Rats, Rye & A Huddersfield Legend – A Brewday To Remember – 18/03/2016

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Just to recap, I am a cheeky git. That kind of explains how – when I heard that two of my favourite Yorkshire breweries were collaboRATing on a new beer – I wind up inviting myself along to what is (quite possibly) my favourite pub. Anywhere.

That pub is The Rat & Ratchet in Huddersfield. And underneath that pub, lies one of THE most hop forward breweries in the UK. Rat Brewery. And just to ensure that hops would be to the fore, the other brewer was my good friend Malcolm Bastow of Five Towns Brewery in Wakefield.

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I took a day off from work. I also had to curb my enthusiasm for the beers at The Smithfield the previous evening, because getting to Huddersfield by train isn’t conducive to a lie in. Trust me.

The beer was to be a Rye IPA. I like Rye beers, but have never brewed with it, so had no idea what to expect of the mash. Or how much digging would be required. But, being by Rat & Five Towns, it was going to be hoppy.

I’d never met Robin before. Robin is the brewer at Rat and brews beers that I instinctively reach for when I see them on a bar. One of my biggest regrets at the first #ISBF was that we didn’t have any Rat beer. Remedied at #ISBF2015. When pale, the beers are hoppy, when dark they are gorgeously roasty. Good beer.

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I made one solitary note on this brewday. It was “Shagging a bag of rye malt”. I had to use it. Didn’t I Robin?

So. 200kg of malt. Including 50kg of rye malt. A LOT of aromatic hops (my hands never smelled so good!). Time to play….

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The mash looked like a Tarka Dhal. Just like a normal Dhal, but a little ‘otter…..

This took a lot of stirring. This was where I became acquainted with the absorbent properties of rye malt.

Near 200kg in a 5bbl plant is a lot of malt. And this beer should certainly have a good backbone to support all of these hops…

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All 14kg (Inc dry hopping) of them! Breaking them up was an aromatic joy!

800g of Admiral went in for Bittering with Cascade, Sorachi & Nelson Sauvin in later additions for flavour and aroma and Citra / Mosaic at flameout. (With a huge amount of Cascade & Citra being dry hopped)

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Transfer to the copper being complete, time for a dig. And WHAT a dig.

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The rye retained an awful lot of liquor, so this felt more like 300kg. It took a lot of digging. But this is where know nothing numpties like me step in. I enjoy digging out, perversely.

It also means that I got the pleasure of adding the hops and steam cleaning my face…. But the smell was worth the scalding….

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At each addition, the smells were beautiful, culminating in the final – flameout – addition of Citra and Mosaic. Holy. Mother. Of…… Stunning. Simply glorious aromas. More than worth the dig.

Welcome to “Rat Out”. A 5.8% Rye IPA. I can’t wait to try it at the East West Beer Festival in May!

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(Supervising Rats)

With that final hop addition, Robin let myself and Malcolm flee the nest and let us had upstairs into the pub. Refreshment was required, this was hot work.

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It would have been rude NOT to sample all 3! And, given that I started with a pint of King Rat (IPA at 5.6%) and a Rat Against The Machine (7% big hoppy IPA), that 4% White Rat more than held its own. A superb tasty session beer.

This was an excellent fun brew day. With stories swapped and chuckling a plenty. I’m very grateful that I was allowed into the Rat lair by Robin. But, after all that, there was  a further, ulterior motive for coming by train.

A Huddersfield Legend.

So Robin, Malcolm & I went for a walk.

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The Star Inn is a tremendous pub in its own right. Featuring, on any given day, a plethora of excellent ales. But, twice a year, it hosts a beer festival.

People I respect, like the Arch Nemesis and Des, have regaled me with tales of this beer festival. Some of my Yorkshire pals have tried to get me over for a couple of years now. So it felt like a privilege to walk in. And I was excited.

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Another of the reasons that I had to come was THIS beer. From the moment that Malcolm told me he was going to brew an IPA with Seville oranges, I knew I had to have it on draught.

“Could I have a pint of Alcazar please?”

“A pint?”

OK. It WAS 7.8%. But I’d earned this pleasure. And a pleasure it was. Big and deeply juicy oranges complemented by massive hopping. Yum. Just yum.

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It’s a lovely old pub is The Star. And it attracts drinkers from all over the North and beyond for these legendary festivals.

It was an utter pleasure (as always) to chat with Charlie (aka The Ale Ambler – a member of Yorkshire’s mighty “A Swift One” blogging collective) a man who has probably forgotten more about beer than I’ll ever know.

It was also a delight (as usual) to chat with those lovely ladies from Mallinsons (Elaine & Tara) and indulge in a bit of plotting. Of which all shall be revealed at the appropriate time….

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As well as the chatting, there were some stunning beers, from Mallinsons (Maverick), Wild Weather (a cracking Single hopped Sorachi Pale) and Neptune (the luscious Abyss Oatmeal Stout), there was also some gorgeous grub too….

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The Thai Green Curry Chicken was superb. But after that, it time for some sad goodbyes. I hated leaving. I really wanted to stay.

This beer festival is the best pub Festival I’ve been to. By a distance. It helps that it is hosted in a simply gorgeous pub, the likes of which Manchester lacks.

Next time, I’m booking a hotel for the night.

Thank you to Robin, Paul Spencer (Ossett head brewer – for extending the invite), to Malcolm – of course (the beer will feature at the cracking East West Festival) and everyone at The Star.

A great brewday. An iconic pub. And a legendary beer festival. A day I won’t forget.

I love Huddersfield.

Huddersfield – A Love Affair is Born – 08/08/2015

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After a really heavy two weeks at work, an early (and I MEAN early) start was probably ill-advised. But I had an offer, which – a bit like the horse’s head in Jack Woltz’s bed – was hard to refuse.

That said, that early start afforded me a rare opportunity to see Manchester, but without the usual throngs…

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(Thomas Street)

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(Edge Street)

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(Tib Street)

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(Window Shutter – Stevenson Square)

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(Graffiti – Stevenson Square 1)

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(Graffiti – Stevenson Square 2)

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(Newton Street)

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(Port Street)

Manchester. 06:30 on a Saturday morning. Eerie. Quiet. And strangely beautiful.

Manchester, I love you.

Public transport in my area can be slightly……odd. Some services running, others not. That was how I found myself out of my house at 05:15 in the morning, walking half a mile to the relevant bus stop to catch the ONLY bus that could reliably get me to Manchester in time for the 07:26 train to Huddersfield. (And I fell aslep on that bus) Well, at least the Arch-Nemesis and I could say that the train was on time! (I also fell asleep on that train!)

Did I mention that I only got home at 4 hours before leaving again?

Then, we arrive in Huddersfield, step outside the rather grand station, to this….

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Little did I know quite how thronged this was to become less than 4 hours later!

But the reason that I was up at an unspeakable hour on a Saturday? A visit to Mallinsons.

Huddersfield may be blessed with a number of stellar breweries, with Magic Rock, Hand Drawn Monkey and others, but NONE have the ability to consistently turn out single-hopped sessionable Pale Ales at the level of sustained excellence that Mallinsons can. None.

A brief visit demonstrated to both myself and the Arch-Nemesis just HOW they are able to achieve such consistent levels of excellence. With no little skill, combined with the judicious application of tech and process control. Both Tara & Elaine were very generous with their time and showed both of us around and explained how they do just what they do. The simple things. So well.

There is an argument for Huddersfield as a beer town uber alles. There is, for me, an even greater argument that for session pale ales, there is nobody better than this brewery. Mallinsons. Which is why I made the effort.

I’m also utterly delighted to have righted the most heinous wrong of ISBF2014. The absence of a Mallinsons beer. They’ll be brewing something special for us. And I’m excited.

There were no photos taken. I was too awestruck.

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We got back to Huddersfield centre, via a cracking breakfast at Munchies on Albert Street (almost opposite the Star Inn – more later), thanks to Elaine for the recommendation!

So, 2 hours after we walked out of the train station, we have the scene above. In beating down sunshine. Following a walk around the area to assess the various food stalls (and they ARE many and varied!), we settled to a pint of Topaz by Mallinsons from one of the bars erected in the square. A fine sharp refreshing pint.

I myself, didn’t partake of as much of the food as others, but the offering ranged from superb curries, authentic paellas and Italian through to the more – shall we say – exotic. Anybody fancy a reptile burger? Made from 2 1/4lb patties of Crocodile and Python? I mean, of course I WOULD have, if it wasn’t for the rather filling breakfast….

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It was hot. Far too hot for this old man to bare. I needed shade. And beer. And the Hand Drawn Monkey Beer Shop on Wood Street (one street behind the Railway Square) ticked all the right boxes.

Effectively two roomed, this slightly ramshackle feeling bar is just, just, (how can I put it without sounding like a 15 year old?) cool. It just is. And it is utterly effortless. It doubles as a bottle shop, but we were there for the cask beer and both that we had were excellent.

We sat in the room to the left of the entrance on the (HDM logoed) cushioned bench seating and – with the assistance of the open door and industrial fan – relaxed in the cool. The sole bar staff put some tunes on, “Rubber Factory” by The Black Keys and “Bjork Greatest Hits”. And I was happy. Two fine albums.

Back to the square and we met the other train borne reprobates – David, Des & Jeff – and following another wee beer in the square, we were off …..

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The Sportsman (St John’s Road, Huddersfield)

This pub was the shape of things to come. A beautiful stone built corner pub, opening out into a big pace full of wood. And just lovely too. A large corner bar sporting a plethiora of hand pumps and decent keg fonts. There was at least one other room off the main room which looked nice and cosy too.

More Mallinsons in here. Well, when in Rome…..Cha Cha Cha was a fine pale beer too. As I would expect.

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A beautiful boozer, with great beer. But an all too brief visit. Will stay longer next time.

The reprobates wanted to go to the HDM Beer Shop again. I’m easily led. And glad I did, otherwise I’d have missed the superb Cherry Pale Ale! Was that 1.5kg of cherries per cask? It tasted like a marriage of a good Pale Ale and a Kriek. Recommended.

Then, separation. Captain “c***t” (Jeff) wanted to The Grove to sate his basest keg urges. Des fancied it too. Too soon for me. There were two other pubs I wanted to visit. Both (as I was to find) classics.

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The Star Inn (Albert Street, Folly Hall)

If this was in Manchester, the location would probably mean that it would have shut. I’m glad that it is in Huddersfield. It’s another beauty of a boozer.

Again, stone built. This is set in an industrial area just to the south of the town centre, not far from Mallinsons actually. Walking in, the colour scheme is warm, lots of wood and very comfy seating. It would be open plan if it wasn’t for a stone dividing wall that ends just before the bar and holds a real fire (I think – I WISH I took notes!)

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The long wooden bar was festooned with hand pulls again. And, around the corner from the brewery, it had to be another Mallinsons. Zahercoe. I won’t tell you how good it was!

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The pub, whilst being surprisingly large, maintains the feeling of a local. And is my kind of pub. Warm and friendly. And with good beer. What more could you ask for?

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This. Is the answer to that question.

The Rat & Ratchet (Chapel Hill, Huddersfield)

The stone frontage is impressive enough. But doesn’t prepare you for what lies within.

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I’m no architectural critic. But this is just so opulent and Victorian. A maze of many rooms. Loads of wood. Just SO bloody gorgeous. I may have just found my favourite pub. But it’s 30 miles away!

And serves Rat beers. Brewed on the premises. Beers that for me can do no wrong.

Nor can this pub. It. Is. A, Jewel.

We found a table and seats to the rear of the pub. And I just marvelled.

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It seemed to go on and on. And that made me happy. I left with a lopsided grin. Reluctantly. Because this couldn’t possibly be topped.

The Grove (Spring Grove Street – just off the A62 ring road)

For drinkers entranced by the “c” word, I can see the attraction of this pub. It has absolutely loads of beer on raught, both cask and keg. From many of the luminaries of the c***t world. And the keg was getting battered. No surprise in the heat of this particular day. Now, just for the record, I am no hater of keg beer. I simply prefer cask. And I had a really nice beer from Durham, a Pale Ale (Jaded Muse), my first from this brewery.

The pub itself was mutiroom in feel with a room that felt like an old tap room to the right and a larger room to the left with some rather interesting artwork.

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The thing that impressed me most, was the outdoor space.

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It adds so much to this pub. And goes back quite a way. It was a nice surprise to see Scott the GingerBeerKing and some of the Wakefield CAMRA crew here. Top fella is Scott and always nice to have the piss taken out of me by a Yorkshireman!

The Grove would grace many a town or city. But – with a slight “after the Lord Mayor’s Show” kind of feel – it came after The Rat & Ratchet.

Which shows you just how MUCH Huddersfield beer drinkers are spoiled!

And, with a little walk around the square for some food ( a cracking paella), that was that. We tried to get into The Kings Head. It was rammed. As was the other pub in the train station. So to the train.

I may love Manchester. Deeply. But I could oh so easily have an affair with Huddersfield.

And feel no guilt.

And so, my beery friends, endeth my 200th blog post. The last for some time while I take a break.

Slainte!