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Tales from the North Riding....

An evening with a brewery that's riding high....

Scarborough has always had its fair share of decent pubs, built to cater for the hordes who descended on the town from the West Riding and beyond, but increasingly beers from one of the town's breweries have been making waves and gaining rave reviews in pubs and bars up and down the country. These are from the North Riding Brewery, which started life in the back of the North Riding pub just a cricket ball's throw from the Scarborough cricket ground on North Marine Drive. Brewing still takes place at the pub, but in 2015 a new brewery with a 10 barrel plant was built to cater for growing demand and interest. The beers have increasingly been on the bar in some of my favourite pubs, and when I saw that there was a Meet the Brewer night coming up at one of them, I made sure I got myself a ticket.

And so the other evening, I and another 20 or so gathered in the magnificent former Ladies First Class Waiting Room at the Stalybridge Buffet Bar to meet Stuart and Colin from North Riding. Stuart gave us a very entertaining talk on how they got started and how it has developed, the amazing variety of hops at their disposal, and the art of brewing great beer. I remarked that their profile seems to have grown remarkably over the past couple of years, and asked what they put it down to. It turns out they haven't done anything particularly, it is simply down to the word spreading, and whereas at one time they used to approach pubs to take the beers, now people approach them. Intriguingly, as so many brewers are turning some of their production, North Riding are resolutely behind cask, with 98% of their production in that form. Stuart said he didn't rule out producing some keg at some point in the future, but couldn't justify spending money on the required equipment at the moment.

As Stuart and Colin talked to us, we were served 6 thirds of the beers, and to soak it up we were served a delicious platter of home-cooked food. The beers we sampled were a US Session Pale, Mosaic Pale - one of my favourites - a Waimea Pale, an intriguing Sorachi Stout, a delicious Mocha Porter, and a Fudge Brownie Stout, an absolute heavyweight tipping the scales at 7.4%. What struck me was the sheer variety of different styles and flavours they represented, each of the beers was excellent.

It was a very convivial evening, with much good conversation and beer-related discussion. I said to Stuart, who I had meet a few years ago at the North Riding pub, that I would try and get over to Scarborough at some point this year, having not visited for a while following the frustrations of a two day sea fret on my last visit, and heavy rain washing out the cricket on the previous one!

It was time to get the train back home. Stuart and Colin were on the same one, reliant on an increasingly shrinking time window in which to catch the last train from York to Scarborough as the the 9.25 was running late. As I baled out at Huddersfield, they had about 4 minutes to make their connection, but apparently they made it with 3 minutes to spare!

It had been a great evening, many thanks to Stuart and Colin, and thanks to Caz for organising.

An audience, with a brewer....

Colin and Stuart from North Riding
I was in Manchester last weekend, and managed to visit a few favourites such as the Marble Arch, the Smithfield, and Cafe Beermoth. I also made the trek out to the Eagle, tucked away on the middle of some huge building projects bordering Chapel Street in Salford. The Eagle is a marvellous old pub, with a classic interior, a timeless friendly old pub. It serves Holts beers, of which the bitter, whilst very bland in comparison to the days when it was that bitter it would take the enamel off your teeth, was most pleasant. It is on Collier Street, in the middle of a warren of streets, and isn't the easiest of places to find, but in reality is only a short hop from Trinity Way.

The Eagle, Collier Street, Salford
One place I didn't visit was Pie and Ale on Lever Street, which sadly a few days ago had closed, along with sister company Bakerie, with the loss of 33 jobs. I came to quite like the place and I hope all affected get sorted out soon. And talking of closures, sadly it has been announced that the Hard Knott brewery, situated in deepest Cumbria, is to close this year, a sad day for what was once one of the rising stars of the brewing scene. My friend and blogger Mark Johnson has written an excellent piece about this and the state of the brewing industry here.

And finally, I had gone to Manchester to see the brilliant Field Music at Gorilla. It was an excellent gig, and if you haven't heard anything by them they are well worth seeking out. And here's a track, this is Count it Up....


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