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IndyFax 2018: Hitting the Heights....

A brilliant weekend in Halifax, as the Indyfax Festival and some quality music give the town an August Bank Holiday to remember....


The Victorian Craft Beer Cafe
The IndyFax festival was born a year or two ago at the Victorian Craft Beer Cafe in Halifax, but over the past couple of years has also embraced several of the other new bars that have opened in town - The Grayston Unity, Pump Room, and the Alexandra/Lantern. And from Thursday 23rd until Bank Holiday Monday there were some fantastic beers and special events in these venues and beyond.

I had my first visit on the Friday, when I popped into the Grayston before wandering down to Square Chapel to see This Is The Kit. Now Square wasn't actually part of the event, but as usual they had some pretty decent beer on, I managed to sample a nice Little Rock IPA from Harbour, and the best beer I have ever had from Seven Brothers, a fruity beer called Peach, which was delicious. This Is The Kit were very good, probably slightly better than when I had seen them earlier in the year at the Brudenell in Leeds. It was the first time I had been at a standing gig there, but it worked very well, I managed to get to the front, and enjoyed the tracks they played from their superb 'Moonshine Freeze' album, plus a few other songs. What a great way to start the weekend.

On my way back for the bus I called in at the Pump Room, where they were having a Magic Rock tap takeover. Here I had a great pint of Rapture and caught up with a few old friends. The Pump Room has just celebrated its 2nd anniversary, and now features 6 hand pumps and several taps, with an additional downstairs bar which opens when there are special events. With its location next to the bus station, it is an ideal meeting place at the start or finish of a tour around the town, but it also has a loyal core of regulars drawn to this comfortable and friendly micro pub.

Day 2, and I decided to visit the original location of the Indyfax. The Victorian was quite busy when I got there, but I managed to find a seat at the end of the main bar. There were plenty of interesting beers on both the cask and tap listings as there usually is. I opted for a Zero Zero from Bristol brewing heroes, Arbor. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the best beer I have had all year. A 4.3% unfined New England IPA, packed with Citra and Mosaic hops to give a fruity punchiness. An absolute stunner of a beer, so good that I had to take a picture....
Beer of the Year: Arbor Zero Zero
The Victorian is a serial award-winner, and has recently been voted runner up in the Yorkshire Pub of the Year competition  to go alongside the 2018 Halifax and Calderdale CAMRA Pub of the Year title gained earlier in the year. It has played no small part in inspiring the revival of Halifax town centre over the past couple of years, which led to the town being described as 'the Shoreditch of the North'. In fact, the Shoreditch reference was featured in the eye-catching artwork designed by Sam, who also works behind the bar, which featured on the posters and t-shirts which promoted this year's IndyFax. The bar was opened in 2014 by owner Simon, who leads a team of friendly and knowledgeable staff who are only too keen to talk about the beers and make recommendations. It is a comfortable, relaxed place, and whilst it doesn't do food on a regular basis, it does feature pop-up street food from time to time. Simon's wife, Pang, is from Thailand, and on this occasion, Thai food was featured, which by all accounts was excellent. A visit to the Victorian will not disappoint.

It was time to move on, and I decided to pay a visit to the nearby Alexandra. It was the first time I had been for a while and they had just opened their new cocktail lounge, which is accessed from the upstairs room which runs above the former Shelter shop. I don't do cocktails, so I grabbed a beer from downstairs and went up to have a look. It was quite busy, and I have to say I liked the relaxed ambience of the place, with mood lighting and chilled music. Behind the bar, Sophie and Finn were mixing it up, and the cocktails seemed to be going down a storm.

I headed next door to the Lantern, where I spotted a poster advertising Lee Bains lll and the Glory Fires the following Saturday. Now their album 'Youth Detention' was one of my top 10 albums of 2017, but I have never heard anybody else mention them, so hopefully this will help get them deservedly better known in this country. So guess where I'll be heading that day....

The following day, it was the Grayston Unity's turn. They were having a number of bands on over the course of the day, culminating with the Blue Orchids, led by ex-Fall member Martin Bramah, who featured on their first album, the legendary 'Live At The Witch Trials'. I arrived at the Grayston as local band The Tragics were playing, and I liked what I heard. I also enjoyed what I heard of the next band, Fez, before we decided to head over to the Victorian for an hour. We returned to the Grayston just as the Blue Orchids were setting up. Despite the rain, there was a large crowd there to watch, and I think that each and everyone of them will have had a great time. The Blue Orchids were stunning, the best live music I have seen at the Grayston, and I can't wait to see them play again. The beer flowed, so much that when I went in the following lunchtime for a pre-football pint, owner Michael said he'd had to get an emergency barrel from another pub, and there was disappointment for my cider-drinking mate as they had also run out of draught cider! A few of us discussed the previous evening's music and events, it was that kind of special night that will linger long in the memory of those who were there.

Bring on Indyfax 2019....

Mixing it up at the Alexandra, Indyfax 2018




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