Friday, 3 April 2020

Transpennine Pub Crawl

A few weeks before the country was in lockdown, two of us decided on doing the Transpennine Real Ale Trail, which is on the Manchester to Leeds service via Huddersfield. The pub at Manchester Piccadilly station isn't the best in the world so a quick Uber to the relatively new Brewdog Outpost Brewery on Oxford Road was called upon for lunch. Set in the heart of the University quarter, this bar was surprisingly quiet .
A short bus journey back to Piccadilly, saw us catch the Transpennine Express service to Huddersfield.  A fast, regular service with modern rolling stock, the service has both fast non-stopping trains and slower stopping services which run every hour and are ideal for the Ale Trail which we were going to do the next day. Having only visited Huddersfield once before it was a good excuse to spend the night there and discover some of the excellent bars around the town. On the way to the Magic Rock tap I came across a the unusually named pub, the Slubber's Arms. A slubber was someone who used a slubbing machine - In wool-spinning, a machine used for imparting a slight twist to rovings, to give them the needed strength for working them in the subsequent operations of drawing and spinning.
Well-worth visiting for a range of superb beers including a cask mild as well as Timothy Taylor beers. A former Wilson's pub, this was owned by Tim Taylor's and is now a freehouse. The interior has a 1950s feel to the place which, along with the coal fire adds to the ambience of the pub.

A short walk uphill from the Slubbers is the Magic Rock brewery tap
Another good pace to spend a few hours, however I was avoiding anything too strong as in the morning we were doing the Ale Trail.

First pub of the day was Stalybridge Buffet Bar, situated just outside of Manchester and dating back to 1885, a fine selection of real ales on tap here and we could've spent longer here but the train was beckoning to:
Unfortunately the Railway was closed at the time of visiting, early afternoon in the winter, so a steep walk downhill brought us past one of those lookalike Marston's eateries to the excellent Wellington
Seven real ales on tap, including a dark mild and Salopian Lemon Dream, could've spent longer in here but the train was calling, a steep walk uphill to return to the station and the next stop:

The Riverhead Brewery and Tap is one of four micro-breweries run by Ossett Brewery Again we could not fault the beer but too soon it was time to catch another hourly service travelling east through the Pennines.
Slaithwaite is not pronounced how it is spelt, the locals say it fast and it comes out something like "Slewit or Sloughit"
Another excellent range of real ales, including locally-brewed ones in the Commercial

The next stop on the line is Huddersfield, as we were using a Rail Rover ticket that does not allow travel between 1600 and 1800, we caught a train to the other end of the line at Batley and visited the Chaverspoons to have something to eat, meanwhile, I'll continue the crawl in the direction of travel.

Huddersfield Railway Station has been praised by both Pevsner and Betjeman, although in their days there were not 2 pubs either side of the main station building, today the Head of Steam (above) and the King's Head (below) straddle the entrance to the grand building.
There was another licensed premises on St George's Square, the former George Hotel was the birthplace of Rugby League in 1895

The former hotel closed in 2013 and after rejected planning applications by the owner for change of use to student flats, the local council have recently purchased the building.

Back to the trains and the next stop heading east on the Real Ale Trail is:
The Navigation, so named as a canal is close to the pub, has almost the entire draught range of Theakston's real ales on the bar, as well as two guest beers.

The West Riding Refreshment Rooms are on the station, and it's worth just coming to Dewsbury for the pub. In fact, is there any other reason for visiting Dewsbury? The Refreshment Rooms are run by Beerhouses, the same company that runs the Stalybridge Buffet Bar.

Opposite the station entrance is the Cellar Bar. Batley is an odd little place, there is even a Wetherspoons here, the Union Rooms, with odder customers than usual so it was a good time to put the app to use, saved mingling with the inmates. No photos of the 'Spoons as it was raining heavily and cold, by this time we were understanding why no one completes this Ale trail in the winter.

Back in the King's Head, Huddersfield for about 2230 at night!
It was a hard day out!
The Transpennine Real Ale Trail has come in for some bad press over the years, partly to do with a lack of toilets on the more rural railway stations and, according to a local, an eagle-eyed pensioner with a camera who waits at her window overlooking one of the stations, ready to catch anyone having answering a call of nature. However, what it does offer are some fantastic pubs and fantastic beers. We spent 12 hours up and down the line using a not-that-well-advertised West Yorkshire Train Day Saver which only cost £8.10. We discovered some great pubs that are worth travelling out to visit just on their own, without the Ale Trail, I could have spent the afternoon in the Riverhead Brewery Tap for instance!

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

A visit to Greene King Brewery and the Old Cannon Brewery

Greene King have increased their pubs a lot over the last 30 years, I can remember seeking out their somewhat exotic (for North London) XX Mild in the Compton Arms in the back streets of Islington all those years ago. The Compton is now a free house, the pub being to small for the likes of the giant Greene King. In those days, even Abbot Ale was rare, although it did make it onto the bar in the fledgling JD Wetherspoon chain. Nowadays Greene King operate over 3000 pubs under names such as Taylor Walker, Hungry Horse, Loch Fyne, Flaming Grill, Chef & Brewer, Farmhouse Inns, Old English Inns and Belhaven in Scotland. My first job from school was actually working for Belhaven Inns in the Queens Hotel, Newport, which is now a Wetherspoons. Anyway, back to Greene King!In those 30 years, Greene King have bought up Morlands Brewery (who had bought Ruddles Brewery previously), Ridley's Brewery (who had bought Tolly Cobbold brewery), Hardy & Hanson's, they had previously closed Rayments Brewery in 1987 which was an odd little brewery in rural Hertfordshire. So a large portfolio of beers are brewed here, but for how much longer? The day I visited Greene King Brewery was the day in October 2019 when the takeover by Hong Kong based CK Assest Holdings had been cleared by the High Court. Property companies who own breweries are never a good thing as history has proven.
The complex of buildings that make up the present brewery is an amalgamation of two breweries with a 1938 brewhouse tower in the middle
Above: the Westgate Brewery, dating from the early 1700's which was purchased by Benjamin Greene in 1806. He had been brewing in Bury St Edmunds since 1799, the date the company regards as it's foundation. 

Today a pipe connects the former Westgate Brewery to the brewhouse as this side of the brewery is used for fermentation.  

Above and below: the East side of the brewery, formerly Frederick King's brewery.  The two breweries were merged in 1887 to form Greene King & Sons 
Below: the former barley store

Above: Looking eastwards from the tower, King's Brewery

Above: Looking south from the tower brewhouse, the flat-roofed building is the packaging department

Above: Looking West from the tower brewhouse, the Westgate (Greene's) Brewery
The roof of the tower brewhouse houses the liquor tanks for the brewery as well as giving spectacular views of Bury St Edmunds.  
Working our way down the brewery we have the grist mills
The large silos underneath the mills
The masher, looks like a Steele's Masher, leading to the copper mash tuns

Above: the rather modern-looking copper
Below: In a corner of the brewery, sits the St Edmund Brewhouse, a 30 barrel microbrewery that can brew short-run brews, craft beers and experimental brews

One of the fermenters in the Westgate side, unfortunately the tour did not include any of the wooden fermenters still used to brew Old 5X, which is rarely sold but instead used as a base for other beers such as Strong Suffolk.

 The tasting room, a good tutored tasting was given on the beers here

No visit to Bury St Edmunds would be complete without a visit to Britain's smallest pub, the Nutshell

There is another brewery in the town, also worth visiting, the Old Cannon Brewery

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

A visit to Adnams Brewery

Southwold is situated in coastal Suffolk, not the easiest place to reach by public transport but there are regular daytime buses from Lowestoft or a more infrequent service from Norwich. The first mention of brewing on this site is 1396 but the Adnams family did not become involved until 1872, later joined by the Loftus family in 1902, both families still have members on the board of directors.

The brewery is situated behind the Swan Hotel

The visitor centre from the back of the Swan                                          
The Swan inn sign

Inside the visitor centre, packed with old brewery memorabilia 
The brewery itself is best viewed from the rear of the complex
From the outside, Adnams Brewery looks like a typical Victorian Tower Brewery, however, a new brewing kit was installed in 2006 and in 2010 a distillery was installed. Adnam's are one of the few all grain spirit makers, most other gin makers buy in the spirit and rectify it into a the finished product, Adnam's however are distilling spirits from the grain to the glass.  
Above: The Copper House Distillery
Above: Jack on the brewery wall, who has given his name to the "Jack Brand" of Adnams beers
Mash Tun above and hop chargers below, the wort is redirected through these chargers filled with hop pellets, there are three of them so that different hops can be added at varying times throughout the boil.

The fermenting block is actually across the road from the brewhouse

Above and below: the gleaming stainless steel fermenters
Below: the brewer is ageing something special in these casks I think?
The beers are packaged elsewhere, at the award-winning distribution centre just outside of Southwold
The tasting room
A good range of beers were offered in the tasting room, the first one was a non-alcoholic version of Ghost Ship, something the tour guide pointed out that a recent CAMRA tour had refused to drink, although they enjoyed the keg beers later!
Above: Adnam's Store & cafe, worth popping into to stock up on their range of beers, spirits and their famous barley wine, Tally Ho.
 The pubs in Southwold are worth visiting as well, above: the Sole Bay Inn, below, the Lord Nelson

 Above: the Crown and below the Red Lion
Below: the bar of the Swan

Sadly, the  King's Head is no longer a pub but the bus stop is still named after the pub! A bit confusing if you are looking for the pub or the bus!

Another enjoyable afternoon spent sampling beers and discovering new pubs!


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