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The Jolly Boys and Girls of Barnsley....

Last Saturday, I caught the train from Huddersfield passing through the attractive countryside and villages along the Penistone Line to Barnsley, a town I hadn't visited often before. I found a friendly, interesting town with some good beers and pubs and bars....

The train pulled into Barnsley's Interchange about 3, and unsure of which way it was to the town centre, I left by the nearest exit, and it soon became apparent I had made the wrong choice. A closed off path over a bridge and, with no way apparent from this side through the bulk of the Glass Works development, I had to retrace my steps and return to the station, where I went up some steps which took me on to a walkway over the railway line and bus station. Out on the other side at street level, I crossed the road, and set off walking past some fine old Victorian buildings, many home to offices, my eye drawn to a white building with a clock tower at the top of the street.

Barnsley's Town Hall is a spectacular sight. In a town with some great old buildings and some more modern brutalism, it sets the tone, a presence keeping watch over its citizens. With its striking white Portland stone, the building dates from 1933, and whilst it may not appeal to everyone, it stands as a big statement, defiant, independent, a testament to the town's individual spirit. These days it doesn't house that many council offices, and features an exhibition centre, a cafe, and is a popular venue for weddings, but its presence endures. I remembered seeing it years ago as a backdrop on TV when miners' leader Arthur Scargill was railing against the Thatcher government during the Miner's Strike. This was a town where coal mining had been the dominant industry for decades, although it started to decline in the 1950's and the last pit in the area, in the nearby village of Goldthorpe, closed in 1994. Even so, the National Union of Mineworkers still has its headquarters in Barnsley.

Barnsley Town Hall

I called in a pub just down the road from there. Old No. 7, Acorn Brewery's tap house, has been open for over a decade now and serves several of the brewery's beers alongside a couple of guests. The pub is based at No 7 Market Hill, and is an attractive, tall, narrow building with white painted walls with contrasting black woodwork. You enter into a split-level single room which goes back a fair way inside. With wooden flooring throughout, the lower level features a number of tables, whilst a mirror-backed bar takes up much of the left hand side of the upper level with further seating on the opposite side. The pub is sympathetically decorated with contrasting painted walls. There were several people in the pub, groups at tables, and a few solitary guys looking at their phones. I ordered a pint of Acorn Blonde, which was competitively priced I thought, and headed to a table in the lower level, where as a solitary guy, I started looking at my phone to check if there was any news yet from Town's game at Weymouth. I took a sip of my pint, mmm, very clean and crisp, definitely an NBSS 3.5. I'd spotted a beer from Chin Chin Brewery on one of the hand pumps. Based in South Kirkby at the opposite side of West Yorkshire to me, this is a brewery whose beers I had never come across in Calderdale or the surrounding area, so I decided I would need to try it. The beer was a 5% premium pale called Power Couple featuring Nelson Sauvin and El Dorado hops. I just got a half, but again it was in good condition (NBSS 3.5), smooth, well hopped, and well balanced.

Old No.7, Barnsley

I enjoyed my visit to Old No.7. It had a friendly atmosphere, and the staff were welcoming and knowledgeable. Acorn Brewery themselves have been around since 2003 and are based in nearby Wombwell. They brew a range of 6 core and a number of seasonal beers, which are available in both cask and bottle, and they have won scores of awards over the years. One of Acorn's beers is called Barnsley Bitter after the famous beer often called 'The Miner's Pint' brewed by the former Barnsley Brewery, and all their beers are brewed using the same yeast strain as the original bitter.

Barnsley Brewery had started out in 1857 and continued as an independent until 1961 when the brewery and their 250 pubs were taken over by John Smiths. This led to public outcry and sure enough they eventually closed the brewery, with the last pint of the famous bitter being produced in 1976, by which time Smiths themselves had been taken over by Courage. The former brewery site was used as a warehouse and distribution site until 1994, when it was sold to Oakwell Brewery who started brewing in 1997 and revived the Barnsley Bitter name, continuing until they closed until 2013. And subsequent to that Stancill Brewery, who were set up by a couple of Barnsley lads but are based in Sheffield, also brew a Barnsley Bitter to the original recipe and using the same yeast strain! Confused? I think it is safe to say it means a lot to the folk of Barnsley!

Back on my tour, I set off to find the furthest place I'd planned to visit, which was a mere 0.33 miles away. I walked back up to the Town Hall, and turned left walking a past a number pubs and bars, the odd alleyway and side entrance and a few industrial premises until I spotted a Premier Inn and a large predominantly glass-fronted building which was the Gateways Plaza, a mixed development which includes luxury apartments, retail outlets, a restaurant, and medical centre. I headed up some steps, passing a former Methodist chapel which is now the Lamproom Theatre. A few moments later just past a One Stop on a draughty row was my destination, the Tipsy Cow. Opened in 2018, this is a modern bar with covered seating outside. Inside, the bar is just to the right, with seating on two sides and more available upstairs on a mezzanine floor. There were four handpumps on the bar featuring beers from Little Critters, Leeds, Chantry, and the ubiquitous White Rat from Ossett. I opted for the Chantry, as their Rotherham-brewed beers rarely cross my path. It was only when I'd ordered it that I realised the Kaldo Pale was 5.5%. It was very nice though! A single hopped beer with Golding hops and Yorkshire malts, it was refreshing with zesty citrus notes. A worthy NBSS 3.5. The bar was busy, with all seats taken and re-filled as soon as their occupants left, a mixed age group ranging from lads looking for lager and middle-aged ladies on the prosecco and pinot grigio. I hung around the bar as there was nowhere else to go, and noticed a lot of cask being sold. It was another friendly place, which rode above its somewhat austere setting.

The Tipsy Cow micropub

I retraced my steps back to the Town Hall, and then crossed over back on to Market Hill, this time heading off down the rather pleasant covered Victorian Arcade, despite their being a number of closed units and For Sale/To Let signs. There were lots open, though, shops, designer boutiques, cafe bars, and the odd bar, and there was a steady stream of people walking by.

Barnsley's Victorian Arcade

My next port of call was down towards the bottom of the Arcade. It was another micropub, which had been opened in 2017 by the former Two Roses Brewery, and had been the first one in Barnsley. Jolly Tap on the Arcade (opening picture) has since been taken over by the local Jolly Boys Brewery, whose venture in Wakefield I only visited a few weeks ago. The bar is spread over two floors and when I arrived there were only a few people sat in downstairs. I ordered a pint of Blonde, which I'd enjoyed in Wakefield, from a range of predominantly their own beers on hand pump, although there was a guest from the 4Ts Brewery in Warrington. The beer was another good'un, another 3.5 NBSS rating. More people started to come in, with the two girls behind the bar cheerily serving them, a decent soundtrack playing behind. At one point one of the guys stood beside me at the bar mentioned juggling, and with that, one of the girls produced some juggling balls and proceeded to give a demonstration with nothing dropped. A conversation ensued about the art of juggling and the ideal weight of juggling balls. Splendid stuff! Pubs aren't all about the beer. I checked on my train time and realised I had more than enough time to try a pint. I ordered a pint of Supa Citra, a 4.2% ABV beer which someone said was a new one. Again, it was in great condition, and another 3.5 rating, which I slightly preferred it to the Blonde. A guy asked me if he could take the stool next to me as his missus was having her feet done and would probably need to sit down when she came in. There was a cracking atmosphere, everyone seemed to be in a good mood, the vibe set by the jolly juggling girl behind the bar, and a must-visit if in the town.

I'd noticed a vinyl shop across the way, which was closed anyway, but there didn't appear to be an entrance off the arcade. It turns out it is on the premises of the bar next door to it, Spiral City, which is a stylish modern split-level bar which apparently only opened in November 2021. It offers a couple of beers on cask and a few on tap, and was also very busy. A guy kindly let me in at the bar, and with my time before my train by now limited, I just ordered a half of, appropriately, Stancill Barnsley Bitter, as mentioned earlier. Malty, bitter, and copper-brown in colour, ironically it wasn't quite up to the standards of the previous beers I'd had, but still warranted a solid enough rating of 3. 

It was only a few minutes walk back to the Interchange, where I found the train was a couple of minutes behind schedule, but soon I was sat on board, heading back up towards Huddersfield after a most enjoyable hour or two in a town which isn't far away, but wasn't one that I'd particularly thought about visiting before. But as I've found many times now, places you perhaps hadn't considered previously usually have something to offer, and in Barnsley there is much of interest, along with some good bars and beers....
And finally, I have a correction to make. It is a positive one, though. In my last piece, I referred to a number of pubs on the moors around Halifax and Calderdale that had closed. One of them was the Pack Horse at Widdop, but I have found out in the past few days that it has just re-opened under a new team, which is of course excellent news!

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  1. Good to hear you enjoyed Barnsley, a town that is constantly changing.

    I need to take the train from Sheff to visit Biere du Maison, which is newish , though not as new as Spiral City !

    I visited Tipsy Cow when it was outside drinking only, looks good inside.

  2. Cheers, Martin, always appreciate your comments. Are you referring to the one in Elsecar or is there one in Barnsley?

    1. There's a new one in Barnsley, opened last summer after my visit in June. Also one due in Stocksbridge.

      I need to revisit Barnsley!


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