The Lyme Regis Brewery

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Glasses of fine ale, blue sky, warm sun, sitting in a cobbled courtyard outside a brewery …  doesn’t get much better does it?

The Pearl of Dorset is a lovely little place, famed for fossils, scenery, seaside holidays and The French Lieutenants Woman. More importantly, it’s the home of The Lyme Regis Brewery, and I’d heard, now boasts Cellar 59, a  bar showcasing local newcomers Gyle 59 brewery, making it a must visit destination for beer lovers in the area. So one sunny morning we set off on the Jurassic Coastliner X51 from Bridport, the drivers announcement of the price of a return ticket prompting a chorus of the Yorkshire war cry!

The Lyme Regis Brewery is located in Town Mill, which some may recognise, as prior to 2015 it was also the name of the brewery. It’s worth a visit just for the historic mill, and the pretty setting. Interestingly the mill has it’s own hydroelectric generator and you can walk along the goit from it’s juncture with the Lymm right to where it disappears into the turbine. You can also pay and go for a toby inside to see the original workings, which are still in operation and regularly used. The impressive thing for me is it’s all self sustaining, and they actually sell power back to the national grid. What price a self sustaining hydro electric brewery? I bet there is one … somewhere? As well as the brewery and mill there are a few crafty type shops, including a working pottery, and a tea room to keep partners and family happy while you have a pint.

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The micro brewery has been going since 2010, brewing on a four barrel kit which is on full view to the public. In fact everything is on full view as the brewery, tap, and shop are almost sat on top of each other in the small building. They’re open every day from 10 till 5, except for January and February, for the sale of bottles, cider, and draught ales. The winter hibernation is probably a good thing as there is no inside seating, and the ale has to be enjoyed at one of several tables and benches in the yard outside. If I’m honest, although I’ve spent some pleasant afternoons sat outside in the summer, I don’t think I would fancy sitting outside with a pint once it starts to get parky.

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They used to sell the ale in jugs and provide the glasses, it’s now dispensed in pints, halves or third taster flights. There’s five beers in regular production and when I visited there were two of these, and a seasonal special on the bar; Summer Breeze, Lyme Gold and Revenge. All the beers are drawn through a beer engine without a sparkler, they appeared to be traditionally fined ales, of the highest clarity, and in excellent form, prices were reasonable for the area.

Summer Breeze (I didn’t get the ABV, it tasted 3.6 – 3.8%) a, not particularly originally named, summer beer, was pale gold, dry and citrus hoppy. It felt just a bit thinner in the mouth than Lyme Gold (4.2%), one of the staple brews which I thought was much better; a fleeting honey sweetness at first, followed by smooth citrus notes and then a dryness at the end with almost sour hints.

I liked the Lyme Gold, but my out and out favourite was Revenge. Billed as a strong IPA (5.3%), it was firmly in the category of English IPA, although it is hopped with Cascade as well as Fuggles hops. Pale in appearance, hoppy and bitter with a nice crisp bite. I could have sat and drank this one until I fell off the bench! I reckon this ale would have suited traditionalists, as well as those with a more progressive taste looking for a ‘big C’ hop kick.

The other regulars are; Cobb, a 3.9% Bitter, Town Mill Best, a stronger (4.5%) Best Bitter and Black Venn, a very dark (5%) Porter. I’ve drank all of them in the past, the stand out for me being Black Venn, named after a local cliff renowned for being rich in fossils, and coincidentally an ammonite is the brewery logo.

No, I’m not hinting that these beers are relics. Okay it’s a traditional sounding range of beers, but they’re very good beers, well brewed, balanced, clean tasting, and several including noticeable additions of Cascade hops. Overall I reckon these are very good ales, brewed with just enough modernity to make a difference, without breaking the traditional mould.

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Anyone looking for The Lyme Regis Brewery ales on the bar in a pub should concentrate on the Dorset area, as 80% of current distribution is within a 2o mile radius of the brewery. I’m informed, they have recently managed to get as far as Bristol, and I recall them being in one of the Weymouth Wetherspoon’s when the Olympic sailing was on. It’s worth pointing out that although a lot of supermarkets are selling huge quantities of bottled real ale, which aren’t real ales. You can buy from The Lyme Regis Brewery with confidence as all their bottled beers are bottle conditioned, something we seem to be seeing less of in mainstream outlets.

Verdict: Excellent traditional beers served in a delightful setting. Wrap up when there’s an ‘r’ in the month. Enough alternative attractions on site to keep non-drinkers happy for a good hour or so.

 

Is your glass full (or three quarters empty?)

 

It seems every beery commentator has to include this one periodically, but it’s noticeable as soon as you venture down South there’s one massive difference with the beer served in pubs – The Sparkler effect.

If I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure where the deictic ‘down South’ starts? As a very young man working in a factory in Chesterfield, I reckoned it was somewhere about half way along the Dronfield by-pass, yet the last time I visited Chesterfield, I got a pint with a head on it.

If you look at Tandleman’s blog site, you can see a map of the Midlands defined with an iso-sparkle. I’m sure he’s not far off the mark, but it would be interesting to do a statistically viable study of this. Perhaps CAMRA branches could help here?

The merits, or otherwise, of the sparkler are well documented elsewhere. Personally, I think it’s what you’re used to, or get used to. I lived in the South East and South West for a time and rapidly got used to un-sparkled beer. Flat beer, most Northerners would call it, flat and warm in the SE too. I’ll throw in one of my catchphrases here – different isn’t wrong (but warm beer is inexcusable!).

I get the argument around beer styles. I couldn’t ever fancy a pint of Sam Smith’s OBB without a creamy head on it, but people sup large quantities of flat OBB in London and elsewhere. There’s even a bloke in my local asks for a pint of it pulled with the sparkler off, much to the disgust of the locals, obviously he’s a Southerner; again different isn’t wrong.

What about the long gone creamy pint of Tetley Bitter, created by the sparkler and the auto-vac pump, served up in the Gaping Goose, Garforth; or one of many other pubs that unofficially vied for the title of ‘Best pint of Tetley Bitter in Leeds’? Modern folk might turn their noses up at the auto-vac system, but surely that over a flat pint of Tetleys? I refer here to the original Joshua Tetleys Bitter brewed in Leeds and not the insipid brown liquid purporting to be Tetleys Bitter now brewed in a factory in Wolverhampton.

There is one area where there are significant benefits of having un-sparkled beer, or beer drawn directly from the cask. Chiefly, you get a full measure every time, a pint full to the brim of the glass. There’s no letting it settle for a minute and the rigmarole of, ‘Can you top it up please.’ In praise of the sparkler, I do think that the later addition of a ‘top up’ dramatically spoils the ‘whatever’ the sparkler gives it.

If you are serving beer through a sparkler, the arguments of oversized glasses filled to the line are valid, and necessary in order to obtain a full pint. Whichever way the licensed trade want to argue the case for, I see a lot of short measures passing over the bar in ‘pint to the brim’ glasses, and I do think that beer pulled with a head on in these glasses can be a big earner for the pub/brewery. How do you think Sam Smith’s managers attain their mandatory 5% surplus across all sales, for heaven’s sake?

If I’m honest, I’m ambivalent, and when in Rome … Having said that there’s nothing better than a creamy, foaming, three quarters of a pint of Northern Bitter. Like I said, different isn’t wrong and privately, I might be coming round to thinking those good folk in the Southern parts of our fair aisle might just have something here. And they say that us Northerners are tight!

Acknowledgements to Beernexus for the photos.

 

La Terreur or Terroir?

retired-martins-photoOne of Retired Martin’s excellent posts, and his sideways acclaim of Wadworth’s 6X, Marston’s Pedigree and Woodford’s Wherry sowed the seeds of this one, particularly the  above photo and the caption – That would have been exciting 20 years ago!

I’m not sure about Woodford’s Wherry? I’ve had it before, but I couldn’t tell you when or where, or much about it.

That’s not the case with Wadworth’s 6X though. Going back some thirty odd years, I drank it as often as I could. I’d never heard of it until I went to live in Bristol but I quickly learned to appreciate it and actively sought out pubs that sold it because it wasn’t universally available, even in Bristol.

Wadworth’s web site now proclaims 6X as a crafted amber ale of 4.1%, I always thought it was a bit stronger than that because the Bristolian locals always said it was one to go steady with, certainly a bit stronger than the average bitter of the day. They didn’t put the strength on the pump clips much back then though, and it wasn’t ‘crafted’ back in the mid 80’s neither, instead they brewed it, and it was lush.

There’s something about Bristol that keeps me returning, and if I ever had to move away from The Great North then it would be a very strong candidate. Last time I was down I had a pint of Wadworth’s finest in the city centre. I got quite excited at first, but to be honest, it was nothing special. Nothing wrong with it, it wasn’t badly kept or anything like that, I just thought it was … only alright.

So what’s changed, me or Wadworth’s? I reckon Wadworth’s will have stayed pretty much the same. They still have dray horses, wooden casks, a cooper and a fine tradition dating back to 1875. Okay they have messed with their description to make it sound trendy(er), but it’s still a Best Bitter. So it must be me that’s changed then?

My enduring memory of the, then revered, Marston’s Pedigree, a rarity in Sheffield at the time and I don’t think I ever saw it in Barnsley, was at my first beer festival, Sheffield CAMRA (circa 1983). Myself and a mate went to the press preview, courtesy of CAMRA’s invitation to my old man, and other landlord’s of selected hostelries. We got chatting with one of the other landlord’s who ran The Cocked Hat, which was one of the first, if not the only Marston’s pub in the city at the time? He claimed to sell a far superior pint to the one on offer at the festival, he would do wouldn’t he. Anyway, at the end of the hospitality session it only seemed proper to climb into a taxi, with his mates, and head out to the wilds of Attercliffe to try it.

You always say it when you’ve had a few don’t you, but it was the best pint of Pedigree I have ever supped, before or since. It made no difference that it was free. Not to be out done, the landlord’s mate invited us back to his Italian restaurant which was equally nice as financial assets were at pretty low levels at the time. I’m not sure how we eventually got back to Pond Street bus station, but I will thank the driver of the X68 and fellow passengers who patiently waited for us at Wortley whilst we answered the call of nature.

Now that middle aged bus driver will have been retired a long time now and the X68 Sheffield to Halifax service no longer runs. The Cocked Hat in Attercliffe has been closed for a while and sadly, although he went on to be my best man a few years later, my mate died in tragic circumstances. A lot of other stuff has passed under the bridge since then and the only thing left is me and my memories of Marston’s Pedigree?

I couldn’t actually tell you when I stopped drinking it? I gave it enough chances too, I just tired of it’s mediocrity. I don’t know whether it’s the beer itself, they say it’s still brewed in Burton in the traditional way, so it should taste the same. Maybe it’s the pubs, the way they are run or who’s operating them? Maybe Wolverhampton and Dudley Brewery, sorry Marston’s are mixed up about what they do, pubs or beer? If it’s beer, which beer, whose beer? They seem to brew more different beers than you can shake a stick at and ‘own’ more original breweries than they actually have brewing plants for now. That can’t be right can it? They even brew ales for other ‘(big) brands’ in their beer factory, making a mockery of the brewers claims that the source liquor has a massive impact on the finished ale. Or, is that claim still valid and it’s these big brewers that are making a mockery of a lot of beer drinkers?

Yes, I know that a chemist can analyse and change water quality in one area to replicate the water in Burton, Leeds, Blackburn or wherever, but is it exactly the same? I know what the answer is. The French know too and it’s why the Appellation laws came in, they knew that the locality affects the end product and that some quality control was required.

A conversation with a progressive brewer recently led me to wonder just how real some of the, so called, real ale big sellers actually are and whether they might have been fined and filtered to death? To the point where they may not actually be as real as they claim? Has this had an effect on my perceptions of some of the more popular traditional brews?

Funnily enough, in this little tale, the only thing that has stayed the same is CAMRA and their dogged insistence on real ale, as opposed to exceptionally good ale. Looking at Marstons, and some others, it looks like they may have stealthily evolved into what was the old enemy, and are operating just like the Big Six of old, dominating beer and pubs. Maybe it’s about time that CAMRA should do something about things to make it easy for people to differentiate between the bland processed beers being pushed by the big brewers and the traditional beers whose very existence is, thankfully, no longer under threat?

What’s that you say? How does that explain my perceived decline in Wadworth’s 6X? Well, It’s entirely possible that my tastes have changed. In fact I think … No … I’m certain they have. And I think I know why, because comparatively there are so many other good beers out there now offering endless competition against what might these days be just average. Yes, it would have been exciting 20 years ago, it’s not now.

The Good Beer Guide?

An eagerly awaited Bible , or just another list of pubs? Depends what your view on CAMRA is I reckon.

So what do I think? If I’m honest, I’ve perused numerous Good Beer Guides over the years and had a real good look at this one, and with a few caveats, I like it.

Firstly there seems to be some discrepancy in the number of pubs listed per area and the size of the area. For example, Hereford, as a county has only 26 pubs listed. I’ve been to Herefordshire, it’s very rural and by no means a small county, but it’s got lots of pubs, and I’ve been into some good ones with cracking ales and proper real ciders. That seems like an anomaly for me. It’s the Good Beer Guide, but CAMRA seeks to promote real ciders and perries, so why not the Good Beer and Cider Guide? 

There seems to be a discrepancy between some of the cities too, some of the smaller ones have proportionally more pubs listed than the larger ones, so do some places have more good pubs than others? This leads nicely into the editorial content – why are only Derby, Norwich and Sheffield vying for the world’s best beer city [p. 15]? I’ve got more to say on this, which might appear elsewhere, but what about Manchester, there’s a real big beer scene going on there? London seems to have much going on too, although as often the case in the capital, it’s stretched out across the wide metropolis. What about Leeds? I think we don’t do a bad job in terms of diversity and quality; there are others.

I guess it’s all down to Carr’s notion of, ‘studying the historian before you study the facts’. This can be extrapolated to, ‘studying the curator before you visit the exhibition’, because as sure as eggs is eggs, this is an exhibition of pubs curated by diverse branches of CAMRA membership and by no one else [Acknowledgements to Pubcurmudgeon for sowing the seed of this idea in a comment on Retired Martin’s blog].

The question you’ve got to ask, is do they get it right? Well in one case I’m familiar with they do. The Tiger Inn, Bridport was in the 2016 Good Beer Guide and previous editions. Previously I thought it was a deserved accolade. When we visited this summer, on many occasions, over several weeks, I found it lacking. Not only did they have fewer real ales, they rotated less frequently and the quality was a bit variable, although never poor. Clearly colleagues from West Dorset CAMRA have very accurately, I’m my opinion, assessed this pub very accurately as it is no longer listed.

There were a few other bits of editorial that didn’t sit well with me, bearing in mind, to the outsider this will come over as CAMRA manifesto material. The section on ‘The Great British Pub – The Big Fightback’, was almost contradictory. It’s all sort of doom and gloom and lots of new pubs opening at the same time. Initially proclaiming the rise of ‘radically different’ micro pubs and pop ups, it then goes onto draw attention to threatened traditional pubs, and I don’t think the route of a planned rail improvement is of concern. It even fetes the Otley example of a blanket ACV application, yet we know that several of these have been appealed and not found favour, even with the sort of independent publicans we want to see.

Apart from exceptions like unique pubs or rural villages with one pub, I think market forces should prevail. Personally, I see the greater threat being from major brewers, and Doom Bars’ occupation of the biggest selling draught real ale in the UK. I include Greene King and Marston’s, as well as Molson, here and although their products may qualify as real ale, I think there is a new ‘big six’ by stealth on the horizon. Fair play to the Good Beer Guide, because although not stated explicitly, this is implied in the ‘Breweries Overview’ section.

In terms of updating the book, one friend suggested that it should now be in electronic format, maybe a tweak to the What Pub app? That’s probably a good way forward and maybe if an app were available to download then a lot more people might download it and discover it’s treasures. Personally, I’d still like to see it in book form; you can pore over it for hours, pick it up and put it down in a way you can’t with an app. You can’t put an app on a shelf in a pub neither and I think there’s plenty room for both forms.

Now to be exceptionally radical. What about a separate section, a non traditional section listing the best of the new? The emphasis on ‘the best of’. I can’t ever see Brewdog being in the current style Good Beer Guide, even though they are now doing live beer in key-keg, but I do see an argument to include them, and others, in an alternative section, and maybe that alternative section will focus differing perspectives?

Overall, the GBG is a cracking book, I just think as CAMRA members we need to stop reeling over the shock of the new, because as history tells us, the new will become the norm, and what was will disappear, unless of course what was is very good, in which case it will become revered and sustain. Just like the British pub, proper real ale and the Good Beer Guide.

The Old Cock, Otley

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As soon as I walked into this pub several years ago, I knew it was good. You can instantly feel when something is right, and presumably Leeds CAMRA members feel the same as they voted it their pub of the year 2011, 2012 & 2013. It being surpassed only by the excellent Kirkstall Bridge Inn which repeated the treble and is the current Leeds CAMRA pub of the year. There’s no doubt in my mind that both are very excellent, but different, ale houses.

The Old Cock is a typical olde worlde tavern of the sort tourists and visitors to the market town of Otley would love to stumble across. The only thing is, it isn’t old at all. I remember it being a bit of a derelict, ramshackle sort of place for a good few years and it only opened as a pub after a long planning battle with the good burghers of Leeds city council. The owners persevered however, going to a national planning appeal and their vision finally came to fruition in September 2010.

Now Otley is one of those towns reputed to have the most pubs per head of population in the UK? A bit like the oldest Inn in the UK, this is a difficult one to resolve. It did have over thirty pubs once and still has twenty to go at, which is impressive given it’s size. At one time it had a reputation for being a drinkers paradise on market days as the towns pubs were allowed to stay open all day, as opposed to the 3.00pm closing rule elsewhere and hence on Mondays and Fridays the town would be packed with all day drinkers from nearby Leeds and further afield.

You’d think that such an abundance of pubs would mean that the closure of an odd one or two would be neither be here or there to the little town? Not so, they’re pretty proud of their pub heritage out here and they actually have an Otley Pub Club, who as soon as the concept of ACV’s came into play, assisted by local MP and Pub Champion Greg Mulholland, applied for ACV’s on every pub in the town. Some of the licensees didn’t like this, including Linda Exley and Lee Pullan who own the The Old Cock, and they were a little cross. Especially when their request to be withdrawn from the application was ignored. You can read the owners thoughts in a letter which was originally sent to The Morning Advertiser (now apparently unavailable on their site?) and which was re-printed in Bradford Tyke Taverner July/August 2016, the Bradford CAMRA branches’ excellent magazine.

I have to agree with most of Mr Pullans points and I think I have iterated most of them before. I do not however see this venture being anything other than an extremely viable going concern. Unless, God forbid, some unfortunate incident or illness beset the structure or the management. This is also a point against ACV’s I have made before. What if something drastic happens and you can’t go on or need your money out sharpish. It’s the infringements on an individuals rights by others that grinds with me, others that just think it’s a nice idea, but who haven’t put their money down or invested a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

Anyway, there’s nothing to fear here because this quaint, cosy, atmospheric little boozer is throbbing with vitality. Flag floors, exposed brick work, a proper bar with a tap room feel, plenty of room to stand around and a little ledge around the walls to stand your drink on, plus a few comfy seats to sit at and read a book, perhaps. I really like the window seat in the main bar and in the adjacent room and upstairs there’s more seated areas. There were even a couple of guys having an impromptu jamming session upstairs when I last called in, on a Thursday afternoon!

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I’ll make a comparison with the previous Otley pub I mentioned, The Otley Tap House, a micro pub. Both bucking the trend, in so far as they are thriving successful ‘new builds’ in old buildings, that were previously occupied by other trades. The only difference being that The Old Cock is properly a small pub, owing to the presence of proper, separate, substantial, gender specific toilets. Strangely enough, the Otley Tap House met with the same blanket ACV application, despite there previously being much local opposition to it’s own change of use application – too many pubs in the town you see! Personally I don’t.

Dotted around The Old Cock, there’s a few beery books and collated info about the pub, together with CAMRA promotional leaflets and magazines. A landlord recently asked me what could he do to improve his chances of getting in the GBG? Well, apart from the obvious, forge links with your local CAMRA branch, get involved in LocAle  and get some leaflets from your local branch. Oh, and beer books, I think it was Boak and Bailey who mention somewhere that the presence of beery literature is a very comforting feature in a pub. If I were a landlord I’d get a few copies of the GBG and put them on a shelf in full view, whether I was listed in it or not. Most folk would see them and instantly assume that the pub was featured, without ever delving between the covers or noticing how good, or otherwise, the beer was!

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I like the little plaques above the bar showing full details and tasting notes of each of the nine real ales on sale. Very neat, very informative and I wished I had handwriting like that! They were all in price order from £2.90/ pint of Theakstons to £3.50/pint for Kelham Pale Rider. Pricing was on ABV and I worked out the average at £3.10, which isn’t bad. I know from talking to Lee, a long time ago, that there is a bit of a premium, which along with the absence of cheap lager ensures a more select clientele, whom were a proper cross selection of locals when I last visited, plus the odd metro bus day rider like myself who had come for the beer.

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Beer quality was spot on. I tried a Pale Rider, I really do like this ale and a Stancil Black, which wasn’t black at all, it was very dark ruby when held up to the light. It was though good enough to warrant a second half of it. I could have gone for; Taylors Landlord, Ilkley Mary Jane, Kirskstall Pale, Saltaire Pride, Everards Carnival, and Barlow Black Stout. There was even a Beavertown Gamma Ray at £5.50/pint as well as a real cider, two keg ones, Staropramen and Amstel lager, Guiness and some Belgium bottles.

The only concession to food is bar snacks, the most substantial thing on offer was a sausage sandwich. Dogs allowed but no kids and sadly the need to return to Leeds on the X84 came around all too quickly.

Verdict – Destination venue for good beer and good crack. This is the type of small, town centre pub with an emphasis on quality, that defies any need for legislative intervention, and in the hands of good owners (which it has) will always thrive. Anyway, what ever happened to market forces?

 

 

Take Me Home!

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I saw these ‘takeaway beer’ promotion posters up on the wall of a pub when I was down I’m the West country recently, prominently displayed behind the bar in full view.

I won’t say where, it’s not germane to the argument, neither is the fact that the posters are from St Austell Brewery. Although you’d think a big outfit like St Austell would have a decent supply of brand specific posters?

What I will say, is the actual pub is a real cracker and I had a couple of pints of Proper Job that had me pressing 4 on the CAMRA scoring system and wanting to stay in the traditional independent boozer all afternoon. The overall impression I got is that this Good Beer Guide  listed pub was the epitome of the traditional British pub, in every way.

As soon as I saw the posters I perceived some incongruity with the promote the pub argument, the reasons behind the demise of many pubs and the takeaway beer promotion, hence I took the photograph and later cropped out any identifying features.

Now you could argue that this takeaway offer is just the equivalent of what’s gone on for years. You always used to see the licensees name above the door with, inter alia ‘for consumption on or off the premises’. My Mum sometimes jokes that the old man only bought the pub down the road because he got fed up of walking to and fro with a jug. I remember myself taking home those plastic 4 pint flagons as a student and they’ve now been adopted and renamed as Growlers in craft beer circles. I prefer flagon myself, it’s a nicer word, suggestive of other vessel related words like firkin and barrel.

If you look on the St Austell online shop, there’s more details about these mini kegs. It’s actually bright beer, I guess it would have to be, else you’d have to rack it up somewhere in the kitchen. If you do go online you’ll see the prices are slightly higher than the pub price, but delivery is included so that’s fair enough. The distinction being that it’s made for off sales rather than a jug or other container being filled with real ale from the pubs cellars at point of sale, in so far as it will keep until opened. Something that says it’s equally intended for drinking on another day, rather than taking home after the pub shuts. If it is opened on another day then nine pints will keep at least two people out of the pub for a whole session.

It’s claimed lifestyle choices like staying in and drinking at home are a factor threatening the pub, along with cheap supermarket beer. Although the pub wasn’t undercutting themselves, I worked it out that the mini keg was approximately the same £3.30 a pint the pub was charging for Proper Job, albeit for bright beer.

I’m not sure what it is, but it just seemed slightly odd that a pub was promoting this takeaway deal. Surely the pub trades’ aim should be getting more people into more pubs for longer? I get the argument that this will be part of the pubs turnover and hence will be self promoting, as it is for the brewer. I also recognise that the brewing industry would rather see the off sales stay within the trade than go through a supermarket, although if that’s the case why do so many of them supply the supermarkets and under cut themselves? You can buy four pint bottles of St Austell Tribute in Morrisons for six quid or £1.50 a pint!

I’m not entirely sure whether I’ve gone off on a blind tangent here or whether there really is some real discrepancy between those making and selling beer and those factions trying their hardest to promote and protect public houses?

The Otley Tap House

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The Otley Tap House  probably falls into the category of a micro pub, in so far as it hasn’t always been a pub. It was a shop until it opened in it’s present guise, two days before the Tour de France came through Otley, which was Saturday 5th July 2014. I know that because I was there and what a cracking day it was for Otley, Yorkshire and British cycling in general.

I called in one sunny Thursday afternoon, shortly after one o’clock. There were only two older gents in, sat at the bar in conversation with the very nice bar man. It wasn’t dull though, because it’s that sort of place where within two minutes you get absorbed into the conversation, whether you like it or not. One of the blokes was keen not to be photographed as he was meant to be out walking the dog over Pool bridge, which is about three miles away, the bonny Spaniel seemed happy enough though, laid on the cool flagged floors.

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If I’m honest, it’s a bit bigger than your standard micro pub and there’s plenty of room to spread out or even sit away from the bar. There’s some tables out front on Boroughgate as well as a beer garden at the rear. Inside there’s wooden wainscoting in ‘that shade’ of green paint that is so currently in vogue, along with a trendy, random assortment of tables, benches and bentwood chairs. To be fair, they’ve pulled it off and it all works nicely. There’s some nice touches with posies and other interesting table pieces and ephemera dotted around too.

I was impressed with the community feel, not just with the friendly folk, which is a prominent feature of Otley anyway, but also with the many events on offer. I was pleased they had a reggae band on and anywhere frequented by Scooterists will do for me.

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Although there is a half decent bottle selection, including out and out crafty stuff, the focus is on real cask ales. Now when I say real cask ales you need to think of the CAMRA faithful, rather than hipsters and you won’t be far off the mark. Sadly, wherever I go that has a tap list on the wall it seems to be a recurring theme in my life that I much prefer what’s coming next rather than what’s on the bar now!

This was definitely the case on this occasion. Two from Marston’s, two from Black Sheep plus Saltaire Blonde. Now, if I were independent, and it is, I wouldn’t be having anything on from The Marston’s stable or from Black Sheep. I would be having all those on the ‘almost ready’ list though! Perhaps other people think the same and that’s why the Marston’s and Black Sheep gear were hanging about on the bar? I didn’t have Saltaire Blonde on the grounds that it is a decent ale I’ve supped before and in the interests of beery research I was going to try something I’d never had.

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Believe it or not, I tried the Black Sheep Cascade Pale, a small batch special. The quality of the beer was very good. I’d score it 3.5 on NBSS. Regarding my personal thoughts on the very pale beer, I wasn’t so sure. If you’re going to do a single hop brew then for pity’s sake make sure it’s bang full of hops, this wasn’t. This conservative approach just seems to be a feature of many traditional brewers, almost a case of trying to jump on the band wagon then falling off before it gets going. Going back to the Tour de France, I remember a similar Black Sheep ale called Velo and suspect this beer may simply be a Velo variant or even the same thing by another name? Don’t tell me you don’t do this sort of thing brewers, because I know you do.

As well as the five cask ales there were three lagers, including Warsteiner and Brooklyn, some quality Gins and prices were reasonable, particularly the house wines by the bottle.

Now the toilets were quite quaint as there was a single urinal bowl and an unpartitioned toilet bowl in the same room . Although they easily passed my test with flying colours, this got me thinking about the point where a micro pub becomes a pub, because The Otley Tap House  was clearly large enough to enter into the small pub category? However, after consideration, it became apparent to me that one of the factors differentiating this is the existence of substantial and gender specific toilet facilities i.e. Gents with at least one trap and a couple of urinal bowls and Ladies with at least two closets. I therefore concluded it was by sole virtue of the toilet department that The Otley Tap House remains in the category of micro pub. A very good micro pub.

As a small market town, Otley is renowned for it’s number of pubs, quite a few of which are only fair to middlin’. The Otley Tap House is however, one that is definitely worth visiting.