Sunday, 30 September 2012

Sheffield to Huddersfield via The Nook Brewhouse: 21st September 2012

For the final day of my Derbyshire/Yorkshire trip I was heading to Huddersfield, another great beer city that I'd never been to. I planned to do some walking on the hills and moors south of Huddersfield and then head to Holmfirth and The Nook Brewhouse for lunch and my final look around a local microbrewery.

View Nook in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Sheffield to Brockholes
            Brockholes to Huddersfield

Sheffield Station and the surrounding Sheaf Square were redeveloped just after the turn of the century and now features a great long sweeping entrance complete with stainless steel 'Cutting Edge' water features and gushing fountains - even in the rain it's quite a spectacle. Oh - and there's also the Sheffield Tap as well (but not at 9:30 in the morning).

The direct train to Huddersfield departs from Platform 2b - don't make the mistake I made of sitting in the cosy Waiting Room on Platform 2 for the train - you won't necessarily see this come in and you'll be forced to run up to the top of the platform for the train in the last 30 seconds or so as I had to.

There had been incessant rain all morning in South Yorkshire (it came from the West of Scotland so I couldn't complain) so I decided that a walk along the hills and moor paths with a laden down rucksack wasn't necessarily the most sensible choice. Instead I decided to get off at Brockholes and walk along some decent river paths the 3 miles or so to Holmfirth. Brockholes Station is just as interesting & picturesque as Sheffield Station, but it's the complete opposite of that modern hi-tech architecture - I think it must be used in period films & TV programs.

I walked down to the main road and decided to take the path along the River Holme. This took me past a lot of old mill houses and also a number of weirs. A large Grey Heron kept me company for most of the route but it obviously had good hearing and flew off every time I got close enough for a decent pic - this was about the best I could get.

The paths beside the river were pretty muddy underfoot so it was probably just over an hour after leaving Brockholes that I came into Holmfirth, a bustling market town. I made straight for The Nook, and found this was well hidden from the Main Street, definitely 'in a nook & cranny'.

Squeezing in through the narrow entrance way I found a lovely old fashioned pub situated right next to the River Holme with a separate modern Tapas restaurant (Carnicería) on one side.

It was fairly quiet in the pub when I went in and asked if there was anyone around to show me the Brewhouse as I'd e-mailed earlier (cue lots of initial blank looks). Thankfully the co-owner Ian Roberts came out and spent quite some time showing me around and having a chat about the place and their beer in general - many thanks indeed for this.

The Nook has been in Ian's family for more than 40 years although there's been a pub (& sometimes a brewery) on the site since the 1750's (and they have the original title deeds to prove it). Ian's father first started keeping real ale (initially Taylor's Landlord) more than 30 years ago and the place has been in the Good Beer Guide continuously ever since - there are a couple of nice commemorative plaques up on the wall in the bar.

Ian decided to start construction of a modern brewery next to The Nook in 2008 and after a significant amount of red-tape (especially from Yorkshire Water as part of the brewery is below the river level) the first beers were brewed in July 2009. It's a custom built 5 bbl plant with the outside having been finished by Ian himself - a stonemason by trade.

Because of the narrow entrance way it's a definite pain when delivering the raw brewing materials or loading/unloading a pallet full of beer - you can't drive a truck or an van right up to the brewery door(s). In addition the malt & hops have to be hoisted to the storeroom on the upper level.

On the brewery floor they were performing a caustic soda clean - I kept well out of the way of the mash tun and the copper.

Also on the brewery floor were the 3 Fermenting Vessels.

Downstairs (below the river level and naturally chilled) are the Conditioning Tanks and the store for the casks (a lot of the small casks are used in the Carnicería restaurant).

They only produce cask beer at the Brewhouse and this is distributed all over the local area with a lot of co-operation between the Yorkshire microbreweries. Ian stated that they just don't have the space or the time to bottle in-house and so tanks of beer are shipped to Scarborough for bottling.

It's great to see that the Nook Brewhouse is doing so well and how much they are part of the local community. They have an annual beer festival in August and were also planning to hold a lot of events for the Holmfirth Food & Drink Festival that coming weekend.

After thanking Ian I headed back into The Nook pub for lunch and to try some of their beers. It really is a lovely pub - a spacious outside beer garden beside the river, a fairly large lounge...

a games area...

and a cosy bar full of books, mirrors, water jugs and lots & lots of cartoons. The bar is where all the customers congregated at lunchtime with everyone (young and old) sharing tables and a number of (quite!) serious 10p domino games going on.

I sat at the bar and worked my way through some of the Nook Brewhouse beers - on were the York (traditional bitter), Blond, Oak Stout & Red (but none of the interesting berry/chilli/cherry/orange flavoured specials) as well as 4 guest beers (Magic Rock Curious, Brew Company Hop Ripper, Green Jack Excelsior & Partners Shoddy Porter). All the Nook beers were excellent & really well conditioned, with the Red being especially impressive - a smooth malty amber ale with a good spicy after-taste, almost like a modern Scottish 70/-. To help me with the beers I'd ordered the Pie of the Day (Meat & Potato) from the great choice of lunchtime food - thankfully that morning I hadn't ordered breakfast as there was enough on the plate to do me the entire day.

After leaving The Nook I decided to have a quick look around Holmfirth. Just up from The Nook I found this, which looked more & more familiar the closer I came to it.

I'd been so focused on The Nook Brewhouse in Holmfirth that I'd completely missed the town's main claim to fame - that the BBC's 'Last of the Summer Wine' series is/was filmed there - doh! The steps/close are, of course, where Nora Batty had to fend off Compo and I also found Sid's Café - a real Café (though the outside was not so inviting in the rain).

The rain had actually started to ease off so I walked back to Brockholes rather than take the bus into Huddersfield. Just beware that the steep hill back up to Brockholes Station is a killer and to leave plenty of time to get back up there.

I'd hoped to perhaps have a look around Summer Wine Brewery just up the road in Honley but they're not really setup for visitors and were also far too busy at the end of the week to see me, but they did point me in the direction of a great new beer shop in the centre of Huddersfield, the Hand Drawn Monkey (HDM) Beer Shop.

They've only been open since June and are fairly similar in operation to The Inn Beer Shop that I'd visited in Southport - lots of fantastic bottled beer and also (very recently) a license to serve cask & kegged beer - it's a cracking place with permanent Summer Wine taps and an excellent & diverse bottled beer menu to peruse.

The owner Rob (always seen with hat) is a really passionate & knowledgeable guy who used to work (and brew) in one the city's many great pubs, the Rat & Ratchet. We got chatting a few times and it seems he's been occasionally brewing for the shop and hopes to do this on a more permanent basis when Huddersfield-based Mallinsons move out to larger premises. He'll then setup a special line for the in-house beer.

By then it was Friday evening and definitely pub time. Huddersfield has some absolutely superb pubs, and there's no way I could do them justice in a single pub crawl of a couple of hours (for more information see this local blog). However I would have to say that The Grove is up there with the best pubs I've ever been to in the UK - a fantastic beer choice (cask, keg & bottle - I caught Magic Rock's The Big Top), great friendly staff willing to chat away about beer & just an laid-back ambience of people enjoying their beer at the end of a week - fabulous.

I came back to the HDM Beer Shop at 10:01am on Saturday morning to pick up some interesting beer before my 3 train journey back home. I couldn't take too much but at least I managed to get the Summer Wine barrel-aged KopiKat beers as well as a couple from Atlantic Brewery in Cornwall that I hadn't seen before and a French Witbier (Colomba). These will be a great reminder of my Derbyshire/Yorkshire trip.

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