Historic Pubs of Manchester – Pt 5 : The Collected Classics

I recently checked some old posts and realised – horrified – that it had been almost 5 (FIVE!) years since the last time I wrote of my enduring love. Beautiful old Manchester pubs

Five. Whole. Years.

So I was pleased that this date 26 January has been fixed in the calendar for some time.

You see, as much as I adore fabulous modern beer, it’s the pubs that get me. Architectural delights. Friendly chatter. Warm atmospheres. These things matter. They are – in my opinion – more important (WAY more important) than the cheap thrill of dodging that FOMO moment. That pseudo sexual melting in the throes of a deep dark Imperial Stout.

Pubs matter. Especially when they continue to close at an alarming rate. And – to quote Joni Mitchell – “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone”

So here I am. On the final morning of the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival. Dodging the crowds.

For a personal delight.

The Britons Protection (Great Bridgewater St)

This place kind of epitomises the idea of Classic Manchester Pubs. Manchester has a whole bunch of pubs built and trading continuously since before Peterloo. But none with such an intimate connection.

I’m sure I’ve read somewhere a story saying that people sheltered from the massacre actually inside they pub – but maybe that’s false memory syndrome.

What – for me – struck home yesterday is that this is probably the most beautiful pub in the city.

Three rooms. All equally beautiful. The corridor to them wrapping around to the rear of the bar from the entrance. With the two rooms to the rear. All rich reds and decorative details.

And – for someone who has been in this pub repeatedly over the years – surprises lurk around the corner. In (arguably) Manchester’s finest beer garden.

The real fires in the rear rooms are a winter joy too – if not always lit.

The really big surprise for me was the beer selection. What was previously the province of large regionals, somewhat lacking inspiration, here were breweries like Revolutions, Night Jar and a few I’d never seen before.

Smiling, I grabbed a “Candidate” by Revolutions and settled down to wait for my fellow walkers.

Delicious and refreshing, I was gutted to learn that it ran out shortly afterwards. I do like Revolutions beers, tasty and dependable and it’s nice to see them in the BP.

Being joined by company, beers being finished, it was time to exit with a smile on my face and turn right, cross the road and – having walked all of 50 yards – turn left onto the Chepstow Street.

To a place which is the place where drinking real ale started. For me at any rate…

The Peveril of the Peak

The story has been previously told. In early 1982, this was where I had my first encounter with real ale. The first time I went “Ohhhhh….” and put the Carlsberg down and ordered a Wilson’s Bitter.

And never looked back.

In my early drinking days (mid 80s), this pub was a regular fixture. Good beer, solid jukebox, table football (if you call it “fussball”, the sea is 35 miles due west)

Again, 3 rooms – a small and intimate/cozy room to the right behind the bar, the largest to the left and the bar room itself.

Lots of stained glass and wood, some photos on the wall of celebs who’ve drunk here (my favourite being Robbie Coltrane) and a general sense of warmth and welcome.

For me, again a nice (mostly localish) beer selection was a surprise. My last visit ft the usual macro range (plus the ubiquitous Taylors Landlord – I don’t subscribe to the prevailing love affair…) so it was nice to see Millstone & Brightside feature.

The “Tiger Rut” by Millstone was a delicious and refreshing session Pale with just the right balance of malt and aromatic hops. Not had this in ages. A bloody good beer from a frequently overlooked brewery. No longer.

This early 19th century pub is a Manc classic. And worthy of adoration. Go worship.

Leaving along Chepstow Street back towards Oxford Road then turning left and right across St Peters Square then onto Cooper Street and immediate left onto Kennedy Street

The City Arms (Kennedy Street)

Bloody hell but I’ve been drunk in here. A frequent terminus of many mid 80s work outings – or the last pub before The Cyprus Tavern (ah the memories….)

A stalwart of the Manchester Beer scene for all my drinking days and – again – frequently overlooked in favour of easier pleasures. But you’d miss out.

Subdued lighting makes this place seem slightly darker and immediately relaxing.

Converted from a town house in the 19th century, this place can get busy in the evenings with office workers from nearby buildings. And deservedly so.

Two main rooms with two entrances to the pub. The single door to the left takes you into a corridor at the rear of the bar (frequently the easiest point of access) with the double doors to the right leading immediately into the bar.

The room to the rear feels larger being slightly longer and features more seating. I felt fortunate that we could grab seats, not always the case in here.

(A caution from Hilaire Belloc)

This pub is also famous for its drink related philosophy written on the walls…..

Having just had the Millstone, the Moon Rakers Mild by Empire (from Slaithwaite nr Huddersfield) seemed a good shout. And hell but it was!

Just raising it to the nose for a sniff was a chocolate joy. Rich, gentle roast, with cocoa and chocolate. Unusual to see a mild in January, of maybe I’m just going in the wrong places.

Whatever. A belter of a beer.

As a raucous group of good timers were reaching a crescendo in the next room, it was time to leave… And move on

So, right out of The City Arms and left onto Fountain Street then right onto Booth Street crossing Mosley Street onto Nicholas Street up to Portland Street. Turn right and about 50 yards up, you will find another Manchester classic.

A tiny classic

The Circus Tavern (Portland Street)

Intimacy. That’s what you get in The Circus. That and the feeling that you are being watched by George Best. His bloody image is everywhere!

And Bobby Charlton. Denis Law. Matt Busby. And sundry celebs who have had a beer over the years in this tiny watering hole. A place that used to close its doors early evening at weekend. It gets full very quickly.

Built around the late 18th century, this is essentially a tiny bar (it used to serve only Tetley bitter. Nothing else. I shit you not) This bar is that small that it boasts of being the smallest in Europe.

The pub is a narrow corridor to the side of the bar with two small rooms off it to the right. And this is REAL Manchester, make no mistake. And unmissable.

The beer isn’t cutting edge, The Circus doesn’t do that. What it does do is a nice pint of Tetleys bitter. Always has. Easy drinking and gently bittersweet. This is – however – all about the pub. A true Manchester classic.

Leaving the Circus, turn left and walk across Piccadilly Gardens (I’ll tactfully omit our unscheduled diversion – moral : Always check opening hours for The Jolly Angler!) onto Oldham Street. About 200 yards up on the right is…….

The Castle (Oldham Street)

According to the excellent (and all too infrequent – sadly) Pubs of Manchester blog, this pub was built around 1778 and this place – again has a big place in my Beer journey – as the first pub I was refused service.

For no other reason that the landlord was a right miserable git. Fortunately, 35 years later, times have changed. As has the pub.

3 rooms downstairs with the rearmost serving as an intimate live music venue, this gets busy quickly. And it’s a bit low lit. So much so it used to make me think of an ideal Vampire hangout.

Fortunately – as Jock was to discover – there’s a more brightly lit and spacious upstairs room formed when the pub was refurbed.

The beers are split between Robinsons and guests and tonight I went for a Hackney Pale (bizarrely brewed nowhere near Hackney : the brewery name eludes me) it was light and refreshing enough.

Again, this is about the pubs. And The Castle is the one constant presence on that stretch of Oldham Street.

To catch it quiet, you’d have to come early. This gets busy in the evenings when there’s a band on. (I do miss that pool table that used to be in that room….)

Moving on, there are various ways to get to our final planned destination. But we needed a pharmacist…. (nothing to worry about) so we headed right out of the pub and left onto Swan Street to the junction with Shudehill, where we turned left.

And there, opposite Shudehill bus Station and Tram stop is….

(I risked life and limb to take that shot!)

The Hare and Hounds (Shudehill)

Another pub – like The Castle – built around 1778, making it one of the oldest pubs in the city. This three roomed pub (if you include the wide bar area) is tiled heaven. One beautiful interior with lots of wood, stained glass and…. ceramic tiles galore.

And, last night, for the first time ever, I went in the rear room, historically the location for the famous Pensioners Karaoke. A joyful sight and sound.

Tonight, shockingly, you were more likely to hear “Everything’s Gone Green” by New Order!

Like The Circus, this has the clear feel of a local in the middle of England’s greatest city. You get the feeling that it’s full of regulars, chatting and laughing and swapping stories. Friendly in other words.

The beer? Holts Bitter or Robinsons Dizzy Blonde. A beer I can’t stand – on several levels. So Holts it was. And whilst it may have lost bitterness over the years, it was, again, easy drinking. Which was what was required.

And that, my friends, was the (scheduled) end of the walk.

Obviously, being very greedy, we carried on to The Angel and The (mighty) Marble Arch (Stout was exceptional).

A good day. Not a bad beer in sight. And the most beautiful walk between some of Manchester’s classic boozers that you would have to be mad to swerve.

Slainte. Back soon.

J.

(Hold that happy thought)

Manchester Beer and Cider Festival 2019 : Hit List

Yesterday afternoon was meant to be about scouting out breweries for #ISBF6. That plan lasted roughly 1 minute. I just gave in to the pleasures of chatting to friends introducing people and drinking excellent beer.

For someone who repeatedly professes not to like large beer festivals, I had fun. And whilst that was mostly about the people – as it should be – there was some bloody good beer. Here are my recommendations…

MallinsonsNelson Sauvin : 3.8% abv (Mallinsons Bar)

From the Queens of the Single Hop Pales comes this. A perfect example of how to use this sharp NZ devil.

All the gooseberry tartness. Sharp and nicely bitter. Bloody gorgeous and refreshing. A perfect starter.

And whilst on refreshment…

Black JackTable Beer 3.5% abv (Black Jack bar)

Table beers never cease to amaze me. This is remarkably full bodied and nicely hoppy. Again really refreshing and another one for early on.

Likewise with….

Northern AlchemyMoroccan Spiced Mild : 3.5% abv (Bar 2 – I think)

Yes. You read that right. Moroccan. Spiced. Mild.

We had it 2 years ago at #ISBF3 on keg. And it was (and still is) our fastest ever seller.

Dark brown, light bodied slightly fruity and subtle use of warming spices. Aromatic and bloody tasty.

Brass CastleHygge Figgy : 5.7% abv (Wood Bar)

Mmmmmm…..

Rich and very fruity. The wood lending an additional sweet note of vanilla I thought which worked SO well.

Delicious.

Thirst Class Ale x Tickety Brew – Plum & Licorice Stout : 6.5% abv (Thirst Class bar)

A catch up from #ISBF5 with one that I missed.

Delicious and fruity, the licorice is subtle and sneaks up on you later in the tasting. Seriously enjoyable beer from a far too underrated brewery.

Five TownsBlackout : 8.8% abv (Bar 1)

One of the main reasons I went. I’d only ever had this in bottle before and had to remind myself to grab one before I left.

Oh. My. Days.

Rich. Roasty. Big bodied.

One of those beers that it does an injustice to say that it’s just a beautiful big Stout. But it is just that.

I could wax lyrical. But…. Described by a good friend as “The Stoutiest Stout Ever”.

I’ll leave that there. Don’t miss it.

Wished I’d Tried……..

Little EarthBlackberry & Nettle Sour : 4.5% abv (Kegstar bar)

Because it’s Little Earth. And they do what they do exceptionally well.

GibberishPeanut Butter Raspberry Jelly Stout : 6% abv (Bar 1)

I mean… Why the hell wouldn’t you?

You Should Try

Five TownsCandidate : 9% abv (Wood Bar)

The Beer of the Festival winner at #ISBF5. All the blueberry. And it’s tasting utterly lush. And nothing like 9%.

Dangerous. But SO worth it.

It’s #Tryanaury. So go try something different. There’s plenty to go at.

Back soon.

Jx

Having a Platform

This morning, this arrived through my letterbox. Immediately after taking this picture, I carefully tore it to pieces. And got angry.

The arrogance of the bastard. The man in question being Tim Martin, head of the Wetherspoon “empire”.

I wasn’t the only one to receive them….

And equally unwelcome….

This is not a political blog. Or post. However, for clarity, my politics are of the left and I was formerly both an activist and Trade Union rep.

But that isn’t the point here.

For some time, I have offered simple advice. If you want to say something controversial – or potentially offensive – DON’T use your commercial platform, or your business accounts. If you do, prepare to harm your business.

In the current on trade, JDW loom large as the bargain bin of draught beer. Buy cheap, sell cheap. With the prices being demanded off brewers by the chain, it makes zero commercial sense for small Micros to sell to Wetherspoon.

And I’ve seen their range on the handpumps narrowing to a “usual suspects” list. At least in the ones I’ve been in. Maybe he really believes in the nickname given his pubs.

And – obviously to Mr Martin – he doesn’t think that such propaganda will harm his business. Maybe it won’t.

I’ve been fairly ambivalent about Spoons. Colleagues and friends do occasionally ask to meet there. And I’ve never said no.

Hell. We’ve even had breakfast in “The Brexit Arms” (predictive text remembered!) morning after East West.

But not any more.

I hate the Wetherspoon business model. I detest the use of Zero Hours contracts.

I also loathe the use of his company to spread his anti-EU propaganda.

I don’t care if my friends and colleagues call me a snob.

I’ll never darken the doors of a Wetherspoon again.

2019 : A Tryanuary Impulse – Pt 2 – Bolton

In this month of “Do something different”, I had to receive a jolt from a friend before I considered the obvious. The town I call home.

Bolton.

There has never seemed to be enough – in terms of outlets for excellent beer – to justify a wander. Yes, there were one or two excellent places to drink, but….. Manchester is just so EASY. Like a comfort blanket.

Time to change. And be a little more adventurous. So, with my dear old buddy Col – and after a fab & fortifying chip butty at Olympus (great chippy near the Bolton Interchange) it was back to the station for the 125 bus up to Chorley Road.

About 6 minutes on the bus……

Bunbury’s (393 Chorley Old Rd, Bolton BL1 6AH)

I’ve said it before. This bar has no right to be here, selling the beers it does. But here it is, 2 years on. And Daryl and Sarah have cultivated a loyal and devoted following of locals and not so.

Like me.

Did you notice that? That little yellow pump clip.

It’s not often I start at 4:30 on a 9% abv beer. But this was “Sweet Thing (Reprise)” from Five Towns x Rivington. One of my #ISBF5 collabs. I grab them where I can.

And it was bloody delicious. Fruity and creamy as a fruited Milkshake DIPA should be.

I had the Thirst Class too. And that Hoppy Go Lucky stood up well to the beast by its side. Nice and refreshing. Tasty. I expect nothing else from Thirst Class.

Bunbury’s. Small, but perfectly formed. Tables and standing area to the front and a small comfy room to the back.

It’s a local in the truest sense. Vibrant with conversation. Friendly. And with a simply astonishingly eclectic and excellent beer list.

Not to mention the small pack…. Nor the Cloudwater, Lervig & Rivington on the keg lines.

The regulars might not thank me for this, but – for me – this is one of Greater Manchester’s unmissable Micro Pubs.

I’ll be back. Frequently. But tonight, we were on a tight schedule..

So. Back on the (just about caught) 125 back into Bolton. Getting off at The Market Place and walking through up to All Saints Street.

Courtyard 36

A new one on me. And one that Colin in particular was keen to check out. Located just a few moments walk from the main shopping areas of the town, yet tucked away, it took a little finding.

But my is it pretty.

This is apparently an old Court House and having attended at Bolton Crown Court, this is much more decorous.

There are two or three separate drinking areas downstairs one of which has the appearance of a conservatory.

Keg only with 10 taps, 3 for Cider & Lager with the remaining choices being local and familiar featuring First Chop, Shindigger & Alphabet which – for the centre of Bolton – until recently would seem ambitious.

This bar is well laid out, very pretty and has an intimate feel. Hopefully, they’ll become a little more adventurous with the selection (given the number of ace breweries in Mcr making keg – and some even more local, as you’ll see later). But this was a fine start.

And a little history too…..

Note then, back across to The Market Place. And down the escalator….

Great Ale In The Vaults

A rare example in a retail environment of local involvement. And a welcome antidote to the chain mentality that normally pollutes such developments. Bravo to Anne & Steve Simms for kickstarting this bar.

It’s kind of a “cell” or vault surrounded by external seating. And it’s deservedly popular both with refreshing shoppers and people coming just for the bar, the friendly staff adding to it’s attractions.

And that Porter – Midtown by Beatnikz – was absolutely delicious. Rich without being cloying. Bitter and roasty. Everything a Porter should be.

There was an excellent Wishbone IPA on that bar too – and I think Wishbone are superb – but as good as that tasted, we only had time for one.

Again – having not been for a while – I forgot how good this place is. I’ll remember in future….

So. Onwards. Back out and left on Deansgate and right onto Bradshawgate then right onto Nelson Square – swerving the Spoons…

Northern Monkey Bar

Been here before. Wanted to see if I was still impressed.

I was. This is a belting place.

Northern Monkey have been brewing for a couple of years now and it was a brave, yet logical step, to have their own outlet and by locating on Nelson Square, they’ve placed themselves well.

Single roomed with a raised area away from the bar, the first thing that hits you on entry is all the shiny steel.

This is also the brewery.

There is a nice range on the bar with approx 50/50 split own beers and guests.

I saw Torrside. And was sold. Colin had their own Popcorn Stout. And was smitten. To be fair, it was bloody lovely on keg.

The Torrside was that rarity. A light mild. And was delicious too.

7 keg lines and 4 cask is a good split too and whilst it was fairly quiet, it was still early on a Friday evening.

This place will do fine. And it’s exactly what Bolton needed.

Moving on. I’d heard tell of a Chocolate Orange Imperial Stout…..

Back right onto Bradshawgate then left onto Bradford Street. Walk about 300 yards then turn right onto Castle Street. Here lies Bolton’s hidden gem…

Bolton Ukrainian Club

No pics of the bar. It would have felt intrusive.

This is a Social Club. It regularly hosts groups and functions. It’s also the location of Bolton CAMRA’s ace beer festival (more later). But it has a bar. With 3 local cask beers.

And Ukrainian Craft on draught and in bottle. And THAT is bloody good too.

But I came for this

Chocolate Orange Imperial Stout. By Blackedge Brewery. And it was utterly lush.

At 8.3% abv.

And £2.70 a pint. Yes. You read that right.

The delights of Social Clubs eh?

This is – like I said – a hidden gem. A bit of a walk, but worth every yard. With beers regularly from the likes of Brewsmith, Squawk, Rivington, Blackedge.

It’s friendly. Full of chatter. Never rammed, but warm and welcoming. It’s a great bar. And – whenever me & Colin come to Bolton, we always end up here.

And rightly so.

And – BTW – I had another pint of that Stout. Well, you have to don’t you?

And – whilst I’m here – a small comment. Whilst I was out around Bolton on Friday, l learned that Bolton CAMRA have cancelled this year’s Beer Festival.

Whatever the Whys & Wherefores, this is seriously bad news.

I’m not a fan of big beer events, but I’ve always loved this event. I even helped to brew the beer of the Festival last year.

Whatever the reasons, I hope we see it back in 2020.

We’re halfway through Tryanuary. So get out there.

Do something different. Break your habits. Try a new bar, pub, beer. Go out there and support them. In January, of all months, they need it.

Next up, some old Manchester pubs. In a #Tryanuary twist.

Back soon.

2019 : A Tryanuary Impulse – Pt 1. Wigan

Some time ago, my dear & talented friend Andy (along with friends in the Independent industry – like Shane Swindells) came up with an idea. That idea being an attempt to counter the relentless anti-alcohol lobbying of “Dry January”, “Go Sober for October” etc. What amounts to the shaming of people into abstinence. In this month of all months.

January. That month when pubs and breweries struggle most.

The idea was to try something different. DO something different. Be it a beer, a pub, an activity. It is / was a great idea, which, from one guy running it is now a nationally and regionally organised “thing”. It has taken root.

This month, I want to highlight 2 “things”. The first being somewhere NOT the norm for this Manchester focused individual.

Wigan.

Something old, something new.

This idea came following my annual chase – post ISBF – trying to catch beer that I missed at the event that I organised. This year, that chase took me to a bar in Wigan. For a 9% abv Milkshake DIPA.

Which leads me to two new bars and two old favourites.

First. Something new. Catch the #5 or #113 bus from the new Wigan bus station to Swinley District and the junction of Kenyon Road / Walkden Ave….

Sherringtons

Opened less than a year ago by Wily Fox brewery, I’ve been wanting to pop here for a while – ever since I found out that the lovely Zoe (ISBF Volunteer par excellence) worked there. I kind of knew it wouldn’t disappoint.

Micro Pubs – when done well – work. And this is done well. Very well indeed.

Set up over 2 floors – maximising square footage – this can safely be described as a modern take (decoratively) on the Micro Pub idea.

The main bar (there is also one upstairs – which opens when busy) features 6 hand pulls and (I think) around 10 keg fonts, some of which will feature lagers etc.

The cask selection was half own (Wily Fox) and half guests. As a devotee of Allgates / Wigan Brewhouse, I went for their “Casino” Pale and wasn’t disappointed.

A little nip upstairs revealed a nice space with plenty of seating and that second bar…

It was quiet. I was the only customer, but it was early afternoon on a Saturday with Xmas sales on, so understandable. It didn’t affect my enjoyment.

Nor did the delicious Dragons Tears by Black Jack on keg! Amarillo & orange…..

Wily Fox have done a bloody good job with this. This wouldn’t have been possible as recently as 3 years ago in Wigan – as I’ll comment further later.

Good beer, nice location, friendly staff. I’ll be back soon. With others.

That bus stop directly outside proved useful…

Jumping on a 641 back into the town centre makes the next stop simple….

Just at the entrance to the Bus Station sits..

The Anvil

A different kettle of piscine delights. I’ve been a fan of the Anvil since first entering some years ago. It’s where I sought advice prior to #ISBF1. It’s the starting point for The Road To Wigan Beer.

Oh Yes. Many memories.

Appearances are deceptive. The Anvil is quite modern and almost open plan on entry with 3 distinct drinking areas partitioned.

If you’re looking for craft keg, then you’ll keep looking. The Anvil is very much a town centre local with a dedicated following. What you get here is an excellent selection of bloody well looked after cask.

And with that Wigan Brewhouse Casino being only £2.50 a pint, it reminds you ft there is a different world out there in price terms. And The Anvil turns over a lot of beer.

This is the reality of many non-Metro Town centre pubs re price and cask. And what the customer is happy to pay.

I’d happily pay more for a product as good as that that the Anvil provides. But then, I drink in Manchester.

No pictures I’m afraid. And a quick stop. But if you go to Wigan, don’t pass The Anvil by. Some seriously good beer.

Head back towards the Train stations onto Wallgate, then left onto Millgate to the next (surprising) stop.

The Hop House (in John Bull Chophouse)

Downstairs is a pretty – and fairly generic – town centre pub. Narrow and busy with town centre drinkers.

But head upstairs – and there be gold. And some very surprising beers. As I’ve discovered twice now.

Pete is passionate about good beers from the best Micros. He knows that what enables this is the volume of Wainwrights and lager that’s sold downstairs. And Thwaites have let him play. Oh yes have they….

A couple of weeks ago, I’d got wind that he’d gotten the Five Towns / Rivington collab from #ISBF5, so high tailed after work on a Friday afternoon.

Even with that, the Little Earth was still a surprise.

The room upstairs is bijou. By which I mean small. Ish. But perfectly formed. And getting a devoted following. Rightly so. For being so bloody adventurous.

3 cask and 4 keg from near and far.

I perched myself. I wanted it all. But with only time for “some”.

The Mission Creep was a new brewery to me and I was smitten. Juicy and fresh. Exceptional cask. I’ll be looking out for more.

That Mojito Sour tho….. Little Earth don’t disappoint. Minty sour tartness. A real palate cleanser.

Followed by this…

I’m getting reet fond of Left Handed Giant. This Stout was just gorgeous. I do love a coconut Stout (boosted by Sorachi?)

If I lived near Wigan, I’d be a regular. It just feels right. And you can have all the great beer in the world, but if it doesn’t feel right…

This does.

And now to the place that made Sherringtons & Hop House possible…

Step back into Wallgate and walk past the stations, under the bridge and left onto Queen Street.

Wigan Central

There was a time (not that long ago) when – in Wigan – price was all.

Then came Wigan Central.

It kind of broke that mould.

It’s not that it was / is expensive. It isn’t. But from day 1, they got excellent beer. And charged appropriately for it. It proved that people will pay for quality. IF you get it right. Something that Wigan Central continues to do.

It must be doing things right, having expanded into the next arch.

Walking in and seeing Chocolate Orange Stout from Wilde Child. I was content.

The beer was delicious. The bar busy. And it was only 4:15. On a Saturday. Which meant, with the train strike, that I had too little time to catch up with this place.

With the little touches like the live train screens for both Wigan stations.

I had to dash. I was gutted. And cursing Northern Rail.

I needed this few hours out. A pleasant diversion.

As soon as the rail dispute is over, I’ll be back. Wigan is well worth it.

And not a pie passed my lips.