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Beers, Steampunk, and Guitars....

September came along and with it some pretty wet weather, although nothing in comparison to what was wreaked on the Caribbean as hurricane after hurricane have been pummelling the islands and archipelagos.

We have had our share of flooding not that long ago, and whilst there has been nothing on the scale meted out by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, with no loss of life, the impact of the December 2015 floods on towns like Hebden Bridge and others in the Calder Valley affected the community and lots of the businesses there for a long time afterwards.

I visit Hebden regularly, often feature it in my blogs, and once again I visited the place last week, not once but twice. The first time was for a gig at the Trades Club, one of my favourite venues, and the second time I had seen The Rails there, a gig I wrote about a couple of years ago here. They were promoting their new album 'Other People', and very enjoyable it was too, with a drummer and bassist featuring this time as they performed a more electric than acoustic set than before. They mixed the songs up too, dipping into their first album 'Fair Warning', their EP 'Australia', as well as the new album from which the opening track 'The Cally' and the title track stand out. Folk with a modern twist. The support act was Molly Tilston, daughter of Trades Club and folk scene stalwart Steve, and her quirky songs went down well with the local audience.

I was in the car so my drinking was obviously limited, but on my way over to Hebden from work in Greater Manchester, I stopped off at the Robin Hood in the beautiful valley of Cragg Vale, which winds its way up from Mytholmroyd towards Blackstone Edge. It was the first time I had visited it for at least 20 years and I found a bustling, friendly old-fashioned roadside country pub, with local notices pinned up, eggs on sale, and a meeting taking place planning some forthcoming community event. I spotted 4 hand pumps, and I opted for a half of Goose Eye Chinook, which was spot on. A brief visit to a lovely pub.

On the Friday it was the first anniversary of the opening of the Mallinsons' taphouse, The Corner Bar in Huddersfield. I met our Tom and Annie there and we had a most enjoyable time as Sam and Lucy doing the deejay bit entertained us with some great Northern Soul to accompany some excellent beer. The Corner has just deservedly made it into the 2018 Good Beer Guide, and has become a must-visit when in Huddersfield.

I was back to Hebden Bridge on Saturday this time with no car. I got the train and having walked in to town decided to visit the Albert, which I had not visited for a year or town. It likes to call itself the Famous Albert these days, a post-flood serious refurb has turned this former traditional town pub into a very smart and comfortable establishment with beers from the Marstons stable. It is very nicely done out, but once again, a pub that feels it has to address its customers as 'sir' or 'madam'. It's a pub!!!! I did though like the barrel outside the door which had water for our canine friends.

I walked around the corner to Vocation and Co, which had also been guilty on a previous visit of calling me 'Sir'. Not this time, thankfully, and it seems to have settled down it a more down to earth, chilled bar with less of the hipster feel than when I first went in. It is a very friendly place, and I enjoyed an excellent pint of Runaway IPA. To add to your visit, the kitchen is now open, serving tacos which look good, and which a friend of mine tells me are great. 

Next stop was Drink?, which is consistently good these days with a couple of casks, 4 taps, and a big choice of bottles and cans. I bumped into Alex from Vocation Brewery and we had a good natter about beer and his beloved Burnley FC. Martin who owns the bar was telling me that alongside the upcoming Halifax and Calderdale CAMRA Beer Festival, being held at Hebden Bridge Town Hall, in a couple of weeks, a number of the pubs and bars in the town have got together to offer their own version of the festival's War of the Roses theme. So Drink? and the Old Gate, on the Lancashire side of the town's main traffic lights will have beer on tap with a Red Rose connection, whilst Vocation and Nightjar will represent the White Rose. And as there will only be cask beer at the CAMRA festival, it makes for an exciting weekend for beer lovers!

I retreated to Calan's for my final beer of the trip, which was as good as ever, and for the first time, I noticed the blackboard art which accompanies details of each beer. Apparently these are the work of various local artists and others, and certainly make a change from the standard list. The place was busy, not least because there was a Steampunk festival taking place in the town. I checked in on Facebook, and almost immediately received a comment saying "we are on your right". It turned out to be a long-standing Facebook friend, Marianne, along with Anthony. They were attending the festival, which celebrates a genre of science fiction which has a historical setting where steam-powered machinery is imagined rather than advanced technology. Thus much Victorian clothing, with the odd twist, such as a heavy top hat complete with candles that I been invited to try on earlier in the afternoon by its owner. I had a lovely natter with Marianne and Anthony in Calan's before heading off to catch my train back to Brighouse and a final pint at The Commercial/Railway.

Belated congratulations to the Alexandra in Halifax which celebrated its first anniversary recently. With the opening of their new musical venue, The Lantern, approaching fast, things are looking good for Ben, Martin, Sophie and the team. The Alexandra didn't though make it into the new Good Beer Guide, but two of the other new bars in town, the Grayston Unity and The Pump Room did, so congratulations to both of them, which alongside the Alexandra, the Victorian Craft Beer Cafe, and the Square Chapel Cafe Bar for helping make Halifax a top destination for beer.

Another new entrant to the Beer Guide is the Market Tavern in Brighouse. This is richly-deserved, this friendly little micro has transformed the drinking scene in the town. Congratulations to Snap, Debs, and Adam. If you have been in recently you may well have noticed they have a new member of staff behind the bar at certain times. This is none other than award-winning blues guitarist and singer, Chantel McGregor, who has joined the team. Now Chantel loves her beer, especially Titanic Plum Porter, and over the years I have bumped into her and her dad, Alan, on several occasions at decent ale pubs in the area. Along with mum, Janet, they have become regulars when gigs permit at the Market Tavern, drawn by the excellent beer and friendly atmosphere. Chantel and her band are playing the Halifax Playhouse tomorrow (Saturday 23rd) as part of her latest tour, and I am looking forward to a superb evening's music. As I write this there are still some tickets left, so if you are in the area, why not pop along?

So another busy couple of weeks, and lots more to follow....

Halifax & Calderdale CAMRA Beer Festival runs from Thursday 28th to Saturday 30th September at the Town Hall, St George's Street, Hebden Bridge, HX7 7BY

Chantel McGregor is currently touring the UK and Europe, finishing at the Brudenell, Leeds on December 16th. For details visit www.chantelmcgregor.com

Blackboard art at Calan's, Hebden Bridge










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