Welcome back to the tap room for the first time in 2013 and I hope Christmas and New Year treated you all well.

Brighouse residents can’t have not noticed the temporary closure of the Ship Inn just before Christmas.  There was no explanation for this unexpected event leading to rumour and conjecture, turning to relief when it reopened a week later.  Thankfully the closure was down to an electrical fault and the renegotiation of the business partnership which runs the pub and its sister establishment the Rastrick Ale House.  There has also been a management reshuffle with Jason and Shona taking over the day to day running of the Rastrick operation with Mark and Rob running the Ship Inn while overseeing both businesses.  Whether food will be served at the Ship Inn is to be reviewed.   I’ve visited a couple of times since the reopening and the usual faces seem to be back, while the beer selection is back up to its usual standard.

Just down the road at Wetherspoons however I was disappointed when I visited on Saturday night, despite having 10 pumps on none appealed me at all.  It doesn’t help that half of them were mainstream ales you could get at any pub.  The chain used to be good for picking up at least one interesting brew on most occasions, but this time left me reaching for the cider.  It doesn’t help that I sample a good number of beers, so what would be a new beer for many people has been tried long ago.  Other pubs in the area manage to offer at least one new beer with half the pumps, with these pubs being more liable to get my business in the future.

The problem in my eyes is that they market their real ale credentials quite overtly.  Where a pub is tied to the property owners selection of lagers and ales, I don’t have such expectations, just that they serve what they have to a good quality and hope they have a couple of decent ales in the bottle fridge.  The same if I go to a Samuel Smiths pub, I know what they sell, which beers I like there and that I have a realistic chance of getting a really well kept pint.  Each pub is approached with the appropriate levels of expectation.

Two pubs I do approach with high hopes are the Travellers Inn and Cock of the North based in Hipperholme.   It had been quite a while since I had visited the brewery tap of the Halifax Steam brewery and although many of the beers were familiar, they were like old friends once in the glass.  “Childcatcher” and “Dolche Vita” were as remembered and would have been joined by others if not for the presence of the car.  My main wish is that I would catch “Gingivitus” on tap when I visit, with “Jamaican Ginger” always seeming to be present when I attend.  From previous chats the Jamaican is a very popular beer, but my personal tastes lean towards the rarer ginger flavoured beer.

The Travellers Inn has been getting a lot of the excellent Rat Brewery beers in recently and its a beer producer who I have yet to find fault with. For those not in the know, Rat Brewery is Ossett Brewery’s Huddersfield micro brewer along with its sister micro brewers Riverhead in Marsden and Fernandes in Wakefield (both of whom also produce very good beers).  A visit this weekend found Rat Attack, a dry hopped ale which really hit the spot with me.  The addition of whole hops to the beer late in production really brings out the intense flavours and produces an extremely dry beer which will not be to everyones tastes, but certainly appeals if you are a fan of the crop of the gods.  Even for me, these beers have to be tempered with a session beer to refresh the palate.   Fernandes beers also feature frequently at the pub, so is well worth a visit for something different as well as offering a good range of Ossetts main brands.

The antithesis of the beers above is Carling, who’s owners Molson Coors are spending £5 million on new bar fonts and glassware over the next 2 years.  This is because, according to the company “together they ensure that Carling lives up to its ‘brilliantly refreshing’ billing”.   I’d love to know what beer they put through the Carling taps where they drink, because it can’t be the same anodyne golden liquid that most pubs seem to sell through the same tap.  You can dress the font up all you want, its what comes out that really matters.  Ale only needs a pump clip, the beer speaks for itself.