A guide to some of the licensed premises that contribute enormously to Britain’s renowned pub culture. Most of them have featured in some form in publications such as The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, written – and researched – by Alastair Gilmour
that followed takeover after takeover and a deep family rift in 1992 when one disillusioned Theakston upped and founded Black Sheep.
The Theakstons may have crossed swords for a few years but happily the extended North Yorkshire family now works amicably in tandem promoting Masham’s enviable position in brewing folklore – to wit, is there a small English town producing consistently better beer than this pair?
The White Bear’s two bars are upstanding with Theakston’s handpulls: Black Bull Bitter, Hogshead Bitter, Theakston XB, golden Lightfoot and Old Peculier, a strong, dark and complex beer with a dash of independent spirit – a “peculier” is a parish outside the jurisdiction of a diocese.
The original White Bear was flattened by a German bomber in 1941, en route from a raid on Belfast, and was rebuilt in the nearby Lightfoot Brewery cottages (Masham, as we see, is marinated in beer). There it minded its own business until closing in the late 1990s, lying sulkily unloved and rotting.
And, it seems years of neglect can be almost as destructive as a Luftwaffe Dornier. Only the bench seating in the public bar, a stained glass window shimmering with coopers hammering barrels, and a glass-encased polar bear were salvageable.
The bear was shot in Alaska in 1901 by John Cunliffe-Lister, Third Baron of Masham; its bust donated to the pub by the Earl of Swinton to celebrate the wartime rebuild – but it was only during refurbishment in 2000 that its true stature was acknowledged. An expert engaged to clean it announced it was “a Roland Ward, the Picasso of taxidermy” who practiced his craft in Harley Street.
Visitors are told that the bear is actually standing upright in a corridor behind the public bar (and some of us swallow it). This room is comfortably easy and as friendly a bar as you’d wish to sigh and relax in. The much-extended lounge bar and dining room next door fill quickly with a mix of day-tripping ramblers and locals who know where to find the best lunch in town – and a welcoming fire on a wet Dales afternoon.
Silverside of beef or Yorkshire ham sandwich? Let’s go for door-stopping Blue Wensleydale and beetroot (£4.95). Perfect. Specials include pheasant breast wrapped in Parma ham (£14.95) and wild boar burger (£10.50).
Had they met in the White Bear, Picasso and Old Peculier would have made natural companions – subtle yet intense; vibrant and simple. In other words, the bare necessities.
*The White Bear Hotel, Wellgarth, Masham, North Yorkshire HG4 4EN (01765 689319 www.thewhitebearhotel.co.uk)
+44 (0)7930 144 846
THE WHITE BEAR, MASHAM, NORTH YORKSHIRE
The steam billowing over the White Bear Hotel’s rooftop is sated with malted barley. It’s an aroma-rich appetiser promising flavourful beer to come, but there’s a catch.
We’re breathing deeply on Black Sheep ale from the brewery behind, while the pub is the “tap” for T&R Theakston whose own brewery lies a short walk away – and the two were once bitter rivals engaged in a civil war
IT'S ABOUT EVERY AGE GROUP
More than ever we need pub owners with the vision and determination to do something that will persuade people to venture out on a wet Tuesday when Holby City might seem the better option. We have plenty of them around the North East and the better ones are doing very well, thank you very much.
Entrepreneurial publican Dave Carr is one such chap.
Meet and Drink writer Alastair Gilmour regularly conducts beer events throughout the UK and internationally – tours and tastings that have included a platform suspended 30 metres above the River Tyne and a real ale festival in a Moscow nightclub – and was for several years on the judging panel of the Pilsner Urquell International Master Bartender programme. [READ MORE]
+44 (0)7930 144 846