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 Two City Stroll 2 – 29/12/2012

Christmas 2012.

Family meal.

In a pub with 5 handpumps.

The beer was dire.

I drank tea! I stuck to my guns and steadfastly refused to drink the likes of Greene King IPA.

Does that make me a beer snob? Do I care? (You know the answers!)

So. On the final Saturday of 2012, I felt justified in seeking the welcoming warmth of hostelries with handpumps. And good beer. Having met Jeff for the first time in many a year a couple of months back, (and discovering a mutual love of quality beer)  there was an outing planned for Manchester. A quick check of my diary revealed a family do that afternoon. Having negotiated my exit strategy with my beloved Atilla, it was game on. So on this particular Saturday evening, I find myself on a bus, Manchester bound reading a text calling off the meet.

What’s a thirsty boy to do? A quick call to my good friend (and frequent drinking companion) Mr Jaz and I find myself exiting the bus a couple of stops early and entering…..

The Salford Arms

(Image courtesy of http://www.fancyapint.com)

Walking up to the bar, there was only one pump occupied with a clip. However, a quick smile from Tom and he declaimed that he was busy putting two more ales on! So, joining the 4Ts Brewery Magnc pale ale was, firstly, Salford Arms Ale by Black Jack Brewery. One of those for myself and a 4Ts for Mr Jaz secured, I settled down in a comfy leather chair and awaited my partner in crime.

As per our last visit, Tom had said that the nice fellow at Black Jack was reformulating the beer to make it vegan. This had now been accomplished. I hadn’t had the ‘house ale’ previously and was really looking forward to it, so much so, that I didn’t wait to see what the second new ale going on was!

As I started to sip the Salford Arms ale, Jaz walked in. (I had had a sneaky sip of the the 4Ts Magnc whilst waiting and it was a lovely pale beer with some complex hopping, spicy with some citrus but with a smooth malt base. A very nice beer which I will try again). The Salford Arms ale was superb. Pale as Kate Moss but with more body, it was lovely hoppy brew at 4.3% abv, nice juicy malt in there but the right side of hoppy and bitter. If I am going to drink pale beers, this is how I like them! Another excellent beer by Black Jack!

Now. The plan was to have one and then move on. But, as you know, plans do indeed have a habit of changing. This one changed when Tom brought over a sample of the other beer that went on at the same time as the ‘house ale’. The beer was brewed by a recent addition to the Manchester brewing brotherhood Privateer. A quick sip showed that this was a beer that demanded  further exploration. The beer was called Dark Revenge, was 4.5% abv and was appetisingly black! A lovely aroma combining chocolate and some coffee notes, the flavour was of a nice smooth dark roasted stout with a flavour that I got as subtly chocolate. Jaz detected more coffee than I did, but hey! I wasn’t complaining. This was my first beer from Privateer and with flavour as good as this, it won’t be my last! An excellent pint. The pub was reasonably busy in this Xmas / New Year interlude and deservedly so. Tom has got the beer turning over really well and seems to feature local micros in the main (all 3 last night were local). An excellent pub.

I could have drunk the Privateer all night, but, as you know, a stroll is a stroll. So, we headed off toward……

The New Oxford

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Slightly damp stroll from The Salford, the front of the New Oxford was quite busy so we opted for the back room and a little rugby union (Munster v Ulster, as you’re asking!). Not before choosing a pint of Axholme Chocolate Stout at 4.9% abv. Another new brewery for me. This one from North Lincolnshire. Settling down in the back room, this beer was intially thin in texture but the mouthfeel improved as I drained the glass. A lovely smooth chocolate flavour followed with the lovely roasted malt. A nice first pint from this brewery (an interesting website too – http://www.axholmebrewing.co.uk)

The night was enlivened at this point by a group of West Brom fans sat next to us. Beer lovers too. Passionately bemoaning the biased coverage on TV which only showed Man U and swearing that they were camped in opposition territory all second half. We had a chuckle indeed. We chatted about The Post Office Vaults (near New St Station in Birmingham centre) and they extolled the virtues of The Black Eagle in Hockley (now stored in the memory bank!) Nice blokes. We move on….(a substantial stroll) to….

Cask

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Really busy in here. It was that busy and loud with conversation, that I could barely hear Manchesters’ greatest pub jukebox! Jaz had an Abbeydale whilst I latched onto the North Star Porter from Facers. I’ve drunk more Facers recently than I ever drank when they were located in Salford! The North Star has a nice roasted nose and a nice texture (not too thin at 4% abv) dark roasted coffee flavours and a touch of sweet chocolate. Excellent friendly bar staff again. Now at this point I got a phone call from Rob (see Castlefield Area Stroll) who was also looking for a pint having been at the same function as me earlier. The Facers Porter was a nice pint, but the were other pastures to graze upon. Next stop…….

The Knott

Pleasantly not quite as rammed as Cask, but busy enough, there were a couple of beers that caught my eye here, both at the higher end of the price range, but worth it. I left the Redwillow Shameless to have as a second pint in here and plumped for Thornbridge McConnells. 5% abv and £3.80 a pint, this was a lovely looking dark brown to black beer with a nice caramac (new colour!) coloured head. A little sweetness in the aroma led to a nice creamy stout. A lot of subtlety in here with no particularly dominant flavour. A touch of vanilla, some lovely smooth almost caramel chocolate roasted flavour from the malt. Just an excellent understated pint. I’m beginning to appreciate again that flavour doesn’t have to be an assault to be good. During this pint, Rob joined in the fun and after a quick update on the function fun, he too settled down to enjoying a pint of McConnells – I’m starting to think he’s gradually shifting to the Dark Side!

The only slight disappointment came next. I was REALLY looking forward to a pint of Redwillow Shameless, the 5.9% abv Double Pale Ale. Unfortunately, as I’m draining the last of the Thornbridge, it ran out! Damn! Ah well, another pint of McConnells all round could barely be described as a hardship now, could it? Anyhow, after this dark interlude, I was in the mood for a final pint of dark pleasure (and we needed to head toward the bus station of course…) so, in the steady drizzle (and Rob without a jacket….!) we mosied on down to….

Paramount

Anybody who knows me, knows what happens when we get here! There was a large selection of Xmassy type beers with typically Xmassy type ‘humourous’ names like Rogered Rudolf and the like. Maybe I’m a bit of an Eberneezer about such things. Just give me a beer name that gives me a hint as to the flavour and I’m content!

Anywho, I’m a simple soul, with simple tastes. So, having the merest sniff of the JW Lees Plum Porter (which Rob pronounced as full of plum flavour), the cry went up “Paramount Porter Please“. 6.5% and (at this stage of the evening) with a texture that felt like black Angel Delight, this was my sleeping draught of choice! Glorious with some roasted cocoa bean action going on, there was a lop-sided smile on my face! As usual, quite busy in here and deservedly so.

Finishing the pint, we headed in the drizzle for Piccadilly and my personal homing pigeon, the 37 bus – this time with Rob for company (with the Kebab lust in his heart!)

Until Next Time. And a Happy New Year to one and all!

Slainte!

(Next Stroll – Historic Manc Boozers – suggestions please!)

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

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

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

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

The Beer Shop

The Beer Shop, Heaton Mersey

(courtesy Panoromio / Phil Rowbotham)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Bottled Utopia!)

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

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

Just remember the opening times!

They are :

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

Slainte!