Birthdays always seem to equate to beer, and a good amount of it when it comes to adult birthdays. I’m one year away from the third big occasion, my 40th, after the big gap between the first two at 18 and 21. It was my wifes latest turning of indeterminate age last weekend and over the two days I got to visit a number of my favourite pubs across Calderdale and Huddersfield. Nothing can quite beat a blowout of great beer and good food and probably too much was partaken of both.
Starting out of town, it’s always a pleasure to get to visit the Huddersfield beer triangle which is the Grove, Hand Drawn Monkey and the Sportsman. The Grove lived up to all expectations with a first taste of Magic Rock Salty Kiss (5%), a sour but delicious raspberry gose beer. Gose beers originate in Northern Germany and the Low Countries, belonging to the family of sour wheat beers which were traditionally and still are made to a lesser degree in that area of Europe. The same beer was sampled again later at Hand Drawn Monkey and was just as good there.
The second beer at the Grove was Toccalmatto Oceania, an Italian Saison beer. Saison beers originated in southern Belgium during the 19th century. They were typically brewed during winter months and stored until summer months when they were given to farm workers in lieu of water. The long storage means the flavours have variety as the different strains of yeast develop differently and are typically brewed dry with lots of hops and spices to prevent bacteria infection. The Oceana was an excellent example of the variety and at 7.7% was not lacking in flavour at all, only the call of the curry house stopping a second being ordered.
As a side note, for those that like their curries I can well recommend the Chilli Lounge in Huddersfield for both portions and quality of food, don’t let the apparent size put you off, it is a tardis of a building once inside. The following day we returned to collect our car and a pint of Black Jack Brewery “Play your Card Rye’t” (4.9%) at the Sportsman was an excellent way to relax after watching the St Patricks Parade. Its refreshing citrus taste leaving you wanting more if you didn’t have a car to get home.
Closer to home was a visit to the Cross Keys, Siddal on Saturday afternoon to see the presentation of the SPBW Yorkshire Winter Pub of the Year 2014. The SPBW (Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood) is a real ale organisation which predates CAMRA by nearly 10 years. The award was accompanied by a 14lb pork pie which lasted barely 30 minutes before disappearing into the assembled drinkers and dogs. The plaque now takes pride of place next to the bar and is well deserved for a pub which has only been open less than 18 months and has assembled a great team behind the bar, which has seen it become one of the best in Calderdale for the range and quality of its beer. As a note I have to say that the SPBW bring a lot of drinkers with them, all proudly sporting the logo on their chest and ensuring they sampled as many of the beers as possible on offer.
Not strictly a real ale pub although they do stock a couple of Ilkley beers most of the time, but one which gets my business purely down to stocking Mahou, a favourite spanish beer is Jeremy’s in Brighouse and a couple of pints of this beer went down well at Saturday tea time as a warm up for the evening in Huddersfield, although the 2 pints I had at the Cross Keys as well maybe warmed me up a bit too much come the end of the night as we returned there for a jug of sangria before heading home. Add in a quick Friday visit to the Commercial / Railway in Brighouse to catch up with Jason over a nice pint of ale, another pub I’m visiting more and coming to really like. Decent range of beers, friendly staff and feeling like you are in the landlords front room makes this one of my preferred haunts in the town now. After a long hiatus I popped into the Ship Inn a few weeks ago and things are looking better, the beer was good, the staff welcoming and friendly and the banter seems to have returned between customers and staff, something which was missing on my last visit.
For a town of Brighouse’s size to have at least 4 pubs worth visiting (inc Wetherspoons) is important, and adds to the attraction for visitors. Lets hope its kept up.