East of the M60 reviews another real ale, this time in Huddersfield
- Beer: ‘TEA’ (5.0%);
- Type of Beer: India Pale Ale;
- Brewery: First Chop, Ramsbottom, Lancashire;
- Imbibed at: The Rat and Ratchet, Huddersfield.
Following a quick search for somewhere to go the following day last night, Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council’s website swayed my journey plans towards Huddersfield. I had originally intended to look around the Farmers’ Market on Armentieres Square, Stalybridge, following this up with a trip to Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar for one of their seminal sausage sandwiches.
On finding there was some sort of bric-a-brac-cum-craft and food market on (the borough’s monthly Upmarket initiative), my old man was suitably impressed by this, so we did the Farmers’ Market and took a train to Huddersfield. We also refrained from the cardinal sin of not having a breakfast or dinner after visiting the Farmers’ Market (a Wetherspoons breakfast with a pint of American Amber ale sufficed).
£17.60 later (two return fares including my dad’s Senior Citizens’ Railcard discount), we looked around the market, had a quick look around the pound shops and a few charity shops (alas, no exotic cameras to be found). Whilst we were at the bottom of New Street, near the impressive though sadly empty 1930s Co-op extension, we wondered about this pub we had yet to visit, yet heard so much about.
The Rat and Ratchet
On arrival, we were most impressed. It reminded us of several other pubs we had visited. We saw parts of The Red Rooster and Old Ship Inn in Brighouse; parts of The Old Market Tavern in Altrincham. We were serenaded by Magic’s digital satellite radio service with Kim Wilde and Rick Astley as DJs (yes, the Rick Astley of Never Gonna Give You Up fame, Newton-le-Willows’ most famous export besides electric locomotives).
Both our pints were well kept and served at the right temperature. Our first one was King Rat (5%), but the second one – and the subject of this review – stood out the most.
* * *
TEA is the second strongest ale brewed by First Chop, an emerging real ale brewery situated in Ramsbottom bearing the name of its brewpub. As microbreweries go, they are one of the youngest in Greater Manchester, only being formed last year. Its first beer was brewed on the 23rd April 2012, so what could be more English than celebrating its formation with a pint of tea, on St. George’s Day?
Before anyone thinks I’m reviewing a pot full of Co-op’s 99 Tea, think again. First Chop’s TEA has citrus aromas, with a slight grapefruit and orange taste. It also has a slight maltiness and is – though shouldn’t really be for a 5% ale – dangerously drinkable. One which if the centre of Huddersfield was another 20˚ Celsius warmer would have been a session ale (though not really recommended on a school night or on the eve of a medical appointment).
Its easy drinking nature would make for an excellent summer ale, and a good alternative for lager lovers used to 5% and above lagers. It is also an ale that could be taken time over, which I recommend you ought to do rather than rush.
TEA is brewed using three traditional American style IPA hops, and dry hopped with bags of whole New Zealand. It was inspired by the brewer’s love of modern American pale ales.
Expect to hear a lot more about First Chop Brewery’s offerings. TEA deserves to be the best drink of the day for many real ale fanatics owing to its well bodied nature. Being as First Chop Brewery’s a new entrant, it may be some time before we see them sold beyond Northern England. If you see any one of their beers, you would be foolish to miss any one of them.
In such a short time, they have gained a great reputation for their craft ales. TEA was no exception, and the best beer of the four we had on our visit.
You can also visit the First Chop Bar and Restaurant on 43 Bolton Road, Ramsbottom, to sample both their food and fine ales. Discounts are also available for persons on production of a valid East Lancashire Railway ticket.
- The First Chop Bar and Restaurant: for further information on food, drink, menus and events;
- First Chop Brewery: the brewing arm of First Chop Bar and Restaurant. Includes information on beers and blog.
S.V., 14 April 2013.