Libertine in Mytholmroyd opened in 2015 and subsequently took a bath in the floods at the back end of the year, a few months ago it re-opened in a rather dryer state. A rather unassuming single storey building on the corner of Bridge End opposite Sainsburys with a single banner hanging over part of one window, it would be easy to miss if you didn’t know about it. However plenty of people seem to know about it locally with a good crowd in attendance on Friday tea time into evening, sharing of larger tables being necessary. The venue is an L shaped area with an number of small tables either side as you enter at the far end opening up to the main bar area where the larger group tables are located. The decor of the bar is stripped back with some nice touches of street art, music provided on this night by a DJ who played an good eclectic mix of tunes all played at volume you can converse at, something some venues have still to master.
The bar sits at the back of the main area, serving four local and regional real ales (on this occasion from Arbor, Vocation, First Chop, Bridestones ranging from 4 – 5.2%). On keg there are 8 lines sourced from more mainstream craft brands such as Blue Moon and Czech brewers like Pravha and Staropramen. The two guest kegs were Five Points Pale (London) and Vocation Life and Death. There is also a good range of cocktails, completed with a choice of good quality spirits. Food wise they host a series of food vans to the left of the bar, on this occasion it was Rick and Eds Mexican Food Van, and it smelt as good as it looked. I met a friend here for a few drinks and between us we tried three of the real ales. The beer is kept well and tasted fresh, both of us having the Vocation Chop and Change (for the first time Azacca, noted for big notes of Citrus and Tropical Fruit), I also sampled a couple of halves of the Arbor “I speak for the trees” and First Chop MCR, the former being an American Pale Ale, the latter a Manchester Bitter. Both beers were good examples of their style, the MCR edging it out of these two even though I’m not the biggest fan of the style.
Libertine is one of those nice chilled out venues, it does a number of things well without specialising in any, it does a good, well kept range of real and keg beer, a small but interesting range of cocktails and what isn’t core it brings in externally. People seemed to enjoy their time there from families at late tea time through to the groups coming out as the sun disappeared over the many Calder Valley hills. There is a growing number of these small unpretentious bars in Calderdale which offer to fill a gap in the market, overlapping on some elements (as is inevitable) but creating their own identity and market and building their own loyal customer base. By nature I’m a bit of a pub cuckoo flitting from one beer supplying nest to another as my location finds me.
Look at a mile up the road at Hebden Bridge and three of the smaller venues Calans, Fox and Goose, Drink!. All fundamentally do the same thing, sell real ale on cask and in bottles. But there is also key differences. Drink! offers a wide range of bottles for on and off sales, the real ale lines being a later addition to the shop adding to the success of the venue in the later hours of the day and increasing spending for off sales customers during working hours as customers have a “quick half”. The Fox and Goose is a slightly larger, but specialises more in serving local beers from the surrounding area with addition of some regional beers. It a traditional community owned pub where food is limited to a bar top cheeseboard and pork pies, but the real ale lines are what draw people in as well from a beer point of view as well as a good music scene, it’s very much seem as the “Town’s Local Pub” and it treated as such. Finally we see Calans, from the outside a nice chilled small real ale bar doing pub snacks very much like the Fox and Goose, but the feeling and atmosphere is very different and the same can be said about the overall audience it attracts although you get overlap between these and other places in town as people make a night of it. Are any of these places “better” than the others, that’s down to the drinkers point of view, but it is healthy for a town to have such a range.