Give or take a month, I’ve been writing this column for 5 years now. The pub scene in Calderdale has had its peaks and troughs, some following the economy, some due to acts of god and sometimes a town has just popped its head above the Calderdale crowd. The pubs I was regularly visiting 5 years ago are very different to those who get my money today. A number of these changes have been because I’ve got to know the people who run a certain pub and come to be friendly with them, but with many it is simply drifting away as new premises open, became more real ale oriented or improved their beer offerings. In some cases over the years, a pub has drifted in-out-in of favour and in one case in-out-in-out of favour.
Back in 2010, I regularly visited the bars at the bottom of Halifax, The Three Pigeons and The Pump Room. In Hipperholme the Cock of the North was a regular venue whilst in Brighouse I was a regular guest at the pub Mark Feasey and Jason Fieldhouse were involved in operating back then. The Big Six was also a regular haunt up at Manor Heath and in Sowerby Bridge it was usually The Works getting my money. Hebden Bridge generally saw the White Lion and Stubbing Wharf getting my beer money.
Of these, the Cock of the North totally dropped off the radar for a number of years as previously documented, but recently came back into consideration. The Big Six I only occasionally visit, but that is in no way down to the pub, merely the fact I’m not in the area as much. John and the team there always seem to be doing the same good job of running an honest boozer when I do visit. The Works is still on my list when in town (which isn’t as much as 5 years ago), but I now usually visit the Puzzle Hall Inn if down that way for the live music. Regarding the two Hebden Bridge pubs, it is down to competition with the newer Old Gate and the now community owned Fox and Goose suiting my beer tastes better, although the Stubbing Wharf still gets a visit with my cider loving wife. Brighouse wise I’ve moved to Jeremys, Millers and the Beck as well as the Commercial which I’ll discuss later.
Of the Halifax pubs, my town drinking money moved to Lewins (ex O’Neills / Last Drop) when Kevin Sanders took over and stayed there pretty solidly for the couple of years he ran the pub. Some great beer rotated through the pumps at that time and I drank most of it. After or around this period, the Ring of Bells came onto the scene for me, slightly up the road The Old Post Office started having a decent ale range. Just outside town, Hugh and the Cross Keys at Siddal hit the real ale scene with force and sucked up my beer money like a Dyson (and still does to a lesser extent). There was no real reason for me not going back to the Three Pigeons, just local competition and of course the Pump Room was run down, then pulled down (well most of it as this is written).
Looking at Halifax, The Upper George is still a great pub for a night out and hasn’t really changed since I moved here 18 years ago thankfully. However in the last 5 years new additions have come along to the real ale scene in the form of Dirty Dicks, a pub I went through a phase of being a regular, and now visit occasionally. However in the town centre my most regular pub is Victorian Craft Beer Cafe with its great range of keg and cask beers and lovely space to drink in. Hugh at the Cross Keys may take every chance he gets to rip into my writing about Craft Keg (and is right now working out an expletive laden phrase to use when I next step into his pub) and argue the toss about this column, however there is no doubt he runs an excellent pub with some of the best real ale around, great staff and a fantastic music scene as well.
I’ve got to mention a couple more pubs before I wrap up, firstly The Commercial / Railway, Brighouse. Trevor, Sue, Jason et all, run a great pub up there, decent beer and cider range and a friendlier pub it’d be hard to find. It looks like someone’s house inside and feels like it as well. A great community spirit that has been lost in many places pub or not is alive and well here. The second pub is the Sportsman at Ploughcroft, ran by Darren, this little gem does a handful of good well kept real ales, well priced food and always has a nice atmosphere. Out of the way, but worth the trip for the view over Shibden Valley alone.