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Catching Up In The City Of York....

 An early autumn afternoon's walk around the wonderful city of York, taking in a few classic pubs along the way....

It had been a couple of years since I had last visited the city, surprising really considering it is only 40 miles away with easy transport connections, and in terms of blogging, I have hardly done the city a service with, as far as I can recall, only a solitary blog from November 2017 featuring any of the city's fine selection of drinking establishments. Considering that over the years I have been to York on countless occasions, this does not do the city any justice, although in my defence, m'lud, my visits have been much less frequent since I started blogging in 2014.

The sun was shining as I caught the train from Brighouse. Just over an hour later, after a quick change in Leeds, I was stepping off the train in York. I heard a muffled "Hello Chris" from behind me, and the masked figure was one of the girls who works at The Grayston in Halifax, who was off to see her friend who had just started at the university. And then, a few minutes later when I went into the York Tap, a guy came over to have a natter with me who I know from the Stalybridge Buffet Bar. Small world! I ordered a pint of Jarl from what appeared to be a depleted range of cask ales, but sadly it was simply  not up to scratch. It barely scraped an NBSS rating of 2.5, certainly not a worthy representation of one of the country's finest cask ales. And despite the beautiful surroundings, with only a few customers scattered around, the York Tap was on this occasion a rather soulless place.

I wandered towards the city centre, having a short stop on a park bench to consume a pork pie which I had brought from home. I walked over the River Ouse across the Lendal Bridge and took in the view of York Minster, the sight of which never fails to impress...

Not a Wetherspoons conversion

Then it was back over the river, and a quick half at the Maltings, which is set slightly below the main road as it climbs up to the bridge. Probably because of its proximity to the station, the Maltings is always pretty busy and today was no exception, the air thick with West Riding accents. Once I had been shown to one of the few empty tables to be had, I ordered a half of Yorkshire Sparkle from Treboom, who are based in the nearby North Yorkshire village of  Shipston-by-Beningbrough, and whose beers I have only ever come across here. The beer was pleasant enough, if a bit thin, and was another NBSS 2.5, but the pub is a decent place to pop in to if time permits on your way to or from the station.

Hard to miss: The Maltings

I was in a need of some better beer, and fortunately I was amply rewarded at my next stopping point. I had decided to have a wander away from the heart of the city centre, and so I made my way across Micklegate and turned down the narrow St Martin's Lane, where along the cobbles The Ackhorne lay in wait. It looked familiar and the pub sign reminded me of another York pub I had been in many years ago based down a similar-looking narrow lane. Once the track and trace was dealt with and as my pint was being pulled by the friendly girl behind the bar, I asked the question: "Did you used to be called the Acorn?" Yes" she replied. Apparently it had been changed in the 1990's to reflect the old English spelling, which is still pronounced as 'acorn'. I took my pint of Rudgate Jorvik and plonked down at a small table, in the far section of the narrow bar. A fairly eclectic mix of generally older customers were dotted around at the tables, the hum of conversation accompanied by classic oldies on the sound system. A friendly Churchillian bulldog wandered over and took an interest in my bag, possibly picking up the residual aroma of my earlier pork pie. Satisfied there was nothing of interest, he shuffled over and lay down below the chair opposite. Eyes closing, he began to snore as Roger Daltrey belted out 'My Generation' one more time, one occasionally flickering open slightly at the singer's more exaggerated yelps. The beer, meanwhile, was superb, easily a 3.5; refreshing, crisp, with a fruity finish and a nicely balanced hoppiness. The Ackhorne, with its friendly ambience, classic dark wood interior, and excellent beer just begs you to stop and have another pint, but unfortunately I didn't have the time on this occasion.

Gallery from The Ackhorne

I had more places to visit. The Golden Ball, a few minutes walk away was closed, as all indications said it would be, which was a shame but not unexpected. I took a wrong turning on my way to the Phoenix, but lady luck was smiling and I came across the Swan, a large white former Tetley's pub on a corner which, to the best of my knowledge, I had never visited before. I was greeted by a welcoming lady with dark hair who showed me to a table on one of the side rooms off the bar. This was another classic pub with a good selection of ale on cask, the choice being displayed on several small chalkboards. I plumped for a half of Flummoxed Farmer from the Ainsty brewery, a few miles away at Acaster Malbis. This was a pleasant blonde ale with a citrus aroma and a dry finish (NBSS 3), and again, this was a very pleasant pub with a friendly ambience in which to enjoy a beer.

The Swan, Bishopgate Street, York

I re-traced my steps, and located the Phoenix, situated just inside the city walls on George Street, not far from Clifford's Tower. Oh no! It was shut, and unlike the Golden Ball there had been no online indication that that would be the case. What's more, I was due to meet up with eminent blogger and pub ticker, Simon 'BRAPA' Everitt, who lives in York, and I had reasoned it would probably be better to meet at a quieter pub like the Phoenix than risk a small and likely-to-be-busy pub like the Blue Bell on Walmgate. In the end the Blue Bell stepped in, despite my sense of doubt increasing as I approached and saw that all the outside tables were taken. There was though a spare table in the small back room and with my hands duly sanitised, track and trace details given, and beer ordered, I sat myself down next to some people from Redcar. I messaged Simon to say where I was as my beer, the house IPA brewed a few hundred yards away by Brew York, was delivered to my table. I got chatting to the group at the next table and the friendly lady behind the bar. The Blue Bell, one of the smallest pubs in the city, had only just re-opened a couple of weeks ago, and now it seems there were to be further restrictions placed on pubs and restaurants to operate to be announced that evening. 

The Blue Bell: another classic York pub

Simon arrived a few minutes later, having logged off from working from home. Simon has featured in my blog before, but for those that don't know, his own highly-readable blog, The British Real Ale Pub Adventure recounts his tales and observations from his visits to Good Beer Guide-listed pubs across the country in his attempt to visit everyone featured. Recently he has been to Surrey, Essex, and the North-East, whilst this weekend he is due to fill in some gaps in Northamptonshire. The life of the wandering pub ticker on a busy schedule is a difficult one at the best of times, with erratic pub opening times and public transport timetable eccentricities to work around, so any further limitations on pubs are likely to make it harder, with the added likelihood that sadly a good number of pubs will simply decide to throw in the towel as it becomes less and less viable for them to continue. The delayed 2021 Good Beer Guide is due out at the end of October, and it is going to be an interesting and no doubt challenging year for the pub ticker.
Simon is drinking a Farmer's Blonde

The Blue Bell is a classic pub, with dark wood panelling, glazing, a tiled exterior, and a drinking corridor which sadly can't be used at the moment. There is a small room on the right as you enter with a couple of tables, and the room we were in behind the bar, It is a great place for conversation. Simon and I got another pint, I opted this time for Farmer's Blonde, which like the earlier IPA was a very good NBSS 3. I had pondered visiting the Gillygate pub, which I had never visited, but Simon suggested it might be a step too far given the fact that my train was due fairly soon, so we didn't rush our pints, and I just about made it for the train.

It was great to have a catch up, and good to re-visit the city. Despite a few lowlights with the odd disappointing pint and later openings, I had had a most enjoyable afternoon with the Ackhorne, the Blue Bell, and the Swan all requiring a further visit sooner rather than later...,

Follow me on twitter: @realalemusic


  1. How you bearing up after meeting Simon ? A confidential support service is available for the traumatised !

    Thanks again for your honest NBSS assessments.

    1. No, seriously, a pleasure to catch up with a fellow blogger!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.


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