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The Best Music of 2018....

It has been another great year for music. Here's my review of the year's best, plus a few memories of some of the musicians who sadly left us this year....
Whilst 2018 probably didn't have any real stand out albums and tunes that were head and shoulders above the rest compared to some years, the overall standard has been very high across so many genres. Picking just 10 albums that were the best didn't I think reflect the quality of music around, so I upped it to 12 (which I have done before, and in any case I make the rules!). And then picking just one album that stands out has been very difficult. Ask me tomorrow and it may be different! Individual tunes were a bit easier, but even then, I slipped back into DJ-mode to some extent and listed what I felt would sound good when played next.

I saw some excellent live music, both free in the pubs and bars around Halifax and Calderdale and the odd one in Newcastle, and ones I paid for mainly at favourite spots like the Brude…

Real Ale, Real Music's Golden Pints, 2018....

It seems customary these days to give your end of year review of all things beer and pub-related a title involving 'Golden Pints'. So in a shameless lack of originality, here are my thoughts on whether it has been, to almost quote Elvis Costello, a good year for the goses (other beer styles are available)....


I have drunk some mighty fine beer in some mighty fine pubs and bars over the past 12 months. From Canterbury to Cumbria, from Bristol to the Borders, I have roamed the land, often blogging about it, sometimes not, and have met some lovely, interesting people along the way. I have drunk cask, I have drunk craft, out of glasses, and out of cans. And to pick the best out of it all and fit it into a few hundred words is an impossible task (Well, you decided to do it! - Ed).

So, here are a few highlights....

The Beers
Maybe it's because I'm more discerning these days, and maybe it's because I embrace craft with the same enthusiasm as I do cask, but I honestly think…

The Day the Loner Boogie Came to Town....

An evening last weekend in Huddersfield with some excellent beer and two gigs....
The beer in the Sportsman was spot on.

I was in sat in this popular Huddersfield pub with our Tom. We had got tickets to see Cardiff band Boy Azooga who were performing later in the evening at the Parish, but, needing also to eat, we had first gone for a pint whilst we decided what we fancied. I ordered a pint of Bravo from the always-reliable North Riding whilst our Tom opted for a pint of Imposter Infiltrator from the ever-improving Wilde Child Brewing Company from Leeds. We grabbed our pints and headed for the cosy little room to the right of the bar. I posted the picture above on Twitter, and 2 minutes later one of my followers responded and asked if it was the place where they had the buttons on the wall that people used to use to call for table service. I replied...
The fire was lit, the place was not too busy, and we couldn't decide what we wanted to eat. Mexican? Indian? The Bravo was spot on…

Holiday Destination....

I was in Manchester last weekend, my first visit for a month or two, which gave me the chance to check out the odd new place and visit a few old favourites....
I had been looking forward to going to Manchester for a few weeks, ever since I had booked a ticket to see Nadine Shah at the Ritz. I booked my usual hotel, and was taking the following day off to do some what to me is Christmas Shopping - although admittedly others may find the heavy bias towards trawling around music and book shops, with regular 'refreshment' breaks - slightly unconventional!

So, when I got up on Sunday morning it was disappointing to find a message from a friend asking if I had heard that Nadine Shah had had to cancel her tour, I was naturally disappointed to hear this, as I had had the pleasure of meeting Nadine at the Grayston Unity at the end of this year's Independent Venue Week. It turned out that family circumstances had led to her needing to return to her native North East.

Still, I had th…

Happenings In The Valley....

I made my first visit to Todmorden for 18 months last weekend to visit the latest micro pub to open in the town. Meanwhile, further down the valley, there was some great music to be heard in Halifax and Hebden Bridge....
I had overlooked the fact that a second micro pub had opened in Todmorden during the summer, but I decided to rectify that last weekend when I was in the area to see Brix and The Extricated at the Hebden Bridge Trades Club on Saturday night.

After a quick visit to the Grayston Unity, I got the bus from Halifax to Todmorden. Unlike my last visit up the Calder Valley a few weeks ago, when severe roadworks in Mytholmroyd took the edge off my entire evening, the traffic seemed to be moving better, and it didn't seem that long before I was getting off the bus at Todmorden Bus Station. About 5 minutes walk away on the Burnley Road is the Ale House, situated in a row of shops and takeaways. It was originally a shop, and more recently, a restaurant, but when she couldn…

Clouding The Waters....

It doesn't seem five minutes since Cloudwater appeared to have turned their back on cask ale, but last week saw a welcome return to beer via hand pump from the influential Manchester brewery. Here's my thoughts....
It was back in January, 2017 when news broke that Cloudwater announced that they were abandoning the production of cask beer, citing the cost, limited financial return, and concern about how it was often kept in the cellar and served to the customer, and that henceforth their innovative and contemporary beers would only be available on tap and in can. But last week, just over 18 months later, they announced that Cloudwater cask would be available once again in selected outlets. And locally, the Sportsman in Huddersfield announced they would be having a night launching the beers on Tuesday, 13th November. So naturally, I went along for a nosey....

Four beers were being offered. Pale, a delicious easy drinking 4% session ale with tropical fruit overtones and underlyin…

Wise Up to Morecambe....

It was the 1st Round of the FA Cup, and the draw enabled us to pay a visit to a town which gave its name to its most famous son....

"Morecambe...will play...Halifax Town...."

That's how the FA Cup Draw came out, and so it gave us a welcome opportunity to visit a relatively local, Northern side, in a season dominated by infeasibly long away trips to far-flung Southern-based teams.

I hadn't been to Morecambe for at least 35 years, back when a gang of us from the NEGAS Sports and Social Club at Tingley went for a day out at the resort. We certainly weren't the first visitors to arrive in the town from Yorkshire; ever since the railway connection from there was completed in the mid-19th Century, Morecambe had been a popular destination for residents of the West Riding. For a time the resort attracted more visitors from the county than Blackpool, its more famous rival down the Lancashire coast, so much so that it earned itself the sobriquet 'Bradford-on-Sea'. …

New Bar Raises Interest in Elland....

An exciting new venture opened this week in the West Yorkshire market town of Elland, so naturally I went along to have a look. Here's what I discovered....

It had been a long time since I had enjoyed a teatime pint in Elland.

Way back, in fact, to the days when I lived in the town and used to frequent the Barge and Barrel, which was at the time one of the top pubs in the area, although now apparently up for sale after years of dwindling sales. And so on Friday, when I called in at Elland Craft & Tap, it must have been the first time I had enjoyed an early evening pint in the town for almost 20 years.

Anticipation had been building locally for a few months, ever since a planning application was lodged by Elland Brewery with Calderdale Council for a new bar in a former building society branch on Southgate. With Elland having lost so many of its pubs over the years, not surprisingly there was overwhelming support for the bar amongst the townspeople, with only one objection. And …