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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....
The Cloudwater squad line up at The Sportsman....
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 underlying malt, DDH Pale, weighing at 5.5%, with citrus flavours and resinous hop notes, and a couple of darker beers, a 4.6% Brown Ale, featuring several different malts lightly hopped with Ekuanot, and, with an ABV of 5.3%, Indian Porter, featuring a complex malt underlay with chocolate, coffee, and roasted flavours offset by a tropical and resin hoppiness to give a well-balanced interpretation of a most traditional style of beer.

So, why the change of approach? It seems that from reading the blog on their website, they felt that in making their decision to move way from cask, they had cut themselves out of the conversation about where it could be taken. Cask is an important part of our heritage, the writer says, and they want to make a direct contribution to its development. The team themselves have continued drinking cask, and so took the decision that, in line with their seasonal approach to brewing, they would brew 6-12 batches of cask beer(between 6-16% of their output) over the Autumn/Winter season, aimed at outlets that look after cask beer with expertise and a focus on quality, store it in the correct manner and right environment, and serve it when it is in tip-top condition. And going forwards, they are looking at offering seasonal cask beers in their tap rooms at Unit 9 in Manchester and Enid Street in London.

And what about the beers? Well, I had a pint of the Pale at the Sportsman, and it was delicious. I also enjoyed a taster of the other three, and all of them were interesting, and made me wish I was able to have a proper drink of them. And when I had a pint of Pale at the Buffet Bar in Stalybridge a few days later, it was even better, showing a more rounded character through having had a few more days in the cellar. The beers seemed to be going down very well in both locations. Any downsides? Well, the price will no doubt put some people off, but then Cloudwater have plenty of followers who are prepared to pay the price, which for the Pale was around 40 to 50p higher than beers of a similar strengths, knowing they are generally getting something that will be an excellent brew. And, whilst the artwork is generally wonderful and works fantastically well on the cans, I couldn't help thinking that for the pump clips, larger text would be a great benefit to highlight the name and strength of the beer. In a busy pub, with poor lighting, and for those that are hard of eyesight, it would help the customer.

But overall, it is great to see Cloudwater beers back in cask. It is just a shame that I didn't leave the car at home on either occasion....
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Now a few other bits. I was back in Elland at the weekend with a group of friends for Rob's birthday. I had been at the football, and so when I got off the bus opposite Elland Craft and Tap, I messaged Rob to see where they all were, and it turned out that they were comfortably ensconced in the Drop on Elland Lane. So I trotted down, through streets I had known so well when I lived in the town. I arrived there, they were all happy with their White Rats, Yorkshire Blondes, and Silver Kings. And they were enjoying the beer too....

The Drop was a pub I used to visit regularly when I lived not much more than 5 minutes walk away. It was originally a small two-roomed Tetleys pub called the Oddfellows, but its intimate setting tucked away beneath Victorian mills and houses made it a place that people would just 'drop in' on their way past. Eventually it became one of those pubs whose nicknames were adopted as the official name. It was always a friendly place, and over the years had a succession of well-known landlords and landladies, including local legend Mick Agus, who was mine host at virtually every pub in Elland, and Jane Robson, who subsequently ran places across the border in Kirklees such as the Rose and Crown at Thurstonland and the Yeaton Cask at Kirkheaton. It did have periods when there was no real ale, but I would still pop in from time to time. I remember one such occasion when I had gone out on some errand and walking past, I bumped into my mate Leon who was also passing. He asked me if I fancied a quick pint, and I agreed to pop in, but I said I had to go to so-and-so's on this errand so I couldn't be long. No problem. However, Caffreys had just been launched, and in those days it was brewed to a strength of 5%. I seem to think there was some opening special offer on, and to cut a long story short, as the beer and conversation flowed, it was several hours later when we staggered out, the errand long forgotten....

Today the Drop has been extended and opened out in typical Ossett fashion, with stone-flagged floors, a brick arch, walls painted in warm colours, French-themed prints,and comfortable seating. There is the usual range of Ossett beers plus 2 or 3 guests. My White Rat was very good, and everybody seemed to have enjoyed their visit. And, despite the changes over the years, it still is a place that entices you to 'drop in'....
The Drop Inn (image courtesy Ossett Brewery)
We moved on, back into town, and this gave me the opportunity to pay a follow-up visit to Elland Craft and Tap, a couple of weeks on from the opening night. And whilst it was busy, most of our group managed to get a seat, whilst a few of us hung around the bar. I caught up with a happy Mike, who said the reaction to and popularity of the bar had far exceeded their expectations. As last time, familiar faces kept popping in, including Paul and Silvia, who I had met along with James Endeacott at the recent Halifax Festival of Words. It was good to see them both again. The rest of the gang seemed to like the place but it was time to move on to the next port-of-call, although I stuck around for natter with Russ and a quick half of 1872 Porter on tap, and very good it was too. Once again, I really enjoyed my visit here, and if you haven't been yet, you should give it a try before too long.
Elland Craft & Tap... by day
I caught up with the rest of them at the Wellington, a typical town-centre pub further on Southgate. 'The Welly' was never a place I went in much, as even in one of the periods when it did have real ale, it was never particularly good. I walked in, there was one hand pump on the bar, serving Sharp's Doom Bar. This is one of the country's top-selling real ales and all too often it is pretty bland, but to be fair, this was pretty decent, so credit to the landlord. The pub was pretty quiet for a Saturday night, but there was a DJ playing tunes, which every now and again would be interrupted by karaoke. Now my mate Cockney Mick can't resist these, and so inevitably got up and entertained us with his inimitable version of the Cockney Rebel classic, Come Up and See Me. Take it away, Mick....
"You've done it all, you've broken every code...."
The final place we visited was, I think it's fair to say, the pub with the most chequered past of all in the town, the Savile Arms. It has opened and shut so many times over the years, its reputation never particularly good. With real ale hardly a regular feature, it was never a place I frequented very often when I lived in Elland. And tonight, there was no real ale on, so I settled on a bottle of Newcastle Brown. The place was though nicely done out, a DJ was playing some decent tunes, and despite its previous reputation, everyone seemed pretty friendly. Overall it was a great night, and I think it was fair to say that Rob had had a pretty good birthday. We got a taxi back to Brighouse, and into Spoons for a quick pint before heading home.
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And finally, for anyone interested in how Town got on in their FA Cup 1st Round replay with Morecambe following last week's blog, I am happy to report they played really well on Tuesday night at The Shay, and beat them 1-0 to set up a home tie in the 2nd Round with AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, December 1st!

And so, the story continues....

Twitter: @realalemusic

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