This week mainly concentrates on my first proper wander round the pubs of Hebden Bridge in a while.  I visited on the Saturday when they were holding their Alternative Christmas Day festivities now that the town is well on the way to recovery from the blunt trauma that was the Boxing Day Floods to many people and businesses in the town.   The town has still not fully recovered, but it is ready to support the summer tourists who will visit over the next few months.   It was great to see that the Shoulder of Mutton is back up and running properly in the town square, overflowing with drinkers as they watched the entertainment and musicians opposite.  

P1010625We visited three pubs in the town and surrounding area, two recently back open since the floods and a halfway visit to the Fox and Goose, the co-operative pub on the Heptonstall junction.  The first stop was Calans, where tables were all fully occupied by merry making drinkers, three small kegs and a large one creating a makeshift table and chairs for the three of us, soon after the entire stock of kegs have become makeshift furniture.  Two great beers here, the better of the two being Vocation Chop and Change “Eldorado”.  Possibly one of my favourite of the Chop and Change single hop series so far, I’ve drank this at a number of bars over the last week or two.  The second beer was a more amber ale, Gospel by Briggs Ales, my first beer from this Huddersfield Brewer, a more earthy beer, but well balanced with the bright hop flavour.  I also had the first chance to bump into Alan and Alyson since they moved back home and couldn’t have looked happier.  They have been packed out most nights since their re-opening as the community really takes them back into their heart.  The sea shanty minstrels kept the customers entertained and the staff busy as visitors popped down the alleyway to see what was going on, only stopping when they ran out of beer, one cheeky verse calling for a “free round on the landlord”.

I’ll come back to the Fox and Goose later.  My last stop was the recently opened (about a month ago) Stubbing Wharf, about half a mile out of town.   The pub was relatively quiet inside, the drinkers opting for the sun trap that is the wall next to the pub and towpath of the canal.  Inside the layout is very similar to its pre flood guise, furniture different and decor updated but still totally recognisable.  The shaded outdoor area to the rear at pub level was nicely populated by those opting for the shade.  The real ales are not that exciting when compared to the Fox & Goose and Calans, more a solid range of three mainstream ales with a couple of guest on, my choice being the Saltaire Blonde which satisfied a thirst as we took in the rays between breaks in the clouds.  Our stop was shortened by the need to catch the tea time train back to Halifax (a very reasonable £3.90 return, also the first time I’ve took the train to Hebden in over 10 years).

P1010626Jumping back to the Fox and Goose, we intended to also stop at the Old Gate but it’s central location ensure that there was very little free space for additional drinks like us.  The Fox and Goose had 4 wickets out of the 5 on when we visited.  I decided to stay on the Vocation theme started earlier in the day, with two of the four beers being from the Cragg Vale based brewery (which has just taken on an additional brewer I am informed, from across the road at Little Valley Brewery).   I decided on the Heart and Soul, a favourite of mine and top of the list whenever I see it on.  A pint and half of this wetted the lips for the walk to the Stubbing Wharf.  I like the Fox and Goose, first for its co-operative ethos and second for its warren of rooms, an old school approach to pub design we are losing too much of.   Well kept beers, a donation based cheese and cake board and a good selection of whisky ensures I pop in as often as I can given my shared pub time in the town.

Now to wrap up this week, I’ve also got in visits to a couple of my regular haunts this week, namely the Cross Keys (Sunday twice) and the Market Tavern (Thursday).  There is a phrase “You can be in a room full of people and feel totally alone”, a good regular pub will make sure that doesn’t happen if you don’t explicitly desire it.  Mentally I’m all over the place at times, making Alton Towers look like a kids attraction when it comes to the ride.  Visits to such places are a stable constant in my life, a set milestone in an ever evolving journey and will continue to be.  Pubs may be the ruin of some, but be a savior for others.