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Looking back over 2011, its been a good year in the real and craft ale scene at all levels, local, regional and national. *Nationally the craft and real ale scene has bucked the general downturn in beer sales over the last couple of years and new breweries are still being created and existing ones expanding at a healthy rate across the UK. *The product has been recognised more commercially now, with supermarket chains generally having a good range of ales and beers that are not from the mainstream brands, and the product getting good coverage in the national quality press. *This is the first year I can remember when beer and food matching articles are appearing in more than one of the broadsheets.
Locally in Calderdale, this year was when Halifax finally caught up with its smaller neighbouring towns and could finally be called a destination again for real ale drinkers. *The traditional haunts of the Three Pigeons and Pump Room were joined by the Ring O’Bells in late 2010, with Dirty Dicks and Lewins opening this year to give a real ale presence in the town centre again. *All these pubs have at least 5 pumps, and 3 guests at any time, my threshold for what is an “ale” pub.
Along with Stuart, who edits me at Pubpaper, I created a Halifax Real Ale Mile this year, taking in 5 pubs skirting the bottom of the town centre, all ale pubs at their heart. *It is the first time in over 5 years such a link up has been possible location wise, with the demise of the Royal Oak (now Dirty Dicks) and Ring O’Bells over that same period.
These were re-opened by a couple of very good landlords, one highly experienced with several pubs in his empire in case of Sean at Dirty Dicks and one relatively inexperienced, with a background from the chain pub arena, David at the Ring O’Bells taking on his first licensed premises. *Both have created good pubs to visit and drink at, always with a good selection of beers and they deserve the success they are getting,
An honourary mention goes to the relief manager at Lewins, who’s name has escaped me. *He has turned a standard pub into a very good ale and pie house, with an interesting selection of beers whenever I have visited. *The pub is cosy and welcoming, even to my 2 year old daughter. *His 39th pub shows the experience of the previous 38, and his knowledge of beer is as good as most people I have met.
The situation in Hebden Bridge is pretty much identical to last year pub wise, the Inn on the Bridge has now closed, although this was no real loss from a real ale front, but all the main players on the ale scene as still as they were a year ago.
The rapid growth in new ale pubs in Sowerby Bridge has now settled down, with a couple of existing pubs on the main street becoming more ale focused being the peak of activity, not forgetting the relaunch of the Roxy club, with a small selection of real ales. The Puzzle Hall Inn coming back into regular service (although this started in 2010) is never a bad thing and is back into the live music scene with a bang now.
Hipperholme is very much as it was, but with 2 excellent ale houses in Travellers Inn and Cock of the North, while the same can be said about Brighouses ale scene with the Red Rooster and Ship Inn. *Overall a good year for the area, with consolidation in most areas and growth in its biggest town, not bad in times of recession.
Next part will concentrate on the regional scene and beers and brewers I’ve enjoyed this year