Micro Bar, Manchester

A shopping mall is not normally somewhere you would go hunting for decent beer but they do things differently in Manchester. The Arndale Centre has two seperate food courts. The first on the top floor is just the usual fast food chains plopping out salt and cola. The second is hidden away on the High Street facing the Northern Quarter and this is where the magic happens: a strange mixture of food outlets ranging from grocery-type stores such as a butchers and an organic grocers to actual meal providers like an actual authentic Mexican food stall and….Micro Bar.

Run by the Boggart Brewery (creators of the very naughty Rum Porter which is part pint/part pudding) it is a thoroughly modern blend of cask ale and bottled beers from around the world. There will always be some Boggart beers on tap and special guests. The bottles take in Beligium, Britain and the USA.

You can sit right at the bar on stools for a traditional bar experience or wander off to sit by the window of the food court and enjoy some good food with your real ale. Micro Bar is a strange, unusual concept and one that really made me do a double-take when I stumbled upon it by chance. However, it somehow works. I think if all malls were like this, I wouldn’t hate them so much.

the view from High Street

the view from High Street

Birch Hall Inn, Beck Hole

A small pub with a big personality. The pub consists of two small snugs and a lovely big riverside beer garden (the former hillside beer garden is now a private garden). The actual serving area in the bar we took was barely bigger than a hatch and shares counter staff with a post office/general store on the other side.

The bar has it’s own special beer called “Beckwatter” brewed for them by the North Yorkshire Brewery which went down very well and also enjoyed a pint of “Gun Dog” by Walls County Brewery too. Check our twitter page at http://twitter.com/#!/casktweets for more words on them.

Food-wise they just do sandwiches (called Beck Hole Butties) but the bread is exceptional and so is their chutney, so do not judge the menu on first appearances. The little snug can be a little too silent when filed only with tourists but once the regulars get in the atmosphere warms up nicely. The Birch Hall Inn is a lovely little pub in a great location. http://www.beckhole.info/bhi.htm

King’s Head, Huddersfield

Huddersfield has become a mecca for rail-riding ale lovers thanks to it’s impressive train station which manages to house two pubs on platform 1.

The two pubs both of offer a ride range of ales but offer two very different experiences. The Head of Steam does food, loud music and is a meeting place. However, the King’s Head (known for quite a few years as the Station Tavern) offers a more traditional pub experience and an oasis of calm. The prices are reasonable and the beer is well kept. They give the local breweries plenty of support but they also seem to get unique beers from furrther affield. There always seems to be something on from a brewery I have never heard of. This was an ale pub long before such things became trendy.

It is also one of those special pubs where you can pop in on your own and feel completely comfortable. More than a few album reviews for this site have been written in the King’s Head while waiting for the train. Long may it continue to be a much-needed dose of sanity.

Todmorden Beer Festival 2011

I managed to make it along to the Todmorden Beer Festival this year. The well-chosen venue was Todmorden Cricket Club. The cricket clubs of West Yorkshire always seem to be in the most scenic spots and Todmorden is no exception, a green expanse tucked into a spectacular valley of rising trees and stone.

The organisers had truelly created a National beer festival with not just the usual Yorkshire and Lancashire beers but beers from all corners of the British Isles. There was a very good turn out for Scottish beers and I was very relieved to find a beer from the Lake District.