Ales in the Dales

Beers along the Tour de France Stage 1 route.

Black Swan

We recently took a last minute break and ended up staying for a week in a cottage in Aysgarth in the Yorkshire Dales. Unbeknown to us, the cottage overlooked the roads that will be part of the Tour de France route as it passes from Leeds to Harrogate on Saturday 5th July. So we noted the best pubs and beers we came across along or nearby the route, which was well decorated with yellow bikes and bunting in anticipation of the event.

Beer Bike

Of all the pubs we visited, one in particular left a lasting impression:

Victoria Arms, Worton, Wensleydale

We passed the Victoria Arms several times before we eventually stopped for a beer. It looked like it might be an unspoilt pub – an old Magnet Ales sign hangs outside – but we had no idea we were walking into “something of a legend” where time seems to have stood still for decades. Ralph Daykin, who died in September 2013, ran the pub for 57 years and it is now in the hands of his son Neil who has been there all his life. “Dog’s had me trainers” he said as he picked one of the pair up from the middle of his living room where Hendrix the spaniel had dropped it, at the corner of which is the bar. A newspaper and some letters lay open on one of the tables, clothes were strewn across the settle, the carpet probably hadn’t seen a hoover since before the age of Dysons.

Victoria Arms

Theakstons Best and Black Sheep Bitter were on draught, “What’s your favourite?” Louise asked. He considered it for a few seconds as he looked at the pumps. “Theakstons s’alright” he said unenthusiastically as he began pouring. The walls are covered in all manner of curios, including the rear end of a stuffed fox. The larger adjoining room has a pool table and more curios, including a jukebox and eighties game machine, neither of which looked like they were in use. In the front room, he warmed to us slightly as we talked to him about the Tour de France. “It won’t make much difference to me unless people camp nearby” he reasoned. His elderly mother nevertheless suggested he should get some crisps in.

Victoria Arms WortonMore than any other pub I’ve visited, this one left me with the feeling that I’d had a glimse into the past, when a farmer might serve beer from his front room for extra income – Bulmer’s Directory of 1890 records a “victualler and farmer” here and at the George & Dragon, Aysgarth. A photo on the wall shows Ralph Daykin, also a farmer, sitting on a chair looking caringly at a lamb stretched out thawing in front of the open fire.

Here’s a round up of the other pubs and beers we particularly enjoyed.

Wensleydale

Leyburn

Campbells is a good place to stock up on bottled beer on the way in and out of the Yorkshire Dales (11 miles from leaving the A1 at Catterick), with a range of beers from Yorkshire Breweries.

Masham

Home to the Black Sheep Brewery and Theakstons. Both have visitor centres where we picked up bottles we hadn’t tried before – Black Sheep Imperial Russian Stout, and Theakstons Distiller’s Cask, presumably aged in whisky casks, although the label only says it has been “warmly acquainted with Speyside Whisky”.

Theakston

East Witton

Cover Bridge Inn – situated on its own on the banks of the River Ure, with the date 1674 above the entrance to the gents, we were pleasantly surprised by the beer range – as well as the ubiquitous Theakston’s Best and Old Peculiar, there was By The Horns Stiff Upper Lip, Thornbridge Jaipur and Ilkley Mary Jane, enjoyed in the beer garden alongside the river.

West Witton

Fox & Hounds:

Tour de YorkshireFreehouse with a good range of well kept guest beers, best when visited the Yorkshire Dales Tour de Yorkshire, a Citra hopped beer brewed specially for the event.

Aysgarth

Aysgarth Falls Hotel – Enjoyed good beer and food here and returned for more later in the week. The Salamander Mudpuppy was excellent, best of the beers we tried there, and their beers are on often.

George and Dragon – Had a great meal here, the ‘George and Dragon’ ale brewed for them by Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co the best of the beers.

Thoralby

The George:

George

A stone-built inn dating from 1732, it’s actually in Bishopdale, but just a couple of miles from Aysgarth. One of the best pubs we visited, great atmosphere, friendly welcome, good food and beer, including Yorkshire Dales Howgate and Northallerton Gun Dog Bitter.

Carperby

Wheatsheaf:

Wheatsheaf

Prior to the TdF, it seems the most celebrated event in this village near Aysgarth was James Herriot taking his honeymoon at the Wheatsheaf in 1941. Had a refreshing pint of Black Sheep Velo, a special TdF beer apparently brewed with coriander and orange, although the latter ingredient was barely detectable.

Askrigg

Home to the Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co, one of the best discoveries we made during our trip, a local brewery producing consistently good beers wherever we came across them. The brewery is located in a barn just behind the main street.

Kings Arms:

Kings Arms

Doubled as the Drovers Arms for the TV series All Creatures Great and Small, walls covered in photos from the filming, stone-flagged floors and high ceilings, another pub serving a house beer brewed by Yorkshire Dales Brewery.

White Rose:

White Rose

We came here just to try the Yorkshire Dales Askrigg Ale and ended up staying for a decent meal.

There is a third pub in Askrigg, the Crown Inn, which we didn’t have time to visit but was recommended by the head brewer of Yorkshire Dales brewery as another place serving his beers.

Hawdraw

George & Dragon – We initially passed through this pub just to gain access to the Hawdraw Force waterfall, the highest single drop waterfall in England, but were so impressed by the cosy, traditional interior of the pub that we returned for an evening meal. The meal was accompanied by a couple of locals playing acoustic guitar and the crackling of a log fire. The friendliness of the landlord made up for the less-than-warm welcome from his wife.

Swaledale

Muker

Farmers Arms:

Farmers Arms

Lovely pub in Upper Swaledale, very friendly, great views from the tables at the front and a cracking pint of Yorkshire Dales Brewery’s Butter Tubs (named after the fiercely steep, windy road that cyclists will have to tackle on the Tour). They’re holding a King of the Mountains festival during the TdF weekend. The holiday apartment they also own, directly opposite the pub, was noted for a future visit.

Tan Hill

Tan Hill Inn:

Tan HillOn the edge of Swaledale, well known as the highest pub in Great Britain at 1,732ft above sea level. After taking in the view over a pint of Black Sheep bitter, we picked up some bottles of it’s own Tan Hill Inn Ewe Juice, a beer brewed for it by the Dent Brewery.

Dentdale

Further afield, and not on the TdF route, but well worth a visit for two cracking pubs.

Sun Inn:

Sun Inn

Faced with a choice of two unfamiliar beers, a local at the bar suggested we try the Kirkby Lonsdale Tiffin Gold – “everybody in here’s been drinking it all day” he said. It proved to be one of the best beers we tried during the trip and we wished we didn’t have to drive to our next destination so we could have sessioned on it too.

George & Dragon:

The Dent Brewery Tap, with a range of their own cask beers, and on keg Samuel Smiths Extra stout, Organic Lager, Taddy Lager and Sovereign Bitter.

Dent Tap

Tour de France beers:

Ilkley Marie JauneWe came across several special TdF beers on cask from local breweries including Wensleydale Top Cogg, Northallerton Peloton Pale, Yorkshire Dales Tour de Dales and KOM Festivale (available at the Farmers Arms KOM festival), and Richmond Sacre Bleu, as well as bottles of Ilkley Marie Jaune, a variation on their Mary Jane, brewed with French hops and yeast, picking up the last bottle of it on the shelf from the Wine Shop in Grassington.

Links:
North West Yorkshire CAMRA guide

Cambridge Pubs showing the World Cup

Well it’s nearly that time, when we can share hopes and inevitable disappointments, watching England’s World Cup matches in a pub. I watched some of the 2002 World Cup in what was my local at the time, the Hat & Feathers on Barton Road in Cambridge, when such was the time difference between here and South Korea and Japan, some matches were shown in pubs as early as seven o’clock in the morning – so begins a good day! When Beckham scored the penalty against Argentina, the pub erupted in celebration. Three matches later we were beaten in the quarter finals by this year’s hosts Brazil.

The Hat & Feathers has since closed and been converted to flats, so here’s a current list of good pubs that have confirmed they’re showing the World Cup:

Alma CB2 1HW
Blue Moon CB1 2LF
Cambridge Brew House CB1 1LH
Carpenters Arms CB4 3DZ
Champion of the Thames CB1 1LN
Dobblers CB1 2QF
Great Northern CB1 2JB
Kingston Arms (England games only) CB1 2NU
Mill CB2 1RX
Six Bells CB1 2HS

Continue reading

A Night At The White Horse Inn

On Thursday evening the Museum of Cambridge, located in a 16th century building that was the White Horse Inn for around 300 years until it closed in 1934, opened its doors as a pub again for one night, serving beer from the premises for the first time in eighty years. The event, a collaboration between Cambridge CAMRA and the Museum of Cambridge as part of Community Pubs Month and Museums at Night, featured guided tours of the museum, including the original bar and snug, a walking tour of the area’s past and present pubs, along with folk musicians and the Cambridge Morris Men helping to recreate the atmosphere from its days as the White Horse Inn. Although there were incidences of gambling and rabies recorded here in the late 1800s, we decided against reintroducing them.

White Horse Inn
Having spent the past few months deep in research, along with co-researcher Steve Linley, we each gave guided tours that highlighted the history of over thirty pubs and a handful of breweries that have existed in an area of about half a square mile – of those, only four pubs remain open.

There were also two beers, from local breweries BlackBar and Moonshine, served from the cask at the event. The ‘Museum Old Ale’ from BlackBar was inspired by a Porter recipe from the Cambridge University archives that came from a “handwritten recipe used by the landlord of the Chequers Inn, Wilburton (1850-65)”, presumably John Fitch, landlord from the mid to late 1800s. I use the term ‘inspired’ because it would have been tricky to recreate a recipe that included “half a bushel of patent malt. Boil your patent in the copper for 36 hours”. Museum Old Ale 4.8%, using one third brown malt, two thirds pale malt, lightly hopped with Fuggles and Boadicea, has an enticing bready malt aroma and caramel flavours. It will be available again at Cambridge Beer Festival this week. Moonshine provided a beer inspired by an Old British Beer recipe from the Durden Park Beer Circle. The beer, an Imperial Stout called ‘Transforming Tomorrow’, was brewed back in 2008 and has spent the last six years ageing in an oak pin that previously contained sherry. It has developed into a strong, vinous brew, with some sherry sweeteness, rich plummy fruits, and oaky vanilla flavours.

Beers like those sell out quickly, and a dash was made to a nearby pub for more supplies – it ended up being acquired from one of the few remaining pubs on our guided tour, the Pickerel, one of the oldest pubs in Cambridge.

Pickerel

We have a display at the Cambridge Beer Festival this week that highlights some of the research about each of the pubs that have existed in the Castle End area of Cambridge, including a wonderful illustration by Jon Harris. We’d be delighted to hear from anybody who has memories of any of the fomer pubs – the Bentinck Arms, Wheatsheaf, Merton Arms and Cow & Calf have all closed within the last fifty years.

The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting

Chestnut Tree

The Chestnut Tree is a freehouse situated about twelve miles south-east of Cambridge in the village of West Wratting. It was recently awarded Pub of the Year 2014 by Cambridge & District branch of the Campaign for Real Ale and is also on this month’s Ale Trail (pdf). More than anything, it was the draw of the large beer garden that prompted us to visit again on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Chestnut Tree garden

Rachel and Peter Casuton bought the Chestnut Tree in 2012 and have spent the last two years transforming the pub, winning Most Improved Rural Pub 2013 along the way. A freehouse, when we visited there were beers from Brandon Brewery, Saffron Brewery, and Greene King IPA and Abbot.

There’s been a pub here since at least 1861 when John Norden worked here as a blacksmith during the day, and a beer retailer in the evenings. After he died in 1881, an auction of the premises described it as:

The well known “Chestnut” public-house, containing 9 rooms and cellar. Blacksmith’s shop, barn and other outbuildings, with a well planted garden. The purchaser to pay for the 2 forges, bellows and slack-troughs, as fixed, and for the house fixtures and coppers. (Trent Valley Heritage Gazette)

The original thatched building burned down and was rebuilt later in the 1800s, retaining a blacksmiths shop and outbuildings until at least 1918.

In 1632 three alehouses were licensed in West Wratting (A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, 1978). A hundred years ago, there were at least five beer retailers in West Wratting:

1904 Kelly’s Directory of Cambridgeshire

Chestnut Tree Albert Pepper
Crown Inn Ann Bradnam
Five Bells James Saunderson
Lamb Henry MacFall
Waggon & Horses John William Radford

Only the Chestnut Tree has survived. Here are some details of the closed pubs.

Lamb:

Lamb Inn

The Lamb existed from at least 1876 when it was occupied by James Twinn. The landlord from c.1896 to 1906 was Henry MacFall, inn keeper and mail cart contractor. His son Arthur Ernest Macfall, a bombardier for the Royal Artillery, died in the First World War and is recorded on the war memorial inside the church of St. Andrews (Roll of Honour). In 1906 the original thatched building met the same fate as the original Chestnut Tree and completely burned down when a paraffin lamp was knocked over in one of the bedrooms. It was rebuilt but eventually closed around 1978 when landlord Percy Boreham was declared bankrupt – by 1980 he was described as ‘retired publican’ at the Lamb. His name is still above the door.

Lamb signs

During the Second World War RAF Wratting Common, a bomber command airfiled, was built on the nearby common and “the three pubs in the village quickly sold out of beer with all the extra customers available. There were rumours that spies were operating from The Lamb – they supposedly had a radio transmitter – one night they disappeared and nothing was heard of them.” (Western Colville Local History – About West Wratting)

Crown Inn:
The Crown Inn stood on the High Street, opposite the end of The Causeway that leads to the church. It existed from at least 1788 but was closed and demolished sometime after 1960, when it was still shown on an Ordnance Survey map, and before 1981 when it had been replaced by modern housing. Ann Bradnam was publican there from at least 1891 to 1916.

Five Bells:
The Five Bells (the western tower of St. Andrew’s contains five bells) was mentioned in 1850 as part of a sale of land “adjoining road to Cambridge on west, including Five Bells beer house, stable brew-house etc”. It was still trading in 1906.

Waggon & Horses:
Existed from at least 1857 when Peter Tilbrook is listed at the beerhouse, to 1921 when it is recorded in a sale catalogue from Hudson’s Cambridge and Pampisford Breweries Ltd.

Cambridge and District CAMRA award winners 2014

Last night the Hopbine on Fair Street was again host to the annual Cambridge and District CAMRA awards.

Pub of the Year – Chestnut Tree

The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting, winner of last year’s Most Improved Rural Pub, is this year’s Pub of the Year. Rachel and Peter Causton have transformed the pub over the past couple of years and said “onwards and upwards” as they accepted the award. The pub is well worth visiting on this years Ale Trail, especially if weather allows use of the beer garden.

A Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Mario Castiglione whose family have been at the Maypole for over 32 years. Champion cocktail mixer Mario, and son Vincent, now have 16 real ales on the bar along with 50 bottled beers and three ciders. With a big smile Mario accepted the award, thanking his family and staff members past & present, cheerfully saying “It’s a nice life, you’ll be really happy and I recommend it to anyone”

Here are the award winners:

Cambridge and District CAMRA award winners 2014

Pub of the Year 2013 The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting
Locale Pub of the Year (Rural) Carpenter’s Arms, Great Wilbraham
Locale Pub of the Year (City) The Mill, Mill Lane
Community Pub of the Year (Rural) Blue Ball, Grantchester
Community Pub of the Year (City) Six Bells, Covent Garden
Dark Beer Pub of the Year Red Lion, Histon
Most Improved Pub of the Year (City) Haymakers, Chesterton
Most Improved Pub of the Year (Rural) Three Horseshoes, Stapleford
Cider Pub of the Year Carlton Arms, Cambridge
Real Ale Champion Julian Huppert MP
CAMRA Lifetime Achievement Award Mario Castiglione, Maypole

Cambridge Pubs

Cambridge has plenty of good pubs, and after living here for over twenty years, I thought it was time I wrote a guide to them. Follow this link for a full round up of the best Cambridge pubs

For starters, here are four of my favourites:

Elm Tree

16A Orchard St, Cambridge CB1 1JT
theelmtreecambridge.co.uk
Elm Tree
Friendly, relaxing pub with several real ales and a fridge full of Belgian beers including rarities, accompanied by detailed tasting menus. Outdoor seating along the alley at the side that becomes a sun trap in the summer. Live music several times a month. No food but the Free Press is just along the street – yes, two of the best pubs in Cambridge are just 50 metres apart…

Free Press

7 Prospect Row CB1 1DU Map
www.freepresspub.com | @FreePressPub
Free PressA wonderful little traditional backstreet pub, one of my favourite pubs anywhere, a must-visit Cambridge pub. Dating back to at least 1825, it was nearly lost forever to 1970s redevelopments, boarded up and awaiting its fate. Luckily, it was saved from the wrecking ball, refitted and renovated, and lives on. Two open fires in the winter, beer festivals in the beer garden in the summer, great food, draught beers are from Greene King and guests, and generally amongst the best kept beers in Cambridge.

Mill

14, Mill Lane, Cambridge CB2 1RX
themillpubcambridge.co.uk | @TheMillCam
Mill, Cambridge
Excellent pub in enviable riverside location, with Laundress Green serving as its unofficial beer garden, a perfect refreshment stop when punting. Great selection of cask, keg and bottled beer, very supportive of local breweries, good food – this pub has been doing everything right since it was refurbished and reopened under new management in 2012.

Pint Shop

10 Peas Hill CB2 3PN Map
www.pintshop.co.uk | @PintShop
Pint Shop
Opened in November 2013 in a handsome 1830s merchant’s house just off the Market Place in the city centre, it proved to be an instant hit. Impressive beer selection with 10 keg and 6 cask lines serving the finest beers from the likes of Buxton, Kernel, Magic Rock, Marble, Rogue and Southern Tier. Bar snacks available but separate dining areas keep the main bar and snug beer focused. An essential stop on any Cambridge pub tour.

Continue reading the full Cambridge Pub Guide with map

Calverley’s Brewery, Cambridge

Cambridge has a new microbrewery. Calverley’s Brewery has just released its first beer and Sam and Tom invited a few of us along to the brewery for a sample last week. The 4.8% Best Bitter was well received by all, a pleasingly full-bodied beer, malty toffee flavours balanced with good bitterness – we all seemed to keep happily returning for top-ups. A promising start, and there are lots more recipes in the pipeline.

The Best Bitter has already been delivered to the Kingston Arms so that’s likely to be the first pub in Cambridge to serve Calverley’s beer, and also happens to be the nearest pub to the brewery, less than 300 metres from door to door.

Calverley's Brewery

The brewery is located at the end of Hooper Street in one of a cluster of workshop buildings that have included organ builders, upholsterers and garages. The building is shown on an Ordnance Survey map from the 1880s, and presumably dates from the 1870s when most of this area was built up. There were once two pubs on Hooper Street – the Great Eastern Tavern on the corner of Ainsworth Street, and the White Hart, now the Backstreet Bistro, on the corner of Sturton Street. This area off Mill Road was also once home to a couple of breweries – William Worboys Sturton Brewery and off-licence stood on nearby Sturton Street, and Pitson and Newman’s Gwydir Brewery existed at the Mill Road end of Gwydir Street, later the site of Dales Brewery.

It’s a family run venture with brothers Sam and Tom doing the brewing and other family members helping out. The pumpclip shows the brewery logo, an Eagle Owl from the Calverley’s family crest, taken from the coat of arms of Sir John Saville, the first alderman of Leeds – his sister Alice married Sir William Calverley. The Coat of Arms of the City of Leeds also features these owls on a blue background.

Keep an eye out for it in Cambridge pubs this month and hopefully at Cambridge Beer Festival next month…