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The City At The End Of The Line....

I had a football-free Saturday the other week and I decided to get the train over from here in West Yorkshire to Hull. It was around 5 years since I had last been there and I was interested to see what the beer scene was like these days. And here's what I found....

Hull has always had a different feel to other places, its own unique atmosphere. It feels like a bigger city than it actually is probably because being where it is, acting as a regional capital for much of East Yorkshire and areas of North Lincolnshire over on the other side of the River Humber. It is also at the end of the railway line from West Yorkshire and all points south, although there are services to places like Bridlington and Beverley to the north. The presence of many grand old buildings acknowledges the historic wealth brought to the city by the shipping industry. It sprawls for miles as the port has shifted away from the city centre down the Humber. Its importance was understood by the Germans as during World War 2 it was one of the most bombed cities in the country. All of this gives the city a sense of its own importance which hits you as you alight from the train at the city's Paragon Station. 

That sense of importance is reflected in the number of the pubs in the city. In the 2022 Good Beer Guide there are 15, but unlike many areas throughout the land. there still seems to be healthy number of pubs and bars in many guises, with 6 breweries in the city listed in the Guide. This doesn't extend to one brewery, though; walking through the city I came across the former Hull Brewery whose attractive premises have now been converted into apartments. The brewery had been formed in 1887 and soon it had around 160 pubs. It acquired several breweries on both sides of the Humber, but trade dropped off during WW2 as a number of pubs were hit during the aforementioned bombing raids. Apparently the brewery was spared because the Luftwaffe used the building's chimneys as landmarks. Subsequently it became North Country Brewery following a takeover by Northern Foods in 1972, and in 1985 it was acquired by Mansfield Brewery who promptly shut the brewery down.

The former Hull Brewery

Back on my trip, it was around 10 minutes' walk from the station to the nearest place I had on my long list. This was the Hop & Vine, a cellar bar on Albion Street. I had visited on my last visit but 5 years on I couldn't remember too much about it. I walked down the stairs and in to an empty room which had a nice, homely feel about it. A few moments later, a guy walked into the room said hello and told me I was the first customer of the day, as he headed behind the small bar. There were 4 beers on, and a fairly unusual mix as well - a mild from Brentwood, Bellringer from Bath Brewery, Chameleon from Little Critters, a 5.3% Amarillo American Pale, and Amber Anchor from Jolly Sailor, which was the one I chose. A traditional bitter with plenty of flavour, I reckoned it was worth a 3.5 on the NBSS scale. A few more customers came in, and it was soon apparent this is a real social hub. Tony, the owner, bought it about 4 years ago, so since my last visit. He told me he was originally from that fine beer town of Shrewsbury and was interested in what my part of West Yorkshire had to offer in the way of pubs. I said the Hop & Vine seemed a pretty friendly sort of place, and he told me that with most of the seating facing into the room, it tends to encourage conversation amongst customers. The bar is a big place for cider, but there is no place for another 'c', craft beer. I decided to get a half of the Bellringer before I left, another 3.5 rating for this pleasant golden ale. I couldn't hang around for too long though, as I had a packed agenda, but I had thoroughly enjoyed my 45 minutes or so at the Hop & Vine, and I look forward to calling in again sometime.



The next place I called wasn't on my list, but had been recommended by Tony from the Hop & Vine. A couple of streets away was The New Clarence. It looks rather understated from the outside, but inside there was a friendly atmosphere with several couples and groups of different ages chatting away happily in the booth-like seating. It was nice to see a group of girls were sat at the bar which is something you don't see very often, but it seemed pretty clear that this former pubco that is now run as a community pub is a place where everyone is made to feel welcome. A stage at one side of the bar and a number of posters indicated the pub hosts various events. There were 6 hand pumps featuring a mix of Yorkshire beers on the bar from which I selected the regional-sounding Ey Up! which is brewed by the Yorkshire Brewhouse in Hull, a brewery I had not come across before. It was another bitter, another quality pint that justified a 3.5 rating. It was a good recommendation, a friendly, unassuming, traditional pub that clearly has a following in the local community.


I was aiming for the Old Town, so re-traced my steps and then crossed the road. On a corner I spotted what appeared to be a craft beer in a modern building. Maybe it was the sign which said Brew which gave it away.... I decided to go in and investigate, finding a pleasant bar with comfy seating which also sells coffee and artworks as well as craft beer. The young couple behind the car were very welcoming and the vibe was very friendly. I ordered a half of Simpler Times from Full Circle, which had a lovely creamy texture due to the presence of a generous dose of oats, which along with the Strata and Ekuanot hops made this 5.1% hazy pale a cracking drink. I got chatting to the lad behind the bar who told me they also have art exhibitions here, as well as talking about the beer scene in Hull. He also gave me a recommendation to visit the Taphouse (which was on my list), next door to the Bone Machine Brewery, a couple of whose beers were on sale here. A nice friendly bar, worth a visit, but please bear in mind they don't sell cask.

I resumed my walk and a few minutes later I was close to Princess Quay, where along Princess Dock Street overlooking the marina was Furley & Co, which I remembered walking past before although I had never called in. So I decided to put that right! Like a lot of the bars and restaurants here, they had tables set out on the quay overlooking the water, and as I walked inside one of the girls working there on outdoor delivery duty kindly held the door open for me. I walked up to the bar and from a range which included both cask and keg beers, I went for a pint of the 3.8% Windpower pale from Dock Beers, who are brewed across the Humber in Grimsby. It was very good, refreshing and full of flavour, worthy of a NBSS 4 rating, which made it the best cask I had all day. I sat at a table facing the door and whilst I didn't particularly warm to the bar itself, which I felt aped the style of too many bland chain pubs, but on the plus side, the beer was great and the staff were very friendly and courteous.


I was heading to the next place on my list in the old town when I spotted a place called The Mission, built in what appeared to be an old seaman's mission with arched stained glass windows. The sign said it had Old Mill beers on, so not having sampled them for a while I decided to call in. I walked into a huge, cavernous place with a long bar facing the door. The bar was fairly sparse but there were handpumps dotted along its length. I ordered a half of the Old Mill Bitter and retreated into one of the many separate areas, of which with hardly any other customers present I could have had the pick. There was a lot of dark wood panelling reflecting the building's original use, but with plain dark walls and few fixtures I suspect it is more of a late-night venue. The beer was reasonable enough, though (NBSS 3).

The Mission in Hull's Old Town

Back to the list, having now had 3 unlisted stops, and a few minutes later I came across The Kingston Hotel, situated in a prominent position on a street corner leading into the square which is dominated by Hull Minster, with several lanes leading off from it. The pub was busy, with many enjoying their drinks outside. Inside, I ordered a half of Old Empire from a fairly limited range from the Marstons' stable. It was OK (NBSS 3), but maybe because it was so busy I didn't really warm to the pub itself, and I suspect on a quieter day it would reveal its charms.

Busy...The Kingston Hotel, Old Town, Hull

Across the other side of the square was the city's Head of Steam. Now I find these can vary in quality and ambience significantly. So you can go from the original HoS in Leeds, the Newcastle one (both very good) to Huddersfield (not so good). Fortunately, this one fell into the former camp. It was quite chilled in fact with a mixed age range enjoying the vibe. From a reasonable range of both cask and craft beers I ordered a Great Northern Ale from Northern Monk, their take on a traditional cask bitter which I had first tried a few weeks ago in Manchester. It was well-balanced with enough hop flavours to work well with the biscuity malt base. (NBSS 3.5), and was one of the best beers I had all day.

I had time to visit one more place before I got my train back home, and so I headed down towards the river and a couple of streets back in the Fruit Market I found Taphouse, on Humber Street, the tap for Bone Machine whose brewery is next door. It was busy outside with all the tables taken, and the doorman -yes, sadly there was one of those - said there was very little room inside. If I didn't mind sitting at the bar there was a space there. I didn't mind, so moments later I plonked myself down on a stool with a guy at the side friendly enough company until he went to sit across the room with a load of girls. The bar was bustling, lively, but there was a nice friendliness about it. I was in a great spot for ordering beer, too. There was some cask on, but this time I opted for one of Bone Machine's keg beers, Citrus Smiles, a 4.5% hazy pale with orange, lemon, and bergamot notes, which was fermented with Kveik yeast. The guy earlier at Brew had told me that Bone Machine are the only brewery in the country that always use this Scandinavian farmhouse yeast, which allows fermentation to take place at higher temperatures without producing any off-flavours, works faster, and requires a smaller quantity to be used. It was a great beer with which to finish the trip.

Taphouse

It was about 10 minutes walk to the station. I always enjoy a trip to Hull, there is a lot to see and do, and I know this time I had not had chance to visit old favourites like the George and the Olde White Harte, or ones that I had not tried before like the Alexandra. But I had enjoyed going with the flow, trying a couple of recommendations and sometimes just following my nose in a city at the end of the railway line. And, as with all the best places for a visit, always leave something to go back for next time....


Follow me on twitter: @realalemusic

Comments

  1. Beautiful write up. It really makes one want to visit or revisit.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you very much, Dave, glad you enjoyed it!

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    2. As Dave says, lovely write up, Chris. Those photos really bring out the colour and atmosphere of the Old Town, one of the most lovely anywhere. The area around the Kingston is a favourite of mine.

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    3. Thanks very much, Martin. A great city to visit.

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  2. A nice write-up Chris, and having never been to Hull, I agree with Dave’s sentiments about wanting to visit the city. From the photos in your post, there seems to be a lot of attractive old buildings in the city, that the Luftwaffe fortunately missed, including the former Hull Brewery premises.

    I remember the brewery receiving much criticism in the early days of CAMRA, as although many of their pubs used hand-pump dispense, the beers were all filtered, and stored in large, earthenware “jars,” kept in the cellar.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Paul. It is well worth a visit and I don't think you would be disappointed.

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    2. I'll have to bear some of these in mind for the next time I'm in Hull.

      I went to the Kingston Hotel on Trinity House Lane last time I was there - July 2021 - and it's no better on a quiet evening than it was when you visited. (Your caption on the photo says Kingston Arms, but that is the name of a pub over the other side of the River Hull!) It was disappointing for me, as the Kingston is on Camra's inventory of historic pub interiors, though to be fair it's only of "some" regional importance. That'll be why I wasn't blown away by it, then!

      [It was good to meet you at the Wellington in Sheffield this afternoon. Hope to see you again.]

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    3. Thank you for spotting the incorrect name, Will, now corrected! Good to meet you too and hope to catch up again.

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