Yesterday I met a CAMRA colleague in the Landlady's new pub, the White Lion in Delph, a picturesque village in the Pennines just on the Greater Manchester side of the border, a fact that has this former West Riding outpost somewhat divided, as evidenced by the White Rose flag flying from the Band Club.
This is still in my CAMRA Branch area, so I'm the local Chairman which is rather nice really and makes introductions pleasant and me feel part of it, in a minor way at least. The White Lion is stone built on a corner and is warm and welcoming, having had the Landlady's 60 Minute Makeover. It has been decided, unlike most Delph pubs, to open all day and it was doing a fair trade when we arrived. One or two were even enjoying the spring sunshine outside on benches. Beers are from Thwaites of Blackburn and were a pleasant surprise, more of which later. The Landlady's first task was to remove smooth beer and install four handpumps and all are on all the time. She is selling them like hot cakes she says.
Thwaites in recent years have a lack lustre record in cask beer. Most of their pubs sell smooth these days, but things are changing. According to the Landlady, it is her record as a cask ale award winner that first attracted Thwaites to her, as they want things to change. Cask beer is booming and they are back in the game. Good for them. Before the pub changed hands the cellar was renovated with automatic tilters and new lines as well as four handpumps installed and the spear extraction used for the lone cask beer removed. I doubt if Thwaites have many pubs with four cask beers on at once, but here they have and they are selling.
What of the beers? Nutty Black is a lovely traditional mild; almost jet black in colour with sweet malt and a slight bitter edge. Very drinkable for a 3.3% beer. The Original Bitter was a surprise, though I only had a sample. Better than I remember, it was though underpowered at 3.6%, its bitterness slightly lost by a touch of wateriness. Wainwrights at 4.1% was pale, bittersweet and quaffable. It is her biggest seller so far and gaining popularity with her new locals. I didn't try Lancaster Bomber, but overall was impressed. Thwaites also do a range of seasonals and the landlady is already looking to have a fifth pump installed for that. She is nothing if not ambitious in selling cask ale.
In addition to cask there is a couple of genuine German imports in the shape of Warsteiner and Koenig Ludwig Hefe Weiss (to be replaced by Paulaner sometime in the future) and even a couple of cooking lagers, Carling and Fosters, so something for everyone, though I'll bet the Landlady will soon have cask as her biggest seller.
So, a good news story. It is early days, but we have a local pub revitalised, traditional beer success and a Family Brewer getting back to cask. See, it isn't all grumpiness and negativity here!
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, CAMRA Chairman and (local) activist, beer author, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010 and 2011. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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