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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.

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Calls Landing, Leeds

December 16, 2010 2 comments

Calls Landing is a pub with one great strength: it’s one of probably only two bars in Leeds City Centre with a South-facing beer garden on the river (along with Aire Bar next door, which has a smaller one).

It’s a very nice, if sometimes slightly crowded, beer garden and it certainly beats sitting outside Restaurant Bar & Grill on City Square in summer, surrounded by roaring traffic as the long shadows fall in mid-afternoon whilst you drink a very expensive  pint of Tetley’s Smoothflow.

But a riverside pub like this is going to struggle for 9 months of the year in West Yorkshire when the beer garden lies wet and empty, as seagulls pick away at soggy discarded Greggs wrappers. So it needs to have something else going for it.

Fortunately, one of Calls Landing’s strengths is a small but decent range of beers. Whilst it’s not going to compete for variety with The Palace around the corner for selection on cask, there are three handpumps, one of which is always Theakstons (which is a good enough default option and one I haven’t seen much of in Leeds).

The guest beers have included some unusual and interesting options, including Golden Angel from Doncaster’s Toad Brewery – a solid beer with a terrible pumpclip – and this week, Ossett Brewery’s Treacle Stout. It’s probably pipped at the post by Summer Wine’s Treason Treacle Stout for me; but it’s a SIBA award-winner and deservedly so.  There’s also a pretty good fridge selection, with a few dumpy Belgian bottles as well as Brooklyn Lager and the like.

It’s one of those bars that, instead of having a busy kitchen and a large menu, has chosen to have a small, low-maintenance selection of food that it does well. Whereas North Bar has pie & peas or cheese & bread, Calls Landing has recently rebranded itself as a “stew & oyster bar”.

There’s a selection of three changing stews with an emphasis on beans, chorizo, chilli, prawns etc, which come in big bowls with nice bread, and I’ve always enjoyed. It’s also served quickly, which doesn’t hurt.

I’m a bit wary about oysters generally, so I’ve always shied away from that option. They also have good olives and a selection of nuts.  They could do with giving you a spare glass to put your pistachio shells in, though.

The bar itself is pleasantly decked out with a modern cafe feel, with light wood, exposed bricks, a rack of newspapers and fairly interesting modern art posters. The piped music tends towards the safe and middle-aged, with a lot of Cream, Fleetwood Mac, T-Rex and the like. The windows look out on the river and the floorspace has expanded considerably into a further room in the last year or so.

Calls Landing has always been a great place to be on a summer afternoon. However it’s also a very pleasant place for a simple, warming meal and a decent pint on a dark, rainy winter evening.

Calls Landing, 36-38 The Calls, LS2 7EW; http://www.callslanding.com/

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