Beer Blog

Why I Never Should Have Returned to The Gaping Goose, Garforth

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I’ve been threatening to do my ‘all time top ten drinking places’ list for a while. I think I mentioned somewhere that if I ever did there would be a rider against each venue saying something like: current, early eighties, or between 1985 and 1990. There has to be because everything changes with time, particularly pubs, something that builds on the discussions I had with Katie Etheridge and Simon Persighetti last week.

One of my favourites has to be The Gaping Goose at Garforth (circa 1985 to 1991). I put these dates, because that’s when I lived in Garforth and used the pub regularly. Although the eminence of The Goose extends well beyond these dates, and the pub is legendary in Leeds drinking circles because of the long time claim that it served one of the best pints of Tetley Bitter in Leeds.

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There’s plenty other pubs who laid claim to have sold the best Tetley’s in Leeds. In fact depending on who you talk to, everyone will have their own idea, but that’s life for you. If you’ve never experienced Joshua Tetley’s Bitter, the real mccoy, then you’ve never lived. A smooth, creamy pint of beer that created a plimsoll type gauge down the glass denoting the length of each slurp. The creaminess was created by the autovac system that recirculated the beer back into the beer engine as it overflowed from the glass into the trough like drip tray. I’ve read a lot about people’s thoughts on autovacs, mostly from the kind of folk with that modern OCD based, you’ve just touched someone wash your hands, wash them again, turn round three times to the left, jump to the right and you won’t catch any germs kind of attitude; recycled beer never did me any harm.

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Anyway, the version I knew of, reputedly, the oldest surviving pub in Garforth. was probably a post war reincarnation, with it’s faux marble floors in the passageways. There’s three rooms altogether, the main bar area, a best room and a small games room, I think there was a dart board in there? A lot of Loiners will know it because it was the first pub on Selby Road beyond the old Leeds City boundary when they closed at 10.30pm and Garforth didn’t close until eleven.

So when did the époque of the Goose end? If truth beknown, it was probably past it’s heyday when I used to go in. Even in the mid eighties people were starting to say that Tetley’s wasn’t what it used to be, and there were rumours that the brewery had lost the original yeast strain and were trying to recreate it from their yeast library. Whether any of this was true it matters not, because in 2010 only the name remained and what now passes for Tetley Bitter is brewed in Marston’s beer factory in Wolverhampton.

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As I walked in through the front door, things just didn’t feel right. Heart FM droning out from one flat screen TV and Gaping Goose Pub TV channel on the other. At first I thought the Pub TV was intrusive, telling me all sorts of things I didn’t really want to know …

House Specials; Double Vodka £2.75

Was this feature present in some wild futuristic vision of the pub or is it a twisted dystopian view from some Pubco trying to indoctrinate me into their cult. I started to disbelieve my eyes which flitted from the screen to the bar and from the bar to the screen, whose Serving Now section was totally out of sync with the real ales on the bar …

Free Wi-Fi

There’s been a makeover since I last went in, a serious makeover, circa late nineties, early noughties. It’s not unpleasant, in fact it’s very tidy, clean and well kept, it’s just not what I remembered. There’s none of that red pub upholstery left and there’s carpet everywhere. There’s a door that wasn’t there, or maybe it was and I never noticed it, there definitely wasn’t any decking jutting out at the side of the pub neither …

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Sadly, the Bell Pushes above the banquette seating have gone. If you don’t know why they had Bell Pushes, ask your Grandad. The elegant glass in the door windows is still there, and the pseudo art deco design gives a flavour of what the pub was once like throughout …

Pork Pies £1.30

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The gents seemed to be very much the same. I’m never sure why they spend money on a makeover and neglect to rip out the toilets. As I looked round, I remembered a particularly serious work related conversation that took place in there one night, word for word, even after thirty years …

We Support Globe – a not for profit charity

I’m not going to knock the pub. It’s quite a good pub still, just different from what I remember. It’s nicely busy for 1600hrs, Saturday, mostly people sat outside on the decking. Plenty drinking the six real ales as well, a range weighted heavily towards the Marston’s portfolio, but decent quality all the same and £3 for two well pulled halves from the friendly, mature bar staff. Proper decent clientele too, I wouldn’t expect anything else in Garforth …

Bottle of Wine £12

Back in the day, the pub had been in the same family for a long while, it was a Lady of indeterminable age who was the landlady in my time. You didn’t see her very often and she never served on. In the evenings the only trace of her presence was a light fitting in the ceiling behind the bar that flashed on and off from time to time; the signal for a fresh G & T to be taken upstairs for her, promptly by the cellar man cum manager, who was also rumoured to be ‘seeing to her’ in other ways. I wasn’t really interested myself, so long as the beer was good, and it was, always …

Birra Moretti

Looking back, most of my visits were in half blues after a two while ten shift. You could get to the Goose by 2215hrs, throw three pints down your neck, get home and be back on parade at 0545hrs the next day. Brothers from other eastern Leeds area shovels would also pile in as Garforth was a popular dormitory suburb. This ‘quick changeover’ session being the most frequent reason for my visits. Precious days (and nights) off were reserved for more exotic locations with wives and girlfriends, although we still used to drink in Garforth on the one Saturday night off per month …

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I didn’t think the bowl of sliced onions in vinegar would have been there still. You’ll have seen the sort of vessel I mean, a great big cut glass bowl thing like your Gran’ made her huge trifle in when everyone went round for Sunday tea. Obviously, with the onions gone there was no need for the plate of beef teacakes sat on the bar, all individually wrapped in clingfilm, and people turn their noses up at autovacs …

Old Mout Cider

The Radio started to get on my nerves, but the trivia quiz on Channel Gaping Goose TV had become addictive …

Who invented the Jet Engine?

They say you should never go back. I said that when I lately returned to the Arnolfini Refectory, Bristol, which features in my top ten (circa 1984). I didn’t think I would be upset when I returned to the Goose, looking at my photos then maybe I was, they’re all out of sorts, nothing rhymes. I couldn’t even get a decent shot of the frontispiece; was it the stupid trees, the limitations of a fixed lens, or me …

The Next Bus Times From Outside This Pub are …

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