After one member of our beer drinking fraternity started moaning about going to the same place every Wednesday; one of us had the great idea to venture out on the train on the last Wednesday of each month to find good beers further afield. The first destination was Bradford. Due to emergency work commitments the first LWC trip was just three of us. Gaz was already planning to be in Bradford for his day off, so I was to meet Joe on the train through Stalybridge or on the platform at Leeds.
Leaving the office at 17:00, I grabbed the train beers I’d hidden in the fridge at work and bolted down to Stalybridge Train Station to have a beer in the Stalybridge Buffet Bar before boarding the 17:55 towards Hull. I ordered a pint of The Rat Brewery’s Raturday Night Fever and took a seat in the main room. Not even considering the fantastic rail influenced décor and the great community feel the Buffet Bar has; the cask ales are some of the best kept beers I’ve ever had and the this hoppy bitter bolstered that opinion. Previously the Rat and Ratchet Brewery as part of the Rat and Ratchet, Huddersfield had been operating from ’94 to ’04; closing when the Rat and Ratchet pub was sold to Ossett Brewery. Ossett Brewery reopened it as The Rat Brewery in 2011 and they continue to brew award winning beers on the original site.
Luckily, Joe caught the earlier train so I jumped on, parked opposite him and cracked open a can of Beavertown’s Neck Oil Session IPA bursting with fresh hoppiness as Stalybridge disappeared into the background as we headed North towards Leeds.
A long slog up the hill from Bradford Interchange got us to the Bradford Brewery’s Brewfactory. The former factory building standing beacon-like atop the hill overlooking Bradford city centre. Inside, the bar had a cantina style vibe with long tables and school chairs; a mixture of painted and bare chipboard walls with artwork and drawings depicting the brewery. This cool set-up would go down well in any city centre and the juxtaposition between the internal and external design is really appealing. The bar had a large selection of cask and keg mainly from their own brewery but backed up by a small selection of guest beers.
The next stop was the Record Café. A big glass façade showed a dark and dingy looking café style bar dimly lit in with a minimal amount of light fittings and candles on the tables. There’s a small selection of cask and the six keg, all with delicious beer in the lines along with a good bottle selection including some of Mad Hatter Brewing Company’s amazing Tzatziki Sour; of which all three of us left with a bottle. The café had a great ambience with good music in the background. You could chill out in here all day indulging in the cheese boards and charcuterie on offer.
The Sparrow is known by many as a local institution but is the perfect place for the beer tourist and this was our next venue. With a handful of each of cask and keg there is a fine selection of beers. The staff were incredibly attentive and engaged us in conversation at the bar as it was a quiet Wednesday. This Bier Café was a fantastic place with a great vibe that I find is lacking in Manchester’s beer scene currently. I went with Camden Town Brewery’s Flue Faker in The Sparrow and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ll usually go for a smoked beer if its on the bar as I think they make an interesting and delicious beer if balanced appropriately but it seems many brewers don’t like to take the risk .
A few doors down from The Sparrow was The Beerhouse. I’d seen the build up to this place opening over twitter last year and it seemed like it would be a great addition to any town or city. I was wrong. This big and bright vacuous space was trumped only by the terrible dance radio station that was playing full blast. We tried to grin and bear it as we got to the bar and someone asked what dark beers were available. If the music wasn’t so loud (and terrible) we would have heard the alarm bells as the staff explained they weren’t sure what each beer was.
Further disappointment came as we got to the last destination, the Brew-Haus; the sign even said Hop Haus. What could go wrong? The place looked alright; up market and had a few quid spent on it. There wasn’t much beer on the bar though, looking like a lot of it had ran out and wouldn’t be replaced until the weekend. Upon receiving two halves of a cask pale ale the stench of vinegar was unbearable. Complaining to the barman, his blank expression said it all. Another man was called over and approached who I assume was the owner. He explained that the beer wasn’t “off”, it was just “too hoppy” and wasn’t ready to go on before explaining to his staff that the beer needs taking off and putting on at a later date. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I remind you that this was cask. Oh dear…
Giving up on Bradford for the evening we darted back to the station in order to be able to stop at Leeds for a quick beer before the return to Manchester. Beavertown Brewery were hosting a Hops vs. Sours evening at Bundobust with 3 kegs of their Lupuloid IPA series and 3 of their Phantom Berliner Weisse. Arriving at 20 minutes before closing the best option was to order all six; so we did. The IPA’s were all of an American style with a sweet, malty taste and texture; and a big juicy hop profile cutting through. The Berliner Weisse all had a nice balanced sourness with the bitterness added through fruits such as lemons and grapefruit. I rated Beavertown’s Yuzilla Phantom one of my favourite beers of last years Indy Man Beer Con and these tart beers back that feeling up.
So Bradford’s bright start was extinguished with a dousing of some stale beer and some poor choices but if the latter are avoided; just visiting the Bradford Brewery, Record Café or The Sparrow make Bradford a worthwhile trip.