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Pub Walks: Leeds-Liverpool Canal, Shipley to Skipton

March 6, 2011 1 comment

After doing the Leeds-Saltaire section of the Leeds-Liverpool canal last week, I decided to complete the journey to Skipton this weekend.  I got off the train at Shipley and walked through Saltaire again through a very pleasant section of canal to Bingley where, despite my lack of real interest in canal architecture, the 237 year old Five Rise Locks are still impressive.

I kept going on to Riddlesden, near Keighley where I made my first pit-stop at The Marquis Of Granby on the canalside, about six miles into the walk.  This clean, traditional-looking pub has exposed beams from which jugs and china plates hang, telly showing the sports and an unusual amount of England flags hung above the bar.  The St George’s cross theme extended to the pump clips, where Wells Bombardier draped itself in the flag alongside the more reserved John Smiths Cask and Theakstons Mild.  I enjoyed  a half of the Theakstons – a slightly sweet mellow dark mild – whilst some decent music (New Order, Led Zep) played in the background.

The walk gets a little more annoying after this stage, where large stretches of the towpath are merely mud and grass that show a lot of use by cyclists.  I stopped at around the 9.5 mile point at Silsden, at The Bridge Inn.  Up some steps by the canal, this slightly tired pub unfortunately only had one ale on its five pumps when I went in, although to be fair it was earlyish on a Saturday and presumably the others went off the previous evening.  The one ale on was Abbot Ale, which was sweet, bready and slightly sulphurous, with a slightly bitter to sour aftertaste.  Not unpleasant, but not in any way interesting.

I pressed on in earnest through some nice countryside and past some pleasant villages along the towpath, which remained slightly muddy and unfortunately for a large section runs alongside a main road.  Near Bradley I passed a grand and unusually well-tended memorial to seven Polish airmen who died in a Wellington bomber crash in 1943. 

At around the 15 mile mark and a mile outside the centre of Skipton I came off the towpath and walked onto an industrial estate to the Copper Dragon Brewery.  The brewery has a good, pleasant and modern-looking bar/bistro in the centre of the building which has an emphasis on really nice food.  They were gearing up for a busy evening with a lot of reservations, but were happy for me to sit at the bar. 

Almost everyone’s favourite Copper Dragon beer is Golden Pippin, a nice, pale, hoppy, low ABV session ale in the same category as Ilkley Brewery’s Mary Jane.  However I tried Challenger IPA, which had a bready, slightly citrussy alcoholic smell. It had a traditional taste with less bitterness than you might expect.  I wasn’t entirely convinced it was what I wanted from an IPA.

Scotts 1816 had similar aroma with perhaps more orange peel. There was a dried apricot sweetness in the taste.  Owzat once again had a similarly subtle aroma, with the same creamy mouthfeel but more lemon in the taste.  It was my favourite of the three.  The lady who served me told me that it was the same beer as their Freddie Trueman ale (see photo below) but they changed the name as it wasn’t selling in Lancashire.  I said that was remarkable, and she said it was either that, or a good story.

It was a bit early for me to eat so I went back to the towpath and walked into town in the fading light.  The Narrow Boat, down a back street near the canal, is a professionally-run bar with helpful staff, a good selection of mostly local cask beers and a good fridge selection alongside an appealling menu.  You’d expect as much from the first of the Market Town Taverns, which has now been open for 12 years.

After not really being too excited by a taster of Thwaites Hit The North, I opted for a pint of Ilkley Mary Jane.  It’s a really nice beer, with a light lemon/lime aroma carrying through to a refreshing, light, slightly sharp lime taste with satisfyingly bitter aftertaste.  Also, I know this is a beer blog and not a potato-based snack blog, but ham and mustard Real Crisps are bloody brilliant.

I decided to have a final half before creakily walking to the train, and went for Naylor’s Magnum PA.  Initially put off by the label, which appears to flirt with intellectual property issues, I was quite impressed by the light, subtle, citrus aroma, similarly delicate, fruity lychee taste and bitterness.  It was probably a little too sweet to enjoy a large volume of it, but it’s a nice beer.

The Rifleman’s Arms, Greenside, Kendal

November 9, 2010 4 comments

Kate’s parents live in Kendal, so quite often we end up spending the weekend in the Lakes, enjoying a walk during the day then going out for a drink in the evening.  The two places that we end up in most often are The Brewery Arts Centre (disappointingly no longer a brewery; just a very good arts centre) and Burgundy’s.

The Vats Bar at The Brewery Arts Centre is relatively expensive, but does usually have a few ales from around the Lakes on, notably their excellent house beer Ale N Arty from Hawkshead.  Burgundy’s similarly has a range of around four local cask ales at a time, often including Coniston beers, as well as a good bottle fridge with Orval, Trappistes Rochefort and even the odd bottle of Goose Island IPA.

The Rifleman’s Arms is a less obvious choice.  It’s on a nice green, after what on the first climb appears to be a horrendously steep walk up the hill from the main street, appropriately called Beast Banks.  Postman Pat was conceived in the imagination of children’s author John Cunliffe when he was living on Greenside, a few houses up from The Rifleman’s Arms and the former Beast Banks sub-post office.

The Rifleman’s is a pub which has reportedly gone through a few shakey moments in recent years but now seems to be on the path back to good health.  On a Friday night it seems busy with locals playing dominoes, darts and also in the side room, pool.  Posters advertise a weekly knitting circle and the new landlady/manageress seems to be involved in a number of events on the green and keeping the pub involved in the local community.

They have beer from the SIBA list and when we were in two weeks ago that included Ossett Spellbound and Moorhouses Pendle Witches Brew, alongside the Tetleys and Abbot Ale which seem to be the standards.  Spellbound in particular was a nice pale ale to enjoy by the gas fire on a wet windy night, whilst the dominoes clattered in the background.  However it was served in incorrectly branded glasses.  Hardknott Dave would not approve.

Perhaps symbolic of the decline and resurgence of The Rifleman’s is the literature on offer.  On a sideboard by the toilets (pictured) is a complete collection of Good Beer Guides for the years 1995-2003.  This might be indicative of when the management lost interest.  But now they have up-to-date copies of CAMRA’s “Beer” magazine and the local CAMRA newsletter, “Lakes & Ale”. 

The Rifleman’s isn’t in the Good Beer Guide at the moment, but it is a friendly local on the edge of town, with a relaxed atmosphere and some good beer.

There’s just one thing though, which is a bit jarring when you go to relieve yourself in the (clean but typically freezing) toilets after a few: the urinal has lumps of coal in it.  Coal.  Moreover, I am informed that exactly the same lumps have been there for years.  Coal apparently gets rid of odours and I assume that’s what they’re for.  But I’ve never seen this anywhere else.  Have you?

The Rifleman’s Arms, 4-6 Greenside, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 4LD

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