Liverpool – Heart & Soul – 27/02/2016

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“Walking up to me expecting, walking up to me expecting words
It happens all the time

Present company excepted, present company accept the worst
It happens every night

Present company excluded every time.
Present company, the best that you can find…….

Present company excluded in every way. Present company, makes me want to stay.”

(“Dance Yourself Clean” – LCD Soundsystem)

(For Les & Lee)

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Ever had that moment when you realise that you’ve actually scheduled two fabulous events in consecutive days? Well. That.

The evening before, Atilla & her lesser half were invited to Michelle Kelsall’s 40th birthday bash at Offbeat Brewery. which, unbeknown to most (until 6 hours before) turned into a wedding do as Michelle and her partner David Shipman got married that morning….It was a proper party. And there was a specially brewed DIPA by David (Otherton Ales).

And it got messy. Very messy…. I should have listened to Atilla when she said “slow down”……I REALLY needed that coffee when she dropped me at Oxford Rd. I felt hideous. But I wasn’t going to miss what we did yesterday for the world.

You see, I’d had a standing invitation from two lovely beer people (Julie & Les O’Grady) to have a stroll with them around their beloved city.

Now, being a Salford lad, I need to let you into a little secret.

I adore Liverpool.

Always have. And, as I discovered 4 years ago, it’s in my blood. Back in the early 1800s, my Dad’s maternal ancestors lived in Toxteth as immigrants from Northern Ireland. When I learned that, everything about my feelings for Liverpool clicked into place. They made sense.

So. I’m on a train. With a hangover. Listening to LCD Soundsystem. Loudly. Counter intuitive, I know, but it felt right.

“We’ll meet you by the Ken Dodd statue”

Fortunately for me (bat blind) I met Lee (good people) off the platform. And HIS eyesight was working!

I met Les & Julie through Twitter and a mutual love of beer and music. They also hold the “distinction” of buying the first two tickets that we sold in 2014 for The Independent Salford Beer Festival. They are good people. And they know their Liverpool pubs and bars. Our spirit guides for the day ahead.

Our? That’s because we had those beery princes @BeerFinderGeneral, @Deeekos & @Leggywolf with us. Companions of the highest order.

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The Dispensary (87 Renshaw St, Liverpool, L1 2SP)

The first port in my storm. Ruff would do justice to how I felt at this stage. Until I got here. It lifted my spirits

Open planned, with a long wooden bar and an almost separate space at the back. \this is one lovely pub. Boosted even further by having 3 George Wright beers on. Not seen any for a while from this St Helens firm. Mild too! I needed something gentle to ease myself into that swing of things. Smooth, creamy and roasted malty. The oracle was worked..

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Isn’t that one lovely bar? Great friendly service in here too (as I was to find in all the places we visited. It obviously helps to have guides who have “form” locally!

Dizzy rear

We just got chatting. About everything and nothing. It didn’t matter. Great beer, fabulous pub and good people. What else do you need?

It was here that @Deeekos joined our happy band. And by that point, the revitalising effects of that first pint were livening me up. I was ready for the day ahead.

The “Dizzy” was a great start.

Next, a walk down Renshaw St, onto Leece St and a left onto Roscoe St….

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The Roscoe Head (24 Roscoe St, Liverpool L1 2SX)

I’m always very wary of places that get lauded to hell. The expectations get raised to heights that can’t possibly be matched by the reality. But here, they were surpassed. It deserves every single plaudit it receives.

A multi-roomed pub in the truest sense, with 4 distinct drinking areas and one of the dinkiest rooms it has ever been my pleasure to drink in. Beautiful tiled floors. Masses of dark wood. This place has a soul. The kind that you simply don’t find everyday.

And it WAS a pleasure to drink here. Especially as the barmaid lost no time in latching onto my Manc tones and proceeded to take the piss out of me. My kind of pub this!

An Offbeat beer on? I broke my “when in Rome” rule to celebrate Michelle & David’s honeymoon. Hinkey Herkulean Hopper was that beer, lovely and fruity. We simply don’t see Michelle’s beers in Manchester. Some pubs need to seriously step up and right that egregious wrong! This pub did.

I get why this pub is so loved. It looks untampered with. Like, just because it’s just off the main Renshaw Street, it has been forgotten about. It’s certainly a gem of a place.

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To lose this pub for a supermarket plot would be bordering on criminal. I’m glad that (at least for the time being) the pub looks like it will continue. As the only pub in the North West to be in each edition of the Good Beer Guide and as an utter gem, you need to visit to appreciate it truly.

Roscoe Bar

Do it.

Next, turn right out of the pub, cross Leece St and straight along Roscoe St past the “Bombed Out Church”…..

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(Anything wrong with this picture?)

The Grapes (60 Roscoe Street, Liverpool, L1 9DW)

A short walk. To what – to me at least – felt like a “local” in the middle of the city. The place is open plan with an L-shaped bar and the room shaping around it with an area to the rear of the bar which had the feel of a different room.

Nice outdoor space to this pub which no doubt gets rammed in the warmer months, but, even as upholstered as I am, we stayed indoors and chatted. And chatted. And….

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The first of the pubs with beers from Liverpool micros here. With some trying the Liverpool Organic Pilsner, nice light, refreshing and lightly fruity in the way of a good Czech, but my eye was on a beer I had only had in bottle a couple of evenings earlier. And, as I was stood with mine host, the brewer, I thought “you know”…

The beer was “Abyss” Oatmeal Stout by Neptune Brewery and it was one of my two three beers of the day. Smooth and creamy as you would expect an Oatmeal Stout, it started with chocolate and coffee notes, but the further down the glass I got, a spicy licorice note became increasingly prominent. A delight. As was this warm and friendly boozer – a bit of a theme on the day that……

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(You’ve simply GOT TO have a “Super Lamb Banana”!)

So…Next we went down Knight St to Berry St and then onto Seel St to…

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Kazimier Garden (32, Seel St, Liverpool, L1 4BH)

It is quite safe to say that there is certainly nothing quite like this in Manchester! This is a performance and art space that is (mostly) open to the elements. It feels bohemian and home-made in construction and all the better for its uniqueness!

Sweet baby Jesus…..They’ve even had the legend that is Lee “Scratch” Perry play here….Jeff, you missed out buddy!

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A big griddle was in play for BBQ stuff, but beer was still in play here. The bar had 3 on cask from Liverpool Craft (and some decent craft keg), I plumped for a Rye Pale which ticked all of the required boxes.

I also started to fall in love with Julie’s impersonation of Larry Grayson by this point…….

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(View from upstairs)

I was advance warned that I’d like this place. It’s quirky as hell and has an individual charm with almost a “community” feel to it. It works. If you like something different, it’s an essential visit.

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(Obligatory historic beer brand shot!)

From here, we walked down David Lewis St and Campbell St then across Duke St. To the next (to say the least) damn quirky pub!

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Liverpool One Bridewell (1 Campbell Square, Argyle Street, Liverpool, L1 5FB)

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Fancy like drinking in a real 1850s (as Shane McGowan put it so sweetly) “drunk tank”? Yup. If you haven’t been before, this pub is in a converted gaol! To think, that I’m drinking in a place where some of the greatest music of the 80s may have been conceived? Frankie, Iain McNabb and The Icicle Works, The Pale Fountains (please say that “Thank You” was written here?), The La’s all hung out in this very building when it was a performance space/recording studios.

The main bar area is “relatively” conventional. Then you go down the corridor and realise that the former cells have been retained and converted into small drinking booths!

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Again, there’s nowt like this in Mancunia. A decent selection from local Micros in here too. Nice pint of “Make Scouse Not War“, again by Neptune, in here. I’d kind of sworn that I’d be drinking halves, but got carried away in conversation punctuated by some very humourous “door shutting” (you had to be there I suppose!). Heidi Fleiss was getting a bit parky to say the least…..

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The pubs/bars were getting progressively busier as we went along. Chatted with one or two of the friendly locals too, again, a bit of a running theme. Friendly pubs….

Shamefully, we had a schedule to keep to….So, down Forrest St, left onto the main St James’ St then right onto Cornhill for our next meeting with a classic…

Baltic

The Baltic Fleet (33a Wapping, Liverpool, L1 8DQ)

A pub that I’d driven past on hundreds of occasions, had heard so much about, but never been in. Now rectified.

Baltic Bar

The home of the Wapping Brewery (downstairs in the cellar), this mid 19th century boozer – our furthest spot on the journey – was more than worth the walk. Bright, lovely bar, fabulous vaulted ceilings, toilets upstairs accessed by a sweeping “cruise liner” style stairway….

Again, a goodly few local beers here. I went for a Melwood Brewery Derby Stout, not as rich as I would like, but smooth and roasty flavours with chocolate Toffo (remember them?) being in there.

Baltic Backroom

Busy as a chippy, again, rightly so. I should have asked to see the “secret tunnels” to the Docks that run under the pub…. But not the 4 ghosts that live there…….

Right then. We still had a timetable to keep to, so, with the O’Grady whips a-cracking, back up Cornhill, right along Hurst St, then left up Sparling St to St James’ St, Right onto Jamaica ST then 2nd right on to Kitchen St….

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Black Lodge Brewing Taphouse (4 Kitchen St, Baltic Triangle, Liverpool, L1 0AN)

More familiar territory here with a warehouse conversion into a bar/micro brewery. For this particular Manc, this had a feeling that would slot right into the NQ and absolutely thrive.

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Decor wise, minimalist earth tones. Great tunes and (as we were to find – due to Les & Julie ordering ahead!) superb food.

The brew kit is almost Pico in size and – on occasion – they brew whilst open. But not today. Today was for selling it. Bar was (and I could stand corrected) all keg and mostly brewed on the premises with a smattering of guests. I had their own Black Lodge BrewingBlack Rye. Right up there with the best three along with the Neptune Abyss (there’s one more to come….!), sharply hoppy, resinous with a bit of peppery Rye. A truly excellent beer – I wonder if I could persuade them for Salford…….?

Black Lodge Meats

(Thank you Julie & Les – Next time, a Marble Cheeseboard on me – & a Manchester Egg or two…)

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(I told you it was tiny….)

It’s an easy thing to say that there were no low points on this day. But this place impressed all 4 of the Mancs. Oh that platter was good! I won’t mention my utter shame in having an entire portion of Black Pudding Sausage Roll shall I? Best not eh? Nor the gooey Scotch Egg……

Now came the furthest walk. And you’ll have to figure your own route, because I’m damned if I remember…..

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The 23 Club (Basement of The Clove Hitch – 23 Hope St, Liverpool L1 9BQ)

The final stop. One hell of a walk. But SO worth it.

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This place is so tiny! But I can totally get why Les & Julie would come here so much. It’s like the set of Cheers, but with a Scouse accent instead of Boston! People just knew each other. Really friendly barmaid and some great beer. Now, there IS apparently some cask beer upstairs in the restaurant, downstairs being keg only. But was that REALLY 16 taps?

Just away from the bar area is a seating section and just past the stairs back up, there is another small room, but I can see this place getting seriously rammed. It’s THAT good and THAT tiny!

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AND they manage to cram in a little bottle store too! It was late in the day. I needed something different. Something to clear the fog on my tastebuds. I followed Les like a sheep follows a collie. Tsatsiki Sour by Mad Hatter. One of my 5 a day in a glass. And it just got better and better as it went down. I’ve had some good stuff from MH, but this is the best.

And I could see how people fall in love with this place. It reminded me of Atilla – small, but perfectly formed.

My Manc accomplices were all for staying, but I was on a fixed train at 20:16 and had to dash.

I can’t thank Les & Julie enough. For the chat, the beer, the laughter and their unerring taste in where to go – my feet were cut to shreds (new boots….), but that was a small price to pay to walk around one of my favourite cities. There’s just something about it that grabs me. It’s a place full of soul.

With pubs and bars to match.

I tip my hat.

The Tottering Temple – Blackedge Brewery – 29/03/2014

Tottering Temple

No tunes today (cue collective sigh of relief!) – just a swift post.

In case you haven’t noticed, I like bottled beer. Increasingly, I find myself drawn to beers of a more local persuasion. With a small number of North West breweries stocked at the excellent Liquor Shop in Whitefield and slightly larger number stocked at Bolton’s excellent bar Great Ale Year Round, I still craved breweries from the North West that I hadn’t yet tried. Breweries like the excellent George Wright from Rainford, Prospect of Standish and others too numerous…..

On Saturday, BlackEdge Brewery of Horwich opened a bottle shop of their own, The Tottering Temple. I had been in contact via Twitter on a number of occasions with the brewers and they had a bottle kept by of their hard to find Dark Rum for me to buy. Having had a fairly light evening on the Friday, I spied an opportunity that was simply too good to pass up! So, with my 14 year old chaperone in tow…..no chance for beery mischief…..

Located on Hampson Street off Lee Lane in Horwich, it was easy enough to locate….the sign pointing to The Tottering Temple didn’t hurt either!

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Entering a door which seemed to indicate a small unit, a couple of steps down and the place opened up nicely. Shelves of bottles to the left and right and a bar dead ahead. Typical me, we seemed to be first in!

Ignoring the bar for a moment, which was difficult with 3 beers priced at £2.30 a pint (!), I set to my bottle shelf investigations! Loads of breweries that I hadn’t had before. The shelves were really well laid out and labelled clearly so, if you were searching for something in particular (and they stocked it) you would find it in moments.

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From Bank Top to Thornbridge, most bases covered including some of the newer micros like Squawk. I started to drool when I saw that they had their Stout, which I had heard about but seemed merely a legend, but now glassy fact! That was the first beer to hand and placed on the bar, as Richard, Mr “Adlington Beer Circle” tapped me on the shoulder. We had “conversed” on many occasions on Twitter and – if truth be told – he was one of the major reasons that I post (or try to) at 08:00 on a Saturday morning. He does like a bit of light reading!

We chatted for what seemed like ages, to the extent that I forgot to get both a half of something light and refreshing (and a drink for the “chaperone”!) A quick half of Hop was the choice to slake my conversationally derived thirst! Top bloke Richard. Got to chat with his nephew Tom and passed some tips on Manchester drinking (Tom being at Uni in Mcr and all) Richard is the creator (with techy assistance from Tom!) of an excellent website (link above) which seeks to increase footfall (quite literally!) into a number of local pubs by the creation of a number of walks that link the pubs – a simply brilliant idea in these challenging times! (Don’t think I’ll be setting one up for Farnworth QUITE yet!)

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Had a number of necessarily brief, yet frequent, chats with Wayne & Shaun (the boys behind the brewery) who, through their brewing, are part of the reason why Horwich is gaining a bit of an excellent beery rep. They have a couple of pumps dedicated to their beers at the pub that serves as their “tap”, the award-winning Victoria & Albert on Lee Lane, Bolton CAMRA Branch “Pub of the Year” (popped in recently and I can see why!). BlackEdge brew a number of excellent beers with my personal favourites being the Darks, Black & Black Port (you KNOW what I’m like!).

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Wayne & Shaun have got this place well laid out with the 6 Bbl plant (216 gallon) at one end, with some seating and tables for the punters and even a comfy looking leather sofa (I was just TOO slow to grab that!), this was a nice place to come for a lunchtime beer and quite similar to others that I’ve been to. They have made the most of what is a fairly small venue.

Following swift halves of the excellent IPA and even better (well, it’s a dark!) Black Port grabbed whilst further yakking with Richard, I had to gather a stash to take away. Pricing is more than competitive (as I found when I got the bill!) and I was chuffed to pick up beers from George Wright, Prospect, Boggart, Marble, Westerham, Squawk as well as their own Dark Rum and Citra, an excellent and reasonably priced haul. I hadn’t even noticed the sign that mentioned 10% discount for 12 or more bottles, which I MAY have triggered!

This is a cracking shop with a really nice local based selection and “outsiders” like Thornbridge all at decent prices (I’ve got my eye on some Cheshire Brewhouse Govinda – a recent #Beergasm of mine – at £4.20!) and is well worth a look, especially if you shop at the behemoth like Tesco or Asda at Middlebrook (Bolton Reebok Stadium for non-locals). You’ll get FAR better beer here than you will at either of those!

With my 15+ bottle haul, I was being prodded by my “chaperone” who needed to get into Bolton to get a Mothers Day pressie – he’s a sweetie!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

 

 

 

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!

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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!