Grove Is In The Heart: An Afternoon In The Grove, Huddersfield
From the train station, we walk through Huddersfield in the wind and the rain, passing under the ringroad via an unappealing underpass before arriving at The Grove. We go into the left-hand bar, uncertain of whether this is what locals do, or whether the locals will care, whether there are codes and rules we may be violating. But the Grove only looks like that type of pub from the outside. Inside, no-one seems to notice, and in there we meet the familiar, welcoming faces who we have arranged to meet on this Saturday afternoon: the chef (who arranged it), the barman, the not-actually-a-beer-blogger.
Soon others will come – the brewer, the student of brewing, the cynic. There are other beer geeks here – from Scotland, no less. Kenny’s down for the football, others have popped over on the train after visiting the big festival in Manchester. At the bar I speak to a German with a shopping list of English beers half-crossed out in ballpoint pen.
We all pore over the taps, the blackboards and the bottle list. Each of us is excited by the choice, amazed by the prices, concerned about what we’ll get to try before we reach our limit, or have to go for the last train. I foresee my own lack of restraint, not enough water, the usual well-meaning but drunken overenthusiasm, the wrong words in the wrong order, “Shit, is that the time?”, and perhaps cold sweat and quiet misery as my body fights overindulgence on the train home. Still, it could be worse – the unfortunate barman has to go to work this evening.
Fortunately we have limited ourselves to a couple of hours in this place before we go for dinner, a 6pm reservation. This turns out to be wise. You need a reason to leave The Grove. So in the meantime we start buying beers, sharing and tasting, talking about them, exchanging news, getting to know people who were Twitter friends – but in reality strangers – until today.
The bar gets dark, the lights go on. Amongst the astonishing bottle list, the excellent cask ales from as close as West Yorkshire and as far as Kent, the exotic but bargainous keg beers, we are all excited to learn that in the fridges (but not yet on the list) is the new black IPA that we’ve all read about from the excellent new brewery down the road. We smell it, we taste it and the table’s opinion changes. A good first impression from the nose shifts as the beer reveals itself to be – whilst fruity – also unexpectedly roasted, smokey and liquoricey.
What is the purpose of a black IPA and does this deliver? The consensus is probably not – the malt is too dominant. You couldn’t trick a blindfolded beer geek into thinking it might be a pale beer (the Turing Test of black IPAs; not that you’d actually want to). Other black IPAs are hurriedly purchased for comparison – one from the Peak District, another from underneath a railway arch in South London. The London version smells and tastes of Starburst. It’s everyone’s favourite. Is the new, local beer miscategorised? I think it’s an interesting beer in its own right; but no, it’s not a new favourite. Not yet, anyway.
After two and a half hours we leave for the restaurant, only a little late. For all the strong beers I’m doing pretty well, but can see that tipping point wasn’t far off. I’m happy and enthusiastic about the pub and the company, old friends and new friends. Overenthusiastic, maybe – like I said, that happens when I’ve had a couple of drinks in good company. But even in the morning I’m smiling. Until I remember that I forgot to buy a carry-out.