SALTAIRE was the enlightened model of industrial England.
Mill owner Sir Titus Salt owed his fortune to the hard graft of the working class.
He repaid them with comfortable homes, a school, a glorious church to address their spiritual needs and working conditions far better than many enjoyed in the dark satanic mills which were springing up across the north.
But, he denied them the pleasures of drink. No licensed premises were permitted in the village, but now there are several, the latest and most interesting being the tiny Cap and Collar.
It is a little detached from the main shops and restaurants of Victoria Road, but with the kind of dizzying array of real ales, craft ales and bottled beers which would put many of its larger rivals to shame.
Built as a shop unit a couple of years ago, it stood vacant until opening as a bar just before Christmas.
The design makes a virtue out of having no cellar, by displaying in glass-fronted refrigerated cabinets behind the bar the four casks currently being served, and the next four, racked up and ready.
Boxed real ciders are stacked at one end of the bar, close to a small display of locally-made pork pies.
Its name comes not from Salt’s flat-capped workers and white-collared managers but is a nod to owner Phil Garvey’s previous life as a property lawyer, when rental values would fluctuate between a high cap and a low collar.
He operates similar principles here. The price of a pint varies from day to day depending on the style and strength available.
The four real ale choices change almost daily, the cap is £3.50, the collar £2.90. Craft ale schooners are from £2.70 to £3.20.
I quickly make my acquaintance with dry, fruity, hoppy and refreshing Cragg Vale Bitter, though the rapid turnover here means this will almost certainly have finished by the time you read this.
Its replacement will be something equally interesting: “We always try to have a stout, we usually have something that’s less than 4 per cent ABV, and we usually have an amber beer too.”
Local brewers Bingley, Saltaire, Baildon, Little Valley and Old Spot are often represented.
His seems an unlikely career change, but Phil admits a lifelong passion for beer: “I wanted to create the first craft ale bar in Saltaire.
“I thought there was a gap in the market. It’s bringing something you might find in the city centre into the suburbs.”
It also has the makings of a new community focus, giving a home to groups such as the local knitting circle and book society.
A women’s group are enjoying a sociable evening of both business and pleasure during our visit; children are welcomed, dogs too.
The Cap and Collar reminds me very much of Further North in Chapel Allerton, though I think Phil could learn from how this even smaller shop unit manages to make still more of the space, creating with mismatched lampshades, a wooden floor and simple furniture the kind of warm, atmospheric alehouse feel that is slightly lacking here.
The banquette and miniature high tables for me just don’t work; it feels slightly uncomfortable perched there; the concrete floor and plain ceiling create a faintly soulless experience.
Phil is doing a great job here and with just some little touches, he could really make visiting the Cap and Collar closer to his own stated aim of being “like getting drunk in your best mate’s front room.”
Cap and Collar
Type: Craft ale micropub
Host: Phil Garvey
Opening hours: Closed Mon; 5-10pm Tue-Thur; 4-11pm Fri;, 1-11pm Sat; 1-6pm Sun.
Beers: Changing selection of real ales from £2.90-£3.50; craft beers from £2.70-£3.20 for a two-thirds pint schooner; traditional cider from £3.20-pint, plus around 60 different bottled ales. No lager.
Wines: Small choice from £3-glass and £15-bottle
Food: Locally-made pork pies, plus interesting selection of flavoured popcorns
Disabled: Straightforward access
Children: Welcomed, no special facilities
Beer garden: Flgged yard with smoking area to rear
Entertainment: Occasional special events, free wifi.
Parking: On-street areas nearby