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Striding Edges It in Hebden Bridge....

It was the local CAMRA beer festival in Hebden Bridge last weekend, so naturally I went along to check it out along with a number of other special beer-related events that were taking place in the town....

A glass on its own....
I had a frustrating start last Friday. For one reason or another, I got myself behind schedule. Then I discovered that somehow the settings on my phone's camera had gone all weird, so I was faffing about trying to sort them out(which I eventually did). Then I stood watching as I mistakenly thought the incoming train at Halifax station was Huddersfield-bound rather than going through Hebden Bridge (which it was), resulting in a wasted half hour hanging around on the platform till the next train came along. Still, I was able to take advantage of the the sun beating down, belying the fact we were in the dying days of September.

I finally arrived at Hebden Bridge, where I decided to have a quick pint at Vocation and Co. The board behind the bar was dominated by Northern Monk, and it turned out there was a tap takeover by the brewery as part of the Festival weekend. I opted for the Striding Edge on tap, this being a 3.0% light, session IPA featuring Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra hops. It was developed with fell runner Ricky Lightfoot, hence the reference to the world-famous ridge on Helvellyn. And on this form, it was going to take a mighty fine beer to top it.....

Striding Edge: You've climbed the ridge, now drink the beer...
I finished my beer, savouring every last drop, before making my way to the Town Hall, home once again to the Halifax and Calderdale Beer and Cider Festival. The theme this year was 'Up North', meaning that the beers sourced were all north of an imaginary line which brought in North Wales, Derby, Lincolnshire, the north of England and Scotland, although there were some interlopers from the south acquired through beer swaps. So there was a solid mix of beers from Yorkshire and Lancashire, interspersed with the likes of Good Chemistry, Tiny Rebel, and Tenby, from Bristol, Newport, and Tenby respectively.

Late afternoon on a Friday, and the main room was not too busy, although there were plenty of takers for the outside terrace beside the River Hebden. I opted for an opening half of Extra Hopped Session Pale from Leeds brewers, Anthology. It was as it it said on the clip, plenty of zesty, citrus notes. A solid start(NBSS 3). Next up I had a half of Easy NEIPA, a New England IPA with an intense hoppy fruitiness, which I quite enjoyed. This was from the new Darklands brewery in Halifax, the latest residents of the premises in Boothtown formerly occupied by Oates, and subsequently by the likes of Felix and Boothtown. I was pleased to see that Good Chemistry had a beer at the Festival. It was Time Lapse, a 3.8% traditional English bitter but featuring Endeavour and Olicana hops to give an underlying fruitiness. Sadly, it didn't live up to the last time I had had a drink of Good Chemistry, when I was in the Famous Royal Navy Volunteers in Bristol the other week.

I followed up with a half of Rammy Ale from Rammy Craft, based over the hill in Rammy. This was a 4% bitter which, again, was slightly disappointing compared to when I had had it before. However, things took a decided turn for the better when I spotted the Pomona Island Pale on an adjacent barrel. This was their 3.8% Pale, a sessionable beer, complete with notes of zesty lime, orange, and pink grapefruit, plus the benefit of being dry hopped with Citra and Summit. I love Pomona Island beers, as I have said before, and this was one of the best that I tried at the Beer Festival(NBSS 3.5). The upward trajectory continued, with my next half, British Summer, brewed by the ever-reliable Black Iris Brewery, who are now based in Nottingham. This was a single-hopped pale featuring the British Olicana hop, which revealed some melon and passion fruit flavours, together with underlying grassy notes. It was an absolute belter (NBSS 4).

There were then a couple of disappointments. I had a taste of the 5.3% Cascade from new Todmorden brewers, Three Valleys. I didn't like the taste, and it's not that I don't like the Cascade hop! Then finally, I had a half of the 4% Kicker IPA from Wigan Brewery, which I found to be sadly pretty nondescript.

I did though enjoy my visit overall, it was good to catch up with some familiar faces, and sample some good beers, although inevitably there will be some that just don't do it for you. It is always a very friendly festival, and credit to the organisers who put in so much time and effort.

Anthology Extra Hopped Pale (NBSS 3.5)
My next port of call was Drink?, where as ever the atmosphere was very relaxed and convivial. I tried a couple of the beers, both on hand pump, first up was American Dream, a 3.9% pale ale from Top Rope brewery, based in North East Wales, and then Break Even, a 4.8% pale ale which was a collaboration between Kirkstall and Verdant breweries, which was most enjoyable. From there it was on to Calan's, where Nadine and Damian were showcasing unfined beers over the Festival weekend. And I tried a couple of halves, firstly of Exhibitionist, a 5.0% pale from Salopian, and more intriguingly, a half of the legendary Elland 1872 Porter which, in this unfined version, seemed to take on a completely different, somewhat richer, character. And then it was back to Vocation and Co for some more Northern Monk and some delicious tacos - the Baja-Style Fish and Patatas Al Mojo De Aja (potatoes with shallots, garlic, ancho chillies, coriander, and lime) that I had was absolutely delicious. And from there it was a short walk back to the station to get my train back to Halifax....

I had several conversations with friends who had visited the festival in the subsequent day or two about the merits of beer festivals these days. You could argue that they are something of a relic of a bygone era, but there are arguments both for and against, and I think what I wrote within this piece probably best sums up my thoughts overall. But I have to say that the weekend in Hebden Bridge, featuring a number of different events in several different locations made for a compelling reason to visit the town.

And nothing did top the Striding Edge....

Another bridge in Hebden
Twitter: @realalemusic


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