The Old Cock, Otley

old-cock

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 Especially when their request to be withdrawn from the application was ignored.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!

old-cock-int

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!

old-cock-tap-list

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.

old-cock-bar

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?

 

 

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