CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> Four Yorkshire Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - November 29, 1999

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The Crosby Hotel, Normanby Road, Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire

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The Grosvenor Hotel, 2 Old Crosby, Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire

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The Queens Head, 19 Queen Street, Epworth, South Yorkshire

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The Station Hotel, 93 Station Road, Bawtry, South Yorkshire

Having tasted a number of questionable pints of Tetley's in southern England, I've often heard that the Tetley's up north is a completely different breed of animal. I've been told the same thing about a number of real ales native to Yorkshire and environs. It seems that when they're shipped down south or brewed elsewhere the quality suffers greatly.

I never knew whether to believe this or not until I made a trip to South Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire accompanied by a knowledgeable friend. And I have to admit I learned a lot: that the real ale is in fact better in Yorkshire.

Our first stop was in Scunthorpe, located just over the border from Yorkshire in North Lincolnshire. Called "Scunny" by the locals, this small city hosts a number of fine pubs. Unfortunately we've barely scratched the surface, having had only enough time on a couple of recent trips to check out a couple of establishments in the vicinity of Digby Street. There's nothing particularly special about the Crosby Hotel: it hosts a few pool tables, a reasonably interesting jukebox, and it attracts a youngish crowd. It's a buzzing place which becomes quite crowded on weekend nights; on the Friday night of our first visit there was a big spread of food and party balloons for somebody's birthday party. A week later there was a series of theme parties over Halloween weekend -- not exactly a promising paradise for real ale drinkers...

But the Crosby is where I experienced my first stunning pint of northern real ale. I've tasted Marston's Pedigree Bitter (4.5% ABV, Marston, Thompson & Evershed, Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire) several times before in the south and was never particularly impressed. This pint, however, was a luscious pint, beautiful with a gorgeous smooth head, and only £1.50 a pint to boot! At prices like this I could easily afford several pints of this easily drinkable quaff.

Not far away we made the mistake of stopping at the Grosvenor Hotel. This pub is a seedy dive, obviously a haunt of the local alcoholics and screaming-child-infested moms, with not a trace of atmosphere to speak of. There's a pool table in the pub bar and the darkest, most depressing "lounge" you'll ever see. But our hand-pumped pints of John Smith Bitter (3.8% ABV, John Smith's Brewery of Tadcaster, North Yorkshire) were surprisingly enjoyable, nothing like the smooth-flow garbage I've grown used to down south. This drinkable beer helped to distract us from the extremely drunk woman in the jade green suit who was doing a voluminously sloppy dance accompanied by Tina Turner on the jukebox; when she staggeringly approached us in all her green splendor I sincerely hoped she wouldn't launch herself into our laps, upsetting our table and spilling our beers. What a tragedy that would have been...

Just over the county line we stopped at the Queens Head, a traditional pub in Epworth. The long room in the front was full of regulars drinking bitter and watching the rugby game on a small TV. Just around the corner in the next area a table of young men were playing cards and drinking bottles of...Bud? How shocking, sad, and tragic it was. But our tale wasn't tragic; it was here we had yet another taste of John Smith Bitter, another smooth wonderful pint with a beautiful smooth creamy head. This is a multiply drinkable beer, over and over again. Yes, I'm convinced that Yorkshire is beautiful beer country, beautiful -- in fact, it brings tears to my eyes. This was an exquisitely perfect pint for treating ourselves royally after a four-hour drive in a car full of teenagers.

These creamily abundant Yorkshire pint heads are produced by the sparklers on the hand pumps. Each brewery uses a slightly different type of sparkler, so you end up with varying degrees of smoothness and lushness. The pints we enjoyed at the Queens Head are not remotely similar to the pints of John Smith we get down south. Why can't we get sincere, sumptuous, satisfying beer like this down south? Why? Why do I feel like this is a pointless question? It's as if I'm asking why I'm not a short blonde man rather than a tall dark woman. It's as if I'm asking why sheep don't wear tuxedoes and ants don't perform vasectomies. Is there no answer to this question? Perhaps in a different life, in a different world...

After a Saturday night spent musing on the mysteries of life, the universe, and real ale, we drove to Bawtry on Sunday afternoon and stopped at the Station Hotel which was full of kids and dogs and noisy with games, the restaurant engaged in an extremely busy Sunday lunch. It was here I finally had my first northern taste of Tetley's (3.7% ABV, Joshua Tetley Brewery of Leeds, West Yorkshire). This pint of Tetley's, as I've been promised and as I was anticipating, was far superior to the pints I've had in the South, but sadly had a somewhat watery character. Still -- since I've developed a fear of southern Tetley's due to many metallic pints gone sour -- it was a relief to have an easily drinkable, if not exactly excellent, pint of the famous Yorkshire quaff.

Needless to say I can look forward to future trips to the Yorkshire area and more luxuriously perfect pints...

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(Last updated 8 February 2014)