This article is my 300th for Pubpaper, my first article back nearly 6 years ago being about “The Rise and Fall of the British Pub”. At the time I recorded that SIBA had reported 420 members, now they have 825 members, a massive jump in 5 years by any scale. Some things never change, the Big Six, the Red Rooster, Cock of the North, the Works and the Travellers Inn which all got mentioned would look the same to a very unambitious time traveller. The following week I reported the Good Beer Guide 2011 had come out and the number of breweries listed was 767, now we have a total of 1540 recorded in the 2017 edition, again mirroring the doubling of numbers in SIBA membership. Those of us who drink real ale week in, week out will not be surprised by the increase in range of sources of our beer, but counting proudly myself within that group, that increase was not expected. As I said in the last couple of weeks I’m happy that I’m a real ale drinker in 2016, we have some great pubs and great beers locally, regionally and nationally, and I only see it getting better over the short to medium term.
I also mentioned the state of the pub stock in my local village Southowram and at that time we had two pubs open out of four alongside the Social club and the Cricket club. We are now back at that same position. The Malt Shovel which was for several years destined to become a curry house was converted to apartments a few years ago. The Shoulder of Mutton has closed down and the PubCo are looking for new tenants. Sherrie, the long term landlady died about 18 months ago and was the soul of the place. Her family took it over until a few months ago when I guess the lease was up for renewal and they left. You have to want to run a pub to do it for a long time and some people are just not natural landlords. Ironically the Packhorse did become a curry house for a number of years before reverting back to a pub last year, the only one serving the Southowram end of the village. The Cock and Bottle is still serving the Bank Top end of the village well with plenty of regulars. Here’s hoping that the Shoulder of Mutton re-opens soon as I feel the village can support 3 pubs.
Plenty has changed, the rise of the micro pub and brew pub across the area has been fantastic, some great new local brewers have appeared, Hebden Bridge’s pubs look like they might be finally flood resistant and as I mentioned before plenty hasn’t changed where it didn’t need to. Most of my current favourite pubs where not even on the map 6 years ago, the Cross Keys is coming up only 4 years old and gets a lot of my beer money, the Market Tavern, the Victorian Craft Beer Cafe, Calans in Hebden Bridge all at most about 2 years old. Pubs are popping up where there wasn’t a pub before, a sure sign of confidence in the market.
One of my old friends from that time in the pub trade is Mark Feasey who used to run the pub in Brighouse which shall not be named in this column. He now concentrates on running the annual FestivALE at Bailiffe Bridge Community Centre each October and this year it is taking place on Friday and Saturday 7th-8th October. Friday will see beer served from 5-11pm, whilst the following day opens at 2.30pm until the same closing hour. 18 real ales will be on offer, alongside 4 ciders. This festival has been running for 5 years now and has been successful each year at raising funds for charity, this year’s again being Overgate and Forget Me Not hospices, having raised over £10,000 since inception for their chosen causes. Food will be available into the evening to help line the stomachs of the drinkers. Entry will be £5 and include a program, free 5th anniversary commemorative glass and your first pint. Please support Mark and all of those at the Community Centre who put in the hard work each year to raise as much money as possible!
Finally and Following on from this, all our pubs need support all year round, that includes October! The annual Go Sober for October campaign to raise money for a certain cancer charity is on us and although I am very grateful for the services I get from them, I fundamentally disagree with this particular campaign. Yes it will raise money for them, your body might get a break from beer for a month, but long term the other 11 months will balance it out. However the takings at the bar till will not be balanced out, drinkers will not make up for that month by drinking 1/12 more throughout the year. Keep drinking and decide how you want to make your donation!