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God's Own County goes beer crazy

Added: Monday, April 8th 2013


I SPENT Friday night at the launch of what was – at that point –Yorkshire's newest brewery. But given the massive explosion in the microbrewing industry across the county in the past few years, that information may now be out of date.
Time was when the local trade was dominated by a handful of big players. If you weren't drinking something from Leeds, Sheffield or Tadcaster, then it was most likely from the smaller Timothy Taylor's brewery at Keighley. Aside from that, there wasn't much to write home about, as they say in these parts.
Now there are independent breweries everywhere, at least five in Leeds alone. The latest edition of the Good Beer Guide lists almost 100 in the county; seemingly every town has its brewpub and every drinker has unprecedented choice.
But if we temporarily overlook the possibility that someone else has entered the market since, the newest newcomer to the Yorkshire beer scene is Hamelsworde, named after the Saxon name for Hemsworth, a small town near Pontefract and close to the wild frontier between West and South Yorkshire.
It's the brainchild of Dan Jones, who after more than a decade as a keen home-brewer, finally felt he had honed his skills sufficiently to turn his passion into a business.
His choice of launch venue was a good one. Ossett's Bier Huis is the best little beer shop between Leeds and Sheffield, stocked from floor to ceiling with a fabulous range of bottles from the UK and further afield. Handpumps on the counter add two cask-conditioned ales to the choice of products here.
As more breweries have opened, the breadth of products available has increased, customers have become more knowledgeable and developed an expectation of genuine consumer choice. Such a step-change in the public understanding of beer has opened the way for great little ventures like Bier Huis. And on Friday it was packed with punters keen to see what the area’s newest brewery was all about.
They weren't disappointed, as Dan showed off the six beers in his range, though the queues were such that I only got to try four, dammit.

First up was the dark and easy drinking Colin Brown (5.2%), named after Dan's granddad. Next came the Scalded Shoulder (5.2%) wheat beer, whose oranges and coriander put me firmly in mind of Colorado's Blue Moon.
Next I came to the rich and jet black Spanish Stout. Rather than being a reference to some Iberian brewing style, it name-checks the local name for liquorice, dating to the times when Spanish monks grew liquorice root at Rievaulx Abbey in north Yorkshire. Pontefract has long been a major producer of liquorice, and its influence hangs heavy over this dark and brooding stout.
The Cherokee IPA (6%) and Bavarian-style Jumping Pirate (4.9%) were both gone before I could get any, but I loved the sessionable and citric Haley's Comet (4.5%), whose sales support a local girl fighting a rare illness.
Perhaps CAMRA's founding fathers didn't envisage that their efforts would one day see Yorkshiremen packed into an Ossett shop unit drinking liquorice stout and American-hopped pale ales. But I do know that the world's a richer place for it.

You'll find more about the brewery here: and more about Beer Huis here:
Bier Huis