Friday 29th March 2013
When I first checked out this potential visit I got the impression that The Riverhead Tap was an old established pub that had just changed its name when it acquired a brewery in its cellar. Not so, it opened in 1995 and was a former Co-operative Society Shop. It certainly looks like an old pub, though!
Its history dramatically changed in December 2006 when it was acquired by Ossett Brewery. Maybe, it would be right to provide a brief history of the Ossett Brewery at this point.
It was founded in 1997, two years after the Riverhead Brewery, in a brew house at the rear of the Brewer's Pride pub in Ossett, West Yorkshire. At that time all of the beer was sold through the pub. It was founded by Bob Lawson, a career brewer who had been with Tetley's in Leeds for the previous 25 years.
Their beers were soon in demand from other pubs and capacity was extended at the brewery. In 2002 Bob's son, Jamie, a former investment banker, joined the company and he was the catalyst for their amazing growth. He started a trail of pub acquisitions through West Yorkshire that continues to 2013, and hopefully beyond. There are at least 16 in the chain.
As said earlier the brewery was in the back yard of a pub and this had to change. A new brewery was built almost adjacent to the original and produced its first beers in April 2005.
So it came that their interests turned towards the Riverhead Tap. However, after taking it over, their interest in the brewery was benign, as it is still with us now.
They did spend some money on the pub though. The upstairs function room was turned into a restaurant and, with its excellent views over the weir in the centre of the village, it has become a bit of a destination in itself.
It was nice to enter the pub on a very cold day after negotiating my way down the steep hill from the station, trying to avoid the patches of ice and frozen snow. It had opened at 12.00 and it was now 12.15 and was nearly full. I found myself a space at the bar. The main room is of a medium size with large windows through which the sun streamed through creating a much warmer atmosphere inside the pub than out. At the back of the room is a glass panel through which you can see the top of brewing vessel, possibly the copper; the rest of the brewery was hidden out of sight in the basement.
As promised, the beer selection was superb. From the home side there were five offerings: Riverhead Sparth Mild (3.6%); Butterley Bitter (3.8%), White Cloud (4.5%), March Haigh (4.6%) and Redbrook Premium (5.5%). Products from the owners were Ossett Blonde (3.9%); Admiral (4.8%); Excelsior (5.2%) and the Blonde was replaced by Gold (3.8%). Guest beers comprised of Grafter's (Willingham by Stow, Lincs) Darker Side of the Moon (4.2%) and Crouch Vale (South Woodham Ferrers, Essex) Amarillo (5.0%).
This pub is well worth a visit and the town itself is interesting, being a base for walkers and more severe hill climbing. It is located at the confluence of the River Colne and Wessenden Brook, both fast moving water courses. The meeting of the two occurs near the pub and there is weir. Marsden is also the point where both the railway line and the canal enter very long tunnels through the Pennines to what is now Greater Manchester. There is a canal museum that celebrates the construction and use of the Standedge Tunnel.
Riverhead Brewery Tap and Dining Room, 2 Peel Street, Marsden, West Yorkshire HD7 6BR
Tel: 01484 841270
Open: Pub is open daily 12.00-24.00
Restaurant: Monday to Thursday 12.00-14.00 / 17.00-21.00: Friday 12.00-21.00;
Saturday 12.00-22.00; Sunday 12.00-20.00
There is an hourly train service operated by Northern Rail between Manchester Victoria, Stalybridge and Huddersfield calling at Marsden. It is only about five minutes walk to the pub but allow longer back to the station as it is uphill.
There are three bus routes to Marsden to and from Huddersfield, 183, 184 and 185. Of these 184 is a through service to and from Manchester via Greenfield and Oldham. Route 185 actually passes the pub, yet the others are just a few minutes away.