Regular readers will be painfully aware of my obsession with One Direction, and I’ll be honest, it’s not easy to shoehorn them into every area of my life. However, I am not a quitter, and when I realised I would making a trip to Hebden Bridge, and would be staying in Bradford, a series was born. I will attempt, in one calendar year, to visit the home towns of every member, past and present, of One Direction. For those of you who don’t know…
Bradford (Zayn Malik)
Doncaster (Louis Tomlinson)
Holmes Chapel (Harry Styles)
Mullingar, County Westmeath (Niall Horan)
Wolverhampton (Liam Payne)
So to Bradford – I had visited once before to see an exhibition on Ray Harryhausen at the Media Museum, but not a single pub was visited, it was in 2003, and I was delivered straight to the door via car so this didn’t help navigation.
When I arrived in the former ‘Wool Capital of the World’ I had been drinking free beer most of the day, it was dark, and it was raining. Also I didn’t know where anything was, and there had been a football match that day. Unwilling to play Pub Russian Roulette on this occasion I went to the hotel via McDonalds and fell asleep watching Louis on The X Factor, thereby saving myself from a potential ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ moment and making it more likely that my pub notes would be decipherable and not just scribbled beer mat missives like “Dmbar only caskk some bloke look lik Paul Daniels, juicebox playin steps oh my god”.
I decided to make a nice early start of it so headed out for Spoons breakfast at about 9 and immediately got lost looking for the city centre despite the fact that a) I had a map, and b) I was already in it. When I did eventually find the centre of the city I had been promised a wonderful Mirror Pool with fountains and all sorts, and I love a good fountain, but there was just a large expanse of concrete. I waited to see if the fountains would spring into life, but they did not. Someone actually started walking determinedly through the centre of the jets as if to mock me for having any hope.
The Turls Green (Wetherspoons) turns up some pretty ‘tasty’ news stories when googled, and I’m not talking Curry Wednesday. However I mused that most of the murderers and brigands would still be in bed at this time on a Sunday so in I went. There was a man with his hood up drinking a bottle of Budweiser on some kind of modern art outside the pub and he was looking at me funny, which is why this picture is a bit wonky. I’m dedicated to this blog but not so much I’ll risk getting murderised.
Not much to say about Spoons as I didn’t have a beer there. Though it did have this attractive 1950s style dressing thing in the toilets, along with some broken glass.
The Fighting Cock had been recommended by more than one person, so I began the trek out through what I like to call Car Wash and Tyre Centre Land. In this environment a welcoming, cask serving pub is the last thing you expect to see, but sure enough, there it was, standing proudly between a locksmith and a physiotherapy centre.
This is one of those pubs where the locals all fall silent, turn around, and stare at you as you enter. But I didn’t mind. One, I could have beaten up any one of them, and two, I would do that to someone walking into a backstreet pub in Yorkshire wearing a Harry Styles brooch and an ankle length leopard-print scarf. I made my way to the bar and my eyes settled on Boltmaker. I feel that Boltmaker is the slept-on Tim Taylor classic, at least amongst the Trendy Craft Beer Crowd. Landlord is the crowd-pleaser that everyone has heard of, but Boltmaker is the old school fan classic which makes your heart strings hum.
This pint of Boltmaker made the phrase ‘pinnacle of the brewer’s art’ seem pedestrian and moribund. This pint of Boltmaker needed Keats, Shelley, Shakespeare. In its bright radiance and collateral light was I comforted on that cold and drizzly Bradford noontime. It was like Gershwin’s two-and-a-half octave solo clarinet glissando, a rhapsody in beer. Timothy Taylor, brewer of brewers, look upon his works, ye mighty crafties and despair.
I could have drunk this pint of excellence in a leaky shed under an underpass and still felt like I was in the Ritz, but the Fighting Cock has even more going for it as a great example of a Proper Pub. I would have paid money to sit and listen to the regulars all day. “My grandson’s just started at Newcastle Medical School.” “Send him to me and I’ll tell him how I lost half me bowel”.
Alas, alas, I had to leave the Fighting Cock and head back up through the bleakness towards the City Centre.
On the way I stopped off in the Shopping Centre and saw a tiny glimpse of One Direction. As a 39 year old woman, this gives me some glimmer of hope although I am not skilled in the massage arts. Maybe I could give him a tutored tasting.
My next stop was the New Beehive, which was closed, so I took a picture of the front door, which was impressive, if not open, and took the advice of the local CAMRA mag, heading to North Parade.
Their season champ was the Peacock Bar, which is an Indian themed pub, and what a sight it was to behold. Unfortunately the pictures I took of the lovely interior disappeared from my phone somehow, but there are loads on their website. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember what I drank there because even though I am pretty sure I entered that information on untappd all activity from the weekend is blank, as if I was in rehab. Anyway, I recommend the Peacock because it was fancy and the owners were nice and it made me desperately want a curry. I was about to order one when I decided instead to get another couple of pubs under my belt. What a mistake that was….
I had been recommended the Sunbridge Wells, by someone who I will never speak to again. This is a network of subterranean bars and eateries, which should have been a warning. Like corpses and naked mole rats, if it’s underground, maybe that’s for a reason. I passed a skeleton on the way down, and almost immediately wished to switch places with him as I entered what might be my least favourite pub ever in the world. Waller’s Brewery.
There are multiple interpretations of what Hell might be. Some see it as a fiery pit of demons, others as an oppressive void. The more inventive might see it as a peculiar kind of torture, one where everything seems normal and even inviting, until the truth reveals itself – this is a place to suffer. Upon entering the brewery I wondered if I had died and had my thoughts read by some higher malevolent being who had proceeded to create a singular, personal Hell for me. “She likes brewpubs, rock music, atmosphere, great beer…Let’s see what we can do.”
Where to start. The decor is knowingly ‘wacky’, one my pet hates. Stools with bicycle pedals and the like. There is a brewery set up but for the life of me I could not see where the finished product was. It wasn’t on the pumps, and it wasn’t in the fridges. Where was it? I was alone in the place, or so it seemed. The cave-like interior, with its arches and corners and empty tables galore felt suddenly claustrophobic. For a second I lost the door and nearly had a panic attack. Nearly ten minutes I waited, staring into various windows of the brewing chambers looking for any sign of life. I was about to walk out. I was so close to avoiding this. But then she appeared. A barmaid. And so I had to stay. I ordered a pint of some Adnam’s thing. Why a pint? Why not a half which I could neck in 30 seconds and escape? God help me if I’m ever in a real life horror movie, I won’t make it past the first scene.
The beer was flat and on its way out. I sat there alone, the barmaid having disappeared again, and was subjected to the reedy, thin, anemic voice of a Scandinavian songstress backed by a fucking ukulele trying to sing Purple Rain on an album surely called I Ripped My Own Ears Off volume 1. I actually said out loud “Jesus Christ”. I should have just left the pint and got out of there but I had paid £4.20 for it and I was trying to salvage any positivity from this awful experience. Yes, the beer was poor, but it might at least increase my inebriation, therefore deadening the horror. I briefly wondered if I could drown myself in it.
Finally finishing my pint of brown water I escaped up the stairs and immediately realised the relief that release hostages feel. “After that ordeal,” I said to myself, “I need something reassuring and predictable. To Sam Smiths I go!”
The Shoulder of Mutton in Bradford welcomes you with a paper sign about their No Swearing Policy. Once inside I ventured to the bar, and asked for an Old Brewery Bitter, noting that there were two pumps serving it. Whether this was dispensing from the same cask or not I don’t know, but as I sat down and went to take my first sip under the watchful gaze of the fifteen middle aged men in the room I realised with horror that this was a Bad Pint. The sharp, acetic smell of it hit me right in the nose. Why I bothered tasting it I don’t know. As expected, it had gone.
Back to the bar I went to get something else, only to be told by the charming barman, who probably last smiled in the 90s at something Gazza did to someone’s testicles, that everyone had been drinking it all day and not complained. “Just taste it!” I said. “I don’t drink that. I’ll replace it, what do you want?” I settled on Sovereign and decided that if that too was off I’d have to take a run up and dive out of the window to escape the horrid place. “Can I have that one that you’re not drinking?” asked a randomer at the bar. “Be my guest,” said I “but it’s awful.” He took a grand swig. “Seems fine to me!”
I picked up my pint and went back to my table in bewilderment. The pint I had just returned wasn’t just on it’s way out, it was downright rancid, and yet this specimen gulped it down like it was that pint of Boltmaker I pined for. I drank the Sovereign. It was fine, it was good in fact. How someone could taste both this and the pint of swamp water I had just consumed and say they were both the same was beyond me.
Suddenly the bloke who had drunk the vomit inducing pint decided he was going to chat me up. Even if this man had been Zayn Malik, I still would have had reservations about the fact that he could not tell a decent pint from a reeking glass of reindeer piss. And this man was not Zayn Malik. I had to drink at double speed and tell him that unfortunately I had to leave Bradford immediately and so his kind dinner invitation was quite out of the question. If his palate was this unrefined then God knows where we would have been eating, the bins behind a kebab shop presumably. I left, and left the glass on the table as an expression of displeasure.
And so my trip to Bradford was a mixed bag of world beating Boltmaker and lovable pubs like the Peacock and the Fighting Cock, and awful rat’s piss pints in hellish dungeons. Bradford! A City of Contrast!