Piccadilly : Let’s Go For A Walk – A #Tryanuary Impulse 

Whims. Funny old things. The older I get, the more likely I am to concede.

There is a tendency – call it laziness – to stick to the tried and tested. The familiar. The places where you know you will get fabulous beer and a warm welcome. A comfort blanket. Something that has been (for want of a better word) a godsend these last 16 months.

But sometimes….. You just want something else.

Thursday evening, on the way home from work, I just had a yen. That impulse. To go for a walk. A beer or two. Follow the Tryanuary spirit, do something I’d not done for a while. 

So, with a co-conspirator (Jock) secured, I donned the cans (Bluetooth – not Carling) and caught the 37 into Piccadilly – an area I’d not consciously crawled before…

The Jolly Angler : Ducie Street 

From Piccadilly station, walk down the Approach and turn right onto Ducie Street and keep walking – heading right at the eventual fork. There you will find a previously heralded (by me at least) Mancunian gem.

A single room. A single cask conditioned beer. But a whole lot of Mancunian Soul. Something that I find increasingly important as tempus fugit. 

I entered in this chilly and slightly windy Manchester evening to the warmth of a blazing real fire. A pint of Hydes Original in hand, I settled down to enjoy the start of an evening of entertaining conversation with Jock (being a boring old toss pot myself, Jock provided the wit).

Hydes Original. I love this beer. A paler shade of Amber reflecting the glow of the fire, an orangey flavour washed around my mouth and all felt right on this “school night”. A sign of a leprechaun above the bar indicating that offensive language wouldn’t be tolerated was a nice touch….

A cluster of obvious regulars at the bar indulging in jovial chat, I could focus on the charm of this place. It isn’t gentrified. It is almost anachronistic – considering the pace of development just yards away. An old fashioned street corner style Mancunian boozer – warm, welcoming, friendly. Just doing the right things. 

And doing them so well. 

Not enough people wax lyrical about places like this. I now consider that MY job. 

Even with the photographs memorialising United legends (with Blue tinges) lining the walls, I still adore this place. Almost the embodiment of the phrase “Use it, don’t lose it”.

Just give the Piccadilly Tap the slopy shoulder. And enjoy something real. And Mancunian. 

I took our glasses back. Thanked the barman/landlord. And headed off – although I could happily spend an entire evening in “The Angler”… 

Back down Ducie Street, across “Piccadilly” (as the road is actually called) across Aytoun Street and past the magnificent Minshull Street Crown Court onto Richmond Street. At the end of which (Just before the junction with Sackville Street) you’ll find…

The Molly House : Richmond Street

I’ve had some lovely evenings here, but realised that it had been a long while since I’d last been. Way too long in fact.

There is a stripped back charm to this place. Set up over two floors (“The Company Bar” underneath – I’m told – being a separate club venue), upstairs also has a full bar and is where the unisex toilets are located.

Being fond of the odd euphemism myself, the venue is named from an old slang phrase for a brothel, but don’t let that dissuade you from experiencing this lovely place.

I’ve always had good beer in here, tonight was no exception with a new brewer (to me) having two beers on the bar (Rossendale Brewery), two from Howard Town and one from Beartown (a regular outlet). 

The Rossendale “Halo Pale” was superb, hoppy and refreshing. And sessionable. 

Lots of wood, stripped back floors, a few tables, some window seating, friendly bar staff, a simply MAGNIFICENT selection of spirits and a good reputation for the food (there’s an “open” kitchen in the downstairs room). This is a relaxing place for a beer or three with a very mixed custom reflecting the feel of the place. 

 And you can’t leave Richmond Street without a shot of the fabulous “Muriel” (sorry Hilda!) that graces the outside wall….

It won’t be so long before my next visit…. 

Back onto Sackville Street turning right onto Portland Street and across Piccadilly Gardens onto Lever Street. Across Stevenson Square and turn right onto Faraday Street, you will find a little known new place that Tryanuary should draw you to….

The Peer Hat : Faraday Street

The Arch Nemesis brought us here a few weeks ago following a visit to Fairfield Social Club. Tucked away between Lever Street and Newton Street, it was a complete surprise!

A bar cum live music venue (in the basement, something I’m yet to explore), this is a spacious two roomed pub. Friendly, with plenty of seating for old bones like mine! 

If you enter from the Little Lever Street entrance, you walk past the mini music shop. If only I had a turntable….

Yes. Nice local music theme here, but it’s the beer… Skirting the Verdant on keg – YOU shouldn’t if you go – Curse Of Mexico by Black Jack hit the R Spot, nice and punchy sharp for a session beer. Just what Dr ordered.

Like this place. It’s Tryanuary, give it a try. Well worth the effort. It just has a Mancunian feel, my kind of place. 

To finish off the evening – it WAS a “school night” after all and I was back out at 5:45 – yes, there IS a morning one…..

Back left onto Faraday Street and cross Lever Street (it’s a long walk this….) back onto Faraday Street and look right….

Pie & Ale : The Hive, Lever Street 

Technically, Faraday Street – if you’re looking on Lever Street you’ll miss this. And that would be a a shame.

4 separate areas cleverly divided to give different feels, the name is kind of a mission statement. Pie. And ale. And – from personal experience, very good pies indeed. 

Other than the fire alarm, a relatively quiet night. It was 10pm when we got here I suppose. Despite its “tucked away” location, this modern bar can get deceptively busy. 

With a mix of high tables, diner style setting and bar seats, the bar has a rotating beer range with one reserved for an eminently missable house beer. With beers from the likes of Turning Point, Brightside, Tickety & First Chop (a very – and welcome – Northern line up), that’s easy.  

The “Seven Waves” by Brightside maintained the perfect strike rate tonight. Full flavoured, punchy, with a moderate bitterness, it finished off the night (for me at least) perfectly. A lovely beer.

For the more price conscious, Tuesdays look good…. 

The “points” of tonight were various. To avoid the simple, the easy. Drinking in Manchester can become a magnificent Groundhog Day. Clichéd. If you let it. 

I’m as prone to that as anyone. I have my favourites too. And they are very obvious. But there is so much more to Manchester than the classics. And the trendy. 

Sometimes, it’s just time for something different. 

And it’s Tryanuary

So do just that. Try something different. Go give a hug and a kiss to somewhere you’ve never been before. Go with a friend (Cheers Jock), treat them, Share the love. 

You won’t regret it. 

Back soon. J x

Manchester – Northern Quarter Bar Crawl Pt 2 – 27/03/2015

There are two things that bring old comrades together. Those things are “Leaving Dos” & Funerals. This saddens me and is something that I need to address this year. Over 30 odd years in the same job (give or take a few “re-brandings”), you make a lot of friends. I need some “catch up” evenings. And soon.

This evening started off with an e-mail regarding a (premature – in my view) “Retirement”. Of a lovely fella who has had his fill of cuts and their associated nonsense and has decided to break out on his own.

Brave or foolhardy? Not even he knows for sure.

I find myself invited to a pub in the Northern Quarter on a Friday afternoon in Spring……via a swift Rice ‘n’ Three, I find myself in….

IMAG2739

The Abel Heywood (Turner Street)

Named after a two-time Mayor of Manchester of the Victorian era, this place is a bit of an anomaly. Let’s face it. What brewery spends gazillions opening a pub when so many others are closing? The answer is Hydes. Manchester born & bred (but now nestling nicely in Salford near Media City!)

Its USP is (I suppose) the “Boutique Hotel” which takes up 15 rooms in this conversion. A colleague picked up a bargain double for £60 inc breakfast – and said the room was lovely. A recommendation then!

IMAG2742

The pub itself is open plan and bends around the bar, I didn’t get to see the separate room upstairs, but downstairs is all designer aged, with dark booths, lots of wood and even a faux-nicotine stained look ceiling. Not many Victorian pubs would have had air-con though! Hydes have obvious spent a lot of money on this and – in the short-term – it appears to be paying off as – before I left at about 5:30, the place was absolutely rammed.

The beer was OK. Perle Essence from Hydes’ own “Beer Studio” imprint was quite fruity, yet understated in its hoppiness. A nice pint, but eclipsed somewhat by the 1/2 of Flying Dog Pale Ale that I had before I left  (Not bad at £4.50 a pint)

So far, the place seems to have grabbed a slice of the NQ drinking pie. And that is a competitive meerkat! Or market even.

IMAG2750 (1)

57, Thomas Street (Thomas Street)

Just two streets away, almost on a line with the Abel Heywood is this Marble offshoot. And whilst I know that it featured on the last N4 crawl that I did, I just fancied something Marble(ish) and it was an agreeable spot at which to hook up with my beery Yoda – the Arch-Nemesis.

After the sardine tin feel of the previous pub, it was a joy to walk into somewhere that was so cool (in all meanings) and where I could actually get a seat (for a change in here!)

IMAG2744

For the uninitiated, this is a small yet perfectly formed bar with a long bench table opposite the bar. The venue is glass fronted and if you can nab a window seat, it is a great spot to watch the bustle of the NQ pass you by on a Spring afternoon.
But I couldn’t. I did manage to grab a seat on the bench however, prior to approaching the bar with its 4 casks on gravity dispense (straight from the cask – the USP of the bar) With 3 out of the 4 casks on, I went for a zesty pint of er….. Pint, which was as good as usual, lemon sharp and refreshing.
IMAG2747

With a moment to read an excellent piece about Sufjan Stevens in The Grauniad, I had time to admire the place. Really fond of this bar, it has a charm that I can’t quite put into words. From the semi industrial metal ceiling, mock medieval wallpaper (complete with self-advertising stencil!), warm red paint tones. Friendly staff….. Need I go on?

I wonder where the board games all went? (another former USP)

Anyhow, with the AN reaching the end of his excellent pint of Ginger, it was time to move on – after all, this was a crawl! But not too far….
IMAG2749
Terrace Bar (Thomas Street)
If this was a pub, you could describe it as a “Cut”, as it has entrances on both Thomas Street and Edge Street. This place has more of a club feel to it with quite loud dance music pumping through powerful speakers. Exposed brickwork, post-industrial style – is the order of the day here. The bar occupies the side of the venue that you enter via Thomas Street and there is more of a foody vibe at the side that abuts Edge Street.
A distinctly younger crowd in here, with myself and Yoda upping the average age by approximately 2 years! The great thing about Terrace is though, that it never ceases to amaze me that a bar such as this can stock a great beer selection with Thornbridge Jaipur, Liverpool Organic Shipwreck IPA, Harbour Light and Millstone Tiger Rut all on the pumps.
IMAG2751
(I really need to get a new camera/phone!)
With the need to keep a (relatively) clear head, I opted to avoid Live Organic & Thornbridge (big beers both) and had a Harbour Light, which, whilst perfectly acceptable, was probably slightly short of premium nick. Yoda enjoyed his Millstone hugely too. Nice keg selection here too if the cask doesn’t grab you.
terrace may not be to the taste of all in my age group, but there is a certain something that I really enjoy here that I can;t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the tunes. I had forgotten quite how much of a guilty pleasure that “I Wanna Sex You Up” by Color Me Badd was! A classic early 90s #1!
Moving on….and a bit more of a stroll to Dale Street – a bit counter intuitive, considering where we intended to end up!…To
IMAG2753
Allotment Bar (Dale Street)
Having only been in once before (with Atilla), I think I fell in love with this 2014 opening bar when I saw one of the staff watering the indoor window boxes that adore one of the walls! Allotment by name……
Another (kind of) open space, with a centrally located bar dividing the place up a bit. Quite a few tables scattered around near the bar, but many “reserved”, presumably for “diners”. No matter, we only here for one anyway. There is also – to note – a further bar to the rear to serve when it gets really busy. No cask beer at that bar though.
With some local beers on the bar, I opted for the Pale Ale from Tweed of Hyde. A nice fruity beer, with hints of peach and orange.
IMAG2757
(The Hanging Gardens of Babylon….Ok, Dale Street!)
We acquired the completing member of our planned trinity when Jeff (aka Bode Miller – for all you “Ski Sunday” addicts) joined us, grumbling at the distance he had to travel to meet us….all 1/2 mile from his lair!
Nice place Allotment. Another rare pub opening. Quite busy before we left too with more of a mixed crowd that at Terrace.
With a hike across the NQ planned to our ultimate destination, Time for one more…..
IMAG2759
Pie & Ale by Bakerie (The Hive, Lever Street)
Set slightly off Lever Street adj to Stevenson Square, this place is worth seeking out, if not for the pie based menu (they are excellent), then for the beer selection (as well as a great selection of Whiskies)
Another 2014 opening bar. The interior is classy and minimal with exposed brickwork, muted neutral toned paintwork, two distinct ground floor areas and a quite concealed mezzanine dining area. Humming with conversation when we got there, the main topic of OUR conversation when we got there was the beer choice!
Disregarding the house beer “Yippee Pie Ale”, there were beers from the likes of Sonnet 43, Mad Hatter, IndyManBrewHouse (collab with Celt), Ilkley & Weird Beard. The Dynamic Duo both went for the Ilkley whilst I opted for the Hope Street Hop which, whilst as hazy as a spring fog, was actually a damned tasty pint full of peach, mango and tangerine fruitiness.
The only thing that I would say in balance on this bar is that the prices seem a little high. I would have had the Weird Beard Decadence Stout – a formidable beer at 5.5% abv, but not at £5 a pint. Even with it being Jeff’s round, I’m not THAT much of a git!
With a little tweaking down of the prices of some of the beers, this would be a Go To bar for me. Certainly the selection of beers whenever I’ve been in is impressive.
The ultimate destination was the Black Jack Tap, which was open on the Friday night. With the Dynamic Duo setting the pace, this was a thirsty walk.
The beers were all excellent, but particular mention for a stunning spicy and dry Rye IPA by Runaway Brewery (I thanked Mark personally!) and a stunningly smooth, unctuous, vinous and warming one year old Imperial Stout by Dark Star. The great thing about this ending was the beery chatter with some lovely people.
It was like a coming together of brewers with Black Jack, Runaway, Six O’ Clock, Cloudwater. Like a beery Mancunian Illuminati!!!
If I can give a tip? Next time the Tap is open, get your arses down there for some great beer and excellent food (the Pizza was a thing of beauty!) courtesy of those lovely GRUB people, Jason & Jules.
All good things must pass however and the last #8 bus was beckoning. I managed to stay awake (bonus) and must confess a sneaky – and rather nice – Lamb & Chicken Kebab from a local takeaway prior to retiring for the evening at a FAR too late an hour – considering that I had volunteered to work at Prestwich Beer Fest until 01:00 (02:00 with the clocks going forward!) – A great event put on by the folk behind Beer Junkets. But I am currently…knackered!
Stay Tuned for an upcoming review of Heaton Hops – the new venture from Damian (Ale Man Manchester) O’Shea!
With that……
Slainte!
Tune
“It’s real early morning, no-one is awake. I’m back at my cliff, still throwing things off.
I listen to the sounds they make on their way down, I follow with my eyes ’til they crash.
I imagine what my body would sound like slamming against those rocks.
And when it lands, will my eyes be closed or open.
I go through all this, before you wake up. So I can feel happier,
to be safe up here with you.”
(“Hyperballad” – Bjork. Clip courtesy Maskuk on YouTube)
I freely accept that Bjork isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but to me, she is a rare example of a musical artist who does something the is original and bears an utterly individual stamp.
My first encounter was when I first heard “Birthday” by The Sugar Cubes. I was blown away by this strange voice and off-kilter slowed down grungy funk. I therefore bought the album from which it was taken “Life’s Too Good”, a fine album which stands with all the other vinyl that I own in #2 sons loft bedroom – much to his futile annoyance!
Her solo work has, for me, been in many instance, ground breaking. You hear a Bjork record and it sounds like…..Bjork. Most modern music owes a debt to someone, be it via sampling or obvious influences. It’s a rare thing to hear something that makes me go “bloody hell”! But Bjork does it. Consistently. From tracks like Human Behaviour, Pagan Poetry, Hidden Place, Big Time Sensuality……All stunning. All Bjork. Nobody else sounds like this.
This track is – to me – a thing of raw and disturbed beauty. That line about throwing herself off the mountain is sung in such a beautiful child like voice. So haunting. This is a track I go back to time and again. And it’s 20 years old. And it sounds timeless.
I’m off to buy Vulnicura (her latest album) See you later.

Historic Manchester Pubs – Pt 4 – 14/03/2015

Blame Coneygree. Yes, blame a horse. It was the horse’s fault that I was out last Saturday. For those NOT in the know, Coneygree won the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup. And I backed it, along with 4 other winners. So I fancied a pint. And a trip down memory lane.

It’s all too easy to go in the same pubs all the time. I’m as guilty as anybody else. But on this night, I wanted something different to the usual comfortable “same old”. So in a week of new beery launches (think Cloudwater and Piccadilly Tap), it felt right to check, take a step back in time and…you know…appreciate what we’ve already got.

So, when I met the Arch Nemesis, within striking distance of Port Street Beer House, we turned right – onto Dale Street – and kept walking. To somewhere far less vaunted. But a Manchester jewel.

IMAG2695

The Jolly Angler – Ducie Street

It seems to me that my visits to this pub are separated by decades, which saddens me. This is one of the smallest pubs in Manchester and – given it’s location adjacent to the rapidly redeveloping Piccadilly Basin – is precisely the kind of pub that we could lose.

Walking in, the first thing that I noticed was the absence of the old pool table. A shame, but it really opens up the place, allowing a few more tables. The next thing was, just how bloody friendly the place was, both mine host and the punters around the bar were just so warm and welcoming! Which was quite a surprise, given that this is a “Blue” pub and we walked in just one minute from the end of the Burnley v City match and City were 1-0 down! The sound of a title challenge flowing down the drain…… Banter was exchanged whilst beers were ordered.

Located at the junction of Ducie Street and Pigeon Street, properly tucked away in the shadows of Piccadilly Basin’s flats and warehouses, there has been a pub on this site for over 125 years and (according to the excellent resource ManchesterHistory.Net) it is positioned on the site of a former school. I’ve seen it described as an “Irish pub”. It isn’t. It has had (and may still have) Irish folk running it – it certainly has the kind of friendly welcome I associate with true Irish pubs from over the water.

IMAG2697

A single room is almost split in two by the entry door and – as a result – curves around the entrance with table either side. The bar is small and the sole cask beer is Hydes Original. The Arch-Nemesis ordered two pints and we sat down to admire its charms and it IS charming. Did I say it was tiny? This is just a bright uncluttered pub with the accent on conversation. And a decent pint. The Hydes Original just did the trick. Nice bitterness with a bit of spicy orange fruit in there. And at £2.70 a pint, is this the cheapest standard pint in Manchester (outside of a Wetherspoons)?.

This is a classic old school pub, the likes of which seem to be disappearing. More people need to experience pubs like this. It’s a thing of beauty and overlooked by those who prefer the hipster chic of nearby Northern Quarter bars. This is real Manchester. My City. And I adore it all the more.

IMAG2707

The Bulls Head – Jct of London Road / Fairfield Street

A 5 or 6 minute walk back along Ducie Street, turning left along London Road and past the – still stunning – historic London Road Fire Station, lies a grander proposition.

Located on an unusual triangular plot, extremely handy for Piccadilly Station being just 60 seconds walk from the Fairfield St entrance, this is another open plan, single roomed effort. Lots of wood, really decorative and ornate, Victorian style lighting. Just to the left of the entrance is a strange, attractive small raised seating area. Quirky.

IMAG2703

According to the pubs’ own website, there has been a pub on this site since 1787, whilst according to the goldmine that is “Pubs Of Manchester“, 1786 is quoted both of which would make it one of Manchester’s oldest boozers. It is safe to say that it has seen the city reshaped around it, Fairfield Street itself didn’t exist and appears to have crashed through adjoining buildings, leaving the Bulls Head in splendid isolation.

The beer….is (tonight) entirely comprised of beers from the Marstons stable of breweries. I plumped for a beer that I’ve sampled on my frequent trips to Hampton Loade, Sumbeam by Banks’. And it was lovely. Refreshing, Marmaladey and just the right amount of bitterness.

Not as intimate as The Jolly Angler perhaps, but an impressive pub nonetheless. Some accommodation coming soon apparently, will make a pleasant change to all the faceless hotels that Manchester seems to have.

Crossing back over Fairfield Street and returning along London Road to Gore Street….

IMAG2708

The Waldorf – Gore Street

Turning left onto Gore Street feels almost like stepping back in time. That said, I’d forgotten how close this pub was to London Road.

Big and open – again, single roomed – pub. Lots of wood. 3 sided bar with the usual macro suspects. 4 handpumps, 3 in use. Landlord, Doom Bleurgh….and…..Phoenix White Monk! Oh the joy!

Formerly the Woseley Hotel (source Pubs of Manchester & others), ManchesterHistory.Net doesn’t give it an age, but this MUST be over 100 years old and it was (in 1929 – source Pubs of Manchester) called The Woseley Hotel having been so named in 1883 changing to its current name in 1929.

IMAG2709

Lots of wood in evidence. Looks like the Waldorf has escaped being knocked about unlike some nearby pubs, it retains a certain Mancunian charm.

Sparsely populated this particular evening, there was a particularly refreshed individual hovering close to the jukebox who seemed to have a love of 90s indie music. Am I the only person who thinks that great music by-passed the 90s?

The beer was in good nick though. Nice to see Phoenix on the pumps, a brewery I see all too rarely in Manchester these days.

Cutting across toward Chorlton Street – since WHEN did Stagecoach enclose the entrance to the bus station with barriers ??? – we headed toward two of the smallest pubs in town, almost side by side on Portland Street….

IMAG2714

IMAG2713

The Circus Tavern – Portland Street

Back in the 80s & 90s, the only way that you could get in The Circus after 7pm at the weekend was (so legend has it) via a little known entrance via the rear. It is, indeed, tiny. The size of the bar is legendary and for many years, all you could get was Tetley Bitter – no lager or cider to be had.

It was THAT busy, that I couldn’t take pictures. This pub is….narrow…..and tight!

The corridor is incredibly narrow. It is always full though as both of the rooms that are on the right hand side rarely seem to have a spare seat. This is a pub that, when people get a seat, they keep it. Again, lots of wood and plenty of original features. The pub is rated as having an interior of National importance by CAMRA and is indeed Grade II listed.

I see no reason to doubt the excellent “Pubs of Manchester” blog, which dates the pub at 1790. The pub has attained legendary status with its diminutive nature perversely attracting more customers and is rated by many as one of Manchester’s “must visit” attractions.

The pub is dominated by pictures of Celebrities (real Manchester “A” listers) that have visited over the years, although – being a blue – there was something quite disturbing about a semi-naked George Best seemingly watching me while I drank my pint! I had the Robinsons “Dizzy Blonde” which was, according to Jaz was the lesser of the two, with Tetley’s winning out.

Just a door away….

IMAG2715

The Grey Horse – Portland Street

Almost as narrow as The Circus, The Grey Horse has a single roomed layout, and – as such – feels considerably more spacious.

The Horse has the feel of a local in the big city. Single roomed, as stated, this has what I think may be a unique feature in Manchester, toilets that are semi – outdoor. Quirky, but the entrance area is covered unlike in the 80s.

Two Hydes pubs tonight. Both feel really welcoming and friendly. The Grey Horse being considerably the more busy, no doubt being on Portland Street helps in that regard.

IMAG2717

Again, mainly Hydes’ beers with a rare sighting of Butcombe Bitter as a guest in Manchester, I had Hydes’ Beer Studio offering “Styrian Aurora”. Vast improvement on the Robbies from next door, if not exactly the highest of praise, it was a good fruity beer with a bitter edge. Justly busy and with all the noise down just to conversation. A joy.

This was an early finish, so we scooted across town for a couple in The Crown & Kettle, my favourite Manchester pub. I won’t wax lyrical about the pub, but the Squawk IPA (Cluster Galena Chinook) at £2.95 and 6.3% was absolutely stunning. I had to have 2!

Whilst Manchester has several justly lauded hostelries, it’s always the unheralded pubs like The Jolly Angler that appeal most to me. In the words of “Two Cousins” by Slow Club “Hold on to where you’re from, it’s where your heart goes when you’re done”. Thanks, as before, to two great repositories of pub information, Pubs Of Manchester (go follow on Twitter!) & Manchester History. Net – without whom…..

Tune

“They took all the trees, put ’em in a tree museum.

And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em”

(“Big Yellow Taxi” – Joni Mitchell)

(Clip courtesy “musicben2” on You Tube)

Why the tune?

a) Recently included it on a mix tape, and

b) Sums up my feelings about the need to appreciate things while you still have them. Like the pubs above.

I’m not anti-progress, just think that forwards is the not the only direction! We have some truly great pubs in this great city, like the Jolly Angler.

In the week that Piccadilly Tap opens a few hundred yards away, I know where MY heart lies.

See you soon.

Slainte!

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

Yes. Yet more of my blathering on!

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

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

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

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

The Grey Horse

(image – marthamusing.blogspot.com)

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

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

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

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

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

The Molly House

(Image – Spottedbylocals.com)

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

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

20130112_192405[1]

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

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

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

20130112_193002[1]

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

Joshua Brooks

(Image – joshuabrooks.co.uk)

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

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

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

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

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

The Font

(Image – manchesterbynight.com)

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

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

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

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

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

Next….

Paramount

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

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

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

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

Slainte!