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A Malton Hop....

Malton describes itself as Yorkshire's Food Capital, and with a wealth of independent food shops and restaurants in this attractive and historic North Yorkshire market town who am I to disagree? But what about its pubs? I went along to check some out....

Malton sits midway between York in Scarborough in North Yorkshire, off the A64 which these days by-passes the town. It was first occupied in the first century AD when the Romans established a fort and garrison on the north side of the River Derwent. It was called Derventio, and was occupied throughout the Roman occupation. After the Romans left, it was the Medieval period before settlements grew up in New Malton and later in Old Malton. In the 11th century a wooden castle was erected, whilst the first reference to a market being held was in 1283. The town's market became established over the subsequent centuries, and the development of navigation on the Derwent and the growth of the railways in the 19th century enabled the town, and its neighbour on the other side of the river, Norton, to develop and prosper. Today it is proud of its reputation of being Yorkshire's Food Capital, and attracts visitors from far and wide.

It was the start of the build-up to a red heat alert, as record-breaking temperatures were forecast to hit the UK in the forthcoming days, and it was already warming up as I waited in the sunshine for my train at Brighouse station on the first leg of my journey east. A change at Leeds, followed by another in York, where I landed a few minutes earlier than planned after catching a different train to the one suggested on my e-ticket. It did mean that I had time for a quick pint in the York Tap, which was quite busy considering it was not yet noon, and I ordered a pint of Avalanche from Fyne Ales, which was cool, refreshing, and - spoiler alert - the best pint I was to have all day (NBSS 4). It did though come at a price: as I discovered when I had another half of it on the way back home later, it was £5.30 a pint! Welcome to York! I grabbed a table next to a group of Bradford City fans on their way to see their team's friendly with York City, a loud cheer going up whenever a group of fellow Bradford fans entered the Tap.

I finished my pint and went to catch the Scarborough-bound train, with Malton the first stop. The train was busy, and whilst clearly most of the passengers were heading for the coast, a healthy number got off at Malton, where the station and neighbouring bus station are actually across the River Derwent in Norton. It was about five minutes walk to the town centre, and with the sun beating down, I was quite pleased to see my first port of call in the town directly facing the end of the road. With what seemed to be very pedestrian-friendly temporary traffic lights in operation, I was able to (a) take a picture and (b) cross the road to the Brass Castle Tap House without any vehicular interference, save for the stray bicycle which made it into the photo below.

Brass Castle Tap House, Malton

As the name suggests, this acts as the tap room for the Brass Castle brewery which is situated in a yard round the back. I had visited once before, in early 2020 a few weeks before lockdown, on a trip with Halifax and Calderdale CAMRA which also took in a trip to the North Riding Brewery in Snainton and a number of pubs in Filey. I had enjoyed that brief visit to Malton that day and had decided I would come back for more of an explore of the town a month or two later. Well that didn't go to plan of course, but I was here now. There were quite a few people sat around, but there was quite a a high churn, plus people kept popping in and buying a few cans to take out. I ordered a pint of the 3.6% Session IPA, which was quite refreshing and in good condition (NBSS 3.5), which I followed up with a half of Hoptical Illusion on keg. As I had found last time, this was a great bar in which to spend some time, with nice friendly staff who were happy to chat with you.

I was aiming to try a few places whilst I was in town, of course, and I didn't have far to go to the next place on my list. I had been on WhatPub? the previous evening and compiled a list of potential places to go. One of these was the New Globe, a few yards along from Brass Castle on a corner on the opposite side of the road. A traditional town pub, there were a few old guys sat around watching the racing on TV as I walked up to the bar. One hand pump dispensing Wainwright made my choice a simple one, so a pint it was and I went and sat at a table opposite another TV which was showing Yorkshire take on Lancashire in the T20's Finals day at Edgbaston. The beer was better than expected, in good condition, and worthy of a NBSS 3.5 rating, which was not what I could say about Yorkshire in the final 12 overs or so that I saw as Lancashire cruised towards victory....

New Globe, Malton

Back out into the sunshine, and a few minutes later I was at The Cross Keys, which I had picked out because it seemed to have a wider choice of beers than elsewhere. Nice, classy looking brick, stone, and white painted pub which you entered via some steps from the street, with a great-looking bar off to the right with dark wood panelling and a feel that suggested Important Town Centre Pub. A bank of hand pumps offered several beers from Taylors, there was a solitary Black Sheep, and then two for Abbeydale Deception, although I am sure only one would be in operation. Despite its prominent position, the pub was fairly sparse, although I realised when I went to use the facilities there was a sunny beer garden outside where several customers were building up their resistance to the oncoming heat apocalypse, as depicted in the scary-looking maps currently being produced by various TV channels.... The beer, whilst being more than acceptable (NBSS 3), wasn't as good as the previous ones, but overall I enjoyed the friendly atmosphere here and with careful curation I am sure it could be a GBG contender in the future.

Cross Keys, Malton

It was a short walk to my next pub, which in many ways was a timeless classic. Further up Wheelgate on the fringes of the town centre was the Good Beer Guide-listed Blue Ball, which greets you from the outside with a somewhat unassuming exterior. But inside was to step back in time to a classic market town pub with several different rooms and a tiny bar and a lovely, friendly lady despatching the drinks. The pub featured much dark wood and glazing with enamelled lettering (opening picture) plus upholstered bench seating, and what a beauty it is. Grade ll-listed and dating from the 16th century, it is not surprisingly on CAMRA's list of pubs with a historic interior. 

Unassuming: Blue Ball Inn, Malton

I ordered a pint of Taylors Landlord and as it was being pulled, an old guy sat next to the bar chatted away to me. The pint was pulled, the money paid, and the lady said they had a lovely beer garden outside if I wanted to sit in the sunshine. Now whether that was a rescue act because the guy was the pub dullard, or whether she thought I would bore the pair of them senseless with my tales of blogging, I don't know, but she was most likely being friendly and maybe thought I came over as a sun dude! I did go outside, and it was a small but lovely terraced pub garden with a few interesting features, a pleasant spot to enjoy a decent pint of Landlord which was another 3.5 rating. It was peaceful, me being the only occupant apart from a cheerful garden gnome maintaining a vigil in the middle of a flower bed.

Just in case you forget where you are....

I finished my pint, went back inside, and returned my glass to the bar, where I bade farewell to the landlady and the old guy. I walked over to the market square, and spotting the Stew & Oyster, I headed into what was a modern bar in the old town hall building. It is part of a small Leeds-based chain who sell cask and craft beers alongside a menu featuring as the name suggests, stews and oyster dishes. It was hardly stew weather, but with a large glass window to the side of the bar, I felt I would have quite easily stewed had I stayed inside. So I took my half of White Rat (NBSS 3) and sat outside in the shade at the side of the building watching the world go in the square by for a short while.

Malton town square, with Stew & Oyster on the right

The final pub I was planning to visit was the GBG-listed New Malton. It was a couple of minutes walk away, past the church of St Michael with its rather squat tower, at the far end of the market square, and occupies a building that was previously tea rooms. It has a somewhat rambling interior, although it is actually a single room split over two levels and with distinct areas for eating and drinking. Three hand pumps adorned the bar, one featuring Dinga Dinga, an Australian-inspired pale ale from Rudgate, plus two from North Shields-based Three Kings, Ruby Revolution, a malty dark ruby ale, and The Bitter Ex, a 3.7% traditional bitter with a modern twist, which is the one I went for. It was an enjoyable drink, not too bitter, and I reckoned another NBSS 3.5 rating was in order. I was getting a bit peckish by now, and so I ordered a marinated chicken sandwich with salad and a few fries, which I was allowed to eat where I was although it was in a designated drinking area!  The food was good, as was the beer, and the staff were pleasant, but I came away feeling that overall the New Malton lacked a bit of character.

The New Malton

It was getting time to go back to the station to catch the train. I had enjoyed my afternoon in Malton. It is a pretty compact and attractive town and is well worth a visit. The pubs I tried were all different, but all are worth calling in for one reason or another. And it had been warm, but nothing compared to what was about to hit us....

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