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….

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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!

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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.

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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!)

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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.
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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….
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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.
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(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
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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.
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(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…..
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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 3 – 31/05/2014

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

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

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

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

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

(Tune courtesy of NutsLiteVenueRoma on YouTube)

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

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

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

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

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(Damn that lamppost!!!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adshead Map 1851

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

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

Wellington Vaults(image courtesy Manchester Libraries)

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

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

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

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(Just a hint of that beautiful vaulted ceiling)

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

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

Weavers 1851

(Probable Adshead Map 1851 – courtesy Manchesterhistory.net)

 

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

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

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

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

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

Old White Bear

(image courtesy Pubs of Manchester)

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

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

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

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

Crown Ceiling

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

Crown Back Room

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

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

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

Castle

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

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

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

Castle corridor

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

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

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(Lovely old mosaic floor at the front)

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

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

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

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

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manchester #TWISSUP – Drinking, Diversions & Dancing – A Grand Day Out

“If I could read your heart and say ‘I love me darlin’,

if I could read your mind and say ‘I’d never leave me’,

There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you. I’d give my life away and my heart too, yes I would.

I’d turn my world upside down, I’d turn my smiles all into frowns,

I’d do anything, oh yeah, if you’d just let me love you baby.”

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

(Tune link courtesy of NutsliteVenueRoma on You Tube)

A most fabulous tune that I have shuffled/wobbled to on many a Northern Soul dance floor. To be fair, until last night (Saturday), I couldn’t see how I would link this greatest of tracks into one of my blog posts. Take a bow Mr Rik Garner, brewer and DJ supreme!

When Connor “Beer Battered” Murphy first mentioned a #CAMRGB Manchester Twissup (Abbreviation of Twitter Piss-Up to the uninitiated!) to me, two feelings came to the fore. Fear and excitement (fellow travellers I suppose). Fear? Well, down to the prospect of meeting lots of people I admire and in whose company I would feel rather inadequate – I’m a bit of a shy soft git (despite a chatty exterior) Excitement? Not a tricky one really! Unfortunately, at the time that Connor wanted to arrange this, I was struggling with some health issues and was unable to contribute. To be honest, I nearly abandoned this blogging malarkey altogether. However, as it transpires, Connor rose to the occasion and sorted a great crawl with some excellent “bonuses”!

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(If 30 + years of drinking have taught me anything – Preparation!)

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So at 12:15 I find myself stepping into the main room of what is, undoubtedly, the most revered pub in Manchester. The Marble Arch. Dating from 1888 (although there was a pub on the site previously as early as 1851), this immaculately restored pub is an utter gem of gorgeous tiling, stained glass and the legendary sloping floor with an angle to rival the Hardknott Pass!). Worth little of course, if the beer is rubbish (of course!), but the brewery IS Marble and that means quality!

Walking in past one or two blue & white scarves, I felt instantly at home. I hadn’t considered that this might be a pub of choice pre-Etihad! Spying Connor, I engaged in a rather shady hand-over, the likes of which you might see in an old episode of “Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy”! So, replete with some of Connors highly rated “home-brew” (a phrase that is now a world away from tins of Muntons Malt Extract!), I hustled to the bar for something light and tasty. Pint most certainly fulfilled that need and more, with its lightish body, pale good looks and zingy grapefruit and lemon. Delicious.

A this point some introductions were being made and I met a number of people I only know from Twitter, like Andy Heggs (HopOnTheBike), Dave Harrison-Ward (Brews Implosion), Mark (ViewsFromTheBar) from Scarborough, Andy Tabbernacle (TheComedyBeerCyclist) and his rather tall mate John, and many others whose names I shall be embarrassed to ask next time I meet them, my memory is SO shit! The mighty Al from Port Street was in attendance too and it was great to see Paddy McGrath (AllBeerNoBelly), a previous boon companion and somebody I never tire of reading/chatting with.

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Then the boss lady of The Arch showed up with a number of bottles of Imperial Stout! Oh dear….this was going to get MESSY! A VERY generous gesture indeed! Oily, black, smooth as a baby’s powdered bottom. Warming bitter coffee, cognac, dark fruits….just delightful, but bloody dangerous at this early stage! Beergasm over, then a couple of swift halves of Experimental 701 and Inter Regnum both lowish abv (4.2 & 3.4% respectively), both really refreshing with slight preference for the Inter Regnum, a hoppy brown ale.

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Early yesterday, the evil genius and aspiring Nijinsky that is Rob Hamilton posted an image of Twitter. The bar that awaited us!

I like Rob & the beers that he brews. A lot. Clean, tasty and never flashy, some of the consistently best beers you’ll find around Manchester. The brewery is located in an arch at the bottom end of Gould Street from The Marble Arch. Bottom end being appropriate, that slope gets steep!

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He had a good few beers on did Rob, I went for his Stout and Bramling Cross Pale (being a coward. I chose to give the slopey shoulder to the Arbor/Alechemy collab!). The Bramling Cross was refreshing, slightly bitter with a light earthy hop character and a nice fruitiness. The Stout was gorgeous dark and roasted with some coffee and dark fruit. Right up mein strasse! Had a great gab with Mr Heggs (liberating some of his pin badges – classy little things as were his designed T-Shirt for the Website! XL Please!) Thought I saw Rik “First Chop” Garner earlier too! Or was it a mirage!

This was self-service with style and the honesty “box” soon filled up as the assembled (and rapidly growing) throng offered libation after libation to Bacchus. The Arch-Nemesis joined us at this point and was one of many who set about the Arbor/Alechemy whilst Paddy and I enjoyed a cracking hoppy bottle of Redchurch IPA with an incredibly creative “Best Before Date” that had to mean that the beer could never go off, 30/02/2014 is a date that it could never reach!

The throng was heading off in sizeable chunks toward the next destination. I had advocated the chippy on Tib Street as a good idea, but damn if it wasn’t shut! Paddy, feeling slightly peckish, headed off to Slice whilst I bee-lined for Port Street!

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Boy was it busy! Memory was getting slightly hazy at this point, but I did have a half of the cracking Soulless by Redwillow, their Black IPA. A beautiful hoppy creamy mouthful. Full of grapefruit hop and roasted coffee and choc goodness. First time on cask for me and right up with Buxton Imperial Black in my book! The conversation was flowing with beery wisdoms being freely exchanged, but I had a yearning for a slight diversion with the next  destination being set for Font for the beery locust swarm!

Paddy had never been to Joshua Brooks. It so happened that the yearning to pop in was front and centre of my feeble mind! So Paddy, Arch-Nemesis & I were soon at that Junction of Charles & Princess Streets. It was here that I had my pint of the day, Beat Box by Tiny Rebel. A fruity and hoppy pale marvel at less than 5% abv (I think!), memories of orange and tangerine? Bloody good beer. Had my first taste of Burning Sky in here too with their Pale Ale another cracking citrussy pint! Nice to see Jon Turner before he leaves to move to London. Top bloke. Hoping that the beer selection stays as good as this! (Do yourselves a favour and buy one of their Membership Cards. £3 and gives a HUGE discount on the Cask Conditioned ales!

Short walk to Font and another (as usual) great cask ale selection…….For me, Beginners Luck by Black Jack. (Must ask Rob about that name!). 5% abv, pale and fruity and nicely hopped again. Typical; BlackJack, typical Font. Quality!

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Then, the long hike! For some of the swarm, a taxi was order of the day, but for flabby guts here, I needed the walk! Swatting away the devil on my shoulder which told me to pop into Cask, a thirst had been built by the time we entered the arch containing First Chop Brewing Arm. The arch is bloody HUGE! With the bar on the left on entry (having passed the wood fired pizza seller) a short walk down a corridor (masking off the brewing kit) takes you into another enormous space housing a DJ area (Rik himself) and a stage for live performance. The moment I heard “Inner City Blues” by Marvin Gaye, I just KNEW I was gonna enjoy this!

The rather fresh and zippy SIP was going down a treat too, soon to be followed by a MIA, then another SIP. But here, the tunes just ruled! Marvin Gaye, Nolan Porter (see above) I was just swaying to the bass until that damned man Mr Hamilton dragged me onto the floor! I must have been wobbling like a drunken elephant (whilst thinking I was moving like Fred Astaire!) Just proper good times! Nice to see Jeff and his brother Paul at this point.

All good things……the bus was calling.

To all those I spoke with : Thank you for humouring a waffling old git!

To those whose names I will have to ask for again : Sorry, my memory really IS that poor! But I enjoyed EVERY conversation I had. I had such a great time and loved every god damned minute of the day! Thanks to The Marble Arch, Rob Hamilton (Groovy Mover), Jon Turner (JB), Font and Rik Garner and the guys at First Chop for capping off a memorable day with great beer and even better tuneage. Big thanks to Paddy & Jaz for humouring me more than most!

To Shane Swindells (Cheshire Brewhouse) DAMN! How did I miss you!

To Michelle (Offbeat), Andy & John – Damned sorry about the chippy! I owe you all a Babbies Yed!

To Simon Williams : Damn, didn’t chat enough. Don’t forget Joshua Brooks as a potential venue for the band in Manchester!

So, off to the number 37, the Beach House album Bloom and, surprisingly, no hangover! That’s good beer for you!

On that thought….’til next time…

Slainte!

Reflections? Connor. A (expletive deleted) good job, really well done. Pulled off with (almost) military precision. And, should you tire of your current job, there MUST be some town looking for a Town Crier! I speak for many when I say, Thank You! The End! (No, really!)

Victoria & Albert in Horwich, Old Fashioned Service – A Short Note

Vicandalbert(Image courtesy of perfectpint.co.uk)

As has been noted by one or two people recently, I seem to write about bottles these days. I haven’t been going anywhere that I haven’t already written about I suppose. Churning over old ground – even if there are new beers to report – can get boring and despite my rambling manner, I don’t want to bore you (yes, really!)

I went out last night with the sole intention of meeting a young blogger whose posts I enjoy and who seems to share the same beery tastes as myself. That blogger being Paddy Mc Grath whose blog All Beer No Belly details his efforts to drink great beers whilst maintaining his weight (something which some of us could NEVER achieve!)

It was a fairly brief evening if hugely entertaining for my part. We met in The Victoria & Albert pub on Lee Lane in Horwich and the evening started with a pint of In Shreds by Wilson Potter. Both the aroma and taste indicated a beer which was not quite perfect, indeed it was “on the turn”. I persevered for a sip or two, giving no indication of a problem. After a moment or two, the barman approached us and asked if the beer was OK, to which I replied that it wasn’t quite right. The barman immediately took both pints and offered replacements. I must emphasise that WE didn’t complain about the beer, he was honest and knowledgeable enough to know that it wasn’t right.

I was slightly disappointed in that the reason I went to this pub was for the Wilson Potter beer, having only tried it once, that being in the brewery itself and was keen to try it in the wild. The level of service MORE than made up for my disappointment.

To be brief (not my usual habit…!), the pub is a fairly open plan affair with a some comfy seating and  4 distinct drinking areas served by a single bar. That bar has 6 handpumps (all in use) stocked mostly with Micro Brewery beers including a permanent beer from the nearby Blackedge Brewery.

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I had 4 of the 6 last night. All were in excellent condition and were very tasty indeed. They were DV8 Stout from Deeply Vale of Bury (luscious, creamy, dark roasted and slightly smoky) American Pale from Blackedge (pale, fruity, very refreshing and moreish), Pint from Marble (hugely citrussy and refreshing) and a seasonal beer from Thwaites – Good Elf (fruity and spicy with warming clove).

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(A sample board – http://www.vicandalbert.co.uk)

I can fully understand why this has been Bolton CAMRA pub of the year for the last two years. With excellent service like this and such an excellent selection of well-kept beers, I will most certainly be back!

A huge thanks to Paddy for a) ensuring that I didn’t drink alone and b) for his most excellent company.

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!

(Thanks to Tandleman for inspiring me to write this with his piece on The Crown & Kettle – read it here)