The Otley Tap House probably falls into the category of a micro pub, in so far as it hasn’t always been a pub. It was a shop until it opened in it’s present guise, two days before the Tour de France came through Otley, which was Saturday 5th July 2014. I know that because I was there and what a cracking day it was for Otley, Yorkshire and British cycling in general.
I called in one sunny Thursday afternoon, shortly after one o’clock. There were only two older gents in, sat at the bar in conversation with the very nice bar man. It wasn’t dull though, because it’s that sort of place where within two minutes you get absorbed into the conversation, whether you like it or not. One of the blokes was keen not to be photographed as he was meant to be out walking the dog over Pool bridge, which is about three miles away, the bonny Spaniel seemed happy enough though, laid on the cool flagged floors.
If I’m honest, it’s a bit bigger than your standard micro pub and there’s plenty of room to spread out or even sit away from the bar. There’s some tables out front on Boroughgate as well as a beer garden at the rear. Inside there’s wooden wainscoting in ‘that shade’ of green paint that is so currently in vogue, along with a trendy, random assortment of tables, benches and bentwood chairs. To be fair, they’ve pulled it off and it all works nicely. There’s some nice touches with posies and other interesting table pieces and ephemera dotted around too.
I was impressed with the community feel, not just with the friendly folk, which is a prominent feature of Otley anyway, but also with the many events on offer. I was pleased they had a reggae band on and anywhere frequented by Scooterists will do for me.
Although there is a half decent bottle selection, including out and out crafty stuff, the focus is on real cask ales. Now when I say real cask ales you need to think of the CAMRA faithful, rather than hipsters and you won’t be far off the mark. Sadly, wherever I go that has a tap list on the wall it seems to be a recurring theme in my life that I much prefer what’s coming next rather than what’s on the bar now!
This was definitely the case on this occasion. Two from Marston’s, two from Black Sheep plus Saltaire Blonde. Now, if I were independent, and it is, I wouldn’t be having anything on from The Marston’s stable or from Black Sheep. I would be having all those on the ‘almost ready’ list though! Perhaps other people think the same and that’s why the Marston’s and Black Sheep gear were hanging about on the bar? I didn’t have Saltaire Blonde on the grounds that it is a decent ale I’ve supped before and in the interests of beery research I was going to try something I’d never had.
Believe it or not, I tried the Black Sheep Cascade Pale, a small batch special. The quality of the beer was very good. I’d score it 3.5 on NBSS. Regarding my personal thoughts on the very pale beer, I wasn’t so sure. If you’re going to do a single hop brew then for pity’s sake make sure it’s bang full of hops, this wasn’t. This conservative approach just seems to be a feature of many traditional brewers, almost a case of trying to jump on the band wagon then falling off before it gets going. Going back to the Tour de France, I remember a similar Black Sheep ale called Velo and suspect this beer may simply be a Velo variant or even the same thing by another name? Don’t tell me you don’t do this sort of thing brewers, because I know you do.
As well as the five cask ales there were three lagers, including Warsteiner and Brooklyn, some quality Gins and prices were reasonable, particularly the house wines by the bottle.
Now the toilets were quite quaint as there was a single urinal bowl and an unpartitioned toilet bowl in the same room . Although they easily passed my test with flying colours, this got me thinking about the point where a micro pub becomes a pub, because The Otley Tap House was clearly large enough to enter into the small pub category? However, after consideration, it became apparent to me that one of the factors differentiating this is the existence of substantial and gender specific toilet facilities i.e. Gents with at least one trap and a couple of urinal bowls and Ladies with at least two closets. I therefore concluded it was by sole virtue of the toilet department that The Otley Tap House remains in the category of micro pub. A very good micro pub.
As a small market town, Otley is renowned for it’s number of pubs, quite a few of which are only fair to middlin’. The Otley Tap House is however, one that is definitely worth visiting.