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A West Riding Wander ....

A return to a well-known station buffet bar and a first visit to a new craft bar are featured in this latest set of ramblings....

Another Friday night, the start of another weekend, and I decided to follow the pattern of the last few weeks and head off on the train to a place I hadn't visited for a while. And this time I decided to pay a visit to the West Riding Refreshment Rooms in Dewsbury, which is only a few minutes ride away from Brighouse. I alighted the train and crossed over the bridge to the other platform and whilst I could have gained access from it, I decided to go outside and take a picture of what is a pretty imposing building. The pavement area outside the bar had been re-flagged and plenty of picnic tables were laid out, some of which were occupied, and as I walked past one of them I spotted a mate, with whom I had a few pints before getting the train back.

Imposing: The West Riding Refreshment Rooms, Dewsbury

I went in to get a beer. The bar is situated in the middle of three rooms, and the cask beers on offer were predominantly from Yorkshire, including Taylors, Elland, and Magic Rock, although I opted for Afterglow, a hazy 4.2% IPA from Derbyshire brewers, Shiny. The place was quite busy with an early Friday evening crowd and many of the tables in the main room were occupied. Old railway signs and memorabilia were on the walls, mingling with old photographs and posters advertising beer at long-gone prices just as they had been last time I had visited.

Railway memorabilia chic

The bar was opened way back in 1994 by Mike Field, one of the original 'Gang of Four' behind the former West Riding Brewery, who subsequently set up the Anglo Dutch Brewery based in Dewsbury with Dutchman Paul Klos in 2000. The West Riding aimed to restore the former station buffet bar to its former glory, with some of the inspiration coming from one of the country's few remaining examples based further down the trans Pennine line at Stalybridge. The building was sympathetically restored, with real ale front and central in the offering, and the place still retains much of the look that it had back in the early days. The bar was an immediate success, not only attracting rail passengers but also real ale drinkers from miles around. Beers were sourced not just from local breweries, with Taylors a constant presence, but also from much further afield and in the days when there were fewer free houses it gave the opportunity to try beers rarely if ever seen in the area. The West Riding was the recipient of numerous CAMRA awards over the years. Not without reason did they coin the strapline I missed the train which I noticed was still on the t-shirts worn by the staff.

Seconds from bar to platform: no excuse for missing the train

The success of the West Riding led to some cautious expansion over the years. An unassuming former Bass Yorkshire house in Huddersfield, the Sportsman, was brought into the fold with its beautiful art deco interior brought back to its former glory, winning an English Heritage Pub Design award in the process, as was the Cricketers, a former Tetleys house in nearby Horbury. And when John Hesketh, owner of the Stalybridge Buffet Bar passed away, it was almost inevitable Mike would step in and buy the iconic place that had been such a source of inspiration in the creation of the West Riding. Subsequently the Beerhouses Group, as it had become, acquired the Old Turk, a once-popular pub near to Dewsbury Station, which is used as more of an events venue and late night bar. More recently, the 6th pub was acquired, taking the group into the outer Bradford suburbs with the opening of the Idle Beerhouse.

Sadly my visit followed the recent passing of Mike and a celebration of his life had been held at the West Riding earlier in the week. He was very much a visionary, and I noticed when I was at the bar for one of my beers that the Landlord pump clip had been adapted to feature an image of Mike. A fitting tribute to a real pioneer and pub champion who brought so much to the world of real ale and pubs. 

The landlord....

Meanwhile, a few miles away, in Cleckheaton, a new craft bar and bottle shop has recently opened, and earlier last week on a showery afternoon I made a rare visit to the town to check out the Chain Bar. It is situated just off the A638 which runs through the town from the M62. I parked up in the large and free for 4 hours car park by the Virgin - Yorkshire in old money - Bank, crossed over and headed up Cheapside. The bar was on the right, and I walked in to a light and airy room with light wood tables and flooring and grey walls. A couple of customers were enjoying a drink, one sat at a table, one at the bar, behind which stood a lady who gave me a most friendly welcome. 

I ordered a pint off one of the 6 taps, Cryo Pale from Sheffield's Triple Point Brewery, which was a hazy fruity 4.2% session pale with Admiral, Azacca, Ekuanot, and Cascade hops, which I enjoyed as we chatted. The bar had opened about 8 weeks earlier, with a focus on providing craft ales on tap, in bottle, and can from predominantly Yorkshire breweries, although I did notice some S43 beers (brewed in Coxhoe, County Durham)  on the shelves, and a week or two ago the brewer from Hops & Dots in Bishop Auckland told me he'd delivered some beers there. No cask is available at present, but once they have become more established a couple of hand pumps may be added. They have already provided some entertainment in the form of live music in the bar, which has a further room with additional seating to the left as you go in, whilst behind an open door to the right of the bar is a beer garden.

New in town: The Chain Bar, Cleckheaton

I had a most enjoyable hour at The Chain Bar. I was struck by the friendliness of both staff and customers, the enthusiasm, and the overall ambience of this spotless bar. I got the impression they are still looking at what they can add to what they already offer, and I wish them all the best. Cleckheaton has been something of a beer backwater over the past few years, so it is great to see something happening there. And if you get chance, I would suggest you go and check out The Chain Bar for yourselves.

Finally, back to Halifax. For lovers of the Big Six, the traditional multi-roomed pub set in the middle of a terraced street in King Cross, the good news is that it is set to re-open in the next week or two, having had a change of ownership, but otherwise much else will be as was. And as I mentioned last time, a reminder that if you are in the town this weekend, the IndyFax Festival is taking place across The Grayston Unity, Meandering Bear, Dukes, Kobenhaven, Victorian Craft Beer Cafe, The Alex, and Good Mood, with some special events and great beers on offer....

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