Beer of the month, September 2015

Lots of good beers this month, but only two really stand out, and they were both bottles drunk at home.

First up was a Derail Ale from the recently discovered Box Steam Brewery, in Holt. A very nice IPA, but as with so many, the hoppiness outweighed the paleness, but this is the right way round to do it. Whilst I am a bit of a stickler for having my IPAs pale, it is far more important to stuff them full of hops, even though they no longer have to survive long sea journeys. Hops are what IPAs are all about, and this one is loaded with them, which makes for a very nice IPA indeed.

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It might have been a worthy winner in another month, but this month it came up against 1698 from Shepherd Neame, an excellent “old ale”, also full of hops, mixed in with malty and caramel flavours. From the pictures they look quite similar, but this one just had the edge this month. Apart from the “Classic Collection IPA”, this is the best Shepherd Neame beer that I’ve ever had. A well deserved win for this hoppy winner.

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Pub of the month, September 2015

Lots of pubs to choose from again this month, as we were away for three weekends out of four, and I was also in Manchester for a few days.

We start with the Beehive Inn, in Combs, Derbyshire. We visited not once but twice, sampling a couple of ales (but more than a couple of times) and some very nice food (a tasty fish platter and a very nice chicken and bacon dish as seen below).

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However, the slightly odd dogs policy (cramming everyone with dogs into the tiniest part of the pub) really needs revisiting. There’s another pub just up the road which doesn’t allow dogs inside at all. So anyone with a dog, local or visitor, is going to come here. It was very crowded in the snug whereas other areas of the pub were much quieter. Just something for dog friendly pubs to think about.

Next up we have Krobar, your standard Danish bar (there’s no such thing!) in a famous industrial city. Krobar had been a pre-arranged destination and was a bit of an unknown, but several pumps featuring ales from local breweries greet you on arrival, accompanied by an interesting selection from Europe. Several good ales were sampled here, as well as a pork schnitzel burger, definitely the first one I’ve had this year!

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Next up we have the Woolly Sheep in Skipton. This was the first stop on our “walking tour of Skipton”, and a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Golden Best was a great start to the day. The menu looked intriguing (for example pulled lamb shank press or chilled braised ham hock aka posh ham, egg and chips). Sadly, they were fully booked when we attempted to return for dinner later on, so we’ll have to wait for another visit in order to sample the food.

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And finally, we have the winner. The Beer Engine. The best place in Skipton to enjoy great beer. This is the epitome of a micro pub, seats for about 20 people, and more beers than people. I will definitely be back here on our next visit, a lovely little place, with one of the best beer selections I have come across all year.

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A worthy winner!

The Horse, Shepshed, September 2015

A pub that we have passed numerous times in its previous guise as The White Horse. Situated on the A512 which links the M1 to the A42 (and then M42, road fans), it is on our usual route to Birmingham or the south west. It’s also on a walking route that we use a few times.

In its previous guise, it never looked all that inviting or welcoming, so we never went in. In 2014 the pub was taken over by a new team who changed things around, making changes to the bar and restaurant areas with greater emphasis on the restaurant side of things.

In April 2015 The Horse re-opened with an extension, almost doubling the original size of the pub, using local contemporary stone and light oak beams to give a fresh feel. There is also a feature fireplace with wood burning stove for the cooler months.

Tonight was our first visit to the newly refurbished pub, after a little walk in the area. We grabbed a table and then ordered. A pint of Ausome IPA from Nene Valley brewery for me, hoppy and sweet, it was a very nice IPA, a limited edition brew apparently.

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Dinner soon arrived, in the form of this very tasty steak, a rare ribeye served with triple cooked chips, roast vine tomatoes, mushroom, watercress and pink peppercorn sauce.

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It was a great example of steak and chips, a simple dish that works so well when you get it right, but which is a dog’s dinner if you get it wrong. Here it was oh so right. The peppery watercress works with the peppery sauce, and the acidity of the tomatoes cuts through the richness of the sauce. A lovely dinner.

The newly renovated Horse is a great pub, relaxed and comfortable for the casual diner, but with something to offer if you want a more formal dining experience. Recommended!

Keelham Farm shop, Thornton

Despite having spent the weekend sampling local ales, we had not managed to find ourselves at a brewery with a shop in order to return home with lots of beer (the theme of the summer).

The emergency plan was to go “up the Asda” (to quote Kerrie), but this was in place only to spur us on to find somewhere else to get some beer. Whilst in Skipton, we heard about the Keelham farm shops, with branches in Skipton and Thornton. Thornton was on our route home, so we popped in for a wander round, after we eventually managed to find a parking space – the large car park was rammed full, a good sign that this is a popular place.

Inside it’s as big as some supermarkets, but packed with lots of great local produce, fresh from the local fields, or from further afield (Yorkshire doesn’t have a banana plantation). A deli counter with lots of fresh pies, quiches and more. A butcher’s counter and a great selection of cheeses as well as tinned and dry goods.

Finally, we make it to the beer and cider section, and there is a great selection here. Once again, lots of great local stuff, from Copper Dragon, Samuel Smith’s, Saltaire Brewery, Leeds Brewery, Wharfe Bank brewery, Oates, Ilkley Brewery and quite a few more. Needless to say, we came away with a selection of bottles from all of these, and a couple of others too. The perfect end to our Yorkshire weekend…

Fawlty Towers

Where to begin? Way back in May, we were in the middle of a field, enjoying food and beer and the like. Shocking, I know. Talk turned to Yarndale, a festival of wool and related items. The ladies were very interested in this idea, the men saw it as an opportunity to sample some new ales in a new area. So, whilst sat in a field with good 3G coverage, we were checking out places to stay for this weekend of wool. We were far too late to get in to any chain hotel in the area, so we had to lower our sights and find somewhere that had three rooms available.

Eventually, Fawlty Towers popped up, and all of the TripAdvisor reviews were fairly in unison. Tired, funny, a trip back in time, but clean and tidy.

When we arrived, this turned out to be totally accurate. Clean and tidy, but with some comedy touches, such as the drawer with no bottom, the iron burn on the carpet, and the so-called “shower” which was some rubber hose that attached to the bath taps, the kind of thing my nan had in the house that she lived in for 50 odd years.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be talking about food and drink. We stuck to just the breakfast, which was included in the price, and was a classic hotel breakfast – fruit juice, tea or coffee, a selection of cereals, and then your choice of items from the full English, including that rare thing in our health conscious age, the fried slice. Can’t beat it. It was a nice breakfast, although the sausages were a bit cheap. Good tea though, and big tea pot too.

We did brave “the bar” on one evening. Despite the large number of local breweries on the doorstep, the only beer that was visible was a four pack of Guinness from the cash’n’carry, so we didn’t really push the boat out (plenty of great beer in the pub next door), apart from a couple of Baileys for the ladies. Apparently it’s a drink and a pudding in one.

We had a great weekend, but not in any real hurry to come back to this particular hotel…

I must of course leave you with a classic clip…

Black Horse, Skipton

By this point during the day, we were in our fifth pub. So far we have taken in the Woolly Sheep (Timothy Taylor’s Golden Best), The Castle (Drop Kick from Acorn Brewery, as well as a pint of chips), The Narrowboat (My Generation from a spin-off of Black Sheep) and the fantastic Beer Engine (a Foxy Blonde).

The rest of the party had joined us by now, and we had wandered around quite a few pubs trying to find somewhere to eat. On a busy Saturday night, with England about to take on Wales in the Rugby World Cup semi finals, it took us about 20 minutes to find somewhere with a table free. The Black Horse is enormous, so we stood a good chance of finding a table, even with the rugby on.

The day finished with a disappointing pint of Copper Dragon bitter, not bad per se, just the worst of the day, and it had a lot of good beers to beat. A chicken and bacon burger was a tasty way to soak up some of the previously quaffed ale. Very standard chain pub stuff.

Of all the pubs visited, I would order them as follows:-

  1. The Beer Engine
  2. The Woolly Sheep
  3. The Castle
  4. The Narrowboat
  5. The Black Horse

After dinner, we returned to Fawlty Towers for some card games and reflection.

The Beer Engine, Skipton

You know that phrase about saving the best until last? We did it today. If you define a pub as a place to enjoy a good beer, this is the very ultimate definition of that. A tiny little place, that is so full of beer, there is not a lot of room for customers, probably around 20 of them. This is what we call in the modern world a “micro pub”. And it is a great example of this thing.

Lots of beers to choose from, plenty from the local area, and more exotic items from further afield. A brilliant little place and the perfect end to our walking tour. To finish off the tour, a nice pint of Foxy Blonde.

Without doubt, the best pub for beer in Skipton, despite the incredibly annoying people on the next table, talking about “London swearing”.