For the members of CAMRA it is one of the big weeks of the years as the Good Beer Guide 2017 is published and pubs find out if they are still in, are out or have made their first entry. In the Calderdale region we have a good number of pubs listed, many of them long term entries.
Lets the headlines out of the way first and see who had made it (these listings are based on the Good Beer Guide 2017 App). In Halifax the Cross Keys, Big Six, Three Pigeons, Victorian Craft Beer Cafe and Barum Top make the cut. Outlying pubs include Travellers Rest and Cock of the North in Hipperholme, Elland claim Barge and Barrel and the Elland whilst Richard Oastler and Red Rooster are in for Brighouse.
Moving out towards the surrounding towns up the valley, starting at Sowerby Bridge, the Shepherds Rest, Jubilee Refreshment Rooms and Firehouse all make it and out towards the M62 the Booth Wood Inn sit lonely on their own. Hebden Bridge has hit a vein of form with Calans (congrats to Alison and Alan), Old Gate Inn and Fox and Goose with the White Lion up the hill at Heptonstall whilst moving back towards Halifax you catch the Robin Hood at Mytholmroyd. Just on the border the White Horse on the tops makes it in as well.
So we have just from this list 20 pubs locally who are in the guide. Some pubs may be too new to get entry and I fully expect one or more of the Market Tavern Brighouse, Grayson Unity Halifax or Pump Room Halifax to be listed in the 2018 edition if all goes as expected. For me the last year to eighteen months has been a delightful time to be a beer drinker in Calderdale. Looking outside the CAMRA Good Beer Guide window, you can add the re-opening of the Stubbing Wharf in Hebden Bridge the opening of Libertine in Mytholmroyd adding to the stripped back but honest Dusty Miller across the road and Shoulder of Mutton. Add the Alexandra Bar in Halifax to add even more choice for the Halifax drinker and things have not been healthier for a good number of years.
Looking back over the archives I used to do “state of the nation” style article around this time of year and this article seems to be evolving into that. Even looking back 6-8 months to the start of 2016, Halifax had three less pubs, the floods in upper Calder Valley had ripped the heart out of the community. Hebden had lost a number of it’s better pubs plus many other businesses. Some like the Old Gate recovered quickly due to a design which could be cleaned up quickly. Other like Calans and Stubbing Wharf had more serious issues to solve in making their premises more flood resistance before they could re-open. Even so it was great to see Alan and Alison in their pop up bar in the spring of this year at Calans Too. It was great to see both reopen in early summer.
Looking at my original 12-18 month window of time, Sowerby Bridge has seen mixed fortunes, the Puzzle Hall Inn is still vacant but the River Lounge has opened on the site of the sports bar near the bridge and is serving real ale and developing it’s music scene, something missing since the Puzzle Hall closed. Also positive is the full re-opening of the Bull on the Bridge and Sowerby Taps, along side the new Hogshead Brew House, giving people plenty of choice depending on taste. It is always good to see pubs open on premises which previously had a different use, it means they are in control of their business and are not moving into the clutches of an existing Punch or Enterprise pub building. You can extend this to the three new pubs in Halifax, all of the Grayson Unity, Pump Room and Alexandra are all on virgin premises.
I’m liking what these new bars are trying, all offer well kept beer, some focus on keg, some on cask, some do a wide range of both. The spirits range is increasing in styles and quality, no longer do you have just the main brands of whisky, gin and rum, premium offerings are being asked for more. Those in town centres offer good quality tea and coffee during the day for that audience, multiples of which need to be catered for throughout the week to maximise takings whilst not distracting from the quality of the beer which is the core of the business. Move away from this and the new businesses are distinctive in both look and feel, aim to have their own individual atmosphere, the Victorian and Grayson Unity are hosting musical and other performances on a regular basis and other new bars will find their place once settled. The Pump Room states it’s aims on the window.
In summary life is good from my point of view regarding the Calderdale pub scene and I can only see it improving over the next year as success breeds success and there are people willing to give it a chance and premises waiting to be filled.