The Talbot Arms, Settle

As you’ll see from the gallery we posted earlier today there’s no shortage of pubs in the conjoined-twin-towns of Settle and Giggleswick but one was our clear favourite: the Talbot Arms.

Situated off the High Street, behind the market place and a few doors down from the 17th-century architectural oddity that is the Folly, the Talbot is visually striking: a wall of white with the pub’s name in huge black letters and an unusual sign of a white dog which looks both hip and yet also strangely medieval.

Inside is a single large room, rather bare, which somehow conveys that dining is an option without making it feel like an obligation. On our multiple visits we found locals chatting at the bar, in corners gossiping, or in muddy boots reading the Craven Herald with glasses of wine.

The ale list at the Talbot.

The cask ale offer struck us as interesting for various reasons. First, because we recognised few of the breweries; secondly, because there was a clear effort to cover a range of styles, from mild to pale’n’hoppy via old-fashioned bitter; and, finally, because the range seemed more resolutely small-and-local than some other pubs in the area.

Pump clip for Partners Cascade.

Not every beer we tried was top notch but none of them were downright bad, and all were in good nick. It was also here that we also found our beer of the week: Partners Brewing Cascade (4% ABV, £3 a pint). Somewhat neglected in favour of more fashionable hop varieties, Cascade is surely due a revival — citrus, yes, but with a distinctive fruits-of-the-forest character that lent this particular beer a ripe juiciness to balance a light body and flinty bitterness.

Perhaps those of you who know the northern scene better than us will let us know whether Partners is a generally well-regarded brewery — we suspect not, or we might have heard of them — but, regardless, this particular beer was one we stuck on for multiple pints, and for two days in a row at that.

The Talbot Arms also has a proper beer garden — that is, not a wasp-infested yard next to the bins with a pile of mouldering carpet, as is found in most English pubs, but something landscaped and leafy, with solid tables, and a mixture of sunshine and shade. It isn’t quite up to German standards, but it’s not far off.

Now, if you visit Settle, the Talbot might not be your favourite — perhaps we were lucky with the weather and the particular beers that were on offer — but you can certainly have some fun finding out over the course of a day or weekend.

GALLERY: Pubs of Settle & Giggleswick, N. Yorks

We’ve just spent a week in Giggleswick/Settle which, for its size, has plenty of decent pubs. Our favourite was the Talbot Arms, of which more later, but here’s a quick look at all the others.

The Golden Lion (far left) and Thirteen (right).
High Street, Settle, with the Golden Lion to the far left and Thirteen (with red CAMRA banner) to the right.
Doorway and signs at Thirteen.
Thirteen — almost a micropub, but not quite — advertises its offer. (Note: buy six pints, keep the receipts, and get a seventh free.)

Continue reading “GALLERY: Pubs of Settle & Giggleswick, N. Yorks”

Four From Summer Wine

Yorkshire brewery Summer Wine have been around for a few years now — do they deserve a place on our list of trusted breweries?

Trusted breweries are those whose beers rarely disappoint, regardless of whether they’re from cask, keg, can or bottle. We’ve tried Summer Wine’s beer, primarily on cask, several times, and never been overly impressed, finding them generally on the rough side.

Having been challenged over our lack of enthusiasm, however, we decided to give them another go and so ordered four 330ml bottles from Ales by Mail.

  • Pacer Session IPA (4.1% ABV, £1.97)
  • Oregon Pale Ale (5.5%, £2.06)
  • Sabertooth IPA (6.9%, £2.33)
  • Maelstrom Double IPA (9%, £2.76)

Continue reading “Four From Summer Wine”

Inns of York (1897)

Illustrations from The Old Inns and Inn Signs of York by Thomas Parsons Cooper (1897) released by the British Library on Flickr.

Book Review: Great Yorkshire Beer

Like us, Leigh Linley is a beer blogger of the class of ’07, so we were excited when he announced the publication of his first book earlier this year, and bought a copy without hesitation.

Great Yorkshire Beer.
Small-format hardback, RRP £10.99, 190 pages.

On his blog, he has tended to accentuate the positive rather than dishing out savage criticism (the Michael Jackson approach) and this small press book continues in the same manner, declaring itself as wholly celebratory — an expression of regional pride. Fortunately, with more than a hundred Yorkshire breweries to choose from, Linley has no trouble picking a handful which he can endorse with a clear conscience.

Let’s get one substantial ‘point for improvement’ out of the way: the book would have benefited from tighter editing. There are several instances of close repetition (the phrase ‘our fair county’ appears twice in as many pages); too many exclamation marks (screamers) for our taste; and a variation on the dreaded ‘cannot be underestimated’ makes an appearance in the foreword.

Those superficial points aside, what surprised us on this second, closer reading (the first time was on a long train journey without a notebook at hand) was that, though pitched as a lightweight local interest book, Great Yorkshire Beer also functions as something of a ‘microhistory’. By focusing so closely on one region and one particular generation of brewers — those who have entered the industry in the last decade or so — trends in the wider market are highlighted.

For example, an interview with Pete Roberts of Sheffield’s The Brew Company reveals a shift in tastes in the last few years: a beer released in 2008, Frontier IPA, was shelved because it was considered too bitter by local drinkers. In 2013, however, it has returned with exactly the same recipe to general acclaim, suggesting that drinkers’ palates have evolved in the post-Thornbridge, post-Brewdog era.

In allowing brewers to tell their stories in full, subtly different approaches between ostensibly similar businesses are illuminated. Mallinson’s refusal to have a ‘core range’ vs. Leeds Brewery’s reluctance to dabble in ‘one offs’, and Ilkley’s eye on the national market vs. Kirkstall’s determination to remain a Leeds speciality, act as useful case studies for anyone thinking of going into brewing.

A second small point for improvement, though: a couple of the interviews occasionally stray into ‘sales pitch’ territory, and it would be nice to see a little more challenge if next year should see the publication of More Great Yorkshire Beers.

With our interest in the development of ‘alternative beer’ from the 1960s onward, we were also fascinated to read that Sierra Nevada Pale Ale — named by one contemporary brewer after another as a key influence — found its way to British beer festivals, and on to supermarket shelves c.2003, thanks to the efforts of Leeds-based importer Steve Holt and his company Vertical Drinks. There are many other such interesting details throughout.

Though brewery profiles make up the bulk of the book, it also has recipes (Linley is a keen advocate of food and beer pairing), suggested pub crawls, and nuggets of Yorkshire beer trivia. Perfect, in short, for dipping in to on train journeys or solo pub visits. Any tourist visiting Yorkshire for the beer would be daft not to take a copy with them, and it would make a great Christmas gift for the Yorkophile in your life.

Disclosure: we paid for our copy of the book, but when we met Leigh for a pint in Leeds and he gave us three bottles of beer and some second-hand books as a gift. We’ve also known him (virtually, anyway) for quite a few years and think he’s a nice bloke, so can’t claim to be entirely objective.

Continuity in the world of brewing

Rooster's Yankee

As we are in the middle of writing about and researching the career of Sean Franklin, founder of Yorkshire brewery Rooster’s, we were pleased to come across the beer that made his name, Yankee (4.3%), in a bar in London.

Just as Butcombe Bitter is a dogged survivor from the first flush of the nineteen-seventies ‘real ale craze’, Yankee is arguably the quintessential nineteen-nineties British ‘craft beer’, featuring American Cascade hops in a starring role. In 2001, Michael Jackson described it as follows:

[Yankee] is hopped entirely with Cascades… [and] brewed exclusively from pale malts, with soft flavours, so that the assertive hop can dominate. His use of the hop always emphasises aroma first, then flavour, rather than simple bitterness… In the Cascade hop, Franklin finds the robust citrus of the Muscat grape and the lychee character of the Gewürztraminer.

Franklin entered semi-retirement in 2011, handing over the reins of his brewery to Oliver and Tom Fozard. They face an interesting challenge: unlike Butcombe, which was born old, Rooster’s reputation rests on innovation and experimentation. Does continuing a twenty-year-old brand mean brewing twenty-year-old recipes (playing ‘the greatest hits’ and ‘golden oldies’), or continuing to push boundaries in the spirit of Mr Franklin? The answer is probably ‘a bit of both’. Tricky.

It’s hard to say whether the Yankee we drank last week tastes quite as it would have done fifteen years ago, but it certainly left us with a suspicion that the Cascade character which once seemed revolutionary — downright un-beer-like — has become rather respectable in its old age. Our pints were very enjoyable, but, like that other breakthrough brew Summer Lightning, this is a beer which struggles these days to stand out amidst a sea of louder, brasher imitators.

Kelham Island Family Tree (beta)

Snapshot of the Kelham Island Brewery Family Tree

DOWNLOAD THE PDF OF DAVE WICKETT AND KELHAM ISLAND (beta) HERE.

When we put together our Thornbridge Brewery ‘Rock Family Tree’ a while ago, several people responded with suggestions that we do the same for Kelham Island. Then, last month, we heard the sad news of the death of Kelham Island’s founder, Dave Wickett (and read tributes from Simon ‘Reluctant Scooper’ Johnson, Melissa Cole, Adrian Tierney-Jones and Pete Brown).

That spurred us on and, with help from Stuart Ross, a former head brewer at Kelham Island, now working his magic at, er, Magic Rock, we’ve put together a first cut. We also referred to some old Kelham Island newsletters and Linkedin, which is great source of information on brewers’ CVs. (Though it makes you feel like a stalker.)

Our first thoughts: this format doesn’t quite capture all that Dave Wickett did for beer and brewing. He’s there in the first box as the first head brewer at Kelham Island, but his role as owner was more than just ‘money man’. The consulting, advising and encouraging he did is also not recorded.

Nonetheless, it shows how many brewers passed through Kelham Island and, when put side by side with the Thornbridge chart, the strands connecting Britain’s breweries do become more obvious.

Corrections and suggestions welcome! Off you go.

Snow and stout in York

Last time we went to York, in the early days of this blog, Maieb (now Tweeting instead of blogging) told us in no uncertain terms that we really ought to make it to the Maltings. So, a couple of weeks back, finding ourselves nearby, in a heavy snowstorm, frostbite beginning to affect our extremities, we decided finally to take his advice.

It’s a very cosy pub — a place where the bark of passive-aggressive signs is definitely worse than the bite. There is a tongue-in-cheek tone to some of it (“Our staff are not highly trained — please treat them accordingly”) and the service was very friendly. It was standing room only, no doubt in part because of the roaring fire and huge portions of basic, tasty, piping hot old-school pub grub.

On the beer front, the highlight for us was Sawbridgeworth Stout — so thick and chocolatey we wanted churros to dip in it. As well as several cask ales, there was also a really well thought out selection of bottles and, in honour of the season, hot Gluhkriek, perfect for supping while the snow falls outside.

Yes, we are southern softies. It wasn’t really that cold. And this is yet another pub which we are the very last people in Britain to visit…

A swift one in Leeds

We had a bit of time to kill Leeds between trains on our way back from Haworth and so found ourselves at The Pin on Dock Street. It’s one of the outlets for the relatively new Leeds Brewery and a loungy, brunchy cafe-bar. It isn’t a pub and, if we hadn’t been hungry and stopped to look at the menu in the window, we wouldn’t have noticed it especially.

The food was posh pub grub and excellent value for money at that, with a special mention for the best battered fish we’ve had in ages.

We tried one each of the Leeds Best Bitter (biscuity, brown and likeable) and Pale (a cracker — spicy, flowery with a lingering hop aftertaste).

There were Some interesting bottles (Brooklyn, Liefmans Kriek) but also a lot of pretentious ‘world lager’ like Cusquena and Pacifico.

We think it’s really great to see a different, more European model of boozer working in the UK — not everything has to be a pub or even a compromised pub.

We also stumbled upon their brewery tap on the way to catch our train and popped in there, too. This is more like a pub, albeit a would-be trendy one, and with a lot more beer on offer, including Midnight Bell, Leeds’ “premium dark mild”. It was OK but by no means a competitor to Timothy Taylor’s mild. Leodis, their lager, was off — shame.

Tim Taylor country

They call it ‘Bronte Country’ or bang on about the Railway Children but, for all the wily windy moors and choo-choos, it’s the ubiquitous presence of Timothy Taylor which, for us, was the most obvious feature of Keighley and its surrounding towns and villages.

The Fleece in Haworth village was everything you could want from a pub: packed full of people of all ages, most of whom knew each other, but no less friendly for that. Another out of towner put it well: “Did you hear that sound from outside? A proper pub sound…”

They have a full range of Taylor’s beer, including Ram Tam, Dark Mild, Golden Best and, yes, a cracking pint of Landlord.

Amazingly, though, the beer was perhaps even better aboard a steam train on the Keighley and Worth Valley railway. Our perfect, almost pornographic pints had big marmalade flavours we hadn’t really been struck by before. The KWVR is the only mobile entry in the Good Beer Guide and thoroughly deserves it. We rode up and down a few times marvelling at the hard work and enterprise of the enthusiasts who had made this marvel possible.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the barman had something of Bernard Cribbins about him.

We weren’t there long enough to visit everywhere recommended by Ten Inch Wheeler who grew up in the area, but there’s always next time. Thanks for the advice, TIW!

And, of course, it’s a regular stomping ground for Leigh, who’s also fan of the Fleece!