A Two City Stroll 2 – 29/12/2012

Christmas 2012.

Family meal.

In a pub with 5 handpumps.

The beer was dire.

I drank tea! I stuck to my guns and steadfastly refused to drink the likes of Greene King IPA.

Does that make me a beer snob? Do I care? (You know the answers!)

So. On the final Saturday of 2012, I felt justified in seeking the welcoming warmth of hostelries with handpumps. And good beer. Having met Jeff for the first time in many a year a couple of months back, (and discovering a mutual love of quality beer)  there was an outing planned for Manchester. A quick check of my diary revealed a family do that afternoon. Having negotiated my exit strategy with my beloved Atilla, it was game on. So on this particular Saturday evening, I find myself on a bus, Manchester bound reading a text calling off the meet.

What’s a thirsty boy to do? A quick call to my good friend (and frequent drinking companion) Mr Jaz and I find myself exiting the bus a couple of stops early and entering…..

The Salford Arms

(Image courtesy of http://www.fancyapint.com)

Walking up to the bar, there was only one pump occupied with a clip. However, a quick smile from Tom and he declaimed that he was busy putting two more ales on! So, joining the 4Ts Brewery Magnc pale ale was, firstly, Salford Arms Ale by Black Jack Brewery. One of those for myself and a 4Ts for Mr Jaz secured, I settled down in a comfy leather chair and awaited my partner in crime.

As per our last visit, Tom had said that the nice fellow at Black Jack was reformulating the beer to make it vegan. This had now been accomplished. I hadn’t had the ‘house ale’ previously and was really looking forward to it, so much so, that I didn’t wait to see what the second new ale going on was!

As I started to sip the Salford Arms ale, Jaz walked in. (I had had a sneaky sip of the the 4Ts Magnc whilst waiting and it was a lovely pale beer with some complex hopping, spicy with some citrus but with a smooth malt base. A very nice beer which I will try again). The Salford Arms ale was superb. Pale as Kate Moss but with more body, it was lovely hoppy brew at 4.3% abv, nice juicy malt in there but the right side of hoppy and bitter. If I am going to drink pale beers, this is how I like them! Another excellent beer by Black Jack!

Now. The plan was to have one and then move on. But, as you know, plans do indeed have a habit of changing. This one changed when Tom brought over a sample of the other beer that went on at the same time as the ‘house ale’. The beer was brewed by a recent addition to the Manchester brewing brotherhood Privateer. A quick sip showed that this was a beer that demanded  further exploration. The beer was called Dark Revenge, was 4.5% abv and was appetisingly black! A lovely aroma combining chocolate and some coffee notes, the flavour was of a nice smooth dark roasted stout with a flavour that I got as subtly chocolate. Jaz detected more coffee than I did, but hey! I wasn’t complaining. This was my first beer from Privateer and with flavour as good as this, it won’t be my last! An excellent pint. The pub was reasonably busy in this Xmas / New Year interlude and deservedly so. Tom has got the beer turning over really well and seems to feature local micros in the main (all 3 last night were local). An excellent pub.

I could have drunk the Privateer all night, but, as you know, a stroll is a stroll. So, we headed off toward……

The New Oxford

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Slightly damp stroll from The Salford, the front of the New Oxford was quite busy so we opted for the back room and a little rugby union (Munster v Ulster, as you’re asking!). Not before choosing a pint of Axholme Chocolate Stout at 4.9% abv. Another new brewery for me. This one from North Lincolnshire. Settling down in the back room, this beer was intially thin in texture but the mouthfeel improved as I drained the glass. A lovely smooth chocolate flavour followed with the lovely roasted malt. A nice first pint from this brewery (an interesting website too – http://www.axholmebrewing.co.uk)

The night was enlivened at this point by a group of West Brom fans sat next to us. Beer lovers too. Passionately bemoaning the biased coverage on TV which only showed Man U and swearing that they were camped in opposition territory all second half. We had a chuckle indeed. We chatted about The Post Office Vaults (near New St Station in Birmingham centre) and they extolled the virtues of The Black Eagle in Hockley (now stored in the memory bank!) Nice blokes. We move on….(a substantial stroll) to….

Cask

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Really busy in here. It was that busy and loud with conversation, that I could barely hear Manchesters’ greatest pub jukebox! Jaz had an Abbeydale whilst I latched onto the North Star Porter from Facers. I’ve drunk more Facers recently than I ever drank when they were located in Salford! The North Star has a nice roasted nose and a nice texture (not too thin at 4% abv) dark roasted coffee flavours and a touch of sweet chocolate. Excellent friendly bar staff again. Now at this point I got a phone call from Rob (see Castlefield Area Stroll) who was also looking for a pint having been at the same function as me earlier. The Facers Porter was a nice pint, but the were other pastures to graze upon. Next stop…….

The Knott

Pleasantly not quite as rammed as Cask, but busy enough, there were a couple of beers that caught my eye here, both at the higher end of the price range, but worth it. I left the Redwillow Shameless to have as a second pint in here and plumped for Thornbridge McConnells. 5% abv and £3.80 a pint, this was a lovely looking dark brown to black beer with a nice caramac (new colour!) coloured head. A little sweetness in the aroma led to a nice creamy stout. A lot of subtlety in here with no particularly dominant flavour. A touch of vanilla, some lovely smooth almost caramel chocolate roasted flavour from the malt. Just an excellent understated pint. I’m beginning to appreciate again that flavour doesn’t have to be an assault to be good. During this pint, Rob joined in the fun and after a quick update on the function fun, he too settled down to enjoying a pint of McConnells – I’m starting to think he’s gradually shifting to the Dark Side!

The only slight disappointment came next. I was REALLY looking forward to a pint of Redwillow Shameless, the 5.9% abv Double Pale Ale. Unfortunately, as I’m draining the last of the Thornbridge, it ran out! Damn! Ah well, another pint of McConnells all round could barely be described as a hardship now, could it? Anyhow, after this dark interlude, I was in the mood for a final pint of dark pleasure (and we needed to head toward the bus station of course…) so, in the steady drizzle (and Rob without a jacket….!) we mosied on down to….

Paramount

Anybody who knows me, knows what happens when we get here! There was a large selection of Xmassy type beers with typically Xmassy type ‘humourous’ names like Rogered Rudolf and the like. Maybe I’m a bit of an Eberneezer about such things. Just give me a beer name that gives me a hint as to the flavour and I’m content!

Anywho, I’m a simple soul, with simple tastes. So, having the merest sniff of the JW Lees Plum Porter (which Rob pronounced as full of plum flavour), the cry went up “Paramount Porter Please“. 6.5% and (at this stage of the evening) with a texture that felt like black Angel Delight, this was my sleeping draught of choice! Glorious with some roasted cocoa bean action going on, there was a lop-sided smile on my face! As usual, quite busy in here and deservedly so.

Finishing the pint, we headed in the drizzle for Piccadilly and my personal homing pigeon, the 37 bus – this time with Rob for company (with the Kebab lust in his heart!)

Until Next Time. And a Happy New Year to one and all!

Slainte!

(Next Stroll – Historic Manc Boozers – suggestions please!)

Castlefield Area Stroll – 22/11/2012

Feeling the need to stretch my legs (and my horizons!), it was high time I left the comforting bosom of the Northern Quarter for something different. Initial consultations with the mighty Jaz (well, this IS a democracy!) settled my decision (Democracy, eh???) and Castlefield was chosen. Reasons being a) I hadn’t written about any of the bars yet, b) At least one that I hadn’t visited yet, and c) Simply because….ok?

This time, in a slight twist to the usual, we had some company (Rob, Paul and Chris)! All my companions demontrated dedication to the cause, above and beyond…..the weather was FOUL!

Being furthest away, the meeting point was The Wharf in Castlefield basin. Having never been before, it was strangely tricky to find for such a large building. What a trek!

Located in the Castlefield canal basin (among the flats and offices etc) and formerly known as Jacksons Wharf, it is a large pub on two levels and seems to do quite a bit of food trade. Tonight, not rammed busy, but we unfortunately encountered a mixed group engaged in a Golf drinking game. As The Wharf constituted the 7th hole, it was getting a tad raucous! (More of them later!!!)

With there being 4 of us at this point, a traditional “whip” seemed in order. So off to the bar for 2 pints of a ginger flavoured beer from York Brewery, a pint of Weetwood Blonde and a Hornbeam Top Hop (mine). £14.50! Average over £3.60 a pint. This is expensive, even for Manchester. However, The Wharf patently must have its market. It certainly boasts a large selection of ales, having all 12 handpumps occupied, many with beers from local micros.

(A quiet moment at The Wharf!)

For this, The Wharf is to be applauded. The Hornbeam was a nice mid-brown bitter, fragrant hops on the nose, quite hoppy flavour with a nice dry finish. An excellent start on the taste front. But £14.50……! We move on….

The Knott Bar

The Knott has been a favoured meeting point for my work associates for a number of years, owing to its excellent beers and good food. The prices are average for Town and it  is an excellent meeting spot due to its proximity to both regional rail line (Deansgate) and Metrolink (GMex). Tonight it was reasonably busy for a Thursday. This was where we met Paul. Again, our Golfing game crew were here (the 8th hole) and some of them looked as if they were considerably “over par”!

Settling down to beer selection, Jaz & I went for a Hardknott Cool Fusion. A pale beer at 4.4% abv with a hint of ginger in the nose. The beer texture was somewhat lifeless, strange given that it was dispensed via beer engine, rather than direct from cask. The beer flavour was excellent with ginger to the fore with plenty of malt balance. A fine beer.

In common with most of the better bars in Manchester, The Knott has an excellent jukebox and as much as I would have liked to settle for another and some fine music….we have to move on. The Golfing crew headed to their 9th hole The Atlas opposite The Knott. However, we were destined to walk other fairways to…..

Cask

This bar is incredibly deceptive. The entrance and the frontage is so small, you could easily walk past. I’ve been a few times and nearly missed it tonight! Jukebox going strong, with The Black Keys juxtaposed with Joy Division….works for me!

(Unlike England, all wickets intact at Cask!)

We settled down to the beer selection, 3 on tonight with Redwillow, Pictish and Facers. I opted for the Shameless from the mighty Redwillow Brewery of Macclesfield. This pale cracker is a double IPA at 5.9% abv. Aromas of hoppy apricots giving way to lovely creamy hop bitterness. I don’t know what hops Mr Mackenzie put in this, but I detected more apricot and American hoppy flavours. A lovely beer and, notwithstanding the darks that come later, the best beer of the evening for me. With beers like this, I could be brought over from The Dark Side!!! The other 4 had the Pictish Brewers Gold, which was enjoyed hugely. Cask deserves more than one pint to be drunk, but, being a ‘stroll’……..

The Britons Protection

Briton

(Pic courtesy of…ah..you can see!)

The BP is a Manchester classic old fashioned boozer. Walking through the crowded front entrance, the pub was very busy on this miserable evening (performance at The Bridgewater?)

Quick scan of the bar reveals 4 ales on, but my eyes went no further that Conwy Brewery Honey Porter. Never had a Conwy on draught (though have had some bottles). We got the beers and settled in the corridor behind the bar as the other two rooms were quite busy too. This pub is a decorative gem with all this wood and stained glass! Simply gorgeous. I could come in even if the beer was pants…which it certainly wasn’t! 3 went for the Conwy, 2 went for the Coach House Farriers Best Bitter.

The Conwy is a dark brown porter. Some honey sweetness on the nose along with the dark roasted malt. The flavour was slightly honeyed, not sweet at all with a lovely smooth texture and nice roasted taste with a slight bitterness in the finish. A really nice subtle beer. I’ll be looking out for Conwy draught products again!

With all these people in the bar it was damn HOT! I was sweating like Lee Evans in a sauna!!! We needed to get into the cool night air and (passing the Peveril – another evening, maybe) we headed to…..

The Paramount

No need for descriptives for this fine Wetherspoon emporium. Straight to the bar. DARK HEAVEN! As well as the (Elland) Paramount Porter, there was Greenfield Black 5 AND Titanic Plum Porter! I was struggling to choose. But opted for the Titanic. Plums? Tick! Roasted Malt flavours? Tick! Good value at £2.09? Hell yes! Another excellent draught beer from the ever reliable Stoke brewers. (Just waiting for some more Chocolate & Vanilla Stout on draught please!!!).

(Welcome to The Dark Side…Mwuuhhaahaa!!!)

What’s this I see? All 5 strollers drinking dark beer? Heavens to Murgatroyd!!!! The inevitable second beer in this fine hostelry was a doozy for me. Paramount Porter. 6.5% of Porter heaven. Creamy, slightly bitter, licorice and coffee roast. This is a 5 star beer at a 1 star price. £2.40!!!

Getting late. Chris, being off to Hamburg on a jolly on Friday morning, was dropped at St Peters Sq Metrolink. I fancied one more at Waterhouse, but was outvoted. Let’s just say, it got messy, buses were missed…….TAXI!

‘Til next time.

Slainte!