Le Grand Tour – A Journey Around Yorkshire With Allgates Brewery – 05/04/2014

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“Pale blinds drawn all day, nothing to read, nothing to say.

Blue, blue.

And I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision.

And I will sing, ‘Waiting for the gift of sound and vision’

Drifting into my solitude, over my head.

Don’t you wonder sometimes ’bout sound and vision”

(“Sound & Vision” – David Bowie)

(Video courtesy of theMusicofmyLife1 on YouTube)

Now David Bowie is not my all-time favourite performer – close, but not #1. However, he has solid claim to my favourite single AND album of all time.

The album? Low. The first album of the fabled “Berlin Trilogy” (the others being Heroes & Lodger), Side One is most certainly my favourite A-side of all time. Low is an album of two halves, Side 1 is (I suppose) the vocal side and has some of his most direct, yet lyrically obtuse songs. Side 2 is more ambient and almost classical.

The single? Sound & Vision. With it’s lengthy intro, whip crack drums as tight as anything Motown ever put out, Krautrock meets funk rhythm. It just moves me. Hugely.

Now …to the beer.

I like Allgates brewery. I may have said this once or twice, but repetition does not diminish the statement. For introducing me to their wonderful flavour packed beers, I need to thank the Arch-Nemesis who had been (and remains) a fan for some time. In my Golden Pints of 2013 (click the link if you’re curious), I gave them my Brewery of The Year (and one of their pubs – The Hare & Hounds in Hindley – my Pub of the Year). They make consistently tasty beer and are unafraid to experiment.

I have also professed my love for a number of Yorkshire breweries, but, in particular, Five Towns of Outwood, Wakefield. Malcolm Bastow, the owner/brewer makes some of the best hop forward beers that I know and again, is unafraid to experiment.

Where is this going? Read on!

Some time ago, knowing my love of Yorkshire beers, David Mayhall, the co-owner of Allgates, invited me to jump on their “dray” and pop over on one of their regular collection/distribution runs, with the promise of maybe meeting Malcolm….Of course, displaying my usual nonchalance …I nearly bit his hand off! Unfortunately, the planets took a while to align, but then, with the Allgates “Road To Wigan Beer” on the horizon, I was given the nod. So, last Saturday, I was up early, Like a kid on Christmas day!

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(Milltown Brewery, Milnsbridge, Huddersfield)

Having left at 8am, we were at the first stop at Milltown Brewery a little early. This was a quick pick up and drop off on the outskirts of Huddersfield prior to the collection of some empty casks from The Railway in Berry Brow. Next came a drop off and collection that I was looking forward to….

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I like the beers made by Hand Drawn Monkey, a lot! Hoppy and pale in the main, they are damned tasty. Lucky for me, that the pick ups were for the Road To Wigan Beer! Nice looking bar and bottle shop here with a good selection on both cask & keg, but, just my luck, not serving as – ostensibly – closed! Damn!

Now, where were we off next….a bit of a drive over to Halifax and Stod Fold Brewery….where’s that then….?

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Now then, who wouldn’t want to come to work with this kind of view on your doorstep eh? This felt like the back of beyond – and then some! But at the very end of this single track country lane lies a surprise!

Stod Fold FVs

(pic : http://www.stodfoldbrewing.com/)

A really modern brewery set-up with a cracking visitors bar! Stod Fold Brewing Company – The brewery appears to have only been releasing beers into the wild since last year. The kit is seriously impressive at 10 Bbl (brewers barrels) with all new kit purpose-built and manufactured locally in Halifax. We didn’t have too much time here, but, with a brew ongoing, the smells were utterly intoxicating! With some grist flow issues going on, I didn’t mither the brewer too much, he was a busy chap indeed, but once we loaded up the casks (destined for The Road To Wigan Beer…..), I snuck a peek into the room next door to the brew house…

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Stunning. Something that you would NEVER guess would lie at the end of a single track country lane! The pump clips were also a thing of beauty, slices of ash wood with the brewery and beer details laser cut into the wood. If the beer is even HALF as good as this set-up, I’m going to enjoy it hugely! (I think that I may have even got a future invite to pop along sometime!)

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Saltaire Brewery for another pick up. With the brewery being closed (my luck had run out for the moment!) we loaded the casks into the van. However, my luck wasn’t TOTALLY out! Is that a bottle shop?

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With Saltaire having collaborated with Dark Star, there were a few beers from this excellent Brighton brewery. Rude not to eh? That collab with northern Monk looks tasty too! Nice little shop, damned reasonable prices too! A tad over £20 for 8 bottles!

Next we had a few empties to collect and beers to deliver prior to the next and final brewery stop. A nice stop in Bradford at The Fighting Cock led to an interesting and damned tasty Pork Pie and mushy peas combo, with the pie swimming in the peas! New one on me, but nearly as tasty as the half of Two Roses Brewery 366 that I had whilst watching Bradford City fans glory in Wigan beating Leeds on TV! Nice and sharp was that beer, really citrussy and pale.

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A swift delivery to The Leggers Inn outside Dewsbury was a scenic diversion, being located in a canal basin. Shame we couldn’t have stopped longer!

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The final pub stop was at a very nice looking pub indeed, The Cricketers Arms in Horbury, Wakefield where we dropped off a cask of the recent Hop On The Bike collaboration beer “Yellow Jersey”.

Next, for me, the highlight of the day. Five Towns Brewery.

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Pretty much since I first was introduced to their beers by Adrian & Vicky Pettit at Yorkshire Ales, I fell under their spell. Pale (mostly) and very hop forward, I was stunned from the get go by his Peculiar Blue (Rhubarb & Ginger) and needed more! A love affair ensued with these Wakefield beers, made with obvious passion by Malcolm Bastow. When I realised that he was fully employed away from brewing, I was awestruck! How can someone make such great beer, effectively in his spare time?

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(The Brewhouse!)

The brewery is located…..at the back of terraced house on the outskirts of Wakefield! On getting there, we (David & I) were welcomed warmly by Malcolm and Beverley, his wife. I was immediately given a branded glass, complete with a bottle of a collaboration brew with the excellent Stuart Neilson (North Riding Brewpub, Scarborough), 300, being a Double IPA.

Having loaded up the beer, Malcolm asked us if we’d like to pop downstairs to “the bar” for a chat. Little did I know….

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(Creative use of a cellar!)

Malcolm has been brewing commercially since 2008 having been an enthusiastic amateur brewer for a number of years (I HATE the term Home-Brewer, it doesn’t do justice to the full-mash brews that result from most!) and, after initial worries about selling his beers, he has never looked back, because, once his beers had earned their reputation, he sells everything he makes. No surprise there to me! He operates on a Porter Installations 2.5 BBl kit housed in the ‘shed’ at the bottom of the garden and manages to brew twice a week which works well with only having room for two fermenting vessels! This means that he puts out around 18 casks a week. some of which he bottles, leaving a limited supply for pubs.

His beers rarely get across the Pennines, so popular are they in their home county where they grace some of the best bars such as The West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms at Dewsbury Train Station, The Fat Cat in Sheffield, The Star Inn in Huddersfield and many others. The only place I’ve managed to sample his beers over here being The Hare & Hounds in Hindley, an Allgates pub!

I can’t say enough how much of a trick pubs and shops over here are missing by not getting these beers!

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(Malcolm and brewkit)

Sod it! I admit it, I’m a bit of a fan boy! And I’m not the only one! When the likes of Leigh Linley (aka LeighGoodStuff) wax lyrical about a brewery, you should take notice!

With the sole pump on the bar not being connected up, Malcolm popped a bottle of one of his lighter beers Flintlock. I was unsurprised to get a hoppy tasty pale ale, full of citrussy goodness. Only unusual in that Malcolm prefers stronger beers himself in the 5+% range, the 300 being over 7%! With a shared interest both in good beer and (oh joy) David Bowie, we yakked for a while and I (for one!) could have talked all day with Malcolm & David, but we had to get to York! (But not before I snaffled a few bottles – well, I was getting withdrawal symptoms! With a commitment to maybe meeting for a beer in Sheffield later in the year and….(no, that secret shall remain, for now, a secret!), David and I were back in the van!

York was a bit of a pain! Busy as hell and chock full of shoppers and tourists, it was a struggle to get to the final port of call. This was where we collected some casks from another brewery I hadn’t heard of – Sonnet 43. Another special trait of the RTWB, lots of new breweries!

That done and with Simon & Garfunkel strumming in my head, we were homeward bound!

A hugely enjoyable day – for me, for which I thank David and Allgates for hugely! The most fun I’ve had since the last Road To Wigan Beer in October last year. Now…what’s starting next week?

On that note…’til next time….

Slainte!

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