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A Little Bit of Magic....

After a gap of around two and a half years, I returned last weekend to one of the most influential breweries in the country. Magic Rock, situated around 10 minutes walk from Huddersfield town centre, has become a very popular destination for local drinkers as well as those from further afield. When the tap first opened, it was only for a few hours a couple of times a week, but these days is open every day except Monday, such is its popularity.

I had caught the train from Brighouse, and then broke my journey to Magic Rock with a pint at the Sportsman, sitting at a table beneath a photo of local hero and ex-Starship Enterprise captain Sir Patrick Stewart....

From there, it was a few minutes' walk to Magic Rock, situated on the corner of Willow Lane, opposite the church of St John the Evangelist with its impressive tower. I walked around the corner and into the yard in front of the brewery, and round the back is another long yard with plenty of tables both open and covered, with a stall selling food. The entrance to the tap is at the far end, with the bar in a room ahead of you. The brewery can be seen through windows opposite the bar itself. The walls are decorated with murals in the Magic Rock graphics. Music is pumping through the speakers. Beers on offer are predominantly tap, but there were three hand pumps serving cask including the ever-popular Ringmaster. It is to Magic Rock's credit that unlike many of their similarly craft-led peers like Cloudwater, Beavertown, and Buxton they haven't completely or nearly abandoned cask ale. Indeed, a year or two ago they introduced a traditional-style bitter called Hat Trick in honour of their near neighbours, Huddersfield Town, which was also on offer this afternoon.
Magic Rock...the way to go
I started off with a pint of the Session IPA, very refreshing at 3.9%, which I took outside and enjoyed sat on a bench in the very welcome April sunshine. I followed that with a pint of the wonderfully refreshing Salty Kiss, a 4.1% gose-style beer flavoured with gooseberries, sea buckthorn, and sea salt which gives it a fruity sourness and a salty finish. I used to think 'gose' referred to a beer brewed with gooseberries, but it is in fact derived from the name of the German town, Goslar, where the style was first brewed. Back on my bench in the sun it just hit the spot. Finally, I had a pint of the 4.6% Rapture, with its mix of different malts and hops delivering citrus notes with an underlying maltiness, and tucked in to a delicious toasted pastrami sandwich from the food stall.

Down the road, the Terriers had claimed a late winner against Watford in their fight against relegation from the Premier League, and the already busy crowd at Magic Rock began to be swelled by a healthy number of fans of both teams. I finished my pint and walked back to the town centre, having enjoyed my visit to Magic Rock. I love visiting breweries, there is something special in knowing that the beer you are drinking has been brewed only a few yards away from where you are.

Murals and Ducting...the bar room at Magic Rock
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And now a few other bits. I was fascinated by the story last week that a monastery in Leicestershire has become the 12th Trappist brewery in the world, and the first in the UK. It is the Mount St Bernard Abbey, based in Coalville. They are aiming to marry the traditions of the Continental Trappist brewers with the best of traditional British brewing. Trappist beers have to be brewed within or in the vicinity of the monastery and in accordance with the the rules and direction of the community, and most are in Belgium and the Netherlands. Most Trappist beers are top-fermented, unpasteurised, and bottle-conditioned, and using a 20 hectolitre kit, the monks of Coalville are planning an as yet unnamed bottled beer with an ABV of 7.4% which will be sold nationally via a distributor and at the shop on site. So, another strand to the exciting and creative brewing scene we have at the moment in this country.

I was amused to see this week that Tim Martin, the maverick boss of JD Wetherspoon has announced that the group are pulling out of using social media. Whilst there have been lots of concerns expressed recently about personal data being used and manipulated in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica and other scandals, it is surely a retrograde step in these days where most of their customers are constantly on their phones. Indeed, Spoons themselves have an app which enables customers to order food and drinks as they sit at their table, and have it brought to them, which often means that those who have been queuing quietly at the bar are kept waiting. So it does seem a case of muddled thinking by Mr Martin, who rivals Humphrey Smith for the title of the drinks industry's most eccentric figure.

And finally, as a change to the usual post-match routine, following Halifax Town's 2-0 home defeat yesterday to Tranmere Rovers in their final home match of the season, my mate Nigel and I walked up to the Cross Keys at Siddal. It was a lovely sunny evening, and despite the joys of hay fever threatening to spoil things, we had some excellent beer in the form of Moonshine and a North Riding Pale. Both beers were in superb condition, and it was good to catch up with landlord Hugh, my mate Steve, and some of the friendly locals. The Keys is, as I have said many times, an excellent community local, and always worth a visit.

Until the next time....

The Cross Keys, Siddal....


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