Otley is a small historic market town, north of Leeds. There are 17 pubs in and around the local area.The majority of these are your typical Yorkshire watering hole serving quality cask ales, however there are the odd few where you can sample a wider range of beers aimed at the craft connoisseur.
On our visit we decided to go to two of our favourites, both a stones throw away from the bus station. We feel that these two pubs represent the best of Otley – one being a traditional real ale pub and the other geared towards serving a wide variety of ever changing world beers.
The Old Cock was opened in 2010 by Lee and Linda, who spent two years restoring the original building. The pub itself has retained many of its original cottage features, with exposed stone walls, wooden beams and large stone fires. The pub is quite small, but they have made use of every corner with seating upstairs and ledges to rest your pint on. You can find a wide range of clientèle in here, both young and old, ranging from dog walkers, ramblers, couples, and individuals grabbing a quiet pint and a paper.
The pub has 9 cask ales, 3 ciders, specialist bottled beers, fine wines and an impressive malt whiskey list. My first beer was Mad Dogs & Englishmen from Irwell Work, this was an export style pale ale at 5.5%. Leanne went for a Hop & Glory from Briscoes, this was a hoppy session beer coming in at 3.9%. Although it was a Sunday afternoon and fairly busy we managed to find a table and decided to stay for another. This time I chose Scotts 1816 from Copper Dragon, this was a full bodied malty pale at 4.1% and went down well. After much debate Leanne plumped for Cherry Picker from Wharfe Bank Brewery, 5%. This was a cherry flavoured stout, but tasted more like a sweet chocolate stout with very mild cherry tones.
For those of you who like a snack with your beer The Old Cock offers crisps, nuts, pies, sandwiches and ‘traditional Yorkshire hot dogs’ – i.e. a succulent butchers sausage in a bun.
Our next port of call was The Curious Hop which opened at the end of 2013 by passionate beer enthusiast, Marcus. This is a speciality beer shop selling a large selection of real ale, craft beers and ciders. It is a must visit whenever we go to Otley. The shop is like a treasure trove of weird and wonderful bottled delights and if you love beer, this place will make you as excited as a kid in a sweet shop. The beers are shelved by region with good selections from Belgium, London, USA, Yorkshire, Italy and Holland. Marcus always looks to bring in new beers from new places and new breweries. Recommendations and suggestions are always welcome, he is more than happy to help and advise if you are struggling to make a choice!
As an example of what is on offer, here is what we went for:-
Calypso Berliner Weisse – Siren Craft Brew
Wallbanger Wit – Pressure Drop
IJ Wit – Brouwerij ‘t IJ
Beautiful & Strange – De Molen & Brewfist (collaboration)
Wyoming Sheep Ranch – Buxton
Bloed, Zweet & Tranen – De Molen
Blonde Ale (Galaxy) – Ben Rhydding
Pale Ale (Citra Simcoe) – Kernel
After pulling ourselves away from the shop we headed round the corner to one of Otley’s newest bars (actually it has just celebrated its first birthday).
Brought to you by North Bar, North Bar Social has a relaxed bier cafe vibe about it. The atmosphere is friendly and unpretentious and the decor is cosy and inviting. It has seating upstairs and downstairs, along with outside tables for when the sun comes out. Bike locks are available for the many cyclists coming through Otley to park their bike while they drink. As well as alcoholic drinks they offer a good amount of non alcoholic beverages, including freshly brewed coffee and teas. There is always a delicious looking homemade cake on the bar.
Also on the bar is a great selection of cask and keg, along with a good rotation of bottled beers. There is a suggestion board for any beers or breweries you would like to see on the bar in the future. My first choice was 3712, a collaboration brew between Founders and Abbeydale. The name comes from the distance between Founders in the US and Abbeydale in the UK. This is a double IPA coming in at a modest 7% (!!). It didn’t taste as strong as you may expect, but it was packed with the fruity hoppy flavours synonymous with IPAs. Leanne’s first choice was Simcoe from Great Heck (4.5%). A cask ale with as much flavour as the 3712 but without the high percentage. A great drink for a warm day – we both had more of this later in the afternoon as it was so enjoyable. We both always enjoy beers from Great Heck so decided to go with Treasure IPA, 4.8%. A blonde ale, again on cask, this still tasted great but with a more modest flavour compared to the Simcoe. Both Leanne and I then fancied a ‘Schneider Weisse Break’. We had a Tap 1 (5.2%) for those times where you just want a really good, thirst quenching, refreshing beer. This always hits the mark with juicy bursts of banana and clove. Our final beer was NZPA from Hawkshead Brewery (6%). This was on keg and a perfect drink for the warm afternoon. The hoppy flavours were less ‘in your face’ than they are in the American Pales but this made it much more refreshing and easy to drink.
We also got a bite to eat here – a meat board to share. We had cured meat, bread, gherkin, pickled onions, along with an onion chutney. They usually advertise meat and cheese platters, but unfortunately on this occasion they were out of cheese. We enjoyed the meat board regardless.
We paid our tab and headed round the corner to get the bus home with our bag of beer goodies in tow. It wont be long before we are back again and we would recommend you pay a visit too.
Simon’s beer of the day – 3712 (Founders/Abbeydale) keg
Leanne’s beer of the day – Simcoe (Great Heck) cask