After a couple of weeks discussing the real ale trade, this week will I will catch up on what makes this game worthwhile, the beers and the pubs.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a good chance to try a wide range of beers, and as always the quality overall has been very high. I got to sample an excellent ale from Summer Wine Brewery called Zenith (4%), a lovely combination of good hops and well blended citrus flavours set the beer apart from others I have tried recently.  They describe it as as ‘nouveau session pale ale”, I agree, and could happily spend an evening on this beer.

This was joined in the excellent beer camp by Thornbridge Jaipur (5.9%), a lovely golden pale ale, with a similar mix of flavours to Zenith.  The 4 hops and 7 malts making a wonderful balance of smooth flavours which release themselves over time, finishing with a lovely strong hoppy end.  This beer won a gold medal at the Brewing Industry International Awards just over 9 months ago, and I full endorse their choice.

I had the chance this week to do an long afternoon hike around 5 of our fine ale houses, taking in 11 miles I visited, from my home in Southowram, the Barge and Barrel, via West Vale, Copley and Norland to the Works in Sowerby, then up to the Big 6, finishing at Dirty Dicks and Ring of Bells in Halifax.  A fantastic walk taking in all surroundings with autumn woodland, canal towpaths, panoramic views from Norland Moor and some cracking pubs.

A few notes from the day, the Barge and Barrel hasn’t fundamentally changed in the time I have known it, save for different wallpaper, the beer has always been good and the surroundings friendly and comfortable.  Phoenix, who I mention later, have a really good solid stable of beers, having sampled 3 of them on the day (Flash Flood, Spotland Gold, Wobbly Bob) as well as the beer mentioned below and would be happy to drink them for the session, excepting Wobbly Bob which would be a more occasional pint due to its 6% strength.  The Big 6 still has the most character I have seen in a pub in the Calderdale area, and does nice well kept beer as always and Dirty Dicks attracts more than its fair share of beer lovers who know far too much than is healthy about the product, including myself and the staff.

An interesting beer came out of this walk.  This is a marmite of a beer which you will love or hate, Dark Star Expresso (4.2%).  I’ll describe the taste of this simply, a pint of dark ale with a double expresso poured into it.  As a coffee lover as well as a beer lover, even I wasn’t sure of the combo, but the pint was beautifully balanced between the flavours which are full on coffee and a deep earthy flavoured beer.  Too rich to be a session beer, but nice for a couple of pints.

Finally one last beer I have to discuss is Pheonix Hopsack, not because of the beer itself, but an issue it raised.  I had this beer last Friday night in Brighouse, but was underwhelmed by it, but couldn’t quite work out why.  I gave the beer another go from the same pub the following day, and I was far happier with the second showing, marking itself down as a nice solid pint, despite their being nothing technically wrong or different the previous night.

However this highlights how your palate changes over time when it comes to beers.  Their site describes this beer as “very hoppy”, so I come to it with expectations.  But I now have the same issue I have with food advertised as “hot” or “spicy”, it may be for 90% of the population, but I like my chilli and hot sauces like I my hops, full on while balanced in flavour.  What would be spicy or very hoppy for other people doesn’t have the same impact on me any more.  With food this is not an issue, but with beer it is not good to narrow your vision of what makes a good pint as I discussed on a wider scale in the past two weeks.   Thankfully taking this medicine will be as much pleasure as the illness.

Until next week, Happy Supping.