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

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“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.

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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!

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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!

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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….

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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….

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(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….
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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!)
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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.
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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….
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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!
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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…
Slainte!

 

 

Bottled Ales – September 2013 Pt 3


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(Destination Tastebuds. The New Batch!)

“Well Jimmy played harmonica in the pub where I was born, he played it from the night time, to the peaceful early morn.

He soothed the souls of psychos and the men who had the horn and they all looked very happy in the morning”

(Sally MacLennane – The Pogues)

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes…

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1. DOCFirst Chop Brewing Arm – (Salford, Lancashire – Call me old-fashioned!) – 4.1% abv – Pale Ale – £3 (or 3 for £8) 500ml – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

It’s nice to meet people who make the beers that you really enjoy. That goes double for Rik Garner, the owner/Alechemist behind First Chop whom I met at a recent MTB at The Salford Arms. The fact that he brews great beer in my home town, just makes it that much more special!

This beer is one of those Pale Ales that could be confused for a lager, if on looks alone. Once you bring your nose close to the glass, those illusions are shattered by the lemon and grapefruit hoppy aromas. This is really fresh and zippy with lemon in the mouth balanced on a medium malt body with a touch of rich tea biscuit sweetness. This is a spankingly good beer. In fact, this is everything that a Pale Ale should be, fresh, well hopped and refreshingly dry with a superb fruity bitter finish.

I like this. A lot!

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2. Baby BlueFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £2.48 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, E Yorkshire)

Pale beer that was exceedingly lively when opened. Nice tart gooseberry nose with a hint of yeastyness (shook about on journey!) Medium bodied, with a drying tart fruitiness loaded with gooseberry and grapefruit also a twist of bitter lemon as I headed toward the slightly grassy bitter finish. Another belter from this increasingly impressive brewery.

AND it’s the Allgates Road To Wigan Beer starting this week. That nice Mr Mayhall has a clutch of beers from over that there hill. Including some from Five Towns! I’ll be hunting down my first pint on draught!

And now, we walk on the Dark Side!

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3. Dalston BlackBrodies Brewery (Leyton, East London) – 7% abv – Black IPA – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

A black beer with a head that stayed all the way down the glass. Instant aroma of bitter chocolate, coffee & licorice. Not the usual citrus, but none the less a big aroma. Nice full body and that bitter chocolate and licorice come through in the mouth, especially that bitter chocolate. WOW it’s bitter! A nice spicy bitter finish. And that bitter chocolate still hung around for a bit. A simply superb flavour-packed beer.

My first bottle by Brodies. Must get some more!

4. Black PerleWeird Beard (Hanwell, W London) – 3.5% abv – Coffee Milk Stout – £3.50 (500ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester)

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I’ve had this 2 or 3 times on cask this year so far and It rates as one of my top 5 beers of 2013. A lovely full-bodied creamy lactic coffee mouthful. I was therefore quite surprised to learn in a chat with Gregg Irwin (Brewer – whilst he was at Leeds International Beer Fest) that the abv is only 3.5%! To make a beer THAT good at THAT strength is a work of genius!

Only problem was how would the beer translate from the bottle? Very well indeed, if you ask me! Good body on this black beer with a tan coloured head and the sour tang to the coffee aroma that you would expect in a Milk Stout.

A nice mouthfeel from this low strength beer. The gentle coffee flavour is really smooth and the slight sourness of the lactose in addition makes for a gorgeous silky mouthful. Lovely sweet/sour balance, with a nice edging of bitterness in the finish. As stated, in both variants, one of my favourite beers so far this year!

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5. Imperial BlackBuxton Brewery (Buxton, Derbyshire) – 7.5% abv – Black IPA – £2.95 (330ml) – The Beer Shop (Heaton Moor, Stockport)

I’d just bought 5 Litres of Three Swords by Kirkstall when I spotted this wee devil. I’d had this on draught at Port Street one evening and it was ASTONISHINGLY good! Currently ranking as the 2nd best draught of this year for me, a simply awesome beer. Full of citrus, dark fruits and chocolate. And as smooth as Des Lynam!

The bottle lives up to the cask version standard! Nice tan head, lovely crisp sweet lemony/grapefruit aromas. More fruity in the mouth with a backdrop of some bitter cocoa. Lovely full texture with the gums now tingling. As I progress down the glass, the cocoa turns more toward black coffee with a hint of brown sugar – verging on treacle – sweetness. A gorgeous bitter finish to round it off.  Just a bloody good beer. Pistols at dawn for anybody who says different. OK!

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6. HefeweizenBad Seed Brewery (Malton, N Yorkshire) – 5.1% abv – Wheat Beer – £0 (Direct from brewer) 330ml

A new beer from this increasingly impressive new North Yorkshire brewer. Having had four of their beers so far, each has been seriously impressive so I had high hopes for this.

Cloudy gold in the glass with an aroma reminding me of banana Toffo (anybody remember the multi flavoured packs of Toffo? Yes OK, I’m getting long in the tooth!). Superbly refreshing and spritzy with gentle flavour of orange or peel in the mouth with a little tingling clove sweetness.  Some nice hints of banana toffee (Toffo !) too. A surprising turn considering the full-on flavoured beers they have already turned out. But, just a damned refreshing wheat beer. Job done!

Another excellent batch of beers that I can whole-heartedly recommend. Not sure if Damian O’Shea still sells the Brodies, but you could always pick it up at Beermoth!

Beers of the Month Time!

Draught – Has to be Dinner Ale by Ilkley Brewery. An astonishing beer at 3.3%. Had it on keg at Leeds International and it simply ROCKED MY WORLD! Lovely sharp lemon hop flavours standing out in this hugely impressive beer.

Bottled – Bloody loads, I’ll split into Pale and Dark.

Pale – Revolutions / North Riding Brewpub – Punch The Clock (DIPA) At 78RPM / 7.8% – This was such a big bold flavoured Double IPA. A bit like Revolutions breaking out the guitar and turning the amp up to 11. Loads of citrussy hops, loads of malt. Superb!

Dark –  (Bourbon Barrel Aged) Bearded Lady – Magic Rock Brewing – A simply stunning Imperial Stout. Read about both these beers here – https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/bottled-ales-september-2013-pt1/

On that note…’til next time (Deeply Vale MTB at The Salford Arms on Wednesday – Come say hello to the old git with the Nexus 7!)

Slainte!