Just over four years ago the Cross Keys opened for business under the control of Hugh and Ruth. There were a number of real ale pubs around the town centre already including the survival at that time of the real ale triangle (Royal Oak now Dirty Dicks, Three Pigeons, now demolished Pump Room), but no new establishments had been opened in recent times. In fact the town had suffered the loss of Lewins earlier in the year which had been a bastion of Yorkshire beers over the previous few years, with up to 8 pumps on at once.
It took me a fair few weeks to get down to the Cross Keys in person, but once I did I became a regular and have been ever since. The beer hasn’t changed and still remains the well kept regularly rotated collection of 6 or 7 beers it always seem to be, maintaining its serial Good Beer Guide entrant status. A number of interior upgrades over the years have improved the pub creating more room, but the original bar, back room and and tap room layout has survived. Live music has become a staple for Sunday afternoons, covering all genres, a time slot which was their own until others started to copy recently, success creating imitators.
The pub is still going strong on all fronts, despite the new competition from the four new town centre real ale venues, its dual locale as as a neighbourhood pub and edge of town bar certainly helping. Congratulations to Hugh and Ruth and all the team over the last four years and here is to the next four and their continued success. The regulars and visitors seem happy with the way things are going and that is all you can ask for. I agree with one of my fellow beer writers that it is one of the best pubs around full stop, never mind in the Calderdale area.
The Christmas period is well upon us now and pubs are filling with people who don’t know the rules of the bar, have hardly been to the pub since last christmas and hence have relatively low tolerances.to alcohol. All these extra customers and trade are great and many pubs rely on this income to last through January, February and March until the bank holiday takings kick in (although not the idea business model). The higher margin food offerings are critical for increasing income. But look at our main real ale pubs across the Calderdale Valley. Most of them are wet led pubs, some with bar snacks, some with cheese or baked sausage rolls, pork pies or pasties. At most they might have a special food led night once a week or month (see Victorian Craft Beer Cafe and their Thai food night).
Calans, Fox and Goose, Drink, Libertine, Pump Room, Victorian Craft Beer Cafe, Alexanders, Grayson Unity and Cross Keys all cope as wet led successfully throughout the year. Simply their ale choice, range and quality sell the place and keep people coming back. It’s not that the food led pubs are not doing well, at least half the bars in the Halifax or Hebden town centre are food led venues and keep nicely busy, the Moorings, Old Gate or White Lion being prime examples in the latter town. The Old Gate of course dominates it’s bar with a large number of cask and keg ales as it always has, keeping it’s feet in both camps.
Halifax town centre is a bit less independent when it comes to it food pubs sadly, with a number of pubs companies owning the most of the food led premises. Sowerby Bridge has proportional gained more food led premises now we have lost Puzzle Hall Inn and the Works. From memory wet let premises are now Turks Head, Hogshead, Jubilee Refreshment Room, Blind Pig and Bull of the Bridge / Sowerby Taps (please feel to correct me). Most have 3-4 real ale taps on bar at tops in these, so domination of such ales are not so heavy as those listed as those in the previous paragraph.
Jumping back to Dirty Dicks to finish off this week. It appears that it has been sold by Sean Garvey Taverns to the Rogers Leisure Group as of the end of last week (w/e 10th Dec). Reviews have been mixed since the takeover, with a number of people commenting on the ale. It shall be interesting to see how things pan out over the next few weeks, although Sean Garvey had been concentrating on his other pub in recent months it has been rumoured.