“Edna Million in a drop dead suit, Dutch pink on a downtown train.
Two dollar pistol but the gun won’t shoot, I’m in the corner in the pouring rain.
Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest and I’ve been drinking from a broken cup,
Two pairs of pants and a mohair vest, I’m full of bourbon; I can’t stand up.”
(“Jockey Full of Bourbon” – Tom Waits)
(Video courtesy of Kenneth Sutherland on You Tube)
Tom Waits. Not everybody’s cup of Lapsang, but SUCH a great songwriter. I love him. So There!
Take the following ingredients…
1 sunny day, 1 train, 1 bus, 6 excellent pubs (including my Pub of the Year 2013!), multiple award-winning beers. Mix vigourously. What do you get? Read on!
I had been looking forward to this day since the previous event last October, so, when Allgates announced that not only would there be a “Road To Wigan Beer” spanning the Easter holidays, but that the bus would be touring their pubs again, it was an event that I simply couldn’t miss! With permissions both sought and granted by Mrs BM (a saint of a woman!), I reserved seats for both myself AND the Arch-Nemesis….If it was anything like last year, I might need support near the end!
Catching the train on a magnificently sunny spring day (for Walkden), the carriage swiftly became rammed with Bank Holiday sand seekers, en route – presumably – to Southport. Standing room only! By the time we got to Wigan Wallgate, it was that warm ON the train, I was only too glad to get off. At this point, I realised my morning error. I hadn’t had a drink of any kind whatsoever since the previous evening. That first pint couldn’t arrive soon enough!
The Anvil (Dorning Street, next to Wigan Bus Stn) is the Allgates Brewery tap (being a 2 minute stroll from the brewery) and whilst being fairly open plan, has the feel of a multi-roomed pub, bright with lots of light it has 7 handpumps dispensing Allgates own beers and varied guest ales. Multi-award winning (check out the certificates on the wall just past the bar!) this is one busy pub, so I was quite surprised to find a table free for the arch-nemesis & I to rest our weary bones!
Now, you may recall a recent post where David (Brewery Co-Owner) and myself went “over the hill” into the land that time forgot (Yorkshire) and picked up loads of casks for this very festival (read here). The first beer I had today was the last that we picked up that day. A certain symmetry, no?
Bourbon Milk Stout – Sonnet 43 Brew House (Coxhoe, Co Durham) A good strength to start with at 4.3%, this was pitch black with a lovely tight creamy tan coloured head. With a milky coffee aroma, this was full-bodied and luxuriously smooth, little lactic sweetness with more smooth milky coffee, just when you start looking for the bourbon, there is a slight boozy backnote. A slightly sweet yet gentle hoppy finish to this. Was really hoping to have this. A cracker to start with.
My thirst kind of…almost slaked, there was time for a swift half before the chariot was harnessed….
Blonde – Atom Brewery (Hull, E Yorkshire) 4% abv. Pale gold with a nice fluffy white head and a slight fruity aroma, this came alive in the mouth. Light-bodied and quite tart with a gooseberry sharpness to it. Really juicy, refreshing and light. Wished I had time for a full pint! The usual well-kept beer that you expect from the Anvil…managed to have the briefest of chats with Andy Heggs from the excellent HopOnTheBike but the chariot had been harnessed….
(our beery chariot!)
Disappointingly not as full as last year, quite a few less locals on board. But with the Bury Militia, mobilised by Ramsbottom’s own beery Ratko Mladic (aka the Legendary Tyson The Beerhound!), I was minding my Ps & Qs!
The Crooke Hall Inn – (Crooke Village, Standish Lower Ground) This was the kind of day when The Crooke really can come into its own, owing to its fabulous location on the bank of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. It really is stunning in the sunshine. Having heard that Greg (the Landlord) had 9 handpumps fully loaded, guess who was first into the pub?
Now. There were a number of beers in the Festival menu that I REALLY wanted to try. One of them was the marvellous Sonnet 43 and another was on the bar here at The Crooke!
Pacific Pale Ale – Shindigger Brewing Co – 4.5% abv – This was a beer in demand. So much so, that there was a logjam at the bar with only one pump in constant use! This forced Greg to ask the following question
Q. “Anybody want anything other than Shindigger?”
A. (Alan Wass – Wigan CAMRA Branch) “Yes”
Q. “What would you like?”
A. “Half of Shindigger please!”
Laugh? I nearly bought a round! But once I’d dabbed the laughter tears from my eyes, I could pay attention to the beer in front of me….
The Pacific Pale was a deep golden colour, almost amber in fact, with a tight white head and a lovely citrus fruit aroma. Medium-bodied, it was so refreshing with really zingy citrus flavours. Dry and tart in the finish, it was excellent. What was even better was the price. £2.40 a pint. (TWO POUNDS FORTY PENCE!) Bloody marvellous!
I bent my head around the corner to tell Andy the price. I quickly turned to what I thought was the sound of a jaw hitting the floor!
Now how pale do you like your Pale Ales to be?
Lubelski – Pictish Brewing Company (Rochdale, Lancashire) 4% abv – Single-hopped with the eponymous Polish hop, this was a lovely light, sharp and tart pale beer with more gooseberry notes. Medium-bodied and REALLY refreshing. The Arch-Nemesis has been banging on about Pictish for years. I’m now officially a convert!
Just time for another swift half in this lovely multi-roomed pub with this fabulous location for summer days!
Risky Blonde – Fool Hardy Ales (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) 4.4% abv – Brewed at The Hope Inn on the A6 in Stockport, I hadn’t even so much as sniffed a Fool Hardy beer until a recent bottle from Great Ale Year Round. This was my first encounter on draught, so I wasn’t leaving the Crooke until I had it!
A bit fuller-bodied than the Pictish, this was slightly maltier too. deep gold and another nice tight white head. Smooth and creamy textured in the mouth, this had a tart fruity edge to it too and a nice dry bitter finish. Lovely!
I must say that I REALLY tried hard to persuade Greg to join us again on the bus! But he manned the beery barricades like a trooper!
Back on the Magic Bus!
Union Arms (Castle Street, Tyldesley) – Bit of a Tardis is The Union! Looks quite dinky from the outside, but 3 distinct drinking areas with two bars front and back. Some of the guys had food in here and it looked bloody good! But, I only had eyes for beer at this stage!
Beyond The Pale – Elland Brewery (Elland, West Yorkshire) 4.2% abv – Not sure this was a Festival listed beer (the are 4 Elland beers listed), this was still a logical choice. Bloody glad I did too! £4.20 for TWO pints!!! Ludicrous pricing.
Bright golden beer, with a peachy aroma to my nose. Really refreshing again, fruity and bitter (Cascade hopped) with a tart grapefruit finish. Another cracker (Their 1872 Porter should be any beer drinkers “Bucket List”!)
As I finished the Elland, Was that a Black Jack clip being attached to a pump? Hmmm
New Deck – Black Jack Beers (Manchester) 4.2% abv – I know what to expect from the beers brewed by Rob Hamilton, quality hoppy pale beers. This was no exception! Tart and refreshing with big grapefruit flavours, medium-bodied and oh-so moreish. Really zingy, nice bitter finish and quite a pine needly aftertaste. Just YUM!
The White Lion (Leigh Rd, Leigh)
Like Greg at The Crooke & the mighty Nigel at The Hare & Hounds, Harry is just SUCH a friendly Landlord who happens to keep a cracking pint in this 3 roomed pub in Leigh Town Centre.
Pale Ale – Atom Brewery (Hull, E Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv Well, the Blonde impressed me, so it would’ve been positively rude not to give the Pale Ale a try! Golden with a white head and a fruity aroma. Medium-bodied, fruity and zesty this fella! Nicely sharp, fruity and very refreshing with a sharp dry bitter finish. Another excellent beer from this “first-time” brewery for me.
At this point, a note on the festival. One of the things that draws me to Allgates pubs is the beer selection, Their own beers are excellent, the guest beers are selected from the best micros around. But the with the festival beers, David and the team make a point of searching out not only the best, but some of the newest breweries out there. Atom, for instance, have only been brewing since December 2013! And these beers are priced…how can I put it….ludicrously competitively! Some of these beers would be nearly DOUBLE the price you’d get them in Manchester! Sermon over. Back to the beer eh?
Chilli Plum Porter – Waen Brewery (Llanidloes, Powys, Wales) 6.1% abv OK. So it’s NOT a festival beer! I don’t give a toss, this is just LUSH! Hellish good beer indeed! Black, satanically so. Beautiful chocolate aroma which carries on into the mouth, really smooth and full-bodied and fruity with the plum coming through, creamy almost. Lovely and soothing…then that heat at the back of the mouth! Woof! This is SUCH a good beer! If I needed to sell my soul….in a heartbeat!
The Hare & Hounds (Ladies Lane, Hindley, Wigan)
What can I say. I’m biased when it comes to this wee 2 roomed boozer. I love it. So much so, that it was my Pub of the Year 2013. Why? It’s a feeling thing. It feels like the local that I never had. It’s friendly, warm and welcoming. Like a local should be. Nigel (mein host) also keeps a damned good pint! (Which helps)
Chocolate Cherry Mild – Dunham Massey Brewery (Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire)
A deep reddy brown beer with a creamy coloured head and a chocolate and fruity nose. Ronseal beer alert! (Does exactly what it says…..) Initial chocolate on the tongue, followed by a layer of tart cherry, light bodied but really smooth and an easy drinking beer that you could do all day. The fruitiness of the cherries leads to a light bitterness in the finish. A beautiful beer. Nigel does love his darks. As do I!
Was damned sure that I had another beer in here, but without notes…..Doh! I’ll be back later in the week!
Ding Ding (I think even the dinger was getting tired by this point!)
The Victoria (Haigh Rd, Aspull, Wigan) Effectively, the final stop – starting to feel the pace by now!
Classic two roomed local this. The main room was thronged by the time we got in. Nice and busy, added to by us lot wading in too!
Here, were two more of the breweries I was keen to try, especially as I’d help to pick up the beers! First off…
Gold – Stod Fold Brewing (Stod Fold, Nr Halifax) 3.8% abv A light fruity aroma to this golden (almost amber) beer. Lightly fruity in the mouth too, refreshing and easy drinking with a nice bitter finish. Really smooth session beer this. I want more.
A Day At The Races – Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, W Yorks) 3.9% abv – I could bore you to distraction about my love of Malcolm Bastow’s beers, but see my previous post here for that!
This straw golden beer had a big grapefruit aroma from its white head. In the mouth, lemon & grapefruit conspired to refresh my somewhat jaded palate! Really sharp, tart and refreshing. A beautiful light pale ale, as hoppy as a Watership Down screening. A nice piney aftertaste too. More Mosaic? Classy sharp beer to end the night!
Cracking hot pot supper in here, thanks to the pub. Lovely, just what was needed!
As much as the beer, the great pleasure of the day for me was just chatting to like-minded folk. Mark, the Wiganer now ex-pat in Edinburgh (on Rose St, the jammy bugger!), Andy Heggs, Tyson The (Legendary – Even Tandleman thinks so!) Beerhound, David Mayhall, Nigel, Greg, Alan Wass (thanks for the tears at The Crooke!) and more that my drink sozzled brain seems to have forgotten (sorry!). All great people with whom it was really lovely to chat. You made this boring old man smile, memories of which have made his birthday hangover seem worthwhile! To you all, a huge SLAINTE!
An even bigger thanks to Stig and his pals for laying on the bus, without which, you wouldn’t be reading this! Cheers fellas!
This festival lasts until next Sunday. At the risk of insulting you, you need to try at least two of these pubs! (The Anvil & The Hare are BOTH within 2 minutes of the Wigan – Manchester Victoria rail line – Evening return ticket? £2 – you’d save that on two pints!) Do your taste buds a flavour and get on that train!
Warning – This post may be added to later in the week!
But on that note…’til next time…