Beer & Music (Pubs with Jukeboxes Pt2) 06/08/2013

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After a couple of days “drying out” following the Marble 125 celebrations at The Marble Arch, I had all the excuse I needed when Col let me know he had the night off (he works nights). So we found ourselves embarking on a beery adventure, burning with optimisms flame! (Any XTC fans out there? No? I’ll move on….)

Having decided to find a few more pubs with Jukes, the best place to start, is with (IMHO) the best Jukebox in town. Which also happens to be in a cracking bar. Cask.

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Cask is a wee bit like the Tardis. Small and blue on the outside, but deceptively spacious on the inside. Located at 29, Liverpool Road on the edge of the trendy Castlefield district, It’s like a little slice of audio heaven with one of the most eclectic jukeboxes I know. In my opinion, it has no rival in Manchester.

On striding in, Col & I were confronted with 3 ales (the bar being immediately in front of you as you enter via the corner doors). Col went for the Celt Experience beer Iron Age, I chose Citraville APA (3.9% abv) from Ole Slewfoot Brewery from North Walsham, Norfolk (a brewery I was yet to taste) the other beer being from Dentons’ own Hornbeam (Summer IPA). The Citraville (as the name implied) used the citra hop to create a gentle grapefruit citrus aroma and a mouthful of restrained pithy grapefruit hop with a touch of biscuit sweetness for balance. A cracking start on the beer front indeed.

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I have been in this bar plenty of times, but not frequently enough recently. However, on each occasion, I had never had a seat beyond the bar area. Tonight, I boldly went where………. The place really opens up in this back room, in more ways than one. There is a lovely canopied patio area / beer garden outside which was well populated and quite a few tables with comfy chairs in here.  And BOOKS, games as well (Connect 4 anyone? No? Cowards!!!) a brave book selection as some of them were of recent vintage, proven as Col perused the James May & Oz Clarke beer book!

Whilst not exactly being a multi-roomed pub, the three distinct areas (including the beer garden) provide a little something for everyone. As stated, the beer was superb, the tunes? Great Juke with plenty of roots reggae, loads of eclectic indie, bit of rock, a really good selection and my shout for best in town. My tunes were Odessa by Caribou from the Swim album (a surprise & a particular favourite) and Morning Rain from Manchesters’ own I Am Kloot from the Natural History album. Tunes both!

By this time, we had been joined by my arch nemesis (also enjoying an Ole Slewfoot) and it was time to move onward….(via the excellent chippy next door!) to….

The Knott

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Now a Manchester institution located at the top end of Deansgate near the junction with Whitworth St, famed both for its beers and the superb food served, The Knott is justly popular. With the 3 of us striding in on this sunny evening (yes, this IS Manchester. Honest!), we headed straight for the bar. Another good selection including beers from Oakham (Green Devil IPA), Magic Rock (High Wire) and Hawkshead amongst others. I went for a beer I was yet to sample from Hawkshead. Bitter.

A golden beer with a lightly floral nose (reminding me of the Sorachi Ace hop) led to a refreshing light fruity beer with a nice floral and bitter dry finish. A lovely beer for a summers evening.

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For those unaware, The Knott is built into a (still working) railway arch which accounts for its vaulted ceilings. Another single room with a multi-room feel, the room opens up as you pass the bar. Plenty of ales and craft beers to satisfy the most discerning…….. The tunes in here were Wide Eyes by Local Natives from the Gorilla Manor album (superb!) and Next Girl by The Black Keys from Attack & Release. Superb tunage (IMHO of course!)

At this point, we had a bit of leg work to do. Walking up Whitworth St and bypassing the many arch inhabiting bars thereon, we walked past the Hacienda Apartments and bemoaned the loss of that once great club, when, on nights like these, some wag would always open the rear door onto the canal and cool down in the murky water!

Turning up the back streets, bypassing Font (sighs!) we were destined for another railway arch, this time occupied by a bar I was yet to try.

The Thirsty Scholar

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Slightly disappointingly, the theme was sacrificed at this juncture. No Juke. However, there was a very energetic, almost skiffle, band on giving it their all, so we stuck with it. Thetwo ale choices in here were both from Blakemere from Northwich in Cheshire. Navajo & Pinnacle. I plumped for the Navajo. A mistake. If that was supposed to  have hoppy citrus notes that is. I asked for a swap for Pinnacle, but for a moment, thought I wasn’t going to get one. However, it was replaced for a Pinnacle and I retired to the outside bench seating content. (With the band still banging out the tunes!)

Being inside a railway arch, the bar opens out to left and right as you approach the bar. The performance stage is to the right of the bar as you enter. Quite a nice wee place really with a rep for live music (which was for free BTW) but with DJs at weekends. Glad I popped in.

The Pinnacle was a 4.4% nice Brown Ale. Creamy and nutty and with a nicely bitter hoppy finish. A nice pint. By this point, Mr Anonymous had joined us from his evening exertions and (with Font close by) batted his sad puppy dog eyes, desirous of some “craft”. I must be getting soft in my old age! Off to Font we go then…… 

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TheFont-exterior

(pic : curryandbeer.co.uk)

Hardly a chore of course! No juke but as usual, great tunes. Obviously not as busy as at weekends, the bar was easily gained as my eyes lit up! Pale Ale by Five Points Brewing! Easy decision that then! Gold and slightly hazy. A sharp grapefruit and fruity mango nose on this puppy. Grapefruit upfront in the mouth with a touch of malt sweetness for balance. A short bitter and hoppy fruity finish. This was packed with flavour, far more than any beer at 4.4% abv has a right to. A really zingy refreshing beer. Beer of the evening for me.

Short walk to the final destination of the evening, past the Thirsty Scholar to its neighbour…

The Salisbury

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Not been in here for 20 odd years! Used to be a really good boozer this, with reliable selection of  good ales. Located on Wakefield Street, just down a dip off Oxford Road, you could easily miss this. Handy for Oxford Rd train station though, as steps lead up to it from outside the pub!

Another single space with a multi room feel. Bar and some seating to the left on entry with the room stretching out ahead. There is a rare red cloth pool table to the right facing the bar. The jukebox (unfortunately digital and modern in design) has a distinct  rock/metal bias. This does have a rep as a “Rock” pub. No bad thing! I grabbed a pint of All American Summer Pale from Caledonian at 4.1%. The beer was uninspiring. IN good condition, with a vaguely fruity nose and flavour, NOT what I was expecting from the words “All American”. Hops were called for, and unfortunately were not present in sufficient numbers for me. Nice enough, but bland.

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A nice relaxed feel to the Salisbury. Tunage from Led Zep (Misty Mountain Hop – Classic) and AC-DC (Back in Black). I was a happy boy. It has changed drastically over the years, but was relaxed enough, even if the beer range was somewhat….generic. Robinsons, Everards, Caledonian etc…

Being a school night, I had to drag Col away toward the chariot, sadly by-passing the siren call of Elland 1872 in Paramount (sob!)

Friends, music & beer. A good evening.

Beer of the Evening was Pale Ale by Five Points Brewing (Closely followed by the Citraville APA by Ole Slewfoot)

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

Sunny in Manchester? 07/06/2013 (Or, the best laid plans…Pt2)

The original idea was set some time previous. A colleague wanted to see some of Manchester’s better pubs/bars. As you will see, at least I had a good time!

Word got out of a Works do at Dukes 92.

I couldn’t do it. Whenever I had been there, the beer was simply awful. Arrangements were made to meet afterwards. Needless to say, they didn’t quite work out. Hey ho. There was beer to be drunk, so I obliged!

The afternoon starts off in….

Sandbar.

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Having not been for a while, seemed like a good place tp kick off….

Being a lovely bright sunny day, there were tables outside. What’s more, there were people sat at them! Warm outside, but nice and cool inside with 7 (seven) handpumps on display. As you can see below, an excellent selection. However, I had eyes for a beer I’d had only once before. Tarantula by Privateer.

A Mild, weighing in at 3.5% abv, this was as dark as you might expect with a light cocoa nose. Lovely and smooth in the mouth, a chocolate tinge with a hoppy finish. A nice twist on a dark mild. (Almost a shame it’s only available at Sandbar!)

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(Beer Garden)

Sandbar effectively has 3 room. A large room where the bar resides and two rooms to the rear, which were formed from the addition of the next door premises. Being fairly early in the afternoon, these were quiet. A nice sized beer garden to the end of the bar was enjoyed by a few sunseekers.

Following the Tarantula, decision time. Redacre by Worth Brewery (from Poynton). A 4% deep copper coloured beer. A gently floral aroma was followed by a fruity mouthful, bitter with an increasingly dry herbal grassy finish. Not usually my kind of beer, but nice enough.

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Each time I see Sandbar, there’s something else that impresses me. Today, spotting an excellent jukebox and the notes on the “prayer board” listing the hops used in each beer. A nice touch. Nice friendly bar staff too! Ordinarily, I would have loved to have stayed, but word had reached me of other beers that needed sampling elsewhere….that elsewhere was….?

Joshua Brooks

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Again, quite a few people sat on the balcony overlooking the Medlock, enjoying the rays. Me, I had an alternative agenda!

Canasta Mild from Black Jack Beers. A black beer, slight chocolate nose, lots of roasty stuff going on. Nice and creamy textured, with a dry coffee aftertaste. Another nice Manchester Mild.

That Black jack went well with a lovely Lancashire Cheese and Onion pie from Great North Pie Co with a creamy side of mash. Just what the proverbial medical chap ordered!

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(Solace from Quantum)

Next up, the US Saison from Quantum at 5% abv. I didn’t think this was being casked! Hazy golden coloured, this was a fruity mouthful with a pronounced peachy nose. Really peachy in the mouth too, more so than I remember from a couple of weeks ago. Refreshing, grassy dry finish. A big surprise this. Great tunes in here too. Gold Panda, Yeasayer. Works for me anyway!

Let me repeat. £2.60 a pint. Every Friday! How many times do I have to repeat myself? Eh?

20130607_171438(How comfy does THAT look?)

With no James to mither, we moved on to….

Font

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(Oops – View from Font. Superb graffiti art on the arches!)

Quite busy for the time of day, but still able to get a seat. Just the one here. For me, Black Perle from Weird Beard Brew Co. Only the second beer I’ve had from this Hanwell, West London brewer. And what a belter! A 4.5% abv Milk Coffee Stout. As in a Milk Stout with Coffee! Black, with a gentle coffee aroma. Slightly sweet with a firm coffee kick, this was a lovely creamy mouthful. The coffee in the mouth was like a nice filter, rather than the usual ristretto.It was all the better for it. The tunes in here were quite retro today. Walking in to Peaches by The Stranglers set the tone.

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(DJ Booth – Love the artwork!)

Value was again superb in here. Use of the CAMRA membership rendered the Weird Beard and a pint of a 7.4% from Tempest down to £5.40. Floats MY boat!

We moved onto ….

The Knott

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Hadn’t been for a while. The balcony was busy with sun seekers whilst the bar was fairly well populated also. First choice was Titanic Stout. 4.5% abv, this black beer is an old favourite and didn’t disappoint. Black beer with a beige cream head, this had a lovely smooth creamy texture with a full roasted body with a slight bitter coffee note. An excellent dry stout.

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Next up was Rapture from Magic Rock. At 4.6% abv, I love this beer and have had it on many occasions. It was in really good condition as well. As hoppy as you would like with a big grapefruity nose, good malty body with lots of hops. The balance is on the edge with this but just works so well! £3.80 a pint seemed a tad excessive though. The Castlefield effect I guess.

Whilst the initial plan didn’t work out (though I tried!), as you can tell from the above, the afternoon wasn’t wasted!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

A Day Trip To Stockport – 18/05/2013

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I’m quite nosey me! (Bolton speak!) So when I picked up that Jaz and a group of his colleagues were planning a group tour of Robinsons (henceforth, Robbies) Brewery in Stockport, it set the limited grey matter working. I hadn’t been drinking in Stockport since the mid 80s and this struck me as an ideal opportunity to fill this knowledge gap (at least partly). Jaz made the right noises and I was in!

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Now, this also brought me within the gravitational pull of a certain Mr Jay Krause, Owner, Brewer and all-round hop alchemist at Quantum Brewing – I just had to ask! Didn’t I? Being the ‘good egg’ that he undoubtedly is, he invited Jaz & myself round. Whoo-Hoo! Two breweries in one day. Bargain!

So, I find myself on the train (for a change) and (meeting Jaz at Piccadilly) we set off on the 11:15 Virgin train to London Euston and a mere 10 minutes later, we’re walking up Wellington Road. Bugger me, but that is a hell of a gradient! It’s hardly the Col de la Madeleine, but I was bloody knackered before it levelled off on Hempshaw Lane where the aforementioned Mr Krause weaves his magic.

Let’s say, I struggled to find Quantum, initially! Then I remembered something Jay said about location, retraced my steps and lo! There be casks!

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(Anyone for beer barrel Jenga?)

Jay started this operation in 2011 and has quickly gained a reputation for full flavoured beers with often unusual ingredients – his Blood Orange Pale Ale has entered into legend! (And was the first beer Jaz asked about!) I first saw him at the Leeds International Beer Fest last year behind the bar and enjoyed his Stout hugely. Since then, I’ve had several of his beers and they have all been excellent, in particular his Keyworths Early using an old hop variety that could well make a comeback.

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(LtoR – Hot Liquor Tank and Copper)

Anyhoo! Located in an industrial unit off Hempshaw Lane, just outside (and UPHILL of) Stockport centre, Jay is unmistakably a one man band. I fail to comprehend how I can find so much of his beer in the Manchester area, with the size of his operation. He looks like a hell of an engineer having adapted his own mash tun to suit his own needs. 

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(Self built Mash Tun!)

He dispenses his beer in a variety of formats, Cask, KeyKeg and bottle. The bottles aren’t bottle conditioned, which will certainly help when it comes to chilling them slightly!

A 5 Bbl plant means that he can brew up to 1440 pints per brew, that’s 20 9 gallon firkins (cask) or nearly 1500 bottles! It’s good to hear that he’s making it pay, though he’s some distance off being a ‘beer baron’! This is his day job and he makes it pay by producing excellent beer which is showcased in some of Manchester’s best bars (Port Street, Joshua Brooks and Font, to name but 3!)

I was intrigued to see some of his wooden casks used for some specials. Smoked Porter aged in Caol Ila whisky cask anyone? (Trust me to miss THAT one!)

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As mentioned earlier, he produces a wide variety of tasty beers. In that vein, he allowed Jaz and myself to sample a Saison that is about to be released into ‘the wild’. This is one lovely beer! Slightly hazy and golden in colour with a lovely fruitiness and dry finish. This may be making its way in the world this week. Jaz & I both loved it. The knowledge that it’ll be served in Joshua Brooks was gratefully received. (James’ll tip us the wink, won’t you?)

As stated, Jay’s is a small, true Micro Brewery and he does all the key tasks himself, even down to the bottling. He’s one busy boy and we were really grateful that he took time out to chat with us and answer my idiot novice questions with good grace and a smile! (And a HUGE thanks for the CCC and American Amber! Reviewed soon – as long as Jaz doesn’t drink them first – they’re stored at his flat!)

A genuinely nice bloke running a human scale brewing operation. Look out for his beers, you will NOT be disappointed! (A collaboration brew is in the offing with Allgates, Jay, Tandleman & Tyson The Beerhound – Two top brewers and two fables tasters – I may even sit in the bleachers and watch the fun! Watch this space, it’s gonna be superb!)

Now, for the polar opposite?

But first, we had a bit of time to spare before our 13:30 appointment at the brewing behemoth that is Robinsons, so we strolled along to the market place to have a look at the High Peak Beer Co.

I didn’t expect such a small unit! But a superb selection of beers from near and far. Had a bit of chat with (who I presume to be) the owner. Certainly knows his beer this man! Aims to snaffle himself a pub in the peak within the next 5 years with maybe a brew plant out the back. I like it! Said he’d be looking at a bit of a camping facility as well. I’m there already! Picked myself up a bottle of Axe Edge by Buxton Brewery. A cheery wave and we were off to meet our fellow beer tourists in the local Wetherspoons)

Had a nice pint of GWB Meerkat Mild here. Big ol’ Spoons, huge floor area, but 3 milds on, including George Wrights and Titanic. More later.

A short walk from Wetherspoons and we find ourselves at…..

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(Shiny new Visitors centre!)

We were given a few minutes to gather ourselves together (and, no doubt, peruse purchasing opportunities!)

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20130518_133834(Putting the cart before the – absent – horse!)

The Visitor Centre is fairly new. Lots of interactive displays around the walls with an accent on the history and heritage of the brewery. Lots of merchandise for sale from chutneys to t-shirts with most of Robbies bottled beer available to purchase, including the new “collaboration” beer with Iron Maiden, Trooper, which featured prominently as you would expect.

We were gathered together by our tour guide and shown the highways and byways of this, quite large, brewery.

Being a ‘tower’ type brewery (the process flows down with gravity!), there were a LOT of steps. If you have fitness issues (like me!) be prepared for recovery time!

There was a big accent on a recent major brewery refurb, with lots of new, efficient, kit being bought from Germany at great expense. Bright and shiny it was indeed. Industrial. This is a big business. They retained examples of most of the old kit too, which made for a nice contrast, starting at the old and new grist mills (grain grinders). Here we were shown samples of the various malts and encouraged to taste. I loved the bitter coffee flavours of the chocolate malt (surprised?)

We were also encouraged to smell sample a variety of hops. In Robbies case, mostly British with one jar of US (Amarillo). Robbies predominantly use Goldings in their beers.

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(Grist to the mill!)

The Mash Tun and Lauter Tun were next and from this point, you get an idea of the sheer huge scale of this operation. These vessels are HUGE, like icebergs, you only see what’s on the surface.

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(Old & New)

Onward to the brewing vessel (or Copper) where the hops are added to impart their aromas and bitter characteristics. Again, think of icebergs!

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Via the Hop Back room (where the spent hops are removed – like the spent grains at other stages – and sent to farms for animal feed) we were taken to the fermenting vessels. Robbies have loads of FVs and again, they are HUGE! I had to take snaps of working FVs and empty to give you the scale. The FV is where the yeast comes to the party, shakes its booty and turns all those lovely sugars into even lovelier alcohol. There were some gorgeous fruity smells in here with maybe 4 FVs at work. (Robbies also have separate vessels used to brew Fentimans botanic drinks)

20130518_144655(The yeast having a party. Check out the patterns!)

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(An empty FV. That must be 15ft deep!!! That’s a whole lot of happy juice!)

With a quick peep into a Control Room, which looked like the tidiest, cleanest office you’ll EVER work in, we were pretty much done. This is a high-tech, leaner, more environmentally friendly operation than ever.

Then were off to the bar to spend our “tokens”, each of which equated to a 1/3rd of beer. I chose a 1/3rd each of Uncle Sams pale ale, Trooper (The Iron Maiden beer) and Fredericks on keg at 6.5%. If I’m honest, I wasn’t overly struck by any of them. A slight preference for the Uncle Sams which was reasonably hoppy and bitter. The Trooper was a maltier brew and fine for what it is. The Fredericks was overly cold and, for 6.5%, I didn’t get much at all.

The bar/restaurant area was quite a nice space. If open to the public (aside from tours) this could be a nice little earner. The beer is in good nick (as you would expect) and the food (limited to sandwiches today) looked quite good.

A couple of observations –

1. This a slick tour around a grand old institution which has been brought bang up to date. The tour is pretty much pitched at the curious novice with little or no knowledge. For that market, it is a fabulous lesson in the chemistry of beer. I spoke to a couple of people afterwards who found it really informative. For me (a relative novice with a modicum of knowledge), I would have liked more detail. For one thing, I asked a basic question about the cost of the refurb. The guide didn’t have the answer to hand. Things like that should be standard. With just a little extra polish, what was quite a good tour, could be a lot better.

2. Robbies are obviously on the rise, both nationally and internationally. The hook up with Bruce Dickinson and Iron Maiden is VERY astute. This could help Robbies penetrate abroad with that HUGE Iron Maiden fan base and also into live music venues. There has been a big push with Trooper and in all likelihood, it will pay off. Massively.

Moving onwards and (literally) upwards, we popped back into the Spoons to meet up with some more people and (after a nice pint of George Wrights Mild & a sour pint of Titanic Mild – taken off on mentioning!) we were off to….

The Crown

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(A Stockport Institution)

A lovely old pub. Lots of leather and wood inside with a vast number of handpumps (too many to count!), I plumped for a pint of Millstone Stout and we eventually settled our, now enlarged group into the room to the right of the bar – where lurked two handpulls dedicated to real cider.

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(rear room)

The Millstone Stout at 4.5% was lovely. Creamy full texture, slight coffee in that nice roasted flavour with a dry finish. A really good stout. and just what was needed.

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(Nice & busy on a Saturday afternoon!)

The consensus was to move on at this point. So that’s what we did!

The Magnet

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Another pub after my own heart. Multi-roomed with a plethora of handpulls. Busy again with chatter the order of the day (as well as Tittertons Pork Pies!). Well behaved dogs allowed in as well, which was a nice touch. Busy at the bar, I plumped for a BlackJack Canasta Mild at 3.8% abv. Dark, buttery roasted aroma with a nice texture, lots of roasted malt flavour with a nice dry finish.

20130518_173826(Busy bar – lots of handpulls!)

Ina slightly lower level was a pool table, where we settled our rabble down to a game of killer. I lost (as you would expect!). The pub has a lot going for it, lots of good beer and choice of rooms with different atmospheres. The only slight issue I had, was there was a little wear and tear showing, especially with the plaster work. I wonder if the money is available to do this work? Not to take away too much from what is an excellent boozer.

We stayed for one more here, so I had an Oakham beer. Sock Monkey at 5% abv. Golden and bright, a citrus grapefruit aroma from what I thought was citra hops, a lovely mouthful of biscuity sweetness balanced with a grapefruit hoppyness. Typically Oakham, typically excellent. If we hadn’t stayed, I probably wouldn’t have spotted the nice decking area outside!

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(Well. Summer IS on the way. Isn’t it?)

Back to Manchester on Northern Rails’ finest. A quick snack from Sainsbury in Piccadilly station and off to a pub I’ve not been to in yonks!

The Bulls Head

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Judging by the beer selection, this is a Marstons pub. Fortunately for me, Jaz had chosen wisely and got me a pint of Marstons Single Hop Amarillo at 4% abv. Pale, gold and with abundant fruity hop aroma. Nice and refreshing. 2nd Single hop Marstons I’ve had recently. Enjoyed both.

Last time I came in, the pub was two roomed. Now it’s one open space with the large bar to the rear. Nice leaded windows, muted dark colours, reds and browns, quite warm feeling. Nice slightly elevated are to the front with (what looked like) a real fire range.

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It was here that the group split up. Some for home, some for food and some (guess who?) for Joshua Brooks! (Via Jaz flat to drop bottles off – amazed they got back!)

Joshua Brooks

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The magnet that pulled us in was the Baby Belgian by Offbeat Brewery. At 8% I bottled it (not literally – I’d have spilt some!), the indefatigable Jaz went that way, I went for the Last Porter Call by Titanic. Fruity, very fruity. Damsons or plums. Not much discernable roasty stuff going on. But then, it WAS late in the day! A nice beer at 4.9%.

Oakham Brewery Bishops Farewell was next. 2 Oakham in one day. Yay! Again, pale, hoppy and balanced with sweet biscuit malt. Another Oakham, another excellent pale bitter brew!

One more for my baby and one for the road. The baby in question, being another Baby Belgian for Jaz the Indefatigable (now looking rather fatigued!), the one for the road being Obsidian black IPA by Hop Studio from York. As far as the stuff in bars goes, the beer of the day. Both citrus AND coffee on the nose with bitter hops in the mouth and a slightly bitter coffee in the aftertaste. REALLY good this!

I know what to expect from Joshua Brooks (as should you, by now!) Tonight was fairly busy again, with a few coming in just before I left, for a beer prior to going downstairs to the club. More excellent beer.

At this point, I had to dash for my chariot. Past lots of young things on their way to JBs

An excellent day out, finished off nicely. The Old parts of Stockport are actually rather pretty, nice town. Hope to be back soon to explore more.

Beer of the day. Unfair really, but it was the taste of Saison from Quantum. Lovely. In the pubs it was Obsidian by Hop Studio. An excellent Black IPA. Last beer of the evening as well. How weird is that!

On that note….If you, like I, are at the BlackJack MTB at Port Street on Monday, say hello! If not….’til next time…

Slainte!

Joshua Brooks – Just The Ticket! 03/05/2013

It had been a stressful week at the ‘coal face’. That said, I had absolutely no intention of hitting the 37 towards Manchester on this particular Friday evening, none whatsoever! All those good intentions evaporated, when I received reports that one of my favourite bars had 4 (FOUR) dark beers out of 5 on their bar. So, once I had cleaned up the drool and hit the bus, I find myself walking up Princess Street, toward the junction with Charles Street, where sits that little patch of beery heaven that is….

Joshua Brooks

Oxford Road Corridor Pt 1 - 19/10/2012

As I was crossing Portland Street, I checked my Twitter feed. Horror of horrors, one of the 4 had expired. That one being the Blackberry Stout by Waen Brewery, a brewery and a beer I hadn’t yet sampled. I was suitably gutted. However, the fear of missing out on any other increased my pace. 90 seconds later I was at the bar. The other 3 were still present and correct. James, the bar manager, advised me to get on the Waen Brewery Chilli Plum Porter before that went too. A 6.1% abv to start the evening? Ah well. It HAD been a stressful week after all!

As the beer was being pulled, I surveyed the scene. Busy. VERY busy. I hadn’t seen Joshua Brooks this busy upstairs and it was a delight to see. No tables/chairs to be had, so vertical was our drinking stance (having been joined by my arch-nemesis, Jaz).

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Now the venue has been open since 1993 and has been (and remains) an ultra successful nightclub, the venue for which is downstairs. Having only been introduced to the place last year, I’m probably a tad senior to brave the venue in full swing, but last year, James showed me downstairs and it reminds me of great venues from my youth from the minimalism of The Hacienda, to the intimate feel of The Boardwalk and The Venue (all venues on the Whitworth Street corridor). It looks a belting venue and justifiably popular.

The upstairs bar (where I find myself!) is an open plan space with (very) comfy semi-circular leather sofas to the right of the bar and further leather sofas in the centre with other tables and chairs dotted around. there is a balcony area outside with a view over the River Medlock across to that Manchester institution The Lass O’Gowrie. There is a drop down screen for major sporting events and an excellent (and somewhat tricky) quiz night on occasions.

Back to that Chilli Plum Porter! As stated earlier, I hadn’t previously tried any beers from Waen Brewery so was eager to tuck into this (having missed the Blackberry Stout!). I wasn’t to be disappointed as i pushed through the lush creamy head into a very creamy stout, full of body, with a subtle touch of plum identifiable and a touch of tongue tingling warmth coming through the further down the glass I progressed. A truly lovely beer. As I finished the beer, I swooped onto one of the semi-circular sofas like a seagull on a stray chip!

I dropped down the strength next with a Black Ice from Titanic Brewery from the Potteries. James told me this was a black Wheat Beer. I didn’t get that at all. What I tasted was more like a light Black IPA. 4.1% abv, some nice roasted malt notes, but that hoppy dryness like a counterpoint to mess with your head. A nice beer indeed. Darkness from Dark Star (for me) is the daddy of this lower abv Black IPA style, but this doesn’t fall far short.

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(Black Ice – slipping down easily!)

Next up, another new brewery for me, Lurchs Liquor Stout from Muirhouse Brewery of Ilkeston, Derbyshire. Back up to 5% abv with this black beer. Creamy head with a roasted almost buttery aroma. described as a rich stout packed with dark malts, this (to me) was dry with a pronounced fruity note. Dry indeed in the afters. Lush and creamy in the mouth. Another brewery to look out for.

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(Lurch has cute dimples!)

Seeing as I was here, I thought I’d go through the bar. Rude not to really! So next up, was the beer that replaced the Waen Blackberry Stout, Seamless from Redwillow. A 3.6% abv pale beer. Expecting big hops, but got some banana split notes and butterscotch in the aroma. refreshing, but probably one for a starter rather than end of session.

Finally, Janners Pride from Waen Brewery to complete my sweep. Not a style of beer I would ordinarily go for, being a brown beer at 4% abv. Nice though, quite malty with a smoky tinge to the flavour, with a bitter finish.

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(A fine selection!)

Did I mention that the ales are all £2.60 on a Friday evening? No? Let that be our secret! There is another secret that you’ll have to ask me about!

Probably now my favourite bar. Excellent beer, excellently priced. Good staff and excellent background music. Ticks all my boxes really. But what is it with those dimpled glasses?

Having finished the ales, we bade farewell and strolled along to The Waterhouse and sneaked in a pint of American Red by Hawkshead. Red, American hops. Just the thing at the end of the night! Gorgeously sharp and bitter with lashings of them Yank hoppy things. Another bargain at £2.29!

The time had come for the companions to go their separate ways, Jaz to his city centre condo, me to my seat on the 37!

I like Joshua Brooks. (Did I tell you that?) Take that as a recommendation.

On that note, ’til next time.

Slainte!

Historic Manchester Pubs – Part 1 – 15/03/2013

The final day of my week off. An old pal of mine – now resident in Perth, Western Oz – was in town. This gave me more than an excuse to sally forth to Manchester. Also an excuse to do some of the older pubs from my youth the “Historic Pubs”, I’ve been threatening for so long!

Passing up the chance to watch The Cheltenham Gold Cup (I backed the winner, seeing as you’re asking!), I acceded to my old pals request to meet in……

The Kings Arms

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(Sure there was daylight when I entered!)

Located on Bloom Street, just off Chapel Street (A6), this particular building dates from the 1870s and is a gorgeous old structure – standing proud whilst almost surrounded by newer residential flat developments – and is opposite the lovely old Salford Corporations Gas Offices. (The pub – apparently – was originally sited opposite!)

I’ve loved this pub since it was an old Higsons House (A Liverpool brewer pub in Salford!). A brief perusal of t’interweb has some images with some Higsons detail.

The Kings has an odd layout with a main room which curves (slightly) around the bar. There is a separate serving hatch to the right as you enter with a nice sized room opposite (last time we came in, this was where the ‘Knitting Club’ were pearling for England!). The main room feels (but isn’t) cavernous. Excellent jukebox (Music being a big feature of this pub) and a number of great 7″ single picture sleeves adorn the walls. Each time I come to the pub, I notice some I hadn’t seen before! (Dad? What’s a 7″ single?)

20130315_153646(The Bar)

Walking into the bar, I spy my old (ex-pat) buddy. “Ah! Bunty!!!” (The names have been changed, to protect the innocent). Before we could chat properly, there was an issue to address….Blackedge Brewery IPA. 6 beers on the bar, but “drink local”! Slightly hazy and golden in colour with gentle citrus on the nose. Spritzy and refreshing with lemon and gentle grapefruit on the tongue. A nice start at 4.2% from this Horwich brewer.

20130315_153658(Main Room)

Joined by Jaz at this point, conversation was flowing (3 years or so to catch up on!) as was the beer. Next up was Bhuoys With The Black Stuff (sic) from Glossop’s own Howard Town Brewery. A dark porter with a creamy head. Nice roasted flavours, really smooth texture, light coffee flavours with a slight bitter twist in the tail. So nice that I had another!

My old mucker had places to go, as did I, so we split up at this point. He headed for them there hills, whilst – keeping with the “historic” theme, myself and Jaz headed towards……..

The Wellington

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Situated on Shambles Square in Manchester city centre (facing Selfridges / Harvey Nichols), this is an old building still umbilically linked to another pub, Sinclairs Oyster Bar. These pubs have been painstakingly physically relocated twice. The latter move necessitated (!!!) by the need to increase the footprint of the new (post IRA bombing) Marks & Spencer development.

Both pubs butt onto a further pub The Olde Mitre and all three sit in the shadow not only of the facing retail behemoths, but also Manchester Cathedral. They all share an open drinking area (plastic glasses only), which tonight was thronged with drinkers.

Both buildings apparently date from the 17th Century, making them some of the oldest buildings in the city. Now my family have a connection to this pub. Whilst researching my family tree, before my Dad passed away a couple of years ago, a family memory passed down about my granddad Chambers having a fishing tackle shop in the old Shambles. A trawl through the internet revealed that the shop was situated above The Old Wellington.

Will Chambers Fishing Tackle (2)(Here it is. Family History!)

(pic – courtesy of Manchester Records Office)

The Wellington has a tudor look frontage and has lots of wood and low beams in the single room bar area. There is an upstairs room, which is very popular, and also has low beams and loads of wood.

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4 ales on the bar I think. I opted for a brewery I’ve never had before Andwell from Hampshire and their Spring Magic at 4.4%. A nice pale beer, lemon sherbet aroma with a light lemon citrus flavour. A nice beer. Prices go up a notch here to £3.60 a pint. Nice beer, but at that price……the next logical port of call is attached….

Sinclairs Oyster Bar

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Walked in. No ale. All kegs & bottles. I had a bottle of Oatmeal Stout which I instantly regretted as it was too sweet. Whilst I love this ramshackle old building, I won’t be back in a hurry. 3 distinct drinking areas downstairs. A narrow stairway takes you upstairs. Being told that it was rammed up there, I didn’t venture a peep. From memory though, there is another bar up there and a nice long open room offering a nice view across the square. Again, lots of dark wood. Low ceilings. Main bar area is vertical drinking and incredibly busy.

20130315_190540(side room)

There is a small room just off the rear of the bar which fills very quickly as it has the only low seats downstairs.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this pub. Many a weekend night out started in Sinclairs, even if Old Brewery Bitter was never to my taste. It’s a gorgeous old building which appears to have survived its moves without massive compromises. It’s also really busy. It attracts lots of people and trades on its history. It has its market. This just no longer includes me, I’m afraid.

http://manchesterhistory.net/manchester/tours/tour4/area4page11.html is an interesting site with lots of images of Shambles past and present.

The Hare & Hounds

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Grade II listed, this is another beautiful old boozer. My “stag” do finished up in here where we stared in horror when Salvatore Schillaci ended Irish World Cup hopes in 1990. Moving swiftly on…..


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Large tiled lobby area, lots of wood again. A gorgeous entrance. 3 downstairs room (inc the lobby) served from a central bar. The Multi-roomed pub feels like a diminishing breed. Walls tiled with a dark brown tile, possibly not to everyone’s tastes, but works for me. Another pub that feels like a real local in the heart of the city, it’s great that such things still exist. Really friendly customers.

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(rear room)

Holts Bitter was mothers milk for juveniles of my vintage. (That and Tim Taylors Landlord) It was a lovely (if occasionally variable in quality) and uncompromisingly bitter brew. I’m unsure as to what has happened, but I haven’t had a great pint of Holts Bitter for years – and I’ve drunk it in a few pubs.

Recipe change? Whatever has happened, the beer (to me) wasn’t bad, it is now bland and anonymous. Shame. This bitter used to MEAN Manchester beer to me. Not anymore. There is far better to be drunk nearby. Scenic, friendly? Yes indeed. A classic pub, with underwhelming beer. I needed a palate cleanser…….

Port Street Beer House

A Mini Jaunt in Manchester - 21/09/2012(Recycled pic alert!)

(Not so) Old Faithful. A reliably good pint served by young bar staff who know their trade. Tonight, I was lured with some false intel. That Jarl by Fyne Ales was on the bar. BUM! Never mind, the same brewery’s Hurricane Jack was on. Pale as a supermodel, zingy as a zingy thing. 4.4% abv, fresh grapefruit hoppy aroma, grapefruit and sherbet lemon in the mouth. Startlingly refreshing and simply superb after some of the dross I had just drunk. Restoring my faith in the brewing arts.

Next beer was from Great Heck in East Yorkshire. Blonde at 4.3% abv. Another refreshing pale ale, nice citrus flavours and very drinkable. Two Great Hecks on last night. Jaz had Powermouse by them and that was lush as well. First time I’ve seen their beers in a pub and hopefully not the last. Just time for a couple more historic pubs (gasp!)….

The Crown & Kettle

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Another stunning building dating from the early 19th century, with a wealth of outstanding details and features within. Multi-roomed as well!  Another Grade II listed pub. That this pub was shut for 16 years until 2005 is heinous! It is simply gorgeous…get the picture? Speaking of pictures….

20130315_212822(The bar)

As reported previously, 3 distinct rooms each with their own feel. It seems somehow wrong to comment on the beer served within, but….Red Rat from Rat Brewery at 4.2% abv. Unsurprisingly a red beer, made with Simcoe hops. Lovely and bitter, sharp with aromas you would expect from Simcoe, powerful grapefruit, apricot, grassy as well. A fabulous beer in a fabulous pub, where, shamefully, it was easy to get a seat! Some superb Northern Soul again in here….fancy starting an All-Nighter guys? Exiting through the door below (gratuitous picture link!)…….

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The Castle

Castle

(pic – beerintheevening.com)

Another late 18th century pub. The tiled frontage leads you into the mosaic floor tiled bar area. Simply lovely. Another pub that’s a favourite from my youth, the new owners have done a tremendous job restoring this building and improving it massively. Now (with the opening of the room upstairs) a 4 roomed pub – including the performance area – it is justly busy and has a great jukebox (even if some of the 80s selections last night weren’t to my taste!).

20130315_222809(busy bar area)

This is tied into Robinsons Brewery but always has 2 or 3 has some interesting guests. The choice tonight was Titanic Brewery’s Longitude. I will hopefully try this beer again, because, whilst a nice pint with hop flavour, I could get a touch of sweetness and at this stage of the evening, I needed something more assertive. Nice pint, wrong time.

To sum up. ALL the pubs I went in had something to recommend them. ALL were busy and – therefore – catering to their given audience. There are some stunning historical pubs in Manchester that serve beer that I DO like. As one of my conversations yesterday went…this is all about personal taste and opinions. Mine are not necessarily better than yours. If you disagree, comment. In the words of the Manic Street Preachers album – This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours!

More historic walks for the future and I will listen to suggestions. On that note……’til next time.

Slainte!

Manchester NQ – 16/01/2013

Midweek Beer in the Northern Quarter

Sub zero in Manchester. What kind of fool would want to travel to Manchester for a pint in such cold? You guessed it!

Stepping into The Marble Arch on Rochdale Road, you stand for a moment to drink in all of the original features of this unique pub. The glazed tile walls, Victorian fireplace, lovely ornate bar, the ‘ski slope’ descent to the bar! (It takes some believing!)

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(A grand entrance!)

My intention was to drink just Manchester area beers, but that died on my breath as there was a beer waiting for me from Hand Drawn Monkey in Huddersfield! So, that was that!

Pale Ale Experiment #2, (the said beer) is a 4% abv pale refreshing and lightly bitter ale. Moving onto the ‘Dark Side’, I had to try the Marble Brewery Stouter Stout and revel in its satanic blackness! Dry, creamy and earthy, with some gentle charred coffee bitterness.  Mmmmm…..

I do like a little stroll, so, wandering down Rochdale Road, past the site of the former Pot of Beer (an old friend!) we approached The Angel.

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Somewhat overlooked by the huge new Co-Op HQ, The pub has a restaurant upstairs with a good reputation and the pub itself has had a few rebirths over the years, but is now settled as a free-house

Always guaranteed an eclectic selection in here. Open plan in an L shape with the bar on the left, the room has a peculiar (and unique, for Manchester) feature. A baby grand piano!

20130116_202440[1] (Fancy a tinkle?)

Quite quiet in here with some nice background music, I settled down to a nice pint of Culloden Stout from BrewHouse Brewery at 5.6% abv. Dry, slightly bitter with a hint of vanilla. The pub has around 7 beers on at any one time and frequently has some hard to find gems.

Moving on, we crossed over Rochdale Rd and popped into The Smithfield on Swan St, another pub with an unusual feature for the city centre, a pool table!

20130116_205637[1](A City Centre rarity!)

Another open plan pub, this has a small square mezzanine with some ‘shabby chic’ comfy chairs (VERY comfy!) and has an arrangement of comfy chairs located at the end around the large screen TV (for Sports). This has the feel (and clientele) of a true ‘local’ pub and is very friendly.

The usual good selection of beers on show, I opted for a beer from Bury, namely Deeply Vale ‘Still Walking’ bitter. 3.8% abv, a nicely balanced beer with lots of flavour and a clean dry finish.

Bar Fringe up next, as eclectic as you want it to be! There is always a decorative surprise in here (as well as a decent beer or two!) The Mezzanine Motorbike being a personal favourite!

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(Eclectic Decoration – Fringe Style!)

A nice pale and hoppy Frost Giant from Sadlers Brewery in the West Midlands at 3.8%abv was the choice in here. I do like friendly bar staff, and the gravelly voice bloke behind the pumps certainly was that! Normally 2 or 3 ales on in here, with a large array of draught Belgian and German beers.

On this bitterly cold night, the next walk was short, across Oldham Road to The Crown & Kettle.

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A beautiful building inside & out. High ceilings and ornate details. 3 distinct rooms in here, a main room, small off room and a snug to the rear. Some nice classical prints on the walls. My preference is for the small room just off the bar area with a nice coal-effect fire.

Now warming up, I enjoyed a Peerless Brewery Hop Nob at 3.8% abv a pale, quite malty beer with some subtly flavoursome hops in there. Some soft soul music in the background, nice!

Finally, The Castle on Oldham Street. The only pub I’ve ever been refused service – a LONG time ago – by an old misery landlord! Times have changed! This pub is an old friend and has undergone a transformation in the last two years. The large rear room is now a performance space and the upstairs has been opened up into another public room.

The pub has a large selection of Robinson’s beers and some interesting guests. Tonight, I had a Lurcher Stout at 4.8% by Green Jack Brewery from Lowestoft. Smooth, creamy and lush! Chocolate flavours from the dark roasted malt and subtly smoky. And more friendly bar staff! A nice end to the evening.

Now then, where did I park that bus?

‘Til next time.

Slainte!

Stroll from Portland Street to St Peter’s Square – 12/01/2013

Yes. Yet more of my blathering on!

The previous weekend, I entered into a pact with my diminutive darling, Atilla.

No drinking during the week. No bottles, no nothing. Other than thirst!

I entered into this pact willingly (if somewhat stupidly), but, on the first available evening to break my fast, I wound up being an after midnight taxi service for Atilla!  However, the opportunity to earn brownie points couldn’t be passed up. So, rather than sip a bottle or two, I cash in my chitty and plonked myself on the 37 bus to good old Manchester, my liquid home.

I left the organising of this stroll to Jaz, who took the opportunity to factor in a pub I hadn’t been into since 22/04/2005 (it was a MEMORABLE end to the day, trust me!) and one I hadn’t previously visited. So, at 7 o’clock, I find myself walking along Portland Street and entering the pub I hadn’t been in since my 40th birthday drink……

The Grey Horse

(image – marthamusing.blogspot.com)

2 days after my 40th birthday, was the last time we did the “Rail Ale” crawl from Leeds. This pub was where the ‘do’ disintegrated following a contretemps with a BNP St Georges Day outing. The event stays embedded in my subconscious (unsurprisingly!), but I drifted away from regular drinking in Manchester sometime around then. The Grey Horse was a pub I frequented regularly up to that point, a vibrant, often boisterous but always friendly boozer with more of the feel of ‘a local’ than any other pub in Town.

On approach, it was nice to see that one thing had certainly not changed…..lace curtains at the windows! Up the steps into the instantly familiar small space. It’s a single room pub with the small bar to the left and tables snaking around the back wall facing the bar area. The place was packed. That much hasn’t changed either. The Horse is a Manchester drinking institution and has been for as long as I’ve been drinking. The pub is a throwback to the 80s and beyond. I felt like I was stepping back in time.

Jaz was already at the bar and furnished me with a pint of “Winter Cheer”, the Xmas seasonal offering from Hydes. Also on the bar on handpull were ‘Original’ and ‘1863’, both bitters. The Winter Cheer was 4.4% abv and had a distinctive red colour. Being a winter seasonal beer I was expecting some clove or cinnamon spicing with maybe some citrus peel. If I’m honest, I didn’t get much of anything really, a bit of forest fruit perhaps, it just reminded me any number of malty ‘bitters’ from the 80s. Disappointing first beer of the evening. On the upside, there was a bit of a birthday do going on and the raucous singalong rendition of The Drifters’ “Under The Boardwalk” was a thing of joyous beauty!!! The staff were really friendly as well.

The Horse is a truly great place to drink. Just a shame that the beer didn’ t drink great!

Beating the retreat, we headed across Portland Street into the Village towards Richmond Street and……

The Molly House

(Image – Spottedbylocals.com)

This pub was recommended to me by Dave, the monocled quizmaster at The Salford Arms. It occupies two floors, but we only went in at ground level. By no means as rammed as The Grey Horse, the bar had a really relaxed feel, a few tables, a couple of comfy chairs and some bench tables at the back. The bar has a reputation for food and the kitchen is on this level. Five handpumps with 2 beers from both Beartown and Redwillow and one from Dunham Massey – all 5 beers from Cheshire micros!

Given my love of ‘The Dark Side’ (and the fact I’d never tasted their beers on draught), I opted for Dunham Massey ‘Dark’

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(What IS this vogue for dimpled glasses???)

This is a nice mild, with some hints of chocolate both on the nose and in the mouth. A fabulous brown to almost black beer (as you can see!), reasonably thin in texture as you might expect at 3.8% abv, but a nice smooth drink, more than making up for the earlier diappointment – the stroll was back on track!

The Molly House also has an exceptional range of spirits lined up behind the bar……

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and as much as I fancied a shot of Wild Turkey 101 bourbon, duty called, one I was looking forward to as we returned to…….

Joshua Brooks

(Image – joshuabrooks.co.uk)

Having cut through the Village and headed up Princess Street, it was quite a surprise to find the bar sparsely populated. This bemuses me. This bar serves a variety of well kept ales, local micros mostly, has lots of comfy seating and a relaxed air. (Though I’m sure the venue downstairs gets more lively!) I can only think that this is to do with it’s location, just outside the centre and 150 yards from Oxford Road. If only people knew……

First up for me was ‘Redcurrant Stout’ by Clarence & Fredericks (South London brewer). This beer at 5.4% abv is an inviting black ale. A malteser aroma. So far so good….then you taste. Tart! No, I mean the flavour – not me! That’ll be the redcurrants then! Blackcurrants too. Quite astringent from the fruits, but paradoxically, quite smooth feel in the mouth. The flavour (if not the appearance, reminded me almost of a Lambic. A challenging but rewarding beer. Books and covers eh?

Being now my round, I thought I’d play my Joker card! I introduced myself to James at the bar and collected a membership card – there are benefits to this. trust me, I’m a beer doctor! I had a chat with James, bloody nice bloke. We had a bit of a beery and social media chat. I had never been in the venue downstairs so he kindly offered to show me around the club in the basement. A proper small venue that reminded me of 80s live music venues like The Boardwalk. Thanks James!

Anyway, to the strains of great background tunage like Phoenix, Little Dragon and Sleigh Bells, I settled down to a pint of Redwillow Heartless. Comfortingly smooth and chocolatey Stout at 4.9% abv. I’ve written about this previously (see Best Little Beerhouse…), so suffice to say, I will order this whenever I see it. It’s THAT good!

Enjoying oursleves hugely, we decided to have one more. For me, this was another beer from Privateer (previously a first time brewer for me – at The Salford Arms last month). This time ‘Roebuck’ a palish (is that REALLY a word???) brew at 3.8%. As soon as I ordered it, I worried it was a mistake to drop down the abv range. However, this beer improved all the way down the glass. Full of flavour with a really nice malt/hop balance. This would make an excellent ‘session’ beer (for those who do such things – me? Never!). Thanking James and the other bar staff, we headed off into the night toward……

The Font

(Image – manchesterbynight.com)

If it was ever going to get messy, this was the place it would start! The cause? Hawkshead XBP, an extra special ‘Imperial’ version of Brodies Prime. 8.5%  abv of danger!

Jaz was up for a pint! The angel on my shoulder told me this was a bad idea, so we settled on a compromise. A 1/2 of Hawkshead each with a pint of something else, Jaz went for the Quantum, I went for the Rapture by Magic Rock. Clutching our two glasses each, we descended to locate a space – blood and sand it was HEAVING!

Described as a ‘Red Hop Ale’ and 4.6 % abv, Rapture has a deep amber/red colour and loads of hoppy flavour. I had this at Port Street a few months back (at a similar stage of consciousness!) and the sharp flavour was superb. Same here. Another superb beer from Magic Rock.

Now the Hawkshead XBP? A lovely slightly sweet, quite nutty and coffeeish beer. Cafe au lait colour to the head, coffee aroma with some hazelnut, a REALLY creamy texture. This is a beer to adore and fear in equal measure! A fabulously dangerous mouthful of dark flavours. Not to be taken lightly, but certainly one to return to…repeatedly!

As usual, Font was virtually full to bursting…4 deep at the bar…lots of cocktail shaking going on. The CAMRA Card discount makes this place ludicrously good value for Manchester. 3 pints for £8? And one of those at 8.5% abv? How do they do it? Must be MAGIC! The usual great tunage (some classic old school hip-hop !) and a queue to get in. Reminded me of The Hacienda back in 1982! (But without the good beer!)

Next….

Paramount

If you’ve read this blog before, you can guess what happens here! Paramount Porter (aka Elland 1872). Creamy, dark, roasted, dangerously moreish and (at 6.5% abv) probably ill-advised! But sod it, I don’t get out THAT much really, do I? The evening was descending into madness by now, but, with 1/2 hour to spare, we nipped into the other local ‘Spoons,

The Waterhouse, but….memory fails me! Ah yes, Saltaire New World Red. Red ale, nicely sharp and bitter (owing to mix of hops from Oz, US and New Zealand). 5.2% abv and my nightcap of choice this evening! Just as I started to settle, that angel on the shoulder reminded me that the last bus was imminent………quick step, then the 37 home! I hope my drunken tweeting made sense!

Oh, for a change, all my worldly goods got home this time! (Wallet, Phone etc….long story!)

On that note ….. Until next time (probably near The National Winter Ales Festival)

Slainte!

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)

20121210_220608[1]

(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!

Castlefield Area Stroll – 22/11/2012

Feeling the need to stretch my legs (and my horizons!), it was high time I left the comforting bosom of the Northern Quarter for something different. Initial consultations with the mighty Jaz (well, this IS a democracy!) settled my decision (Democracy, eh???) and Castlefield was chosen. Reasons being a) I hadn’t written about any of the bars yet, b) At least one that I hadn’t visited yet, and c) Simply because….ok?

This time, in a slight twist to the usual, we had some company (Rob, Paul and Chris)! All my companions demontrated dedication to the cause, above and beyond…..the weather was FOUL!

Being furthest away, the meeting point was The Wharf in Castlefield basin. Having never been before, it was strangely tricky to find for such a large building. What a trek!

Located in the Castlefield canal basin (among the flats and offices etc) and formerly known as Jacksons Wharf, it is a large pub on two levels and seems to do quite a bit of food trade. Tonight, not rammed busy, but we unfortunately encountered a mixed group engaged in a Golf drinking game. As The Wharf constituted the 7th hole, it was getting a tad raucous! (More of them later!!!)

With there being 4 of us at this point, a traditional “whip” seemed in order. So off to the bar for 2 pints of a ginger flavoured beer from York Brewery, a pint of Weetwood Blonde and a Hornbeam Top Hop (mine). £14.50! Average over £3.60 a pint. This is expensive, even for Manchester. However, The Wharf patently must have its market. It certainly boasts a large selection of ales, having all 12 handpumps occupied, many with beers from local micros.

(A quiet moment at The Wharf!)

For this, The Wharf is to be applauded. The Hornbeam was a nice mid-brown bitter, fragrant hops on the nose, quite hoppy flavour with a nice dry finish. An excellent start on the taste front. But £14.50……! We move on….

The Knott Bar

The Knott has been a favoured meeting point for my work associates for a number of years, owing to its excellent beers and good food. The prices are average for Town and it  is an excellent meeting spot due to its proximity to both regional rail line (Deansgate) and Metrolink (GMex). Tonight it was reasonably busy for a Thursday. This was where we met Paul. Again, our Golfing game crew were here (the 8th hole) and some of them looked as if they were considerably “over par”!

Settling down to beer selection, Jaz & I went for a Hardknott Cool Fusion. A pale beer at 4.4% abv with a hint of ginger in the nose. The beer texture was somewhat lifeless, strange given that it was dispensed via beer engine, rather than direct from cask. The beer flavour was excellent with ginger to the fore with plenty of malt balance. A fine beer.

In common with most of the better bars in Manchester, The Knott has an excellent jukebox and as much as I would have liked to settle for another and some fine music….we have to move on. The Golfing crew headed to their 9th hole The Atlas opposite The Knott. However, we were destined to walk other fairways to…..

Cask

This bar is incredibly deceptive. The entrance and the frontage is so small, you could easily walk past. I’ve been a few times and nearly missed it tonight! Jukebox going strong, with The Black Keys juxtaposed with Joy Division….works for me!

(Unlike England, all wickets intact at Cask!)

We settled down to the beer selection, 3 on tonight with Redwillow, Pictish and Facers. I opted for the Shameless from the mighty Redwillow Brewery of Macclesfield. This pale cracker is a double IPA at 5.9% abv. Aromas of hoppy apricots giving way to lovely creamy hop bitterness. I don’t know what hops Mr Mackenzie put in this, but I detected more apricot and American hoppy flavours. A lovely beer and, notwithstanding the darks that come later, the best beer of the evening for me. With beers like this, I could be brought over from The Dark Side!!! The other 4 had the Pictish Brewers Gold, which was enjoyed hugely. Cask deserves more than one pint to be drunk, but, being a ‘stroll’……..

The Britons Protection

Briton

(Pic courtesy of…ah..you can see!)

The BP is a Manchester classic old fashioned boozer. Walking through the crowded front entrance, the pub was very busy on this miserable evening (performance at The Bridgewater?)

Quick scan of the bar reveals 4 ales on, but my eyes went no further that Conwy Brewery Honey Porter. Never had a Conwy on draught (though have had some bottles). We got the beers and settled in the corridor behind the bar as the other two rooms were quite busy too. This pub is a decorative gem with all this wood and stained glass! Simply gorgeous. I could come in even if the beer was pants…which it certainly wasn’t! 3 went for the Conwy, 2 went for the Coach House Farriers Best Bitter.

The Conwy is a dark brown porter. Some honey sweetness on the nose along with the dark roasted malt. The flavour was slightly honeyed, not sweet at all with a lovely smooth texture and nice roasted taste with a slight bitterness in the finish. A really nice subtle beer. I’ll be looking out for Conwy draught products again!

With all these people in the bar it was damn HOT! I was sweating like Lee Evans in a sauna!!! We needed to get into the cool night air and (passing the Peveril – another evening, maybe) we headed to…..

The Paramount

No need for descriptives for this fine Wetherspoon emporium. Straight to the bar. DARK HEAVEN! As well as the (Elland) Paramount Porter, there was Greenfield Black 5 AND Titanic Plum Porter! I was struggling to choose. But opted for the Titanic. Plums? Tick! Roasted Malt flavours? Tick! Good value at £2.09? Hell yes! Another excellent draught beer from the ever reliable Stoke brewers. (Just waiting for some more Chocolate & Vanilla Stout on draught please!!!).

(Welcome to The Dark Side…Mwuuhhaahaa!!!)

What’s this I see? All 5 strollers drinking dark beer? Heavens to Murgatroyd!!!! The inevitable second beer in this fine hostelry was a doozy for me. Paramount Porter. 6.5% of Porter heaven. Creamy, slightly bitter, licorice and coffee roast. This is a 5 star beer at a 1 star price. £2.40!!!

Getting late. Chris, being off to Hamburg on a jolly on Friday morning, was dropped at St Peters Sq Metrolink. I fancied one more at Waterhouse, but was outvoted. Let’s just say, it got messy, buses were missed…….TAXI!

‘Til next time.

Slainte!