The tour of station bars on the Leeds rail line, made famous by Oz Clarke and James May in their Drink To Britain series may possibly be the best blokes day out ever. It has it all (excepting sport perhaps), real ale, great hearty food and nostalgic bars packed with enough railway memorabilia to entertain for hours.
The journey for the St John The Baptist Church, Hey posse started at Stalybridge station with good intentions. On my part an intention to make copious notes of beers sampled and passing observations of each station and journey. My notes, at the end of the trip that took in Huddersfield station (twice), Dewsbury and finally the Railway Hotel at Greenfield consisted of the following: Stalybridge - 1/2 pint of Viaduct Gold, lovely!
Like I said, good intentions.
So don't expect this to be an erudite exposition on real ale and heritage rolling stock. Thank goodness there was sufficient planning ability among our group of builders, teachers, authors, retired company directors, police officers (retired military and serving) to realise the importance of the dynamic between food and real ale. Like this:
"Let's eat at Huddersfield, they have the best food."
"Yes, but lets eat on the way back, otherwise we'll get stuck at Dewsbury: they have the best beer."
And so it was, the best buffet bar is Stalybridge, without a doubt with it's maze-like collection of warm rooms that ooze nostalgic hellos and farewells. The best all rounder is Huddersfield where you could easily spend a whole evening, with a meal and music, on one of the many nights they have live bands.
The best beer is definitely at The West Riding, Dewsbury where, even though I've enjoyed it many times before, Timothy Taylor's Landlord excelled itself...we would have got stuck there too, had we not been more than ready for the fabulous fish and chips at Huddersfield. I guess the souvenir tee-shirts that state 'I missed the train at Dewsbury' are very popular.
The Huddersfield bar, The Head Of Steam, served up Cod, battered just enough to just see the white of the fish, chunky chips with skin on, and mushy peas, that we were sober enough (just) to appreciate above run of the mill food that could have been served up to us - it were lovely!
You'll be pleased to know that over tea, what with us being a church outing, we discussed some of those headier intellectually taxing subjects that thinking men ought to.
For example: in a fight between a shark and a tiger, who would win?
(this was silly, it would obviously be the shark every time - all he has to do is taunt the tiger into swimming out to sea for the scrap and stay out of his way until he drowned. Even if we allow evolution a place in the argument, to allow the shark to get on land and be beaten up by the tiger, it can only at best end in a stalemate because the evolutionary trend would be for the tigers to get smart and evolve into creatures who could rise above the tiger's taunts and not go in the water in the first place, so by the time evolution provided the sharks with legs, the tigers wouldn't want to fight them....just saying Tony.)
There was more...when we got onto a railway trivia quiz, it flushed out the real trainspotters, there were a few surprises there, I can tell you!
Anyway, finally we ended the night in the excellent and local (within 40 minutes walking distance from home) The Railway Pub, Greenfield, where there was plenty more real ale (don't ask me what we drank, I haven't a clue, I remember it being good though)
So, not a classic CAMRA day out - no real ale review with all it's expert ramblings on hops and malt, nor a railway buff's collection of train references nor (do they really do this?) numbers in little books. But it was a grand day out!