Pub review: The Old Cock, Otley

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NINE real ale handpulls dominate the long bar which is dead ahead as you cross the threshold of the Old Cock.

For many years, Otley has been well served by its enviable variety of pubs, but the explosion in the popularity of real ale and the emergence of exciting ale bars and micro-breweries has taken that to fresh heights.

The Old Cock is very much a part of that trend but you would never guess. If you were wandering around the town centre searching for a long-established alehouse, you could easily settle on this sturdy stone-fronted place.

It’s an illusion. The Old Cock was born less than a decade ago over a drink at Otley Beer Festival, and came out of a desire to give the town the same kind of independent real ale freehouse that Fanny’s brings to Saltaire and Blind Jack’s to Knaresborough.

Owner Lee Pullan then spent two years lovingly restoring the building back to its original beauty, including exposing original features such as the fireplaces, stone flag floors, and mullioned windows, while also transforming the building into a working pub.

So, while it opened for business as recently as September 2010 it looks a good deal older.

Stepping inside through the low doorway into a room of rough-hewn oak beams, lintels and ancient stone fireplaces you get a real sense of the fact that this has been here for centuries. Etched mirrors and enamelled signs from ages past, advertising Tetley’s Magnet Ales and Timothy Taylor Landlord, lend to the old alehouse feel

A stone directly above the front door bears the date 1755, but the choice at the bar is absolutely 21st century.

The range changes regularly but on my visit last week, the line-up on the bar beautifully echoed this seamless blend of the old and the new.

Perennial Yorkshire favourites Theakston’s Best and Timothy Taylor Landlord were competing for drinkers’ attention against some well-established newer beers – Ilkley’s Mary-Jane and Rooster’s Baby Faced Assassin – as well as choices from micros like Briscoe’s and Tom Wood’s. Around 25 different ales feature in any given week – and the website lists a whole host of ales coming soon.

There are some real crackers in there too, such as Thornbridge Jaipur from Derbyshire and the Brew 12 Chocolate Orange Mild from Rudgate Brewery at Tockwith. The website also lists the 1,927 beers which have been available on draught since it opened, which suggests that someone here likes lists almost as much as they like beer.

I’m drawn to Boggart Brewery’s Ginger Beer: “I’m not sure how much ginger there is in it,” the barman admits. Me neither. It’s a curious dark golden ale with a faintly vinegary aroma which would be off-putting if you came across it in a pub with less stellar a reputation.

The knowledge that Leeds CAMRA named this their pub of the year for three years running was enough to persuade me that all the beer here is kept well, and so it was probably supposed to taste like this, so I pressed on.

There was some sweetness and fruitiness on the palate and though I found some endearing dryness to the aftertaste, there seemed to be very little actual ginger to speak of.

So for my second pint I opted for the more familiar, refreshing and zesty Mary-Jane, which really hit the spot.

And if the choice on the bar isn’t sufficient to whet your appetite, menus on each table show off the Old Cock’s wonderful range of bottled beers, whiskies and wines.

THE OLD COCK

Type: A traditional alehouse for the 21st century

Host: Lee Pullan

Opening times: 11am-11pm daily

Beers: Changing choice of draught ales from £2.80-pint plus Staropramen (£3.70), Kaltenberg (£3.40), Hoegaarden (£4.20) and Guinness (£3.60). Great choice of bottled beers from £3.40

Wine: Decent selection from £2.45-glass and £11.20-bottle

Food: Sausage sandwiches (£2.60) plus cold sandwiches and locally-made pork pies

Entertainment: None – but occasional beer festivals

Children: Not suitable

Beer Garden: None

Parking: Town centre car parks nearby

Telephone: 01943 464424

Website: theoldcockotley.co.uk

Twitter: @TheOldCockOtley

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