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Beer in Sheffield: The Rutland Arms, 86 Brown St, S1 2BS

August 5, 2012 3 comments

In the spirit of exploring the world on our own doorstep, Kate and I spent two days in Sheffield to celebrate my 32nd birthday.  Sheffield’s beer and pubs have changed massively since I graduated from the university in 2004, although the seeds of that were already evident in Dave Wickett’s Fat Cat pub and Kelham Island Brewery, of which more in a later post.

The Rutland Arms is a pub I had never visited or had even heard of when  I was a student in Sheffield.  Now it seems like a traditional pub but with a studenty/indie feel, a good jukebox and an exciting range of beers, including some from the relatively new, and related, Blue Bee Brewery.

It’s not far from the station (walk up from the station and take the first left after the Showroom Cinema) so made for a good first stop off the train  It was a quiet Thursday afternoon, but that meant we almost got the bar to ourselves to stick some Pulp and Richard Hawley on the jukebox for some Sheffield indie nostalgia to set the scene for our break.

I enjoyed a classy fish finger sandwich and chips whilst Kate had a nice halloumi salad.  It being IPA Day, I really enjoyed Dark Star Revelation, perhaps the cask IPA of the moment, and appreciated a dry-hopped version of Blue Bee Tangled Up IPA.

We left the Rutland Arms happier than when we had arrived off the train: relaxed and in the mood to enjoy more of Sheffield.  It’s definitely on the list for our next visit, maybe for the quiz night.

Friends With Benefits: Friends Of Ham, 4 New Station Street, Leeds City Centre

Friends Of Ham is a new bar in Leeds city centre, on New Station Street close to The Brewery Tap, Layne’s Espresso and, um, Yates’. It’s the labour of love of Claire and Anthony Kitching, who decided to move north from London and open a craft beer bar-come-deli in West Yorkshire.

The slightly enigmatic name relates not to the comrades of the biblical Ham, the son of Noah who was disowned and cursed for seeing his drunken father sprawled in the nip. Rather (if I recall correctly) it’s a pun on a Spanish tapas bar called something like “Amigos Del Jamon”.

The bar itself is over two levels and is remarkable. A small shopfront ground floor has legs of ham hanging from hooks above the bar. The basement, whilst cosy, must be twice the size and contains sofas, long tables, a porcine gallery and a shuffleboard table. The decor is eclectic, welcoming, quirky and thoughtful.

Whilst the bar is full of little touches that signal a unique attention to detail, the selection of food and drink shows similar care and a particular attitude. Those of us who have been following Friends Of Ham’s progress on Twitter and Facebook know that there has been a dedication to finding the best products from the best suppliers that has involved a number of gruelling tasting sessions and advice from experienced Leodensians such as staff member Tyler Kiley (formerly of Mr Foleys) and Neil Walker of Eating Isn’t Cheating (who has posted about the bar here).

Cask beers on the preview night included Red Willow Smokeless and Quantum Bitter and the keg beers included Kernel Amarillo IPA, Magic Rock Clown Juice (a delicious wheat IPA), Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Lakeland Lager and Delerium Red (a Kriek). The back bar had a box of Ampleforth cider and the fridges contain a great range of interesting beers, from Orval to Redchurch East India Pale Ale. Interestingly the licence application included their decision not to stock spirits at all.

The food appears be good, simple and tapas style, will include a range of excellent meats, cheeses and, most excitingly for me, Scotch eggs from the Handmade Scotch Egg Company, including their amazing black pudding version, “Black Watch”. Bascially, exactly what you’d like to eat whilst enjoying an Orval, an Ampleforth cider or a glass of red wine.

Friends Of Ham is a bar and an idea that deserves to find a devoted following. It will be enjoyed by beer geeks, wine buffs and foodies. It is also a welcoming and stylish space that should appeal to a wider demographic that enjoys socialising in a relaxed atmosphere but finds little of interest in the microwaved meals, worn carpets and skidmarks of many traditional pubs.

Read more about Friends of Ham from David at Broadford Brewer here, from Mark at Opportunity Hops here, from Zak at Are You Tasting The Pith here and from Neil at Eating Isn’t Cheating here.

[UPDATE – Friends Of Ham is open as of 10 July 2012 and will be building up to offering the full food menu.   Currently it’s selling a range of meats and cheeses.]

Alone Again Or

A few weeks ago Tandleman left a comment which said, inter alia, “…remember beer is a social drink to be enjoyed with friends. It should accompany entertainment, not be, in most cases at least, the actual entertainment itself.”

This is, of course, correct. However, drinking alone is when the beer gets to be the main attraction: the meat rather than the stock.  When you go to the cinema, you sit in the dark and turn your mobile phone off in order to give the film your full attention. Whilst some films can be enjoyed at home whilst flipping through a magazine or browsing the internet, a truly great film deserves to be watched with no significant distractions, only complimentary sensations: popcorn, a fizzy drink, a loving hand to squeeze through the shocks.

However, drinking alone in a relatively quiet pub serves a greater purpose than simply appreciating a beer in high definition; it can be good for your mental health.  It’s not that I hate conversation.  Other people can be wonderful, if you’re in the mood for them.  However, there are moments when a man needs to spend some time with himself to cleanse the mind of the wearying, frustrating, anxious trivia of real life. To defragment.

My perfect combination is sitting anonymously at a corner table in a half-full pub with a low hubbub of conversation going on all around, with a great beer and a good newspaper crossword (Telegraph cryptic or Observer Everyman, for my handicap).  One can sip the beer, stare into nothingness and think about the aroma and taste, solving its mysteries, alternating with working out cryptic clues and anagrams in your quiet battle with the setter.

If I were Icelandic, I might drive to the middle of nowhere and stare across a glacier, finding perspective in the emotionless stoicism of geology as the Earth slowly rips itself apart underfoot.  If I were a fisherman, I might pack my rod and stand in a river with only birdsong and trickling water to listen to, lost in the motions of casting and the passing current.

But here, in the rude, grubby, sweaty, selfish, frustrated city, at least I know that there is always a pub, a crossword and a pint.

Categories: Beer Tags: , ,

The “Round” In History: Rules, Comradeship, National Security and Venereal Disease

June 27, 2012 5 comments

Caught in a “round” system, drinkers can either find unwanted pints of beer stacking up in front of them like a firing squad, or sit around resentfully staring at their empty glass as the one whose turn it is next nurses their beer.  The former always used to happen between a group of us at a rural pub in County Antrim called The Wayside, so that the unstarted pints stacked in front of the slower drinkers at the end of the evening were described as a “Wayside Pile-up”.

The rules of the round can be more complicated and applied more restrictively than a newcomer might think. “Rules are rules”, say people with no imagination. Sometimes exceptions  and “sitting out” may not be permitted:  you may not refuse my generosity nor deny me yours.

There was a particularly strict attitude in certain pubs in my homeland, where I was once told a story of a visiting Englishman who didn’t automatically get a full round, but instead would ask each of his colleagues if they fancied another one.  Quiet offence was initially taken, but he was not to blame – as it was explained to me by the self-appointed pub anthropologist – that was just what English people did.

The Edwardian equivalent of the Wayside Pile-up was regarded as nothing less than a threat to national efficiency and, therefore, wartime security. Rounds were banned by “No-Treating” provisions made under the Defence Of The Realm Act in 1915 and revoked on 4 June 1919 (“and it is generally expected that this date will be made an annual, public holiday in Scotland” – Punch).  Lloyd George attributed an initial reduction in drunkenness convictions to the effect of the Order.

There’s a great example of the application of the No-Treating Order in a 1916 newspaper article here, where a sailor buying a round of drinks and the Cardiff landlord he bought it from were both prosecuted.  The landlord’s silk raised an interesting argument in his defence:

Mr Lewis Thomas K.C., for the landlord, said that the real reason for the order was to hit the person treating, and the person who was treated.  Supposing, said counsel, he and his friend, Mr. Whitely (appearing with him), before going into a hotel formed a joint-stock company and contributed 6d. each, and he went in and paid for two bottles of Bass. (Laughter.) If then his friend drank one there would be no offence.

The Lord Chief Justice: You don’t say really that, when going in to take refreshments, you form a joint-stock company in which you each contribute half of what is going to be spent?

Mr Thomas: It depends on the confidence you have in each other.

The Glasgow Herald reported in March 1944 on calls from the Moderator of the Church of Scotland for a No-Treating Order to be brought in during World War 2:

Many attempts, he said, had been made to get the Government to pass such an order, but so far without result.  He for one thought it was too soon yet to give up the battle – and he believed it was also in the mind of the Church he represented – to bring further pressure to bear on the Government in this matter.  There was no doubt that inebriation, immorality, and the incidence of venereal disease were very closely related to each other, and that it was difficult to deal with those problems separately.

The last point reveals what appears to be behind many for the calls to ban “treating” in 1944: a desire to prevent men buying women drinks in an attempt to arouse their affections, rather than simply to prevent groups of workers “getting a round in”. The same point was raised by Viscountess Astor in the House of Commons in the same month:

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that something ought to be done to relieve the anxiety of people who are deeply worried about the treating of young girls in public houses? Would not a no-treating order help in this very important matter?

As far as I’m aware, the “round” currently escapes any blame in the ongoing debate about alcohol and public health, as the arguments are generally restricted to pricing, duty, measures, ABV and age.  Perhaps it is because pubs are now thought of as a preferable, supervised drinking environment.

Or perhaps it is acknowledged that the system is one of those long-standing British traditions born of an obsession with rules and fair play, along with cricket, grammatical pedantry, writing outraged letters to broadsheet newspapers and queuing. Furthermore, the general ability of  men to buy women drinks doesn’t just spread VD, but rather is pretty much essential for the British to procreate at all.

Bitter and Jaded: Changing Tastes and Blogger’s Ennui

Like a fasting, beatific saint from the early middle ages, I have seen wonderful things. Colours not previously experienced anywhere in my mundane, cruel, mud-sodden, stinking, warty, short, pox-curtailed real life. I have seen gods, angels, demons and castles in the sky: nothing else compares.

More specifically, I’ve caught myself in the middle of a lot of mediocre beer experiences recently, possibly due to increased expectations after 18 months of beer blogging. Pints of slightly earthy brown water no longer satisfy. I find myself trapped in market towns where the pubs only offer endless pumps of perfectly-kept, virtually identical cask boredom.

I used to settle for Guinness. More recently I won’t even tolerate that. I reluctantly opt for the least worst pilsner before quickly moving on to whisky. I’ve even turned to wine in the desperate search for flavour in a flavourless climate. (It’s alright, I’ve discovered).

Recently I ranted a little on Twitter late on a Friday night (tellingly) about how people could possibly have given two shits about cask beer before some genius thought to put New World hops in it. That’s an unfair exaggeration and a slur on many excellent traditional (and yes, even subtle) English beers, but it reflects my increasing view that the majority of cask beers don’t merit my enthusiasm or loyalty. Nor do the majority of keg beers, or the majority of bottled beers.

I seem to have turned myself into a snob. Now there is interesting beer and there is uninteresting beer. Thankfully there’s still a hell of a lot of the former, thanks to hardworking, thoughtful, innovative brewers. These people deserve my money and support.

But as for the rest, I’m no longer prepared to settle for boring cask beer just because it’s cask beer, whether it was brewed in a shed or an aircraft hanger. Nor will I settle for any dull beer, just because it happens to qualify as beer and I’m a “beer drinker”.

Alternatively, perhaps I just need a holiday.

Categories: Beer Tags: , , , , , ,

Market Forces: Dock Street Market, Leeds

Back in the mists of time, when everyone was on the previous version of the iPhone and the world was on tenterhooks waiting for Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott’s version of Robin Hood, there was a deli-come-grocery on the cobbled Dock Street in Leeds called Simpson’s.  Simpson’s was quite expensive, but the young professionals of Brewery Wharf and Clarence Dock liked the fresh bread and the impressive selection of bottled ales, including Ilkley and Saltaire beers.

Simpsons closed, possibly due to competition from a cheap but souless Tesco Express that had recently opened, and there was due wailing and gnashing of teeth about the death of independent shops and quite a lot of discussions about whether it could be re-opened as a social enterprise.  Of course no-one really knew what a “social enterprise” was, but that nice polite Mr Cameron seemed to be in favour of them, and anyone who didn’t really like the word “social” was in favour of “enterprise” and vice versa, so it seemed like a reasonably admirable idea at the time without really gripping anyone.

Ultimately, in November 2010, Dock Street Market opened on the site of Simpson’s, run by “a group of independent local food traders“.  I think the line-up may have changed over time, but at the moment there seems to be a deli counter, a bakery and a bar.  The bar currently sells cakes and Prohibition-chic “teapot cocktails”, which Kate enjoyed.

The fact that I was most interested in the selection of beer will not come as a surprise, but the selection itself might.  As well as cask Black Sheep (it’s still Yorkshire after all, even if it is young, hip, waterfront Yorkshire) there was also Anchor Steam, BrewDog Punk IPA and Ilkley MJ Fortis on keg.  The bottle selection was even more impressive, including Brooklyn Lager, BrewDog 5am Saint, Chimay Red, Orval and Anchor Old Foghorn.

I had a Goose Island Matilda, an Orvalalike which was initially surprisingly bretty, but later pleasingly so, followed by a De Struise Pannepot 2010, a darkly delicious but drinkable 10% spiced Belgian strong ale which really needs that bit of cake to soak it up.

As well as the beer selection, I was impressed by the relaxed atmosphere of Dock Street Market, which leaves it somewhere between a cafe, a bar and a common room; seemingly a successful third place.  Its neighbours, the Leeds Brewery pub Pin and Mitchell and Butler’s Adelphi are another matter: Pin, whilst similarly having an impressive imported selection thanks to James Clay, can seem sadly quiet and has stripped down its food menu.  The Adelphi, whilst being one of Leeds’ best food pubs and having a great historic interior, has had quite an unimpressive cask selection the last two times I’ve been in.

Dock Street Market, for seeming to have come together at random and for its Cath Kidston-esque bunting and cake stands, has nonetheless ended up being perhaps the best place for a beer in the area.  They’re even planning a ticketed Anchor tap takeover/food and beer-matching dinner with Ben from James Clay on 6 June 2012, a US craft beer festival on 4 July 2012 and a BrewDog tap takeover on 1 August 2012, each of which is as good a reason as any to pay your first visit, if you haven’t already.

Beer in Copenhagen: Ørsted Ølbar & Cafe

The one place I regret not being able to devote more time to in Copenhagen is Ørsted Ølbar.  It’s a really nice basement bar (for some reason almost all the bars seem to be lower than street level) opposite a park and a short walk from Nørreport Station.

We visited it mid-afternoon at the end of a long walk, when it was quiet and the light shining on the distressed wood of the tables inside was beautiful. The barman was happy to have a chat about the extensive range of keg beers on offer and offered to let me try a couple before buying.

I had thought that Ørsted Ølbar had some cask beer, but what appeared to be traditional handpumps were in fact keg fonts.  There’s a bit of an “English” pub feel to the bar, although this isn’t overdone.

The bar has a number of “Ørsted” beers, although they’re all brewed by different Danish microbreweries.  Ørsted Bitter Bitch was a pleasant, sharply bitter IPA brewed (according to Ratebeer) by Det Lille Bryggeri. To Øl Sleep Over Coffee IIPA was very bitter with an upfront coffee taste: two forms of bitterness, really.

Finally the barman recommended a bottle of Mikkeller 10 from the cellar.  This was a superb IPA in a beautiful bottle made with 10 hop varieties: Warrior, Simcoe, Centennial, Cascade, Chinook, Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin, Nugget, Tomahawk and East Kent Goldings.  The fresh tropical aroma had a bit of lime to it, and the rainbow of hops in the taste somehow achieved a great balance to a properly bitter beer.

If I go back to Copenhagen, which I really hope to, I’ll make a point to leave time to visit Ørsted Ølbar.  If you’re going, I recommend you do the same.

Irish Beer: Guinness Gives You Mid-Strength; Mulligans Of Poolbeg Street

April 6, 2011 1 comment

On our last day in Ireland, Kate and I went to see the Book Of Kells (the main problem with which, as an exhibit, is that it’s a book, and it’s therefore only open at one place at any one time), following which we fancied a final pint in a traditional Dublin pub before catching the bus to the airport.

We decided on Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street, a dark, slightly bare looking pub with horse racing on the TV above the bar.  The Dorling Kindersley Guide To Ireland made the bold assertion that it was generally regarded amongst locals as pouring the best pint of Guinness in the city.

Now, given Guinness’ method of dispense, I am aware that there is actually likely to be bugger all difference from pub to pub.  It’s not hard to keep and in my experience is actually pretty consistent even in England, if you ignore all that “Guinness doesn’t travel” business.

Over the course of four days in Ireland I had naturally consumed Guinness in a number of different pubs: Moran’s Oyster Cottage in Kilcolgan; O’Riardins in Oranmore; McDaid’s off Grafton Street.  Each of them were good and, for the avoidance of doubt, none had a frigging shamrock drawn on the head.

However I had noticed one variation: in around half of the places I had it, the Guinness had a slightly alcoholic kick in the back end of the aftertaste.  I hadn’t noticed this before but Kate recognised it as well.  I’m not sure why it would be present in some places but not others, and thought it might be related to different batches, different ages of beer or perhaps a slightly quicker turnover.  In any case, I quite enjoyed the slightly boozier hit.

The Guinness we had in Mulligan’s didn’t have the alcohol aftertaste, and went perfectly well with a packet of cheese and onion crisps.  However they also had a variation on Guinness that I hadn’t tried before: Guinness Mid-Strength, a 2.8% version of draft Guinness, which is normally 4.2%.

When we ordered a half for a side-by-side comparison, the barman said that he didn’t think it tasted any different.  He wasn’t far off.  Guinness doesn’t smell or taste of very much relative to bolder stouts and porters, so there wasn’t much of a loss in the taste department.  However, there was very slightly more watery mouthfeel.  All-in-all though, I think that any normal drinker, including myself, probably wouldn’t notice it was a different drink to normal Guinness if handed a cold pint in the pub.  Erm, unless it said “Guinness Mid-Strength” on the glass.

It seems to me that a lot of thought has gone into making a beer that tastes as near as possible to normal Guinness but 1.3% less.  It does beg the question as to why they bothered: were people really clamouring for a weaker Guinness?  I know in some quarters it has a reputation for being a stronger beer than it actually is, but at around 4.1% it’s within most people’s definition of a session beer.

It seems that Diageo have been trialling Guinness Mid-Strength for five years now, and It’s being aimed at a market that want to drink during the week, for instance watching the football, but without suffering the “consequences”.  I’m not convinced that further tinkering so close to a core brand that makes much of its long history, tradition and authenticity is the most sensible thing to do, nomatter how much that beer has actually been tweaked, altered and the method of dispense completely overhauled over the years.

With beer duty being halved in the UK for drinks of 2.8% or less produced by large brewers (small brewers don’t get any additional benefit), there’s more incentive than ever for Diageo to attempt to launch Guinness Mid-Strength in the UK.  However, if the experience in Ireland is anything to go by, the saving on duty will go straight into Diageo’s profits and won’t be reflected in the price.

See this post for my reviews of a couple of more muscular versions of Guinness, which I hope survive the rise in beer duty for “superstrength” beers.

Uncommon Market: The Rake and Brew Wharf, Borough Market, Southwark

March 19, 2011 4 comments

A trip to London for work means an early start, a lot of train time and usually a fairly hectic day (or couple of days) of work when I get there, and a late finish. However every cloud has a head on it, so I decided to use the opportunity to explore the beery delights of Borough Market, which was less than a mile’s walk from my hotel near St Paul’s.

After a picturesque walk across the Millennium Footbridge that runs between St Paul’s and the Tate Modern, I followed the South bank of the Thames to London Bridge. The first place I came to that was on my list was Brew Wharf, a large, spacious, minimalist modern bar under railway arches.

It was quite busy, so I took my half of their own 1 Hundred IPA and went to stand outside. It was a malty, US-style strong (6.3% or thereabouts?) IPA, but on cask. It was quite amber and malty in the way a lot of US IPAs are, and had a nice piney, furniture polish bitterness. It was a very tasty beer indeed, but… Sacrilegious as it was to think, on this of all days (being the 40th anniversary of CAMRA) it probably would have been slightly better on keg.

I then wandered around slightly lost in an enjoyable kind of way, in the shadow of the half-built Blade-Runneresque Shard that now overlooks the street food vendors of Borough.  I popped my head into The Market Porter, a pretty, large, traditional pub with a wide selection of cask ales, but it was also a bit full for a solitary visit.  After a while I finally found The Rake, which must actually only be about 20 metres from Brew Wharf.

The tiny and neat bar had a wealth of incredible bottles, as well as two Sierra Nevadas (Bigfoot and Celebration) on keg and a few cask ales. However, I’d come here for the Kernel. I bought a bottle of Kernel Citra IPA to drink and another to take home, along with a Kernel Export Stout, a Kernel Black IPA and a can of Caldera Ashland Amber Ale, also for the bag.

I went out to the beer garden at the side (which probably more than doubles the size of the tiny pub) and sat down on a bench to enjoy what turned out to be a wonderful beer. On the Twissup people had mentioned how amazingly fresh Kernel beers taste, and on the evidence of this first one, they weren’t wrong. It was a truly lovely, refreshing, bittersweet beer, like the cool morning dew on a mango tree.

I went back to the bar for a De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis (“Hell & Damnation”), which was my first De Molen beer. The closest I’d come to De Molen before was Marble’s take on Vuur & Vlaam. Hel & Verdoemenis was a very nice imperial stout with all the warm, dark, roasted coffee flavours that lend themselves to contented contemplation. However, it was also very drinkable relative to its strength, which is well over 10%, and it probably went down a little quicker than intended.

I had sat down next to a table of gents talking in an informed way about beer and ended up being brought into the conversation. It turned out that I was sitting next the owners of The Rake and Utobeer (Richard and Mike), Nigel from the drinks importers James Clay & Sons and Gildas from Chimay’s export team. They were all very friendly and happy to talk about beer, the legend that is Jeff Pickthall, the Lake District, the interelationship between monasticism and clericalism etc. You know, the usual. I must remember that I owe Nigel a drink if I see him again.

As it was getting late and I was getting tipsy, I decided to head back to Brew Wharf, which had calmed down a bit. I sat at one of the long tables and enjoyed a plate of sausage and mash and another Kernel bottle, this time the Pale Ale South. This was another very, very nice beer, not quite as mindblowing as the Citra but with the same wonderful freshness.

I’d had a fantastic evening and enjoyed some great beer. I was only sad that Kate wasn’t here to enjoy it with me, but at the very least that gave me an excuse to come back soon with her.

As I walked back, my heavy bag clinking with local beers on my back and the huge, baroque dome of St Paul’s dome shrouded in mist looming over the river, I thought that London wouldn’t be such a bad place to live. But perhaps I wouldn’t appreciate it as much if I did.

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.

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