Skip to main content

Not A Dry January....

As we approach the end of January, I look back over a month that has brought much misery to so many people. Yes, January is never top of the list when it comes to naming your favourite month, even amongst those of us that have our birthdays in it. Many decide to abstain from food, drink, socialising, pleasure in general - but this year, in the Calder Valley and in many other areas, this particular one has been a shocker.

Just before Christmas, I had gone to Hebden Bridge with our Tom and Annie for a wander around and the odd beer. The town was buzzing and twinkling with pre-Christmas atmosphere and anticipation.

We tried the town's latest latest micropub, Drink, set in an off licence and bottle shop, with Bridestones Brewery much in evidence. We then moved on to the local co-operatively-owned pub, the Fox and Goose. Then it was on to The Old Gate, where as usual it was pretty busy, beer as good as ever, then on the the town's original micro, Calan's, where our Tom enthusiastically discussed beers and cellarmanship with mine host Alan. We had another pint, and after a lovely hour or more, we headed off to catch our train.

Just over a week later, on New Years Day, I returned to Hebden. A week when flooding had wreaked havoc on the town, and others in the Calder Valley, and beyond. I walked from the station through the park, and on the other side of the canal I noticed tables and chairs piled high outside a restaurant. I looked down at the river, which was full of assorted junk, and along the sides the trees were adorned with all sorts of strange leaves.

I crossed over the bridge and headed up the canal bank towards the Stubbing Wharf. I only managed to get part of the way as the canal bank was fenced off, so I headed away and came out by the Co-op. It was shut, a large wagon with a generator was chugging away in the car park. A large window was boarded over, the cashpoint our Tom had used only last week was taped over. I turned left and headed up the road to the Fox and Goose. It was open, too high up for the flood waters to reach. The talk in the pub was all about the floods, who and what had been affected, phone calls to insurance companies. All very sad.

I headed back towards the town. The walk along the main street was depressing. The bright and full shops of last week were virtually all shut. There were skips, discarded furniture, and sandbags on the street. The odd shop had lights on as people were cleaning up and making repairs. There was an eerie feeling about the place. Drink, where we had been last week, was shut, as was the Old Gate. Calan's was open, but only to sell off beer that had been salvaged before it too succumbed to the impact of the flooding and closed for repairs. I had a couple of pints of Titanic Plum Porter in what, despite the general gloom around the place, was a pretty cheerful atmosphere.

A week later, at The Beck, in Brighouse, some of the musicians of the area got together at Floodstock to raise some money to help the flood victims. Roger Davies, The Rainey Street Band, Ryan Spendlove, JP Totham, Blood, Sweat, and Beers - they all gave their services for free, the event was packed, and we punters enjoyed some brilliant music from some fantastic artists. And this was only one event; there have been many others across the area in the last few weeks to support the affected communities.

And after the floods we've had further sobering moments. Elland subsequently suffered collapse of the town's bridge, meaning that the town was split in two. For the pub near the bridge, on the opposite side of the main town, there have been further blows. The Barge and Barrel suffered flooding, meaning the beer festival scheduled for the end of the month was cancelled. Then, there was the shock news that much-loved local character, Paul 'Smurf' Firth, father of current landlord, Andrew, had passed away after helping the clean-up after the floods. I will always remember those teatimes when he worked there years ago when everyone was 'matey' and the atmosphere he created was superb. I then heard more bad news, Ken Williamson, one of the 'gang of four' who set up the long lost West Riding Brewery and was a former landlord of the Barge, had passed away after being ill for a number of years. And only last week, my old friend Allan Davies, known to many at the Barge as 'Quiz Allan', died suddenly, only a few weeks after being flooded out of his home along the road next to The Colliers Arms, which had itself succumbed to the floods the last time around.

So not a good month, particularly with the deaths of David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Dale Griffin, Colin Vearncombe, and others added in....

Moving on briefly, my birthday earlier in the month saw a gang of us head up to Sowerby Bridge for a few beers. We visited some great places such as the Jubilee Refreshment Rooms, the newly-opened Hogshead - which was several of the group's favourite of the day - the Works, and the Firehouse, opening for the first time after the floods. I had an enjoyable trip with some friends to Manchester last weekend, where we visited the beer festival at the Micro Bar in the Arndale Centre and then the Manchester Beer Festival at what I still call G-Mex, some superb beers on offer at both. And then I have made a couple of visits to the excellent Cross Keys at Siddal, on the fringes of Halifax, which is near where our Tom and Annie live. This is a real community pub, where everyone is greeted as a friend, and where great beer and conversation rule. Last night landlord Hugh introduced me to Snap, who is due to open Brighouse's first micro pub within the next few weeks. This should be a welcome addition to the local town centre where, since the Old Ship lost its way, there has been no place there that acts as a real local's pub where conversation rather than karaoke holds sway. Millers, the Commercial, and The Beck all do a great job in different ways but they are all spread out and away from the town centre.

But, generally, as we head into February, this is one month many people will be glad to see the back of....

In the meantime, though, you just keep on rockin' in the free world....


Happy customers at the Manchester Beer Festival




















Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Town That Thinks It's A Village....

My time has been a bit limited recently for venturing too far afield, so last weekend I made the short journey to Elland to check out a few of the town's pubs and bars. Here's what I found.... Elland is a small market town in West Yorkshire, located between Halifax and Huddersfield beside the River Calder. It goes back a bit, being recorded as Elant in the Domesday Book of 1086, and over the centuries the town grew as a result of the woollen industry, with the town becoming home to several large mills. The coming of the Aire and Calder Navigation and the railways further helped the growth of the town. The subsequent decline of the woollen industry in the town meant that there were a number of empty mills left standing, and those that didn't burn down were put to other use, such as the home of Gannex, the now-defunct textile company whose raincoats were worn by the rich and famous, including former Prime Minister Harold Wilson. More recently, several mills have been converte

First Trip to The County....

The County in Huddersfield has just been taken over by the Beerhouses Group, whose other pubs include the West Riding Refreshment Rooms in Dewsbury, the Buffet Bar in Stalybridge, and the Sportsman, also in Huddersfield. So one evening last week I went over to check it out and look in on a number of other places in the town.... The County is situated in a quiet area of Huddersfield, just off the precinct below Wilkinsons and opposite one side of the town hall. It is one of those places that has never been on the real ale circuit and has just quietly seemed to have got on with its own business over the years. I had certainly never been in it before and so I had absolutely no pre-conceptions of what to expect when I visited. The County is blessed with a narrow frontage at the end of a solid row of buildings on a slightly sloping street. The Beerhouses livery is on the signage, with freshly-painted white steps, and an old John Smiths lamp by the door and the Magnet design etched in the wi

New Team Breathing Fire Into Elland Brewery....

I paid a visit to Elland Brewery recently to meet the new team there who are aiming to build on the brewery's heritage and develop the business. Based in the West Yorkshire town of the same name, here's what I found..... There is a buzz about Elland Brewery these days. That was evident when I called in to see the team recently to find out some of their ideas for moving the brewery forward over the coming months and beyond. The brewery, much loved both in the local area and beyond, had been the subject of speculation over recent months as added to the fact that the erstwhile owners had gone their separate ways, other members of the team had left, consequently setting off rumours about the business's future.  The roots of Elland Brewery can be traced back to the Barge and Barrel pub, across town by the side of the canal. In the 1990's a brewery had been set up by the avuncular John Eastwood in the former children's playroom, where he developed beers such as Nettle Thr