Bar Man, Jeff Hoyle, January 30, 2015

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January saw our annual trip up north to see the rain fall in Accrington.

Unlike last year when the football was called off with about 30 minutes’ notice, we did find out in time to divert to a pub near Stockport to have a meal with fellow Bury supporters.

As the rather comical YouTube video of the pitch inspection featuring a referee with an umbrella and water up to his ankles shows, it was probably the correct decision, so instead of torture on the terraces we had a pint or two of Hyde’s best bitter.

Not common on the guest beer lists in this part of the world, Hyde’s is a Manchester brewery which produces a range of excellent old-fashioned style beers, a pleasant change from the citrus aroma and enhanced bitterness of many of the more common new brews. Long established they may be, having been founded in 1863, but they are up to date with current trends.

Following the lead of old established breweries such as Charles Wells, Young’s and Everards they have abandoned their original premises and moved to a new site, in Hyde’s case away from Moss Side to Salford near Media City.

If you have ever visited an old fashioned tower brewery such as Elgood’s you may well be impressed by the beauty and tradition of the building but give a bit of thought to how difficult it would be to work there.

Up and down steep stairs, ducking your head under exposed pipework, and constantly cleaning the most awkward spaces it could be a health and safety nightmare. Add in the traffic problems in city areas, it makes sense to build a new brewery with stainless steel, computer controls and easy access on a greenfield site.

The big question is whether the beers can be replicated. Personally, I think some such as Young’s and Hyde’s have made the transition better than others, such as Ruddles or Moorlands.

From Accrington we headed north, slip-sliding in the snow over Hartside Top until we reached Northumberland. Those of you who attend the Osteoporosis Support Group (contact me for details) or quiz may remember Amelia, a research scientist from London who has been up to speak about her work.

She hails from the Kielder forest and we were invited up for her birthday party. We booked with a pub called the Holly Bush, but in accommodation half-a-mile away.

The pub had great beer (Acton Ales) and fine food, but the apartment was something else. The steep spiral staircase wound up a glass shaft to an enormous room, 16x6m, with a huge bay. A telescope and binoculars were provided with star charts to observe the heavens, and as this is in a designated ‘dark sky’ area it must be the best view in the country.

I say ‘must’ because we had gales, rain and cloud all weekend. The landlady said ‘dark skies’ had massively boosted the visitor numbers. I am converted.