It isn't that usual for me to spend a day drinking with the legendary Beer Hound, Tyson, late of this parish, but yesterday, in a persistent drizzle, I did. Huddersfield, considered by many to be a beer Nirvana was the destination. Naturally we warmed up a little first with a pint at Sinclairs in Manchester City Centre. Both of us felt that the Sam's Old Brewery Bitter was, on this occasion, just off the mark, but it set us up nicely for our rattly train trip over the Pennines.
Our first stop was the well known Rat and Ratchet. It is years since I've been there and Tyson had to be dragged off his usual wrong route to the place, which is admittedly in a bit of an awkward spot, being down a hill across a very busy ring road with many unforgiving motorists. It was quiet when we arrived and the welcome was warm from a knowledgeable barman. We sat in the main bar which has wooden floorboards and has a very cosy feel to it. We tried six or seven beers each, with for me, the stand out being the locally brewed mild from Mallinson's. The Ossett beers were excellent too in this Ossett tied house which does guests.
Next after a trek back up the hill and a hoof through a car park is the Grove, which neither of us had visited before. An end of terrace local, it has a lounge and a tap room and is done up simply but attractively, with many prints and cartoons on the wall. Around twelve cask beers were on offer and a number of draught foreign beers too. The eclectic beer list for bottles is umpteen pages long. Even the snack menu - and I'm talking packet snacks here - is nearly four pages long with some dangerous chilli concoctions and flavoured crickets being noteworthy. Cheese and Bacon cricket anyone? The menu advises you to have A & E on your speed dial before eating and may well not be kidding!
The super landlady was friendly and welcoming and guided us happily through the various offerings and made us feel most at home. The beer? More Mallinson's, this time Town Pride Bitter which was very bitter and various other halves of this and that including for me, Vale Black which was overpoweringly chocolatey. Then the landlady mentioned she had Moravka Lager, the krasnicove (unfiltered) version. We had both been keen to try this for ages and ordered two halves eagerly. We tried to like it. Honestly we did, but it had a strange spoiled fruit aroma and a slightly eggy taste did not add to the enjoyment. We should have tried the "ordinary" Moravka, but didn't realise it was on too until looking at the web site today. Much better was the excellent Jaipur IPA which for once was almost clear and had good body and condition as well as excellent bitterness. Reluctantly we took our leave, Tyson sighing about the lengthy list of things we simply didn't have time to try. We'll be back and you should go. It is a classic already.You could spend all day there and not tire of it. One odd thing though. All the cask beers are served through short necks and no sparklers. Strange for this part of the world. Their website is here.
It was all downhill from there, both literally and figuratively. In steady dripping rain we hoofed down to the Cherry Tree JDW as it is run by a regular at my local pub. Maybe for that reason the welcome was again warm and service was prompt. Pints of Phoenix Last Leaf were thoroughly enjoyed, though a taste of Abbott Special Reserve didn't make me keen to have any. It was easy from there on in. Just round the corner to our last two destinations, both on the platform of the station. The Head of Steam and the King's Head complement each other very nicely, though for me the sheer cosiness of the right hand bar of the Head of Steam takes some beating, though you'll probably find more interesting beers at the King's. A Swift One 's Beer Blog describes it all very well here, so I won't and my camera battery had died by then anyway. We drank E&S Beyond the Pale under the doleful eye of the dour Czech barmaid, who had obviously modelled herself on the sinister Polish lasses from Harry and Paul. We only found out where she was from by a long and challenging guessing game, where each guess was met with a single word "No". Not the merest hint of a smile was forthcoming as our guesses got wilder and wilder, though she did utter the word "Brazil?" with a modicum of disbelief. As we shrivelled under her withering gaze, we left and went to the barn like King's Head where we drank lots of something pale and hoppy - their speciality - and mine, though by now note taking and remembering was a thing of the past.
Back in Manchester common sense took over for me at least. Under Tyson's unerring guidance we weaved our way through the back streets to the Hunter's Indian Caff where rice and three sorted us out. No more beer for me, but Tyson is made of sterner stuff. He was off to meet a mate in the Northern Quarter for more liquid refreshment.
It was a good day. Apart from the Head of Steam - and perversely that made the visit all the more interesting and nothing could take away from the sheer comfort of the place - we were greeted warmly throughout by bar staff who were genuinely glad to see us and made us feel appreciated. Well done Huddersfield.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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