As we reach the penultimate issue of Pubpaper for 2013, it is probably a good time to look back on what has been a good year for pubs, brewers and the trade in general. Over the last 51 weeks I have seen most parts of Calderdale and it seems that the pub stock has settled at healthy level across our area. Some pubs are still shuttered, but I think that shows that there was an oversupply of pubs in that area previously, it’s never good to see a pub boarded up, but in my opinion I’d rather 2 pubs have regular healthy trade than 3 pubs just about breaking even.
The other sign that I think we are past the worst is that new premises are being converted to pubs. Jeremy’s at the Boathouse in Brighouse opened towards the end of the year and it is obvious that a lot of money has gone into this project, showing that confidence in the pub / bar market is improving. We have also gained a new challenger in the real ale pub league with the Cross Keys celebrating a year of being open in mid December. Now one of my local haunts, Hugh has done an excellent job of creating a traditional friendly boozer which always has a well kept regularly rotated range of ales. Even though his idea of a session beer is 6% and an ideal nightcap bottle to take home is 11%, his passion for the beer shows through and this has won him a lot of customers.
After the floods of 2012, it is good to see that Hebden Bridge is back to its previous compliment of pubs (sans the Moyles hotel bar on the main road) and that they seem to be doing good trade. It was also fantastic news that the Fox and Goose is passing into community hands with the needed funds (and more) being raised by hundreds of supporters locally, regionally and nationally. Whilst the paper work is still being dealt with, we should see it formally transferred over to the new community trust in the first quarter of 2014. Just down the road The Old Gate Inn has become a destination pub for ale hunters as well, with the Stubbing Wharf holding onto the cider crown in the valley.
One sad thing is that a number of former pub premises are now destined to be converted to other uses. On the Burnley Road from Sowerby Bridge to Todmorden you can see 3-4 premises which are being primed to demolition for new housing or conversion to apartments when the housing market is ready. No effort is being made to maintain the buildings and long term effects of this can be seen at the Malt Shovel on the Brighouse Road from Southowram where the building is now falling apart and the boards have fell off several windows leaving it open to the elements. Whilst these would not be viable pubs currently, they could well be again once the country clears the recession, however once gone that cannot happen.
Sowerby Bridge is going strong with its numerous pubs still drawing a large crowd from outside the town for nights out and Wetherspoons thinks there is room another with the opening of the Commercial Inn mid December. I’m not sure if there is the market for a pub its size in the town and it will surely cannibalise sales from its Halifax site as “Sowerby Wetherspooners” move local. I hope that the existing venues in the town are not affected adversely, although it is inevitable that there will be some redistribution of pub takings across the town. I suspect that the Ritz and other pubs in the immediate vicinity will be hit harder that the likes of the Works, Navigation and Puzzle Hall Inn who have that distance to slightly buffer them. On the other hand 55 jobs are being created in the town and that is never a bad thing.
Personally I’ve had a year of discovering pubs new to me or rediscovering pubs outside of the Calderdale area. In Huddersfield, The Grove and The Sportsman have been a revelation from an ale point of view, while Hand Drawn Monkey have gone from strength to strength and have made Huddersfield my venue of choice for a day away pub crawl. In Sheffield I visited the Sheffield Tap at the Railway Station after a break of 4 years and the place still astounds me, not only the 30+ pumps and taps, but the sheer level of detail that has gone into restoring the old refreshment rooms to its original state. A more beautiful pub I’d challenge you to find.
If the government are to be believed, things are only going to better, in that case, I’m looking forward to the world of beer in 2014.