The last Saturday in March and it looked and felt like a glorious Spring day. With due diligence I arrived in town early and enjoyed the sunshine and banter as the other day trippers began to gather.
We were there for the long awaited excursion to the Ossett Brewery Tap in West Yorkshire, “Dispensary” Dave’s coach outing over two years in the making; but this was the day.
32 of the pub’s best topers (it was nearly only 31 but the eagle eye of Joe the barman spotted the last man careering off a bus outside the ‘bombed out’ Church, so our first stop was outside the Fly In The Loaf to pick him up. Then we were away through the University complex and on our way to the Rocket Flyover.
The mood on board, if not exactly euphoric, oozed anticipation. Trevor was over the isle from me and provided the first talking point of the day when he handed out cheese straws out to those around him. On his advice I had bought a packet from Aldi but he was now favouring Lidl’s version instead. The consensus was that the latter were much more buttery so mine remained largely untouched.
I mollified myself with Lol’s Guardian Review and an article on the pre-revolutionary reading habits of Lenin. For once the motorways went swimmingly and as we crested the Pennines and started to descend into White Rose territory, not far from the ‘yard arm’ hour, the atmosphere on board gained in pregnant expectation.
At Cleckheaton Services came the first comfort break. The coach park was at the rear and access to the facilities was bizarrely via a narrow side door next to a massive Starbuck’s open air coffee terrace. Who planned that?
As chance would have it the bus left the M62 here and headed off in heavy traffic on the Dewsbury Road. The first thing we passed was Cleckheaton Rugby Ground where Waterloo’s team and supporters would be arriving a few hours later if not for this trip I would have been on that one. More on ‘loo, later.
Threading our way through Dewsbury the strange SHODDY and MUNGO signage on Machell’s glistening Yorkshire Stone ex-woollen mill hit home where we were. Instinctively I looked for and found the railway viaduct which I had rattled over many times before on route to Leeds and beyond.
Easing out of the conurbation after hitting our first Ossett sign we passed a pub called the Cotton Arms. The driver who used to bring his ‘artic’ around these parts in younger days had a story to relate about this place.
Its landlord had discovered that his wife was having an affair and failing in his attempts to win her back placed a noose round his neck and jumped out of a first floor window. The rope was too long and instead of hanging himself he broke a leg instead. The police were called along with an ambulance and while an officer was trying to disengage him from the rope, the pub sign to which it was attached came down and landed squarely on the poor unfortunate’s head; just not his day.
Once on some pleasant country lanes the views opened up and at about 12.30pm we descended Low Mill Road to King’s Yard Industrial Estate on schedule.
Unassuming on the outside the small building opened up to general acclaim. A barman was pouring pints of Yorkshire Blonde and Inception and there was a Fernandes brew too. So began 2 hours of gratis gulping, with plates of nibbles to make sure the thirst factor never faltered. A few went for the guided tour, more stood out in the yard but most never strayed more than a few yards from the continuous line of pulled beers. The plant is capable of producing 280 barrels a week and todays trippers were determined to put a big dent in this cycle’s output.
At 2.10pm the ‘last orders’ shout went up. It was time to get back on the bus and go back up hill to the delightful Brewery Tap and more free ale accompanied by a much needed buffet as bemused locals looked on. I sat with Steve and Pal in the comfy seats while most of the party decamped to the tables in the garden. Another happy hour ended here but the day was only just beginning.
The Rat and Ratchet in Huddersfield was up next and you guessed it, as we left no one had had to put his or her hands in their pockets yet. By the time we reached the Riverhead Brewery Tap in Marsden most would have said that the 20 quid per head cost was a giveaway.
A fabulous outing then – great hospitality, beer and good company. Let’s hope it does not take as long for Dave to organise the next jolly.
Footnote 1: Back in the Dispensary, I learned that having been 24 – 7 ahead at half time Waterloo succumbed to a 28 -24 defeat.
Footnote 2: On the way back to Central Station I off loaded the nearly full packet of cheese straws to a homeless person outside the old Lewis’s building.