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Real Music and Real Ale

Live music and good ale have always gone well together. Many of you will remember that wonderful former CAMRA-owned pub, the Eagle, on North Street, Leeds. When I first moved for my job to Leeds in the late 70’s, it was there that I wandered, new to the city and knowing no one and immediately felt at home. Sunday nights was folk night, a band called Aiken’s Drum held sway with traditional stuff, their enjoyment enhanced by a variety of superb ales of the time, plus, of course, the legendary Kebab Man. Close by, there were classic pubs like the Roscoe, the Regent and the White Stag, where Irish music was the order of the day, lubricated by pints of superb Tetleys’ Bitter, plus Guinness, of course.

Those days have since always encouraged me to seek out real ale pubs with good live music. And, in my experience, 9 times out of 10, the best live music is to be found in pubs with a good selection of traditional beer.

Many songs over the years have extolled the pleasures of drinking, be it traditional folk music, country, indie or rock, and to me the two, as part of our culture, go hand in hand. Bands like the Dubliners made a career out of it, whilst country artists have often dwelt on the perils of overdoing it in songs like Loretta Lynn’s wonderfully titled ‘Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’(with Lovin’ On Your Mind)’.

But, returning specifically to real ale, a more recent phenomenon is musicians getting involved in producing the stuff. Recently both the band Elbow, and Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden have teamed up with Robinsons of Stockport to produce their own beers – indeed, Bruce’s beer, a 4.8% premium bitter, ‘The Trooper’, has been so successful that Robbie’s have experienced a significant surge in sales across their estate in those pubs that stock it, and as a result it has become a cornerstone of their range.

So, what is it that draws musicians to real ale? I’m not entirely sure, maybe it’s the fact that musicians and brewers are both essentially inventive souls, the brew and the song the results of their creativity or interpretation, and in the beer world, in my view, that normally means the peak of that creativity is real ale, either on cask or tap.

Switching back to sunnier times, one of the best days I had in the summer of 2013 was at the Beer and Blues Festival at the Cock of the North, Hipperholme, where alongside the superb Halifax Steam beers, there were a number of great bands, headlined by Brighouse’s very own Blood, Sweat and Beers, excellent  musicians and real ale lovers.

Beer and music are, of course, both very personal tastes. Not everyone will like the same pint, or the same music. However, once the magic clicks in, a good beer – maybe not one you’d normally drink – and some good live music – maybe not what you’d normally listen to – and you’re on the way to a great time.

Cheers, keep on rockin’ in the free world....

Real music and real ale: The Cumberland Arms, Byker, Newcastle

*This is an an adapted version of an article I wrote for 'Calder Cask', the former magazine of the Halifax and Calderdale branch of CAMRA. It sort of reflects my philosophy and the themes I will be returning to in these blogs. Hope you enjoy! 

Follow me on twitter/X: @realalemusic


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