This week marks the last issue of Pubpaper for this year and so it seems the perfect time to do a brief review of 2012.  The year has generally been a good one personally from a pub and beer position although many in the trade may not agree with me.  However the last couple of months has took the sheen off the year for me.  This was due to the change of management of one of the best ale pubs in the Calderdale area, although I was forewarned about it well in advance, it’s always a disappointment when it actually happens.

The first was Lewins, a pub which had become one of the core players in the Halifax real ale scene over the last 15 months.  Good knowledgeable staff, a well selected rotation of ales and being made to feel welcome made this one of my favourite venues.  It was always inevitable that Karl would move on as he has from the previous 39 pubs.  Sadly it appears that the new permanent landlord has not learnt from the successful business model that worked before.  The small gap of closure between Karl leaving and him taking over would not have helped business at all, with the new local competitor in Bow Legged with Brass more than happy to take their customers, as it was already when Karl was winding down his management of the business.   The pub has seemed quiet whenever I have passed, which is not a good thing.

We also lost a good number of pubs for a period due to the flooding this year, Mytholmroyd pubs were pretty much wiped out over the two periods of flooding, the Dusty Miller and Shoulder of Mutton taking the brunt of the water damage.  The town’s’ stock of pubs was already reduced with The White Lion having closed long before the water came along.  The Shoulder of Mutton and Dusty Miller have only just re-opened and deserve the best of luck for 2013.  Hebden Bridge lost Moyles and Bar Place was badly hit due to its below street level location.  The Railway Inn was also closed in the town when Punch Taverns decided not to re-open post flood.   However the good news is that the pub has now re-opened under new ownership and is reputed to be an improvement on the beer and decor front from its pre flood state.

We also lost an excellent landlord in the guise of Chris who ran the Red Rooster in Brighouse until a couple of months ago.  Running a pub is hard work and he proved that by his burn out.  He was responsible for myself become a regular patron again after several years of irregular visits, although a significant contributing factor in this was the regular supply of Magic Rock beer.  The new management however do seem to be keeping up the good work.

Despite all this there has been a lot of positive news in new pub provision within the area, with Bramsche in Todmorden providing excellent beer and food in a family friendly surrounding. Other existing pubs in the town have also grasped the real ale mantle this year as well.  The Old Gate in Hebden Bridge is also looking like it will become an excellent destination for craft and real ale fans in excellent presented premises, a correspondent of mine confirming this from more visits than me.  The supply of real ale in Sowerby Bridge may not have expanded numerically pub wise, which experienced its major growth spurt in previous years, however the increased take up of real ale across the pub stock in the town is always a good thing.

From a beer point of view this year has been excellent, with the addition of Hand Drawn Monkey Beer Shop in Huddersfield as a supplier opening up access to many of the excellents beers brewed within a few miles of the town centre as well a further afield as well as brewing some very good beer of their own and in collaboration with other breweries.  Durham Brewery certainly got my attention and although their beers are more expensive than my day to day tipples, they earn their value in taste.  Expanded sampling of Magic Rock, Mallinsons and Summer Wine beer merely concreted their place as some of my favourite brewers.  Empire Brewery, based in Slaithwaite also produced some cracking beers.  The A62 corridor cannot be faulted this year when it comes to the beer being produced within it.

So there is 2012, 2013 can only improve from a beer point of view and excess rain permitting, pubs can settle down to a more stable period of trading.   Thank you for reading my weekly 750 words this year and I’ll be back to subject you all to another 38,000 of them next year

  1. Ian P says:

    Have been to the Old Gate a few times since it opened and have been consistently impressed by the beer choice and quality, it seems to be taking over and filling the gap left by Moyles as far as Hebden Bridge’s premier ale house. Not tried the food but the one review I read was at best rather mixed.

    If you are up the valley and passing Mytholmroyd the Shoulder of Mutton has re-opened and is a lot smarter (it was overdue for a bit of refurbishment) and seems to have a better and more local orientated range of beers than before the floods. The Dusty Miller has re-opened too but sampling the beer there is a task for the weekend.

    Whilst over this way, have you been up Cragg Vale to the Robin Hood and Hinchcliffe Arms recently? Different types of establishment and nowt wrong with that in so far as providing a choice in a relatively small and isolated community. But both doing good beer. Miles the new licensee at the Hincliffe is very friendly and welcoming (apparently a contrast to the previous licensees who alienated many locals although they were OK with me). Although a food orientated pub (some may say a country restaurant with bar), they aim to keep a few tables free of diners for drinkers and I have always felt very welcome just popping in for a beer. Four hand pumps with a good choice and top quality – as good as any in Calderdale in my recent experiences.