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Branch chair Colleen presents the Pub of the Season Winter 2018/9 plaque to the staff at the Wuthering Heights, Stanbury, February 2019

Branch chair Colleen presents the Pub of the Season Winter 2018/9 plaque to Nicci and Darren at the Wuthering Heights, Stanbury, February 2019

The Brown Cow, Keighley

Up to 2003 the Brown Cow was an unremarkable Keighley street corner local which had not merited inclusion in the Good Beer Guide, or any other recognition, since 1990. Enter Barry and Carol as tenants on their first venture into the licensed trade after Barry‘s employment as a Timothy Taylor‘s drayman and a previous career in the Army in the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards. Their vision of what a good pub should look and feel like resulted in the early implementation of a no bad language policy, the message being clearly proclaimed on the front door, and then, in 2004, in a local CAMRA Improved Pub award. The Brown Cow was also voted as serving the best mild on that year‘s Mild Trail. It reappeared in the Good Beer Guide in 2005 and has remained there ever since.

Following the death of Carol‘s father from a smoking-related illness, she and Barry seized the initiative as regards the provision of a smoke-free drinking environment and made the Brown Cow Keighley‘s first no-smoking pub almost a year and a half before the introduction of the national ban on smoking in pubs. A prior poll of their customers had yielded only one dissenting vote. Also marking out the Brown Cow as different is the fact that it does not sell Stella or Carling or indeed any lager at all, save for just one proper lager, Kozel from the Czech Republic. Nor does it sell Guinness, whether extra cold or otherwise, or any smoothflow products. Add to all this the absence of any gaming machines or a juke box and the happy result is that there are no idiots either.

Opening hours are 4.00 - 11.00 pm Monday to Saturday and 12.00 - 10.30 pm on Sundays. Food is not served at all, so it really is all about the beer. This is well-kept and consists of Taylor‘s Landlord, Ram Tam, Best Bitter and Golden Best plus two regularly changing guest beers, usually sourced from small Yorkshire or Lancashire breweries. In summer the Ram Tam is replaced by Taylor‘s Dark Mild. One of the beers is the subject of the regular Sunday Super Saver selling at £1.88 a pint throughout the day.

The main room in the pub is L–shaped, comprising a seated and standing drinking area to the front opposite the bar, with a raised area to the side and a real fire at the end of the room. There is also a separate room to the rear, served through a hatch to the bar and including a settee as well as tables and chairs, ideal for holding meetings. Shelves in both rooms are stacked with beer guides and magazines, while a shelf in the side area carries an impressive collection of police helmets. There is a pleasant large grassy area to the front of the pub with a table bench.

The attributes of Barry, Carol and the Brown Cow make it a friendly and deservedly popular pub, where the only noise is the buzz of conversation and where everybody is made to feel welcome. It is equally possible simply to sit for a quiet drink and a read. These attributes make the pub a favoured venue for meetings of various local organisations including in particular the local CAMRA branch, the athletics club and the Local History Society. The pub also hosts the seasonal Airedale Quiz League on Tuesday evenings.

Asked to sum up the essence of the Brown Cow, Barry says “good beer, good company and good conversation.” It is a formula which has now resulted in the pub winning its 4th Pub Of The Season award since Barry and Carol took over. The pub was also voted Keighley and Craven CAMRA Pub Of The Year in 2008 and, subsequently, runner-up in the Yorkshire region Pub Of The Year awards.

Paul Morris

The Brown Cow, 5, Cross Leeds Street, off West Lane, Keighley. Website:

Note: Previous awards were: Autumn 2009, Spring 2007, Winter 2005/6.

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