts a bottle-only brewery shop which has seating for those who want to drink in. It's a friendly, charming place.

The Gonzo bar, in Holmfirth, has Nook beers and plenty of interesting bottles in a light and airy room full of squishy sofas and comfy chairs. Reminded me of the excellent Vox and Zephyr bars in Huddersfield.

Sheffield real ale pub of the year, Shakespeares, deserves its title - like the Albion it was closed for a bit and has been lovingly restored. Plenty of charming rooms, ace ales, another old-fashioned jukey and a nice-looking beer garden



KING OF THE PUBS - The King's Head, in Huddersfield, could be restored to its former glory with plans to remove a false ceiling to allow in more natural light and restore the original ceiling. The pub has the best beer of the two railway station pubs, but despite its tiled floor and real fires can look a litle tired when it's quiet. The King's and its station rival the Head of Steam were once identical waiting rooms. The King's is a listed building and the owner has to apply for grants to help pay for the work (from Hudds Examiner)


NEW PUBS!
Good luck to two new pubs which have just opened. Leeds Brewery's marvellously named Crowd of Favours is near Leeds Market in Harper Street, while North Bar Social has opened in Bondgate, Otley. Two great pub companies - I'm sure the boozers will be smashing.


CO-OP PLAN FOR FOX AND GOOSE PUB
A share offer has been launched by campaigners fighting to save the Fox and Goose, in Hebden Bridge, and turn it into the first co-op pub.

Local people and real ale enthusiasts got together as the Friends of the Fox and Goose to save the pub when the landlady’s deteriorating health meant she would soon be unable to run it herself.

A steering group concluded that a co-operative would be viable and the community voted in favour of this option at a public meeting.

The Fox and Goose (Hebden Bridge) Limited, the co-operative society set up to buy and run the pub for the benefit of the community, opened the share offer on Friday 14th June, and it will run until the end of July, unless the target is hit before that date.

The society aims to raise £130,000 to buy and spruce up the pub. Supporters will be able to buy shares from a value of £100 up to a maximum of £20,000. By June 21, a third of shares had been sold and £42,000 raised

To buy shares

(Some info from Hebweb)



HUDDERSFIELD CAMRA PUB OF THE YEAR - THE SPORTSMAN
Congratulations to The Sportsman, pub of the year for 2013. It also won in 2012 and shared the title with The Rat in 2011. The Sportsman is a wonderful characterful multi-room pub with eight real ales. The town is very lucky to have five top-notch real ale pubs which carve their own niche - Sporters, Rat, Grove, Star and King's Head - so it's a shame Huddersfield Camra doesn't give someone else a turn. The Grove seems to be getting more and more popular, is leading the way with craft ale selections and has been nationally recognised. It's well overdue a pub of the year award.
Elsewhere, the marvellous Fighting Cock is Bradford Camra's pub of the year - a grim journey from town to find this gem. Great selection of local ales from a long bar.
Sheffield Camra's pick is Shakespeares, not too far from the other excellent pubs in the Kelham Island area. It only reopened in 2011 after being shut for 17 months. It was rescued by William Wagstaff, of The New Beehive, in Bradford

Huddersfield Camra Rural Pub of the Year

April 13: Congratulations to Will O'Nats, Blackmoorfoot, near Meltham. A cosy pub, with a real fire. Its huge window show off the rolling hills and stone walls around the pub. Five ales, not particularly adventurous (inc Black Sheep, Landlord, Greene King), hearty food, and bluesy/rock bands at the weekend. Rural pub is a new category for the Camra branch this year - good idea as country pubs always have to be a little more foody and a little more conservative in beer choice. Other nominations were: Commercial, Slaithwaite (great local beer selection); Rose & Crown (Nook), Holmfirth (fab jukey, good Nook beers); Rose & Crown, Cop Hill, Slaithwaite; White Horse, Emley (part of the mighty Ossett empire); White Horse, Jackson Bridge


Pubs of the year 
2013: Some cracking pubs have been included in a slightly confusing Camra list of the UK’s Top 150 Local Real Ale Pubs (there are actually 166 pubs on the list). Camra has compiled various branches' winners of the year to celebrate Community Pubs Month. It's confusing because different branches choose their pubs at different times of the year, so Huddersfield, Halifax and Sheffield pubs, for example, are not featured.

Winners on the list include:

Heavy Woollen District branch - New Inn, Roberttown

High Peak & North East Cheshire - Stalybridge Buffet Bar, Stalybridge (the best railway pub)

Keighley & Craven - The Boltmakers Arms, Keighley (cracking little pub, real fire)

Leeds - Old Cock, Otley (pictured - a relatively new pub in a lovely old cottage building,a great selection of local ales)

Liverpool & Districts - Freshfield Hotel, Formby

North Manchester - Park Hotel, Monton

Rochdale Oldham & Bury - The Baum, Rochdale

Southport & West Lancs - Hop Vine, Burscough (more a food pub than anything but superb nosh and good ales brewed in the pub)

Stockport & South Manchester - Nursery, Stockport

Wakefield - The Junction, Castleford

Wigan - The Berkeley

York - Ferry Boat Inn, Thorganby

Pubs were chosen on their customer service, value for money, decor, customer mix, atmosphere and quality of beer. The majority will now move forward to CAMRA’s Regional Pub of the Year competition (announced in September) with the winner of that award standing a chance of winning CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year (announced in February 2014).



New Huddersfield bar... 
2013: ...Northern Taps, next to Zephyr - and it looks like it's aiming for a similar vibe to its neighbour.

Taps is nicely furnished and lit, with old fashioned parcel tags on the different ciders and beers (five ciders and a Mallinsons, Phoenix and a Jennings). Surprised there were no bottled beers on offer but the Phoenix Porter was in good order and I'd visit again. Taps also does food.

UPDATE: The food here is excellent, hearty, homely and freshly-cooked judging by the wait (I'd rather wait a bit and get decent food). Pies, platters, steaks all good and it looks like word is getting around - no seats at 6 on evening I went.




More monkey business

2013: The rather splendid HDM Beer Shop and bar is looking to spread into the empty shop next door - if it gets planning permission - just months after it opened.

This quirky little place, with its ridiculously high bar, has a great selection of Yorkshire bottled beers rarely seen anywhere else (although they could dim down the lighting a bit).



Refurb for the best pub in which to watch rugby league
2013: Dusty Miller, Longwood could soon have new owners and a refurbishment after licensees Bob and Sue Kendal retired. Ivan, the boss of the Field Head, Quarmby, is helping to run the DM at the mo and is Punch's first choice to take it over full-time, but he disagrees with Punch about how much needs spending on the pub - the  pub co says £100,000, he says more.

The Miller is a charming, cottagey pub which seems in good nick to me. It has three decent ales on, including Tetley's Mild, but is one of the few places in Hudds guarenteed to show the rugby league (Some info - Huddersfield Examiner).

UPDATE: pub has reopened, still has real ales BUT NO SKY! Gah! (It does have vases of nuts on the bar though.

UPDATE, APRIL: New owners walk out after days over Punch refurb.


CAMRA Regional Pubs of the Year

Sept 2012: I've moaned on here about Kelham Island, in Sheffield, being one of the most overrated pubs and yet again it's Sheffield and Yorkshire pub of the year. Decent beer but a bogstandard venue - I just can't see the attraction.

Of course, quality of beer is of prime concern in the judging but the judges also look atmosphere, decor, customer service, value for money, clientele mix.

These 16 regional winners will now compete to be crowned National Pub of the Year, with the announcement made in early 2013.

Greater Manchester pub of the years is the Baum, Rochdale.

West Pennines - Bridge Bier Huis, Burnley.

Merseyside & Cheshire- Lower Chequer, Sandbach.




Huddersfield's first specialist beer shop - HDM Beer Shop - has opened and it looks like it could be special.

Aug 12: It's surprising how few real ale pubs offer a decent bottle selection, while supermarkets offer a limited range with few micros (unless you're Neil Morrissey), so HDM (Hand Drawn Monkey) could be onto something.

 It's a bar as well as an offy and that could be key to its success as it could become another 57 Thomas St, Manc's tiny Marble bar.

HDM is in a groovy Hudds spot - on the same street as Vox, Coffee Evolution and Neaversons.

Ex-Rat & Ratchet man Rob is involved in HDM (he's been replaced by the team from the Shepherds Boy, Dewsbury at the Rat) and his beer shop offers a selection of bottles from Europe and the USA, three handpulls (a couple of Mallinsons) and three kegs (including Summer Wines) and some cider and sarnies. For me, it was great to see a Saltaire range, plus Bridestones, Ellands and Naylors.

The shop has a ridiculously high bar, (I felt like I was a kid in a sweet shop) which could become a quirky feature, while there is basic seating curved around the window. Sandwiches are good.

 HDM feels busy with 20-30 people but this number works well in Thomas St and works well in HDM, definitely worth a visit




Vote Grove!

June 12: Even though there was no lock on the gents recently and I was caught in a compromising position despite whistling loudly, and even though my pint was then knocked over when I leaned on a wonky table, you should vote for the Grove in Huddersfield, in the Welcome to Yorkshire/Yorkshire Post's Yorkshire Pub of the Year (Yorkshire! Yorkshire!).

The Grove is a unique, characterful pubs with a huge selection of beers and customers. It's up against 15 boozers, many in the north of the county (not surprising considering the Post is aimed at Tory vicars and farmers in North Yorkshire) but also fairly bog-standard pubs like the Town Tavern in Leeds and The Fleece in Otley. You have until July 1 to vote by clicking on this link




Sair: The Book

Jul 12: Elspeth Moore is writing a book about the world's greatest pub (probably), The Sair Inn, Linthwaite. Landlord Ron will have been there for 30 years this year and Elspeth told the Huddersfield Examiner that she is looking for stories about the pub. Email her on sairinn@hotmail.co.uk. Surely it's the only 18th century former cottage with stone floors, real fires, its own beers and one of the greatest jukeboxes? Nothing interesting has happened to me there, apart from Danny the pub dog eating my pie while I put Elmore James on the jukey





CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY AND OTHER PUB VISITS
June 12: Chorlton-cum-Hardy - it's a bit mutton dressed as lamb. Yes, it has a reputation as a groovy place and a real ale hotspot, with six pubs in the Good Beer Guide, but blimey it's a bit of a dump - dingy red brick, faded window frames, the 'cafe bar society' overgrown cig shelters next to a busy road.

Thankfully, the pubs I visited were nicer inside - The Bar was pleasingly homely with battered wooden floors and furniture and eight beers, including several Marbles. The Marble Ginger was on top form.

Oddest, pictured from pub site, was nice and quirky, with huge red tasselly lampshades over the bar, glazed bricks and excellent Acorn Barnsley bitter. There were some Guy Garvey-esque punters, with beards so thick they looked like they'd been held hostage for three months, and an excellent singer who looked like a young David Thewlis and sang like Johnny Dangerously.

Talking of quirky, the Lower Royal George, in Scammonden, near Huddersfield is a real treat - quirky-going-on-kitsch, with plates and bank notes on the walls, dolls on the windowsills and cushions everywhere else. It's got great character and has two real ales which appear to change weekly. I had the Brains' Rev James and a porky platter there recently - the former was excellent and the meat in the latter was good (although the tinned peas were horrible). The pub always seems to be packed with diners.

Over the back roads to Holmfirth and Brambles Bar and Cafe, formerly the slightly down-at-heel White Hart. This opened last year by the man who revamped the Commercial in Slaithwaite, and made it such a success. I'm not quite sure about the decor at Brambles - plenty of wood and stone for sure, but the purple colour scheme, high chairs and horrible silver-coloured ornaments don't do anything for me.

However there are eight real ales, including two house beers by Empire. I tried the Brambles Mild which was good, as was my sandwich. The were a lot of people enjoying the food here and I'm guessing it will be a hit with people wanting a meal and with a younger crowd at night.

On to Halifax and The Old Post Office which now has a good selection of local real ales. Five ales on - Moorhouses & Wainwright  regulars and three others. Most were on good form, however the terrible Capital FM-type drivel being blasted out really put me off this place.

Finally back to Greater Manchester and two pubs in Salford. I'd never been to the Black Lion before and I was expecting a much bigger pub from the size of the building outside. It's long and skinny inside, rather like many of the rather trendy people inside. The pub describes itself as 'a counter culture arts venue' but the beer choice is not particularly radical - Hobgoblin, Copper Dragon and a nice Roosters. It's very pleasant inside.

But it won't top the Kings Arms, nearby. Lovely curved bar, cosy rooms, pleasingly rowdy customers and a great selection of six ales, including Moorhouses.



CAMRA PUBS OF THE YEAR: Huddersfield, N/S Manchester, Heavy Woollen, Wakefield
Apr 12: Congratulations to The Sportsman - Huddersfield's pub of the year.

It's the town's most handsome pub, beautifully looked after and a pleasure to be in thanks to its decor, staff and most of the beers.

But over the past year it's slipped from its extremely high standards. Its own beers just aren't as good as the beers from other local breweries they replaced.

And The Grove was well overdue a win. It serves the widest selection of real ales and other beers in the town. It's cosy, friendly and attracts a huge range of people - and national acclaim (featured in Adrian Tierney-Jones' book). But obviously there's something that fellow Camra members don't like about it.

The magnificent West Riding Refreshment Rooms, in Dewsbury, is the Heavy Woollen branch choice.

Wakefield has chosen the Cricketers, in Horbury. I've yet to visit but it's owned by the company that runs the excellent Sportsman in Hudds and the Refreshment Rooms and I've heard good things.

In Bradford, it's the lovely Sparrow - a pub that feels like an old friend

North Manchester branch has chosen the New Oxford, in Salford, while Rochdale, Oldham & Bury has picked The Baum, in Rochdale.

A big shock for me is the winner in South Manchester and Stockport winner- the Bull's Head, opposite Piccadilly station. Is this really the best? It's a Marston-owned pub with all its bland selection of once great beers - Pedigree, Ringwood, Jennings - in a sort of fake ye olde pub decor outside and in. Runner-up The Crown, in Stockport, is streets ahead in terms of beer and atmosphere.




MY PUBS OF THE YEAR
Jan 12: I’ve been around a bit this year. Steady! I mean boozers – London, Cambridge, Brighton, as well as Manchester and west Yorkshire.

It’s only when you travel that you realise how much you’ve got at home, so top of my list are my regulars:

1 Rat & Ratchet/Grove/Sportsman/Star/King’s Head, Huddersfield
Lovely-looking pubs, great atmosphere, great beers, friendly staff and they all remain popular with customers.

But…

The Rat and Sportsman have taken the plunge and started brewing their own beers this year. On the surface this is a bold move, but I’ve sometimes wondered if their own beers are better than some of the great local beers they offered before. They are still the best pubs for beers brewed in Kirklees and Calderdale (along with the King’s Head), but I think the beer choice isn’t quite as good as before.

The Star and Grove are the tickers’ choice. Plenty of breweries and beers I haven’t heard of. Sometimes you take a punt but you’re limited by cash and time and in the end you don’t feel many of them are any better than west Yorkshire beers.

These are very minor quibbles, however, and I always enjoy my weekly visits (the King’s Head is fantastic on Sunday band day).

And it’s high time the Grove should be pub of the year. They have an astonishing choice of beers on bottle and draught.

2 Vox/Zephyr, Huddersfield
Two fantastic bars, independently-owned and great assets to the town which feel like home as soon as you walk in. Vox especially is a treat - comfy seats, great music and décor. No cask , though, and the bottled beer choice is small compared with the Grove's.

3 The Sair, Linthwaite
The Linfit beers are back

4 Jubilee Refreshment Rooms, Sowerby Bridge.
The Sheffield Tap is getting all the praise as king of the railway pubs, but it seems slightly overrated. The revamp is nice but it still looks too new for me.

The Jubilee is a cosy place, with a good choice of beers. The restoration of the waiting room is such a lovely job with nice touches such as the railways posters, windows and lights. It has kept up its standards since opening.

5 Stalybridge Buffet Bar
And talking of station pubs – this is probably the best of the lot. It’s a great winter pub with a real coal fire and the extra room has made such a difference. It means you can usually get a seat. Sad to report that some tossers on the rail ale trail have forced this pub and others to offer plastic glasses.

6 The Holly Bush, Hampstead
One of the pubs I was really looking forward to visit on my London trip and probably my favourite of the day. It’s a Grade 2 listed building with wooden panelling - something I love in pubs. I also love the cosy rooms and nooks and crannies.

7 Hand in Hand Brighton
I visited nearly all the Brighton pubs in the Good Beer Guide and this was my favourite. Distinctive outside, with bright yellow walls, and tiny inside, with framed old pictures on the ceiling, old newspaper wallpaper, a display of ties and some lovely pies. Lovely Kemptown beers (brewed at the pub) and even an Ilkley guest.

8 Kingston Arms, Cambridge
Besides wooden panelling, I love pubs in rows of houses. For the Kingston, think the Big Six in Halifax but even classier! Huge arrange of ales, excellent food served late and a lovely lit courtyard, plus a chance to play Buckaroo and other childhood games.

9 Old Hill Inn Chapel-le-Dale
Fancy a hearty meal after the Three Peaks Walk? Head here – lovely food, nice ales and a cosy atmosphere. It feels like a farmer’s front room and there’s a dog who likes his tummy tickled.

10 Sparrow Bier Cafe, Bradford
One of the pubs you instantly feel at home in, but you’re not quite sure why. It appears to be an old shop with a small bar at the end. There are paint-splattered wooden floors which look like they need a polish and small chairs that reminded me of a school dinner hall. I probably like it because of the big window at the front and lovely paint job on the walls. Nice local beers too.

11 Port Street Beer House/57 Thomas Street, Manchester
Two of Manchester’s newest pubs which I’ve grown fond of. Port Street has a fairly anonymous frontage but is Tardis-like inside on two floors with plenty of seats and tables. Friendly staff and one of the few pubs where you can get Prospect beers.

As for Thomas Street, I don’t usually like small pubs as you end up sitting cheek and jowl by some right old twats. I went off the Blue Bell in York when I accidentally sat in a moaning scrote’s place - anyone would have thought I’d sat on his face. Thomas Street has about 20 seats around a big wooden table but it never feels too cheek by jowl.






LONDON CRAWLING
Forget your Time Out guides and your Rough Guides, the best way to discover London is the Camra Good Beer Guide (and an A-Z).

The beer guide reveals some fantastic pubs, of course, but also shows why London is extraordinary – and ordinary. You could be heading down a tiny alleyway in the City or Holborn to find a beautiful pub dating back 300 years or down a dreary suburban street with a bog-standard Wetherspoon’s at the end of it.

I lived in London for three years in the mid-90s and at least one weekend a month I’d pick an area with about five or six pubs in the Guide and head off – Wandsworth and Clapham, for example, or Teddington and Twickenham.

I built up a few favourite areas and pubs over the years and as I had an unexpected day in London in September I decided to do ‘a greatest hits’ of some of my favourites.

I wanted to go to east, north west and south west and back to the centre, but I only had about seven hours as I had to get a train in King’s Cross at 8pm. And as it was a bit of a last minute trip, I had no A-Z and didn’t want to buy another as I had hundreds at home. I also had no street names for the pubs and no train times. I trusted my memory, hoped there would be frequent trains and made up the route as I went along. It almost worked. Almost.

From King’s Cross I walked to Bloomsbury. One of the things I like most about London is how it changes from mile to mile, street to street, even building to building, so as you walk from the dual carriageway rush outside King’s Cross station, you are soon in a tranquil, relatively traffic-free area of little parks and impressive houses.

The bustle soon returns around Bloomsbury when you come to a huge, white, tiered apartment block which looks as though it should be on the sea front in Spain and takes an age to get around

The Lamb was my first port of call. It had dropped out of the 2011 Guide but is featured in the new 2012 edition. This Grade 2 listed boozer looks as though it hasn’t changed in 100 years, with its lovely curved bar and furnishings and the etched glass around the bar.

But I thought the pub was looking a little tired, to be honest. Maybe it was because I was so impressed with it the first time I went in. Did it need a good polish? Was the glass pub sign a little wonky? There was certainly no proper lock in the gents (cue loud coughing).

I had a Youngs Special, a new one on me, but like all the beers I had on my excursion, I really missed the sparkler – I noticed the bitterness of the beers without it. Mind you, I’m the sort of person who has two sugars in my coffee.

I walked to Goodge Street tube and headed to Woodford, where I first lived when I moved to London. I lodged in what appeared to be a converted porch in ‘Bates Motel’ (the slightly sinister landlord looked a little like Leeds United chairman Ken Bates).

I had to get a taxi to the next pub, the Travellers Friend, in Woodford Green which I’d assumed was right by the station.

I’d also forgotten that this part of east London is frequented by tight-lipped, deadpan Arthur Haynes-types, such as the taxi driver.

When he said the one-way system was so bad it was designed by a woman, I thought he was being postmodern – playing up to the ignorant taxi driver stereotype. He wasn’t.

The Travellers was as good as I remembered it, though - frosted glass frontage, wooden panelling and a chirpy young barman having to deal with more unsmiling Arthur Haynes-like taxi drivers. (“My son’s doing the knowledge,” one said and sniffed). I had Courage here, a beer I’ve never seen in the north.

Onto Hampstead, one of favourite parts of London. It has a real villagey feel and is different from anywhere else in the city. I used to live in Clapton and visiting Hampstead was like going on holiday. The 30-minute train ride from Hackney to Hampstead epitomises how London can change so quickly and so much.

I spent a magical December afternoon on a crawl in Hampstead which ended with a brass band playing carols on a cobbled street and I also remember a lovely summer’s day in the Magdala pub where Ruth Ellis, the last women to be hanged in Britain, shot dead her abusive lover (the bullet holes are in the wall outside the pub, apparently).

I thought the train would take me to the Magdala but by chance rather than design I arrived at the right station for the Holly Bush, the pub I really wanted to visit and probably my favourite of the day. It’s another Grade 2 listed building and another with wooden panelling. I love the cosy rooms and nooks and crannies. (Pictured - a doorway opposite the pub)

Hampstead is posh, of course. A woman in a huge brown leather hat eyed me and my Co-op bag with slight alarm while a gilded youth was listening to his music in the street on a laptop (a LAPTOP I tell yee). I paid £2 for a sausage roll (a very nice sausage roll though, and huge – like a rolled-up carpet).

Richmond was my next stop and it was on the long journey down there that I realised I would be spending more time on trains than in pubs.

I’d started in Bloomsbury at 1.30pm, arrived in Woodford at 245, reached Hampstead by 415 and was in Richmond by 545. If I’d had a few more hours I’d have gone to the Rose and Crown, in Stoke Newington, the Royal Oak, Borough, and a Soho pub, the Dog and Duck maybe.

But while I was in Richmond, I feared for the first time that I might miss my 8pm Kings Cross train.

I was looking for The Watermans. I assumed it was down an alleyway opposite the station towards the river, but I couldn’t find the right alleyway or the river and ended up in a disappointing Greene King pub on the green. Time was pressing and I gave up my search.

The final stop was Belgravia. Another ‘holiday’ destination.

Like Oxford Street and the deserted streets of Mayfair or Kings Cross and the back streets around it, I enjoy the contrast between the noisy dual carriageway and the quiet streets off it.

The Nags Head was another pub which wowed me the first I went in – unspoilt, nicely furnished and with the lowest bar counter in London – but like The Lamb I felt it was looking rather ordinary. Perhaps my taste in pubs has changed. I drank Adnams, which I hardly ever drink and won’t be drinking again for a few years.

I made it back to King’s Cross with about 30 minutes to spare. I’d spent too long on trains and not enough time in pubs and while some pubs didn’t quite live up to expectations, the day reminded me that London is a great city.



GROVE'S GREAT BRITISH PUB HONOUR
Nov 11: The Grove, in Huddersfield, is featured in Great British Pubs, a new Camra book.

It's a fantastic honour as only about 200 boozers are featured. The book, by top pub writer Adrian Tierney-Jones, is divided into various categories (eg: best seaside pubs, best pub games).

The Grove is featured under best beer range, with a huge photo, and is also under the community pubs section. Surely it's time for Huddersfield Camra to honour this pub as the best in the town? It's not everyone's cup of tea but it's hugely popular and has done so much for the Huddersfield pub scene.

Good cask beer is Adrian's starting point for all his choices in his book but the varied categories give him a chance to highlight pubs that don't appear in the Good Beer Guide.

He's spot on with a lot of his choices - West Riding Refreshment Rooms, Dewsbury and Buffet Bar, Stalybridge are in the railway pubs section; North Bar, Leeds and Port Street, Manchester are under city pubs; The Ship, in Anglesey is under seaside pubs (and should be under food pubs too); Briton's Protection, Manchester and Crown Posada, Newcastle are part of the heritage boozers section (surprisingly the Adelphi in Leeds is also in this section rather than the Victoria - the Adelphi has been tarted up a little and the beer selection is inferior, but I'm being picky).

Two excellent pubs in Bishop's Castle, Shropshire, are highlighted - the Six Bells, under brewpubs and Three Tuns (brewery tap). The Marble Arch, in Manchester is also in the latter category (and perhaps it should be in both) while my favourite Glasgow boozer Babbity Bowster is in under entertainment pubs.

Great British Pubs is beautifully designed, well-written and easy to use. There are almost too many categories, some of which overlap, but this is a minor quibble that doesn't spoil a good book.


LINDLEY TO GET A DECENT BAR AT LAST?
Nov 11: One of the great mysteries about Lindley is - why isn't there a decent pub or bar?

Lindley is one of the loveliest parts of Huddersfield with some great cafes and restaurants, which specialise in well-made, locally-sourced food. But the pubs, while attractive on the outside, are uninspiring inside, with a bog-standard selection of unremarkable beers. Nearly all are owned by big pub companies and are a classic example of their characterless boozers, despite the friendly staff.

An Ossett pub could clean up here, as could the owners of Vox or The Sportsman.

But at last there is hope for lovers of decent pubs and bars. Eric's Resturant (no relation) is opening a bar next door to his restaurant (Eric's Bar) - and if it's half as good as the restaurant it will be great.

Eric's is a lovely place, beautifully done out inside while retaining original features such as the fireplaces. The food holds its own with Michelin-type places such as the Northcote near Clitheroe.

Work on the bar has started and while no completion date has been announced it will, like the restaurant's Slaithwaite bread and Bolster Moor Farm meat, be keeping local with bottles of Mallinson's, Dark Arts and, a bit further afield, Copper Dragon.


NO BANG BONFIRE NIGHT
Nov 11: My kind of Bonfire Night: No Bang Bonfire Night and a chance to rekindle Calderdale's smallest bonfire - the wood-burning stove at the Jubilee Refreshment Rooms, in Sowerby Bridge. PLUS PARKIN!





MARKET TOWN TAVERNS SOLD
Nov 11: Market Town Taverns, which runs some of my favourite pubs, has been bought by the owner of Okells Brewery.

Heron and Brearley describes itself as the Isle of Man’s largest hospitality company. Founded as a wine and spirit business in 1898, it also runs pubs and newsagents on the island and is also a drinks wholesaler, logistics firm and air conditioning specialist.

Market Town Taverns has done a fantastic job rejuvenating unpromising shops and pubs into attractive, characterful boozers with an excellent range of beer and food. Bar T’At in Ilkley is good, Veritas in Leeds has great food but Arcadia, in Headingley (pictured) is my favourite – how the firm managed to a convert a boxy little bank into such a lovely pub always amazes me.

Founded in 1999 Market Town operates 15 pubs across north and west Yorkshire. Like Ossett Brewery, it shows the big pub companies how to create great boozers. Heron and Brearley would be mad to tinker with the formula.

The Yorkshire Post says Market Towns Tavern will be run as an autonomous company and owner Ian Fozard will stay on for a year. Heron and Bailey will look to expand in the north of England.

Heron and Brearley’s retail director Steven Taylor said: "An acquisition package of this calibre is extremely rare, given the level of consolidation industry-wide in the current economic climate. Market Town Taverns is a well-run operation and the company’s business model, with its strong focus on delivering excellent customer service, complements that of Heron and Brearley.

"We shall be working with Market Town Taverns’ managing director Ian Fozard to integrate the company into the Heron and Brearley group and take the business forward into what I am confident will be a new and exciting direction."

Market Town employs around 200 staff, and turnover increased last year from £5.2m to around £6.6m.



YORKSHIRE/GREATER MANCHESTER PUBS OF THE YEAR
Sep 11: I've mentioned the size and variety of Yorkshire below, so you'll forgive me that not only haven't I heard of Camra's Yorkshire pub of the year, I've never heard of the village it's in.

The winner is the Rose & Crown, in Rawcliffe, described by Camra as:"Outstanding local village pub well known in the region, and winner of numerous local CAMRA branch awards, including six times Pub of the Year and Yorkshire runner-up. A warm welcome awaits you from the owner, locals and Bruno the dog. Book-lined walls and an open fire provide a haven on a cold winter's day, the perfect place to sample the four guest ales or Westons cider. The patio or river bank beckon in warmer weather."

The Rose and Crown beat Huddersfield's representative The Rat and Ratchet and others in the county and is one of 16 pubs around the country that will go forward to compete for the national title.

Greater Manchester's representative is The Magnet, in Stockport. Camra says: "Once a failing keg pub, the Magnet was rescued then renovated to become CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year 2011. It boasts 14 handpumps for beer and a draught cider. A large foreign bottled beer range completes the now rosy picture. It has a bustling vault to the left, leading to a lower pool room, and a series of rooms separated by arched doorways on the right. The pub is home to the Cellar Rat Brewery."

Merseyside, Cheshire & North Wales's representative is the Bridge End Inn, in Ruabon, Wrexham, while winner in West Pennines (Lancashire and Cumbria) is the Swan with Two Necks, in Pendleton.

Pubs are judged on atmosphere, decor, customer service, value for money, clientele mix, and most importantly, the quality of the real ale and cider/perry.



SEX AND THE CITY: AN OUTING IN KNARESBOROUGH
Aug 11: There are signs on the boundaries of West Lancashire (state capital Ormskirk) which feature the phrase ‘West Lancashire: It’s Got It All’. Have you really got it all West Lancashire? Have you?

Are the lost wonders of the ancient world hidden in the snug of Buck i’ th' Vine pub in Ormskirk? Have you got smiling trifles, tap dancing fridges and ferrets that do impressions of James Cagney? Have you West Lancashire?

Yorkshire – it hasn’t quite got it all, but whenever I venture out of the West Yorkshire enclave I’m struck by the sheer variety of the county. The flat land and flat pronunciation in the east (own = urn, road = rerd), the market squares, rolling hills and rabid Tories of the north, the glories of Sheffield and the hard towns around it in the south.

And Knaresborough? Knaresborough’s like fucking Shrewsbury. At least that’s what it reminded me of, with rivers dominating both towns.

Knaresborough train station looks like it’s been reopened as part of a heritage line - there’s a slightly model railway feel about it, with gates you have to open yourself to get across the line.

The station manages to partially obscure the first pub on our travels - the huge Mitre, another Markets Tavern gem of eight ales and lovely décor. It was pub of the day.

Down the steep, narrow cobbled streets, reminiscent of Robins Hood Bay, we came to the river (when I say we, I’m not Prince Harry or anything, I was travelling with Otley’s own royalty, Richard - King of Otley). Very pleasant but no pubs (the river area, not Richard who has his own gin palace).

The first pub at the top of the hill was the slightly forbidding-looking, brown brick Cross Keys, with a familiar name at the helm - Ossett. The West Yorkshire brewery has a particular style inside its boozers (wooden floors, exposed brick, smart furniture and pictures) and avoids the fake plastic cosiness of new chain pubs. Good selection of beers here too.

Shortly after leaving the Cross Keys, as I was eating a chip sandwich in the square, I was almost run over by Kristin Scott Thomas.

At least it looked like her. She was driving a vast 4x4, wearing gold-rimmed shades and from the side of her mouth a fag the size of a rolled newspaper.

And that’s the thing about North Yorkshire, you forget how moneyed it is. Harrogate is just down the road – a place so posh the graffiti’s written in Latin.

After the Kristin incident, we travelled to So bar where groups of fashionably dressed women in their 30s and 40s were consuming bottles of wine. It was very Sex and the City - until we went in and lowered the tone with our pie-crumbed clothes and sweaty demeanour.

So has three beers on but the quality of the beer is (guffaw) so-so.

The remaining pubs were a bit of a disappointment – the famous Blind Jack’s is probably more atmospheric at night but seemed like a tired Old Cock (stop sniggering at the back, the Old Cock is an Otley pub with similar layout and feel).

Blind Jack’s, pictured above, was full of character but it wasn’t a patch on Nellie’s in Beverley, a pub of similar vintage.

Marquis of Granby is a nice enough multi-room pub, but like most Sam Smiths’ outlets it’s slightly underwhelming.


BACK OF THE NET (AGAIN)!
The Sportsman, Huddersfield, has won a national Camra/English Heritage award.

After winning joint pub of the year in the town and brewing its own beer, it's been a great 12 months for the pub

I don't want to get too Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen on your ass but the owners have transformed a 1930 corner boozer, keeping its best features, such as the wall seating and curved bar, and decorated it beautifully inside and out. They also keep it tidy.



CAMRA PUBS OF THE YEAR: UPDATED

Barnsley: Market, Elsecar - never been but this is the fourth time the pub has won the award in the last five years. Local Camra branch says pub is unspoilt with a fantastic range of ales.

Bradford: Fighting Cock - a weary way out of the town centre but a wonderful pub - unspoilt, two-rooms, lovely beers.

Brighouse: Red Rooster - the only disadvantage about this characterful boozer is that it's too far from the railway station!

Heavy Woollen (Dewsbury): West Riding Refreshment Rooms - an absolute corker. Lovely decor and beers, hearty food and bluesy bands.

Huddersfield: Rat and Ratchet/Sportsman - the best two pubs in the town. See below or Best Pubs

Keighley and Craven: King's Arms, Silsden. Never been but the local branch says it's a multi-room community pub with a real fire. Theakston‘s Best Bitter and Saltaire Blonde are the regulars with plenty of local guests.

Leeds: Old Cock, Otley. Fantastic achievement in its first year. Characterful cottagey pub with a good range of beers

North Manchester: Marble, in Rochdale Road - the sloping tiled floors, the hefty meals and tables, the Ginger Marble that tingles. The pub's a gem. (See Best Pubs)

Rochdale/Oldham/Bury: The Hare and Hounds, Holcombe, Bury. Never been but it must be the only pub with its own alecam of beers on offer - 10 northern ones last time I looked

Sheffield: Kelham Island for eighth year in a row. I've said it before - good but not that good. Sheaf or Fat Cat anyone?

Stockport: Magnet. Never been but it's multi-room with 13 ales and its own brewery. Owners say: 'We try to have at least one stout, one porter, one pale ale, one mild and one red beer on at all times.' Hurrah!

Trafford and Hulme: (including Manchester City Centre south): Marble, Chorlton (see below)

Wigan: Royal Oak. An impressive building which wouldn't look out of place in a Georgian square in London. It's years since I've been here. I prefer the branch runner-up The Anvil, a buzzing place with plenty of local beers.

York: Brigantes. Again, good but not that good. The Swan, Golden Ball and York Terrier are nicer pubs and the beer is as good, if not better.



TUNNEL END INN CLOSED - NOOOOOOOOOO!
Apr 11: I'm shocked and saddened to hear that one of the loveliest country pubs in the Huddersfield area has closed.

The Tunnel End Inn, in Marsden, would have been a perfect spot in the current 'heatwave', but I suspect it's been struggling with the harsh winters over the last two years.

A note on the pub windows talks of 'the economic climate', 'more outgoings than income' and 'too many quiet times'.

A notice on the pub website says it's a temporary closure 'until further notice'.

Bev and Gary have run the pub superbly for the last nine years. The pub is slightly off the beaten track - about 10 minutes from the train station and out of Marsden village - but the couple's enthusiasm, ideas and reputation for good food and drink seemed to be the model of getting people into an out-of-the-way pub.

It's Black Sheep owned but they had guest beers on - all in good order - and simple but hearty food, varied occasionally for various theme nights. There was always a cheerful welcome.

If Bev and Gary can't make a go of the Tunnel End, I really fear for its future.



HUDDERSFIELD'S PUBS OF THE YEAR
Apr 11: For the first time since God was a lad, Huddersfield's Camra pub of the year title is shared by the Rat and Ratchet and The Sportsman.

I can't argue with these choices. Both pubs offer pleasant surroundings, friendly staff and a beer choice that's like a good wedding disco - plenty of familiar beers and breweries which hit the spot, like tunes such as Groove Is In The Heart and Common People (strained analogy alert!).

The Grove and The Star will have no doubt run them close (both are pleasant and friendly joints) but you have to take a bit of a guess with the beers and breweries at times. The pubs do have a few regular breweries but the pubs appear to be aimed at tickers and there are too many times when I've been disappointed (by the beers not the tickers).

The Rat now has Jones's fabulous pies and Yorkshire pasties (same as Cornwall's but changed for EU reasons) but the flaming jukey STILL hasn't been fixed (it must be months). The jukey is what puts the pub into the all-time great category and I hope the pub owners haven't bowed to Camra fundamentalists who hate jukeys as they drown out their loud droning voices.

The Sportsman now has hearty food all day and night. Two or three dishes expertly done.


Trafford and Hulme's pub of the year is The Marble in Chorlton

The Marble Brewery pub, which opened in 1998, set the trend for independent pubs & bars in the area, many of which are now in the GBG.

Marble Manchester Bitter, Marble Pint and Marble Ginger are always available on hand pump alongside two other beers from the Marble range (always including one of Chocolate, Porter or Stout). Two ever-changing guest ales come from some of the country's other top microbreweries such as Thornbridge, Abbeydale, Dark Star, Pictish, Phoenix and Hawkshead.

It's a nice little bar with good beer although Chorlton itself is slightly overrated (bijou village my arse).




GROVE, HUDDERSFIELD V
PORT STREET BEER HOUSE, MANCHESTER

Mar 11: So I rolled up to Manchester's trendy new beer bar, Port Street Beer House (pictured). It's on the edge of the city's ever expanding Northern Quarter, but set apart from the main part and situated among the back street clothes shops that film companies use for Victorian London or Thirties New York.

The nuts and bolts boozer, the Crown and Anchor, is next door and is easy to spot. Port Street, by contrast, is easy to miss at night. It has a rather anonymous frontage with a bouncer outside.

Inside it's smart - polished floors,nice furniture. It's slightly cramped downstairs, but there's a bigger, nicer room upstairs and a surprisingly pleasant beer garden, considering the relatively drab location.

Five handpulls on, including Thornbridge and Prospect (in good order), plus a selection of bottles from US and Europe. Not a massive selection, as it's a relatively small bar, but it is well-stocked with staff.

Port Street has been well-received and is full of trendy twenty and thirty somethings (some very fashionable beards - everyone was Will Oldhamed-up).

But it got me thinking - this is what The Grove in Huddersfield is doing, but on a much larger scale. (The Grove has 18 handpumps and 230 different types of bottled beers).

And if The Grove was in the Northern Quarter, it wouldn't just become trendy, it would be worshipped as a god.

So, sometimes, it's all about location, location, location and pubs like Port Street, a decent but slightly bland place, are over-praised, and The Grove is under-rated.

(By the way, The Grove has been giving away its wobbly chairs - one regular was seen carrying his around town - now I can't blame my wobbly arse on the furniture)


TRAIN STATION PUBS (NEW AND OLD)
Mar 11: A new train station is to open in York in late June, if planning permission is granted.

The Model Railway Society tearoom, built in 1906 and next to the hotel (I think), is to undergo a £200,000 conversion by the people who run Sheffield and London Euston's train station pubs.

It will become The York Tap and feature 20 cask ales.

MD Jamie Hawksworth told the York Press: "This place is going to be breathtaking. When people walk in and look around, they are going to say wow. And it’s been sitting here all this time."

I must admit I was slightly underwhelmed by the Sheffield conversion - apart from the bar area it doesn't have the character of the West Yorkshire and Stalybridge station pubs.

And will the York Tap be too far for inclusion in the Rail Ale Trail in West Yorks?

One pub that should definitely be on the trail (even though there's no direct route to Huddersfield) is the Jubilee Refreshment Rooms in Sowerby Bridge.



I returned there this week for the first time since it opened in 2009 and it really is a gem.

Some pubs tend to look a bit shabby after the first year of opening but the Jubilee, pictured, is still looking immaculate. The original sash windows let in plenty of light and the lovely old light fittings, like huge jellyfish, give it real character.

There's a real fire at one end and a comparatively small bar at the other. Four ales were on when I was there - all in good order (among them were Millstone, Phoenix's mild and Ilkley Mary Jane) as was the delicious slice of cake I had.

Food is now served at lunchtime and early evening as well as breakfast. There's pie and cake to keep you going in the meantime.

Get down there - it's a real gem (how about a decent station pub in Brighouse now?)

Finally, am I going mad? Has an extension been added to Fanny's Ale House in Saltaire? It looks a perfect match with the rest of the pub, but doesn't look brand new. The extension, if it is one, is behind the downstairs bar and fire. Pub lovely as ever and 'extension' will come in handy on busy Saturdays and beer festival days.




THE REVIVAL OF OTLEY?
Feb 11: One of Yorkshire's greatest real ale towns could be about to enjoy a revival.

Otley was once rumoured to have more pubs per head of population than anywhere in Britain. There were once 15 pubs in the town centre and two on the fringes, most serving real ale.

But in 2006 the rot set in. First, the town's key pub, the Bowling Green, a fabulous characterful boozer, closed. This was a huge loss in itself but it was followed by the Summercross, the Fleece, the Red Lion, the Three Horseshoes, the Woolpack and the Black Horse.

Two or three years ago, the Junction stood alone as the last remaining must-visit pub in town, with its wide selection of real ales and real fire. The Manor House and Bay Horse were also worth a visit, the latter for its Tetley Mild.

But it was a shocking decline and one that received more national attention than usual thanks to the political champion of real ale and real pubs Greg Mulholland, MP, whose patch covers the area.

He campaigned against the sale of pubs which were vital community hubs and rental rises in existing boozers.

Otley also suffered from the relaxation of licensing laws. It had been one of the few places in the country allowed to open all day because of its markets.

Now things are looking up.

As reported below, the Bowling Green has been taken over by Wetherspoon and although it has that feeling of most Wetherspoon's in old buildings - like an impression of ye olde pub - they've done a decent job.

Opposite the Bowling Green is a new real ale pub, the Old Cock (see review below).

And now the WharfeBank Brewery are to transform Otley’s oldest pub, The Fleece, working in partnership with Punch Taverns in a £400,000 makeover.

Market Taverns, one of the best independent pub companies, are to reopen The Three Horseshoes in the spring.

And the Black Horse, one of the most prominent pubs in town, is to reopen in March.

The Red Lion has since reopened although it has a much tamer beer selection than a few years ago

My Otley snout King Richard of Otley, who has helped a lot with this article, sounds a note of caution about this news.

He said: "I'm not convinced the Fleece will work, too far out of town, and even the Three Horseshoes is on the fringe. You have to bear in mind most people in Otley just want to get pissed, shag and fight. And with the Tories screwing us over money in what is essentially a working class town is going to be tight.

"Most pubs are already dead during the week; about a month ago I walked past the Red Lion at about 10.30 and the landlord was closing for the evening."

To read more of Richard's thoughts, see his ace website

He also supplied the pic above







PUBS, PUBS, PUBS!

Dec 10: There are so many good pubs opening or being spruced up at the moment, it's hard to keep up - so I'm overdue reviews of a new one in Otley (The Old Cock), a revamped old favourite in the town (The Bowling Green), Ossett's Wakey pub The Hop, The Bull and Fairhouse (formerly O'Donoghue's), also of Wakey, and the magnificent Castle Hotel in Manchester.

First, Finbarr Saunders's dream pub The Old Cock, pictured (I've been meaning to LOOK UP The Old Cock, it's HARD to find, fnarr-fnarr!). This is a great boozer with superb attention to detail. The pub is two old cottages which were recently restaurants. The cottage-y feel has been retained with stone floors, low ceilings, beams, and a real fire.

There are two downstairs rooms and an upstairs room with a relatively small bar downstairs packed with eight beers and three ciders (plenty of local beers). Attention to details? The descriptions of beers above the bar and the top-notch pies and butties - so there's no reason to leave the pub and look for food. Staff are welcoming and friendly.

The pub is next door to Brian Pickles Lawnmowers (they're very tasty) and just across the road from the X84 bus stop to and from Leeds. Well worth a visit.

It's a brave move to open around the same time as the mighty Wetherspoon's which is just opposite in the Bowling Green, but according to my old snout Richard the King of Otley, the Bowling Green is attracting a different market - those who like their booze cheap above all.

The Bowling Green hasn't been changed outside, with its yellow stonework in good order. But inside it's completely different. Gone are the famous stuffed animals and other artefacts to be replaced by a rather fusty fake country house feel of panelling and pictures. The pub has been extended, so the bar is in an old outhouse behind the original pub and between the two buildings there is another room with a glass ceiling.

It was packed when I went in on the Saturday afternoon before Christmas but lacked the old charm of the Bowling Green.

Onto Wakey. O'Donoghue's was always a decent boozer with good beer and bands. It's gone up a notch in quality since Great Heck brewery took it over. The layout is the same with a stage by the door, a bar to the right as you walk in and rooms further in. But it's been nicely painted and furnished with comfy seats and rough-hewn tables. The beer is in good order (several Great Hecks and a couple from Beer Co when I was there) and the staff are friendly and attentive.

Nice little circuit now with this pub, Boon's, Harry's and the Hop are all within about five minutes from the station, avoiding the stag do central of the centre (one old boozer is now called Bing Bada Boom, exterior preserved, inside like a rollerdisco).

The Hop, like its Leeds counterpart, is music-orientated, brick-heavy and slightly stark without bands. Beer's decent, of course, being an Ossett pub

Onto the Castle in Manchester.

This reopened in April 2009 and at first nothing much changed. The front room with bar looked pleasingly cosy, as always, and the two rooms behind were unchanged. I thought they'd been too cautious and were trying not to trendify a characterful pub.

Just look at it now! The layout is unchanged but the owners have uncovered some beautiful features - the ornate ceilings, the wooden floors and fittings, especially in the band room which looks like an old-fashioned music hall. No wonder they can't change much - it's a Grade 2 listed, 200 years old building and the new owners were fans of the old boozer anyway.

They've done a beautiful job - nice beer, decent jukey and packed when I was in there one midweek night in December. The clientele has change from 40-50 somethings and teen emos in the back to trendy 20-30 somethings. The barman looks like something out of Quality Street with his mustard-coloured waistcoat and twirly moustache - but he's good. Robinson's beers - at least six.

The Castle has also started doing hearty food which sounds so tempting on Twitter - beef and mushroom casserole, for example. I had a beef and dumpling casserole - really tasty gravy (wine in I think), quality meat and a slightly small dumpling. Just what I needed on a cold day and head and shoulders above the usual pub food.

Finally, a hurrah for Huddersfield's great pubs. I spent a Saturday afternoon in December showing a couple of Manchester pals around. The Kings Head, Rat, Grove and Sportsman were all packed and the beers were in great order. The Star, too, was in great form when I went there a week later.



VERITAS, LEEDS
Nov 10: Yet again a small company shows the big boys how to do up a pub and attract customers.

Market Town Taverns have taken the old Waterhole (itself a former Hogshead), opposite the hospital in Leeds city centre, into a really lovely pub - light, airy, good ales, simple but well-made food, friendly staff and a first for a pub I've been in - a cheese stall!

I first became aware of Market Town Taverns' skill with The Narrow Boat, Skipton's best pub, and especially Arcadia, in Headingley - a boxy Lloyds Bank at the end of a tired looking shopping arcade which was transformed into a cosy attractive pub with an excellent choice of ales.

It's not such a silk-ear-out-of-a-sow's-purse job in Veritas, in Great George Street. It's a corner pub with plenty of windows, so it was always a pleasant enough place as a Hogshead but rather bland and not a pub you'd particularly go out of your way to visit, especially with the Victoria nearby.

The layout hasn't changed inside but with its cream and blue decor, light wood floors and furniture and attractive lights, it's a real treat now. Eight handpumps, seven ales when I was in - only one dark one but the excellent Mary Jane from Ilkley and Moorhouse's Blonde Witch were in good order.

Food is served all day and night with various menus covering toast in the morning, pies,steaks and other pub favourites in the evening and cheese and/or cold meats up to closing time. I had the gammon and the lovely Mrs O the lamb pie which were both superior to usual pub food with a real mint kick in the pie that judging by the colour of the meat was homemade and a cut above the usual.

Plenty of customers in the afternoon and evening, with the food looking to be a hit at night with many.

I'm sure Veritas has something to do with truth in Latin.

I love this pub, truly.




CAMRA PUBS OF THE YEAR - REGIONAL WINNERS
Sept 10: And the regional winners are:
Greater Manchester: Knott Bar, Manchester.
Merseyside / Cheshire / North Wales: Brewery Tap, Chester
North West: Taps, Lytham St Annes
Yorkshire: Ferryboat,Thorganby
These and 12 other regional winners will be up for pub of the year. Announcement next year.

Pubs are chosen on customer service, decor, clientele mix, value for money, atmosphere and quality of the beer and cider.

CAMRA PUBS OF THE YEAR 2010
Jun 10: It's that time of the year when Campaign for Real Ale branches vote for their pubs of the year. Here are some local favourites.

BRADFORD: Fanny's Ale House, Saltaire - a wonderful pub, especially in the winter with the real fires blazing away in the dark at the back. With its wooden floors and real gaslights, you'd think Fanny's had been here for centuries but it was only converted from a pet shop in 1997. Cracking array of 10 ales, many local, from the small, usually busy, bar. John Peel's wife was born upstairs.

HALIFAX AND CALDERDALE: The Old Ship, Brighouse. Haven't been here for a couple of years but it's got a good reputation for being a smart, well-run pub. Seven real ales on.

HEAVY WOOLLEN (DEWSBURY ETC): New Charnwood, Heckmondwike. Never been. Local Camra branch say it's an impressive building which used to concentrate on food only but now has four handpulls as well as quality food.

HIGH PEAK: Buffet Bar, Stalybridge Station. The best of the train station boozers with its narrow corridor, atmospheric rooms and real fire. Good selection of local ales.

HUDDERSFIELD: The Rat and Ratchet (pictured). The best in town. Cosy pub, great selection of ales and good jukey. See reviews elsewhere.

KEIGHLEY: The Maypole, Long Preston. Came here for a pre-Christmas snifter a couple of years ago and very nice it was too, with its real fire, hearty food and oak benches. Moorhouses, Theakstons and two guests on. Run by the same couple for the last 26 years.

LEEDS: To Follow

LIVERPOOL: Dispensary. Not sure if it's still owned by Cains but this is a great example of a pub that's been spruced up without being spoiled. Ship and Mitre and Fly in the Loaf were runners-up

NORTH MANCHESTER (including Salford): The Angel, Manchester. I've always liked this place in its various incarnations. After being run as a gastropub, it's now concentrating on beer again with six on handpump and a few unfamiliar ones when I was there this month. The nearby Marble Arch and Bar Fringe were contenders this year as were Salford's New Oxford and Crescent.

SHEFFIELD: Kelham Island Tavern wins for the seventh time in a row. It's the Yorkshire and national champ too (Yorkshire winner is selected in September, national next year). It's a good pub but not a great one and there are better boozers in the city (Sheaf, Rising Sun).
Top 20, as voted for by Sheffield members (last year's positions in brackets):

1. Kelham Island Tavern, Kelham Island (1)

2. Fat Cat, Kelham Island (2)

3. Harlequin, Bridgehouses (8)

4. Sheaf View, Heeley (5)

5. New Barrack Tavern, Hillsborough (3)

6. Hillsborough Hotel, Upperthorpe (10)

7. Rising Sun, Nether Green (7)

8. Bath Hotel, Sheffield City Centre (4)

9. University Arms, Sheffield City Centre (9)

10. Devonshire Cat, Sheffield City Centre (6)

11. Wellington, Shalesmoor (11)

12. Coach & Horses, Dronfield (14) (District POTY)

13. Commercial, Chapeltown (12)

14. Ranmoor Inn, Ranmoor (13)

15. Rawson Spring, Hillsborough (-)

16. White Lion, Heeley (-)

17. Plough Inn, Low Bradfield (16=)

18. Angler’s Rest, Millers Dale (20)

19. Nag’s Head, Loxley (-)

20. Cobden View, Crookes (18=)

SOUTHPORT: To Follow

TRAFFORD AND HULME (including part of the city centre): The Knott, Manchester, retains its branch title. Under the arches of Deansgate station, this is a very pleasant pub with Marble beers and lovely food. The Old Market Tavern in Altrincham and Electrik in Chorlton were joint second.

WIGAN: Masons Arms, Billinge. Never been.

YORK: The Ferry Boat Inn, Thorganby. Shamefully I don't know where Thorganby is. Licensee Olive has been there for SIXTY years. Four beers on, many local. Here's what York Camra say about the pub: "The original bar is small and cosy with a real fire and convivial ambience – it’s virtually impossible to avoid being drawn into conversation. A sunny, spacious extension was added some years ago. It opens straight out on to large lawns sloping down to the river Derwent."

Never mind real ales it's another real fire pub!




IT WAS JUST A STAGE THEY WERE GOING THROUGH!
Aug 10: Was it three years ago that the West Riding Refreshment Rooms, in Dewsbury, were having problems getting permission for their stage? Well it's all done and dusted now and very nice it looks too - like an extension to the old station itself. Not surprisingly they are calling it Platform 3.

To celebrate its proper opening they are having a musical knees up from August 13- 15, with plenty of good local bands and, of course, good local beers.

Itinerary:
Friday 13 August
4 pm - Adrian Ingram's Jazz Dawgs: Back by popular demand, Adrian is internationally renowned and ‘one of jazz’s most gifted guitar players’ “These guys play a mixture of West Coast Swing, Cheesy tunes and good time music. Surprisingly good too!”

8.30pm – Mad Jack and the Hatters: New 3-piece rockabilly band heavily influenced by 20’s – 60’s American stuff

Saturday 14 August
4pm – TBC (a well-known act who often make an appearance at these sorts of dos)
8.30pm – Chris Martin: Hot from the Crown of Lights festival and Dewsbury Beer Festival, acoustic tunes and tall tales from the Man-in-the-hat (so not the Coldplay one then)

Sunday 15 August

3pm – Fat Stanley: 9-piece Funk/Soul/Rhythm & Blues outfit



HUDDERSFIELD FOOD AND DRINK FESTIVAL'S REAL ALE PUB TRAIL
Jul 10: Taking part are The Star, The Rat, The Head of Steam, The Vulcan, The Kings Head, The Sportsman, The County, The Grove.

Pick up a trail flyer, visit all eight pubs, buy a pint or a half of real ale and receive a stamp on your flyer. Return your completed flyer to the Huddersfield Food and Drink Festival information marquee between 12-15 August and receive a free festival glass.

The festival itself is in St George's Square from August 12-15, The Sportsman, The Star and Jones's Pies will be among those putting up stalls.




LEEDS' NEWEST PUB
Apr 10: The Ossett Brewery empire has opened its first Leeds outpost - The Hop, in railway arches roughly underneath Platform 16-17 at Leeds station.

I must admit I thought this area of Leeds - Granary Wharf - was dying on its arse, with only a Japanese restaurant remaining. But a new hotel and apartments have gone up nearby and there's a nice view of the canal from upstairs at The Hop.

The pub occupies a two-storey site that was previously a bog-standard nightclub. I went in the afternoon, but I think it's really a night-time place. It's fairly dark inside and needs to be full of people, but it's been done out really nicely with murals of rock stars in a Gorillaz style and some fantastic wallpaper, pictured, featuring thousands of LP covers.

The decor and the amps stacked up upstairs are an indication that is a music pub, Ossett's second following on from the success of The Hop in Wakey.

Ten beers on - six Ossett and four guests when I was there. The two I tried were in decent order. Shame there didn't seem to be any indication of what music was coming up.

You could have a decent crawl in that area of town now with the Midnight Bell, Cross Keys and mighty Grove nearby, but while I will always visit The Grove when I'm in that neck of the woods, I've never really liked the dark and dingy Granary Wharf and the stinking river, so I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to The Hop.


HUDDERSFIELD PUB OF THE YEAR 2010 - THE RAT AND RATCHET
Apr 10: Talking of Ossett pubs, I've bored you to death extolling the virtues of The Rat. They've won Camra pub of the year again - and as I've just returned from there, alcoholically challenged, here's the Rat rap:

Homely, cosy
Staff are friendly
Beery cheery
Ossett Brewery
Guests a-plenty
Salamander
Groovy jukey
Ian Dury
Watch the rugby
On the telly
Go to quiz night
Win the raffle

(I bet Jay-Z has never used raffle in any of his raps. Don't worry I'll be deleting this when I read this in horror in the morning).

One question though - why hasn't The Grove been acknowledged for its work since it reopened? It's just as popular as The Rat, just as homely and has a greater selection beers. Like the Star, it's a pub that's been transformed by its independent owners, yet the Rat and Star are the only pubs who seem to get a look in for pub of the year. I hope there's no Camra politicking going on.




TO ELLAND BACK (AND OTHER PUB ADVENTURES)
March 10: I'm going to have to stand in the corner in real ale class when I admit I'd never been to the Barge and Barrel, in Elland, until this year.

But I've now been twice in a couple of months. It's a grand old place with fancy ceilings, plenty of nooks and crannies and a good selection of ales, with Elland beers among the stars.

I haven't been because, for me, it's a bugger to get to on public transport. I actually have to walk more than 30 minutes!

It's a far old walk to The Sair in Linthwaite but it's always a treat, and now Linfit beers have returned, after several months absence. They're as good as ever with Eli, Special and Leadboiler all present and correct.

I'd been to The Sair when Linfit beers weren't on and the pub was just as lively with local guest ales available. It's a special place (see Best Pubs), but the Linfit beers make it extra special.

On the same day I went to the Commercial, in Slaithwaite for the first time in months. Excellent Empire Moonraker Mild, friendly staff and very nice inside.



FANTASTIC DOCUMENTARY ON PUBS
Feb 10: Did anyone else hear the fantastic Radio 4 documentary about the celebration of the pub landlord and landlady?

Tetley Dave, from the Shoulder of Mutton in Castleford, and Barbara, from the Grapes in Limehouse, London were the stars - explaining about the importance of good quality real ale in unspoilt pubs, the malign influence of pub companies and the effects of supermarkets and the smoking ban.

It was fascinating to hear how two apparently different people had virtually the same opinion of how a good pub should be run.

And in the light of the debate about the future of pubs and BBC stations such as Radio 6, it was depressing to hear how the 'free market' homogenises everything into a few narrow choices.

Last Orders is on iPlayer until March 5, 11.30am

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00qx1m5/Last_Orders_Episode_2/


I DON'T BELIEVE IT - KELHAM'S WON AGAIN!
Feb 10: It's not the best pub in Sheffield, never mind Yorkshire, but the Kelham Island Tavern has been voted Camra's NATIONAL pub of the year for the second year running - a first for the competition.

I've said it before, it's a good pub, don't get me wrong - nicely done out, friendly atmosphere, 10 handpumps with a mild and porter/stout always on, but if the pubs are being judged on the Camra criteria of 'quality of the beer, atmosphere, décor, customer service, and all-round value of the pub visit', isn't Sheffield pub the Sheaf better - or even the Fat Cat down the road?

It's great that Camra highlights good pubs, but it's only useful up to the regional stage (16 pubs?) after that it comes down to personal preference - atmosphere and decor are subjective. So fair enough, Kelham wins it once, but it's ridiculous that out of the thousands of pubs in contention it should win twice - that's just the personal preference of a small number of Camra members, rather like the winner at the Great British Beer Festival

Anyway, well done Kelham - but next year Camra, give someone else a go, in Yorkshire at least.

On a brighter note two of my favourite pubs in Huddersfield have been given awards from the town's Camra branch.

The Rat and Ratchet gets a gong for being in the Good Beer Guide for 20 consecutive years and The Sportsman, pictured, will be making its debut in next year's guide. It's also won pub of the season. Pub of the year decision is next month I think.

Meanwhile the lovely Slubbers has become only the fifth pub in the area to be awarded the Beautiful Beer Gold Award from Cask Marque, joining The Black Bull in Lindley, the Fenay Bridge, the Huntsman in Holmfirth and the Old Mill in Brighouse.





YAWN! KELHAM ISLAND'S BEST YORKSHIRE PUB - AGAIN
Oct 09: For the third year running, Kelham Island has been voted Yorkshire pub of the year.

Come on! It's an above average pub with good beer but there are better pubs in Yorkshire (and Sheffield) that deserve a turn.

How about York's pub of the year The Swan, Huddersfield's representative The Star, or Dewsbury's finest The Leggers? The Fat Cat and Sheaf View are better Sheffield pubs anyway.

Kelham Island is also reigning national champ and national champs rarely retain their crowns, so why not give someone else a go?

It will be up against 15 other regional winners, including Greater Manchester's representative The Crown, in Worthington, near Wigan; Merseyside/Cheshire and North Wales' champ the Golden Lion, in Llangynhafal, between Denbigh and Ruthin; and West Pennines' standard bearer The Taps in Lytham.

Shortlist of four in February, winner usually announced in March.

See list of Camra branch winners below

Pic: from Kelham Island's website



RATFEST TRIUMPH
Sep 09: I spent two splendid hours necking lovely halves at the Rat and Ratchet beer and cider festival in Huddersfield.

It was a scorcher so naturally I sat in the darkest part of the pub, owing to my ginger sweaty nature. I was in the mood for some light ales and the Rat didn't disappoint with some nice ones from some of my favourite breweries.

From Allgates - California, while Salamander had Boatrace, St Austell Proper Job and this from Bateman's (Sam the landlord is in the background).

But my favourite was a dark one - Saltaire's Triple Chocoholic. They do 'flavour beers' so well - it was like drinking Bourneville.



COME ON THE PORT! BACK TO MY HOME TOWN
Sept 09: I had an hour to kill in my old home town, Southport. I’ve never lived there, apart from a year or so in nearby Birkdale. I’m from a village nearby which was always too rednecky for me so I ended up drinking in Southport - itself a rather strait-laced place. I once saw an old git beat an alarmed teen with his stick on a bus for failing to offer his seat to a lady.

But Southport is where I drank in my teens and twenties and it’s where some of my oldest friends still live. So I decided to go on a whistlestop tour before I met some pals in The Guest House.

This has been our regular for years, before that it was The Windmill and before that The Barons. Other regulars were The Berkeley, The Falstaff, Coronation, Wellington, Cheshire Lines, Oast House, the Fox and Goose and even the Foghorn (or Star Wars bar because of its strange looking customers).

The Falstaff had five pumps, but it looked like there were no ales on as all the clips were turned. I walked straight out. It’s getting good notices in the local ale mag but it’s been years since I had a good night there, and that was when the bloke from The Heatons Bridge in Scarisbrick ran it.

The Barons was packed at 5.30pm and probably has the most adventurous range of beers in town, as well as old dependables like Moorhouses and Sandgrounder.

The bar, part of the Scarisbrick Hotel, is done out like a room in a country house with wooden panelling and a stuffed deer’s head. It’s remained relatively unchanged for 20 years at least and was all the rage when I was in my late teens and early twenties.

It seems more suited to the fifty and sixty somethings who use it now. One of them was threatening to start a fight over some slight at the bar. His marshmallow nose was quivering and he had to be calmed down by a sparrow-like woman in a long dress.

A quick recce round the Ship and Anchor off Neville Street. A pub that has never recovered from being opened up yonks ago. It looks relatively pleasant inside but I didn’t spot any real ales.

Onto the Oast House , where I spent a memorable New Year’s Eve singing along to the jukey dressed as a Reservoir Dog as part of a snakes and ladders drinking game (board full of pubs, shake a dice to see where you go, 30 mins in each boozer, with drinking forfeits elsewhere on the board). It was friendly as ever. The ale was not great, but then it was always a place for a contintental lager and even schnapps.

The Victoria has never lived up to its potential – a nice-looking building, sympathetically done out and opposite The Floral theatre and a huge new hotel with no other pubs on the same road. It should be cleaning up, but it never does. Thwaites Smooth on here.

I had a flashback to O’Toole’s the late drinking joint tailored for over-25s which used to be a couple of doors down, until it degenerated into a teen thug battleground and became O'Foole's to me and my pals.

Mulligans, the latest late drinking joint for the more mature, undiscerning clientiele, has also closed.

Onto The Windmill and Steve the landlord is still there - at least his name is on the door. He must be one of the long-serving landlords in town (15 plus years?) although he’s quite a difficult man to know, even if you go in twice a week for years and years, as I used to do.

On one New Year’s Eve he came over to my pal, the mild sponge Kev, and spoke to him for about the first time that year. He said Kev had helped pay for his safari holiday in Africa. Mmm, nice customer service!

The Theakston’s was in good order here and the barman who had his long hair cut years ago is still there.

And finally The Guest House – the beer choice may be a little too mainstream and the rooms are too hot but this is a lovely pub, with a friendly atmosphere and the beer is always in good order (see Olthwaite Golden Shovel Best Pubs)

I peered in at The Masons and revamped Hoghton and wished I could have gone in the former which is a lively place with nice Robbie’s, but I had a train to catch.

Overall I felt slightly depressed by the choice of pubs now – the Berkeley seems a big loss even though it was a bog standard hotel bar. I’ve heard The Lakeside is on good form, especially with its new outdoor bit, and I’ve no doubt the Tetleys in the Cheshire Lines is still good, but The Guesty is the only pub I wanted to stay in for more than a couple of drinks.


REAL ALE PUB BECOMES SWINGERS BAR!
Aug 09: If you go down to Moldgreen today you're in for a big surprise, the Green Cross real ale pub has turned into a swingers' bar.

Let's hope no real ale drinkers are tempted to indulge - the thought of wobbly-arsed blokes throwing their tankards in a bowl for a chance of a jiggy with Miss Maris Otter-Hops is too much to bear!

It reminds me of this episode from the Real Ale Twats in Viz.

The owners of the new club have blacked out the windows, and according to the Huddersfield Examiner, have a plush bar, dancefloor and bedrooms. They are also planning to install a sauna. There's a big demand for such clubs among consenting adults of all professions, the owners say.

Local councillor Rochelle Parchment isn't happy as she feels the club is in the wrong location, but as it's a private members (ahem) club, the council can't do anything.

It just shows how important a landlord is - former Green Cross landlord boss Andy was attracting Camra awards for this pub and it was a tidy little place. But when he moved on to the Bay Horse, in York, earlier this year, the Green Cross appears to have declined.

(PS A correspondent has pointed out that it should be Maris Otter not Maris Piper hops. The latter are potatoes. Doh!)


BRANWELL BRONTE WOULD LOVE THIS
Jul 09: The newest 'rail ale' railway station pub has opened at last in Sowerby Bridge.

The Jubilee Refreshment Rooms is in the old ticket office next to the station where Branwell Bronte, the Ringo Starr of the Brontes, was sacked for drunkenness. He'd surely love this new pub.

It's light and airy thanks to the high ceilings and copies of the original sash windows, but it also has some marvellous old-fashioned lights that look like upside-down jelly fish, and a clock which was a famous feature of a Halifax jewellers.

Six real ales are on, many from Yorkshire, including Leeds Brewery, Eastwood and Salamander, and they were all in good order.

The conversion of the ticket office to the Jubilee, named after a steam loco, has been a labour of love for owners and brothers Andrew and Chris Wright. It's taken them 12 years to open as they had to deal with various rail companies and health and safety issues.

Conversion work started in October 2008 and the brothers first had to remove a quarter of a ton of asbestos before taking down the internal walls, ceilings, windows and floors.

They serve breakfasts from 7-9.30am then sandwiches and cakes all day and later beer.

It's a lovely place and a worthy addition to the Stalybridge-Huddersfield-Dewsbury 'rail ale' pub scene.

It's slightly awkward to get to from Huddersfield. There are direct trains from Dewsbury and Brighouse to Sowerby Bridge but these don't stop at Huddersfield. The alternative is to get the train from Wakey that stops at Hudds and change at Halifax. It's a longer wait than stopping at Brighouse but at least you have the Three Pigeons and Pump Room near Halifax station. The pub near Brighouse station didn't have any real ale on when I was there.

I should also mention another new real ale pub that's worth a visit - the Commercial in Slaithwaite. This was always a bit of a grim place, but while the exterior is virtually the same, the interior has been transformed - nice, bright paint-job and paintings on the walls, eight real ales, many locals (the ales not the Slou-westers if that's what you call 'em).



OTLEY - DEVASTATION OF A REAL ALE TOWN
July 09: I was shocked to read in the Bradford Camra mag that three more Otley pubs have shut - the Black Horse, Woolpack and Spite - following the closures of the Bowling Green, Summercross and Fleece. Five years ago, Otley had 20-odd pubs or clubs and most, if not all, served real ale. What's happened? My pal, and Otley resident, Richard Hamer reveals all:

Once upon a time there’s a little old town in the west (Yorkshire, that is) by the name of Otley. Not only was it the birthplace of Thomas Chippendale, Mike Tindall and the Wharfedale Printing Machine (which revolutionised the printing industry), but it was said to have more pubs per head of population than anywhere else in England. Of course, that all depended on who you believed, especially as there doesn’t seem to be a Guinness World Record on it.

One thing that is certain, even now, is that Otley does have a lot of pubs for its size. And if we go back to summer 2006, there were 15 pubs within the town centre, (two on the fringes) as well as four bars, a working men’s clubs, the Labour Club, RAOB Club, the Conservative Club and the Catholic Club. Phew, I bet you’re thirsty after taking all that in?

Then it all started to change but before that, here’s a little story.

Prior to the advent of all day drinking (not 24-hour drinking) in 1988, when pubs shut between 3pm and 7pm, Otley was allowed to stay open on Fridays because of the cattle market and street market – and my guess is that this is because pubs were traditionally used as ad hoc offices to carry out a bit of business.

Being allowed to open all day was good news for students at the University of Leeds who had long been jumping on the bus from Leeds to Otley – which passed by the uni – to take part in something that felt forbidden, but was perfectly legal. Hence, Otley used to have a soft spot with students and is, no doubt, one reason why so many graduates have settled in the town.

Anyway back to main thread. Since the middle of 2006, several of the town’s pubs have closed and not as a result of lack of business. The RAOB has merged with the Labour Club temporarily while a new one is built, but most are due to pub companies squeezing the landlords out and property developers.

The “world’s greatest pub”, the Bowling Green, shut its doors in September 2006 after the landlord, Trevor, sold it when he retired. No one can begrudge his pension plan, and originally it was to be converted to flats, but then came the news that JD Wetherspoon had bought it.

Since then it’s stood empty, surrounded by an ugly wire fence, and the latest is that it will reopen again early next year. However, it will look nothing like the original which is a good thing because the Bowling Green was unique and it’s far better to treasure the memories and this on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LukVPxvE_7g

Around a year later the Summercross closed. Situated to the east of the town centre, it had had a chequered recent history after becoming a gastropub in 2000. This failed and fell into the hands of Punch, who sold it to a property company who sold it a local house builder in late 2007 (all under the nose of the landlord who had only been there 12 months and had turned its fortunes around).

And what had the landlord done to revive it? Well, because it wasn’t tied he’d started selling real ale, which rotated often and he couldn’t sell enough of it. And what’s more the idiots that help bring pubs down (we all know who they are), don’t drink things with real flavour so they stayed away which meant those that appreciate beer and conviviality flocked there.

He also had a great open mic night every Friday which even saw professional musicians turning up for a real good knees-up, plus live folk/blues bands on Saturdays. And the food was pretty good too. Mixed grill, anyone?

Then he was given just two months notice to leave. Just as well he’d not sold his house. But it came at a time when he was hosting Otley Folk Festival gigs, and was planning more for the following year, and getting involved in the town’s walking festival.

A campaign was mounted to save it but the house builder wouldn’t budge, even when a North East pub co said they were interested in buying it. Although planning was refused for the houses, the company had ties with a care home business and that’s what it’s to be after Leeds City Council said an imposing building in a residential area would be an asset.

In the past 12 months the Red Lion closed for a while after Enterprise upped the rent so the landlord couldn’t make a living (again, a good real ale pub), and that now has a temporary manager and is back to selling John Smiths.

Then the Three Horseshoes closed after the landlord died which, according to his widow, was as a result of the pubco upping the rent. That’s currently open, but the Black Horse has now closed – again the landlord couldn’t make a living.

The Woolpack recently closed down and Enterprise is auctioning it off to anyone, and the rumours are that it could become a curry house, a solicitor’s office or a house.

The Red Lion and the Three Horseshoes are also currently on the market, and Enterprise has even leafleted houses is the town to see if anyone is stupid enough to take them on.

The Fleece, which is to the west of the town centre, is another pub that closed down several months ago after the landlord was declared bankrupt and that too remains shut, again owned by Enterprise.

But to make matters worse, the town’s only dedicated real ale shop closed a few months ago as a result of the banks refusing credit to the owner.

However, there is a bit of good news. A real ale bar is supposed to be opening in a former cafe, although the owner has had problems with the licence due to various residents putting their collective oar in claiming that it will lead to anti-social behaviour.

The proposed bar is next door to the Rose & Crown which is open until 1am at the weekend, and is a known trouble spot – and that’s not libellous. Some folk just don’t get it that real ale drinkers don’t punch people because they looked “at them funny”.

So what’s to be done in Otley? Not a lot because there’s nothing to stop what the pub cos do, although there are currently rumbling in Parliament to keep them in check.

Otley’s MP Greg Mulholland – who helped in the Summercross fight – is on the case; even though he knows he can do no more than gain bad press for Enterprise and all the other real estate dealers, sorry pub cos. But businesses of that size are not bothered, just as long as the shareholders get their dividend and the bosses get their bonuses.




CAMRA PUBS OF THE YEAR 2009
April/May/June/July 09: Camra branches are choosing their pubs of the year and a few of my Olthwaite Golden Shovel top pubs have been selected - The Star in Huddersfield, The Swan in York and The Leggers in Dewsbury.

The latest is in Keighley where a former brothel, council chamber and dance hall, The Old White Bear in Crosshills, is the winner.

In Wakefield the Anglers Retreat, in Wintersett, gets the Camra gong.

In Leeds Mr Foley's Cask Ale House is champ. Isle of Man brewery Okells had a go at turning this old Pearl Assurance place into an upmarket real ale joint but it never took off. York Brewery took it over and it was heaving last time I went in.

However I've never really warmed to the place. The bar always seems too cramped and is in a bit of a pit which is the first thing you see when you walk in - you can't really see the rest of the pub. The beer is ok but nothing special and the whole place still seems very 'banky' and rather lacking in atmosphere. The Victoria down the road wins hands down in every department.

I've mentioned the Star, in Huddersfield, elsewhere (see Best Pubs and picture of one of their famous beer festivals, above) - lovely beer, atmosphere and pub dog.

In York, the Swan is a splendid corner boozer, about 15 mins from the city centre, with a tiny bar and two rooms with tables and chairs huddled together. As I wrote in my best pubs list, I have a weakness for wooden panelling and the Swan has plenty. It also has a varied selection of beers, along with regulars Tetley’s Bitter, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Copper Dragon Golden Pippin, and a cosy atmosphere (real fire in one room).

The pub isn't in the Good Beer Guide because of a change of ownership at the time the branch was submitting its favourites.

Trafford and Hulme branch have chosen the Knott in Manchester city centre. The branch covers this part of the city and they've chosen one of my favourite pubs - Ginger Marble stars with other micros, plus some excellent grub, all in an old railway arch with chunky wooden furniture. Jukey's not bad either.

In Sheffield it's two wins in a row for the Kelham Island Tavern, which is in with a chance of retaining its national Camra pub of the year title.

Runners-up were:

2 Fat Cat (near Kelham Island)
3 New Barrack Tavern, Penistone Road
4 Bath Hotel, City Centre
5 Sheaf View, Heeley
6 Devonshire Cat, City Centre
7 Rising Sun, Nether Green
8 Harlequin, Nursery Street
9 University Arms, Brook Hill
10 Hillsborough Hotel, Langsett Road
11 Wellington, Shalesmoor
12 Commercial, Chapeltown.

My own Sheff top five would be: 1 Sheaf, 2 Fat Cat, 3 Rutland, city centre 4 Red Deer,city centre 5 Rising Sun.

Bradford's pub of the year is The Junction, in Baildon. I've never been.

Halifax branch has chosen The Moyles bar, restaurant and hotel in Hebden Bridge, a very swanky but friendly place which has a good range of ales in good order.

Yet another Olthwaite Golden Shovel winner is pub of the year in the Heavy Woollen region - the fabulous Leggers, in Dewsbury.

It's a bit of a grim walk from the train station on a bleak day but the pub's a joy in summer - next to the canal and a real sun trap. The pub itself is the old stables for the barge horses and you can still see the beams. It's one of the best places to while away a pleasant afternoon. Sink in the comfy chairs with a pint of Tiger and other excellent ales.

In North Manchester, the New Oxford in Salford retains its crown. I'm overdue a visit.

In Southport The Barons wins for the second year running, a place I used to go to as a youth, excellent beer but somewhat lacking in atmosphere now - The Guest House is easily the best pub in town. In Wigan the Crown in Worthington wins. I've never been.




SPORTING CHANCE
Apr/May 09: The Sportsman in Huddersfield opened at the end of April and judging by its opening weeks looks set to become one of the best pubs in town.

It's run by the folk who look after the excellent West Riding Refreshment Rooms in Dewsbury and they've done a cracking job refurbishing the pub. They've kept the layout and some of the distinctive features, for example the wall seating which probably hasn't changed in 50 years.

It's a sympathetic revamp with some lovely art deco touches, such as the mirrors and squiggly wallpaper (hey, don't get Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen on my ass)

The Sportsman has all my favourite features in a pub - small rooms, fireplaces, chunky furniture and eight real ales, mainly from west Yorkshire and many from Kirklees such as Mallinsons, Empire, Golcar and Anglo Dutch, as well as the new Black Sheep Golden Fleece (light and sweet, so much better than the regular Black Sheep)and regular milds.

It's a regular for me already. Here's the website:

The Sportsman




STAR ATTRACTIONS
Mar 09: The fabulous Star Inn, in Lockwood, Huddersfield, is the town's Camra pub of the year.

The award coincided with one of the pub's famous beer festivals - 60 plus beers including Great Heck's George Formby range. My festival favourite was Auntie Maggie's Homemade Remedy, a coffee-ish delight.

The Star has been overshadowed over the past few years by the rampant form of the Rat and Ratchet and the emergence of the excellent Grove which took the Star template of reviving and restoring a shabby pub and serving a vast array of ales.

The Star is a cosy, friendly place with a great selection of beers and deserves its place in the sun again.


THE END OF THE SUMMERCROSS
March 09: It looks like the end of the road for lovely Otley pub The Summercross. Plans to convert it into a care home have been approved by Leeds Council.

This flourishing pub, the only one on the eastern side of the town, was shut in October 2007 and sold to a housing company. A plan to convert into housing was rejected.


KELHAM ISLAND IS PUB OF THE YEAR
Feb 09: Camra's pub of the year is the Kelham Island Tavern, in Sheffield. It had to shut for six weeks in 2007 because of the floods, so this is a great turnaround. The Crown Inn in Stockport was one of three runners-up.




FEELING GROVE-Y
Jan 09: Here's a picture of one of my favourite pubs, The Grove, in Huddersfield, and some of the unusual artwork the landlord gets from t'inters. I usually go late afternoon/early evening and hide behind the pillars reading a paper until the words swirl from the ale, but I went for the first time on a Friday night recently and it was heaving - great to see in these cash-strapped times. There was a real mix of ages too, with students attracted to the menu containing hundreds of beers, spirits and bizarre snacks - from flavoured Polish vodkas to salt and vinegar flavoured crickets. But The Grove is best known for its real ales - 16 handpumps, with a good mix of regulars and guest beers. It's also a cosy place with friendly bar staff - get yerself down there!



























  • Grove Inn website



































  • KELHAM ISLAND INTO LAST FOUR OF PUB OF YEAR
    Jan 09: Sheffield's excellent Kelham Island has been rated as one of the top four pubs in the country by Camra.

    It has a chance of being named top pub following another round of judging next month. It'll be up against the Crown Inn, in Stockport (a pub I've always wanted to visit), the Tom Cobley Tavern, in Spreyton, Devon and the Royal Oak, in Rusper, West Sussex.

    Two hundred branches chose their pubs of the year, these were whittled down to 16 regional finalists, including Kelham as best in Yorkshire and the Crown best in Greater Manc. I did moan about Kelham being Yorkshire pub of the year twice in a row, but it is one of those lovely multi-room pubs which is a pleasure to be in.



    DOUBLE TRIUMPH FOR THE SAIR
    Dec 08: The world's greatest pub (probably) - The Sair, in Linthwaite - has received two very different national honours. It's been named as 'one of the 50 greatest old pubs in Britain' in The Rough Pub Guide and won an 'authentic pub' award by the Sawday guides.

    The Rough Pub Guide has nothing to do with Rough Guides, apparently, so I thought this book would be all about 'Are you looking at my pint, do you want to go outside?' boozers and, indeed, The Three Legs in Leeds is in there.

    But so is the Briton's Protection in Manchester, where the only chance of violence is being poked by an oboeist's bow if an orchestra has been playing in the Bridgewater Hall next door.

    The authors say their guide is 'part guidebook, part paean to a disappearing England' as they bemoan the advance of gastropubs and the disapperance of 'public bars, where you can stand around with a pint, play darts and enjoy a platter of roast potatoes, or you could retire to the lounge, where, in amongst the flock wallpaper and red velvet bench seats, an old bloke would invariably run through his repertoire on an organ'.

    I must say this 'golden idyll' sounds awful and reeks of Watneys Red Barrel and redneck localness. Also, pubs which have improved their food have usually improved their ale.

    Other pubs in the guide I've visited include the wonderful Dyffryn Arms, at Pontfaen, near Fishguard. The landlady, Bessie, now 78, and who looks like Dandy Nicholls, poured Bass from a metal jug the last time I was there in what seemed to be her front room. The beer was cool and lovely, the welcome warm.

    The Vulcan in Cardiff is also in there - a no-nonsense Brains pub on the edge of the city centre currently threatened with demolition to make way for a shopping centre - and also the Coach and Horses in Soho - a pub that has retained its character and characters amid the tourist cheesiness.

    The Sawdays guide has various different categories for its winning pubs - eg pubs with rooms, pubs that serve local/organic produce. Most of the pubs are down south and look like ye olde mansions where you have to take your shoes off before you go in.

    God knows how they found The Sair. But what a place! I can't make my mind up if it's better to go in the winter, with the real fire roaring, or the summer, with the sun setting through the windows. Either way, with a pint of Old Eli in your hand, the sounds of That's Alright Mama in your ear, Danny the pub dog dreaming of crisps nearby and the lovely Mrs P next to me, I can't think of anywhere better to go. (see full review in Best pubs, left)


    GREEN CROSS GOLD
    Dec 08: I've been meaning to write about the Green Cross in Moldgreen, Hudds, for some time and now I've got an excuse. It's deservedly won Hudds Camra's Autumn Pub of the Year.

    The pubs reopened earlier this year under new management and after a refurbishment, and very nice is it too. Two rooms, old fireplace preserved, comfy seats and attractive black and dark red decor. Thwaites beers are always on plus some Yorkshire favourites such as Elland and Acorn.

    The landlord's friendly and keen, there are bands in the back room and a TV for the football which doesn't take over the pub.

    It's about 15-20 mins trek out of the town centre on the grim Wakefield Road, where it always seems to be raining, but apart from that, it's a place I'll be going to again.


    THEY'RE BUGGERING ABOUT WITH THE ALBERT AGAIN..BUT THE STEAM'S BACK ON FORM
    Dec 08: One of the few real ale pubs in Hudds town centre, and the one with arguably the best interior, is closed again and the skips are outside.

    There was a big hoo-ha when it closed a couple of years ago and there were fears that the Victorian wood and glass screens would be ripped out. The pub did reopen and it was a nice refit, but the choice and quality of beer gradually went downhill and the pub began to look a bit shabby.

    It closed again last month. No planning application this time, as far as I can tell, and Enterprise Inns are still looking for a new landlord, according to their website, but peering through the windows it looks like a really nice job inside - brown carpets, nice seating and old pics on the wall complementing the Victorian interior.

    Enterprise are looking for 'a quality food and cask ale operator' and they've spent £80k on the pub. I've heard it could reopen before Christmas.

    One pub where the beer quality has improved this year is the Head of Steam. The pub is such a lovely place but was let down by rank pints too often for my liking. Also the wine was usually warm and the food quality had declined. Anyway, a new landlord came in earlier this year and everything has got better.

    Jan 08 update: Went in reopened Albert, nicely done out but Landlord only real ale and dreadful soft rock playing in the background - they obviously can't trust their customers to create an atmosphere.

    WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE REFRESHMENT ROOMS?
    Oct 08: Throughout this summer I've been making forlorn treks to Sowerby Bridge in the hope that the new pub at the train station has opened. It was due to open in June/July in the old ticket office but the building has remained boarded up with no sign of life. All that could change shortly.

    I emailed Christopher Wright, one of two brothers involved in the conversion of the ticket office into The Jubilee Refreshment Rooms and he says work is due to start at the end of next month with an opening date of April 2009.

    No indication over what's caused the delay but it's great that they're "back on track".

    As mentioned in the previous article below, the building has been empty for 25 years and it's taken the brothers 10 years to hack through red tape to get permission to convert it.

    They hope to attract the 500 people who use the station daily with a combination of good cafe food and local real ales.


    CAMRA PUBS OF THE YEAR UPDATE
    Sept 08: And the Yorkshire pub of the year is....Kelham Island Tavern, in Sheffield, for the second year running.

    Mmm..yes it's a fine pub but there are pubs that are equally good if not better in Yorkshire and it's surely time to give them a turn.

    In Greater Manchester, The Crown, under the viaduct in Stockport is the winner, while Merseyside, Cheshire & North Wales' champ is the Blue Bell, in Halkyn, just off the A55 in North Wales.

    West Pennines region, which includes Lancashire, has chosen the Manor Arms, in Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria.

    There are 16 regional winners in all. The overall winner and Camra pub of the year will be announced in February.


    RAT 'N' ROLL
    Sept 08: Another splendid beer festival at Huddersfield's pub of the year The Rat and Ratchet. This is an old pic - the pub was heaving on Friday night and Saturday afternoon and I didn't have the pluck to take a photo of five dark beers in a row at the bar because I thought I might as well write on my face: 'Camra geek. Do not talk about malt and hops in front of this man'. Anyway the only drawback to two splendid days was that the Champion Beer of Britain by Alton is dry, bitter and terrible fuelling my theories that mainly southern judges are at the Great British Beer Festival. And someone nicked my seat, even though I'd put newspapers and a glass on it - grrr!



























  • More from Olthwaite Flickr


































  • BOLDLY GOING...TO THE VULCAN
    Aug 08: The Vulcan pub, in Huddersfield, has won an award from a Kirklees and Calderdale real ale group.

    The Sunday At Seven Real Ale Group (SASRAG) annual award is made to the pub which has served quality real ale throughout the year and made an effort to give customer choice. Previous winners include The Grove, in Hudds.

    A spokesman told the Examiner: “The secret to a successful pub is to give the customer a fair deal; a place to escape and relax amongst company, good conversation, a good range of quality beers at a reasonable price, good food and good entertainment – be it sports TV or just pool – and finally, a landlord who spends time behind the bar or in the pub. The Vulcan is all of these.”

    I'd been here yonks ago but couldn't remember anything about it. But the local Camra branch has been praising the beer quality, amid whispers it was a bit rough and ready. I visited again and had a Dark Star and a John Smiths Winning Tipple on draught - both spot-on and better quality than some more famous Hudds real ale pubs I visited the same night. (Worthington was also on handpull).

    It's a clean and friendly pub with TVs, a pool table and a pub dog. If you like the Kings Head, you'll like the Vulcan.


    CAMRA PUBS OF THE YEAR 2007-8
    April 08 (see May and June updates below): It's that time of year when Camra branches choose their pubs of the year in the hope that their boozers go on to become the national number one.

    In Huddersfield, it's a second win in a row for the Rat and Ratchet - and well-deserved too, although the Grove might have been in with a shout. Sam has taken over the pub from Dave (not the soul duo) in the past year and upheld his predecessor's high standards - good mix of beers from the Ossett empire and others, good selection of wines and ciders, friendly staff, cosy atmosphere and a good jukey.

    It would have been nice for Hudds to tell us in their email how many members took part in the vote and maybe the top 20 pubs. Sheffield branch has done this and their winner is the excellent Kelham Island Tavern - an oasis in a rather bleak area of Sheff.

    Nine hundred members took part in the vote. Here's the top 20:
    1 Kelham Island Tavern, Kelham Island
    2 Fat Cat, Kelham Island
    3 Bath Hotel, City Centre
    4 Commercial, Chapeltown
    =5 Hillsborough Hotel
    =5 Devonshire Cat, City Centre
    7 Rising Sun, Nether Green
    8 Sheaf View, Heeley
    9 New Barrack Tavern, Hillsborough
    10 Ranmoor Inn, Ranmoor
    11 Wellington, Shalesmoor
    12 Grouse, Longshaw
    13 Harlequin, City Centre
    14 Wig & Pen, City Centre
    15 Coach & Horses, Dronfied
    16 Dove & Rainbow, City Centre
    17 Cobden View, Crookes
    18 Red Lion, City Centre
    19 Millstone, Hathersage
    20 Fagans, City Centre

    Good top three and my own favourite, the Sheaf View, is at 8, but where's The Red Deer in Pitt Street?

    In the Heavy Woollen area (Dewsbury, Batley, Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike etc), the fabulous West Riding Refreshment Rooms wins for a third year in a row.

    York’s pub of the year is Brigantes Bar & Brasserie on Micklegate, which only opened two years ago. I paid a quick visit and it was heaving. It has good pedigree as it's part of the Market Town Taverns group, which runs Arcadia in Headingley and Bar T'at in Ilkley, among others and although it doesn't have the beer selection of those pubs, it's a tidy place. It was chosen from a shortlist of eight pubs of the season.

    Keighley branch has explained on its website how it choose The Brown Cow as pub of the year - "quality of beer, service, atmosphere, general décor, clientele mix, value for money and support of CAMRA aims" and a it had to be in the Good Beer Guide. It's a Taylors pub, not one I've visited, but it apparently has coal fires, a collection of police hats and a ban on bad language (difficult to enforce in Keighley I'd have thought!). "Locals will chat with you" is another recommendation. Sounds good.

    New ones in May include The Barons Bar, part of the Scarisbrick Hotel in Southport. This was where I did most of my drinking in my youth, a strange place in hindsight and it was, and is, a rather fusty hotel bar. It was packed with teenies in the early 80s but now is rather more sedate. Maybe it's because there are more bars these days. The beer has always been good here and the range has expanded since my big hair days.

    In Halifax the winner is the Shepherds Rest in Sowerby Bridge, a Tardis-like boozer, part of the Ossett empire. Very nice place.

    In Wigan the excellent Anvil in the town centre shares pub of the year with The Crown in Worthington. The Anvil has a good selection of micros and is a great place to watch the rugby league.

    In North Manchester, which includes the Northern Quarter and Salford, the New Oxford, in Salford, is pub of the year. Never been but I've heard good reports - it was threatened with closure five years ago but was Greater Manchester's pub of the year last year.

    In June, Leeds announced The Grove was its winner. Hurrah! My favourite in this city.

    One room reminds me of Great Aunty Mary's lounge, with its tasselled lamps and armchair, another room has wooden seats which give me pins and needles in my balls, yet another room has a wood-burning fire and a cashpoint machine, and the fourth is a concert room where old men sing older folk songs.

    The Highland Terrier with the Hannibal Lecter mask appears to have passed on, but John the landlord who occasionally looks hangdog is still there and so are the pints of Moorhouses, Elland and other good beers.

    Shake a fist at the monstrous offices which hem it in and prevent the pub festival from taking place. I saw the great Mik Artistik here, drawing portraits on paper bags and singing a blues song about his daughter selling shoes.

    The Grove is a great boozer.

    While according to esteemed pub historian and real ale drinker Malcolm Toft, the Fighting Cock is Bradford's pub of the year. A good choice too - lovely three-room pub, wooden floors, plenty of local micros.

    Shame it's in a rather bleak area. I remember walking back from this boozer on one sunny day at about 5pm and noticing a lot of women dotted along the roadside every few yards. I thought they were waiting for buses at first (honest officer!). It was a bleak stretch of road in the sun, never mind at night when the creepy punters appear.

    Wakefield's pub of the year is Harry's Bar, a wonderful little pub down an alley near the station with plenty of West Yorkshire beers


    SUMMERCROSS UPDATE
    Apr 08: Plans to knock down the Summercross pub in Otley and replace it with housing have been knocked back by Leeds Council.

    STATE OF HUDDERSFIELD TOWN CENTRE PUBS
    Mar 08: Something to tell the grandchildren - I've made lead letter in the Huddersfield Examiner! (March 25).

    The state of Huddersfield town centre pubs has been brewing (arf, arf) for me for some time - you can't go on a pub crawl in the town centre, you can't get a decent pint of bitter in nearly all of the pubs and there seems to be a lot of bovine dickheads around.

    And I have to go to Halifax to watch the rugby league.

    Anyway, here's the letter:
    I’VE been interested in your articles about the difficulties pubs are facing. While I sympathise with the pressures landlords face from supermarkets, the smoking ban and the pub companies, Huddersfield town centre isn’t a great place to go out for a drink because the pubs and bars, by and large, lack variety – similar selection of lagers, same football on TVs and more or less the same songs on the jukeboxes.

    The only pub in town where you can guarantee to get a good pint of bitter or mild in a pleasant atmosphere is The King’s Head, or Station as it used to be known.

    The Head of Steam, Albert, County, Vox and Zephyr are also decent enough, but most pubs and bars seem to be divided into ones where you have to dress up to get in or they’re a bit shabby or they lack atmosphere.

    As for beer, you can get a greater variety in Tesco. There are 31 breweries in West Yorkshire, several of them within a few miles of Huddersfield – why don’t pubs be a bit more adventurous with their choice of beer?

    But it’s not just beer. If I want to watch the rugby league at the weekend and have a decent pint of bitter, I have to go to Halifax.

    I gave up on Huddersfield when I tried to watch a Tri-Nations game two years ago. I went round most of the pubs but they insisted on showing some “vital” game like Fulham v Portsmouth. Let’s hope that now the Giants are more popular than Town (10,000 average attendance for first four games compared with Town's last four of 7,500) that Huddersfield pubs will start using their initiative and showing rugby for a change.

    If landlords think they’ll lose out by changing, they only have to look at the Grove, in Spring Grove Street and The Star in Lockwood – two former rundown pubs that have been spruced up and serve a variety of real ales. Both are thriving.


    A NEW TRAIN STATION BOOZER
    Mar 08: West Yorkshire is about to have another real ale pub in an old train station ticket office, with the opening of the Jubilee Refreshment Rooms at Sowerby Bridge in June/July.

    It's a labour of love for Greetland brothers Chris and Andrew Wright who've waited TEN years to hack through red tape and get permission to open the disused office, which has been empty for 25 years.

    They got the idea while sitting in Oxenhope station and wondering why they couldn't do the same in Sowerby Bridge, but they then had to deal with all the various rail companies and quangos to get it off the ground.

    The plan is to be a caff from early mornings and stay open until 11, serving real ale from local micros and locally sourced food, and attract some of the 500 passengers who use the station every day.

    Chris is a lifetime member of Camra and the brothers have run six charity beer festivals. Andrew will leave his dyehouse job to manage the pub. Chris, 46, has his own decorating business. Both are rail enthusiasts involved in a group which helped to reopen Brighouse station.

    I'm sure many ale-quaffing trainspotting blokes will be willing the lads on as it sounds like a dream job (although a lot of hard work, I should imagine). The interior of the 132-year-old office is intact and hopefully it will be as attractive as the Refreshment Rooms in Dewsbury and the King's Head and Head of Steam in Huddersfield.

    After the shock closure of the great Puzzle Hall nearby in January, blamed on supermarket prices, rising rents and the smoking ban, let's hope Chris and Andrew make a go of it. I'll be there!

    By the way, Branwell Bronte - the Ringo Starr of the Brontes - used to work in the ticket office and was sacked for being drunk. I'm sure he'd love this.

    Some info: Yorkshire Post/Halifax Courier



    HUDDERSFIELD'S BEST FOR BEER - OFFICIAL!
    Feb 08: Huddersfield pubs serve the best real ale in the country, according to independent group Cask Marque.

    Marque inspectors made 84 local pub visits and supped 250 pints, checking they were served between 11 and 13ºC in a spotlessly clean glass, and the beer had "good clarity, a fresh aroma and a refreshing aftertaste".

    The town got 19.5 out of 20. Truro was second, Twickenham third, Exeter fourth and Northampton fifth. Bristol sixth, Lancaster seventh, Plymouth eighth, Southampton ninth and Leicester 10th.

    Paul Nunny, director of Cask Marque, told the Huddersfield Examiner: “We were extremely impressed by the consistent quality of pints being pulled in Huddersfield and offer our congratulations to local publicans, many of whom have already gained Cask Marque accreditation.”

    It looks like Cask Marque tested boozers outside the town centre as well as in and not all them had got the Marque. There's a very strange collection of pubs which have got the award, according to the Marque's website, not all of them in the Good Beer Guide:

    Berry Brow Liberal Club, Black Bull Lindley, Cherry Tree (town's Wetherspoons), High Park Bradley (never heard of it), Lloyds No 1 (another Wetherbarn), Old Mill Brighouse (Eh??? it looks nearer Bradley), Sair Linthwaite, Shoulder of Mutton Lockwood and White Cross Bradley.

    So some of Hudds' best pubs - The Rat and Ratchet, The Grove, The Star and King's Head (ex Station, pictured from my Flickr site) - do not have Cask Marque, mmm. Still I'm sure they were visited for the survey and it's a great coup for the town.

    To join Cask Marque, pubs have to apply and pay a £150 fee before inspectors make a couple of visits.

    Of the other plcaes on the list I've only been to Bristol (strict 20 minutes supping up time), Twickenham (full of braying twats, neighbouring Richmond is nicer) and Lancaster (ex-friend threatened by yokel local for 'staring at him').




    SUMMERCROSS UPDATE
    Jan 08: The worst fears of campaigners fighting to keep a popular Otley pub have been confirmed.

    As reported below, The Summercross closed unexpectedly in October despite attracting more customers and acclaim from Camra, and locals feared it would be converted into housing.

    Surprise, surprise this has happened - Horsforth-based Chartford Homes have bought it from London company Phase 7 a month after it closed.

    Chartford is preparing to submit a planning application for tradtional mews houses in keeping with the area...blah-di-blah! The fact is this was a thriving, well-kept pub - the only one on the east side of the town. What makes it worse is that Chartford were told pub trade was in decline and the landlord wanted to leave. Wrong!

    Free market? It's only free for the rich, there's little choice for anyone else.






























  • Save Our Summercross website



































  • ALEING AND DOWNING
    Dec 07: Sampling ales in Sweden, trying Britain's strongest beer, watching goth morris dancers at a Horsforth pub, listening to filthy karaoke in Southport, filling up with Fuller's at a special promotion night, getting Christmassy in Skipton, going grim up north in Sowerby Bridge and travelling on the Keighley and Worth Valley train (again)




























  • Real ale excursions


































  • SLUBBERS LANDLORD WANTED
    Dec 07: Huddersfield's only Timmy Taylors pub - The Slubbers Arms - is looking for a new landlord.

    The Good Beer Guide pub has a To Let sign outside and according to Taylor's website they are looking for "an operator who is passionate about cask ale and up keeping the traditions of a good pub" and some one who can develop the food side.

    Rent is £15,080 a year, business rates are £11,250 and there's £14,800 to find for fixtures and fittings.

    The pub is a fantastic end-of-terrace, cheese wedge shape, crammed with football and rugby programmes and other memorabalia (the Galpharm Stadium is down the road) and some old-fashioned eccentric fittings and furniture that look like they belong in an antiques shop.

    A chance to try the excellent mild Golden Best, Ram Tam and other Taylor's brews although opening times are often unpredictable (closed on a Sunday afternoon).

    STEAMING INTO SUPERMARKETS
    Dec 07: The Head of Steam chain (branch in Hudds station) is taking on the supermarkets by offering free pints and bottles if you buy a certain number of pints.

    For example if you buy a pint of Thwaites you get a card which is marked for every pint you buy and if you buy six pints (and six marks) you get a free pint.

    Caledonian, Hambleton, Black Sheep, Phoenix, Coach House, Daleside, Copper Dragon, Little Valley, Old Bear and Castle Rock are also taking part in the scheme and Castle Rock are adopting it in their own pubs.

    The company's Stuff the Supermarkets campaign is a worthy attempt to take on the supermarkets which the Head of Steam blames for "irresponsible policy of selling alcohol very cheaply, fuelling binge drinking and anti-social behaviour".

    Mmm...bit of pot and kettle here maybe, although it's a shame pubs are always getting the blame for drunkenness when some people are pissed up from shop booze before they go out.

    Good idea from the chain (it's a bit like coffee shops). It's a shame that the Hudds Head of Steam occasionally lets itself down with the quality of its beer.



    KING RAT STEPS DOWN
    Oct 07: Farewell Dave, landlord of the Rat and Ratchet, in Huddersfield. He's stepping down after two years at the helm.

    The Rat was always regarded as one of Hudds' best boozers as the previous landlord brewed his own ale.

    Ossett Brewery took it over, spruced up the place and after a few months Dave stepped in and made the Rat the best in town - the beer range is varied but never too obscure with a few stalwarts alongside some carefully chosen guests, with milds a speciality to meet customer demand.

    Dave spiced up the jukey with some sad metal but good sixties stuff, had a fiendishly complex quiz (pictures of guess the herb) and attracted a younger crowd while not appearing to alienate most of the regulars.

    The pub was packed most weekends, won Hudds Camra's pub of the year and mild pub of the year. Dave is staying with Ossett and the Rat is believed to be in safe hands with its new landlord. Good luck Dave!



    REFRESHMENT ROOMS STAGE UNDER THREAT
    Oct 07: The outdoor stage area of the West Riding Refreshment Rooms, in Dewsbury train station, may be in jeopardy because the canopy is constructed within a listed building.

    One planning application has already been refused and the pub is trying to work with the planning committee to resolve outstanding issues. The pub is urging everyone who has an interest in retaining the stage to contact Kirklees planning dept before October 30.

    This would be a great shame as the stage is an attractive addition to the pub and is in part of the car park.

    SHOCK CLOSURE OF POPULAR OTLEY PUB
    Oct 07: One of Otley's most improved pubs for real ale is to close this month.


    The pub is an attractive honeycoloured stone building on the outskirts of town. Last year, it was selling average Black Sheep. This year it's got its Cask Ale Marque, praise from local Camra branches, more punters and King Richard of Otley is behind the bar.

    It seems that, out of the blue, some twatting London property developers who own the pub have decided not to renew the lease and there are rumours they'll use the site for housing. Typical - take the money and sod the community.

    Here's a report from the Wharfedale and Airedale Observer:

    Barry and Pamela Mills, who took over the Summer Cross in March 2006, have been told their lease will not be renewed. Over the past 18 months the couple have successfully worked to make the business a success, winning two awards.

    They were stunned to receive a telephone call from County Estate Management - the agents for the owners - last month telling them their lease would not be renewed.

    Mrs Mills said: "We expected to get another year's lease but the property company in London that owns the place have just informed us by phone to say they are not renewing the lease and that's that. I asked what they were doing with it and they said nothing' so we really don't know.

    "But I have heard that sometimes this kind of thing happens and they leave the pub closed until it falls into rack and ruin, and don't renew its licence, until the local council finally says okay you can knock it down. We've already had people around measuring the place and surveyors coming to have a look.

    One of the pub's customers, Otley MP Greg Mulholland, a member of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group, has responded by launching a Save the Summer Cross campaign.

    YORKSHIRE PUB OF THE YEAR IS....
    Oct 07: Kelham Island Tavern, in Sheffield. Good pub in a rather dingy industrial area of Sheff which now opens all day.

    Ten ales in two atttractive old-fashioned rooms. The pub is up against 15 others in other regions for Camra's national pub of the year. Result announced next year.

    (Greater Manchester regional winner is New Oxford, in Salford).

    Jan 08 update: No luck for Kelham Island. The four finalists are The pubs up for the title of CAMRA National Pub of the year 2007 are:
    Turks Head, 49-51 Morley Street, St Helens,
    Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty, Long Lane, Heronsgate, Hertfordshire,
    Old Spot, Hill Road, Dursley, Gloucestershire,
    Blue Peter Hotel, Kirkcolm, Dumfries; Galloway.

    Feb 08 update: And the winner is: The Old Spot - a fine pub according to my Gloucestershire snout Mr Quanters

    OSSETT TAPS OFF
    Aug 08: Wakefield's famous brew pub Fernandes Tap has been snapped up by Ossett Brewery - but Fernandes brews will continue and the downstairs part of the pub (currently an old shop) is to developed. It's Ossett's 10th pub.

    Fernandes is a fine pub and it's good to see the beers will be continued to be made (sounds like Ossett has the same arrangement with the Riverhead pub and beers in Marsden). The Tap is also rather cramped and will be good to see get another room and a proper downstairs entrance rather than the miserable set of stairs at present.


    RAT ON A ROLL!
    June 07: The Rat and Ratchet has been named Huddersfield's best pub for mild beer, its second award in a month from the Campaign For Real Ale.

    The boozer was given the award by Camra after a vote by drinkers and it comes just weeks after it was named Pub Of The Year by the branch.

    The award comes after the pub hosted a festival on May 5 to celebrate National Mild Month with only milds on pump

    Well-deserved awards for the Rat. As I've written before, this is the best pub in Huddersfield and the Camra branch has taken too long to recognise it as such. They're usually split between The Star and The Station - two very different pubs.

    The Rat is a handsome pub with a good selection of northern, dark ales, friendly service with a great jukey.


    HAPPY GREETLAND
    June 07:The Greetland Community & Sporting Association in the village of Greetland, near Halifax, is Camra's Club of the Year 2007.

    The club steward, Mr Ian Sinclair said: "The secret to the success of the club is simple. We scour Britain for the best real ales in the land and make sure they are always in peak condition when they are served. Our members love the fact we have six handpumps on permanently with the finest ales."

    Other finalists in the competition were:
    Ø Cheltenham Motor Club, - Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
    Ø Coombs Wood Sports & Social Club - Halesowen, West Midlands
    Ø Dartford Working Men' Club, - Dartford, Kent.


    CAMRA BRANCHES PUBS OF THE YEAR 2007
    Bradford - The Junction, Baildon (second year running)
    Halifax - Red Rooster, Brighouse
    Huddersfield - Rat and Ratchet
    Leeds - Guiseley Factory Workers Club, Guiseley
    Sheffield (city) - Kelham Island Tavern (fourth year running)
    Sheffield (district) - Cheshire Cheese, Hope
    York - Blue Bell


    CAPITALIST VULTURES CIRCLE OVER MARX'S LOCAL
    April 07: The Crescent, in Salford, is up for sale and although it's being sold as a pub and is Grade 2 listed, it's possible that it could be knocked down to make way for houses or offices as it's in a development area.

    This was the boozer where Marx and Engels used to sup in the 1860s. Engels lived in the area to gather evidence for his book 'The Condition of the Working Class in England' and he formed a formidable team with Marx in the local quiz league.


    PIGEONS IN FLIGHT
    March 07: The fabulous Three Pigeons in Halifax has won a national Camra/English Heritage conservation award and has been named the best back street boozer in Britain (along with a pub in Kent), while the equally good The Works, in nearby Sowerby Bridge, has won Camra's national conversion to pub award.

    The Three Pigeons is a wonderful four room pub, cosy decor, comfy seats and being an Ossett pub has plenty of good ales. The Works by contrast turns an old workshed to a big modern boozer.

    On The Three Pigeons, the judges said: “Opened in 1932, the original architects Jackson and Fox opted for an eclectic mix of neo-Georgian and then highly-fashionable Art Deco. Sold as a free house in the 1980s, the pub was resold to the Izakaya Pub Company, trading as Ossett Brewery, in 2005.

    “The careful refurbishment recently carried out is exemplary The original multi-room plan has been retained - as has the engaging painted ceiling in the central hall - and the splendid tiled fireplace insets and oak-veneered bar counter, all dating from the 1930s, have been given a new lease of life. The whole effect is distinctly warm and welcoming, conjuring up exactly what visitors to Britain would imagine a pub to be. Perhaps most impressively, all of the new work has been executed on a shoestring budget, demonstrating that enthusiasm and sensitivity are often far better for old buildings than bulging corporate wallets and planning strategies.”

    Of The Works, the judges said: “Originally an engineering workshop dating back to the end of the nineteenth century, this basic interior has been treated simply but effectively by local architects Hawden Russell. There is no artifice here, nor any fake history, but merely a very individual, multi-functioning building. The whole interior has been brought together visually by the well-chosen historic fittings bought by the owner on ebay. Altogether a good example of what can be done to bring a problem building, which seemed to have no obvious future, back to a highly successful commercial life.

    Joe Goodwin Award for the best street-corner local to be shared between Three Pigeons and Prince of Wales, In herne Bay
    The judges said: “This award in memory of the former CAMRA chair, goes jointly to The Prince of Wales in Herne Bay and the Three Pigeons in Halifax. These two old pubs, which together epitomise the best in traditional pubs, show how updating an old interior need not mean eradicating its unique charm or ignoring local customers favour of imposing a short-lived corporate identity derived from national focus groups. This proves a small budget, wisely and thoughtfully applied, can do wonders.”




    OSSETT TAKES OVER RIVERHEAD
    Dec 2006: Ossett Brewery has taken over The Riverhead in Marsden, but the pub will still be allowed to brew its own beers.

    The Riverhead opened in a former grocer's shop in the centre of the village in 1995 and has a range of bitters, milds, porters and stouts, named after reservoirs. It's strangely been excluded from the Good Beer Guide for the last two years.

    Ossett, which owns eight pubs in west Yorkshire, will sell its own beers in The Riverhead alongside existing brews.

    Info: Hudds Examiner. Pic: Riverhead website

    STATION TO OPEN TIL 3?
    Dec 2006: Good Beer Guide pub The Station Tavern, in Huddersfield, wants to open until 3am.

    The pub, which is sited in the train station and was a former
    station licensed refreshment room, would open from 9am with cafe facilities, if its application is successful. At present it usually closes at 11pm even at weekends.

    It would also change its name to the Kings Head.

    The Station's ale is spot-on and the staff are friendly and most of the customers are too, although there's a few ageing hard men in there.

    ANVIL'S THE BEST IN THE PREMIERSHIP
    Oct 2006: Readers of the excellent Football and Real Ale Guides have voted the Anvil in Wigan as the best pub in the Premiership.

    Fans of each division chose their favourites pubs in the guides, with the Bridge Beir Huis, in Burnley the Championship winner and the Fighting Cock in Bradford top of Division One. The Birbeck Tavern in Leyton is the Division Two winner.

    The Anvil and Fighting Cock are both excellent pubs and both good places to watch the rugby league as well.

    The best real ale towns/cities per division were Newcastle, Derby, Nottingham and Peterborough.

    Stedders, author of the guides, has come up with a brilliant but simple idea - four books covering teams in the four divisions with five real ale pubs per town/city. Attractively designed and well-written.

    Picture from website www.footballandrealaleguide.co.uk


    CAMRA PUBS OF THE YEAR
    Oct 2006: Every year Camra asks its 16 regional branches to choose its pubs of the year and Yorkshire pub of the year is the great West Riding Refreshment Rooms, in Dewsbury train station.

    Vale Cottage, in Gorton was voted best pub in Greater Manchester; Wasdale Head Inn, Wasdale Head, Cumbria is best in the north west, and the Bhurtpore Arms, in Aston, Cheshire is best in Merseyside and North Wales.

    They'll all find out if they're national pub of the year early next year.
    Feb 2007: Dewsbury into last four, up against Failford Inn, in South Ayrshire, The Dove Street Inn, Ipswich and the Tom Cobley Tavern, Spreyton, Devon. And the winner is...sadly the Tom Cobley, West Riding is runner-up.


    BOWLING GREEN- R.I.P.
    September 2006: One of Britain's greatest and most unusual pubs has closed and, after fears it could be converted into flats, it is to become a Wetherspoon's.


    The Bowling Green, in Otley, always had a great selection of real ales, but what made it special was the paraphanalia/junk which crammed the pub - stuffed snarling badgers, gas masks and a skeleton were among the 3,500 items inside. Customers even brought their own unusual items and left them in the pub.

    The landlord, Trevor, was a rather forbidding character with his big hat, bushy beard and unblinking stare. It looked like you had to pull a thorn from his paw to get on with him.

    Last year, he got planning permission for a flat conversion but regulars were expecting him to leave in a few years. Instead, they only got a few days' notice and the pub shut at the end of August. It says "Closed for refurbishment" on the door and Trevor told the Wharfedale and Airedale Observer he isn't allowed to say what the new developers will do exactly. (It later transpired that Wetherspoon's have bought it)

    The 61-year-old is retiring after 40 years in the pub trade. He's been running the Bowling Green with his partner Judith for 25 years.

    Wetherspoon's are likely to keep the name but will be serving food, converting outbuildings to extend the pub and opening til 1am. In a way it's a mixed blessing, as Trevor himself says in the Wharfedale and Airedale Observer, other pubs are terrified of Wetherspoon's.

    The landlord of Otley's Black Swan apear to confirm these fears saying the cheap drink will attract trouble-making "outsiders" and added: "In my experience some Otley folk don't take too kindly to people from places like Guiseley coming in to drink. It is a recipe for disaster."

    There'll be no snarling badgers or any other stuff in the pub. Trevor had auction for all the unusual artefacts on September 23 which attracted hundreds of people.

    A ten foot long crocodile sold for £700, a wild boar's head for £240 and a coffin, complete with skeleton, went to start a new life as a filming prop while various stuffed foxes picked up anything between £30 and £50.

    Why was the pub filled with paraphanalia? Apparently people started bringing various objects when the pub's DJ had an unusual objects competition.

    And, as you can see from the comment below, the stuffed badger sparked a great chat-up line when my mate asked two women in the pub who would win in a fight between a badger and an otter.

    Picture: Leeds Camra

    HUDDS' NEW REAL ALE PUB
    June 2006: The Grove, a corner pub on the outskirts of the town centre, has reopened as a real ale boozer.

    I'd never been in before, it always looked slightly ropey, but it's a handsome enough building with traditional Hudds yellow brick and big bay windows. The new landlord has added some hanging baskets.

    He says he hasn't changed the two-bar structure inside but changed everything else and he's done a grand job with big sturdy tables and comfy dining room-type chairs, old fashioned cartoons on the walls and pub paraphanalia on shelves higher up.

    There are eight real ales, including two Timmy Taylors, four obscure continental lagers and two real ciders on draught plus plenty of bottles.

    The beer is in good order. On first visit it was a bit warm but now it's up to Rat/Star standard. The Grove is handy for these pubs as it's diagonally opposite the bus station on the other side of the ring road.

    No food, no TV, no music, late opening. Worth a visit.


    ALBERT REVIVAL!
    April 2006: The Albert pub has reopened after suddenly closing in January and looks.....exactly the same!

    Well the ceiling looks different - corkboard colour - and everywhere's been painted but the layout, furniture and - most importantly - the glass and wood partitions are still in place.

    When it closed under mysterious circumstances earlier this year there were fears this could all be ripped out and we could have another chrome and creamflow hell.

    The landlord and landlady are from the Railway, in Berry Brow, a Good Beer Guide pub with a splendid Dalmatian.

    For the Albert, they are promising eight ales,jazz night etc.


    FIELDHEAD BLUES
    April 2006: The couple who've made my local such a good place are leaving on Sunday after 10 years.

    Russell and Lorraine Beverley go out on a high as the Fieldhead (in Quarmby near Huddersfield) has been named pub of the season for winter by Huddersfield's branch of the Campaign for Real Ale.

    Russell has been brewing his own Empire range of tasty light bitters over the past couple of years and he's setting up his own brewery in Slaithwaite.

    There've been rumours that Punch Taverns wouldn't allow him to brew his own ales at the Fieldhead - the corporate tossers.


    PROTECTION FOR BRITONS
    March 2006: The licensee of Manchester's Grade 2 listed gem The Britons Protection has denied the pub is being demolished - but there are talks about moving it 15 feet!

    Reports in the Manchester Evening News had suggested it would be demolished to make way for flats/offices with the promise that the pub would be built elsewhere.

    The licensee says it may be moved 15 feet into the space between the pub and Jury's Hotel. Such a move would only take 24 hours apparently. Mmmm...

    The Britons is a beautifully preserved boozer, a narrow bar at the front and two bars at the back full of odd nooks and crannies and wooden panelling to give it a warm, homely feel.

    It would be a disaster to build more yuppie flats and get rid of the buildings and pubs that give Manchester its unique identity - just like they replaced second-hand rummage emporium the Corn Exchange with the antiseptic designer fluff floggers in The Triangle.

    Picture: Camra