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Showing posts from 2019

A New Old Friend Dropping In....

The 2020 CAMRA Good Beer Guide has just been published and I have been leafing through it, to see what's in, what's not, and assessing what it means to the beer drinker in general. Here are my first impressions...
I received my copy of one of the most eagerly-awaited book releases of the year today, and as ever it brings with it smiles and celebrations for some, but disappointment for others, whilst representing the best guide - albeit a snapshot - to some of the best pubs, clubs, and bars in the country.

Like so many beer drinkers, the Good Beer Guide has had a massive impact on me over the years. It has provided an education and enlightenment about not just beer and pubs, but other things, like the history of the area where they are situated. It has influenced my choice of pubs to visit and beers to try both locally and across the country. I have been to countless towns and villages that I would have been highly unlikely to visit had there not been a pub there listed in the …

The Teatime Special....

Work and a pint at the end of the day have been inextricably linked for centuries, and still are to this day. Here are a few thoughts.... This is not the first time I have written about the connections between work and drink.
Last time, back in the early days of blogging - it was actually the 4th one to make the cut - I mentioned how much I loved a pint after work. And the piece I wrote,  A Pint at Teatime, was a brief homage to, in my opinion, the best time of the day to enjoy a pint.
And 5 years on, my opinion hasn't changed. After a busy day and your head is mashed, you need to seek out a place where you can unwind. A place where anything goes apart from too much talk about the dreaded W-word, a place where you can talk rubbish with impunity, catch up on the latest gossip, discuss the events of the day, even maybe learn something. The other night at the Stalybridge Buffet Bar we were trying to come up with the names of different champagne bottle sizes. And then list them in ord…

København Comes To Halifax....

A lot has been going on in the local area recently, including a new bar opening with another to follow....
It was the annual Indyfax Festival in Halifax last weekend, and once again it was a great way to spend a bank holiday weekend. The festival is run over a number of bars across the town - the Victorian, Grayston Unity, Alexandra, the Lantern, with the former Pump Room previously being involved - and this was its 3rd year. If you enjoy great beer in some excellent bars, you couldn't go wrong. And whilst I didn't come across a beer this year that stood out as much as the stunning pint of Arbor Zero Zero that I had at the Victorian last year, there were still some mighty fine ones to sample!

And what helped this time was the opening of a brand new bar. We said - well, we would if we spoke Danish - velkommen til København - brought to you by Simon and the team from the serial award-winning Victorian Craft Beer Cafe located just a few streets away. And as a complete contrast to…

Hub Of The High Hills....

The Tan Hill Inn is the highest pub in the country.

At 1,732ft above sea level it stands in splendid, windswept, isolation beside the Pennine Way, miles from anywhere. The nearest village is Keld in Swaledale, around 5 miles to the south, whilst a similar distance but a world away to the north the busy A66 ferries vehicles between Yorkshire and Cumbria,.

Leaving the A66, the Tan Hill is approached via a narrow road which winds its way through open moorland, switching one way and then the other until you pass a derelict farm building at the bottom of a dip, and then reaching the brow of the hill, a building appears on the horizon. A Yorkshire flag flaps in the incessant wind.

Beside the building is an encampment of camper vans and cars, whilst beyond on the other side, down a slope below the pub is a camp site. And along with those who have arrived on foot, via the Pennine Way, the place is busy, a hub, a destination, a welcoming respite from the wind and whatever else the weather dec…

Festivals and Celebrations at the Keys and Calan's....

It was the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia last week, and by all accounts, visitor numbers were down quite significantly on last year's figures. But when you think about it, holding a festival in central London in the middle of summer is not the best idea, with the cost - and time - required to get there, accommodation, and meals, and that's before you even sip your first beer, enough to put a lot of people off.

And when you have a great beer festival on your doorstep at around about the same time, why would you bother traipsing all the way down to London? The festival I am talking about was this year's Cross Keys Beer Festival, at Siddal, near Halifax, which was held last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and where scores of happy people drank some great beers and ciders, ate, chatted, laughed, and listened to some excellent music during a memorable weekend at the friendly and popular pub.

Some people had though travelled a good few miles to be there; one of the first…

Pinning the Tale on the Donkeystones....

A meeting in a village pub, followed by a visit to a brewery tap....
The White Hart is situated in the lovely hilltop Saddleworth village of Lydgate, an imposing 18th century building opposite the church. It is a very popular pub and restaurant, with rooms and function suite, and with sweeping views over the neighbouring hills and beyond towards Manchester, a very desirable location for weddings, prom nights, and other events. 
It was raining when I pulled into the car park, navigating around a number of imaginatively-parked sprawling 4x4's. As I approached the entrance, I noticed that the appendage 'at Lydgate' was tagged on to the name. This has always seemed to me to be a pointless affectation, pretentious to say the least. You don't get the pubs of Manchester or Wakefield or Derby getting up to that trick!

So as I entered, my route to the busy bar blocked by a human corridor of old guys, I had low expectations. But, you should never pre-judge. The guys readily made…

From The Gravel Road to The Cobbled Streets....

A couple of timeless classics converge deep in the Pennines....

Twenty Years Ago, Lucinda Williams released the album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

Blending country and rock in a style we now call Americana, it was not only the breakthrough release for the singer-songwriter from Lake Charles, Louisiana, but a hugely-significant album that has had a major influence on so many artists. With a stellar line-up of backing musicians including the likes of Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, Ray Kennedy, and Roy Bittan, it is an absolute classic, a favourite of many, an album that even now rewards with something new on every listen.

Last Thursday I was one of the privileged few hundred souls who descended on the Picturedrome in Holmfirth to catch Lucinda Williams reprising the album at one of the few dates on a short tour of the UK which only comprised additional gigs in Brighton, Bristol, and Birmingham. So it was a massive coup for the former cinema in the picturesque town a few miles south of Hudd…

The Dog and Rabbit, and Other Hops....

Another day in the North East, this one involving a trip along the northern side of the River Tyne, with a visit to an excellent micro pub, a brewery tap, and a couple of old favourites....
After a most enjoyable day in South Shields, I awoke next morning to another sunny day. After an excellent breakfast at my B'n'B, I checked out, and decided to go for a walk out to look at the beaches and the South Pier with its lighthouse. It certainly wasn't what I was expecting: 6 miles of beaches, with cliffs - in which a pub, the Marsden Grotto, now closed - was actually built into the cliffs, as the coastline heads south towards Roker, with Sunderland beyond. With the sun beating down and a gentle breeze wafting, it was idyllic; fishing boats in the bay, fisherman with their patient rods and seatboxes strategically placed along the pier wall.
Whilst we were chatting the previous evening, Bez had suggested over a beer that I got the ferry across to North Shields and took the Metro …

The South Side of The River....

A visit to a new place in the North East, and as usual, I discover some really interesting places....
I made my first proper visit to the town of South Shields this week.
And so first, here's some history....
The current town was founded in 1245, but evidence of civilisation dates back much further, with Stone Age and Iron Age relics being found in the area. The Romans founded a fort, Arbeia, here, which has now been re-created as a museum. The town grew up predominantly a fishing port, as befits a location on the south side of the mouth of the River Tyne, but as the 19th century brought industry to the town, it developed as coal mining and glass-making became established. The population grew from 12,000 in 1801 to 75,000 by the 1860's and the town prospered. There was, though, frequent flooding at the mouth of the Tyne and so lengthy piers were constructed as part of the sea defences on both sides of the Tyne. Shipbuilding developed in the town from the latter half of the 19t…

Real Ale, Real Music...and Real Cricket!

Last Thursday, England surged into the cricket World Cup final by blowing Australia away in an awesome display, and set up an intriguing contest with underdogs New Zealand in what was to be the first major cricket match to be shown on free-to-air television in this country since Sky bought up the TV rights way back in 2005.
I mention this because the cricket was very much in my thoughts when I visited Leeds on Saturday evening. I was looking forward to watching the cricket - albeit on TV - the following day, which was something I did in the flesh regularly when I lived in Leeds, particularly when I was based in Headingley during the early 80's. I used to say to people - only half-jokingly - that it used to take longer to put the kettle on for a brew at my flat than walk down the road to the cricket ground and order a pint!

Not that the beer was normally up to much. In those days it was keg Tetleys - warm, of course, as fondly referred to by former Prime Minister John Major when re…