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A Grand Night in Huddersfield....

I only made the short trip to Huddersfield the other week when I went to the newly-reopened County, but I have been back to visit a couple of old favourites and to call in at a beer festival at a much-loved local brewery....

I had not been to Huddersfield very often recently, what with lockdowns and all that, but a couple of weeks after calling at the new Beerhouses pub, The County, I was back, visiting a couple of previously frequent stopping off places. One of them was The Grove, situated about 10 minutes walk away from the train station, where I had arrived in the town after watching Halifax Town gain a fortuitous win against Woking in the National League. To add to a poor performance by Town, it was a game that was peppered with dodgy tactics by the away team and a shocking performance by the referee. So to avoid becoming embroiled in any potential collective meltdown in the post-match discussions I decided to get away after a quick pint at the Three Pigeons.

The Grove, Huddersfield

The train was slightly late setting off from Halifax, but after leaving Huddersfield station and walking up there, I duly arrived at The Grove about 6.30. This iconic pub is well-known far beyond the area for its wide-ranging cask and craft ales, and is a must-visit if you are in the town. I hadn't made it since before lockdown, and as I entered the main bar, I was immediately struck by changes that had been done to the bar. It looked like it had been rebuilt, and it was certainly higher than it used to be. There was still a cask list on the chalkboard at the right as you go in, with a further board listing craft beers on the far wall beyond the beer. Ukrainian flags hung above the bar, and on the chalkboard by the bar was an  exhortation to Drink for Ukraine! I decided I would buy one of the beers from under that part of the board. and selected a 3.8% pale ale from Beer Ink called Et Al. I took my first sip at the bar, and got my phone out, only to be told there was no standing at the bar. So I apologised, and moved to a small table opposite. It probably explains why the bar had been built up and there were no bar stools in evidence, unlike in days gone by, when sometimes you would have to shout your order between a row of heads, who also managed to obscure several of the beers on the board.

The beer was pretty good, well-balanced, and refreshing, and I thought it was well worth a NBSS of 3.5. I looked around, and it was clear that various changes had taken place over the time since I had last visited. But many of the familiar quirky artefacts and artwork remained, and were dotted around the pub against recently-painted walls. And whilst it wasn't overly busy, there were plenty of people sat around with many of the tables occupied. It was nice to re-visit after at least two and a half years, and I look forward to visiting again.

It was about 7 by now, and I had around a 10 minute walk to my next planned port of call, although it ended up taking letter. I walked past the huge monolith of the Sports Centre, and along the side of the ring road to the fire station, where I continued down towards Lidl. In the distance, Castle Hill maintained a watching brief over the town.

I passed Lidl, and waited for the traffic lights to change so I could cross Oldham Road. Safely over the other side, I turned to look at a rather forlorn-looking white building with the odd smattering of graffiti over on the other side of the road. This is the former Grand Picture Theatre, and with its striking facade with columns in the French Renaissance style, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to picture it in its heyday. It was opened in 1921 by Union Cinemas who later became part of the ABC chain. It had an 878 seat capacity, and remained as a cinema until 1957, following which it became a nightclub. And in 1977, when it was called Ivanhoes, The Sex Pistols played what turned out be their final UK gig there on Christmas Day. The gig was to support striking West Yorkshire firefighters, and during the afternoon the band had played a gig for their children. I and a couple of friends had managed to get tickets (priced £1.75) for the evening gig, and so we left behind the familiar warmth and comfort of Christmas in our respective homes, and made our way across on a cold evening to Huddersfield to something rather different. The punk rockers had attracted controversy and caused frenzy in the tabloids constantly during their 18 months existence, and indeed had been banned from many venues across the country, so the fact that this was taking place and hadn't been publicised too much meant it had a certain exclusivity to it. That said, I cannot remember too much about the gig itself but I remember the band mingling happily with the assembling crowd before the gig and dancing to the pre-show tunes, and as an 'I was there' moment it is right up there, particularly as not long after the band split up.

The Grand Theatre/Ivanhoes/Lidl....

As I was preparing to take a picture of this iconic building, a guy walking his dog set off across the road, and seeing I what I was doing, stopped, and started chatting to me about it and other buildings. Apparently, the Lidl I had just passed has incorporated the building into the store, but had to keep the facade intact. 

I resumed my journey, and shortly afterwards I was at the Rat and Ratchet, one of Ossett Brewery's original pubs. The pub began brewing Rat-themed beers here in 2011, and one of the beers to emerge was White Rat, which is now one of the Ossett flagship beers. The brewery still operates as a micro-brewery today, whilst the pub attracts a wide range of customers for its large choice of beers brewed both here and elsewhere. Attractively decorated like all the Ossett pubs, it has a relaxed atmosphere, with many traditional features remaining, including the Gents urinals. I had bumped into one of the staff, who I have known for a few years, in Halifax the other week, although as often happens when you see someone out of context, it throws you, and I had to admit I hadn't realised it was him until afterwards! I ordered a pint of Yorkshire Blonde, which I took through to the far room, enjoying it sat at what was the only empty table when I walked in. The beer was on form, and I rated it a NBSS 3.5. 

The Rat and Ratchet, Huddersfield

I had one more place to call, so I finished my pint, and headed down the hill towards Folly Hall. As I mentioned when I wrote of my previous visit to Huddersfield, the Star is currently closed having been flooded a couple of months ago, but my destination was a little further towards Lockwood, where a much-loved Huddersfield institution, Mallinson's Brewery, were holding a festival, which they had called Mallyfest. I have driven past the brewery many times over the years, but this was my first visit. As I walked in to the yard, there were a number of people sat at tables outside. I went inside  and was immediately greeted by a familiar friendly face behind the bar. It was Sam Addy, who I had met originally several years ago when she was Sam Smith and running The Sportsman across town. She has since managed the Buffet Bar in Stalybridge and the much-missed Mallinsons taphouse, The Corner, got married, and become a mum. But she was on back on familiar ground this evening, along with husband Richard, dispensing pints with her customary cheer, and it was great to be able to have a catch-up.

Mallinsons are well-known for their excellent range of pale, hoppy beers, and I ordered a pint of their single hop 4% Cascade and ended up standing at the bar to drink it. It was in excellent condition, and absolutely hit the spot, justifying a rarely-given NBSS rating of 4.5. Mind you, beers served in a brewery should be at their best, but sadly I have found in the past that it is not always the case. I looked around; tables had been laid out, with most pretty well-occupied. There was a great atmosphere and everyone seemed happy. A four-piece band called Hokum were setting up opposite the bar to entertain the assembled throng. Another familiar character appeared in the shape of brewer Nick Briggs, who runs his own Briggs Signature Ales at the brewery, their more modern style beers complementing the Mallinsons range. And it was one of the BSA range that I tried next, the 5.5% Dirty Electro, a Huddersfield version of a West Coast IPA with plenty of hops atop a solid malt base. It was another excellent beer, (NBSS 4), although its higher ABV became evident fairly quickly.

Familiar faces: Sam and Nick

The band started to play, the singer soon telling us he'd got his mojo working, and their set list featuring skiffle, jazz, and blues classics provided a most enjoyable soundtrack to the evening's proceedings. The brewery's founders, Tara and Elaine, were much in evidence, mingling and chatting with the crowd, and likewise seemed to be enjoying themselves. I bumped into a couple of people who I had met when they were working behind the bar at The Star, and it was great to have a catch up after a few years. I ordered another pint of the Cascade, and soaked up the atmosphere before I rang for a taxi to take me home, having had an absolutely grand night all round....

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