We stayed in Masham, home of both the Black Sheep and Theakston's breweries. The relatively small town had a few pubs to choose from. We patronised every one of them over the course of the weekend except the Bay Horse which was a Greene King pub. Coming from East Anglia we drink Greene King's brews on a regular basis so stuck to the local brews.
Friday 24th April
Where: World's End, Bond End, Knaresborough.
What: Blonde, Daleside Brewery.
World's End was clearly a family orientated one and only had two ales on tap, the rest was lager and cider etc. While the Daleside Blonde was nothing to write home about, an average mid-ale, it can't have been that bad as by the time I remembered to take a picture, our beers had been drained!
We wandered up to the castle, round some shops and headed off to our B&B.
Where: The Bruce Arms, Masham.
What: Best Bitter, Black Sheep and Theakston's
gorgeous B&B we went straight to the pub. The Bruce Arms had a huge beer garden, especially compared to the size of the traditional bar. This seemed to be the pub favoured by the locals as far as I could tell and we enjoyed a pint of bitter from each of the town's breweries. I'm fairly sure they didn't come through a sparkler either.
Where: Black Sheep Brewery,
What: Golden Sheep, Holy Grail, Riggwelter, all Black Sheep Brewery
We couldn't wait any longer and headed to the Black Sheep brewery, yay! The bar (sorry, B....aaar) and bistro were housed in a lovely high ceiling brick building, with sheep everywhere. Most of the space was taken with the restaurant, it would have been nice to have a more pub-style area, especially seeing as they were open late. The Golden Sheep was a lovely golden ale, the Holy Grail had a lovely depth of flavour. The Riggwelter is too dark a beer for me, but I did have the Riggy Burger made with the beer. It was lovely and the size of the portion was very generous. The fella sat on a giant wooden black sheep. Couldn't ask for more. Or could we?
On the way home we stopped for another at the Bruce Arms, then back to our plush bed.
Saturday 25th April
After a hearty, full Yorkshire breakfast we popped into the Theakston's Brewery to have a look around. If the bar in the brewery had been open later than 4.30pm we would have had a drink there after our tourist treks, but as it was we never managed to have a pint at the brewery. The smell around the place was of pure old pub aroma. On the bright sunny day it made me very happy.
Where: The Fountain, Hawes
What: Butter Tubs, Yorkshire Dales Brewery, Propa' Pale Ale, Wensleydale Brewery.
We drove out to Hawes and as we parked it started to rain. My shoes had holes in and my coat was definitely not waterproof. We went round the Wensleydale Creamery, ate our body weight in cheese and then bought wedges for everyone we knew. Then we had a pint in The Fountain, a pub that reminded me of the place I used to work in when I lived in Manchester. A proper pub with staff who are friendly because that's the way they are, not because they've been trained to be that way. The Butter Tubs beer was lush, traditional, the pump clip designs were eye-catching and modern. It immediately became my favourite. My fella had a pint of Wensleydale Pale Ale which was also easy drinking and at £3.10 a pint, a bargain (I know, I live too close to London so am pleased when a pint comes in at under four quid). Two old guys at the bar were talking about lambing and the bar lady was complaining that her pump was blowing when it should be sucking. I could have stayed there all day.
Where: Tan Hill Inn, Swaledale.
What: My Generation, My Generation Beer Co.
Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in the Britain (as in the most meters above sea level). As we drove up the winding roads, with not a house in sight, the rain got worse. Then it turned to snow. Snow! The pub was an odd one, having a unique reason to be visited but no one local to provide the kind of atmosphere only regulars can. The bar man was grumpy, then I saw him dry a coffee cup on his jeans before serving coffee in it to a customer. The beer was good however, and I enjoyed a pint of My Generation (a new craft beer brewed by Black Sheep but on behalf of someone else). I wish I'd got a snap of the pump clip as the logo is awesome.
There were cyclists filling the bar. They had actually cycled, in the snow, to the top of this mount. Nutters.
Where: George & Dragon, Leyburn.
What: Leyburn Shawl, George & Dragon, both Yorkshire Dales Brewery.
On the way back to Masham we stopped at the George & Dragon. The bar was tiny, with a log fire and sketches of old chaps on the wall. I assumed they were regulars. The restaurant took most of the space and would have been like dining in an antiques shop. There were collections of miniature liqueurs, vintage furs and pairs of Victorian shoes. It looked well thought out rather than cluttered or gimmicky though. There wasn't much room so we stood at the bar and enjoyed our drinks.
I got to try a different Yorkshire Dales brew, slightly darker with a fuller flavour than the Butter Tubs, and the chap had a half of a bitter named after the pub, with the same cartoon on the clip as on the sign outside. I'm not a fan of the cartoon pub sign, especially when the pub itself is so traditional and has clearly been standing for a number of years, but I couldn't fault the pub itself. Nice beers and full of character, just the way I like it.
Where: King's Head Hotel, Masham.
What: Golden Sheep, Black Sheep Brewery.
Back in Masham, we discovered a bottle of Black Sheep and a birthday card outside our door for the chap from the B&B owners. Told you it was a nice place. We headed out for a pint and to look around for somewhere to eat and stopped for one in the King's Head Hotel. It was a trendy kind of place, as you might expect, and I'm not sure if the barman was having a bad day or not but our pints of Golden Sheep were just pushed towards us. The place looked nice enough and we would have probably eaten there if we had fancied somewhere 'nice' to eat. If you know what I mean. We're a bit low key so we ticked it off our list and headed elsewhere.
Where: White Bear, Masham
What: Lightfoot and Four & Twenty, both Theakston's Brewery
What looked to be a promising pub from the outside (lovely Yorkshire stone, traditional looking signs) turned out to be a bit uncomfortable inside. This, I must stress, was due to the other patrons not the staff or the White Bear itself. In the 'lounge bar' there was a decent looking gastro pub restaurant (too posh for what we wanted though), but in the 'public bar' there were a couple of loud, obnoxious blokes, one of whom smacked the barmaids bum. I had a customer do this to me once, in my first bar job. I told him quietly, but in no uncertain terms, that kind of thing did not happen in that pub, or to me if he wanted to keep drinking. He didn't come back in for a month. We opted to stand in the lounge bar. The beer barrel light fittings were interesting, but the stained glass behind the bar depicting a brewery scene left a little to be desired. Some bits looked as though they'd been drawn on with marker pen. There was also a stuffed head of a Polar Bear roaring in a glass case. I drank a pint of Lightfoot, which was nice but Black Sheep is more my thing I decided. After finishing our drinks stood uncomfortably at the restaurant bar, we went back to the Black Sheep brewery.
Where: Black Sheep Brewery, Masham.
What: Holy Grail and Old Ale, both Black Sheep.
The bar man remembered us and we ate there again. Fella had beer battered fish and chips, I had ribs with an ale infused sticky sauce. The beer was awesome and we were so full by the end of the evening we practically rolled home to sleep the sleep of people filled with ale.