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On the trail of ale
GAVIN AITCHISON is under starter’s orders for York’s annual Ale Trail.
ON your marks, get set, go! One of the most popular beer events in York’s calendar is under way – and the race is on.
Last night, all being well, York Camra will have launched their fourth Ale Trail, the annual precursor to their Beer & Cider Festival on Knavesmire and perhaps the most enjoyable pub crawl in Yorkshire.
Veterans of this venture will know the ropes by now, but let’s recap briefly for any novices out there....
Basically, Camra produce an Ale Trail card listing 24 pubs from around their patch; each pub is provided with stickers bearing their picture; and drinkers are challenged to visit as many as possible by August 24, collecting a sticker if they order a pint or a half of real ale.
If you collect 12 stickers, you gain free entry to one session of the festival; 18 stickers earns you free entry plus two pints; and 24 stickers entitles you to two free entries, two pints, and a place in the prize draw to win lots more beer. Not that you will need that for some time, if you’ve visited 24 pubs and the festival.
This year, there are ten participating pubs in the city-centre, six in the suburbs and eight in outlying villages, each accessible by public transport – and it's a tantalising selection.
From a selfish point of view, I should be able to rack up half a dozen or so with minimal effort. The Rook and Gaskill, The Waggon and Horses, The Spread Eagle and The Red Lion are all a short stroll from Press HQ; Brigantes and York Tap are an easy walk from home; and The Pitchside Bar will also be easy once the football season starts. However, it is the village ones that may prove more enticing.
The trail includes The Mended Drum at Huby, a tempting bus ride away. This place was The Star Inn until Marc Allinson from The Artful Dodger in Micklegate took over last year, and promising reports have been wafting back down the A19 since.
Likewise, I’ve heard rave reviews about The Fenton Flyer at Church Fenton, while The New Inn at Cliffe, The Ash Tree at Barkston Ash and The Blacksmiths at Newton-on-Ouse will also be newbies for me.
You get the message - I'm quite a fan of this Ale Trail malarky. In fact, I think the original, back in 2009, was the basis for the first of these Pints Of View columns, when I wrote about a beer called Haymaker from Hook Norton, at The Waggon And Horses.
Andy Masheder, one of the organisers says the aim is to encourage drinkers to “visit pubs they may not usually frequent” and to publicise the festival.
Sadly, for me, that latter aim is somewhat irrelevant this year. Due to a complete aberration, I will be away in mid-September, meaning I miss all but the final few hours of this year’s festival, Ah well. The Trail will be fun nonetheless. And I hear Haymaker might just be back on the bar at The Waggon within the next few days, so I can enjoy one of those while plotting the rest of my route.
Ale Trail cards will be available at the participating pubs:
City centre: Rook & Gaskill, Waggon & Horses, Red Lion, House of the Trembling Madness, Habit, Guy Fawkes, York Tap, Spread Eagle, Brigantes, Three-Legged Mare.
Suburbs: Pitchside Bar, Volunteer Arms, Deramore, Fox & Roman, Junction, Walnut Tree.
Villages: Fenton Flyer (Church Fenton), Dawnay Arms (Shipton by Beningbrough), New Inn (Cliffe), Lord Collingwood (Poppleton), Ash Tree (Barkston Ash), Blacksmiths Arms (Newton on Ouse), St Vincent Arms (Sutton on Derwent), Mended Drum (Huby).