The East v West Beer Festival (aka EastWestFest) 15 -16 May 2015

 East west Poster

I, my friends (if I may call my sole reader that!), am becoming a bit of a Professional Northerner. Especially when it comes to beer. To my mind, there’s nothing worse than going in a Northern pub (in my case, Manchester) and not seeing a drop of Northern beer. Don’t get me wrong now, there is some simply superb beer being made all over this lovely island, but London seems to get all the press (and blogging) inches.

Nearly a year ago now, I decided to focus (almost) exclusively on beers from the North. Because, for me, the brewers up here have nothing to learn from elsewhere. There is, quite simply, some astonishing beer brewed up in these parts that gets not a lumen of the light that’s shone on the likes of Bermondsey & Hackney.

If I’m honest, as much as I adore the history of The Cousins War (aka The Wars of the Roses) and the banter that flies from each side of the Pennines, but this focus on Northern beer was the genesis of The Independent Salford Beer Festival (#ISBF2014). The beers came from Crewe to Scarborough and were mightily well received if the feedback is to be believed. So much so that we’ll be doing it again. (More on that elsewhere)

I was made up when Malcolm & Beverley Bastow from Five Towns Brewery in Wakefield took the time out and came over to Salford in October. I was even more made up when (via an independent Twitter vote) one of his beers won Beer of the Festival – AND that another Yorkshire beer came second (Hazelnut Mild by Brass Castle). Mostly North West drinkers voting for two Yorkshire beers kind of felt like a validation.

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I’d heard a rumbling about a potential Northern Beer themed festival and when Malcolm confirmed that he was organising, I knew it would be something else. You see, for the uninitiated, he makes some bloody good beer in that there shed of his! But I was both humbled and astonished when he approached me to see if I would help in sourcing the beers from this side of The Hill. Even more so when I read that #ISBF2014 was one of the inspirations behind his festival!

I couldn’t say no, could I?

Red Shed from above

The little place you see above is the venue. Wakefield Labour Club. Known locally (and affectionately) as “The Red Shed”. I’m told that it has a capacity of 70. Yes, you read it right! Seventy. Or, me plus 60 others. The festival (as you can see) takes place in just under 2 weeks. As far as I’m aware, it’s pay on the door. Having had sight of the beer list, I’m just hoping that I can get in when I arrive. To say that I’m salivating is an understatement!

So, without further ado…..

From the West :

Brewsmith Beer – Nelson Sauvin (Pale Ale)

Wilson Potter – Don’t Fall (Pale Ale)

First Chop – SYL (Black IPA)

Tickety Brew – Rose Wheat Beer

Squawk Brewing Co – Pale Ale

Shindigger Brewing Co – IPA

Black Jack Beers – New Deck (Golden Bitter)

Allgates Brewery – Shogi Porter

Marble Brewery – Spring (Pale Ale)

Quantum – UK Light (UK hopped Pale Ale)

Thirst Class Ale – Pale & Interesting (Pale Ale)

From the East :

Clark’s – Billy Ruffian (Stout)

Sunbeam – Shepherds Delight (Rose Water infused)

The Rat Brewery – Rye Rat of the Caribbean (Red Rye Ale)

Atom Beers – Schroedinger’s Cat (Pale Ale – Columbus, Chinook, Citra & Mosaic!)

North Riding Brewpub – Hunters Dream (Strong Mild)

Blue Bee Brewery – Real (A Sorachi Pale Ale)

Brown Cow – Yorkshire Sovereign (Pale Ale)

Revolutions Brewing – The Golden Age of Wireless (Mild) I DO love a musical reference!

Steel City Brewing – Troika Red IPA

Whippet Brew Co – Brew Number One!

Learn To Brew – Young, Gifted and Pale (Pale Ale) (+ a mystery beer!) – I DO love a musical reference!

and last….but not least, your hosts….

Five Towns Brewery – May Day. Fully loaded brew, with Citra, Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, Chinook and Equinox hops, Double IPA.

It’s a rare Beer Festival when there is THIS much Northern beer and I haven’t so much as sniffed 75% of it!

I’m going (Train & Hotel booked!) along with Yoda (aka the Arch-Nemesis) and I can honestly say that I haven’t looked forward to a beer festival this much in years!

It’s all in a good cause too, so come along and have a beer or seven and help support some good causes by er…..drinking great beer!!!!

Tune

“Pushing thru the market square, so many mothers sighing
News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in.

News guy wept and told us earth was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying.

I heard telephones, opera house, favourite melodies.
I saw boys, toys electric irons and T.V.’s.
My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare,
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there.
And all the fat-skinny people. And all the tall-short people
And all the nobody people. And all the somebody people
I never thought I’d need so many people”

(“Five Years” – Bowie)

(Clip courtesy Sante3d via YouTube)

For Malcolm & Beverley (As fans)

For everybody else – Do I REALLY need to explain this?

That’s all for now people. See you next week?

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – April 2015

Bottles don’t appear to have been a priority in the last few weeks. Which isn’t of itself a bad thing. It’s always nice to get out to some excellent hostelries, as I have done for the last month or so.

However, I have also been lucky enough to come across some absolutely belting beers (including the best bottle I’ve had this year so far!) So, with neither further blather nor ado….Let’s begin!

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Body SnatcherBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 4.2 %abv – BitterBrowtons (Ashton-under-Lyne)

A golden beer with a light fluffy white head and an aroma slightly sweet and fruity with peach and a hint of apple.

Medium bodied, this beer has that slightly sweet fruity initial flavour with again peach  and some stewed plum and forest fruit and a flowery fragrant flavour that I can’t quite pick, backed up with a bracing bitterness.

That sweetness gives way to quite a grassy and resinous aftertaste and finish. This takes me back to beers from my youth, maybe just a wee bit more bitter. And that’s no bad thing!

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Small SaisonBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) – 4.5%abv – Saison – 330ml – Barbeerian (Prestwich)

Ultra Pale straw yellow beer with a light persistent fluffy head giving a spicy yeasty nose with notes of banana and a little gooseberry.

Oh yes. This’ll do Monkey! Tart, dry and spicy. Banana again upfront, but soon retreats in the face of some sharp and tart lemon notes which in turn yield ground to that yeasty Saison spiciness. Yum.

Second mouthful and there’s a little Sauvignon Blanc winey sharpness and tartness, that tartness leading to a short and very dry spicy finish. An incredibly refreshing beer.

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Triptych No 3Wiper and True (Bristol) – 6.7%abv – IPABarbeerian (Prestwich)

Copper golden in colour, lively carbonation giving a big white head and an aroma reminding me of orange toffee.

Big bodied beer this. Smooth textured and really fruity with peach, orange marmalade and a hint of blackcurrant lurking at the back, also an almost yeasty dryness to finish on the swallow. Mmmm….

This beer doesn’t hide its strength as it’s quite warming as it slides down. More fruit in the second mouthful, with plum and more hedgerow blackberry sitting on top of the marmalade, jammy and spicy. The finish is fruity and dry leading to a sticky herbal and slightly resinous aftertaste. A proper English IPA. Big and fruity and beautiful.

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JOEFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford) – 4.7%abv – Coffee IPAEpicurean (W Didsbury)

Dark brown beer with a light and fluffy white head and an aroma of woah….. Cold coffee. Mmmmmm…….

And oh yes…. That coffee comes through loud and clear! Lovely smooth and bitter coffee flavour in full effect but with quite a spicy hop kick at the end.

Smooth and medium bodied in the mouth, this is as good as it was on cask. The coffee is potent enough, the bitterness of the brew being added to by the grassy hops that come through in the finish.

When I first heard of this, it sounded ludicrous. But it works. Really well. Black coffee and hops. What’s not to love?

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Mint Choc StoutTickety Brew (Stalyvegas) – 5.2% abv – StoutEpicurean (W Didsbury)

Dark brown almost black beer with a cream coloured lacey head with a light aroma of chocolate powder and spearmint.

Another of their limited bottle “Tickety Few” range, this is medium bodied and really smooth. The flavours are really subtle and take a while to reveal their charms. First up is the chocolate, which manages the trick of not being too sweet.

Second mouthful gives a little of the mint which is very subtle and takes some finding. This may be down to using mint leaves as opposed to any extracts, which is to be applauded.

Further mouthfuls build on the minty hint and the beer takes on a pleasing kind of light mint Aero quality. The signature Belgian yeast lends its hand to a rapidly drying finish and also imparts a spicy note to proceedings.

Another really nice beer from this increasingly impressive brewery. I’d love to try this on cask.

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Calibration SourChorlton Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.3% abv – SourBarbeerian (Prestwich)

Ultra Pale golden and lightly hazy with a decent white head and a lightly sour and Orangey citrus aroma from the addition of Amarillo hops.

Hmmm…. A palate cleanser and no mistake. The first sip had me salivating like a rabid dog! This is surprisingly enjoyable (and I say that because Sour beers aren’t exactly my “go to” style)

Yes it is sharp and has a saliva inducing acidity, but this beer isn’t as enamel stripping as some sours that I’ve had. This has a distinct citrus fruitiness working in harmony with the sourness making it a very thirst quenching and (I go back to that phrase) surprisingly enjoyable!

The lingering aftertaste is quite marmaladey and dry.

An excellent beer. Looking forward to Dark Matter now!

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Imperial IPASaltaire Brewery (Shipley, W Yorkshire) 9.5% abv – Imperial IPA – Epicurean(W Didsbury)

Deep golden, almost copper coloured beer with an abundant yet quickly dissipating white head with a booming peach and Mango aroma with a hint of mandarin.

Drinks a lot easier than such a beer should! First sip reveals fruity sweetness, deep and quite savoury, heavy with mango. Almost a medicinal note – my mind off cure!

Warming and soothing add it slides down the throat too. I swear this could be just the thing to cure my little chest problem!

Big chewy malt base that these hops dance on that fruitiness is ever-present and fades only slightly into a big sticky resinous aftertaste. Impressive.

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Disfunctional Functional IPAOffbeat Brewery (Crewe) – 4.8%abv – IPA – 500ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)

A bright golden beer with thick white head and a hugely fruity nose with gooseberry and a little orange in there.

Oh bloody hell this is good! That gooseberry upfront is bloody tart in this medium bodied belter. The fruitiness dries out almost immediately making me pocket my lips and suck in my cheeks like a Les Dawson housewife sketch! Wow that is dry!

That arid fruitiness is backed up by a bracing bitterness too and the whole is tied up with a resinous bow of an aftertaste and finish.

I had this as one of my beers at MBCF this year. That was good, but this is so much better! Woof!

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Smokehouse PorterCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 6.2%abv – Porter – 660ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)
I had to hunt this beast down, having been told by a colleague who saw it in the Cheshire Smokehouse in Altrincham. It was worth it!

A big dark brown almost black beer with a creamy beige head and an aroma full of chocolate and dark fruits with just a hint of wood smoke.

Oh my. This is a proper beer.

Full bodied beer this. An initial chocolate sweetness slides into a chewy fruitiness full of dark fruit. This, in turn, yields palate space to a little salty tang before that smokiness pushes to the front. At this point, my gums are tingling.

A second mouthful and the dates make their chewy fruitiness more felt, merging and blending with the chocolate to make more than the sum of their parts. In the aftertaste, I don’t know if it’s from the dates, but this starts to have a dessert wine note to it, slightly – but not overly – sweet and gently warming.

This is one hell of a beer. And one which feels as if it would just love to be drunk along with a slab of rich fruit cake. And I have another bottle. Which I’m saving for Xmas. To go with……

Bloody gorgeous stuff.

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OAPNorth Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) / Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 9.6%abv – Double IPA – Direct from the brewers.
I spoke to Malcolm Bastow shortly before his retirement from his career as a mental health nurse. He was going to focus on brewing full-time. Obviously, this required commemorating with a beer, so he arranged a collab with the fellow hop fiend Stuart Neilson of the North Riding Brew Pub in Scarborough. I saw Stuarts’ tweet mentioning OAP DIPA. And given that they collaborated on my favourite DIPA so far, the mighty 300, I had to have it.

Quote the bottle label “May Cause Confusion” – Hmmm…. This Amber coloured beer has a light white fluffy head with a full aroma of mango and peach tropical fruitiness.

Oh me oh my!!! This is a bar room bully!!! Full bodied is an understatement, this is certainly a big beer. And knowing how much Stuart Neilson & Malcolm Bastow like their hops, I should have expected no less!

Christ on a bike, there is a bit of everything in here!  There is tropical peach & mango, there is a bit of grapefruit, there is a while bloody forest of resinous pine, this is just so damn juicy and….. Well…. BIG!

Chewy malt, with a little toffee biscuit sweetness, meets a hop store used without restraint. This is bloody gorgeous. And maybe the best DIPA I’ve had yet (and they brewed the previous best with their 300 collab!)

Just a big juddering, knee-trembling beergasm! The best bottle so far this year. (And I’ve had a few!)

Now, for breakfast and some serious loin girding, prior to this lunchtime’s Road To Wigan Beer bus. COME ON!!!!
Tune
“Beneath the stars there are the bars that serve the bitter drink
The barman smiles at me, his wife she gives a secret wink

They listen patiently to me, my story I unfold
I see their faces change, the lights grow dim I’m losing hold”

(“Life In The Air Age” – Be Bop Deluxe – Clip courtesy of #BeBopDeluxe via YouTube)
In about March 1979, whilst listening to John Peel on a feeble transistor radio under my blankets in a cold Salford bedroom, he played a track which rocked my 13 year old world. It was called “Art Empire Industry” and was from the album “Sound On Sound” by a band called Red Noise. Thus began my love affair with the music of Bill Nelson.
Eventually, over a number of retrospective purchases, I acquired his entire oeuvre to that point. The man can play guitar. He made a guitar sound like seagulls, trains, space ships. His playing entranced me. Be Bop Deluxe, were a rock band that Nelson formed in Yorkshire in about 1972. They only had one real hit single “Ships In The Night” which was taken from the Sunburst Finish album, as was the track above (although this is the live version from the Live In The Air Age live album (which was to promote the Sunburst Finish & Modern Music albums)
Bill Nelson was one of the first 5 live artists I saw & when he toured “Quit Dreaming” at Manchester Poly (Cavendish Hall) in May 1981. I last saw him perform tracks from his entire back catalogue at the Manchester Academy in 2004. To finally hear Be Bop Tracks performed live, by the man himself, brought me to tears.
The reason I’ve included this track, other than the fact that I adore it? Bill is originally from Wakefield. Five Towns territory.

Heaton Hops – 30/03/2015 – A Classy Micro Pub

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(I thought that it never rained in South Manchester?)

I am a lucky man sometimes. It certainly felt that way, when I received an invite to a “soft opening” of a brand new bar being opened by Damian O’Shea (of “The Ale Man Manchester” fame). My plans were made to meet Andy (of “Hop On The Bike” infamy) on the concourse at Piccadilly Station – complete with rose in lapel.

Then…..Public Transport shall we say….intervened.

It was hardly an auspicious start for this opening to take place in such foul weather. Let me honest here…..If it wasn’t a bar being opened by Damian and his partner Charlotte, I wouldn’t have stepped on the bus. But I did. And I could have nearly walked quicker! As it was, I got off on Bridge Street in Manchester and marched to Piccadilly…well in advance of the bus that I’d left.

Then….

I caught the wrong train. And ended up at Manchester Airport. Yes. I know. I AM an utter idiot. Right time, wrong platform it would appear. Should have gone to Specsavers eh? Right. Back on the same train and return to Piccadilly and start with a clean slate. And more caution!

So I now find myself on Heaton Moor Road, crossing the A6 from Heaton Chapel train station onto School Lane. In the pouring rain. (I’m SUCH a poet!)

I tell you. Odysseus had less of a journey to get a beer! Homer (No. Not the yellow one!) would be proud of me. And be readying his stylus and wax tablet for a sequel!

The windows were steamy. A good sign that it was busy.

Opening the door. First impressions? Classy. Neutral paintwork on the walls, REAL wood cladding on the ceiling and upper portions of the walls, pendant lighting. It looked great. To be honest, anything less would have been disappointing. I’ve known Damian as a customer for nearly 3 years and this was what I expected from him. It looked really good and serves as a lesson in how to do this – no names mentioned.

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(Busy)

It is (by its very nature as a converted shop) small. Including a downstairs area, the capacity is 60, but it doesn’t feel uncomfortable, a situation that is arrived at by the provision of a number of distressed wood tables giving plenty of seating, which was all occupied as I entered and strode to the bar.

Beers. 2 on cask and 8 on keg. But I needed a pint. And, for an opening night, to have cask beers from two local breweries, Brewsmith & Thirst Class Ale, was like music to my eyes and tastebuds. So, for me, as local as it gets with a pint of Green Bullet by Thirst Class Ale of Stockport – Nicely bitter with a fruity pine flavour and a resinous finish. I enjoyed it. I had a few.

On either side wall, there are shelves and shelving full of some of the best of British Craft brewing. The first thing that I saw was a few bottles of Smokehouse Porter by Cheshire Brewhouse. Now those who know me, will know that some of those were simply BOUND to end up in my bag!

Heaton Hops Thirst Class

(Photo courtesy of Richard Conway – aka Thirst Class Ale)

Next to the Smokehouse Porter were some bottles of my Best Bottle of 2014 – (Barrel Aged) Govinda, again by Cheshire Brewhouse. Next to that, Smoked Treacle Imperial Stout by Quantum. All 3 beers should be in any serious local beer drinkers stashes – they’re in mine. But I concede that I’m rarely serious!

The beer was going down well, assisted by my pal Des shoving up and letting me sit down and drip dry. The conversation flowed as much as the beer. As I’ve said on many occasions. “Beer People Are Good People” and these are the kinds of people that Damian has been serving from his stall these last few years. They like what he does (and sells) and many, like Des and Steve (Beer Nouveau) and myself, came from 15 miles or more to enjoy this new venue. And oh how we did.

I had a look downstairs where Damian & Charlotte have created a room from what would have been cellar space, again, a nice cool look to it. just calm and clean. Spot lighting – the only way given the low ceiling – gives it a warm feel. A nice cosy space.IMAG2766

(Downstairs)

Somebody had said that this was where “the cool kids” were tonight. If so, I don’t know where I fitted in! But there were a number of faces that I knew from Des & Steve, Andy, Richard (Thirst Class) and a number of the Manchester Home Brewer group, my old buddy Jeff, Paul & George (aka Shindigger). It was just a lovely relaxed gathering

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The Craft Keg selection was a pleasure to see too, with the local likes of Runaway, Shindigger, Cloudwater & Marble in among the likes of Weird Beard. Again, certain other new bars could take note of the number of local beers on offer. I found myself amazed that I had never had the Smoked Porter by Runaway on keg previously, so that was duly remedied. Repeatedly. A gentle smoky nose and a lovely creamy texture giving up a big roasty and lightly smoked character. Beautiful beer that.

I also had my first taste of a Cloudwater beer, their Table Beer. Refreshing and with a spicy almost Belgian yeasty note it felt like a wheat/pale ale hybrid and wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Being the talk of the town at the moment, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been asked what I think of Cloudwater. I shall reserve until I try a few more of their beers, but this wasn’t a bad start.

I also picked up a few bottles. Because, it would a) Be rude not to, and b) This is also an excellent bottle shop! So expect to hear more about some Cheshire Brewhouse, Offbeat, First Chop & Shindigger sometime soon!

In baseball terminology, I think that Damian & Charlotte have hit the ball out of the park here in many ways. The bar looks great. The beer choice is excellent. The background music was superb too – I abruptly broke off a conversation to exclaim “”Canopy” – The Cave Singers. Bloody hell this is a TUNE”! Most of all, by choosing this location. A bar of this type is bound to do well in The Heatons. And, for Northern oiks like me, it’s only a 3 minute walk from Heaton Chapel train station.

All in all – a result.

Postscript : It seems fitting that – given my disastrous journey TO Heaton Hops, that the return journey should also be a bit of a “mare”. A delayed train meant that I would have missed my last bus. Thanks therefore to Paul from Shindigger and his Uber account for getting me home!

Tune

“I have learnt there’s a magical spot at the hop
Come with me to the church on the corner the hop
There’s nuts and there’s crisps and there’s c-c-c-cola on tap
A good time had by those boys and those girls at the hop

Tell me what do you say (tell me what do you say)
Tell me what do you say….I tell you
Life begins at the hop, boys and girls”

(“Live Begins At The Hop” – XTC  – Clip courtesy thecatkeaton on You Tube)

In my library, there could only be one tune to finish this piece with! The mighty XTC on TOTP, things like this used to make my Thursday evenings worth staying in for when I was 14!

One of the greatest bands. Period.

Well. I better get off and gird my loins for Saturday and the Easter 2015 Road To Wigan Beer bus marathon. Come along and have beers you’ll have never tried before and the most fun you could have with your clothes on!

Slainte!

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 7 – PIP – First Chop Brewing Arm / Shindigger Brewing (Salford, Manchester) – 6.3% abv – Saison

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I was chuffed to bits to have this on cask at the Independent Salford Beer Festival. To say that it went down well would be doing it a disservice. It was magnificent. Fruity, yeasty and – for the strength – hugely refreshing. A big hit.

I then had it on keg at a Shindigger MTB in Chorlton and the additional carbonation lifted it a touch I thought. I’m a big fan of both Rik Garner (First Chop) and the nomadic Paul & George so I really looked forward to getting this in bottle which – fortunately – was released just in time for the “12Beers”

Well, it loses nothing in the bottling!

Massively fruity on the nose, as you would expect from a beer containing both Citra & Sorachi Ace hops, with fields of sharp grapefruit flying out of the hazy golden glassful with a little bitter lemon edge to it.

In the mouth? Oh my! Medium bodied and just Oh. So. Fruity. Masses of grapefruit hit the mouth initially followed by that lemon sharpness, there but less pronounced, a proper sharp fruity gobfull. This is followed by a distinct resinous pine hit which gradually yields to a peppery, yeasty, funky finish. This. Is. A. Proper. Beer.

Oh boy is this good! A proper #Beergasm! Just wish I’d bought a shit ton more!

Donkey likes it!

The Independent Salford Beer Festival 2014 – Questions, Answers, Thoughts.

Capture ISBF

“With your feet on the air and your head on the ground, try this trick and spin it, yeah!

Your head will collapse and there’s nothing in it and you’ll ask yourself…

Where is my mind? Where is my mind? Where is my mind?

(“Where Is My Mind” – The Pixies)
(Clip courtesy Kanaal van CasaAzul65 on YouTube)

The Pixies’ greatest track. In MY opinion, of course…….

I suppose the question should be “Where WAS my mind?” I mean, what the **** was I thinking when I said that little word “Yes” to Gerry Stone nearly a year ago? But it was for Gerry, so I couldn’t (in all conscience) refuse.

In the words of Andy Partridge (XTC) at the start of their classic “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead”…..Let’s begin!

Questions

Question – The Independent Salford Beer Festival. Why….Independent? (This question HAS been asked…on a number of occasions!)

Answer? – Gerry (whom many of you have now met) asked me for some advice on who to contact to help set up a Beer Festival at her Community Centre at St Sebastian’s to help raise money. On her behalf, I contacted the local CAMRA Branch (North Manchester Branch) and asked them to get in touch with her to see if they could help. The answer was, in short, No. I felt, at that time, that that would be the end of that! Until Gerry popped the fateful question….”Would you……?”

I knew that I could get beer. But I also knew that I knew NOTHING ELSE about staging a beer festival. Oh how I’ve learned!

Question – Why at St Sebastian’s Community Centre?

Answer – That one was easy. Gerry wanted to raise money to help the Centre function and (hopefully) thrive. The Centre was cost-free as a venue. Getting people IN the place, they could get an idea as to the work that the centre does. As for being “out of the way”? We sold out three sessions out of four. Need I say more?

Question – Why Ticket Only?

Answer – This was again, rather simple. The Centre has a fire safety limit of 250. That was….before the bar and stillage went in! That meant that we lowered access to only 150. That required some form of control. For piece of mind, that meant ticketing. I have heard advice about clicking people in & out, but for simplicity and, again, peace of mind, Eventbrite ticketing worked. For me, brilliantly. And the analytical information that Eventbrite provides helps HUGELY in any planning for possible future events. More on that ….later!

So. How was it for you? (Chuck your comments in below!)

For me? At times, this was really “seat of the pants” stuff. Far too often! But some key decisions were made well in advance that made our job far easier than it otherwise would have been.

They were….

ISBF Poster v3

Design – From the moment that I was sent an e-mail from Andy Heggs (of “Hop On The Bike” blogging infamy) owner of Drumbeat Creative, I knew that the “look” of the Festival would be something special. If I’m being honest (which I hope that I am), initially, I got too caught up in minor detail to see the classy retro beauty of the logo design. The more I looked at the Glass & Bottle logo, I just fell in love. It is a thing of beauty that is 100% nothing to do with me and 100% to do with Andy’s talent for design (aren’t the Brewsmith website and pump clips lovely? He designed those too!). I/We owe him. Hugely. And as for the beautiful programmes!

Website – Take a bow Mr Darren Turpin, web designer and creator of the superb Manchester Ale News website. Darren took Andy’s logo and built a website of equal beauty and sheer useability that (for me, as an organiser) was simply a joy to work with and something that other beer festivals should look at. Not because it was FOR our Festival, but for the classyness of the design, the information about the festival and its beer that it displayed so clearly. The downloadable beer list sheets? The Ebook? All his handiwork. And they attracted the praise which they richly deserved. As did the artwork from Andy. I owe them both. Enormously.

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Cooling/Bar – That decision took a little time. I received lots of advice about how to cool the beers and keep them in the best possible condition. But the best advice that I received, was wordless. It was in the The Anvil in Wigan 2 0r 3 months back in a chat with David Mayhall of Allgates and Malcolm Bastow of Five Towns Brewery. I mentioned my thinking about using a cooling system. They nodded. That made my mind up. And all of the feedback that I/we received about the condition of the beers were worth every penny. All Flow Dispense set up the bar, the stillage, the lines, the python cooling system, everything. Then took it all away again to make the room feel that it was never there. A brilliant job which minimised my stress levels. Damn friendly guys too. Cheers Lee & Sam. A top job!

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Glassware

I’ve been to plenty of beer festivals over the last 30 years. I always take the logo’s glasses home too! But the one that stuck with me the most, was one that never made it home. The 2/3rd pint stemmed glass from Leeds International Beer Festival 2013. I adored it. But dropped it on Lever Street on my way back from Leeds.

That glass just felt so…..inclusive. It felt right. It also was just as classy as the Poster/leaflet, the website….keeping that classy look just felt like the right thing to do. We’d have made more money just going with traditional straight glasses (and we had 300 of those too!), But the moment they arrived at the Centre 3 days before opening and I opened the box, the whole thing felt more real and, for not the last time that week, I got a bit emotional. Again, I’m a soft old git.

_____________________________________

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Come the day….Everything just seemed to work. And little of it was of my doing!

The beer was in good nick. Which was a relief! Some people travelled huge distances to be there (although I’m sure that Chris – who flew in from Abu Dhabi and came straight to the Centre – didn’t fly in just for this!) and their feedback was heartwarming. What was particularly pleasing to hear was the immensely positive feedback about the venue, the food and (in particular) the volunteers.

The most praise – from me – must go to the those people, the Volunteers. I’ve said on many occasions that “Beer People Are Good People”. But the people who volunteered to help behind the bar and selling tokens/glassware were simply…awesome! Now, being an old git, that isn’t a word I use too frequently. One of the things that made me most get all emotional, was the praise for the following good people (there was LOADS as well!) who did a fabulous job, made the punters feel welcome and made the weekend what it was. A success.

I tip my proverbial to the following….At any bar I may see you, there’ll always be a beer on me!

Bernard, Bevis, Celia, Charlotte, Chris D, Dan & Gina, David R, Declan, Graham, Jaz (The Arch-Nemesis), Jeff, Jez, Kelly, Linda, Nick C, Nick M, Paul, Pete, Robert, Rowan, Sarah & Will. Thank you from….well, you know. Especial thanks due to Dan, David & Chris for taking the responsibility of managing the bar.

Thank you to all of the brewers, both for the beer and your good humour when dealing with me. You were very patient and make some simply fabulous beer (as acclaimed by the customers!)

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Particular thanks to Emma from Beer Junkets, for wise words of advice! Bailey & Jules from Grub Mcr for their unfailing support! David Mayhall from Allgates for most excellent advice and logistical help, Rob Hamilton and the whole Black Jack / Glassworks team, without whom, I’d have had warm spoilt beer. Thank you to Malcolm Bastow from Five Towns Brewery for consolidating the Yorkshire beers and bringing them over. To James Stewart at Deeply Vale both for a brilliant brew day (Mmmm….Amarillo!) and for designing a simply beautiful pump clip for the festival. That, and giving me two of the clips, one for Jan. A classy touch that brought more than one tear to my eye. To Rik Garner and the gang at First Chop, for digging me out of a hole or two! Huge thanks too to Doug Macpherson from Cwrw Ial Brewery, both for the generous offer of an MTB (which was brilliant!) complete with bottle tasting and for his evening stint behind the bar! Most generous. Especial thanks too to Dan & Gina Buck. Dan kept me sane in my most panic stricken moments and Gina (the Laminator Queen!) for just putting up with my terrible organising! And Alex and the guys from Duke & The Darlings for a lovely set – and the impromptu jamming session afterwards around the table!

Thanks also to the cask sponsors for their most generous sponsorship : Salford Angels WI, Kersal Vale Apiary – Jack Hobbs, Harry Davis, SALIX Living,
Jess – Zumba Crazy, Salford CVS, Joan Fielding – Helping Hands, Simon & Sarah Gare, Drumbeat Creative, Damian O’Shea (aka The Ale Man Manchester), John Pinder – Vista, Ben & Holly Wakerley, Godwin’s Tree Consultants, “Paddy’s 50th Birthday Ale” and Envirovent Ltd.

Thank you also to Anne & Steve Simms of Great Ale Year Round in Bolton Market for their huge generosity in sponsoring the T-Shirts!

Thank you also to Graham Donning and Martin. Some very helpful constructive feedback from the first session! To all the local CAMRA branches too, for their help in publicising the event.

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People tend to focus on the beer at these events. And, whilst it was pleasing to get lots of nice comments about the selection, I was always confident in the choice of beers. These are excellent Northern breweries all and selected for that reason. The number of breweries to offer me brand new beers for their first appearance was a surprise and a joy too. The beer selection  however – for me – was merely the means to the end. Raising money for the Centre.

Speaking of which. Whilst we have one or two bills still to pay, a rough calculation indicates that you/we raised in the region of £5000. I thank you, the drinkers, all hugely for coming along and helping us to that figure, which will help Gerry & the Centre massively.

The generosity of your spare token donations also raised over £130 for St Ann’s Hospice. Thank you all. A cheque will be with them shortly. A particular thank you for the kind punter who adapted the token sheet in a valiant effort to raise more money for St Ann’s!

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Beer of The Festival – That was a close run thing! A number of beers were voted for, via Twitter & Facebook using the #ISBF2014. Whilst many beers received votes, two beers rose above. The winner being Raven King by Five Towns, closely followed by Hazelnut Mild by Brass Castle of Malton. Two Yorkshire breweries! Let’s see more of their beer over here eh?

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Finally. Will we do it again?

I think we will. The feedback was so positive as to be – on occasion – personally overwhelming. Some really kind words indeed, which frequently overworked my tear ducts! What I found particularly heartwarming (that word again!) was the praise for the venue, the volunteers and the food. Comments like “friendly”, “warm”, “intimate” all made an impression on me in particular. Once we sold out the 3 sessions, I started to think ….bigger. Street Food providers, big space…. But no. Same place. Maybe a few more tickets, one or two more beers, but nothing too excessive. I wouldn’t want to lose the feel of the event.

There are many lessons to be learned. And we’ll take a couple of months to think those through.

But next time, planned over a longer period. With some people who know what the hell they’re doing. Less stress. Oh yes…less stress!

If this doesn’t make sense, forgive me. It’s been emotional!

Thank you all again. See you next year?

Jim

Bottled Ales – August 2014 – Pt 2

“Is this the way that you wanted to pay
Won’t you show me, please show me the way
Is this the way that you wanted to pay
Won’t you show me, please show me the way
Show me, show me, show me, show me, show me”

(“Everything’s Gone Green” – New Order)

(Video clip courtesy of  Brian110x on YouTube)

The first release where New Order primarily based the backing track on the use of synthesisers. It was a bloody revelation when it backed the track “Procession” released in September 1981. For me, it also marked a departure of sorts, as the general sound and feel of the band hadn’t shaken off the suicide of Ian Curtis – in my opinion – until the release of this single.

I saw Joy Division at the now infamous concert at Bury’s Derby Hall on 08 April 1980 (a concert – a bit like the Sex Pistols at The Lesser Free Trade Hall – where thousands professed to being there!) when I saw 3 tracks performed with different singers until the bottling started after Ian Curtis (deeply unwell, as we now know) departed the stage to be replaced by Alan Hempsall (Crispy Ambulance) and – I only recently discovered – Simon Topping from A Certain Ratio. Until the above track, the sound hadn’t moved on THAT much.

Certainly, when I saw New Order’s first Manchester gig in February 1981, nothing much had changed – including the ritualistic chanting of “Wilson is a Wanker!” at the sighting of Tony Wilson on stage – how opinions change eh? (As an aside, that concert is listed on many websites as being at Manchester Polytechnic. Bollocks! Manchester gigs at “The Poly” were at Cavendish Hall until it closed. This was on Hathersage Road – just at the Oxford Rd end from Victoria Baths.)

I got pissed off with New Order sometime in the middle of a concert at Salford Uni in 1985 (Low Life tour). I walked out half way through. The last album I loved was Technique (though I bought Republic out of curiosity, I never really “got” it. It bored me. Something they hadn’t done to me until that video, shot on a beach, for Regret.

I must be getting old. Was that first concert REALLY 33 1/2 years ago?

Moving swiftly on to the beer…..

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

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1. Lupy As A Toucan (Simcoe, EXP 366, Motueka) – Cheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire) – 5.6% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (500ml) – Londis (Penny Lane, Liverpool)

Nice surprise to see Shane’s beers in Londis Penny Lane on a recent visit! Adding to an already excellent fridge in this beery Allerton oasis!
A deep amber coloured beer, light white head and a huge fruity nose with kiwi, peach and Mango.

A really big, full-bodied mouthful this. A bit like Um Bongo but with added bitterness and pine. By heck this is a fruity little beast, more deep Mango, but with a really substantial bitterness balancing that fruity sweetness. And that bitterness? Oh my! Uncompromising to say the least! Probably more of an IPA style than a Pale Ale. But really, I don’t give a toss, ‘cos it’s bloody lovely

WHAT a beer this is. My gums are tingling! Always a good sign!
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2. Amber EpicureanFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford) – 3.9% abv – Amber Ale – £2.80(ish?) (500ml) – The Epicurean (Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester)
As its name implies, an amber Ale with a white thick foamy head and an aroma choc full of peach and Mango. A fruit basket of citrus smells.

Light bodied and full on fruity with the Mango front and centre, so fruity that it could be one of my five a day! This is hugely refreshing whilst being possessed of a bracing bitterness.

This is very generous of Rik, because this is right up there with AVA for me. Salford has a brewer to rejoice in. A simply cracking beer, light fruity refreshing and bitter. Possibly the perfect summer ale for a warm Cornish evening (as it was when I drank it!)

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3. Jumping Juniper RyeOffbeat Brewery / BlackJack Beers (Crewe/Manchester) – Rye Ale – 5.2% abv – £3 (500ml) – Londis (Penny Lane, Liverpool)
A companion piece collaboration with Black Jack to the St Clements Pale, brewed for the Birmingham Beer Bash (whereas St Clements was brewed for a local beer festival in Chorlton). What this means, is that this is the first bottled beer that I’ve had from BlackJack!
A deep dark ruby brown beer, almost black, with a creamy looking tan colour head with a distinctive roasted aroma with the fruity juniper on top.

The body of a Stout, the hopping and fruity bitterness of a black IPA and the astringent spicy touch of the juniper allied to the Rye. This is bloody lovely. Full bodied and smoothly carbonated, The initial coffee roast & bitter chocolate leads  to a fruitiness (maybe apricot) before the coffee reasserts itself  and dries on the tongue stripping it of moisture. The juniper and Rye add to this with a spicy touch in the finish leasing to a crackle of pine needle resins in the aftertaste. Classy beer.

This is best described as a BIPA crossed with a strong mild, ever so slightly reined in, but with the added complexity and spicy dryness leant by the Rye with the fruity drying astringency from the berries. Another classic collaboration by these two excellent breweries (the St Clements was bloody good too! The shape of things to come I hope!)
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4. Jasmine Green TeaTickety Brew (Stalybridge, Cheshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.05 (330ml) – The Epicurean (Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester)
A beautiful Pale gold, crystal clear beer, with a white fluffy lasting head and a delicate aroma with that signature Belgian yeast note and something more delicate and floral.

Light bodied and very fruity. Peach and kiwi perhaps at first taste, then the tea kicks in with that tannic dryness and light jasmine touch.

Fresh and fruity this is a lovely light and refreshing beer with that signature Belgian spicy yeast note kicking in in the finish leading to a dry lightly grassy hop aftertaste. An excellent bottle from Stalyvegas.

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(Apologies for shockingly bad pic!)
5. Black IPAShindigger Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.50 (330ml) – The Epicurean (Burton Rd, West Didsbury, Manchester)
Black. Thick creamy texture head. Tingling spicy licorice on the nose.

Full bodied, creamy textured feel in the mouth, the initial hit is mango, with a little sweet apricot, but this mutates quickly into a darker shade of flavour with licorice racing forward.

This is my kind of Black IPA, more on the Stouty side than IPA on the flavour spectrum. The impressive thing is how, flavour wise, it goes from Pale to dark flavours in the same mouthful. As good as it was on cask at Stockport Beer Fest.

If this was a tune, it would be Young Americans by Bowie. A beery slice of blue eyed soul. Beautiful.

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6. PilsStod Fold Brewing Co (Ogden, Halifax, W Yorkshire) – 4.8% abv – Lager – £3 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)
Beautiful deep golden beer with a light white head and an aroma resembling marmalade on hot buttered toast.
A medium bodied beer, clean tasting with some nice gentle fruitiness in here, definitely a little orange but also something more coolly autumnal and hedgerow like.
Crisp and light but with a depth of flavour that’s missing in many a macro lager, plenty of bready malt for sure, but there’s a nice lightness of touch with the hopping and it reminds me of a number of German lagers I’ve had. Really smooth, fruity with a nice dry finish. A lovely beer.
In other news. Preparations for The Independent Salford Beer Festival continue and are likely to speed up as September goes on, with an actual beer list likely by the end of the month. Other developments will likely necessitate another blog post early next week.
For now, that’s it. Need to catch up on a couple of planned posts including a case from Eebria and some Cornish beers from my recent holidays. I’ll try not to bore you TOO much!
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

The Independent Salford Beer Festival – 24/25th October 2014 – Update #1

ISBF Poster

(Design by Andy Heggs – aka HopOnTheBike)

“A mistake on the part of nature
You’re so fabled, so fair, just sit anywhere
I’ve pencil sketched the scene
It’s feeling Byzantine

Mistakes on the part of nature
The living proof of what they’re calling love
On certain sideway streets
Where things that don’t match meet”

(“Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” – The New Pornographers)

(Video courtesy of  “Bill James” on YouTube)

Regarded as a bit of a “Supergroup” in North America, The New Pornographers are formed from the combination of a number of singular talents, Carl (AC) Newman (main male vocal), the siren voiced Neko Case (Grammy award winner), the fabulous Kathryn Calder (vocals/keyboards), Dan Bejar – all of who have successful solo careers, but come together every 3 years or so to make the most wonderful pop music.

It may not be the pop of Rihanna or Miley Cyrus or whoever, but what it is, is literate songs allied to superb musicianship that’s as tight as a drum. Look past the name and try a listen – this tune indeed was used on an Amazon Kindle advert.

Now…business!

How do you measure progress? I can assure you, that my building stress levels don’t feel like progress! To the eyes of an outsider, we probably haven’t moved on that far,  but,  putting one foot in front of another is how the biggest voyages start.

There are a lot of decisions/challenges still to be worked out, One big session per day or 2? Pricing for tickets? Size of glassware? Printed tickets or self print (via the likes of Eventbrite?), music/no music, I’m giving myself a headache trying to think about them all!

The first thing that surprised me was the size of the venue. I had been a few times before, but then I went in with different eyes. 151m sq is quite a big space when you clear out a bunch of tables! (Not all, of course!)

There are at least 3 rooms/spaces.

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(The main room)

Admittedly, that picture was taken from the corner of the room, but it’s a big old space. No Velodrome & certainly not a Victoria Baths, but it’ll more than do! To the left of the image there is an- out of shot – serving hatch, but food will be served from the other side in a different area. There’s more than enough room for both vertical and sedentary drinking for the more relaxed drinker (ie : Me!)

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(Food area / serving area)

The aim with the food is to keep it simple. It will be home-made and probably along the lines of Pie/Peas, maybe Chilli/Veg and other stuff yet to be thought about. The likely cook has fed me a few times and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! Nothing overly spicy to take away from the main reason for being there!

In front of this serving area is a space with tables about 31 m/sq – a decent space for eating.

The venue is fairly well served by public transport with 2 buses that come from Salford Shopping Centre stopping right outside the door and buses from Manchester stopping a 5 minute walk away along Gerard Road from the stop on Littleton Road. (All this info will be on the website currently being designed & built by my good buddy Darren Turpin – he of the excellent Gtr Mcr Ale News)

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(3rd room at 30 m/sq – more tables for seating/chatting)

However, the main reason for this brief update is….Breweries! Having been in communication with some for quite a while now and having been in touch with others more recently, the following North West / Yorkshire breweries WILL be present and correct!

Allgates, Black Jack, Black Edge, Cheshire Brewhouse, Deeply Vale (A special brewed with Yours Truly!), First Chop, Hornbeam, IndyManBrewHouse, Offbeat, Outstanding, Privateer, Ringway & Runaway (likely, a World First!) – That’s the NW contingent, with more to follow (I certainly want at least one from Liverpool!)

So far, from Yorkshire…Atom Beers, Bridestones/Hebden Bridge Brewing, Brass Castle, (the mighty) Five Towns & Revolutions – again, more to follow!

What I can guarantee is this, there will be at least one (and likely more) “World Firsts” in cask (I’m working on others!). There will certainly be beers that will be the first time you will see them in the Greater Manchester / North West both from Yorkshire and from nearer to home. I should have more of an update by the first week in August, when hopefully, the website may become the forum for these kinds of updates.

Actual Beers will be announced much nearer the festival with the “World First” type beers possible secret until the day…Just to keep you guessing like!

Next week will be contacting re dispense (hand pull & stillage etc), glassware and printing for posters / flyers etc…It never stops!

A big thank you already to Andy Heggs & Darren Turpin, the efforts and help of both made this feel more real from the off!

And an ENORMOUS thank you to the brewers (named above) for their help, advice and lovely beer that’s coming your way. It really will be special – won’t it? I said it earlier on Twitter, but it bears repeating – Beer People Are Good People!

On that note….til next time…

Slainte!

Follow on Twitter @Salfordbeerfest – Go on! You KNOW you want to!

Historic Manchester Pubs – Pt 3 – 31/05/2014

“If I could only be sure, that you loved me baby. If I could only be sure, that you loved me baby.

I’d climb the highest mountain, I’d swim the deepest sea. I’d take on all your misery, just to make you happy.

I’d turn my world upside down. I’d turn my smiles all into frowns. I’d do anything at all, yeah,

If you just let me love you baby. If you just let me love you baby.”

(“If I Could Only Be Sure” – Nolan Porter)

(Tune courtesy of NutsLiteVenueRoma on YouTube)

No musical preamble today. Just one of the greatest of mid-tempo Northern Soul dancefloor classics. Have a listen!

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Having indulged my basest beery urges following the Stockport Beer Festival the previous afternoon/evening, I was doubting my (ahem) “wisdom” whilst sat on the #8 bus from Farnworth at 10:30am on this bright sunny morning!

An excellent beer lover/blogger Glenn Johnson was due to come up this particular weekend for his first few beers around some of Manchester’s more special pubs. Unfortunately for both of us (but especially him), he had been stricken down with a nasty illness some weeks before, but wasn’t quite yet fully recovered. However, following a tweet from Des, a fellow Manchester area beer lover (more of a connoisseur than I, to be fair!), I decided to treat this as a (none too) “dry run” for my Southern based buddy’s rescheduled visit. This one’s for you Glenn!

Again, given the paucity of material available online about Manchester’s great architectural drinking heritage, I rely on the most excellent blogs & websites Pubs of Manchester and ManchesterHistory.net for a sizable chunk of my information. Both a more than worth a follow (Pubs of Manchester) and a visit (ManchesterHistory.net). They are a positive mine of information, only rivalled by the excellent booklets of the (sadly) late Neil Richardson.

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(Damn that lamppost!!!)

The Hare & Hounds (Shudehill – opposite Bus Station/Metro stop) It’s really strange the way things come about sometimes. I wrote about this pub in the first instalment of this series, but, like many pubs that day, feel I did them a disservice. Last time I visited, I recounted the tale of my “Stag” back in 1990 and watching, horrified, as Salvatore Schillachi scored the goal that knocked out the Republic of Ireland at the 1/4 final stage of the World Cup. Strangely enough, today, I watched a “highlight” re-run on BT Sport! (Schillachi had more hair than I remembered!)

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A truly beautiful pub, which, according to Pubs of Manchester 10 Oldest Pubs of Manchester piece (a piece to which I shall return later!), was first opened as a pub in approximately 1788. To think that you can still drink in a pub that is THAT old! (I wonder if you can still play “Crib”?)

Grey/green stone clad exterior and brown enamel look interior tiling make this look as special as it is. 3 rooms including the main drinking area/bar which has a scattered table or 4, each area being beautiful and worthy of mention in their own right. But put together…. It was nearly 30 years ago (Xmas ’84) when I first came in this pub. It was a Tetley house then and still has the “Huntsman” logo on the side of the pub. It may have only the one cask beer (Holts’ Bitter), but that doesn’t diminish its charms.

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I recently read the excellent post that Pubs of Manchester wrote about The Hare, about the backroom. About Pensioner Karaoke and it rang so true the afternoon I went in. The room was ringed with Senior drinkers deep in chatter with a microphone set up for later performances.

The Holts was a fine beer. Not my cup of darjeeling these days, but dark brown, bitter with a hint of sweetness, it was more than acceptable and served as a settler from the previous evenings’ (hmmmm…) exertions! Is it just me, or has Holts lost something in the bitterness department since the 90s?

Whilst the beer may not be to the taste of all, I heartily recommend people pop in and drink in the beauty of this great old pub.

Moving swiftly on to another architectural gem, where I was to meet Des & the ever-present Arch-Nemesis…

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Last year, The Marble Arch celebrated 125 years standing. But as the map below indicates, there was a pub called The Wellington on the same site at least 37 years earlier.

Adshead Map 1851

(Adshead Map c1851 – http://manchesterhistory.net/manchester/tours/tour12/marblearch.html)

The name of the earlier pub was still in use for the new as recently as 1971, when it was called The Wellington Vaults, a Wilsons pub, as you can see.

Wellington Vaults(image courtesy Manchester Libraries)

A Grade II listing having been achieved in 1998, having undergone its fabulous transformation from Mega Brewery ownership to its purchase and restyling as a freehouse (before the brewery) sometime in 1984, the year that I first drank in it (I never went in when it was a Wilsons outlet). The subsequent stripping back revealing the architectural gem that you see today.

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For those who haven’t been in before (ARE there any such people?), once you walk between the doric columns and through the door, THAT slope draws you ever down, along the beautiful mosaic floor, to the corner bar, where are served a plethora of Marble Brewery beers. There is a small, functional rear room which opens up onto the kitchen (and the pub is renowned for its food) and an open drinking area that some people may call a “beer garden”. The splendour of this pub though is that main room.

Walking in, I saw one of my co-conspirators for the day, Des. Splendid beery chatter ensued, but not before a razor sharp pint of Pint, singing a zingy song of lemon and grapefruit hops. beautifully refreshing and taking my mind off the fact that throngs of pre-teens were loosening their larynxes all over Manchester for some boy band at The Etihad.

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(Just a hint of that beautiful vaulted ceiling)

Midway through my Pint, Jaz (aka The Arch-Nemesis) had parked his rear and was wolfing his beer down, ready for a wee stroll down the slight slope of Rochdale Road. A slight diversion took us past the subject of many an ill-advised dispute (on my part), the site of the former Pot of Beer (previously the magnificent after hours haunt in the 80s known as The Harp & Shamrock). Smug grin on his face, he and Des headed for our next port of call, whilst I headed for some cash.

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The Angel qualifies for this “historic” designation, not due to any antiquity on its part (though it may indeed be fairly old – at LEAST 1851!), but due to the fact that it plays its part in my early drinking in this great city. The same evening, around Xmas 1984, when I first entered the Hare & Hounds, the next stop for my works Xmas do was a Tetley house called The Weavers.

Weavers 1851

(Probable Adshead Map 1851 – courtesy Manchesterhistory.net)

 

This was a small two roomed pub downstairs, that had a function room upstairs that hosted frequent live music evenings, that night it was the legendary Victor Brox and his Blues Band. Because it had a pool table in the small back room, we ended the evening there, with one of my companions seeking to sleep the excess off under the pool table – whilst the rest of us were playing Killer!

The Weavers subsequently curled up like a big pub chain caterpillar and closed for refurbishment, exiting its decorative cocoon as the beery butterfly that was The Beerhouse. A great freehouse itself and one of three cracking pubs in the 90s in close proximity with The Marble & The Pot of Beer, the pub had had the internal walls removed and the bar relocated to open it up.

The rebranding to The Angel was somewhat less dramatic, a lick of paint, that former function room becoming the playground of chef . Robert Owen-Brown and the removal of the pool table – to be replaced by a baby Grand Piano! The departure of Owen-Brown to The Mark Addy hasn’t changed opinions of many that this is a great eating place.

IMAG1416(I must have looked SUCH a nerd when I took this!)

This pub has an enviable reputation for getting unusual and rare beers (If Jaz mentions that cask conditioned Ola Dubh by Harviestoun just one more time……), but I was in the hands of the aforementioned Arch-Nemesis and was furnished a pint of Chardonnale by Bob’s Brewing of Ossett at 5.1% abv. Golden, sweet malt and laden with mellow fruitiness. We sat outside and I sat there contemplating the one fault (for me) of this pub. The somewhat incongruous and ugly uPVC patio-style side entrance. Just saying!

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Bar Fringe appears to have been a pub from at least 1876 (source pubhistory.co.uk) in one of its former incarnations as The Old White Bear (see below)

Old White Bear

(image courtesy Pubs of Manchester)

Another recent source of beery historical dispute between the “all-knowing” Arch-Nemesis and myself. He not accepting that I went in a pub that I referred to as the “Polar Bear” – or similar – in the 80s, on the same spot as the current “Fringe”. I therefore thumbed my nose on viewing Pubs of Manchester’s excellent entry!

From hearing some people talk, I get the impression that the Fringe is like a pub version of Marmite. Well I LOVE Marmite! I adore this bar too, with (ordinarily) 5 well-kept cask beers along with the shiny chrome plate of the keg Belgian fonts.

You could stand in here all day looking at the various items adorning the walls and ceiling and I frequently do, but – being a crawl – a pint was called for. I chose the Mild from Scarborough Brewery, a fine brown Mild with toffee and chocolate biscuit flavours. Again, another pub with a reputation for getting unusual beers to the area and Carmen keeps a fine pint – though no sign of her today. (BTW – One of Manchester’s great jukeboxes – “Whip It” by DEVO being played – class!)

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The Crown & Kettle is, along with The Marble Arch, the most lovely pub in Manchester. Yes, that is only my opinion, but it is undeniably gorgeous. You only need to look at those elongated and stained windows to receive a hint as to the delights that lie inside.

Crown Ceiling

The ceiling, whilst in state of disrepair in places, is simply stunning. My photography simply does not do this Grade II listed beauty justice. A 3 room pub with a large main area (where the bar is located) with two rooms behind to the right and left (with the right hand one accessible to the right of the bar. According to ManchesterHistory.net there are records of pubs on this site as far back as 1734 with the current building being erected in the late 1800’s.

Crown Back Room

The room behind the bar is a little gem, with lots of wood panelling, mirrors and lovely green upholstered banquette seating. Pretty isn’t it? The room to the left of the bar is a wee bit darker but n one the less warm and comfy. If some overlook the delights of pubs such as these in favour of more exotic beery offerings, then…..

Coming to the beer – which, by the way, is always in good nick in my experience – this was none too shabby either! With three offerings (ordinarily) from the Ossett Brewery stable and a number of guests (was that 7 or 8 handpumps?), there is always something decent available. This evening was no exception, as I spied something from Rat Brewery.

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Project Rat IX  was a 6% abv mango bomb! A big beer with a good malt spine overlaid with bucket loads of tropical fruit, it was gorgeous. Halfway down that beer, I noticed something behind a wooden bar post….. Was that Quaker House Oatmeal Stout from Allgates? Given that I helped in the birthing of the original brewing of this beauty, it simply HAD to be sampled. Simply lush. Silky smooth, great full roasted body and excellent bitterness. Need I say more?

Castle

The Allgates & Rat being consumed, we headed off to the final historic gem of this crawl.

The Castle has (like The Hare & Hounds) been a pub since 1778 (Pubs of Manchester – 10 Oldest Pubs) and bears the brown tiled facade of Kays Atlas Brewery of Ardwick – Kays were taken over by Robinsons of Stockport in 1929. Despite being independently managed by the same group that owns The Eagle (Lamp Oil), The Parlour (Chorlton) and Gullivers (Opposite on Oldham Street) it retains its Robinsons tie, whilst offering a decent range of guest beers.

As I will have said previously, this is – so far – the only pub within which I have been refused service (if you discount a drunken evening in Grassington……the less said the better!) and BTW, that isn’t a challenge mein hosts! I’ve been drinking in this pub for over 30 years and I’ve got a really soft spot for the old place, so much so that I was absolutely chuffed to proverbials when I first saw how the new owners/managers had opened it up – including a previously unused room upstairs.

Castle corridor

Now, if you haven’t been in before, The Castle is dark. Vampires Lair kind of dark. Nosferatu lying in wait kind of…….get the picture? It’s a warm embracing kind of place too, with friendly bar staff and two main drinking areas. However, having sequestered the old pool room at the rear as alive music venue, it’s also quite small downstairs, with only a small room behind the bar. Hence upstairs being such a boon.

The beer is none too shabby either here, with my choice being “Durdle Door” by the Dorset Brewing Co. Deep ruby coloured, lots of chocolate and caramel with a gentle bitterness. Like a Strong Mild to me, perhaps the wrong beer on pump, as Durdle Door is supposed to be golden, but hey, it tasted grand to me!

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(Lovely old mosaic floor at the front)

Des took his leave at this point. Great to chat with someone who knows his beer, loves it as much as he loves Manchester pubs and has strong opinions about both.

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We carried on, ending up in First Chop’s open evening having met the lovely Gina & Dan from Great Ale Year Round in Cask. The word “hazy” successfully covers my recollections from this point on! A pint of Pictish and a few SIPs may have passed my lips prior to my all too late departure – although I do have a clear recollection of the fabulous Rik “Mr DJ” Garner (First Chop Overlord) playing the mighty Nolan Porter “If I Could Only Be Sure”. Cheers Rik!

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There was a rather excellent two piece on when we arrived playing some great stuff – if only I could remember their name, I’d give ’em a plug! The First Chop is highly recommended, a top conversion of this railway arch, with great beer and an excellent performance space. AND (if you get there early enough) great street food! Fire and Salt BBQ that day. A great addition to Manchester/Salford music venues – with some top funk & soul spun by Mr Garner.

Well, that’s all for this particular evening. Great company, great beer and simply outstanding pubs. What more could a boy ask for?

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottled Ales – May 2014 – Pt 2

“Here I am, I’m not here now, no, no, no. And I’ll care for you – hey that’s all I want to do.

Hold me, love me, in your heart.

And I’ll hold you near and I’ll whisper in your ear. I’ll take your hand and I’ll make you understand.

Hold me, love me, in your heart.”

(“Thickfreakness” – The Black Keys)

(Clip courtesy of “brilliantffs” on YouTube)

With the best tunes to come out of Akron, Ohio since….well….DEVO, The Black Keys are just awesome! (NOT a word that I use lightly either!) Another discovery through the thing of tuneful joy that is emusic.com, I was hooked from the moment I heard the hollow drums and twisted detuned “spaghetti western” guitar on “When The Lights Go Out” from the “Rubber Factory” album from 2004.

A two piece – Dan Auerbach on Voice & Guitar with Pat Carney on Drums, their blues heavy noise is just so damn visceral – especially on the title track of their “sophomore” album (a live performance of which is above – click the hyperlink). In format (two piece, guitar/drums) they bear a link with mid-west contemporaries The White Stripes, whilst being (IMHO) infinitely better than that rather more successful (in UK terms) band.

(Including 2006’s EP – “Chulahoma”) 9 albums in, they have evolved to the point that (courtesy of production wizard, Brian Burton – aka “Dangermouse”) they now boast bass guitar and keyboard players on the new album “Turn Blue”, they are still (again, IMHO) streets above anything the UK has to offer in guitar-led terms.

(Recommended albums – in order of release date: Thickfreakness, Magic Potion & Attack and Release)

On to the beer eh?

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

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1. Flintlock Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 3.4% abv – Pale Ale – Direct From Brewery 

Have I ever explained my love of the beers that come from Outwood? Mr Bastow is a genius! I demand that someone gets his bottled beer over this side of the hill! Oh….wait….I’ve got some more on my shelf? *Smiles*

This is an ultra pale straw coloured beer and a big sharp aroma of tart gooseberry and grapefruit. I was drooling before it touched my lips!

Light-bodied, with the gentlest cream cracker malty base, this is full of sharp citrus flavours, with gooseberry and grapefruit again, cut with lemon atop that Jacobs’ like base. The second mouthful brings that sharp lemon more into focus, enlivening my jaded tastebuds (read WHY they were jaded here)

A beautifully refreshing Pale Ale. Whatever the strength, this is a Five Towns speciality!

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2. Liquorice Alesort – Ashover Brewery (Ashover, nr Chesterfield, Derbyshire) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.99 (500ml) – 10% for 12 btls or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Deep black with a creamy looking tan coloured head and a really “dark” aroma including real liquorice and maybe a hint of aniseed.

Oh MY! This beer is as smooth as George Clooney! Full of body, a subtle roasted malty sweetness forms the base for the savoury, spicy overtones of the liquorice root. Just Mmmmmm!

With each mouthful I’m sinking into my chair and the sweet embrace of this dark delight! The finish is slightly sweet, with a grassy hop edge. As Frankie Howerd’s Lurcio never quitesaid….”Yum, Yum and thrice Yum”!

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3. Pale Ale NZ Quantum Brewing Co (Stockport) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £3.45 (I think) (500ml) – 0% – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)

This was Jamie Hancock’s fault! (I DO love a good scapegoat! Felt weird seeing him in a shop rather than behind the bar!) I was just about to leave with a small – yet perfectly formed – haul of goodies, when this was pointed out!

A pale golden beer with a light white head and HUGELY fragrant with zesty lemon and tart gooseberry and grapefruit.

Smooth and medium-bodied in the mouth, a light biscuity base forms the foundation of this hoppy fruity delight! First comes tart gooseberry, giving the tongue a little wrinkle and unleashing the saliva glands. This first swallow feels like summer has arrived! This is followed by a light, yet still punchy grapefruit, both of these mouthfuls have a lemon sharpness to them which is massively refreshing.The finish is tingling and bitter with the merest hint of lemongrass in the aftertaste. A sharp and hoppy, refreshing easy drinking beer.

Bravo Jay Krause – Take a bow!

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(Gratuitously shot with 2 Premier League Winners in background!)

4. SIPFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford) – 5.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.99 (330ml) – 0% – Carringtons (Barlow Moor Rd, Chorlton)

Straw coloured and hazy, with a thin white head and a sharp & slightly tart aroma with lemon, passion fruit and a hint of kiwi fruit.

Medium-bodied in the mouth, with a fresh-baked bready malt base this is SO smooth and fruity in the mouth with more passion fruit and a sharp lemony edge to it and quite a decent bitterness.

With each mouthful that fruitiness builds at the same time as the bitterness lessens. Lovely herbal hops aftertaste. Refreshing and supremely easy to drink. Now to have it on draught! Hopefully on their evening on 31st May?

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5. Alias – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, W. Yorkshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.89 (500ml) – 10% for 12 btls or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Look at it. Just look at it. If beer is drunk with the eyes, just looking at it has slaked my thirst!

Gold. Pale Gold. Bubbling like a klondike brook, except that this one is loaded with aromas of spring flowers & gooseberry rather than gold! Light bodied in the mouth, this is really delicate on initial tasting, maybe a bit of elderflower, before that gooseberry tartness kicks in.

Another smooth and easy-drinking beer this, so easy to glug, but I resist! The second mouthful builds considerably on the bitterness of the first. Clean, floral, gently tart and hugely refreshing. Supremely easy drinking. The queens of the single-hopped pale ale. Bloody hell, but they’re good at this! And, with Raj’s 10% discount, to drink beer THIS good, at THAT price, feels like shoplifting!

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6. Fatter Stout Mad Hatter Brewing Co (Liverpool) – 9.5% abv – Imperial Stout – £4.20 (330ml) – 0% – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)

Another from my small – yet perfectly formed – haul on my recent visit to Beermoth.

Black as the Ace of Spades, with a deep cream coloured head and an aroma full of darkness, with some bitter coffee and lots of licorice.

Obviously huge bodied, really silky smooth, the initial hit is one of really bitter coffee, followed by the chewy licorice overlaying a burnt sugar sweetness in the background and coating the mouth all over.

In later mouthfuls, something more warming and alcoholic like a dark rum, slick and warming the throat as it slides down. Whilst underlying sweetness is ever-present, there is a distinct bitterness in the finish followed by a resinous hop character edged with bitter chocolate. Going down great with some vintage cheddar!!! A boss beer from Liverpool. 

Well, that’s all folks! I’m just about recovered from last weeks efforts – I really SHOULD keep a tin of Andrews in the medical box!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Historic Manchester Pubs- Pt 2 – 08/05/2014

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 (corridor – The City Arms)

“I wish that I could push a button and talk in the past and not the present tense.

And watch this hurting feeling disappear, like it was common sense.

It was a fine idea at the time, now it’s a brilliant mistake.”

(“Brilliant Mistake”  – The Costello Show ft The Confederates)

(Hyperlink video courtesy of  lisap2468 on YouTube)

Coming 2 years after the (rather harshly derided) “Goodbye Cruel World” – liner notes in the re-issue stating “Congratulations! You just bought the worst album of my career.” – “King of America” was, stylistically, a bold move by one of my favourite artists – if not quite as left field as the C&W album “Almost Blue”. There is almost no comparison between his Americana tinged 1986 classic and the likes of his bigger selling early albums like “This Years Model” & “Armed Forces” (I was strangle never overly struck on his biggest single “Olivers Army” – preferring the delights of “Accidents Will Happen”)

King of America is certainly my favourite Costello album. The lyrics (as usual) pin sharp and the subject matter spanning the range of emotions from the love-struck “Lovable” to the heart-wrenching end-of-relationship “Indoor Fireworks”, this is simply a stunning album that dragged me back into the Costello fold and is a diamond amongst the dross of late ’80s “music”. I wondered why he would want to play with members of his namesake Presley’s band The TCB Band, then I listened. the results are, quite simply, lovely. For me, the greatest album by a man who should be treated as a national treasure.

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I’m getting to that time of life when I’m meeting old colleagues at retirement dos with increasing regularity. I tend to pick and choose the ones that I go to. The sole criteria being respect. Last nights event, though I didn’t stay long, was for an utterly stand-out bloke. Unfortunately, however, the event was to be held in the Spinningfields branch of Slug & Lettuce. My sinking heart needed to be buoyed. So I floated it in the excellent Salford Arms with some colleagues of the current vintage.

Excellent pints of Black Jack Blackbird Stout (beautifully roasted and creamy with just the right amount of bitterness) and Zool by Tiny Rebel (fabulously fruity and hoppy pale ale) set the stage. As ever, both beers excellently kept by Tom – I haven’t been in for a while, but some things never change – excellent Steak & Onion ciabatta BTW – he just keeps the beer superbly in here. An essential staging post en route to Manchester.

Next up was a stop off in the re-opened Mark Addy. Again, excellent pints of Dark Revenge by Privateer (just SO smooth, coffee roast and ever so slightly hoppy and bitter – a class beer), Cascade by Blackedge (beautifully hopped, light and refreshing – probably my favourite pale by them on cask so far) and a nice hoppy Pale Ale by Shiny Brewing of Derby at 4.5% – the name of which escapes me. These were all bolted down – something I rarely do, for fear of the inevitable consequences! A really nice surprise was meeting Pete Killip behind the bar – someone with whom I’ve had many a pleasant social media exchange, but hadn’t met. Nice bloke, glad to see him back behind the MA bar. Good to see the Mark Addy open at all!

The do was…well, it WAS in the Slug….not my venue de choix! One (untried) cask ale by Hardy & Hansons (St George Ale, I think), meeting old colleagues was great and chatting to some with whom I’ve shared many a beery misdemeanour over the years was just a pleasure. It’s sad that I’m at that stage of life, when meeting old friends tends to be at Retirements or Funerals, but good people are always that, good people.

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Over a year ago, I did a piece on a mini-crawl around some of Manchester/Salford’s older pubs and planned to do a follow up (or Pt 2) soon afterwards. Well, this IS that sequel. A bit long in the making, but, safe to say, I enjoyed the making of this one a bit more than the last!

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The Rising Sun (Queen St/Lloyd St)

Manchester. The Rainy City. The umbrella in the shot says it all. It was wet. Very wet, as I sprint walked up towards the Rising Sun. I had kept the Arch-Nemesis waiting for over half an hour and felt a tad guilty. Good man that he is, if he had a grudge, he hid it well and had got me a pint of Mill Town Mild by Howard Town Brewery of Glossop.  A lovely mild, dark brown in colour, all toffee malt, caramel and chocolate in a light body at 3.5%, with little bitterness. A fine example of a Northern Mild from this local brewery.

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The ‘Sun is what can be described as a “cut” pub, with an entrance on both streets, originally designed to draw in passing trade from both streets. It is a single roomed and narrow pub with confusion surrounding its initial opening as a pub (with dates as early as 1684 being mentioned – which would indeed make it Manchester’s oldest by a distance). Logic dictates that this is probably wrong as, apparently, this part of Manchester was undeveloped at that time. I prefer to go with the date of the excellent Pubs of Manchester which gives it a date of approximately 1777. Bloody hell, the year after the US Declaration of independence!

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(This is so cute! I want it!!!)

The pub has had a refurb in the past couple of years and looks as good as I’ve ever seen it (Been drinking here – on & off – for 30 years). Nice neutral colours a few tables and comfy chairs. a couple of unobtrusive (ie: not gigantic) TVs. It’s a cracking little bolt hole, although one that is hardly a secret anymore, being 30 seconds from Deansgate and popular with the after office set. Good boozer. (Lovely tiled loos too….the toilets say a lot about a pub, ask Mrs BM!)

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Next on the list was a bit of a walk to clear out a few beer induced cobwebs. All the way across to Great Bridgewater Street, where, in the shadow of the mighty Bridgewater Hall (AND Manchester Central!), there are two gems amidst all the modernity….

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The Britons Protection (Great Bridgewater Street)

Still wet (well, it IS Manchester!), the walk was turned into a thirst-inducing power walk, the quicker to get out of the wet and into the dry!

The Britons is simply stunning. Standing in isolation and unprepossessing from the outside, it is simply BEAUTIFUL inside!

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Apparently dating from 1811 (see here courtesy http://manchesterhistory.net/), this is a true multi-roomed pub with the main room being fairly narrow with a long bar and, unusually, two entrances at the front with one giving direct access to the bar from the street.

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(gorgeous isn’t it?)

Again, another pub I’ve been coming in for 30 or so years. Even when it was a Tetley house, the beer was superb, The usual semi-macro suspects adorn the bar, with Robbies Unicorn & Jennings Cumberland (I think) to the right. My eyes alighted on the two pumps to the left that were adorned by local; micro clips, Privateer & Outstanding being the two tonight. Having already had a Privateer, I opted for the Outstanding Brewery and its 3.9. A very pale ale at (shock!) 3.9% abv, passion fruit nose and orangey refreshing bitterness in the mouth. Just what the doctor ordered to slake the thirst. Outstanding do the simple things very well, they make damn good beer.

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A warm and friendly pub with loads of beautiful decorative features, stained and leaded glass windows here, a real fire there….the two rooms to the rear are rarely empty and are great places to have a sit down and chat with friends. Beautiful pub, friendly staff, excellent beer, do you want anything else?

Maybe whiskies? The pub has a reputation for its wide variety and huge selection. Tonight I could see why!

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Next pub, fortunately, wasn’t too far away on this damp evening!

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Peveril of the Peak (Chepstow Street)

Apparently dating from the early 19th century (again, thanks to manchesterhistory.net), this wedged shape multi-roomed pub holds a special place in my drinking history – more later!

Beautiful green enamelled tiling adorns the outside, with lots of wood and warm tones inside and more original type features than you could shake a proverbial wotsit at….The bar football table (covered over tonight) is legendary in Manchester and has been a draw as far back as I can remember. The beer choice leaves something to be desired – could they make room for a local micro on the bar? Best option tonight was a pint of Deuchars IPA, with all the local micros around, not ordinarily my first choice, but do you know what, it was a rather pleasant refreshing pint, in tip-top condition. Golden, bittersweet and refreshing. More than did the job!

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Another rarity in the city centre is the pool table in the back room (probably, the largest room in the pub. The front room (with the main bar area) curves around the bar. There is a further (rather beautiful) third room, triangular in shape, with a real fire, small, but perfectly formed – a bit like this rather unique old boozer.

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That thing about a special place in MY drinking history!

In December 1981, I was due to see a band called Pigbag at the club on Oxford Road that used to be called Rafters. They got snowed in in Bristol, Dislocation Dance stepped in and a musical love affair commenced! However, Pigbag rescheduled for early 1982 and a few of us went to see them. Now, I do NOT condone under-aged drinking……yawn!…….but we started the night in The Pev. I was drinking Carlsberg. A good pal of mine, Smudge (take a bow Martin Murray!) was drinking a brown liquid that looked rather nice. Passing me his pint of what I learned was Wilsons Bitter, I took a taste. It was creamy textured and rather lovely. I put the Carlsberg down and ordered a pint. It was my Damascene conversion. I never drank Carlsberg again. 32 years later….

As I needed a bank for some funds, my original plan had to change, as there was no machine en-route to The City Arms. Thinking on my feet, we headed to another gem – one that had been a tad controversial recently.

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The Lass O’Gowrie (Charles Street)

According to the map contained here (manchesterhistory.net again!), the Lass has been around since at least the mid 1800s, when the area was (patently) more residential, with workers housing (no doubt staffing the mills at the end of the street).

The Lass is another beautiful old pub, but one that’s been knocked about a bit inside. Recently given a bit of a facelift following the rather controversial removal of the previous landlord, The Lass looks like it might regain some of its erstwhile popularity, lost no doubt following the relocation of Auntie to Salford Quays. I still remember the fond days of the 80s when, before The Marble Arch started brewing, The Lass was the original Brewpub. They may have been made from Malt Extract, but LOG 35 & 42 added much-needed variety to the beery diet dominated by Boddingtons and the national brewing conglomerates.

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Last time I entered, there was only one local micro on, it may have even been the only beer, but tonight things looked a little healthier, with the Arch-Nemesis buying me a pint of Cherry Baby from Blakemere  (Northwich, Cheshire). Chestnut hued, with a huge fruity aroma (yes, cherries), this was an excellent lightly roasty mild with plenty of cheery flavour. Perked up my flagging taste buds!

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Good footy related chat with some guys in the small room (bottom left of pic above!)

The Lass is looking up. It was a bit quiet, but on a Thursday evening, where (other than Port Street) gets busy? Nicely decorated, beer in excellent nick, a nice option on the Oxford Rd corridor.

I couldn’t pass Joshua Brooks without going in eh? Glad I did, as there was a First Chop beer on the bar that I hadn’t had. TOC was the beer. Typical of Rik Garner’s paler offspring, golden, fruity as hell (oranges and tangerines) with a hoppy and bitter finish. Brewed for The Other City festival recently, there may not be much of this about. It was lovely and in great nick, as usual with JB. Great to see the quality being maintained following Jon Turner’s departure.

Still a bit moist, though no longer throwing down stair rods, a bit of a walk to the next pub.

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The City Arms (Kennedy Street)

Located just off Princess Street/St Peters Square, in a parallel universe, this would be an undiscovered gem. In this real timeline, this pub has been hugely popular in the 30 years that I’ve known it Again (with thanks to Manchesterhistory.net) the pub occupies what was an 18th century town house, being known as a pub from the late 19th century.

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2 main drinking areas here, the main bar area with 8 handpumps on the go, with the second room accessed by a couple of steps down. Like the Britons Protection, 2 entrances here, with the one to the left giving access to a serving hatch, enabling people to use this as an overspill from the frequently busy main rooms.

The main bar area is sparsely furnished and serves as the main (mostly vertical) drinking area. On a busy evening, it’s best to use the left hand entrance, to avoid the struggle of entering a (justly) rammed pub!

On entry tonight, I was a bit rude. I didn’t scan the pumps. My eyes hit AllgatesAll Black Mild (well, May is Mild Month!). I love this beer and needed look no further – ticking be damned! Black, light chocolate and coffee notes with a hoppy kick from the use of New Zealand hops (hence the name!). I generally have it wherever I find it. A beautiful beer that cut through the clagged up taste buds at this late stage of the evening!

NB : The City has been garlanded by Trafford & Hulme CAMRA Branch as their Pub of the Year 2014. This particular member from Bolton lauds this fine choice!

Finally (are you still awake?)

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The Vine (Kennedy Street – next door to The City Arms)

Again (with thanks to Manchesterhistory.net) this dates from a similar era to The City Arms, having been a pub since the late 19th century. This bijou (Salfordian for lickle!) boozer is on 3 levels. A good job really because the bar area is a bit dinky! We headed downstairs where, last time that I went in – some years ago TBF – it was used as a restaurant. Oh how my eyes were opened!

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Downstairs there was a fully fledged bar with room for the handpumps that they couldn’t fit upstairs. Fairly quiet, the A-N selected a Lancaster Blonde at 4%. Golden, with a nice refreshing hoppy fruitiness with an orange note to it. I’m just astounded that my tastebuds had survived at this stage of the evening! Nice, fruity light and refreshing. A nice pint to sign off with.

Bloody hell, that WAS an evening! (Managed to have 3 Milds as well. Happy boy!)

Thanks due to the blogs Pubs of Manchester and Manchesterhistory.net for my liberal pilfering of data. A valuable service they provide. There is an absolute dearth of information on the net about Manchester’s drinking establishment heritage. Frankly, I was embarrassed how little I would have found without the above resources. There’s a Boak & Baileyesque gap here that needs to be filled. Any takers?

 On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

“It was a fine idea at the time….” But on Friday morning it felt like a Brilliant Mistake!