Saturday finally saw a coach full of excited CAMRA types make the journey over to Huddersfield in order to visit Magic Rock Brewery. Having been unexpectedly cancelled due to snow last time, there were fingers crossed that this time things would go more smoothly. We needn’t have worried as the sun shone down over Yorkshire and all was right with the world. Magic Rock are in the premier league of British brewing and regularly knock out classics such as Curious and High Wire. Not to mention an ever growing number of speciality beers. Richard Burhouse and head brewer Stu Ross-who some may recall from his time at the Crown Brewery in Sheffield-were both on hand to take us on separate tours.
|Please don't make us drink this|
It’s amazing just how far Magic Rock have come since they started in 2011. Well known for their hop-forward beers, they use a lot of the American ‘C’ hops and a smattering of New World hops; when they can get them. Oh the name, in case you were wondering, was inspired by the hippy crystal place next door and led them to develop their distinctive circus-esque branding. They’re now reaching the limits of what they want to brew; with export playing an increasing role in their success. A large part of that must be down to the innovative keykeg which is basically a one-way, disposable keg that allows brewers to keg for a fraction of traditional costs. And with Stuart saying that there are about 100 casks of theirs overdue for return, the disposable keykeg is incredibly cost effective.
Kegging now accounts (sorry, I was drinking but I think) for 45% of production, so naturally we were asked to sample some. This of course led to a CAMRA stampede. Not to the exit, as some might think, but for the taps offering such delights as Salty Kiss. This is a ‘Gose’ beer, basically a style of sour German wheat beer. It’s a collaboration with Danish master brewer Anders Kissmeyer and has been given the Anglo-Danish treatment with the infusion of of sea buckthorn, rosehips and gooseberries. Nothing like a Lambic it had a refreshing tartness to it. Sadly, that was supped before I could have more and I had to stick to Curious. Untill that ran out. Thirsty buggers these CAMRA lot. A great visit and thanks to Richard and Stuart.
But, as it says in the Bible, man does not live by Magic Rock alone and so we got to spend an afternoon sampling the delights of Huddersfield. In a game of follow the leader, our first stop was the Star out at Lockwood. This should have been a safe bet, but sadly it wasn’t. Temperature is the traditional foe of cask beer and here was proof in a glass. The Mallinsons Aramis was warm and flabby. There were mutterings in the ranks. Stopwatch Sid wasn’t happy. More beer was procured but it was all too warm. Doctor Tyson quickly diagnosed a beer malaise and suggested a remedy. And so, without further delay, a hired chariot was swiftly winging us towards the comforting arms of the Grove.
Now the Grove is considered one of the, if not the, best pub in Britain and never disappoints. Indeed sometimes it seems as if the only reason God chose to base it in Yorkshire was to keep temptation away from me. Our group soon settled in for a serious drinking spree. As one of only 10 outlets for the great Toccalmatto, some of that had to be sampled. Then there was one of my favoutites-Durham, with their White Gold. It seemed rude not to try a Marble and although the Wallsend Wonder turned her nose up at Tiny Rebel Billabong, I found it very refreshing. Not so the dry-hopped Jaipur which everyone thought slightly unpleasant.
Still that was considerably better than the Buxton/To Øl collaboration Carnage. This was 7.4% and smelt promising, but the taste was crystal malt overload and felt very heavy going. However even worse was to come. Jack & Jill can always be counted on to get that extra beer and save you the time and expense. So it was with Mikkeller Willamette. This had no trace of Willamette discernible to the human palate but instead was heavily phenolic and gratingly unpleasant. Unlike both the Okells and Sly Fox IPA which went down well. All the draught beers were cool and in good condition and prices are a good bit cheaper than Manchester. So it was with a heavy heart that we moved on.
There was just time for a Mallinsons in the Hand Drawn Monkey Beer Shop before getting back on the coach. There was to be a one more stop before Bury and one that, as it turned out, we could have done without. The Sair Inn at Linthwaite is rightly famous for its interior and is great to visit in winter when the real fires are burning bright. However, I’ve always found quality an issue here and so, once again, that proved to be the case. There are simply too many of their own beers on the bar. Autumn Gold was pure vinegar-poor on a busy Saturday-and although this was changed, all the golden beers tasted like they had Fairy Lemon washing up liquid as the main ingredient. I couldn't get on the coach quick enough.
A great trip bookended by two disappointments.