My #GoldenPints 2014

Golden Pints Logo

Oh Shit! It’s that time of year when I’m forced to be decisive and tell you (and you probably couldn’t give a flying…..) about what I REALLY liked this year, by pre-defined category.

So, 2014 was a year when I discovered the following :

How much I love blogging about beer.

How much I really couldn’t be arsed blogging about beer.

How close you can come to a nervous breakdown (and I HAVE been there) and come through nearly unscathed (See The Independent Salford Beer Festival)

How much generally that “Beer People Are Good People”

And a huge thanks to “BeerReviewsAndy” (someone I have never met) for getting this snowball rolling…..

And….the following……

  1. Best UK Cask BeerGrounds For DivorceFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorks) – For me, the best beer at #ISBF2014. A 7.8% Belgian style Tripel fermented using yeast from the legendary Brasserie Orval, brewed at the bottom of a garden in Outwood, Wakefield, by one of the most unassuming people that I have ever met. As fruity as Carmen Miranda’s headgear and as light and tasty as a Heston Blumenthal foam. It. Rocked. My. World. (And I’m yet to really get into Belgian beer!)
  2. Best UK Keg Beer – I haven’t really had all that much, but of those that I HAVE had, I’d fall on the side of American Brown Ale – Runaway Brewery – . From the first sip at Black Jack Tap (Hmmm….) to the last sip (WOW!). This beer adheres to Principle 1 of the 3 Jazwinski Beer Principles. It was a beer that improved with each and every sip. By that last sip, I could *almost* have been a convert to keg. And it was fecking astonishingly good at #ISBF2014 on cask too!
  3. Best UK Bottle or Can – I’m not gonna cop out here by choosing one each (I’ll do THAT elsewhere!). This was a close run thing. My vote – by a well groomed whisker – goes to Govinda (Brandy Barrel Aged) IPACheshire Brewhouse (Congleton, Cheshire). A massively English hopped IPA at 6.8% abv, the original version was already a stunning thing, a grand riposte to those who think English hopped beers are merely brown and twiggy murk. Get Thee Behind Me Beery Satans! “Spicy boozy raisins, banana, marmalade dancing all over a deep toffee malt base. This is a proper IPA. The fruity and toffee flavours …. give way to a spicy hop…” Being fairly dedicated to UK – and Northern beers in particular, this proved the most intense #Beergasm that I had this year.
  4. Best Overseas Draught – Not. Really. My. Bag. Next……!
  5. Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer – Can? Founders All Day IPA. Does exactly what it says on the tin. Fresh, zingy and oh so refreshing. Bottle? Not had many…But, from Brouwerij The Musketeers (Ursel, Belgium) – Troubadour WestKust Black Imperial IPA – A 750 ml bottle that – in the midst of a tastebud numbing cold, I could actually taste. A full-bodied fruity hop assault. With licorice. What’s NOT to like?
  6. Best Collaboration Brew – Another tricky one. Came down to a choice of two, BOTH involving the mighty Stuart Neilson of the North Riding Brewpub in Scarborough. The first was 300 from Five Towns / North Riding – a big, punchy Double IPA which in no way tasted it’s strength but had more hops than Watership Down and was a damn sight tastier! However, edging this by simple force of Bitterness, is Protz’s PleasureSteel City Brewing (Sheffield) / North Riding Brewpub (Scarborough) – Conceived (possibly) as a riposte to a rant from Roger Protz about the beer type “Black IPA”. All of the oxymoronic characteristics of a BIPA with a simply MASSIVE bitterness. Astonishing.
  7. Best Overall Beer – See 3 above!IMAG2241
  8. Best Branding, Pumpclip or LabelBad Seed Brewery. For that hanging tag pump label. Irritating for the staff, but classy as feck. (I’ve kept the one from #ISBF2014 – don’t change fellas!)IMAG2118
  9. Best UK Brewery – On balance, this HAS to go to the brewery from which I drink the most consistently excellent and drinkable beers – Drinkability, for me, means a tasty, well hopped (or dark and roasted) beer that I can drink repeatedly without falling off my chair. For me, this means AllGates. From Sloe Stout at Manchester Beer and Cider Fest to Half Devil at #ISBF2014 and all points in between, just consistently excellent beer.
  10. Best Overseas Brewery – Moving swiftly on…..Next!
  11. Best New Brewery Opening 2014 – Controversy time! I’m going to go with Shindigger Brewing. I KNOW that they don’t have their own premises (yet!), but as a consumer, this is about the beer, right? From my first taste of Pacific Pale to the Saison/PIP at an MTB in Chorlton, they have progressed with each. and. every. beer. Cask, keg and bottle. Cuckoo? Gypsy? It’s about the beer for me, like I said. A HUGE honourable mention to Runaway Brewery and Squawk Brewing too. Manchester really IS rocking at the moment!
  12. Pub/Bar of the Year – (I’ve twisted the category – slightly!) Pub? Easy. As last year, The Hare & Hounds in Hindley (Wigan). A proper local that I need to visit WAY more often. 5 Great cask beers, friendly service, friendly locals, a real fire and a great landlord/landlady combo in Nigel and Adele. Sorted. Bar? Hmmm….Trickier. But I can’t split. So – a) Great Ale Year Round at Bolton Market for continuing to bring good beer to Bolton (and giving me a reason to visit the town!), a rare thing in the last few years for me. Great local cask/keg beers, friendly regulars, friendly hosts. Anne & Steve continue to do a sterling job. I just hope that the council could open up 6 days a week instead of 4! And – b) Wigan Central – 7 cask lines. 4 Craft keg. In Wigan? A brave move by Prospect Brewery, but one that appears to be paying off judging by the feedback that I’ve been privy to! They made a wise move in bringing Dan & Gina Buck in to run it (formerly of Great Ale Year Round – see the link there?). Great location, fabulously fitted out. Excellent beers too. (As far as the original category goes – both of the latter 2 opened this year!)
  13. Best beer and food pairing – I’m not QUITE reconstructed to that stage yet….Next!
  14. Beer Festival of the Year – 3 candidates. 1 I cannot choose. Because I organised it. The self interest element prevents me from choosing The Independent Salford Beer Festival. So, I’m left with 2. IndyManBeerCon is indeed a beery Tour De Force and remains a fixture for most sensible beer calendars (mine is set for 09:00 on 01/04/2015 – for the probable ticket release!). I DO think that cask appeared to be marginalised this year and I hear many gripes from elsewhere, but really? Just “grow a pair” and appreciate it for what it is! My winner though is AllGates‘ “The Road To Wigan Beer” in April. A fantastic selection of some of the newest and best UK breweries on cask. Spread across 6 pubs within Wigan borough. In one day. On a bus. Simply the most fun I’ve had in 2014. And fun matters.
  15. Supermarket of the YearBooths. Simple. If you have been to a branch, bought beer, then chose a different supermarket, you’re having a laugh. At your own expense. Obviously, If you live more than 20 miles south of Knutsford, you may not understand. It’s a Northern thing!
  16. Independent Retailer of the YearThe Liquor Shop (Whitefield) Now closed and reborn as specialist beer shop BarBeerian, this has been the place from which I have bought the most beer. Period. The stock is large and wide ranging (Scotland to US/Italy) and great value too. All that from a small convenience store! Now Raj has moved a couple of doors down and opened up as a specialist beer shop, he’s looking to open a small bar upstairs with craft keg & a local cask line. I wish him well with this.
  17. Online Retailer of the Year – I haven’t. I try and shop locally. Aren’t I virtuous? Next!
  18. Best Beer Book or MagazineOpening Times (Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA) – Essential semi-drunken bus home reading material. Well written & edited (Mr Clarke, take a bow!).
  19. Best Beer Blog or Website – Hmmm….Time for another split. Still up there (and one of my two) is Glenn Johnson and his “My World of Beer“. Informative, straight and tells me what I want to know. Is the pub/bar/beer good. And does it well. But locally? The Boozy Procrastinator by Deeekos, a blog that came into its own with some assertive posts on a variety of issues from IndyManBeerCon through to Myleene Klaas & Paddington Bear (in the same post!). Funny, informative, passionate. A winning combination.
  20. Best Beer AppTwitter. I think I would meltdown if I used Untappd. And not in a good way. Some people talk such utter bollocks about beer & breweries when they can be cloaked in anonymity. So no. Next!
  21. Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer@BroadfordBrewer. For #TwattyBeerDoodles and so much more.
  22. Best Brewery Website/Social mediaCheshire Brewhouse. Just functional & classy.


Allgates Brewery – The Road To Wigan Beer – 04/10/2014


“It’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I have to make my way back home,

standing here in this old depot, waiting for my train to come on,

so come on train……”

(“Come On Train” – Don Thomas – Clip courtesy of “The 45s Club” via YouTube)

One of my all time favourite tunes, never mind just Northern Soul. From a former member of The Drifters, this is a dance floor classic, a Northern Soul floor filler that I never tire of hearing. It has that trick of many great tunes of just…building. Building momentum, building sound. That middle eight “Moving….down the track….got to get….my baby back….” Just bloody….moving. Has had this particular large fella shaking many a floor (never mind a “tail feather”) Used to great effect in 2009 in an ad for Visa cards. Have a listen. Feel that swelling sound, from the initial plaintive piano notes, the initial drum roll, the plucked strings to the blast of the trumpets….just bloody….soulful.

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley” So said Rabbie Burns in 1785 in his poem “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough” And how right he was!

This planned jaunt took several forms in the planning stages and was originally intended for the previous weekend. However, that excellent Sussex-based blogger Glenn Johnson had re-scheduled his illness blighted trip from earlier in the year. That was my priority, as much as I love the Allgates bus “crawl”. Then, the Allgates bus was cancelled until the next weekend. BONUS!!!

So, monitoring the Allgates Brewery Twitter account like a ravenous hawk, I awaited confirmation of the details……and waited….only to see a tweet in apology. Bus was fine, but no driver!!! Damn those fates! I NEEDED a day away from the stresses of planning The Independent Slaford (or even Salford!) Beer Festival………There was only one thing for it then….

DIY. On public transport.

Now then. Some of these pubs are damned slow to get to by bus. So the first leg of this journey started at Manchester Victoria (Arch-Nemesis – who else?) and Walkden (YT). The destination? Gathurst. First stop after Wigan Wallgate on the Southport line.


The first mis-judgement of the day? No raincoat. Fortunately, the (rather picturesque) walk along the Leeds-Liverpool canal was wet, both overhead and under foot! The area had just received its first significant rainfall for ages and was…a touch mucky!


Now then, having said that I needed a break from the planning of a certain beer festival, I get a call from a brewer (who shall remain unnamed, let’s call him…..Rob) with a beer proposition. he threw me a beery curve ball. But I was a) thirsty. b) thirsty and c)……. in short, I needed that first beer! And we were only half way to the destination!


The Crooke Hall Inn (Crooke Village, Wigan)

This really IS a delightfully located pub, situated in Crooke Village, a conservation area. With tables on the banks of the Leeds-Liverpool and a large marina just around the corner, it’s a beautiful spot. We’ve had quite a few Sunday dinners here with the kids and they love it so much they almost rip my hand off if I offer to drive over! (As long as Attila drives back……)

The A-N & I were (unsurprisingly) first in (we were there 10 mins early!) and shambled towards the bar….


Bad Seed Brewery – Waimea Pale Ale – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale (Love the pump clip!)

With an almost amber colour, this beer took no prisoners as a first beer of the day. It didn’t last too long either! Peach and passion fruit in both nose and mouth, this was an assertively bitter beastie and no mistake, with one hell of a dry finish! My first cask beer from this most excellent Malton based brewery and it most certainly didn’t disappoint!

The Crooke really is a lovely pub, with three distinctly separate rooms, great, reasonably priced food and that fabulous location…

Two decisions. Food? And next beer…. The Beer battered Fish for me with something from a new brewery to me….

Longman BreweryAmerican Pale Ale – 4.8% abv – Pale Ale

This pale golden beer was fruity but maltier than I expected. With blackcurrant and citrus on the nose and quite fruity with that big malty base, it stood up well to the astringent preceding Waimea and went superbly with the excellent Fish & Chips! Next up, with 5 ales on the pumps, I went for the other guest beer.

Magic Rock BrewingRingmaster – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale

I’d had one or two less than sparkling pints of this since it was rebadged from its Curious days. This, however, was right back on the mark! Light Pale gold, big and fruity with a lot of hop going on this was back to its Curious best. A cracking beer to finish with, standing up well to both of the preceding – higher abv – beers. A proper session pale ale.

Now, with a couple of leisurely hours spent at The Crooke, we were under the gun a bit, so a brisk muddy walk back to Gathurst and the rattler back to Wigan Wallgate to stop number 2 which was….



(Archive shot!)

The Anvil (Dorning Street, Wigan – adj to Wigan Bus Stn)

What is effectively the Allgates brewery tap manages to have the feel of a multi-roomed pub, without having any doors. Light and bright, with three separate drinking areas, this is one popular and busy pub. I’ve been in on several occasions and never seen it quiet. Justly renowned for the quality of its beers, this pub is a multiple award winner and a CAMRA Good Beer Guide staple. A thriving pub. It was here that I got another pleasant surprise with the beer selection…..

Cheshire Brewhouse – John Barleycorn Green Hop Temptress – 4.0% abv – Pale Ale

This man makes good beer. Shane Swindells that is. I was chuffed to bits to get my hands on this especially when it went down my throat! It was pale gold, with a slight haze. A beautiful fresh fruity & refreshing pale ale with a little spice hit in the finish. Beautiful. (A welcome surprise!)

Longman BreweryCopper Hop – 4.2% abv – Amber Ale

Another one from this Litlington brewery (in the South Downs National Park), seeing them all too infrequently, I had to have it, didn’t I?

Copper coloured beer, fruity on the old hooter, a nice fruity bitter beer with a toffee malt backbone. A beautifully balancing bitterness. A proper nice beer.
Being only two minutes walk from Wallgate train station, this pub is worth a trip to Wigan itself (will only get better, with the opening of Wigan Central – new Prospect bar run by Dan & Gina Buck – next month!)
Time to move on and test both my planning skills and the timeliness of Arriva Buses! The 575 to Aspull….and….
The Victoria (Haigh Rd, Aspull, Wigan)
To walk in and find that the landlord is a City fan just topped off this visit! A top chatty bloke too, as were the regulars at the bar. A two-roomed pub with (what appeared to be) a traditional “Lounge” & “Vault” layout, again in cracking good nick, this is a lovely boozer that I would be chuffed to have as my local. The beer happens to be cracking as well….
Black Jack Beers – Curse of Mexico  – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale
A cracking pint. That good, I had to have another! Pale Ale almost copper colour, with a really fruity peachy tropical aroma, Light toffee malt for balance, and beautifully bitter, loads of tropical fruit. A Brucie bonus this beer, was a new one on the Arch-Nemesis as well!
It made a change to see The Victoria in daylight, as it constitutes the last stop on the organised bus trip. Being less “refreshed”, I could appreciate this for the cracking local that it is. Another bonus was realising that it was reachable from Bolton on a single bus…the 575…that conveniently goes through the beery hot spot of Horwich! Needless to say…I’ll be back!
Back into the rain we went, without a raincoat, for the return to Wigan and the next leg, catching the 32 bus to Hindley (via a swift half in The Anvil (rude NOT to really. What with time to kill between buses!)
The Hare & Hounds (Ladies Lane, Hindley)
Leaving aside the walk from Gathurst to The Crooke, the walk from the bus stop was the longest we faced – about 7-8 mins – but to get to my favourite pub, was time (& effort) well spent. I simply adore this pub. There may be pubs in Manchester that I visit more frequently, but this stands head and shoulders above them. Why? Because it is, quite simply, a community local that also happens to have a cracking partnership (Nigel & Adele) running it and keeping great beer in cracking nick.
A two-roomer without having actual doors, the bar to the right upon entry with six  pumps with the usual mix of Allgates’ own and excellent guests. Lovely real open fire in the other room. Unfortunately no Nigel or Adele today, but the same friendly welcome,
Time was passing. Only time for one and a half in here.
Cwrw Ial Brewery (Eryrys, Mold) – Haf Gwyn – 4% abv – Extra Pale Ale
A pale cracker of a beer! Mango and grapefruit aromas leaping from the white head on that pale golden body, the fruity promise was delivered in the mouth. Bucket loads of citrus on top of a light pale biscuity body. A belter of a beer. I had another. Again, rude not to really!
This is the stage of the trek where the forward planning for the bus timetables paid dividends – YOU try interpreting TFGMs bus leaflet library after a “few” beers on a mobile phone!
The 33 bus was the selected chariot. Therefore, following an 8 minute walk and an uneventful 20 minute bus ride, we were in our fifth port of call….
The Union Arms (Castle Street, Tyldesley)
Despite the signage, this is most certainly an Allgates pub. It would be a rare Thwaites pub to have such an adventurous guest beer policy! (Certainly outside of its Blackburn heartland)
Whilst technically a two-roomed pub (one of the rooms wrapping around the bar) this has five distinct drinking areas, A Vault style area to the left of the entrance, two areas to the rear of the pub which link the main room to the Vault and an elevated area in the main room which is used mainly for eating (this pub also does excellent value grub). pub looks way better inside!
We may have had some more grub at this stage….memory fails me!
Tiny Rebel Brewery (Newport, S Wales) – One Inch Punch – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale
Golden. Tropical, almost peachy nose, fruity as hell in a smooth full bodied mouthful, loads of mango and none too bitter in the finish. With the taste buds starting to flag a bit, this was a bloody lovely refreshing livener.
Technically, The Union is my closest Allgates pub. I really should go more often.
The next leg of the journey was made slightly more complex by our missing the designated bus (582) and having to go on a two bus journey with the 33 to Astley then the 26 to Leigh. Needless to say, by the time we got there, I had started to wilt – just a little!
 IMAG1115(Obviously, an archive shot!)
The White Lion (Leigh Road, Leigh)
One of two Allgates pubs to be a CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year in 2014 (the other being The Crooke). This three roomed pub is another belter. The bar and busy main room is to the right on entry with two rooms to the left with the quieter being to the rear close to the Gents. Allgates have had this since 2011 and, with its beer selection, it is justifiably popular.
The problem here was nothing to do with the pub. It was me. Good grief was I flagging. I had a nice pint of something dark. But made no note so have no idea what it was! What kind of blogger am I, eh?
Reachable from Manchester by X34 & 26 buses (Leigh, tragically, has no train station – the largest town in England without one apparently!) and the 582 from Bolton – passing both The Union and the other Allgates pub The Jolly Nailor – the prices of the beer (as well as the selection) reward the intrepid traveller!
One more point. The buses. With only one exception (the last leg in Astley where the bus was SERIOUSLY late), the buses were all on time. We’d never have got to The White Lion otherwise!
Ah. Those prices….Just consider the beers we drank. Then think of all those beers being at around the £2.40 mark. That’s right, £2.40! No CAMRA or membership discount scheme. Just straight prices! You’d get a HALF in some Manchester pubs at that price!!!
I’m assured by young David Mayhall (Co-Owner of Allgates) that the bus will be back on the menu at Easter. All I will say is, you’d be daft to miss it! A £4 odd train ticket return to Wigan is a small price to pay for what is, in (not just) MY humble opinion, a grand beery day out! (You’d save that amount after 3 pints!!!)
Go on. Where’s your sense of adventure? Treat your taste buds and feast your eyes on some cracking pubs!
On that note…’til next time…



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!


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 for a sizable chunk of my information. Both a more than worth a follow (Pubs of Manchester) and a visit ( They are a positive mine of information, only rivalled by the excellent booklets of the (sadly) late Neil Richardson.


(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!)


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.


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…


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 –

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.


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.


(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.


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


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!


Bar Fringe appears to have been a pub from at least 1876 (source 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!)


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 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.


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?


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!


(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.


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!


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….








The Road To Wigan Beer – Easter 2014 – 19/04/2014

Edna Million in a drop dead suit, Dutch pink on a downtown train.

Two dollar pistol but the gun won’t shoot, I’m in the corner in the pouring rain.

Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest and I’ve been drinking from a broken cup,

Two pairs of pants and a mohair vest, I’m full of bourbon; I can’t stand up.”

(“Jockey Full of Bourbon” – Tom Waits)
(Video courtesy of Kenneth Sutherland on You Tube)

Tom Waits. Not everybody’s cup of Lapsang, but SUCH a great songwriter. I love him. So There!

Take the following ingredients…

1 sunny day, 1 train, 1 bus, 6 excellent pubs (including my Pub of the Year 2013!), multiple award-winning beers. Mix vigourously. What do you get? Read on!


I had been looking forward to this day since the previous event last October, so, when Allgates announced that not only would there be a “Road To Wigan Beer” spanning the Easter holidays, but that the bus would be touring their pubs again, it was an event that I simply couldn’t miss! With permissions both sought and granted by Mrs BM (a saint of a woman!), I reserved seats for both myself AND the Arch-Nemesis….If it was anything like last year, I might need support near the end!


Catching the train on a magnificently sunny spring day (for Walkden), the carriage swiftly became rammed with Bank Holiday sand seekers, en route – presumably – to Southport. Standing room only! By the time we got to Wigan Wallgate, it was that warm ON the train, I was only too glad to get off. At this point, I realised my morning error. I hadn’t had a drink of any kind whatsoever since the previous evening. That first pint couldn’t arrive soon enough!


The Anvil (Dorning Street, next to Wigan Bus Stn) is the Allgates Brewery tap (being a 2 minute stroll from the brewery) and whilst being fairly open plan, has the feel of a multi-roomed pub, bright with lots of light it has 7 handpumps dispensing Allgates own beers and varied guest ales. Multi-award winning (check out the certificates on the wall just past the bar!) this is one busy pub, so I was quite surprised to find a table free for the arch-nemesis & I to rest our weary bones!

Now, you may recall a recent post where David (Brewery Co-Owner) and myself went “over the hill” into the land that time forgot (Yorkshire) and picked up loads of casks for this very festival (read here). The first beer I had today was the last that we picked up that day. A certain symmetry, no?


Bourbon Milk StoutSonnet 43 Brew House (Coxhoe, Co Durham) A good strength to start with at 4.3%, this was pitch black with a lovely tight creamy tan coloured head. With a milky coffee aroma, this was full-bodied and luxuriously smooth, little lactic sweetness with more smooth milky coffee, just when you start looking for the bourbon, there is a slight boozy backnote. A slightly sweet yet gentle hoppy finish to this. Was really hoping to have this. A cracker to start with.

My thirst kind of…almost slaked, there was time for a swift half before the chariot was harnessed….


BlondeAtom Brewery (Hull, E Yorkshire) 4% abv. Pale gold with a nice fluffy white head and a slight fruity aroma, this came alive in the mouth. Light-bodied and quite tart with a gooseberry sharpness to it. Really juicy, refreshing and light. Wished I had time for a full pint! The usual well-kept beer that you expect from the Anvil…managed to have the briefest of chats with Andy Heggs from the excellent HopOnTheBike but the chariot had been harnessed….


(our beery chariot!)

Disappointingly not as full as last year, quite a few less locals on board. But with the Bury Militia, mobilised by Ramsbottom’s own beery Ratko Mladic (aka the Legendary Tyson The Beerhound!), I was minding my Ps & Qs!


The Crooke Hall Inn – (Crooke Village, Standish Lower Ground) This was the kind of day when The Crooke really can come into its own, owing to its fabulous location on the bank of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. It really is stunning in the sunshine. Having heard that Greg (the Landlord) had 9 handpumps fully loaded, guess who was first into the pub?

Now. There were a number of beers in the Festival menu that I REALLY wanted to try. One of them was the marvellous Sonnet 43 and another was on the bar here at The Crooke!


Pacific Pale Ale – Shindigger Brewing Co – 4.5% abv – This was a beer in demand. So much so, that there was a logjam at the bar with only one pump in constant use! This forced Greg to ask the following question

Q. “Anybody want anything other than Shindigger?”

A. (Alan Wass – Wigan CAMRA Branch) “Yes”

Q. “What would you like?”

A. “Half of Shindigger please!”

Laugh? I nearly bought a round! But once I’d dabbed the laughter tears from my eyes, I could pay attention to the beer in front of me….

The Pacific Pale was a deep golden colour, almost amber in fact,  with a tight white head and a lovely citrus fruit aroma. Medium-bodied, it was so refreshing with really zingy citrus flavours. Dry and tart in the finish, it was excellent. What was even better was the price. £2.40 a pint. (TWO POUNDS FORTY PENCE!) Bloody marvellous!

I bent my head around the corner to tell Andy the price. I quickly turned to what I thought was the sound of a jaw hitting the floor!


Now how pale do you like your Pale Ales to be?

LubelskiPictish Brewing Company (Rochdale, Lancashire) 4% abv – Single-hopped with the eponymous Polish hop, this was a lovely light, sharp and tart pale beer with more gooseberry notes. Medium-bodied and REALLY refreshing. The Arch-Nemesis has been banging on about Pictish for years. I’m now officially a convert!


Just time for another swift half in this lovely multi-roomed pub with this fabulous location for summer days!


Risky BlondeFool Hardy Ales (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) 4.4% abv – Brewed at The Hope Inn on the A6 in Stockport, I hadn’t even so much as sniffed a Fool Hardy beer until a recent bottle from Great Ale Year Round. This was my first encounter on draught, so I wasn’t leaving the Crooke until I had it!

A bit fuller-bodied than the Pictish, this was slightly maltier too. deep gold and another nice tight white head. Smooth and creamy textured in the mouth, this had a tart fruity edge to it too and a nice dry bitter finish. Lovely!

I must say that I REALLY tried hard to persuade Greg to join us again on the bus! But he manned the beery barricades like a trooper!

Back on the Magic Bus!


Union Arms (Castle Street, Tyldesley) – Bit of a Tardis is The Union! Looks quite dinky from the outside, but 3 distinct drinking areas with two bars front and back. Some of the guys had food in here and it looked bloody good! But, I only had eyes for beer at this stage!

Beyond The PaleElland Brewery (Elland, West Yorkshire) 4.2% abv – Not sure this was a Festival listed beer (the are 4 Elland beers listed), this was still a logical choice. Bloody glad I did too! £4.20 for TWO pints!!! Ludicrous pricing.

Bright golden beer, with a peachy aroma to my nose. Really refreshing again, fruity and bitter (Cascade hopped) with a tart grapefruit finish. Another cracker (Their 1872 Porter should be any beer drinkers “Bucket List”!)

As I finished the Elland, Was that a Black Jack clip being attached to a pump? Hmmm

New Deck – Black Jack Beers (Manchester) 4.2% abv – I know what to expect from the beers brewed by Rob Hamilton, quality hoppy pale beers. This was no exception! Tart and refreshing with big grapefruit flavours, medium-bodied and oh-so moreish. Really zingy, nice bitter finish and quite a pine needly aftertaste. Just YUM!

Ding Ding!


The White Lion (Leigh Rd, Leigh)

Like Greg at The Crooke & the mighty Nigel at The Hare & Hounds, Harry is just SUCH a friendly Landlord who happens to keep a cracking pint in this 3 roomed pub in Leigh Town Centre.

Pale Ale – Atom Brewery (Hull, E Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv Well, the Blonde impressed me, so it would’ve been positively rude not to give the Pale Ale a try! Golden with a white head and a fruity aroma. Medium-bodied, fruity and zesty this fella! Nicely sharp, fruity and very refreshing with a sharp dry bitter finish. Another excellent beer from this “first-time” brewery for me.

At this point, a note on the festival. One of the things that draws me to Allgates pubs is the beer selection, Their own beers are excellent, the guest beers are selected from the best micros around. But the with the festival beers, David and the team make a point of searching out not only the best, but some of the newest breweries out there. Atom, for instance, have only been brewing since December 2013! And these beers are priced…how can I put it….ludicrously competitively! Some of these beers would be nearly DOUBLE the price you’d get them in Manchester! Sermon over. Back to the beer eh?

Chilli Plum PorterWaen Brewery (Llanidloes, Powys, Wales) 6.1% abv OK. So it’s NOT a festival beer! I don’t give a toss, this is just LUSH! Hellish good beer indeed! Black, satanically so. Beautiful chocolate aroma which carries on into the mouth, really smooth and full-bodied and fruity with the plum coming through, creamy almost. Lovely and soothing…then that heat at the back of the mouth! Woof! This is SUCH a good beer! If I needed to sell my soul….in a heartbeat!

Ding Ding!


The Hare & Hounds (Ladies Lane, Hindley, Wigan)

What can I say. I’m biased when it comes to this wee 2 roomed boozer. I love it. So much so, that it was my Pub of the Year 2013. Why? It’s a feeling thing. It feels like the local that I never had. It’s friendly, warm and welcoming. Like a local should be. Nigel (mein host) also keeps a damned good pint! (Which helps)

Chocolate Cherry MildDunham Massey Brewery (Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire)

A deep reddy brown beer with a creamy coloured head and a chocolate and fruity nose. Ronseal beer alert! (Does exactly what it says…..) Initial chocolate on the tongue, followed by a layer of tart cherry, light bodied but really smooth and an easy drinking beer that you could do all day. The fruitiness of the cherries leads to a light bitterness in the finish. A beautiful beer. Nigel does love his darks. As do I!

Was damned sure that I had another beer in here, but without notes…..Doh! I’ll be back later in the week!

Ding Ding (I think even the dinger was getting tired by this point!)


The Victoria (Haigh Rd, Aspull, Wigan) Effectively, the final stop – starting to feel the pace by now!

Classic two roomed local this. The main room was thronged by the time we got in. Nice and busy, added to by us lot wading in too!

Here, were two more of the breweries I was keen to try, especially as I’d help to pick up the beers! First off…

Gold – Stod Fold Brewing (Stod Fold, Nr Halifax) 3.8% abv A light fruity aroma to this golden (almost amber) beer. Lightly fruity in the mouth too, refreshing and easy drinking with a nice bitter finish. Really smooth session beer this. I want more.

A Day At The Races – Five Towns Brewery (Outwood, Wakefield, W Yorks) 3.9% abv – I could bore you to distraction about my love of Malcolm Bastow’s beers, but see my previous post here for that!

This straw golden beer had a big grapefruit aroma from its white head. In the mouth, lemon & grapefruit conspired to refresh my somewhat jaded palate! Really sharp, tart and refreshing. A beautiful light pale ale, as hoppy as a Watership Down screening. A nice piney aftertaste too. More Mosaic? Classy sharp beer to end the night!

Cracking hot pot supper in here, thanks to the pub. Lovely, just what was needed!

As much as the beer, the great pleasure of the day for me was just chatting to like-minded folk. Mark, the Wiganer now ex-pat in Edinburgh (on Rose St, the jammy bugger!), Andy Heggs, Tyson The (Legendary – Even Tandleman thinks so!) Beerhound, David Mayhall, Nigel, Greg, Alan Wass (thanks for the tears at The Crooke!) and more that my drink sozzled brain seems to have forgotten (sorry!). All great people with whom it was really lovely to chat. You made this boring old man smile, memories of which have made his birthday hangover seem worthwhile! To you all, a huge SLAINTE!

An even bigger thanks to Stig and his pals for laying on the bus, without which, you wouldn’t be reading this! Cheers fellas!

This festival lasts until next Sunday. At the risk of insulting you, you need to try at least two of these pubs! (The Anvil & The Hare are BOTH within 2 minutes of the Wigan – Manchester Victoria rail line – Evening return ticket? £2 – you’d save that on two pints!) Do your taste buds a flavour and get on that train!

Warning – This post may be added to later in the week!

But on that note…’til next time…





My Golden Pints 2013

Golden Pints Logo(Bloody Conformist!)

15 1/2 months ago, I decided that there weren’t enough people talking bollocks about beer, so I decided to join them by talking even MORE bollocks about it! What have I learned in that time?

1. That people LOVE talking bollocks about beer in even greater numbers than 15 1/2 months ago, and

2. That there are some lovely people in that number.

Last year, I just listed my favourite draught (NOT DRAFT!!!!) and bottled beers, because I didn’t know what I was doing. This year, I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I thought I would expend more words by following the acknowledged format! So, at 06:00 on Monday 23/12/2013, here goes….

  • Best UK Cask beerAllgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout – Yes Tyson, you guessed correctly! Simply the best Stout I think I have ever tasted. Can I be accused of bias because (along with Tandleman & Tyson The Beerhound) I helped to brew it (well, stir the mash and shovel out the Mash Tun!), yes I can. Am I? No. I double checked on numerous occasions with my Jiminy Cricket (Jaz, the “Arch-Nemesis’) and he agreed and he’s NOT biased. A gloriously roasted, bitter, hoppy and luxuriously smooth alchemical concoction nursed to glorious fruition by Jonathan Provost, David Mayhall and the guys at Allgates. My proudest moment of the last 14 years. Thank you. (Honourable Mentions – Buxton Brewery – Imperial Black. Simply astonishingly good one night at Port Street, and Weird Beard – Black Perle. At 3.5%, simply WOW. A gorgeous Coffee Milk Stout at the strength)
  • Best UK Keg Beer – Ilkley BreweryDinner Ale – Unlike the vast majority of the beery blogosphere, I am not particularly well-travelled. My drinking has been pretty much limited to the North and – in particular – to cask conditioned and bottled beers. However, thanks to the miracles of Beer Festivals and the mighty Port Street Beer House, I have managed to sample a number of UK kegged beers, some absolute crackers among them. However, the one that stood out was Dinner Ale at the Leeds International Beer Festival. The most zingy and refreshing keg beer I’ve had all year. Refreshing is a quality that is seriously underrated.
  • Best UK Bottled or Canned BeerRevolutions BrewingManifesto – Creamy, luxurious, bitter chocolate, espresso, smoky, warming. Simply a classy strong Stout brewed without fanfare and just damn great. I love it and I love Revolutions Music & Beer ethos. Short and sweet (for a change!) (Honourable mention to Weird Beard – Decadence Stout. Bloody gorgeous bitter and hoppy Stout)
  • Best Overseas Draught Beer – Brouwerij Emelisse – Imperial Stout (Sorachi Ace) – Bought by the arch-nemesis at The Marble Arch at the end of a refreshing evening. Vinous yet delicate. Brutal yet gentle. I was astonished at the delicate flavours of this beer. Light and floral yet with all the heft of an Impy Stout. Do I have a clue what I’m talking about? Probably not, but I enjoyed it hugely.
  • Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer – Not really my bag….Next!
  • Best Collaboration Brew – Allgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout – For the reasons above stated. It was a Collaboration and the best beer I have had this year, therefore….
  • Best Overall Beer – Allgates Brewery  – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout  – By definition….
  • Best Branding, Pumpclip or LabelWeird Beard – Just superb design which would fail utterly if it wasn’t backed up by a consistently superb product. “Follow The Beard” indeed…..(Honourable mention to Bad Seed Brewery – Just minimal and classy)
  • Best UK BreweryAllgates Brewery – From my first sip of All Black Mild, I fell in love. Simply great drinkable beer. Consistently tasty, consistently excellent and immensely good value . Beer brewed without compromise but with that sometimes elusive quality. Sheer drinkability. Another underrated quality. (HUGE Honourable mentions to Five Towns, Mallinsons, Revolutions (all Yorkshire), Quantum & Wilson Potter from whom I’ve always drunk exceptional beer)
  • Best Overseas Brewery – I envy others better travelled than I. No Opinion.
  • Best New Brewery Opening 2013 – Bad Seed Brewery – Given that many of the beers I have drunk this year are from breweries new to me, I COULD have cheated. However, Bad Seed launched this year and whilst I have had nothing on draught by them, their bottles have been nothing short of first-rate. Chuffed to bits that they seem to be getting wide distribution. Let’s have something from them on cask in 2014! (HM to Five Points – All 3 beers being superb)
  • Pub/Bar of the Year – I’m going to cheat. I’m going for a bar AND a pub. BarJoshua Brooks (Manchester) – I could easily give this to Port Street Beer House. Many would and justifiably so. But I am contrary. I LOVE Joshua Brooks. Yes its a big old space. But it ticks loads of my boxes. Comfy seating, great tunes, friendly staff and a simply fabulous beer selection (recently upped to 8 handpulls I believe). And also the best damn value in Manchester on a Friday night. £2.70 a pint! For cracking cask conditioned ales from the greatest and the best breweries in the UK.  Pub Hare & Hounds (Hindley, Wigan) – The local I never had. Just a humble local boozer (Allgates) with a real fire, a dartboard, friendly locals and a landlady and landlord (Nigel & Adele) who keep an excellent pint and a friendly welcome. I just feel at home here and that’s what a good pub should be about. (Wigan CAMRA branch. Sort yourselves out and get this pub into the GBG. A travesty!)
  • Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013Pie & Ale by Bakerie (Manchester) – A tad expensive on occasion perhaps, but great beer (mostly local) selection kept well. A great bar, deservedly popular (great pies too!)
  • Beer Festival of The Year – I was going to go for the Allgates Road To Wigan Beer which was, quite simply, the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on this year and introduced me to breweries I’ve seen nowhere else (Bexar County Brew anyone?) and the bus journey was something to behold. If it runs again (the bus) you simply must try and get on it! However, I’m going to go all soft and go for IndyManBeerCon. Fabulous location, great beer, excellent entertainment. Met some lovely people and enjoyed the festival hugely. Yes, I had some issues, which I hope have been taken on board, but they shouldn’t (and don’t) detract from what was a great feat. More breweries for 2014 please!
  • Supermarket of the YearBooths. Knocks everyone else in the North into a cocked hat. Including Waitrose,
  • Independent Retailer of the Year – Yorkshire Ales – Probably the most difficult category to call for me. I genuinely agonised over this. There are some truly excellent retailers over this side of the hill, Damian O’Shea (Ale Man Manchester), Beermoth, The Liquor Shop as well as the Bierhuis in Ossett. Honourable mentions to all. BUT. Adrian & Vicky Pettit have a lovely little shop in Snaith with an emphasis on local produce. It’s this local ethos that swings it for me, They’re damn nice people too.
  • Online Retailer of the Year – I’m lucky. I shop local and in person. No Opinion.
  • Best Beer Book or Magazine Opening Times (South Manchester CAMRA)- From Pub Curmudgeon to Stagger, just a great read.
  • Best Beer Blog or WebsiteGlenn Johnson’s blog. – Neither flash nor fancy. Just descriptions good beer (mostly!) in pubs that I’d love to go in, in places I’m unlikely to visit. Whilst I’m spoilt in Greater Manchester, I’m still jealous. (HMs to David Mayhall (his evisceration of Brew Dog “Equity For Punks” being the single most retweeted RT I’ve put out!) Nathaniel Southwood who manages the feat of being informative whilst making me chuckle repeatedly, Tandleman & Tyson I doff my cap to both! I wish I wrote as well as all of these fellas)
  • Best Beer AppPerfect Pint. Tells me what beer is currently on in my favourite pubs. Works for me!
  • Simon Johnson Award For Best Beer Twitterer – The mighty Nathaniel Southwood. Smart, opinionated, witty, frequently ranting. Always spot on. (HM to JazzyJollyJaunt without whose inspiration (and tolerance!) I wouldn’t be doing this. Thank you.)
  • Best Brewery Website/Social Media Weird Beard
  • Food and Beer Pairing of the Year – Black Country Pork Scratchings and Hobsons Twisted Spire at the River & Rail in Hampton Loade on the banks of the Severn. Time and place. I am a rather simple soul!

Well. That’s it from me. There’s a lot of good beer out there. Let’s hope for even more in 2014. Have a great festive season.


Allgates Brewery – The Road To Wigan Beer – 03/10/2013 – 13/10/2013


I have a lot to thank my Arch-Nemesis (Jaz) for. One of those things is the rekindling of my love for beer and pubs (resulting in these wafflings, I suppose!) Another thing that I have him to thank for, is my discovering the pubs – and beers – of Allgates Brewery. Over the last year, I have sampled many of their beers, all of which have been very tasty and full of flavour – from the Mild made with NZ hops (AllBlack) through the citrussy, zingy Ostara all the way to the Oatmeal Stout which I had a small part in the making of. I suppose – to cut a long story short – they are now, without question, my favourite brewery. But, I NEVER use one word where 2000 will do, do I?

Allgates, the Brewery & Pub Company is owned by two partners, David Mayhall & Ian Thorpe. They own 7 working pubs, all 7 being based in – or around – the Wigan metropolitan area. The ethos of these pubs is simple. They are rooted in – and are very much of – the local community. They offer excellent, locally brewed beers, alongside a wide range of superlative (and imaginatively sourced) guest beers from the best breweries in the UK, often supporting the youngest and freshest Microbreweries.

20131005_170827(Beer selection previously served at The White Lion, Leigh)

Another key matter that distinguishes Allgates’ pubs from their competition, is the pricing of their beers – both their own AND guest beers. To say that they are good value is to massively understate the effect that ordering a guest beer in an Allgates pub can have on the unwary. As an example. I ordered 2 pints of Motueka (single hopped Pale Ale) by Arbor from Bristol. An ale that would cost upwards of £3.40 in Manchester. I paid £4.20. That is £2.10 a pint!!! Obscenely cheap. In bloody good condition too! (Which, if you stay awake, you may read about later!)

In March this year, along with Jaz & my other good friend Col, I had a go at the previous RTWB, trying 3 Allgates pubs, The Anvil (technically, the Brewery Tap), The Hare & Hounds in Hindley and The Jolly Nailor in Atherton. 3 cracking pubs, but each distinctly different from the others. The beers in this “festival” were uniformly excellent. Not a single bum note to be had. I have subsequently had a number of Sunday Lunches in a further Allgates pub, The Crooke Hall Inn (Crook Village) on the bank of the Leeds – Liverpool canal. Another fabulous pub, with great food!

The principle of The Road To Wigan Beer is that it is simply a different kind of Beer Festival. One that is spread across all 7 pubs (in this instance) across 11 days. The trick is, to try to get to all 7 pubs. How? I hear you ask! The answer……(as I was advised by young Mr Mayhall…) by BUS!!! It transpires, that a bus had been organised for some regulars to get around all 7 pubs in the one day. Being somewhat of a cheeky little tyke, I had to ask, didn’t I?

Road To Wigan Beer Oct 2013

So, the Arch-Nemesis & I find ourselves meeting at Wigan Wallgate and watching (what seemed like) the entire town, clad in Cherry & White, emigrating to Old Trafford for the Rugby League “Super League Grand Final”, of which, more later! Grabbing a swift pork pie from Galloways, we strolled into (for us) the first pub of the day. The Allgates Brewery Tap, The Anvil.

Wigan pub ,The Anvil, built 1894(pic –

The Anvil is a large pub occupying a corner plot on Dorning Street, just around the corner from Wigan Bus Station and a 2 minute walk from the brewery itself. A single roomed pub but with distinctly separate drinking areas giving it the feel of a multi-roomed premises. Each time that I have been in, it’s always been busy both with ale drinkers from far and wide and, predominantly, locals attracted by the excellent beer, keen prices and a core clientele with betting slips in hand and more than an eye on the TV watching the sports. This is a busy pub. It also sells damn fine beer. Like my first pint of the day…..

Atomic BlondeRevolutions Brewing (Castleford, W Yorkshire) A 4.5% abv blonde beer sticking to the core Revolutions themes, Music themed beer and a fine beer at that! This was only the second of their beers that I have had on handpull over here. Have had loads in bottle and they have been uniformly superb, full-flavoured, tasty, balanced beers. This was no exception. Pale gold with a fruity aroma, medium bodied and full of fruity bitter flavour with gooseberry and apple (or so I thought), sharp and zesty with a hint of tartness. Fresh, refreshing with a supremely dry bitter finish, absolutely cracking nick. The only problem was, it went down too damn quick! With a few minutes before the bus showed up, I hazarded a swift half of something else….

Odyssey BlondeFallen Brewing (Kippen, Stirlingshire, Scotland) Another “Blonde” beer, this time at 4.1% abv, super pale beer, with a spicy, almost savoury aroma which I couldn’t quite pick, fresh clean and spicy/bitter, the kicker came in the aftertaste with quite a hit of wood smoke! No doubt about it and very unexpected in a paler beer like this, unusual, damned tasty and also hurried down as I was told by David that the bus was here! Though I hate rushing good beer (and the Fallen was VERY good!), there was nothing else for it but to bolt it down and follow the throng! A good start on the beer front!

Onto the bus we go. It felt a bit like the works outing scene from Carry On At Your Convenience, replacing Londoners with the most genial bunch of people, Wiganers to a man/woman, that it’s been my pleasure to be on a bus with. On the top deck the banter was immediately flowing, I was soon chuckling and grinning from ear to ear listening to people that I was soon to get to know far better! The bus was headed to the most westerly Allgates pub…


The Crooke Hall Inn is situated in Crooke Village and the pub is located on the picturesque banks of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Unfortunately, the access road couldn’t accommodate the girth of our historic white, orange and brown GM Buses double-decker, so we bailed out outside a Marstons pub for a 5 minute walk to the pub. A true Multi-Roomed pub with 4 separate drinking areas (including the bar area) and a beer garden area to die for on the canal side.

Been here a few times now, the last Allgates pub I’d “discovered”. My family has enjoyed a few excellent Sunday Roast dinners here over the last few months (of course, the excellent All Black Mild had nothing to do with my choice of venue, Oh No! *fingers crossed*). As with all their pubs, the landlord – in this case Gregg – keeps a fine cellar with excellent ale. Knowing this, I had high hopes for a beer that I knew he had on….

EP – Revolutions Brewing (Castleford, W Yorkshire) Now, I’ve written about my love of both Andy & Marks’ beers and their musical leanings/ethos. A short conversation with Andy left me in no doubt about his love of both beer and good music (of all kinds). All the beers are brewed to strengths consistent with music formats (3.3% abv / 33RPM, 4.5% abv / 45RPM, 6.0% / C60 ……), the EP is at 3.9% abv, being halfway between a vinyl single and an album. More importantly, the beer tasted just as good as I expected it to. A golden beer with a slightly resinous grassy hop aroma, it was clean fresh and hoppy with a hint of a bitter lemon character in there.

20131005_131033(Revolutions EP & Bexar County Texan Pecan Coffee Mild)

Texan Pecan Coffee MildBexar County Brewery (Peterborough, Cambridgeshire) – For me, one of the beers of the day. Unfiltered and 3.7% abv, a hazy, murky brown beer comes from the pump, but give it a moment, then a sniff and Cafe au Lait comes over on the nose. In the mouth, more coffee, quite gentle, then a real nutty overtone. A “Ronseal” beer (does exactly what it says…..) and a belter that would go down well (even with the light abv) in some of the better Manchester “craft” pubs. As I finished and popped for a quick chat with Jonathan (Allgates head brewer), about current happenings at the brewery, it was apparent that I’d finished my beer too soon. Ah well, a swift half is called for again….

Bitter KiwiBristol Beer Factory (er…Bristol?) (5% abv) Pale gold again with big grapefruit hop aromas, really zesty fruity in the mouth too, zingy sharp hoppy flavours. Bloody good (if ill-advised – at 5%!) beer, as BBF normally is!

Ding, ding…..back onto that bus, with a further passenger, Gregg, the landlord from The Crooke!

A good 25min or so drive now. We were due to go to The Union in Tyldesley next, but the driver obviously had other ideas!


The Jolly Nailor sits on an imposing corner plot on Market Street in Atherton. Quite a large pub with three distinct drinking areas, again, a proper multi-room. Again, as with all Allgates pubs, several handpumps dispensing both Allgates own and guest beers. Last time I came, on the previous “Road” trip (read here), there was a rock band warming up. The pub has live music on each Friday and Saturday, good nights, so I’m reliably informed. I was “here for the beer” so, in that spirit….

Harts DesireHarthill Village Brewery (Harthill, nr Sheffield) (4.4% abv) – Another new brewery to me. The Harts Desire was a mid-brown beer with a spicy fruity (mango/apricot) hop aroma. Medium bodied with some biscuit malt overlaid with fruity hops (gentle apricot). This had a dry bitter finish with a hint of licorice root in the aftertaste. Another superb beer in great condition. Followed by….

Citra BurstAlechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) Citra is the Marmite of hops. Me? I love it! This was no different. A golden beer with the bitter grapefruit aroma characteristic of single hopped Citra beers. Loads of toffee maltiness giving this excellent balance with a hint of vanilla, I thought. Big bitter finish with a lingering hint of toffee in the big zesty grapefruit aftertaste.

20131005_145602(A selection of previous ales at The Jolly Nailor)

With a bit of time left, a swift half was called for….

HopspurRedemption Brewing (Tottenham, N London) – 4.5% abv Amber coloured beer with a surprisingly citrussy aroma. Biscuit malt but quite bitter with more than a hint of grapefruit, good clean bitter finish. Another good beer from the makers of the superlative Trinity Pale Ale.

Now, Jaz was gutted to see a new beer clip on the pumps. So, not wanting to miss out, the sod got another half in……

GalaxyTwo Roses Brewery (Darton, nr Barnsley, S Yorkshire) – 4% abv pale beer, slightly hazy with a super aroma of mango and passion fruit. Fruity and slightly resinous in the mouth with a tremendously bitter finish. Had the bottles from TR before, but first time on draught. Superb!

Ding, ding…….


Back onto the bus to….Tyldesley and….


The Union Arms, Castle Street, Tyldesley – A deceptively large pub, with a central bar and three drinking areas, with one, slightly elevated, being set for food. The, now about 45 strong, bus load swarmed into the pub. The first time that it took more than a minute or two to get served, but it was more than worth it….

MotuekaArbor Brewery (Bristol) 3.8% single hopped pale ale. The jaw dropper here was the price. £2.10 a pint! I have paid nearly £1.50 MORE for this in Manchester. Ludicrously good value for a super fruity pale gold beer with abundant grapefruit aromas. Light biscuit malt with super fruity hoppy taste. Nice bitter finish too. Nice chat with two guys we hadn’t met before, Tony & Jay.



The White Lion, Leigh Road, Leigh.


(Value? I kid you not!)

Nice cosy traditional pub with three separate rooms. Lots of wood, warm and friendly. being on her own, the landlady rang for reinforcements! Down came Harry the landlord! Friendly as hell behind the bar, but what mattered even more was the top quality of the beer, in this case…..

#10 Smoked Porter – Shamblemoose Brewery (Haslemere, Surrey) – A new brewery for me and a lovely black beer with a gentle coffee aroma. The smokiness really came through in the mouth with some dark roasted coffee in there too. Lovely, full-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Really goo (or even “good”) ale!

The pace was slowing now (but not for all!), I was taking more time to chat and simply enjoy the ale….but Tempus Fugit and all that latin stuff……..


The Hare & Hounds , Ladies Lane, Hindley.

If I could have a local pub, let it be like this. I LOVE the Hare! A dog friendly pub, with cracking beer, a real fire  and friendly locals. Four walled heaven!

Scouting the bar after a quick smile at Nigel, the landlord, my eyes hit another brewery I hadn’t had before….

ParklifeWindsor & Eton Brewery 3.2% abv – The lightest beer of the day. Well received by others. Copper coloured, gentle citrus aroma with some fruitiness in the mouth. Not bad, per se, I suppose, but given all I had heard about this brewery, I expected, well…more. As I said, some really enjoyed it, but I just wasn’t overly struck.

Moving on to another brewery I had never had…..

Drops of JupiterBumpmill Brewery (Alfreton, Derbyshire) 4% abv. Instantly getting the music reference (“Drops of Jupiter” being an album by the US band Train), I was warming to the beer before I had it in my maw. Pale gold again, nice full citrus aroma. Loads of fruity grapefruit citrus in the mouth. Refreshing, really fruity and a nice bitter finish. MUCH more like it!

First half of the Rugby was in here. Not going well. Lots of handling errors and mistakes by Wigan allowing Warrington a 16-2 lead. An unconverted try just before halftime lightened the spirits and fired optimisms’ flames!

Not enough time here for me. So I’ll be back on Tuesday! Moving on (and getting a little darker now……)


The Victoria, Haigh Village, Wigan – First time at this pub for me (and the final Allgates pub. I now have the whole set! Two main rooms with a corridor linking the two. We got in with 5 minutes of the second half of the Grand Final played. Better from Wigan…… Pool table in the right-sided room where most settled to watch the finale….

Here I had….

Rhapsody – Alechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) 3.8% abv – Being a wee bit (ahem) refreshed by this point, my schnozzle may have lost its “beerhound” sharpness as I didn’t get much aroma from this, but it was a damned tasty pint. Pale gold with a tight white head, crackling with grapefruit sharpness. Really fruity and refreshing. At the strength, it stood up really well.


(all eyes on the screen!)

Back end of the second half was all Wigan as the pressure was poured on. A couple of tries close to the posts (both converted) took Wigan ahead to ecstatic scenes in the pub as they emerged as 30-16 winners. 24 points without reply in the second half!

Jubilant happy faces as we got back on the bus (just WHO took that sneaky pic in the pub?) we were back to where it all began 8 1/2 hours before….

20131005_203232(Once more unto the breach…..!)

Ostara was on. I simply had to do it! 3.6% of fruity hoppy heaven. One of my Beers of The Year so far. We’ll leave it there shall we. There was a train to be caught and I seriously hope that I made sense to David by this point!

I think I can say that, without exception, that in my opinion (for the little that THAT is worth!), each of the beers that I drank / sampled was in excellent condition. There was only one beer that I didn’t truly enjoy, the rest were all excellent. If I had to choose favourites on the day – which is difficult, I would say two from early on, The Atomic Blonde from Revolutions Brewing at The Anvil and the Texan Pecan Coffee Mild from Bexar County Brewery. Both superb, tasty beers, as were they all.

But this is, in my experience, what you get from Allgates’ pubs. Great beers in excellent condition, in a friendly, traditional pub environment. Just the kind of places that we should be treasuring. I do, that’s why I’ll be back in The Anvil and Hare & Hounds tomorrow evening!

This was a total blast! I met and chatted with many people I had never previously met. All with broad Wigan accents. I do believe that there may have even been a bit of Wigan dialect spoke on the bus! A huge thanks to David & Ian, Jonathan for humouring me by listening to my blathering on,”Stig” for sorting the bus and everyone else who contributed to this most excellent of days.

There is still a week to go on The Road To Wigan Beer. Treat yourself. A return ticket to Wigan can put you within a 3 minute walk of both The Anvil and (on the return leg..) The Hare & Hounds. Give it a go…and thank me later!

On that note….’til next time….


There is an ancient Celtic axiom that says “Good People Drink Good Beer.” Which is true, then as now. Just look around you in any public bar and you will quickly see: Bad People Drink Bad Beer. Think about it.”
Hunter S. Thompson

Because too much is never enough…..Or my good friend Col couldn’t make Saturday’s Epic Crawl, we decided to pop into a couple of Allgates pubs along our train line (Manchester – Wigan) and sample some new beers that I didn’t get to try on Saturday. Greedy, but hey…….


Back to The Anvil, being in the centre of Wigan, within 3 minutes of Wallgate Station, Reasonably busy for a Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the Jarl by Fyne Ales had sold out, as expected. However, more than adequate compensation was to be found…..

HankTiny Rebel Brewery (Newport, Gwent) A 4% abv pale ale that was really pale and full of the sharp grapefruit aromas of Citra. Really balanced with plenty of biscuit sweetness cut through with that grapefruit tang. This mellowed as I went down the glass and tangerine came through. A good beer in cracking form. 

Tempus Fugit. We had a train to catch to the next and final pub, but we certainly had time for a couple more…..

American Pale AleClarence & Fredericks (Croydon, S London) 4.1% abv. Deep gold with a creamy white head, a little tartness in the aroma which was more than represented in the mouth! Bitter orange seville marmalade with maybe a hint of tart gooseberry, nice smooth texture and full of mouth puckering fruity hop flavour. The aftertaste had quite a resinous hit. Only the second beer I’ve had from this brewer. Both excellent.

Just about time for a cheeky half before the train…..

Blackhouse (Smoked Porter) – Fallen Brewing (Kippen, Stirlingshire, Scotland) – A hazy deep brown beer with a chocolate caramel nose (made me think of a liquified Cadburys Caramel). The flavour matched the nose with addition of the late appearance of a warm smoky note. Really smooth and creamy. Shame I only had time for a half!

A swift walk to Wallgate Station for the 20:27 toward Manchester and the second stop on the line. From there, a 5 minute walk downhill to…


The Hare & Hounds is just a proper local. The kind of pub which just gives you a warm hug of familiarity when you push open the door. Again, I was hoping for Jarl, but it seems like I was a day early. Col however, was as happy as a pig in muck, ‘cos he’d come for the next beer (and that alone)

Mud BrawlerBoggart Brewery (North Manchester) A 4.4% Vanilla Porter which feels like a Stout. Very dark brown , a creamy coloured head with a milky coffee and vanilla aroma. Full bodied smooth drinking beer with vanilla on a dark roast choclolaty coffee malt base. As good as I had it at the brewery tap, The MicroBar in Manchester. Winner of top gong at Peterborough 2013. I can see why.

OstaraAllgates Brewery (Wigan, Lancashire) Sometimes, you just don’t need to go for a guest beer, when there is something as good as this. Pale gold, with a zesty grapefruit / apricot nose. Really fruity in the mouth with bitter citrus over a slightly sweet malted milk biscuit base. Nice bitter finish with bit of grapefruit in the aftertaste. Just one of my very favourite beers. Kept very well.

Finally, to lubricate the excellent conversation we were having with Nigel (mine host), his good lady and some of the regulars (see what I mean about friendly?) …a beer I had the other evening

Rhapsody – Alechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) 3.8% abv – Feeling slightly less (ahem) “refreshed” as I was by close of play on Saturday, I thought I’d give this another bash – and was glad I did! A pale golden “blonde” ale. Nice fruity nose with passion fruit and kiwi. A lovely slightly dry bitter finish. I think I appreciated it a bit more tonight!

That’s it! In the words of the great boxer Roberto Duran (having taken a fight full of punishment from Sugar Ray Leonard) “No Mas”!!!

I’m off for a cup of tea and girding my loins for The Independent Manchester Beer Convention tomorrow. Having volunteered for yesterdays “set-up” session, having seen many of the beers delivered, I can say but one thing. If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, you’re in for a treat!


Bottled Ales – July 2013

Some more nice beers for you to read about and, maybe, pick up yourselves. The spiel is the same, 1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The Price (including discount, where applicable). 5. Where from,   6. If a website for the vendor exists, I’ll include a hyperlink. So, here goes!

1. CCC IPAQuantum Brewing8.1% abvPale Ale£? (The price of a pint) (500ml)- From the Brewer Direct


Picking this up from the brewery simply means it doesn’t get much fresher does it? A copper coloured beer with an aroma containing pineapples and a hint of orangey boiled sweets. This yielded to a really smooth mouthful of pineapple and some resinous citrus flavours with more than a bit of pine in there, balancing some very juicy malt. The only problem I had with this was that it was just TOO damn drinkable for that strength! (Update – The CCC comes from the hop varieties used, Centennial, Citra and Columbus)

Another belter from Mr Krause. To be honest, I’m not altogether sure where you can buy this. Try Beermoth on Tib Street in Manchester at a guess. But if you see it, treat yourself.

2. Indulgence – Mallinsons Brewing Company – 3.8% abv – Pale Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (CAMRA membership discount applies)


This lively bottle conditioned beer has a lovely pineapple and grapefruit citrus hop nose (again, owing to the combination of the hops). Citrus hops to the fore in the flavour as well with some resinous grapefruit prominent, balanced by a light biscuity malt backbone. A nice fruity dry finish with a lingering piney resin. A lovely light refreshing beer.

Another excellent pale ale from these Huddersfield brewers.

3. (Trial Brew) Red RyeThe Five Points Brewing Co – 6% abv – Red Rye Ale – Swap (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market)


This one came as a surprise from my friend and all-round arch nemesis, Jaz. I have had a few rye beers recently and they have all been really nice. But when the label says “Trial Brew” ?

This was a ruddy brown coloured beer with an aroma of toffee apples and flowery hints. More caramel toffee in the mouth with some spicy touches and gorgeous bitter spicy hops, (Chinook, Columbus and Simcoe hopped. I love Simcoe!). Superb hoppy, dry herbal, grassy finish. If this is a “Trial Brew”, I would love to see the finished product!

4. DevolutionRevolutions Brewing Company – 4.5% abv – Amber Ale – £2.61 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (CAMRA membership discount applies)


Another music themed beer from Revolutions. This time, referencing a band whose single “Jocko Homo” was one of the first singles (7″ vinyl things….) that I ever bought back in the late 70s!

Amber beer (no kidding!), with a butterscotch toffee aroma. Caramel toffee and digestive biscuit in the mouth with a nice, more gentle, bitterness from this well-balanced beer. The finish was smooth, dry with a gentle lingering hop on the tongue. Another really good beer from these Castleford brewers. Need more of their stuff on draught over this side of the hill. Not that I’m greedy, I want some more Manifesto as well!

5. Galaxy BluesCheshire Brewhouse – 5.2% abv – Pale Ale – £3 ish (I think!) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market)

20130715_231546(Get that psychedelic label!)

I spotted this on Damian (The Ale Man) O’Shea’s stall whilst at Castlefield Market recently. This being on the back of a comment by young  Mr Krause (Quantum). I’ll have to thank him when I next see him!

A golden coloured bottle conditioned beer with shed loads of tropical hop aromas (for me, nectarine and mango). A lovely rich tea malt backbone for the fruity hops to cling to. Another really refreshing fruity beer this, with a lasting herbal hoppy dry finish. Not had much by this brewer on draught. Must find some!

Beers of The Month (so far!)

Draught – Quaker House Oatmeal Stout by Allgates Brewery


Am I biased? Yes! Would the fact that I helped to make this influence me? No! This was just a bloody superb, creamy, dry and hoppy black beer. Possibly a one-off, I had it at Joshua Brooks, The Hare & Hounds at Hindley (an Allgates pub) and Bar Fringe. I caught each at different stages of time from first being put on the bar and they were all superb with a slight sweetness creeping in as the beer aged.

I simply couldn’t get enough!

Bottle – Red Rye (Trial Brew) by Five Points Brew Co.

Just an astonishingly good rye beer from a brewer completely new to me. (See above)

Am hoping to lay my lips on a very special beer from Ilkley soon, Siberia aged in Speyside whisky casks. One of my favourite beers may just have got better!

On that note…’til next time..


Hare & Hounds, Hindley. 05/06/2013


Early last week, I made arrangements to hand over a couple of bottles of good ale I had purloined from Yorkshire (Yorkshire Ales & Bierhuis) to a couple of good friends of mine (from WAY back), Mike & Jeff. Wetherspoons in Walkden seemed convenient, so we set a date for Wednesday evening.

However, the little devil on my shoulder (on this occasion, Colin) had an itch to scratch. He had spotted a Honey Porter that was on the bar at The Hare & Hounds. being a mere £1.60 return train journey from Walkden, I was only too glad to boot the beery conglomerate into the long grass. More Allgates for me!

Unfortunately, just before we set off, Mike tweeted that he had a ‘sick note’. We sent our commiserations and……carried on regardless, as he would have expected!

The bottles were V2 Schneider from Five Towns Brewing of Wakefield and Siberia from Ilkley Brewery. The V2, being for Mike was no longer needed, so we set off to the train station. Only problem was, I left the other bottle at home too! Doh!!!

15 minutes after boarding the train, we were entering the pub. 5 handpulls, all in use. 2 from Allgates (Ostara & Session – aka Napoleons Retreat), & 1 each from Castle Rock (Harvest Pale), Milestone (Honey Porter) & Abbeydale (Moonshine Pale). I’ve only been here once before, but REALLY enjoyed that brief visit!

I started with an Ostara by Allgates at 3.6% abv (not for the last time this week !), whilst Col hit the ground with a Castle Rock Harvest Palewhich he was more than happy with. I, however, was enraptured by the Ostara. Lovely and golden pale with a light “Burton snatch” to the aroma (that slight sulphur like aroma you get from beers from Burton – Pale Ales) along with a citrus hoppyness, It was a hoppy joy in the mouth balanced by a Rich Tea biscuity malt. Dry in the finish, hoppy and really refreshing. Whilst having this, Col noticed the Landlord (Nigel) who said hello and would have a chat later (which he duly did!)

Next up was another from Allgates, this time Session (aka Napoleons Retreat) at 3.9%. A mid brown / copper coloured beer, this is not normally my kind of play, but it was a really flavoursome ‘best’ bitter. Didn’t get much of an aroma. A slightly more bitter-sweet beer than the drier Ostara, with a dry nicely hopped finish. I can see why it sells well across the estate.

Had a nice chat with Nigel at this juncture. Really friendly bloke who learned his cellaring trade at the Edington Arms (next to the train station, 200 yards away). I can testify that he keeps a good pint from my two visits! We chatted about how he came to have the pub after the previous landlord (Greg) went to take over The Crooke Hall Inn (another Allgates house). We chatted about loads of stuff, but he had to “walk the dog” (no, really!) a patient little Staffordshire Bull Terrier was sat close with eyes only for Nigel!

Jeff now appeared and (for a craft keg man) really enjoyed the Ostara I got him.


(“What’s a Smoke Room, Dad?”)

I had another Ostara before I tucked into an Abbeydale Moonshine Pale. At 4.3% abv, this was golden and a slightly sweeter beer than the Ostara, more of a Blonde than a Pale Ale for me, akin to Thwaites Wainwrights. A nice enough beer and certainly in good nick, but I was expecting something hoppier.

Having apologised to Jeff for leaving his Siberia on my back room table (where it remains, in grave peril!), I tucked into a Milestone Honey Porter, the original reason for our visit! From Newark (quite close to where my OutLaws live!), this 4.7% abv beer was a very deep ruby, almost black, beer. With an Ovaltine like malty nose, there was lot of roasted flavour, slightly chocolatey with a touch of bitterness. This had been ‘on’ for 3 days or so and was in remarkably good condition.

Having a few minutes ’til the train, it would have been wrong not to have another Ostara, wouldn’t it? Is it TOO obvious to say it was my beer of the evening?

To summarise. This is the local that I wish was on MY doorstep. Warm friendly staff and landlord, two distinct spaces, a dartboard and a telly for sports fans (de rigueur these days!), it really is my idea of a local. And, with train fare at only £1.60 return, it may yet become it!

A quick dash up the hill and we were at the train station.

20130605_223415(Col – “Wish I had a tape measure!”)

Thankfully skirting around the Wetherspoons, a walk up the hill and “Hi Honey, I’m home!”

On that note….’til next time!


Allgates’ The Road To Wigan Beer 29/03/2013

Until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t visited an Allgates Brewery pub. Come to think of it, I hadn’t had a beer in Wigan at all! That day, I went in two really good pubs, one of which was The Anvil, Allgates’ pub in the centre of Wigan.

Whilst I was there, David Mayhall (the brewery owner) passed me a leaflet called ‘The Road To Wigan Beer’ (pun intended).


The idea being that Allgates would have a beer festival lasting 11 days, spread across their whole estate of 7 pubs, all based around the Wigan area. Having been in precisely NO Allgates pubs previously, this festival gave me all the excuse that I needed. So, roping my good buddies Jaz & Col in, we find ourselves on the 13:04 train from Walkden to Wigan for the first stop….

The Anvil


(pic –

Further to the previous visit, damn this was busy again! This may have had something to do with being Good Friday and the Wigan v St Helens derby match!!! Timing could have been better, but it was a fantastic atmosphere – which was helped by the fact that Wigan were winning.

Three drinking areas. A large area off to the right of the entrance, the main drinking area / lobby – which is in front of the bar and a smaller area to the left of the bar, where we sat. The frontage gives the impression that the inside may be older than it actually is. But it is a modern layout and look and is perfectly comfortable and welcoming, with friendly locals. It has also won a SHEDLOAD of Awards……

20130329_140122(Wall of Fame Pt 1 !)


(Wall of Fame Pt 2! I couldn’t fit them all in one shot!)

As stated, it was damned busy. However, most were watching the Rugby, so the bar was easily gained. Colin went for the Redwillow Faithless XIX whilst Jaz & I opted for the Arbor Ales Oyster Stout at 4.6% abv. What a lovely beer! Slight hint of coffee in the aroma, but in the mouth? Oh joy! Lovely dark roasted flavour with more than a hint of the briny about it. A glorious pint.

Next round was mine. Jaz & Col opted for pints of Allgates All Black Mild, whilst I chose a beer from Redwillow, the previously mentioned Faithless XIX. One of the brewer’s experimental series of beers, I’m not sure as to what is in this beer to render it one of the Faithless range, but it was a golden beer at 3.6% abv. A nice citrus aroma and a refreshing gently bitter citrus flavour with grapefruit hints. A really nice beer that could be drunk repeatedly. However…places to go and pubs to see!

I like The Anvil…a lot. And that’s after only two visits. A deservedly popular town centre pub, with the feel of a local. Ultra reasonable beer prices as well, the guests being around £2.50 or less. If this is how Allgates have their pubs run………speaking of which……We move on, to…..

The Hare & Hounds


This was where the £3.80 return train ticket started to pay its way! Timing our departure perfectly from The Anvil, a 5 minute train journey and a 5 minute walk away. Located approximately 400 yards south of Hindley train station on Ladies Lane, this is what I would describe as a traditional type local.

2 main drinking areas here. The bar is to the right on entry complete with a good sized drinking area. To the left, is another area, open to the bar area, but distinctly separate.


Large TV screen on the wall to the left of the bar. Also, the welcome sight of a dartboard. Another really friendly welcome with chatty locals and staff. 4 or 5 ales to choose from including 2 from Allgates (Mosaic & All Black).

My first beer choice here was all too easy. West Coast Blonde Pale Ale from Stringers. Stringers produce two of my favourite bottled beers with Dry Stout & IPA, however, I had never had their beer on draught. This was soon remedied with this golden beer. A citrus zest aroma followed by a nice hoppy bitter beer with a hint – of all things – orange. A nice pint.


(Nice touch on a cold day!)

The real fire warmed my back at this point and was most welcome. Next beer for me was Black Port by Blackedge Brewery of Horwich at 4.9% abv. I’d had the Black before, but not the Black Port. A stout made with an addition of port. The beer is as black as sin with a tan head and an alluring boozy aroma (the port?) The flavour was simply ‘right up my street’. A lovely smooth mouthfeel, with roasted malts, chocolaty with a slight blackcurrant tinge, roasted, chocolate winey bliss. I think I like it.

We got carried away with chat (or was it that Col was delaying us in the hope of a Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout?) and we missed the next train. Hey ho, a pint of Redemption Pale Ale please! A nice bitter pint, some citrus in the mouth (orange peel?) with a nice dry aftertaste.

Where I live, there are NO decent locals. I would do time to have one like this! A really good pub. Much as we could have stayed, The Bristol Milk Stout wasn’t a-coming, so time for that train ticket to pay its way….on to….

The Jolly Nailor

Jolly Nailor

(pic –

This was a fair walk from Atherton train station, a good 15 minutes I’d say. Located on Market Street, this is another pub with 3 drinking areas. The bar area doubles as a large foyer with some tables and lots of space. To the left of the bar is a nice looking room with lots of tables. To the right of the bar is a larger room which seems to double as a performance space. As we entered, there was a rock band tuning up. Good sound, but flipping loud!


6 beers on handpull, Thwaites Wainwright, Allgates Pride of Atherton and California with 3 further guests. Tryst Brewery Raj IPA, Dark Star Darkness and Mallinsons Tammie Norie. My first was the Mallinsons.

Golden pale beer, citrus aroma. Nice bitter citrus flavours, grapefruit up there again from the use of Newport (American) hops. 3.9% abv and a lovely refreshing pint at this stage of proceedings!

Next (and finally) Darkness from DarkStar. A black IPA at 3.5%. As with all of that style, a confounding – yet stunning – beer. Lovely darkness (as you could’ve guessed!) with a sharp citrus bitterness, yet roasted coffee in the aftertaste. Gorgeous flavours from such a light beer.

As for the pubs, each offered something different. What they all had in common was excellent beer, served well. Friendly staff and customers and all the pubs looked nice,  well maintained and attractively decorated. A very marginal preference for the Hare & Hounds (and I mean marginal!), nice warm fire and well-behaved dogs allowed. Nice touch.

The beer? I am a darks man, so I’ll err that way. Little between the Blackedge Black Port, DarkStar Darkness and Arbor Oyster Stout. Going back over my notes, I won’t separate them! Again, each different, but all exceptional. As were the pales too.

Allgates have 7 pubs. I’ve now been in three (and hope to do two more this week). All good well maintained pub, friendly locals and service with superb prices.

A winning formula!

Next up? Pubs with Jukeboxes I think! On that note…’til next time.


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

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

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

The Kings Arms


(Sure there was daylight when I entered!)

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

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

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

20130315_153646(The Bar)

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

20130315_153658(Main Room)

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

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

The Wellington


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

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

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

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

(pic – courtesy of Manchester Records Office)

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


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

Sinclairs Oyster Bar


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

20130315_190540(side room)

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

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

The Hare & Hounds


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

20130315_193803(lobby and bar)

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


(rear room)

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

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

Port Street Beer House

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

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

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

The Crown & Kettle


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

20130315_212822(The bar)

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


The Castle


(pic –

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

20130315_222809(busy bar area)

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

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

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