The month of May finally brought some relief to our beleaguered pubs across much of Britain, the proviso being table service only. Most people don’t seem too bothered about this. It is, after all, common practice across Europe, and they are just pleased to be inside a pub again.
And as privations go it’s hardly akin to rationing, but table service can have disadvantages. Sometimes you can’t see what beers are on and sometimes the staff don’t know. In a couple of pubs I have been told, after pressing the point, that “it’s Blonde”. On one of these occasions I saw the unbadged handpump but no one knew who had brewed it. And there is a reduced likelihood of those random conversations that you get in pubs.
Relief too then, for dedicated pub tickers whose activities have been severely curtailed. My own return to action was more steady than spectacular, notching 39 new Good Beer Guide ticks plus eight others in May. You can’t be too careful after a long lay-off, overdoing it can damage the ligaments in your drinking arm.
Those numbers exclude revisits, the highlights of which were returns to Huddersfield’s King’s Head and Sportsman. The latter is a former Bass house that keeps the old sign – depicting the local rugby league strip – in the covered outdoor area.
The King’s Head is one of two pubs on Huddersfield station. You could have a magnificent night out here without leaving the station as the other pub is a Head of Steam. The King’s Head also has Conor, who served up some super fresh pints of Chinook from Goose Eye brewery and was everything you would want a good barman to be.
Flat top of the month was the Flatt Top at Thornhill Edge. A strong trading cash-only boozer sitting on the edge of a spectacular drop to the valley below that could be enjoyed from the outside seating.
May also saw a visit to the superb Bird in Hand in Cheadle from which there had been no recent social media posts, causing a nagging concern it may not have reopened. On arrival it appeared dark and you would have to say the signage is unobtrusive.
But, joy, a side door leads you into the inner sanctum where Dave and Lyn run a proper local pub, opening from 4 on a Friday. Dave is from Cornwall and has succeeded in converting the locals to the extent of having three regular ciders and a perry but cask beer fans are also well catered for. My Burton Bridge Damson Porter slipped down a treat.
They even recommended another pub in town, so a quick half at the Baker’s Arms followed. It’s a lovely wood-panelled town centre pub with four cask beers on at the moment, including a tasty, fresh Citra.
A final highlight of the month was the immaculate Three Horseshoes in Clay Cross, an old Derbyshire mining town that has also embraced European ways.
Table service and hygge. We’ll be rejoining the EU next.