Timing is everything, especially when you manage to schedule a trip to Yorkshire on the sunniest week of the year. Glenn and I enjoyed a balmy break up north last week, checking out some of our favourite breweries and beery sites in the name of research in between a few days narrow-boating on the Rochdale Canal.
It's been a trip we've been hoping to make for a while - in 2014, West Yorkshire was home to more breweries than London (and still might be, we're too lazy to check the facts) so we knew we had to get up there and put our tastebuds to work. Time constraints prevented us doing more than just dip our toes in the water, but ah, what a dip.
The Magic Rock Tap is everything a brewery tap should be - warm, welcoming and inclusive (especially warm when we visited on a 28-degree afternoon). My mum felt just as at home there as her beer geek daughter, and Glenn even got to take home a new pair of pants c/o a pop-up from HebTroCo, Hebden Bridge's finest trouser company. As for the beer... nothing has ever tasted better than a half of Inhaler at the source. The lovely folk at Magic Rock even sent us back with a box of branded Mini Teku glasses with which for you all to enjoy their beer at the shop. Cheers!
Summer Wine Brewing launched their new tap room just a few weeks ago and even though we arrived just as they were getting ready to close (sorry, guys), you can tell it's going to be a huge success. Beautifully crafted by the boys themselves, it's a spot not to be missed and looks set to be a key stop-off on West Yorkshire cycle trails. It was a pleasure to spend time with James and Andy and hear their story of quiet determination and growth at their own pace. We're big fans of their beer and can't wait to visit again.
The wonderful thing about narrow boating is that there's very little to do apart from sit back watching the world go by with a drink in hand, and hit the pub once you've moored. After piloting the mighty Shire Cruisers 'Rutland' up the Rochdale to Mythrolmroyd, we particularly enjoyed the Shoulder of Mutton, where we enjoyed a goodly quantity of well-kept cask beers for Glenn's birthday lunch on the hottest day of the year (where he ordered a full English roast with Yorkshire, in Yorkshire). A standout was Moonshine from Sheffield's Abbeydale Brewery.
Hebden Bridge is almost back on its feet again after the devastating floods at Christmas time, but many shops are still shut up and the smell of fresh paint is a constant as flooded businesses finally open their doors again. Shops that have reopened, such as the excellent beer shop Drink?, have a marker showing where the flood waters came up to - shoulder height in some cases. After battling an ankle-height flood in our basement last year, we can't even imagine how devastating it must have been. Even more reason to visit and give them all your business.
We spent most of our time in Hebden Bridge enjoying good food and a top beer line-up at Old Gate or drinking pints of Salopian Brewery's cracking Kashmir pale ale at Drink?, realising only when we were about to leave that we'd run out of time to visit Vocation Brewery. Doh. Next time...
We rounded off the trip in Leeds with a visit to our friends at the wonderful Little Leeds Beer House followed by, as is the law, lunch and beers at Friends of Ham. This place pretty much sets the standard for a truly excellent beer bar and we can't wait to get back there for the Leeds Beer Festival next month.
West Yorkshire - it's not grim and the beer is next level. Go.