“It looks like an er, y’know”
“Has he had a pint of Viagra?”
During the evening we heard many more comments about the logo of the 25th Keighley Beer Festival. Some would make a soldier blush. On the souvenir T Shirts it was printed in shiny silver. We only saw one being worn.
By the time we got there on saturday afternoon Silver Delight – a one-off special by Taylors – was long gone, doubtless guzzled by an avalanche of tickers in the moments after the festival opened on thursday. No matter, there was plenty to get stuck into with 70+ ales, ciders and perries. Beer in this region is a Very Big Deal. Last time I looked, there were 57 breweries in West Yorkshire alone, with eight of them opening in the last 12 months. A couple more have probably opened since I started typing this post. Not surprisingly, the bulk of beer available here was brewed locally, although Red MacGregor had come all the way from Orkney. This being a CAMRA festival there were no distractions from so-called Craft Keg, although there were some interesting bottles available; Stone Levitation was a piffling £2.70 a go.
My tasting notes are crumpled, spidery and brief. I thought Signal Light from Settle was sharp and fruity. Otley Amarill-o lacked a hop bite. You waited for it, but those IBUs never came. Townhouse Meridian Mild was sweet coffee. Thornbridge Lumford flaccid and brown, lifted by a fruity finish. Leeds Midnight Bell a lush and juicy and smoky delight. Ilkley Joshua Jane – dry as you like and smelled like a beer tent at a Dales agricultural show. Holdens BC Special had faint peardrop esters, but still downable. Smooth. I’ve got Old Bear’s Black Maria down as ‘cracking’ and ‘dusty toffee’ (whatever that is) with a comment from my dad saying ‘I once brewed a beer like this’. Of course, most of these were served on gravity – ‘flat’ as the locals would call it. There was even a warning on the KBF website stating that the beer wouldn’t have ‘a creamy head as served in most Yorkshire pubs ‘. I did find myself wondering why the few handpumps couldn’t have sparklers fitted. Some sort of Belgian-style glass rinser wouldn’t hurt, either.
The event was sponsored by Timothy Taylor who had a bar almost to themselves. Tellingly, it was one of the quietest – if you come to Keighley to try the produce of the greatest brewery on earth you’d do it at the Boltmakers down the road, the de facto brewery tap. The ‘Bolts’ is one of only five pubs that Taylors still own in Keighley town centre. Of these five, The Burlington and The Globe – firmly in the tradition of working class Yorkshire pubs – sit somewhat awkwardly in a portfolio that seems increasingly geared toward ‘hospitality’. I’d be surprised if they still carry the famed green and gold signage this time next year. In recent years Taylors has sold off seven Keighley pubs – The Eastwood Tavern, The Cricketers, The Friendly, The Volunteers, The Timothy Taylor, and The Vine. Happily, most of these are still going as decent freehouses. The seventh pub is the peerless Brown Cow, where we finished our long day.
I’ve written about the Brown Cow many times before, but this was the first time I’d been since long-serving tenants Barry and Carol had bought the pub from Taylors. My memories are rather fuzzy, not helped by two or three superb pints of Moorhouses Black Cat, one of seven cask ales on offer. I do remember Barry showing us the heavy oak bar he’d got in for his forthcoming beer festival (14th-16th of November). That and half the pub crawling around on their hands and knees looking for my ‘lost’ wallet. After a couple of minutes of groping around in semi-darkness, I realised it was in the pocket that I ‘never’ use. Oops.