A Salford Stroll – 10/12/2012

To have one more ‘stroll’ in 2012 was decided when my good buddy Col informed me that he had a free night on Monday. (He’s not precious, he works nightshift!) As there was a particular pub I’ve been wanting to try for a while and one I wanted to revisit, I decided that a waddle around Salford was in order (or, at least, a small portion of it.)

Getting off the 37 bus opposite Salford Central train station, I showed Col where 6 (SIX) pubs had been lost since my youth. In order, The Pen & Wig (Wilsons/Websters) on New Bailey Street, The Albert Vaults (Tetley/Free), The Tallow Tub (Chesters) and The Punch Bowl (Tetley/Robinsons) all Chapel Street. Moving into Greengate (as was), I pointed out the former locations of The Three Legs of Man (Robinsons) and The Old Shears (Wilsons) on Greengate. I mention these, because they were all pubs of great character(s) which I frequented when I first started drinking real ale in the early 80s. They were great pubs, dearly missed. 2 of the buildings still stand (Albert Vaults and Punch Bowl) but sadly, never to be warm welcoming pubs again, I fear.

Anyway, reverie over! I chose this slightly convoluted route to another old favourite. One that I hadn’t visited for many years…..

The Eagle (AKA The Lamp Oil Shop)

The Eagle, Salford, Review And Elegy

(Courtesy of http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk)

As I’d told Col, The Eagle was an old friend it took me a long time to find. Located on Collier Street, set back slightly from the Trinity Way inner ring road this is a PROPER Salford back street boozer! Frankly it’s amazing that it is still standing. Back in the day (I HATE that phrase!), it was one of many pubs in the Greengate district.  Once thriving. Now all gone. You could say that The Eagle is truly The Last Bird Standing. The pubs all catered for the factories in the Greengate and Trinity areas. Again, gone. In their place, posh high-rise flats and car parks for the Arena. Progress eh?

Taken on in the last 12 months by the team who renovated The Castle (another old favourite), I was intrigued to see what they had done with it. I was not to be disappointed.

Layout wise, they’ve left well alone. A smart move. A lick of paint in classy subtle warm tones set the scene (that and the Xmas tree being put up!) They’ve made good use of the small back yard and the back room looks better than I had ever seen it before. This is a comforting, warm welcoming pub. As I said earlier a PROPER Salford back street boozer! AND, the smallest pub in the Holt estate (or was).

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Walking into the pub, ‘Is that REALLY Guy Garvey’? Indeed it was, enjoying a chat. Star struck (I’m a sad git!), I didn’t wan’t to say hello for fear of being a bumbling idiot (A 47 year old one at that!). So, Beer choice took over. On the bar, Holts Bitter, Holts Mild, Holts’ winter brew Bah Humbrew and Shepherd Neame Spitfire. The Bah Humbrew having just run out, we settled for 3 pints of Mild. In good nick as well, roasted malt and slightly bitter – Holts Mild as it should be! The pricing seemed slightly high (£2.70 I think), but is more than worth it for supping in what is one of a rapidly diminishing breed. The true back-street pub. It is a classic, sensitively refurbished. Changing little, enhancing much. Nice jukebox as well, bit of folk, bit of reggae. The Eagle in the 80s was renowned for its Juke.

Those aforementioned flats give me hope for the pub. A lot of people live within a coin toss of The Eagle now. I hope they wake up and see the polished gem from their balconies. And patronise it. A classic pub. I’ve had some great times  in The Lamp Oil. I hope to have more. Back soon.

(If I may venture just a slight improvement suggestion? Ditch the Spitfire for a local Micro? There are loads – after all, this IS the team behind The Castle! – A Black Jack, Outstanding, Quantum?)

Having congratulated (who I presumed was) the Landlord on a job well done – apologising to the nice Mr Garvey for interrupting! – we walked past two other lamented pub losses (The Black Friar and The Braziers – Boddingtons) and were generally moving toward Chapel Street. Getting our thirsts back, we decided to pop into….

The Kings Arms

Walking into The Kings, the knitting club was pearling away in the Snug. The main room was quite quiet so we were swiftly served with Facers Porter (Me) and Blackedge American Pale (Jaz & Col). I’d forgotten I’d had the Facers Porter in The Smithfield recently, but never mind eh? Mocha on the nose, coffee and dark roasted malt with a chocolate hint in the mouth. Fairly potent for a ‘school night’ at 5.5%abv, but SO nice! I sampled the Blackedge as well. This had an amped up hop nose with a smoother American hop flavour (amarillo?)

I was gutted to note (too late) that Old Tom was on cask on the bar!


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(A pleasure denied!)

We had a nice chat in The Kings over the beer. A chance to note the other beers on the bar. 2 more from Facers, 1 from Happy Valley and one from Copper Dragon. A nice selection. Weird to see a bar in Salford with 3 from Facers now that they’ve moved from Salford to Flintshire!!!

Some of the decor took my eye. I’ve always loved the 7″ singles covers on the wall from the heyday of punk and New Wave, but the vast number of hotel ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs? Nice!

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By the way. More excellent music. Al Green, The Imposter (Pills & Soap!) Ahhh….we move on, to……

The Salford Arms

Walking silently back in….It WAS quiz night after all! We slid towards the bar (very quietly) with a quick Hello to Tom, we ordered the Iron Gate Stout by Black Iris Brewery. First beer from this brewery for me. I snatched the first pint poured. Just after the second…disaster. Finito! Being the consummate gentleman, Col gave up the pint to Jaz and chose a pint of Hornbeam. The Iron Gate was SUPERB! A lovely smooth coffee roast tinged Stout. Nice and dry. Certainly worth seeking out. Another at 5.5%abv. Possibly sensing our disappointment at the Stout expiring, Tom indulged in some cellar wizardry (barrel tilting!) and conjured up another 3 pints for the team. Nicely done!

20121210_205730[1](beats the usual decorations – White Xmas anyone?)

Whilst that was going on, I had a belting chat with The Quizmaster, Dave. A lovely bloke who patently loves a nice pint and a nice pub to drink it in. He loved similar pubs to me and managed to suggest one I am yet to visit, The Molly House. One for the early new year methinks!

A quick chat with Tom reveals more Saltaire soon to come…was that a Triple Chocoholic with CHERRIES!!!!!??? He also has hatched plans with Black Jack to make the house beer Vegan by using alternative finings. Given the Vegan food evenings they have on a Tuesday, an excellent move. They’re serving some excellent beer here. Just remind me when that Saltaire is on! (Defintitely worth the 8 mile bus journey!)

Having had two, it was time to move on. Farewells said, we strode off along Chapel Street to….

The New Oxford

A perennial favourite of both myself and Jaz, but the first time for Col. Again, fairly quiet, bit of rock on the Juke.

20121210_220347[1](Beer Heaven Pt 1 – The Draught)

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(Beer Heaven Pt 2 – The Bottles)

The usual large selection to choose from. Dark Side wins again with a Townhouse Brewery Barney’s Stout. The usual roasted malt flavours present. Nice enough, but after the series of 5.5%ers, possibly a bit light! I finished off with Hop from Blackedge. Again, possibly suffered from the time of the evening. 3.6% abv not wisest at this late stage. A nice bitter though. Pale, slightly bitter with a balanced flavour and aroma (Bramling Cross hops?). Slightly maltier than I expected (I love to be assaulted by hops!)

A nice end to the stroll, Col and myself headed for the 37 bus (we actually got the 8 and walked!), Jaz probably headed off to a central bar (knowing him!). A good evening, with good company, excellent pubs and excellent beer. Isn’t this how it always should be?

Til next time.

Slainte!

The Best Little Beerhouse in Texas (well, Stockport!) 08/12/2012

Following on from the previous Saturday outing, I had received my replacement bank cards. I fancied something a little different. U14s football match was cancelled. So my youngest and I fancied a drive. OK, beer WAS involved (isn’t it always!). Giving your friend and mine a call, we arranged to pick Jaz up in Manchester and head over to Stalyvegas for the Farmers Market – with the promise of a ‘surprise’ later.

It was lovely to meet the ladies from Wilson Potter Brewery who had a stand at the Market Hall. It’s always nice to put faces to Twitter handles. Once I had asked for “another bottle of ‘In The Black'”, my cover was certainly blown! I am sure that my friends will enjoy the Xmas Stocking fillers that I bought (I’m certainly looking forward to the ‘Pudding Porter’!)

There were some nice craft stalls in the hall, but (other than the VERY spicy sandwich pickle), nothing else tickled my fancy, so, Wilson Potter beers in hand, it was time for the ‘SURPRISE’! Back onto the M60 for a few miles, some jiggery-pokery around Jct 3 and we were parked up outside….

The Beer Shop

The Beer Shop, Heaton Mersey

(courtesy Panoromio / Phil Rowbotham)

Kingsleigh Road in Heaton Moor is just like any suburban road in South Manchester. Nice houses, some flats, a bloody big Tesco at the end….until you get to close to the junction with Mauldeth Road. There, at No 13 is The Beer Shop. It’s a small premises in the middle of a terrace of other retail businesses. But, for me, what lies inside is quite special!

I was introduced to this liquid utopia by Jeff (Take a Bow young man!) who told me that if I was in the area, I should give it a try for some rarer beers. By ‘eck he wasn’t wrong!

I first went in the summer. Parking up, the owner was in the process of putting some metal tables outside. This looked a tad unusual. Why would an off-licence put tables outside? Then I went inside.

First thing to hit the eyes were, more tables. Only THEN did the reason become apparent. Handpumps. FIVE of them! I had come to buy bottles, but, when offered the chance of a thirst slaking half, I crumbled. That half was Moor Top from Buxton Brewery, a fabulously quenching pale ale at 3.6% (and my introduction to Buxtons fine beers).

After a lengthy chat with the owner (busy re-organising his storage), I fulfilled my mission and bought some bottles. Lots of them. Amongst this haul were a number of darks, including the fabulous Tsar, also from Buxton Brewery (see previous review), two Sierra Nevada beers (Stout and Porter) and various others. I was astonished to find that they also do off sales of the draught beers in 3, 5 and up to 20 litre boxes. “I’ll be back”! I said.

Next occasion was on the day of a friends’ BBQ in New Mills. 5 litres of High Wire by Magic Rock was secured. Judging by the reception it got at the BBQ, I should have brought a 20! A fabulous pale hoppy ale at 5.5%, this cemented my love of all things Magic Rock.

Anyway, back to 08/12/2012! I obviously knew what to expect. However, my ale loving companion didn’t. His eyes were opened by 6 (SIX) draught ales, 5 on handpull and one from the cask.

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(The Cask Selection – NB selectively placed 1/2 of Heartless!)

They were…Infusion Pale Ale from Conwy Brewery from North Wales, Heartless Chocolate Stout from Redwillow of Macclesfield, Dissolution IPA from Kirkstall of Leeds, Moor Top from Buxton and Drunken Duck by George Wright of St Helens. From the cask was another George Wright beer, Spalt 51. Now THAT is a line up! I ordered a Heartless and Jaz ordered a Spalt 51. The Heartless was in fabulous nick. 4.9% abv, black as sin, smooth, dark and with a hint of dark chocolate and lots of lovely roasted malt flavour, another beer from Redwillow that ticks all my boxes! Jaz commented very favourably on his Spalt 51 also.

Having the car, this was the last beer for me. My companion however had other plans! He proceeded to dispatch a Kirkstall Dissolution, a gloriously bitter and hoppy IPA at 5.5% and a Heartless. Suitably slaked, we set about out bottled requirements.

You can refer to the website (click the link on the name) for a stock list. Safe to say that the bottled selection comprises a substantial number of beers that are VERY hard to come by in your usual “Offy”. There are some that I’ve only seen VERY rarely. There are a large number of American Craft Beers stocked from brewers like Brooklyn, Flying Dog, Odell, Sierra Nevada, Goose Island, Ska, Stone, Anchor, the list goes on. There are also a substantial number of German, Belgian and Dutch beers as well a a select number of British craft beers. There’s even Little Creatures Brewery from Oz!

20121208_144233[1](Yes, they’ve been paid for their image rights!)

Given the size of the shop, the selection is quite large but select. Given even the shortest conversation with the owner, it’s obvious that he loves beer and cares passionately about what he sells. He is more than happy to chat and advise on beer selection to match your taste, even maybe to expand your beer horizons!

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Before we get to the beer selection, further important items to note. Firstly, there is no food on site. However, last time I checked, there was an arrangement with a local Nepalese take-away that will deliver to the shop. AND you can eat in! How cool is that??? Secondly, please note the opening hours listed below. This establishment does NOT open in the mornings!

Anyhow. The selection! Firstly, Ska Brewing (Durango, Colorado US) Steel Toe Milk Stout, Odell St Lupulin ‘Extra’ Pale Ale, Stone Brewing – Oak Aged, Arrogant Bastard Ale,  Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (10%!), Flying Dog Brewery – Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout (all USA) and Smokey and The Band-Aid smoked rye porter from Buxton Brewery.

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(Bottled Utopia!)

I then started to look for something slightly more….expensive. Something I may not have had before. I have heard Jeff and Jaz both extolling the virtues of the Norwegian craft brewers at Nogne, so I thought I’d give one a go. I opted for the Imperial Stout at 9% abv. Then, Jaz pulls out a Brooklyn Sorachi Ace! Oh dear……..I know I shouldn’t have, but I persuaded myself that I deserved something THAT special! (Check the website for the price!)

Talking about pricings. These are very competitive. The only comparable place locally for me is Micro Bar in Manchester Arndale Market. For comparable beers, the prices in The Beer Shop are certainly lower. Yes, you have to drive, or get the 197 bus from Albert Square (drops you close to the bottom of Kingsleigh Rd/ Mauldeth Rd Jct), but it is SO worth it.

Just remember the opening times!

They are :

Tuesday to Thursday 16:00 to 22:00
Friday 14:00 to 22:00
Saturday 12:00 to 22:00
Sunday 14:00 to 22:00

Slainte!

Impromptu Stroll Northern Quarter 01/12/2012

As the week drew to a close, the yearning for draught beer grew stronger. Finally, on Saturday evening, I could stand the drought no longer. Being able to resist anything except temptation the Oracle was consulted and tea-leaves were read. The stars aligned over Manchester. But where? A quick word with your friend and mine, indicated a meeting place of….The French Xmas Market on King Street. What MADNESS was this? A bar, with no real ale!

Not only that, but KRONENBOURG! Needless to say, having braved herds of people and the chill air, I plumped for a swift Vin Chaud avec Cognac (get Moi!). However, there was only so much Allo Allo accentry I could prendre, so, the metaphorical shepherds crook was wielded, the madding crowds were braved and we found ourselves hiking across town toward Le Quartier de Nord (ENOUGH FRANGLAIS!!!) and approached……

The Angel

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As with everything else in Manchester this mad evening, it was crammed with bibulous humanity. It was quite a feat to reach the bar, but, after some weaving about we got there. The usual fine selection of beers were present (including an intriguing Black Isle Stout at 10.6% abv!). However, for the first beer of the evening, I chose a beer from Liverpool Organic – Shipwreck IPA at 6.5%. This was a big beer. A sturdy malt base overlaid with huge tropical hop flavours, mango? Grapefruit? Very assertive and very moreish. Not a beer to trifle with but hugely enjoyable. Another brewery producing an exceptional range of beers. (Kitty Wilkinson Stout being a personal favourite!). Jaz had a Culloden Oatmeal Stout by Beer House Brewery. It looked lovely (and tasted mighty fine – so I’m told!)

I wanted more. I wanted a half of that Black Isle Stout! But the bar was thronged. So, disappointed, we strode off toward…..

The Smithfield

(pic courtesy of http://www.the-smithfield-hotel.co.uk)

It was almost a year to the day, the last time I’d been in the Smithfield. Too long. Often bypassed en-route to other bars. No longer. The Smithfield has the feel of a welcoming Salford local. The kind of local I wish I had near me. A wide selection of beers, including a house beer by Facers (formerly of Salford, now of Flintshire, North Wales). As we walked in, a game of pool was going, the Italian Football (the Turin Derby, as you’re asking!) was on telly and a couple next to us were serenading us (unbidden!). Facers Porter was my choice in here. A dark brown beer at 5.5% abv, a slightly sweet start gave way to fruity dark roasted malt, the sweetness tending toward a mocha coffee kind of thing. A nice pint in a lovely friendly boozer. Certainly worth a visit. Onward we go…….

Bar Fringe

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Every time I go into The Fringe, more quirkiness reveals itself! From the breweriana on the ceiling (see above, literally!) to the Green Man wall hanging and the Motorbike on the ledge (see previous visit), The Fringe never fails to please. Great Jukebox doing sterling work again, the bar got very full as soon as Jaz and I got served. A pint of Prescott Ruby Stout was order of the day. A dark brown, rather that jet black, smooth roasted flavour was had. Didn’t catch the strength, but approx 4.5%. A very nice pint indeed.

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(Design – Bar Fringe. Pic – Yours Truly!)

I love The Fringe. Would gladly have stayed for more, but it was getting busy. And, how could this be a ‘stroll’ without moving on…..

The Crown & Kettle

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A short walk from The Fringe, just across Oldham Road. A gem of a different hue. Another well stocked bar, plenty of choice. But, you know me. When The Dark Side calls, I submit totally. On this occasion, Peerless Oatmeal Stout from the Wirral.

A 5% abv Stout. A lovely smooth flavour, dark roasted with a hint of sweetness from the oatmeal. Another excellent beer from Peerless. I took my time enjoying its dark pleasures whilst a fabulous musical selection washed over me. Somebody working tonight had an obvious love of Northern Soul! Bobby Hebb, Marvin Gaye, Frankie Valli……

Jaz advised me to have a little look around. Once I’d taken my eyes off the poster featuring the stunning Christina Hendricks, the architecture of this great pub was glorious. Vaulted ceilings, Stained glass. This is a gorgeous building housing 3 separate drinking rooms, each room having a different feel.

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20121201_212214[1]   (I love a nice feature…or 2)

Finishing the Peerless. We headed in the general direction of Port Street to check out a rumour that 3 Magic Rock ales (including the immense Dark Arts) were on. However, that’s a long walk. And I’m sure you’ll have concerns about dehydration (as did we!), so a stop at……

Soup Kitchen ……was prescribed – medicinal purposes of course! Quite busy here on Spear St! But getting to the bar was easy enough. It didn’t take long to select a pint of Dark Star Old Chestnut. 4%abv. Not a Stout, not a Porter, not a Mild. Hmmm……Is this a Brown Ale? A darkish brown beer, an initial slight sweetness gave way to something much more mysterious. Some slight bitterness. Couldn’t quite place this one in a category. A very nice ale nonetheless from an excellent brewery. (Espresso Stout anyone?)

Now then. Off to Port Street. Disaster! I followed a couple of lads heading for the door and No Entry! The place was heaving. Slightly deflated at no Magic Rock…. we headed for pastures new…at least for me.

Kosmonaut

(Needless to say, courtesy of  http://www.kosmonaut.co)

As stated. I was a Kosmonaut virgin. Up the steps into the bar. Excellent tuneage pumping out. Proper Saturday night feel. Jaz slotted straight in at the bar. Nice friendly staff. Excellent vibe generally.

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2 bottles of Goose Island Matilda were soon to hand. described as a strong Belgian ale, this had echoes of a fine wheaty beer to me, a bit of coriander and clove on the tongue. Possibly deceptive, as I was drinking from the bottle. Nice beer though.

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(Anyway, back to those friendly bar persons!)

On seeking the facilities, a whole new level opened up! Downstairs, as well as the loos, there is another room with loads of space down there. This is one excellent venue. Apparently, they do excellent food as well. Like a certain Austrian exile “I’ll be back”.

We tried our luck back at Port Street. Jaz went first this time and entry was gained. Busy, as you would expect. Just enough time to wolf a pint of Magic Rock Dark Arts. Now officially my favourite beer and a more than adequate night cap! Deep dark roast, by turn buttery toast and coffee roast, full of flavour and dangerously, dangerously alluring and moreish! Unfortunately I had a bus to catch.

Back to the 37 bus and back to that beer desert that is Farnworth. Ticket shown, iPod on…..home.

Next day, no wallet…….bugger!

With that……Til next time…..

Slainte!