Saturday, 9 April 2016

BRAPA - Huddersfield pre-emptive fun

A view from the  John Smith's (ugh) Stadium
Last week, I rolled my eyes in an arrogant way, yawned, and declared that I pretty much knew all there was to know about real ale pubs in Huddersfield.  That was until Huddersfield CAMRA (sparked into life by Martin Taylor's S.O.S. on my behalf) kindly recommended a new beer shop that had only just opened, giving me a mini-challenge.

After a sunny morning stroll around my favourite of West Yorkshire's big towns (where the local busker try to force us all to suicide by performing 'Long Black Veil' in dramatic tones), it soon reached 10:59am and I was ready to go in.....

Me checking I've got the right place ....
Arcade Beers, Huddersfield

Perhaps because I'm naive or hopelessly optimistic, I was thinking that because Hudds CAMRA had recommended this, there'd be a little loft conversion parlour type room with a jolly round man in a Terriers shirt laughing to himself and serving cask ales straight from the barrel, whilst rockabilly music played in the background and cats leapt around the bar counter.  It wasn't quite like this, it was in fact very much a beer shop (a VERY good one at that) with a couple of tables and chairs so you could sample bottles or the two 'craft' ales on tap.  What made it good was our young jovial bearded host from Withernsea, he seemed concerned by Hull City's recent form, he was personable and helpful, and made us feel part of things.  We sampled a schooner (2/3 pint) of a Partisan Saison (very nice) and then found a bottle of a liqourice Great Newsome ale.  However, I'm very much a pub enthusiast/geek rather than a beer enthusiast/geek and it made me chuckle when he asked "do you know what is happening at 12 noon?"  "What IS happening at 12 noon?" I asked, half expecting Seasick Steve to come in a play an impromptu gig featuring songs about Arbor, Redemption, Buxton and Magic Rock.  What it was in fact was the unveiling of a 9% beer from Cloudwater (a Manchester brewer) which was guaranteed to be amazing.  It probably was.  True enough, an excited local came in and was pleased to hear some of this fabled brew was already in the fridge preparing itself for action!  Fair do's, but I was craving an old fashioned pub experience.

Magnificent selection of ales at the Arcade.
My 'out of the box' pre-match plan was to head to the Star, a little bit out of the way and it was 55 weeks approx since I ticked this pub off on one of my BRAPA West Yorkshire midweek evening adventures.  I'd loved it then, so brought Ben, Dad and Tom here to sample it's delights.  They say "you should never go back" (unless you are Alan Buckley) and sadly it was true here as both Ben's porter and my stout were on the turn.  I wish I'd taken it back but first thought it was just the unique taste of North Blyth ale!  My replacement Mallinsons was superb, the landlord asked me if we were "closet Hull fans", oi, less of the closet(!), but the damage had been done......

Rat & Ratchet in the 'Udders sunshine
Just down the road was a pub I'd last been to on 5th September 2004 so it's fair to say I was due a re-visit.  The Rat & Ratchet, like most Ossett pubs is a thing of beauty with wonderful ale, tiling, urinals, you name it.  It had a few more 'Town fans in but still had a gentle sedate atmosphere we could enjoy, the layout felt very different from '04 where I'd remembered a longer and thinner pub, less multi roomed, but time can play tricks on your mind.  My 'Pointless' style BRAPA quiz was a success and Dad shocked pre-match favourite Tom with a 3-2-1 win over him and Ben.   

After Hull City again did their best to embarrass themselves (but play well for the last 15 minutes), there was some hopes of dodging the 'police slalom' (Ben's words) and getting a swift pint in one of Huddersfield's many other glorious ale pubs (Grove, Sportsman, Head of Steam, King's Head, Vulcan, Wood Street thingy) but we thought it safest to get out of town and back to York.  

Once back, me and Dad had a nice relaxed 'swift half' of Sam Smith's OBB in my incredibly local local, the Trafalgar Bay where a Norwich fan tried to look tough (which never works) and the barman displayed a distinct lack of charm (as often happens here), but it was still nice enough.

Back home and all is well with the world!
So no new GBG pubs ticked off, none in midweek either due to social commitments, but with my biggest BRAPA challenge yet (Berkshire overload!) on the horizon, it's all about preparing properly for a total pub fest starting a week today.  I'll try and blog as I go along 'live' from my Premier Inn!  



  1. Cloudwater seem to unveil a lot of 9% beers. I forced their Double IPA on an old lady (not the young Mrs RM)in a bottle shop in Glossop last year, with hilarious consequences.

    Very important you don't take any real interest in beer Simon. Good or bad, all you need to say. It's OK to enthuse about Plum Porter though.

    I recall the Star as fantastic from a while ago too, surprised beer wasn't great but every barrel has a bottom I guess. The Rat has been taken over by Ossett (I think) since I had a disappointing visit a decade ago.

    North Blyth - Notts or Northumberland ?

  2. You state that Huddersfield is your favourite large town in West Yorkshire. Whilst it has gone up in my estimations, largely thanks to your tour and the fact that I have learnt of the existence of a miniature railway with a park, I feel the need to be pedantic and argue that it is the only large town in West Yorkshire. The only rivals are Halifax, Dewsbury and Keighley which I would argue aren't big enough to be large.

    Arcade Beers has its attractions. I was slightly disappointed by the statement that the largest glass was 2/3 pint but my 2/3 pint of tap water arrived in a pint glass, possibly that was confusion on my part - I suspect as you say the 'craft' could only be served in said measures.

    I must add that the bogs in the Rat and Ratchet, with ceramic urinals complete with all makers stamps in place, stained class window and proper door were superb. Just a shame about the modern bog roll dispenser. Said pub has indeed been taken over by Ossett but features its own brews, much like the Ossett owned Riverhead at Marsden.

    Bottles of cloudwater beer are to be sold on Transpennine trains as of the 1st of April. I suspect that they have something below 9% for the purpose. I'm sure both old ladies and Mrs Taylor will be served upon request.

    North Blyth in this instance is Northumberland. I believe the Notts village just refers to itself at Blyth, it is small and I don't think I've ever seen any geographic prefixes when there. I think the pub is/has been in the GBG though.

    1. Excellent logic Tom. I think Halifax might consider itself a large town; I guess it depends whether you include the endless suburbs like Sowerby in the definition. Halifax has a better music scene courtesy of Doghouse and better hills. No-one could put the JS Stadium above the Shay. Stuff your silly pubs, though 3 Pigeons is a gem.

      Perhaps Transpennine will get in the Beer Guide if they serve cask Cloudwater at some point, like the KVR did years ago.

      I'd assumed North Blyth was Simon's description of Blyth as being "in the North", but it really does exist, all 3 houses of it by the look of it. Which mega-brewery is this.

  3. Don't do the Star a disservice, the North Blyth brewery was formerly known as Northumberland brewery and was renowned for churning out 50+ cringeworthily named beers that all tasted the same and not very good. Having fallen for the rebrand, I can confirm that nothing has changed to my mind!

    1. Thanks Chris. So have Northumberland brewery moved from Bedlington to tiny North Blyth or something then ?

    2. Something like that, it's out the back of the Working Men's Club apparently.

  4. Great comments all, yes Tom I was actually including not only the large town of Halifax but Bradford too (I have my own idea on what a city is) but not Sowerby Bridge etc obvs!

    Cloudwater - big yawn! I do check in my beers on the Untappd App but beyond malty, hoppy and fruity, I cannot describe them and am perfectly ok with that. I'd like to know what happened to this old girl from Glossop though.

    "Craft" of course could be served in pint measures, but the marketing people seem to think some people are suckers for a pretty colourful label and funny name so think they can get away with charging £4.80 for 2/3's of a 4.3% beer.

    I was sure North Blyth was the Nothumbrian one cos their beers were all named about colliers and shipbuilders and pit ponies and dogs and flat caps. I'd not tried Northumberland brewery beers from memory but thanks for the gen Chris.

    Tom, all Ossett pubs have a Rat beer or five on now, they are in cahoots.

    The Star did us a disservice with two vinegary beers on but luckily I know it's a classic and was (probably) just a blip.

    Happy drinking (ale and blackcurrant, but not together) all!

  5. Large is a subjective term so I won't quibble over you calling Halifax large. I would be interested to see your definition of a city though, seeing as it excludes Drabford, which has a CoE cathedral, unlike various towns like Blackburn.

    I should have worded my phrase about the craft beers not being able to be served in pints better. Of course it is possible, maybe I would have been better off saying the landlord was unwilling to serve full measures.

    I wish to state that during the quiz I was mentally distressed by Ben and Bernard revealing the price of that tiny bottle of champagne. I am only just getting over it. It is a wonder that I scored two.

    I also wish to point out that your plan to kidnap me would have been doomed had I followed the suggestion of buying a bottle in the Arcade.

    I'm currently drinking milk. I trust that is acceptable.