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)

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(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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottled Ales – May 2014 – Pt 2

“Here I am, I’m not here now, no, no, no. And I’ll care for you – hey that’s all I want to do.

Hold me, love me, in your heart.

And I’ll hold you near and I’ll whisper in your ear. I’ll take your hand and I’ll make you understand.

Hold me, love me, in your heart.”

(“Thickfreakness” – The Black Keys)

(Clip courtesy of “brilliantffs” on YouTube)

With the best tunes to come out of Akron, Ohio since….well….DEVO, The Black Keys are just awesome! (NOT a word that I use lightly either!) Another discovery through the thing of tuneful joy that is emusic.com, I was hooked from the moment I heard the hollow drums and twisted detuned “spaghetti western” guitar on “When The Lights Go Out” from the “Rubber Factory” album from 2004.

A two piece – Dan Auerbach on Voice & Guitar with Pat Carney on Drums, their blues heavy noise is just so damn visceral – especially on the title track of their “sophomore” album (a live performance of which is above – click the hyperlink). In format (two piece, guitar/drums) they bear a link with mid-west contemporaries The White Stripes, whilst being (IMHO) infinitely better than that rather more successful (in UK terms) band.

(Including 2006’s EP – “Chulahoma”) 9 albums in, they have evolved to the point that (courtesy of production wizard, Brian Burton – aka “Dangermouse”) they now boast bass guitar and keyboard players on the new album “Turn Blue”, they are still (again, IMHO) streets above anything the UK has to offer in guitar-led terms.

(Recommended albums – in order of release date: Thickfreakness, Magic Potion & Attack and Release)

On to the beer eh?

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what comes next! If you haven’t….this is the format…

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size, 6. The discount (and why, eg: for CAMRA membership or shop deal, where applicable) 7. 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….And remember, if you like the look of something, click on the (purple) hyperlink!

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1. Flintlock Five Towns Brewery (Wakefield, W Yorkshire) – 3.4% abv – Pale Ale – Direct From Brewery 

Have I ever explained my love of the beers that come from Outwood? Mr Bastow is a genius! I demand that someone gets his bottled beer over this side of the hill! Oh….wait….I’ve got some more on my shelf? *Smiles*

This is an ultra pale straw coloured beer and a big sharp aroma of tart gooseberry and grapefruit. I was drooling before it touched my lips!

Light-bodied, with the gentlest cream cracker malty base, this is full of sharp citrus flavours, with gooseberry and grapefruit again, cut with lemon atop that Jacobs’ like base. The second mouthful brings that sharp lemon more into focus, enlivening my jaded tastebuds (read WHY they were jaded here)

A beautifully refreshing Pale Ale. Whatever the strength, this is a Five Towns speciality!

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2. Liquorice Alesort – Ashover Brewery (Ashover, nr Chesterfield, Derbyshire) – 5% abv – Stout – £2.99 (500ml) – 10% for 12 btls or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Deep black with a creamy looking tan coloured head and a really “dark” aroma including real liquorice and maybe a hint of aniseed.

Oh MY! This beer is as smooth as George Clooney! Full of body, a subtle roasted malty sweetness forms the base for the savoury, spicy overtones of the liquorice root. Just Mmmmmm!

With each mouthful I’m sinking into my chair and the sweet embrace of this dark delight! The finish is slightly sweet, with a grassy hop edge. As Frankie Howerd’s Lurcio never quitesaid….”Yum, Yum and thrice Yum”!

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3. Pale Ale NZ Quantum Brewing Co (Stockport) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – £3.45 (I think) (500ml) – 0% – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)

This was Jamie Hancock’s fault! (I DO love a good scapegoat! Felt weird seeing him in a shop rather than behind the bar!) I was just about to leave with a small – yet perfectly formed – haul of goodies, when this was pointed out!

A pale golden beer with a light white head and HUGELY fragrant with zesty lemon and tart gooseberry and grapefruit.

Smooth and medium-bodied in the mouth, a light biscuity base forms the foundation of this hoppy fruity delight! First comes tart gooseberry, giving the tongue a little wrinkle and unleashing the saliva glands. This first swallow feels like summer has arrived! This is followed by a light, yet still punchy grapefruit, both of these mouthfuls have a lemon sharpness to them which is massively refreshing.The finish is tingling and bitter with the merest hint of lemongrass in the aftertaste. A sharp and hoppy, refreshing easy drinking beer.

Bravo Jay Krause – Take a bow!

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(Gratuitously shot with 2 Premier League Winners in background!)

4. SIPFirst Chop Brewing Arm (Salford) – 5.4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.99 (330ml) – 0% – Carringtons (Barlow Moor Rd, Chorlton)

Straw coloured and hazy, with a thin white head and a sharp & slightly tart aroma with lemon, passion fruit and a hint of kiwi fruit.

Medium-bodied in the mouth, with a fresh-baked bready malt base this is SO smooth and fruity in the mouth with more passion fruit and a sharp lemony edge to it and quite a decent bitterness.

With each mouthful that fruitiness builds at the same time as the bitterness lessens. Lovely herbal hops aftertaste. Refreshing and supremely easy to drink. Now to have it on draught! Hopefully on their evening on 31st May?

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5. Alias – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, W. Yorkshire) – 4% abv – Pale Ale – £2.89 (500ml) – 10% for 12 btls or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Look at it. Just look at it. If beer is drunk with the eyes, just looking at it has slaked my thirst!

Gold. Pale Gold. Bubbling like a klondike brook, except that this one is loaded with aromas of spring flowers & gooseberry rather than gold! Light bodied in the mouth, this is really delicate on initial tasting, maybe a bit of elderflower, before that gooseberry tartness kicks in.

Another smooth and easy-drinking beer this, so easy to glug, but I resist! The second mouthful builds considerably on the bitterness of the first. Clean, floral, gently tart and hugely refreshing. Supremely easy drinking. The queens of the single-hopped pale ale. Bloody hell, but they’re good at this! And, with Raj’s 10% discount, to drink beer THIS good, at THAT price, feels like shoplifting!

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6. Fatter Stout Mad Hatter Brewing Co (Liverpool) – 9.5% abv – Imperial Stout – £4.20 (330ml) – 0% – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)

Another from my small – yet perfectly formed – haul on my recent visit to Beermoth.

Black as the Ace of Spades, with a deep cream coloured head and an aroma full of darkness, with some bitter coffee and lots of licorice.

Obviously huge bodied, really silky smooth, the initial hit is one of really bitter coffee, followed by the chewy licorice overlaying a burnt sugar sweetness in the background and coating the mouth all over.

In later mouthfuls, something more warming and alcoholic like a dark rum, slick and warming the throat as it slides down. Whilst underlying sweetness is ever-present, there is a distinct bitterness in the finish followed by a resinous hop character edged with bitter chocolate. Going down great with some vintage cheddar!!! A boss beer from Liverpool. 

Well, that’s all folks! I’m just about recovered from last weeks efforts – I really SHOULD keep a tin of Andrews in the medical box!

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!)

First Chop Brewing Arm – MTB @ The Salford Arms 18/09/2013

First Chop

“The dark brown shades of my skin only add colour to my tears.

Oh, that splash against my hollow bones, that rocks my soul.

Looking back over my false dreams that I once knew,

Wondering why my dreams never came true.”

(Syl Johnson – “Is It Because I’m Black”)

A few weeks ago now, I noticed as tweet from one of my favourite pubs of the last 12 months – T he Salford Arms – that mentioned a series of up and coming ‘Meet The Brewer’ events with local Manchester area breweries. The first was with the excellent Privateer with its equally excellent ringmaster / owner, Matt Jervis. I was gutted that circumstances precluded me from attending, I do love the beers that Peter Curran and Matt bang out. Balanced, tasty and resolutely non-ludicrous with that strength!

Black Jack was next with Rob Hamilton. Another top bloke punting out excellent beer. Again, even though I’d been to one at Port Street, I wanted to go, but couldn’t!

However, a visit to my nice bank resolved some of my (ahem) difficulties, so I wasn’t going to miss the next one. First Chop.

I’d had a few of their beers around Manchester. Uniformly excellent they were too. I also popped in recently to their restaurant / bar in Ramsbottom (where it all started). You can read about that hereAn assured recommendation for a bar that would not be out of place in the Northern Quarter of Manchester.

Got to say, with an advised 6pm start time, it was a damn struggle getting there on time! But with a hoppy ale at the end, my smiling face (!) presented itself at the bar with an open wallet and lolling tongue. A swift greeting to Tom who runs the bar (and keeps a damn fine pint!) and I had a pint of First Chop ‘Hop’ in my greasy mitt.

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(We also got this later – but what the hell!) – This is a golden pale beer with lots of citrus hop on the nose, lemon up there as well as a hint of grapefruit. Lovely and fruity/bitter in the mouth with a really good body base for a 4.1% abv beer and lots of citrus. This comes from (what I later learned to be) the FIVE hops used (Bobek, Cascade, Chinook, Citra & Simcoe), nice grapefruit in the finish with a touch of piney resin from the Simcoe. Lovely beer that you could drink all night!

At this point, I sensed that Tom was colluding with someone at the side of the bar….so being a nosey (and somewhat cheeky) sod, I introduced myself to Rik Garner, Mr First Chop Brewing Arm himself. And proceeded to cure his insomnia with my incessant waffling and questions!

For quite a young bloke, he’s been a busy boy these last few years! He started out as a chef and founded the bar / restaurant in the mid to late noughties. Having a love of good beer, he developed the yen to make his own beer. So, in 2012, he decide to try his hand at brewing his own beers. He approached Outstanding Brewery in Bury who agreed to let him use some of their spare capacity. The first beer was the Hop I tasted first. The range soon began to expand (as did demand) and the original plan for occasional brewing went out of the window!

So the search for new premises began and to invest in his own kit! Since this summer, Rik has occupied an arch  under the railway off Trinity Way in Salford and commenced brewing with a new 8 Bbl (Beer Barrel) plant.

He’s busy indeed. From that ‘occasional’ brewing idea, he is currently brewing 3 times a week and spends the rest of his time selling and distributing as well as the admin work (which he is still involved with at the bar in Rammy!). The beers are growing in popularity and have won several awards. They are also popping up all over the country from the North East to the South West (and all areas in between!). He has been so busy and successful, that he is having to look to bring someone in – now THERE’S an opportunity! (I offered myself up. I guess that the chuckle fro Rik, allied with the utter lack of technical ability, may mean that I need not apply. Another dream shattered!!!)

Good beer, great company (Rik, not me!) and a cracking pub. Now, where were we…ah yes, the beer!

The ticket for entry cost a whopping £5. For which you receive 4 beer samples. 4 1/2 pints….or so I thought! We settled into the lovely curved front room of the Salford, Rik parked himself, took out his samples and began. He handed out samples of 4 of the 5 hops that were used in ‘Hop’ and encouraged us to give ’em a good rub and sniff. From the Bobek, which was quite subtle and earthy, they got progressively more resinous through to the Simcoe….mmmmmm….Simcoe! Her also brought some of the pale malt that he used in the hop which was lovely Rich Tea biscuit with a dash of Horlicks.

We were furnished each with a half pint of Hop as previously described.

Next up was a bottle of ‘TEA’. Rik seems to name all his beers with 3 letters – AVA is named after his daughter! MIA after her bessie mate…….TEA was simply a damn good Brew! No arguing with that eh? TEA was golden, and at 5% abv, perhaps a shade darker than HOP and was fuller bodied with lovely darker tasting hoppy fruity flavours with a lovely dry bitterness in with the citrus. A distinctive grassy bitter finish. Getting the bottle was a surprise, but I think that Rik wanted us to sample 4 beers. there were only 2 of his on draught.

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Linda and Pete from Bolton (Good CAMRA members both) arrived and the chat flowed! First time I’d met Pete. It was obvious from our conversations (and his questions for Rik) that – like Linda – he is passionate about his beer! Not sure about his love of bottled stuff, but he, like me, enjoyed the two that Tom produced from behind the bar! The next one being SIP.

A 5.4% abv Pale Ale made with pale malt and loads of NZ hops, this had some delicious and more subtle tropical fruit going on with light grapefruit and lemon in nose and mouth leading to another dry and fruity bitter finish.

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Finally came the darker dangerous delights of SYL. This is a Black Jaggery IPA. Jaggery being an unrefined dark sugar made from Date palm sap. I love the fact that it is named after Syl Johnson, the soul singer who recorded Riks’ favourite album (I’m now gonna buy it today!) “Is It Because I’m Black” a cracking soul tune you can catch here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxvquwCqC2w The beer it helps to make is indeed dark and dangerous. A spicy nose with more than a hint of licorice, there is the flavour of dark vine fruits in the mouth with more licorice in a dry, pleasant, slightly herbal finish. Beautiful beer, but hardly advisable on a school night!

This was unfortunately sparsely attended for such a good brewer (and engaging personality), but the lack of attendees led to a far more intimate feel that the events at Port Street. This meant more time to chat with Richard, Pete & Linda (which was a pleasure) and some of the other attendees. A cracking finish to a great (if slightly tipsy) evening! That’s be the SYL then!

For a fiver, this was an absolute steal. Let’s hope more come for Hornbeam Brewery, next Wednesday!

Even though the bulk weren’t at the MTB, it was nice to see The Salford busy midweek. Tom and the gang are obviously doing things right. I can say for sure, that he knows how to keep a pint! Just make sure there’s food next week….I was damned hungry by the time the 37 deposited me outside Beers Mansions!!!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!