To Hull and Back!
Kingston upon Hull lies alongside the Humber and has the Humber Bridge as a tourist attraction. Maybe not the place you may wish to spend a few days but surprisingly, it is a very pleasant city with some great pubs and not too far away quite a few independent breweries. So last September a party from Solihull CAMRA went there for our weekend away, which for most of us started on the Thursday!
It takes a couple of hours to get to Hull so we decided to visit a few hostelries on the way up there. We took the M42, M1 route setting off from Solihull at about 10.45am.
Our first port of call was the Black Horse at Caythorpe just off the A46 past Nottingham. Home of the Caythorpe Brewery, we were disappointed to find no brewery beers available as the brewery was in the process of being sold. We contented ourselves with Brewster's Bitter, Oldershaw OSB and Exmoor Gold all served in good condition. We ate here... a little expensive, as the pub was very much food orientated.
Our next pub was at Morton a little north of Gainsborough. Having been the local CAMRA branches Pub of the Season we hoped not to be disappointed. However, true to form so far this proved to be the case. A large Victorian pub with an uninspiring interior it only served Black Sheep Special, which, like the pub itself was uninspiring. Pondering on what to do next we consulted the Good Beer Guide [hereafter GBG] and honed in on the Horn Inn at Messingham on the A159 just before the M180. Listed in the GBG as stocking John Smith's Bitter which we were happy to miss out on we were looking forward to the two beers that the GBG said were provided by members of SIBA [Society of Independent Brewers]. Expectation grew as we approached this roadside pub. The pub has been modernised and has little character. John Smith's Bitter was on offer together with two guests. Sadly they were from the same brewery Oldershaw based at Grantham. Caskade and Isaac's Gold were on offer, which were not at their best. Throwing the towel in we decided to head for our B&B in Hull with the hope that things could only get better, which, I shall tell you now so as not to put you off reading on, more than exceeded out expectations both pub and beer wise.
Our B&B was to the west of the city, about thirty minutes walk from it's centre and as we were to find to our pleasure near some of the best pubs in Hull. So dropping our kit off we were off to sample Hull's delights close to our digs.
Some of our party were peckish so popped into the GBG Pave a café bar with Theakston's beers. We passed by though and headed up to the Gardener's Arms on the Cottingham Road, quite a walk. We found it to be a busy pub with a traditional bar and ultra modern lounge, however the music was rather loud. Here we found Bateman's Summer Swallow, Jenning's Golden Host, Everard's Tiger and Tetley Bitter. We declined the latter two and were not overly impressed by the others. We ate here and hoped for greater success beer wise later on. Again a long walk brought us to the Editorial on Spring Bank, which presumably is a shop conversion. A basic interior, the beers were Bateman's Summer Swallow and Tetley Bitter. They were also putting on Garton Woldsman's Bitter for us, as they knew we were coming and that we were unable to arrange a visit to Garton Brewery. We promised to revisit on Saturday evening. I only tried the Summer Swallow to compare it to that of the Gardener's to find it was no better. We also found some of our party next door at the café enjoying a meal accompanied with beer bought in from next door... what a considerate arrangement!
Our next call some ten minutes down the road was the Wellington in Russell Street and what a pub it is! No doubt about it, the best in Hull for beer. It reminded me a little of the Fat Cat in Norwich, yes that good! It has two rooms one of which is used for live bands. There were four bands on during our visit, all apparently students from the University. Perry's, Cider's and a walk-in cooler room contained bottled beers from all over Europe and the beer I here you ask? Fernande's Indian Summer, Copper Dragon Scotts 1816, Wold Top Wold Gold, Copper Dragon Golden Pippin, Anglo Dutch Jasper's Ale, Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild and Tetley Bitter. I could not do the place justice only trying the Fenande's, which was in excellent condition. This was a pub we decided to give more time to on Saturday night, a real gem and so friendly.
We decided to finish the night off at the Hole in the Wall on Spring Bank not too far from the B&B. A former amusement arcade and a bit garish on the outside being bright orange! It has two long rooms and is quite basic inside but do not be put off. Inside it had handpumped Old Mill beers Autumn Breeze, Mild and Bitter, Archers Gamekeepers Folly and Roosters Yankee and the quality was excellent particularly the Yankee and the roasted malt 3.4% mild which we could still taste after a full day of drinking.
And so off to bed, again promising to revisit the Hole in the Wall.
The Friday was our "day out" on the coach. Three breweries and a town pub-crawl were on our agenda. Having breakfasted well we all boarded the coach and were off to our first brewery, Old Mill in Snaith some twenty miles from Hull and a brewery well hidden in this small town. Nevertheless our intrepid driver found it and we were soon piling off the coach and into the brewery where Head Brewer Paul Simpson was there to greet us. Housed in a former 18th century corn mill and maltings the brewery was set up around about 1982 by a businessman who enjoyed his real ales. A stoutish Mild, a session Bitter and Best Bitter Bullion are the staple residents supported by a cast of occasionals and monthly brews. Comments from the floor concerning the future of mild in the area were met with Paul saying that mild is declining but Old Mill will continue to brew it. I for one was glad to hear this after the quality of this beer I enjoyed when I had tried it the previous night in the Hole in the Wall. Tongues hanging out we were introduced to the tasting room where the Bitter was the only brew on tap. Paul apologised to us for the lack of choice but we had come on a day not usually set up for brewery tours and the tasting room was not as fully stocked as usual. Nevertheless we managed to drink our fill before Ray our leader hounded us onto the bus for our next brewery, the brewpub The Goodmanham Arms in the folds of the Yorkshire Wolds.
Just outside Market Weighton, on the route of the Wolds Way, the Goodmanham Arms is a classic village local. Multi roomed and packed full of character, it is a pub off the beaten track boasting it's own brewery. Peter Southcott has been at the pub since 2003 and can brew 1000 litres at a time and uses both Target and Fuggles hops. Beers we sampled were Choir Boys Dread a standard Bitter; Randy Monk a Best Bitter; Monks Revenge and Filthy Habit, both strong beers. Only one other person came in whilst we were there, a lone walker on the Wolds Way who likewise was impressed to find a pub with it's own brewery.
Checking the watch Ray marshalled us back on to the coach for our final brewery of the day, Wold Top. So we left Peter in the calm, quiet atmosphere of the Goodmanham Arms.
Wold Top Brewery is not the easiest brewery to find. Hunmanby Grange, Wold Newton is not far from Driffield but it seems like it's in the back of beyond. The brewery is in an old farm granary building of gargantuan proportions. Indeed I've never seen a microbrewery in such massive premises... stacks of potential for growth! It has it's own pub at Thwing, The Falling Stone. Set up in May 2003 by partners Derek Gray and Tom Mellor there is a selection of beers brewed including a Bitter; Falling Stone a Best Bitter and Wold Gold, a light coloured strong beer. We were disappointed however that only bottled beers were available in the tasting room. Apparently some 30% of the beer is bottled and interestingly enough, the brewery brewed a beer, Mars Magic for the fated Beagle project. The leader of the project Professor Colin Pillinger stays at Derek's B&B when in the area.
And so to finish the day the coach headed for Beverley, Ray distributing maps with all the pubs shown to enable us to undertake an orderly pub-crawl.
Beverley is a Minster town with a medieval central core with stacks of pubs. Our first port of call was the Sun, from the Tap and Spiel stable. A little characterless and sporting an unimaginative range of beers it was not the best of starts to our evening. However, the Deucher's IPA was on top form and I do believe the pub holds a CAMRA Solihull branch record. The accompanying picture shows Ken Jackson with a half pint, surely a first!
Feeling a little peckish now, we decided to head for the Green Dragon in Saturday Market. The pub must obviously be on the site of an old burgage plot as it went back for miles and was quite narrow. Having a front bar and restaurant at the rear it served us well for a bite to eat. A good beer range but not in the best of condition. Broadstone Two Water Grog; Wold Top Mars Magic; and Ramsbottom Tomfoolery. We left here just as the Friday night circuit was starting.
On then to an institution... Nellie's or the White Horse to give it its correct name. Lit by gas lamps it is a superb time warp pub, multi roomed with a warren of connecting corridors. It has a ground level cellar where I spied at least eight 36 gallon barrels of Sam Smith's OBB on stillage. At £1.30 a pint they would not last long either as the pub was heaving!
From here we went to the Dog and Duck just round the corner in Ladygate another pub which was disappointing beer quality wise. John Smiths Bitter; Greene King Abbott Ale; Deuchar's IPA; Hambleton Stallion and Cropton Endeavour which most of us left as it was definitely over the top. A pretty ordinary pub inside with a potentially good range of beers, which were not at their best plus the barmaid, was smoking behind the bar and serving at the same time... not impressed.
Onward to the Durham Ox where the service was appalling. The young barman served all his friends first and popped back to me every once in a while to top my beer up. Wychwood Hobgoblin; John Smith's Bitter; Deuchar's IPA and Tetley Bitter, not very inspiring and depending on your viewpoint the Wychwood and Deuchar's were either cheap or expensive both at £2.20 a pint [3.8% and 5% respectively].
We soon vacated here to the Cornerhouse. The circuit was in full swing by now. The pub was full of 30+ something's so we did not feel too out of it. A bank of handpumps met us. Rooster's Yankee; Greene King Abbott Ale; Tetley Bitter; Wadworth 6X; Black Sheep Bitter; Banks's Original; Timothy Taylor Landlord and Jennings Cumberland Ale. The pub is on a split-level, beer quality was OK and we were assured it is much more pleasant to visit this pub earlier in the day.
Our final pub was the Royal Standard Inn in North Bar Within. The GBG shows a guest, but all that was on offer was Tetley Bitter and Jennings Cumberland Ale, which was at least in good condition.
From here a tired bunch of CAMRA folk headed home after a long day with highs and lows. The highs, definitely Nellie's the lows, no real ale at Wold Top Brewery but you can't win them all... there's always tomorrow!
Saturday began bright and sunny. Plans for today included a good bash at the pubs in Hull and two brewery visits, one of which Ray told us would be based around a garage, intriguing indeed! A small party of us left the digs quite early and wandered down to the city centre. Our first stop off was the Olde White Hart in Silver Street, well hidden from the road. It has a lovely courtyard and it is reputed that from here the 1642 English Civil War started. Today it is a superb pub on CAMRA's National Inventory of heritage pubs. Beers on were McEwan's 80/-; Deauchar's IPA; Theakston's Old Peculiar and Morland Old Speckled Hen. I stuck with the Deuchar's, as it was only about 10.45 in the morning, which was excellent. We wandered on down to the docks next and took in the Minerva, which used to have a brewery attached. Although not in the current GBG it is well worth a visit. Behind the bar were Nethergate Azzaret; Atlas Three Sisters; Leadmill Ingot and Tetley Bitter. The pub has not much interior character but what a selection of unusual beers and in excellent condition. Just a pop around the corner saw us in the Green Bricks. A large one roomed pubs with comfortable sofas. But, don't be put off. After an absence, real ale has returned to this pub with Tom Wood's Best Bitter; Marston Moor Brewer's Droop; Rudgate Viking and my choice at this pub Maypole Flanagan's Extra Stout that was stunning! With time getting short as Ray had given us instructions to be back at the digs soon after lunch we headed back homeward dropping into the Editorial not far from the B&B to try the Garton Woldsman which was in excellent condition.
Our early afternoon session started at Pete Haley's pub "The Moon", a fully functional tower brewery with a pub attached in a converted garage. Believe me, we could just not believe it... it really was decked out just like a typical pub. I must stress this is a private venture for Pete and his friends to enjoy the beers he brews and very pleasant they are too. Haley's Styrian God weighed in at 4.2% followed by Haley's Best Bitter at 4.6%. Moving up a notch, Haley's Challenger is 4.7% and to finish a small dose of EE Bye Gum at 8.5% and all wonderfully hoppy. We were so comfortable here it would have been easy for us to stay all afternoon and on into the evening. Nevertheless, time came to leave and boarding the bus we headed into Hull for the last session of our trip.
Our evening commenced with another brewery tour at Whalebone Brewery named after the whaling industry once based in Hull. The pub housing the brewery is called the Whalebone Inn and the room we were in was both large, comfortable and unpretentious. Alex Craig the brewer showed us into is brewery just off the bar area. Set up in 2003 it is housed in a small room and can brew two and a half barrels at a time. The equipment was some of the most basic I have ever seen and seemed very Heath Robinsonish. Alex stated that he liked to brew beers that are typically English in character using English ingredients. All the beers names are linked to the whaling industry. For instance Diana Mild is named after a whaling ship and at £1.25 a pint must be a strong contender for the cheapest pint in Hull. Personally I was not too impressed with the beers as they seemed to lack character but to be fair to Alex, I do prefer beers with a punchy bite so don't take my point of view as a criticism.
Not 300 yards from the Whalebone is Bateman's only pub in the area The Bay Horse. We could not possibly pass it by so in we went to find XB Bitter and the stronger XXXB Bitter both in excellent condition. Being about 6pm the pub was a little quiet but this corner pub with a comfortable bar and restaurant serving excellent beer is an oasis in a drab part of the city.
We passed by The Old English Gentleman as time was getting on and had no great desire to try the familiar beers from the Wolverhampton and Dudley lists who's we surmised owned the pub.
Our next port of call was the Wetherspoon, Three John Scotts a large town centre pub. With Wetherspoon's you can never tell what to expect. A poor range as is found in Solihull and in Birmingham or luckily as at this one, a superb range including Rooster Special; Oakham Bishop's Farewell; Shepherd Neame Bishop's Finger; Ringwood Old Thumper and as to be expected Marston's Pedigree. I tried the Rooster and Oakham... excellent!
The circuit system of drinkers was beginning to get in full swing now, so after a quick bite here we moved on to the Olde Black Boy in the High Street, another on CAMRA's list of heritage pubs and worthy of it having a wonderful interior! The beers were Deuchar's IPA; Rooster's Yankee and Wychwood Hobgoblin. I went for the latter two. The Hobgoblin, a beer I am not usually very keen on was superb!
The Mission in Posterngate was our next port of call. A large town centre pub converted from a Seaman's Mission, the chapel forming part of the pub interior. Sporting 12 handpumps all that was on offer was Old Mill Bitter. What a waste of handpumps!
Down towards the Docks again now and a pop into the Oberon, a pub with little character. We had been unable to slot this in on Friday morning so felt we ought to go out of our way to fit it in today. There was debate as to whether it was worth it. The beers were Tetley Bitter; Black Sheep Bitter; Yorkshire Terrier and a strange tasting Malton Ginger Whinger.
Where to finish our evening entered the conversation... No competition! Back to the Wellington and finish at the Hole in the Wall was the cry.
New beers at the Wellington were Abbeydale Moonshine; Anglo Dutch Ghost Run and Timothy Taylor Landlord, whilst the Hole in the Wall had Archer's Cloak and Dagger as usual in top condition.
A long day, but most enjoyable. Hull certainly has a lot going for it.
Sunday saw our return to Solihull but not before stopping off at Kimberley to view the Hardy and Hanson brewery and visit the brewery "tap" the Nelson and Railway to sample one or two beers and take a light lunch.
Everyone on the trip had a great time and we must thank the Hull CAMRA branch for suggesting pubs to visit and to Ray our capable organiser for his work on making the weekend a success. If you are ever in Hull take time out to visit its pubs and take a look around the city, particularly the public loos!