It’s alway good to find that a bar you haven’t visited for a while has kept the standards up. This was very much the case with The Firehouse in Sowerby Bridge a couple of weekends ago. I’d only visited a couple of times before and liked the place, but recently when visiting the town we’d got into the habit of going up Hollins Mill Lane to the Works and Puzzle Hall Inn. On a steady sunday afternoon, although by the time we left it was warming up nicely for the evening, the place had a great combination of chilled atmosphere, good beer and cracking pizzas. The testament to the last point was the number of people coming in for a takeaway pizza and enjoying a pint whilst waiting.
The pub has a great range of beers on offer, 6 on pump including a couple of Dark Star beers and Magic Rock Ringmaster and 8 craft beer lines. I’d like to say I tried a couple of the craft beers, but give me a Magic Rock High Wire tap and I’m not moving to another easily, although I sampled a half of Dark Star American Pale Ale and it was in cracking condition. The service was very good as well and the pizzas are as they should be, good toppings and a base just about thick enough to support them, frankly at £10 for two as part of their daytime deal is as good as are going to get for the quality of the pizza on offer, although the seafood jambalaya was calling my name rather loudly.
The bar is relatively small on the lower level and this works to make the place welcoming and cosy even if quiet, but can take a decent number of people without getting crowded. Some might say the craft beer is slightly expensive at £4.30 per pint on average, but I’d argue you’ll pay about this at other places such as the Victorian Beer Cafe in Halifax or Millers Bar in Brighouse, so is par for the course. It’s a bit of a marmite issue, some like me are happy to pay that for a good craft beer, others are not and neither party are wrong. I’ve got good friends on both sides of the camp who know their beer to prove this.
All three pubs on Hollins Mill Lane are good in their own right. The Puzzle Hall Inn for the music setup, bands, covered outdoor space and being the most traditional pub of the three serving some good ales. The Works wins out over the Puzzle Hall Inn for the wider selection of draft beers (this is down to a larger bar space partially) and this same bigger space makes it better if the area is busy as the Puzzle can get very busy very quickly at the right time. I also like the back room library in the Works, a nice touch to distinguish it from other pubs, and like the Puzzle Hall Inn and the Firehouse it welcomes well behaved families outside of the busy core evening hours. The Firehouse wins on the beer front with its real ale and tap selection as well as for the food. If you wanted the best of everything, you’d start at the junction with the Firehouse and work your way down the Puzzle Hall in sequence to enjoy the music as the evening wore on.
My local village is about to get its third pub back as the Packhorse in the centre of Southowram changes back from being a restaurant. I shouldn’t be asking this question really, but it nags me, can the village support three pubs on a sustainable basis. The two existing pubs have steady trade through the troughs of the week, with good peaks of trade at the weekends. The Cock and Bottle is slightly different as it is in Bank Top, about ¾ mile from the Southowram end, so is not directly affected by the new pub opening. The Shoulder of Mutton has its regulars and I can’t see them moving over en-mass to the Packhorse.
The drinking culture has shifted in Southowram as it has everywhere else. Are there drinkers who are going to start coming out drinking in the village again just because a new pub has opened, both at weekends and throughout the week. If they wanted to there were already two good pubs (plus a social club and cricket club during the season) to visit. I feel there will probably be cannibalism of trade from other licensed premises in the area. I wish them well, but I think it will be tough in the medium to long term after the initial interest wanes. Punters pub habits are hard to change once set in, like I said at the beginning, you have to make an effort to do so sometimes.