Beer Blog

The Fox and Goose, Hebden Bridge

Fox & Goose-1

The Fox and Goose wasn’t the first community owned pub in the UK, that’s The Old Crown at Hesket Newmarket in Cumbria. It was however, the first one in West Yorkshire when 262 community shareholders came together and secured ownership of the pub in 2014, after the existing tenant suffered difficulties.

Those who are familiar with Hebden Bridge will understand exactly how the community ethos fits with the town and why the pub is thriving. If you don’t know, then you really need to go and explore deepest Calderdale to find out what this charming little mill town is all about.

If you’re going for a drink or two the best way to visit Happy Valley is via train with it’s excellent service from Leeds to Manchester, and vice versa. The USP being the walk from station to the Fox and Goose is the longest you’ll do all day and everywhere else is on the way back, unless you visit the Stubbing Wharf, and that’s not much further.

The only caveat is the busy ‘slant gate’ style junction outside the pub where you need to exercise a little care. Once you’re safely across it’s worth walking back away from the pub to view the logo on the gable end, proclaiming to those approaching from the west that the Fox and Goose is a Co-operative Pub. Personally, I prefer Community owned pub, the word Co-operative suggesting I should be going in and asking for two slices of boiled ham and a quarter of tea.

As you enter you notice the flagged floors, open hearth to the right and the small bar in front of you. There’s another room to the left of the bar and a smaller one to the right. If the weather’s fine there’s a lovely little garden upstairs which overlooks the valley. The photos have come from two separate visits so I can vouch for both the comfort of the fire and the sunny outlook of the garden.

I’ve heard, and read, that many perceive a certain perfume when visiting the pub? Take no heed, it’s an old building with it’s back rooted into the valley side and that faint whiff of damp and real fire is entirely natural for this type of place. I find it quite comforting and reminiscent of my grandparents house. In fact I find the entire place quite homely, clean and well fitted out, yet possessing something the interior decorator could never recreate.

The little touches, like fresh flowers on every table are nice, and the original art work (for sale) on the walls. If you wander down the corridor to the right you can read the shareholders notice board and discover a bit more about how the, one person one vote no matter how many shares, co-operative works. I don’t think I’ve been in a boozer before where people are ordering Battenberg cake at £1.50 a slice neither. The ‘World’s Best’ Pork Pies at £2 a throw are more suited to my taste.

To be fair, I’ve only ever visited at the weekend when it’s been nicely, but not too busy. There have always been groups of beer tourists and locals in, and on the latest occasion, a joint Leeds and Halifax & Calderdale CAMRA branches social event, the pub was quite full.

One factor setting it apart from some of the more livelier pubs in Hebden is the absence of any draught lager, that and the short walk out of the centre. I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my ‘none of that real ale shite’ mates drinking Pictish Brewers Gold when we visited at Christmas. And he thought it was excellent, which it was. It seems their de facto house beer is always on top form, hovering around and above NBSS 4, and at £3 a pint excellent value. You do get a full pint as well, all the pubs glasses are oversized*, lined at half and one pint measures.

Apart from the Pictish, they ring the changes with the other five beers with some progressive and locale brewers. A quick selection from two visits when I photographed the board included; Wilde Child, Eyes and Tickety Brew, Eagle Crag, Abbeydale, Torrside. On my recent visit I drank the Brewer’s Gold, Wilde Child Opaque Reality and Any Porter in a Storm by Thirst Class.

Ironically, we weren’t going to have a second drink, but the sunny skies clouded over and the wind started to whip round the valley. Within minutes there was an apocalyptical hail storm beating those from the beer garden back down into the pub. The cellar man had just put the appropriately named dark beer on, and it was ready to go. I might have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t for the whining yapping Spaniel letting down the assorted basket ball team of pooches; there’s always someone that spoils it. Hail storm or not love, you should have taken that dog outside and … tied it up. You really would have made a lot of people much happier.

For all the positive reasons above the Fox and Goose easily gets into my current favourite pubs list. I always reckon you shouldn’t rely on a single opinion though, so I asked Paul ‘furthest travelled (Stafford) CAMRA member on the day’ Mudge what he thought? He’s been in more pubs than I ever have, and probably ever will. It got the nod, and a, ‘Its very good’, and that folks will do for me.

 

* I put ‘oversized’ and actually that’s incorrect. The glass is the correct size to accommodate a full pint of beer, plus a head. It’s commendable, and although I’ve been in other pubs that have them, they are few and far between. I can remember when all pubs had lined and officially stamped pint glasses. Weights and Measures officials regularly visited and checked for short measures. Someone should start a campaign for all pubs to revert to this type of glass.

13 replies »

  1. Excellent article and lovely photos Richard. We thoroughly enjoyed your visit on Saturday and it was very gratifying to see such a large turnout from both branches. The odour referred to by Retiredmartin in his comment was a separate issue from the very slight smell of coal fires and damp. It was resolved about three years ago when the new stone floors were put in.

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  2. Lined glasses, as opposed to the (seemingly) unique British ripoff of brim measure, used to be the norm in pubs selling cask through electric pumps – I think the biggest user was Wolves & Dudley. At some point, probably in the 90s, there was a serious proposal floating around for legislation to require their use. I remember that Wetherspoon thought it likely enough to go through that they made a pre-emptive move of bringing in lined glasses across their estate – when the proposals failed they quickly disappeared. It has always been a mystery as to what happened to all those glasses. CAMRA beer festivals all seem to have gone over to lined glasses, and although I haven’t been to one recently I hope they still do. It is quite right that consumer-led pubs should have them.

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  3. All the CAMRA beer festivals I have been to recently have lined (1 pint, 1/2 and more frequently 1/3) glasses. I would love to see them brought in as mandatory in all premises. The consumer would get exactly what they pay for then, instead of a measure has to be less than a pint (unless the beer is pulled without a sparkler and no head to the brim of the glass. Sam Smith’s managers are under a performance management regime to achieve 5% surplus on their stock, which means short measure every time – it should be unlawful.

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  4. I was going to add a name to the post marked ‘anonymous’ but pressed the posting button at the wrong moment. Interesting to hear about Smiths – for years now Trading Standards have apparently accepted 95% of a pint as “full measure” so it’s not a big surprise that it became a target for the pubcos rather than the original intention of being something to allow a bit of tolerance in the system every now and then. This sort of thing isn’t new given that in the 80s I remember a manager in a Nicholson’s pub telling me (at a beer festival rather than in his pub) that they were expected to get 75 pints out of a firkin.

    Ian Worden

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  5. Ian,
    Oversized glasses with government approved metered pumps were actually UNlined.
    Yes, Wolverhampton and Dudley used such 24 ounce glasses in practically all of their pubs from about 1970 to about 2000 when they gave up on them as every other brewer and Pubco was getting away with serving 19 fluid ounces.
    Yes, Tim introduced 21 ounce glasses in all his venues but soon gave up as customers didn’t realise and thought they were getting short measure and his staff either couldn’t or didn’t have the time to explain otherwise.
    I noticed that the Fox and Goose uses 22 ounce glasses.
    Legislation compelling a full pint sounds like a nice idea but, apart from 5% more beer served meaning a 5% price increase, no brewer or Pubco would serve over measure and so metered dispense would replace handumps which are the symbol of real ale and in no time at all bright beer would replace cask conditioned, so be careful what you wish for !

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