Social Trip to Huddersfield

MAD in Huddersfield

On 14th March, a sizable MAD CAMRA contingent, plus many from neighbouring Chesterfield CAMRA, (and even a couple from Halifax to boot) made their way to Huddersfield to check out the Kirklees real ale scene. Huddersfield has two major historic claims to fame. Firstly it was the birth place of Rugby League (1895, in the George Hotel opposite the railway station) and secondly twenty years later, the birthplace of Harold Wilson MP. There's an eight foot tall statue of the latter purposefully striding away from Huddersfield Station, strangely bereft of his trademark pipe. "Good old Mister Wilson" (to quote Paul McCartney) governed the country four times between 1964 and 1976, in an age when pipes and Gannex raincoats were in style. The Queen even sported one (A Gannex raincoat - not a pipe). Distressing thoughts of tobacco infused pubs returned to me when I heard our first port of call was under t'viaduct in a place called the Sportsmanā€¦.

The Sportsman

With a name like 'The Sportsman, Huddersfield' one would normally expect a smoke-filled, Spartan establishment, frequented by a brace of flat-capped Yorkshiremen (each with the mandatory whippet) all watching horse-racing on a dust-shrouded wall-mounted TV screen, and each brandishing a copy of the Racing Post in one hand, with a pink betting slip in the other. Well it wasn't like that at all. This Sportsman was a very tidy and tastefully decorated art-deco inn, featuring eight real ales, and not a flat cap in sight. My first pint of the day was a local one, Timothy Taylors Boltmaker brewed in Keighley, twenty miles up the road. It was rather pleasant and no wonder the place won Huddersfield CAMRA Pub of the Year three years running. No loitering though, we had a long day ahead, so departed heading back under t'viaduct, past the still purposefully striding Harold Wilson, and into one of Huddersfield newest additions to the real ale sceneā€¦



Hand Drawn Monkey Beer shop.

This ale emporium was started in 2010 by Rob Allen (The former manager and brewer at the Rat and Ratchet) and Tom Evan (ex-brewer at Nottingham's Blue Monkey). The company motif (and official mascot) is a cartoon monkey with a monocle, going by the name of Jephers. The aforesaid simian also has a number of ales named after him. I sampled one ape-related libation called Monkey Loves Hops - Brew Number 7. It was like being hit in the face with a bunch of fresh hops. A knowledgeable gentleman at the bar informed me the distinct flavour was down to a unique method of fresh hopping, before he wished us well on our trip and returned to his laptop. (And not the Racing Post).

The Star Inn

Bit of a hike from the HDM. In fact the Star is in Folly Hall, which is down the A616 toward Holmfirth, past Kirklees College which looks every bit like a beached ocean liner. The Star was gearing up for their Spring Beer Festival which takes place both in the bar, and in a large tented area out the back. I stood by the roasting double ended fire, and had an ale called Chinook, which is named after the hops that flavour it and not the helicopter. (In fact both were named after the Native American tribe from Washington State, it says here in Wikipedia).

The Rat & Ratchet

Back up the A616, we pulled into the Rat and Ratchet public house, who were dispensing three 'Rat' beers, plus three from Ossett Brewery, and six guests on top of that. Spoiled for choice or what? The building also hosts the Rat Brewery in the cellars downstairs, which may give LocAle organisers something to think about. We're not talking beer miles here, but beer yards! The Rat and Ratchet is another tastefully decorated pub, blending tradition with functionality, and has spent 25 years in the pages of the Good Beer Guide. Now I don't know anyone's idea of a perfect job or not, but Rat staff-training involves tasting sessions so they can use the brewers knowledge (and undoubtedly their wares) to describe beers to customers. Even more perfect was the TV in one of the many rooms showing Wales beating Ireland, which boded well for England's chances in the Six Nations on 21st March. (But it was not to be). I had a pint of White Rat, before our party moved on towards the Grove.



The Grove.

Stepping through the vestibule of the Grove, we encountered an enticing whiff of delicious Asian gastronomy. The Grove just gets better every time I go there, and the latest enhancement is the addition of an Malaysian 'take-away' food-cart at the back of the lounge. Staggeringly, the Grove lists 19 draught lines and 17 keg lines on its extensive blackboard of available beers. Thirty-six beers to choose from! Attention grabbing artwork and sculptures dot the place too. It's a place you could stay in all day (If your other half doesn't mind). I didn't hang around too long though (just for a couple) because the final port of call was to be that 'World Beer Freehouse' the Sheffield Tap, and we had a train to catch. Harold was still striding purposefully around when we arrived for the train back home (He's probably looking for his missing pipe). A few stragglers remained behind in the Grove saying they were enjoying the beer too much to leave - Well it was a great place. They may be there still? If anyone from the Grove is reading this and spots them, can they please send 'em back? One of them's the branch secretary and the rest of us don't really like taking the minutes. Cheers.

Tony Farrington