It had been a couple of years since I had last visited Mytholmroyd in the Upper Calder Valley, so on a beautiful autumn early evening I caught the train and had a wander around the village's pubs....
I realised as I sat in the Shoulder of Mutton, the pub nearest to Mytholmroyd's railway station, that I had written about the same three places I was planning to call in last time I had visited. But so much has happened over the past couple of years that it felt like a new exploration, a chance to see how things are faring post-lockdown. Sadly for the Shoulder of Mutton, vandalism had recently stuck and so as I took the usual pub photo I noticed that a couple of the windows were boarded up. The pub was fairly quiet when I walked in, a few people were dotted around the tables, but it is quite a rambling place, and I noticed that several people were sat outside in the beer garden above the lively Elphin Brook. The pub is a solid-looking building set on a corner of the road through to the border with Greater Manchester at Blackstone Edge, passing through Cragg Vale via the longest continuous uphill gradient in the country. Part way up the valley, a turn off takes you to a small industrial estate which includes two breweries, the long-established Little Valley and the newer, but better-known, Vocation. Back in the pub, I ordered a half of White Rat which was ok (NBSS 3) and retreated to a table in the corner. The staff were friendly enough, but with a Fantastic Business Opportunity sign up outside and those boarded up windows, the place did have a slightly forlorn feel about it. Which is a real shame considering it is a Mytholmroyd institution and former Good Beer Guide fixture that until fairly recently had the longest-serving landlord in Calderdale.
|Shoulder of Mutton, Mytholmroyd|
I finished my half and set off into the village centre. It was a beautiful early October evening, with a wonderful sunset and wispy clouds, and the hills around were looking at their best. It has not always been this calm though, as Mytholmroyd has been prone to serious flooding over the years, with recent events in 2015 and 2020 causing serious disruption and damage. With the Calder Valley being wider here after passing through a narrow section from Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, and due to the confluence of the Elphin Brook with the River Calder, heavy rains have several times over the years overwhelmed the flood barriers. Finally, after several years of frustrating road disruption on the A646 main road, the defences have now been strengthened, so Mytholmroyd should in future be better equipped to withstand any threats.
|Beautiful sunset over Mytholmroyd|
It was less than 5 minutes' walk to the village centre but it must have taken me almost as long to get a photograph of the next pub, the Dusty Miller, without any passing vehicles blocking the view! This is another traditional-looking pub, but inside it is one of the brightest pubs I have ever been in. It gleams, it shines, it dazzles! The place has had flood-induced alterations so the bar is now set on a corner to the left as you enter from the main road side, with cask beers on the left and lagers, etc on fonts around the corner. I ordered a half of Lost In Ikea, from Mytholmroyd's other brewery, Nightjar, which was pretty decent (NBSS 3.5). The pub was reasonably busy, with a group of guys sat opposite the cask bar, whilst a number of the conservatory-type tables were occupied by couples. I finished my drink and left by a glass-fronted door more like that you get in a shop rather than a pub, but I guess this was another defence against any future flooding that may prevail.
|The Dusty Miller, Mytholmroyd; not quite a car-free shot|
The final destination was Barbary's, situated on the opposite side of the road opposite the Sainsburys Local. I wrote about it in late 2019 not long after it had been opened by Ben Adey, who a year or two earlier had opened the Alexandra Beer House and the Lantern music venue in Halifax. Sadly, the Lantern has had to close, but it's a venue that despite only being open for a short number of years will be remembered fondly by so many people who attended gigs there. I was there for the opening night when North Yorkshire indie band Avalanche Party opened the venue with a free gig for the town's eager punters, and I was there for what turned out out to be the only paying one I went to in 2020 due to that pandemic-thingy - when Liverpool's She Drew The Gun played a storming gig in early February of that year. In between I saw a wide range of artists there from the likes of Baxter Dury, Stealing Sheep, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, the Nightingales, Ian McNabb, Plumhall, and Lee Bains lll and The Glory Fires, and always enjoyed the atmosphere there. Of course it helped that there was a decent choice of both cask and keg beers in the bar in the venue part as well as downstairs in the main bar. It will be missed.
|She Drew The Gun playing the last pre-lockdown gig I went to at The Lantern, Halifax|
I had had a quick chat with Ben a few days earlier in the Victorian Craft Beer Cafe in Halifax when I mentioned that I would try to get down to Barbary's at some point in the near future, although I didn't think it would have been this soon! It has changed since I last visited, with an attractive riverside terrace added to an open space at the side and rear of the building which was put to good use earlier this year as lockdown eased to allow drinking outside. As I crossed over the main road I noticed several people were sat there enjoying a drink under the the lights.
The bar is situated in a one storey building at the end of a terrace, and comprises a room with seating as you enter, and a larger room to the left with further seating in which the bar is situated. Exposed stonework adds to the character of the place. On the bar, there are three hand pumps which were serving a beers from Salopian, Thornbridge, and Kirkstall, which were joined by 6 keg lines with beers from Vocation, Cloudwater, Tiny Rebel, Track, and Verdant, plus Paulaner Munchen Lager. All pretty tempting, but I opted first for a pint of Salopian Lemon Dream, which was excellent (NBSS 4), and which I drank sat at the only free table in the bar. Barbary's was certainly a step up in terms of the quality and range of the beer on offer.
|Drinking well: Lemon Dream at Barbary's|
I checked the train times and decided I had time for another pint, so I returned to the bar. Instead I had a half of the Cloudwater keg, a hazy 5% NEIPA snappily named The Interior Life & The External World which maintained their recent welcome run of good form having slipped behind several of their competitors in recent times, one of them being Verdant, whose beer on offer here, I Played Trumpet on That Tune, didn't manage to tempt me away from the Cloudwater when I realised I had time for another half. Ben spotted me at the bar and came over for a quick chat before heading up the road to Hebden Bridge to the Trades Club, but I was well looked after by Rowan and Rose, the friendly guys working the bar.
|The bar at Barbary's|
For those that don't know, Barbary's takes its name from a pub situated in the village that was frequented by the Cragg Vale Coiners, an infamous gang of 18th century counterfeiters who operated very successfully from the hills around the area for a few years. They were led by David Hartley, known to many as 'King David', who was eventually caught and was hung for his crimes in York. The gang got their name because they clipped the edges of coins and melted the clippings down to mould them into new, but fake, coins. The story of the Coiners is fictionalised in the very successful novel The Gallows Pole by Ben Myers, and a new BBC drama based on the book is currently being filmed in the area. It wouldn't be a surprise if it eventually follows the likes of locally-filmed TV series like Happy Valley and Gentleman Jack in bringing an influx of tourists to the area.
I finished my half, and walked back to the station to catch my train home. I'd had a pleasant evening with some good beer in three completely different places. And if you fancy a change from Halifax or Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and the surrounding area with its beautiful countryside there is certainly is lot less mither than there was in the days of the Coiners....
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