Pub review: The Nook, Victoria Square, Holmfirth

The Nook
The Nook
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ITS Sunday name is the Rose and Crown, but this 250-year-old stone built alehouse, squeezed between an airless alleyway and the River Ribble, has been called the Nook for longer than most people can remember.

Its curious shape, an untidy knot of irregular rooms clustered around a tiny central bar, betrays its great age; the addition of a quality restaurant at one side and a brewhouse to the rear show it re-invented for the modern day.

With its live music nights, its real ale, its beer garden and its tourist-trap spot in the heart of the Summer Wine village the Nook offers something for everyone. Walkers, CAMRA members, those drawn to concerts at the lovely old Picturedrome opposite – even the coach parties searching for Compo, Clegg and Ivy’s Cafe – all have their place at the Nook.

It has its high days of course. During the town’s jazz festival, the Nook is in position-A, hosting gigs and serving locally-brewed ale to allcomers. The addition of a film festival to the local calendar has given the Nook further opportunity to get in on the act. It starts next week, runs for eight nights, and among other things includes a documentary about the great Michael Jackson – that’s the late Yorkshire beer writer, not the late song and dance man. Will Self is coming, apparently.

But a pub like this stands or falls by the quality of its beer, and the decision to add a brewery to the business four years ago is now paying real dividends.

We tried several of its products: the crisp and citric Baby Blonde, the sessionable Yorks and – best of all – the richer, dryer and more bitter Rescue Red, startling of colour and with genuine substance.

Surprisingly, there was similar depth of flavour to the lager too, for the Nook is one of a handful across the country who stock Budvar’s Yeast Beer. This niche lager – until recently sold at just a select few dozen outlets across the Czech Republic – undergoes precisely the same brewing, filtration and long storage process as standard Budvar Original. Only as it is decanted into keg is it blended with a newer, unpasteurised wort, which contains living yeast and kickstarts a secondary fermentation process in the keg, creating a beer which is dryer, slightly more bitter and a notch more full-flavoured, with suggestions of clove, orange and banana.

And in a pub which prides itself on beer produced literally in its own back yard, it’s selling surprisingly well. “We get people who ask for Stella,” says bar manager Gary Littlewood. “Obviously we encourage them to try our own beer, but if they really want a lager then we point them towards the Budvar Yeast. I think they get a surprise.”

Siblings Ian Roberts and Sheila Sutton took the reigns here in 2000 following the untimely death of their father, David Roberts, landlord here for almost 30 years. They have continued his work, maintaining the pub’s proud place in the Good Beer Guide, while expanding the business through beer festivals, a waterside beer garden the opening of the Carniceria restaurant next door, and now the brewhouse too.

Though their beers are mostly confined to pubs in Holmfirth, they do occasionally make their way further afield. The Duck and Drake was the first Leeds pub to put some on the bar.“We deal with like-minded brewers and do swaps,” explains Gary.

“There are lots of restaurants in Holmfirth, so we really concentrate on the beer, though we do serve some simple food.”

But we were happy to try the pub grub and our party of four had positive things to say about three of the staples. Two of us had the sturdy meat and potato pies, one a sizeable sausage and mash, and one a moist slab of fish and a mound of chips.

Which was all top notch value at £6.50 each, though for more up-market dining, you can head next door where you’ll find Nook ales are on sale too.


Opening times: 11.30am-midnight Mon-Sat, noon-midnight Sun

Beers: Nook Yorks Bitter and Baby Blonde (£2.60), changing selection of other real ales (£2.70-£2.80), Carlsberg (£3.10), Staropramen (£3.40), San Miguel (£3.40), Budvar Original and Budvar Yeast Beer (£3.40), Pure North Cider (£3.10), Dry Blackthorn (£3.30), Guinness (£3.50)

Wine: Small selection

Food: Pub menu 1-9pm Mon-Thurs, noon-9pm Fri-Sat, noon-6pm Sun; Carniceria restaurant next door

Children: Welcomed.

Disabled: Slightly tricky access, no special facilities

Entertainment: Regular programme of live music, juke box, pool table

Beer Garden: Cobbled area to front, covered riverside area to rear

Parking: Pay and display area nearby

Telephone: 01484 681568


Beer of the Week

Dark Star Belgian IPA

India Pale Ale is now so broad a church that beers of many styles and strengths are now badged as IPA.

At 7.2% ABV, Dark Star’s potently-strong version is from the richer, fuller, deeper end of the spectrum, with an enticingly whiskyish, almost leathery aroma. A generous dose of hops creates a taste packed with full-on fruity bitterness.

This brown ale – for it isn’t pale in the traditional meaning of the word – owes as much to the influence of Belgium as it does to Burton-on-Trent, once the spiritual home of IPA.

Yet it comes from neither. Dark Star are based at Horsham in Sussex, and have styled this beer as their tribute to the great Achouffe brewery in Belgium.

Achouffe in turn brew a McChouffe – their take on the ‘Scotch’ style of brewing, which has been popular in Belgium since locals were first exposed to the style by Scottish soldiers in the First World War.