I normally try to avoid leading with what is the main news of the week, but this time I will make an exception, with two pubs in Hebden Bridge closing within the same week. Neither of the pubs are considered the jewels in the crown of the town pub scene. The first, “Shoulder of Mutton” located in the main town square has had mixed fortunes over the years and had started to attract a wider audience before the recession, but that and the increased beer costs from its supplier finally forced the owners hands. Given its prime location, it’s a target site for many non pub uses. Lets hope someone takes it over and turns it around, hopefully as a freehold. It going to be tough given the strong competition in close vicinity however.

The second, “Inn on the Bridge”, sits on the main road opposite the river and again holds a prime location which risks change of use. Catering to a very similar crowd to the Shoulder, it appears it suffered the same problems. Neither pub held more than a couple of the more mainstream real ales at any time on draught, but loss of a pub is never good.

Hebden Bridge has been pretty immune to the pub closures which have affected many other areas until now, and some pubs have gone from strength to strength over the last couple of years. However from my experiences of these 2 places they couldn’t raise their level to that of a number of high quality premises in the town and suffered because of this. They fell under my radar, and I guess many others as well. When I visit the town, there are certain pubs we aim to go to, The Hole in the Wall, White Lion, Fox and Goose and Stubbing Wharf, all good for real ales / ciders and family friendly. My current spot of choice is the Fox and Goose down to the sheer variety of ales they offer and its cosy layout.

My view on pubs and real ale has changed since I started writing this column, its gone from being a keen observer and imbiber to actively searching new beers and pubs out for research. This week alone I’ve tasted 6 different cask brews, 5 of which were new to me, and all but one I would have again (I will not name it as I suspect it was getting the end of the barrel rather than the quality of the beer). As far as research goes I can imagine far worse things to be doing.

It took me to a pub this weekend above Cullingworth which would fill a weeks worth of Cowboy Builders episodes with its state of decor and utilities, but is a fantastic pub. We have passed the pub many times en-route to and from the Dales, but never previously visited. The Guide Inn, part of the Old Spot estate attracts a real mix of people from long haired bikers to families, walkers and local farmers. The pub is remote, a couple of miles from any major settlement. A small real ale selection is present (2 pumps), and the beers would not make it into my top beers, but its got a real charm about it which makes it worth the run out (and a proper fireplace, always a bonus). I just need the weather now so I can explore the countryside surrounding it.

It’s a purely draught beer recommendation of the week this time, with 2 beers from the same brewery sampled at the Red Rooster. The brewery in question is Marble (Manchester), and the two beers are “Pint” (3.9%) and “Lagonda IPA” (5%). I’ve mentioned “Pint” before in this column, and it’s still as good, however it has been trumped by Lagonda IPA, which shows its extra strength in a strong citrus hoppy flavour, finishing on a dry note. Pint has a similar set of flavours but on a slightly intense note.

Other beers of note include a pair from Toad Brewery (Doncaster) called “Golden Angel” (4%) and Tadpole (3.8%) tried at the Sportsman (Ploughcroft), the first being a pale ale with a fruity taste, and dry finish. The second is a darker bitter with a similar set of flavours, with myself favouring the first of them.

Until next week, happy supping.