Skip to main content

Going for a Meander....

A stylish new bar has just opened up in Halifax, with something of a story behind the unusual name....
Halifax's latest bar, intriguingly named Meandering Bear, has just opened up on Union Street, situated between the Piece Hall and bustling Westgate Arcade. It is brought to you by Michael and Jess Ainsworth, of the town's Grayston Unity in partnership with an old friend, local businessman Andrew Murphy. The idea came about over a few beers in a bar in Malaga and after several months of hard work, the bar finally opened its doors last week to much interest in the town. It has already seen masses of people coming along to have a look. And whilst inevitably some will have come simply out of curiosity, all the signs are that a good proportion of them will keep coming back.

And what will they find? Well, if you are thinking Grayston Mark 2, think again! It couldn't be more different. A classy bar created out of an old shop unit that had been last used as an amusement arcade 15 years. A stylish black exterior with subtle graphics and a hanging sign depicting the outline of a bear's head in a glowing warm orange-gold. Inside there is much wood panelling, light pastel paintwork offset by dark green, sympathetic lighting, fixtures, and fittings giving a comfortable and relaxed ambience to the place, much of the look down to Jess's excellent eye for detail. The room is split-level, with seating and tables as you go in through one of the two entrances, with the bar at the back of the room on the higher level.
The wood-topped bar features 4 hand pumps serving cask ale, with Hawkshead Pale as the regular cask, with beers from Roosters, Fallen, and Bad Seed providing the rest of the range on this visit. There are 7 taps featuring lager from Ayinger and cider from Hogans, and 5 keg lines, with one regularly supplied regularly by Manchester's Shindigger brewery. There is a window at the back of the bar providing additional light, in front of which are a mix of glass and wooden shelving featuring a wide range of spirits, with a selection of wines and bottles and cans also available from the chillers.
Unlike the Grayston, food is available, featuring the likes of cold meats, cheeses, and snacks along with toasted sandwiches, with the aim to source as much as possible from close to home in order to support the local economy and suppliers. And I have to say, I am pretty impressed with it all. The place looks fantastic, there is a great atmosphere, and the beer has been excellent so far, with the plan being to normally offer a different range to that in The Grayston. Yesterday I popped in and loads of familiar faces kept coming in, and all seemed to be impressed. Many of the team from the Grayston will also be working some of the time here, and one of them commented on how much more room they had to work in behind the bar at the Meandering Bear.
So what about the name? Well, Meandering Bear recalls an incident from the brief period when Halifax had a zoo back in the early days of the 20th century. It was based just outside the town at Exley, and whilst it drew large numbers of visitors following its opening in 1909, it only remained open for a few years. It was beset by various problems, one being somewhat lax security which meant there were escapes by some of the residents on several occasions. A large elephant would break free, normally falling asleep fairly soon near the zoo gates, but in one incident, residents of nearby Siddal awoke one morning to see a large grizzly bear ambling down the street. The story of the Meandering Bear is told in a specially-commissioned poem by local poet Keiron Higgins, which is featured on one of the walls in the bar.
The story of The Meandering Bear (photo courtesy of Keiron Higgins)
And so, with Meandering Bear - which opens every day apart from Mondays - Halifax has once again gained an excellent new bar which adds to what is already a very healthy pub and bar scene, and which provides yet another reason to visit the town!
A warm welcome awaits inside....
And last Saturday, close to where the afore-mentioned bear went meandering, is another event I must mention. Hugh Kirby, landlord of the ever-popular Cross Keys in Siddal, got married to his partner, Georgie, at a packed St Mark's Church a few minutes walk away from the pub. The reception was held back at the Keys, with plenty of superb beer, a hog roast, and entertainment from the Zephyr Band, with Georgie, the daughter of New Orleans blues pianist and singer Champion Jack Dupree, who lived in Halifax in the 1970's and 80's, taking lead vocals for a time. It was a lovely day, the weather being very kind, and I would just like to take this opportunity to wish Hugh and Georgie a long and happy life together....

Follow me on twitter: @realalemusic


Popular posts from this blog

A Calder Valley Ale Trail - UPDATE June 2022

T he definitive guide to the pubs and bars that line the railways in the towns and villages of the beautiful Calder Valley in West Yorkshire. After a break in updates with all the disruption of lockdowns over the  last couple of years, here's the latest, updated version.... The original Rail Ale Trail heads through the Pennines from Dewsbury through Huddersfield to Stalybridge, or vice versa, depending on your standpoint. Made famous by Oz Clarke and James May on a TV drinking trip around Britain several years ago, it reached saturation point on weekends to such an extent that lager and shorts were banned by some pubs and plastic glasses introduced to the hordes of stag dos, hen parties, and fancy-dressed revellers that invaded the trans-Pennine towns and villages. There are some great pubs en route but you ventured to them on a summer Saturday at your peril. However, only a few miles away to the north, there is another trail possible which takes in some great pubs and travels thr

No More Crows The Rooster....

Another much-loved pub which has played a big part in so many people's lives over the years has recently closed its doors.... News broke the other week that The Red Rooster, at Brookfoot, near Brighouse, was to close at the beginning of March. With the rent being increased by an incredible £935 a week , landlord Eddie Geater decided that it was simply not viable to keep the popular free house open. And it is sad news, as the Rooster has been at the forefront of the area's pubs for most of the last 30-odd years. And it is a big deal. Before it opened as the Rooster there were hardly any free houses in the area as we know them today where there was a truly wide and unrestricted choice of beers. Prior to being the Rooster, the pub had been a Webster's tied house, The Wharf, which had been built in the early 20th century to cater for workers from the nearby wharf from where local coal was transported via the canal network. And to this day, three former wharfmen's cot

The Town That Thinks It's A Village....

My time has been a bit limited recently for venturing too far afield, so last weekend I made the short journey to Elland to check out a few of the town's pubs and bars. Here's what I found.... Elland is a small market town in West Yorkshire, located between Halifax and Huddersfield beside the River Calder. It goes back a bit, being recorded as Elant in the Domesday Book of 1086, and over the centuries the town grew as a result of the woollen industry, with the town becoming home to several large mills. The coming of the Aire and Calder Navigation and the railways further helped the growth of the town. The subsequent decline of the woollen industry in the town meant that there were a number of empty mills left standing, and those that didn't burn down were put to other use, such as the home of Gannex, the now-defunct textile company whose raincoats were worn by the rich and famous, including former Prime Minister Harold Wilson. More recently, several mills have been converte