Beer Matters

Yorkshire Ale Trends

Always heedful of my critics, I have taken on board Phill the Pint’s point about RW articles on beer being relevant to ringing. It’s not always easy, apart from reiterating the truism that ringing makes you thirsty, and I covered that one fairly comprehensively in my first column. There are few beers with a direct ringing connection even in name (Abbey Bellringer, Bellringers’ Delight, that’s about it) and the indefatigable Mr Hutchinson has cornered the market in Bell pub names. Nevertheless I shall endeavour to be more relevant in future.

Last time I promised to report on a recent trip “up north”, so here it is. The object of the exercise was not just research but a peal attempt (relevant or what) at Ossett. The M1 is not my favourite road at the best of times and a nightmare on Friday afternoon so we took the M11 and A1. One of the advantages of the Great North Road is that you are never far from a pub so, with the onset of thirst and the bulk of the journey completed, we stopped at the Angel in Blyth (Notts).

I have often noticed that, beyond Leicester or thereabouts, people (except ringers) tend to dress up to go to the pub, especially at weekends, and the Angel was no exception. It was doing a brisk trade in early evening meals but there was just about room to sit down with a pint. Hardys and Hansons, formed in 1930 by a merger of two rivals in the mining town of Kimberley, is a sound regional brewery which I have held in respect since I first discovered their wares whilst briefly working in Derby in the 70s. The bitter is what I would call a typical Midlands bitter, not outstandingly flavoursome but goes down easily enough. Despite it being May, the mild was not in evidence and a half of the flagship Olde Trip proved a little disappointing – a slightly “bigger” maltier version of what I had just drunk. What happened to the delightful Kimberley Classic they were brewing a few years ago?

Arriving in Ossett, there was a note on door of the B&B, which was deserted apart from a large and soulful dog who padded across from the kitchen, gave the intruders the once over and went back to her bed without so much as a murmur. A quick reconnoitre of the pubs in the town centre suggested that the Coopers Arms, a Thwaites house, might be the best bet. Sadly the seasonal Blooming Ale was in poor condition and we soon succumbed to pasta and Chianti in the Italian restaurant nearby. Next morning the peal was duly scored but then most of the band left with feeble excuses like having to obtain spare parts for the car. Strange behaviour indeed but it left the choice of pub somewhat wider.

Just down the road is Horbury, the home of “Onward Christian soldiers” according to a sign at one end of the village, which puzzled me somewhat. The hymn tune Horbury, by the Reverend John Bacchus Dykes (what a splendid name for a clergyman) is set to “Nearer my God to Thee” (although it may not have been the tune that the band played as the Titanic went down – Jonathan Evans-Jones, who played the bandleader Wallace Hartley in the film, thinks it was Bethany, a tune I had never encountered until I saw his excellent one-man show last year, and he, it emerged in conversation, was equally unfamiliar with Horbury) while “Onward Christian soldiers” is invariably sung to Sir Arthur Sullivan’s St Gertrude. Does anyone know what the connection is?

But I digress (apologies to Phill and all non-hymn tune anoraks). I was in Horbury for a (post-peal, Phill) pint or two and soon found Boons, apparently named after Henry Boon Clark, founder of the original Clark’s Brewery (1906-60) in Wakefield. The present brewery, named with creditable accuracy HB Clark & Co (Successors) Ltd, is in effect a micro opened in 1982, albeit operating within the old brewery premises. Boon’s is a comfortable no-nonsense ale house and two or three Clark’s beers were on offer along with several guest ales. The two I tried were jolly good. Oh, what were they? Er (you remember what I was saying about memory in my last column? I’m going to have to start carrying a notebook everywhere, only I’ll probably keep forgetting it), I think they were Golden Hornet and Ram’s Revenge, or possibly No Angel, but anyway I enjoyed them. And I left the pub with a gift of mushrooms from a total stranger who had just bought a job lot in the greengrocer’s opposite. Now there’s hospitality for you.

Still on the subject of Clark’s beers, their Classic Blond has been doing the rounds of Wetherspoons recently and very drinkable it is too, a pale golden citrusey bitter, more like Oakham JHB than Summer Lightning. I have yet to sample the Classic Brunette and find myself wondering whether, in deference to other parts of the trichological spectrum, they have a Redhead and a Ravenhair Stout in the pipeline?

Maximus Bibendus

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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