In the second of my holiday articles, I will reflect back on a year of regular writing for PubPaper, all 55 columns and 41,000 words.  Sometimes its been easy to write a weekly missive, others its been the equivalent of pulling a tooth out of the horses mouth while it is running the Grand National.  It all started with the first two parts of the Cock and Bottle trilogy, of which the third piece has still to be written, leading to you having to put up with these 750 words on a weekly basis.

I’ve been to many pubs, both good and bad, but mainly the former, and I’m glad to say that in the whole year there is only one pub in the Calderdale area I would refuse to drink in again from my visits.  Old favourites such The Works and Jubilee Refereshment Rooms (Sowerby), Cock of the North and Travellers (Hipperholme), Red Rooster and Ship Inn (Brighouse), White Lion and Stubbing Wharf (Hebden) and Pump Room and Big Six (Halifax) keep their place in my affections, but have been joined by some new additions to the local pub scene.

It is Halifax who have gained the most in the “good pub” stakes this year, with the opening of 3 good pubs for real ale and atmosphere, two of which I would class as excellent.  The first of  those being the re-opened Ring O’Bells under their young but seemingly not inexperienced management.  A good beer range and family friendly policies have made this place a regular haunt when I visit the town with my children, as well as when solo. The half dozen ales are kept well and regularly rotated to ensure variety.

The second is Dirty Dicks which rivals any pub in the area for its number of ale pumps.  The prices are among the best in town with £2.00 at the time of writing for its house ale.  The beer is rivalled by the food and I’ll happily admit that it is currently my favourite venue in Halifax.  Restored to the old level of decor after the previous architectural vandalism, the pub attracts all ages and has had a good atmosphere on each visit.  The same can be said about the beer here as the Ring O’Bells, but for all 8 pumps.

The opening closest to my heart is the local pub is the Cock and Bottle at Bank Top.  From a shell of a deathtrap, to a fantastic local at the heart of the community, well done out and serving consistently good quality popular ales.  They may not rotate the beers as often a some other pubs mentioned here, but the ones they keep on pump are always good.  The welcome is always friendly, and the accidental landlord who only envisaged running it on a temporary basis while he hired an experienced manager seems to be enjoying the role on a longer term basis and doing a good job as well.

Although it opened more than a year ago, I only discovered the Hole in the Wall in Hebden Bridge this year and include them in this round up on that basis.  A friendly bar, again with a good family policy, serves an excellent range of ciders and beers on tap, regularly rotated and well kept in my experience. The “varied” choice of furnishings give this pub a distinct charm and sets them apart from others.  Sitting next to a bridge over the river and having a small beer yard which can extend to the riverbank unofficially at a push, its location is great as well.   The older incarnation of the pub had a reputation for attracting the less desirable members of society, something which is definitely not true about its current clientele.

Other openings of note include the Firehouse at Sowerby Bridge, which has opened with some success opposite the Works, on a small but well selected ale range.  The Puzzle Hall Inn just down the road has got back up to pace this year after a period of closure in recent times and serves 6 well kept ales in a historic old building.  A stretch of the A646 from King Cross to Luddendenfoot also regained a number of pubs which closed during the time of the recession.

All in all, a good year for Calderdale pubs, if we have another one like this, then we should be very happy.