With no less than three beer festivals taking place over the same May weekend, we couldn’t have chosen a better time to visit Halifax. While one of the festivals was taking place in the Square Chapel, the other two were held in pubs and they were ones we might not have visited had we not know about the events taking place.
We saw the poster advertising the Three Pigeons’s beer festival when we were in the tourist information office and we asked the assistant there to mark it on the map for us. She told us that this one was a lovely pub with wonderful art deco elements in the décor. She wasn’t the only person to tell us this; one man, who I’d have thought would have no interest in such things, told us much the same thing so we were expecting good things and we were not disappointed.
The Three Pigeons is on the edge of the town centre proper From the train station turn left, passing Eureka on your left, and the pub is on your left no more than five minutes walk away. There is some outside seating but it is all in front of the pub and the road passing by can get quite busy, though on the sunny Saturday evening when we visited, the traffic was starting to thin out.
The moment I walked into the pub I was transfixed by the fabulous fittings and art deco touches. This really is a sight to behold; I loved the sleek 1930s door handles, the stylish signs in typical art deco font naming each of the separate rooms that make up the pub (each with its own atmosphere) and especially the painting of the three pigeons on the ceiling in the hall. The Three Pigeons was originally a Timothy Taylor’s pub and there’s still a coloured glass frieze dating from those early days.
The pub was busy because of the beer festival but I got the impression that it’s usually very popular. We sat in the small bar which was crowded but not unpleasant and other drinkers happily moved along to make space for more people. Obviously there were more beers on tap because of the festival but outside of the festival there are always a good handful of beers from (mainly) microbreweries in Yorkshire and Lancashire. The staff were knowledgeable and efficient while the overall atmosphere is lively and friendly.
We made two visits to Dirty Dicks, the first of which was on the last night of their own mini beer festival. This pub is easily recognisable by its half-timbered exterior. The interior is quite old-fashioned with few frills and it reminded me of a 1940s pub. There are lots of tables so even on a busy night you should be able to get a seat (most people seemed to prefer to stand anyway). Apparently Dirty Dick’s is famed for its twice cooked chips and the list of prices for chips with various toppings is chalked up on a board in the main room.
The beer festival here also focussed on beers from small to medium producers from round the region but I was after something quite light in colour and took the barman’s recommendation of one of the pub’s own brews and quite pleasant it was too. The pub gets a mixed crowd and seemed like a good-natured friendly place to drink on a Saturday night and a Sunday lunch-time. It’s a very down to earth place and we certainly didn’t feel like outsiders the way you can in some pubs. When we approached the pub on Sunday lunch-time the manager was outside and greeted us like we were regulars. I had feared from the name that this would have been a gimmicky kind of pub but we actually really liked it.
Our favourite was Lewin’s Ale House. It’s situated up near the Victoria Theatre and although it looks small from the outside, it’s quite spacious once you get in. The staff are really helpful and chatty but the lovely Dolly, a gorgeous black and tan puppy who is very sociable.
This pub has a number of cask ales on tap and, like the other pubs, it favours local breweries. Food is available but was limited on the day we visited as the menu is being over-hauled. However, locally made pies are the main draw and although we didn’t have one, we were told they are very good.
This is a very relaxed, low key type of place; there are bands or DJs at weekends and it’s the sort of place where the punters know each other and the staff. We were made to feel really welcome with staff and customers alike asking us where we are from, what we were doing in Halifax and giving suggestions for where to eat and what we should see in the town.
There are several low level sofas, a comfy place to lounge – if Dolly doesn’t mind sharing her sofa, and beer enthusiasts will love the huge collection of beer mats stuck up round the fireplace.
Halifax is not short of pubs so you’ll have no trouble finding somewhere for a drink but the ones listed here are my top three for atmosphere and a good pint.