Every year, York Beer Festival organises an ale trail - you get a leaflet from a participating pub then have about 6 weeks to visit the pubs on the leaflet earning a stamp at each when you purchase a real ale or cider. If you get enough stamps you get free entry; beer tokens; and entry to a prize draw!
I realised it was the right time of year when I was in the pub and spotted the leaflet - so it was time to start collecting. We had our next pint, and first stamp, at The Phoenix where we sat in the beer garden and heard some of the live music from inside.
A few days later there was an England world cup game on, so we decided to visit The Knavesmire where they had the match on the big screen. A great atmosphere and a few pints of Whitby's Jet Black which was very well kept and delicious.
Our old friends from Turning Point were taking over the Three Legged Mare - which is another old friend, my local pub from years ago. I spent many a Friday night here and I was well overdue a reunion. We ordered a couple of pints - I went for keg Urban Spaceman and J went for the cask Soothsayer. I was shocked that it came to £9.50 for two beers - they're nice beers but I felt that was a little steep, and was surprised not be warned by the bar staff. We sat in the beer garden joining some other friends and enjoyed our beers. We still stayed for a second round having the classic Lucid Dream and a Embargo, and for old times sake a packet of bacon fries.
Our second stamp of the night came from the Old Shambles Tavern. We were almost put off by the queue out the door of this seemingly small venue, but 2 minutes grace rewarded us with a couple of halves of beer - Rudgate Shambles Dark Ale, and rarely seen beer from Gene Pool brewery in Hull - and a seat outdoors facing the shambles market. We drank our beers while observing the York Ghost Walk which was starting up nearby.
After a detour via Brew York, we went to Valhalla for the first time. A nice building with well designed decoration - the stone walls, carved wooden tables, metal light fittings and stuffed crow create a good atmosphere - and the metal music was well suited. Some people were drinking mead from horns, but we settled for a half of the Yorkshire Heart Valhalla IPA which was okay. Not sure I'll be coming back.
In order to get some more loud music, we decided to get one final beer at the Artful Dodger - another pub I used to frequent and haven't been to for years. We were welcomed by more Turning Point and Brew York! We had Tonkoko and Bamboozle to earn our stamps.
We had a Saturday free so decided to cycle out to the pubs West of York.
First stop was the Spotted Ox where we had Ruby Mild and Landlord. We arrived shortly after the pub opened at noon so it was quiet. Ours were the first pints of the day and it was nice to see the Landlady pulling the overnight beer from the pipes before pouring our pints! The pub has a nice a decent sized beer garden outside and a large interior, we sat in the cricketers' corner.
Next was White Swan at Wighill. Two beer gardens, plenty of parking including charging points for Tesla cars which might indicate the expected clientele. There were lots of separate rooms which all looked very smart, and we were sat down for table service for food. We both had Sharp Atlantic which was OK but a bit sweet for me. There was a specials menu and good range of food - we went for sandwiches which came with big bread and good chips.
Final stop on the bike ride was the Three Hares. At the bar we were welcomed by very friendly locals and chatted to the landlady about the ale trail. This pub had Blonde from local Bilborough Top, and Stud from Hambleton brewery. We drank our beers in the large beer garden.
A nice evening after work and we popped out to the Winning Post on Bishopthorpe Road. I haven't been here since the new owners took over and it looks very smart - advertising gin nights and a tasty sounding menu. We had Mad Goose and Otter.
More post-work beer and we headed to the Blue Bell. Very welcoming in the small front bar, we had a Roosters CC-Rider and a Acorn Lemondrop IPA.
We went across the road to the Hop where I always look at the right-most cask pump which houses the dark beer of the day. Today it was Fernandes Pickled Pepper - an unusual beer but I quite liked it!
That's enough for free entry - now, can we get another three for some beer tokens too?