Until about a year ago, the Sportsman was like many a pub on the fringes of a town centre. It showed its age. It was both unloving and unloved. It had become surplus to modern requirements. It's closure and boarding up became about as predictable as death and taxes. But then came resurrection. On the third day, or maybe it was the third month or even after 142nd day, it reopened as a smart new real ale emporium.
The Sportsman now seems to be owned by the same people who run the wonderful West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms. The building dates from 1930 and there is a 1930s feel about the place. There is a 1930s curve to the mirrors and a 1930s sweep to the bar. You would not be at all surprised to see Neville Chamberlain sat in the corner working on his declaration of war speech.
1930s feel it may have, but it has all the attributes of a twentieth century real ale pub. A chalk board lists the various beers on offer and their alcoholic strengths, framed collections of old beer mats adorn the walls, and there are enough beer pumps to lift a dray-horse. In many ways it has everything you could possibly want, but - to me - it seemed lacking in a little soul. Maybe it is the 1930s feel - I have always thought of the 30s as a bit of a soulless decade - or maybe it was that it was nearly empty when I called in. Probably it is the fault of the current economic climate : good pub, good beer, bad times.
I had a pint of something called Morris Men which comes from the Empire Brewery in nearby Slaithwaite. I couldn't find too much out about the beer, the tiny brewery has only just started brewing it. Weighing in at 4.3% ABV it is a medium tasting, medium strength, medium type of beer. I could have happily drunk the stuff all afternoon and probably not even noticed I was doing so. Maybe it was a little bit soulless too.