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.

IMAG1416(I must have looked SUCH a nerd when I took this!)

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!)

The Marble Arch, Manchester. 125 Years Beer Festival

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I’ve been drinking in The Marble Arch since the mid 1980s on and off, pretty much from when it became a “Free House”. From when the “stripping back” was in progress and had only just started to reveal the gem you can see now. Before the brewery. Before the back room was used. It was a decent boozer with one of the better selections of beers in the city. This and the City Arms on Kennedy St were the two best freehouses (if you can call the City that) in Manchester.

I didn’t realise that the pub itself was so old until the celebrations started to be planned. A little research via http://manchesterhistory.net reveals a pub on the site even earlier than 1888!

Adshead Map 1851(Adshead Map c1851 – http://manchesterhistory.net/manchester/tours/tour12/marblearch.html)

This map shows a pub called the Wellington Inn on the corner of Gould Street and Rochdale Road a full 37 years prior to the current building being erected. It is safe to assume that the current building may have replaced this earlier pub.

As you can see from the plaque at the top of the side elevation of the pub, the current building dates from 1888 (hence the 125 Years celebration!). The “stripping back” (the word “strip” may feature later!) revealed such an architectural gem, that it attained Grade II listed status in 1998.

Yes, I know. You all KNOW it’s a beautiful pub! You know ALL about the legendary sloping mosaic tiled floor. All about the tiled ceilings with exposed original metal work. You probably already know about how the brewery started making their own beers in 1997…….zzzzzzz. Ok, Ok…….

The Event

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The Beer Festival forms but a part of the celebrations throughout 2013. Albeit a 4 day part! Tickets were released earlier in the year and it was really a case of getting in quick. You knew it was going to be busy. And because the pub is fairly narrow, you just KNEW it was going to be rammed….didn’t you!

Tickets were a reasonable £5 for which you received a commemorative 1/2 or pint glass. Payment was via tokens (£1 or 25p in value) purchased upon entry. Basic principle being the more that you bought, the more “free” tokens you received (£20 buying £22.50 etc…)

Jeff had bought the tickets and we arranged to meet in Manchester, myself and Jaz arriving first. Needless to say, it was BLOODY HEAVING! However, the organisation was really efficient, so you had your glass, tokens and “venue map” in hand in no time and could fight your way through the throng to get to the business end.

“The bar” was effectively spread out over 5 areas. The main pub itself with its large array of handpumps and keg fonts. Today, in the main room, this was supplemented by pop-up bars from Magic Rock and “The Portable Street Beer House” courtesy of your friends and mine at Port St, the latter dispensing kegged beers from The Marble Brewery in Albuquerque in New Mexico! The there were two further “bar” areas in the old back room (in bygone….former site of the brewery) AND……..Black Jack Brewery, where Rob Hamilton had opened his gate and doors for a further bit of fresh air drinking (more later)

20130803_154541(I LOVE it when brewers can chat with the punters!)

Thinking strategically, I decided on something light and refreshing to start with. Chalkboards above the bar displayed what appeared to be the beers that would be available over the course of the 4 days (slightly confusing/frustrating), but a scan of the bar revealed some relatively low strength delights. Including my first pint….

Jacobs Ladder (Cask Conditioned) by Buxton Brewery at 2.7% abv! Pale gold, with a sharp citrus aroma. Some lovely sharp tropical hop flavours in here. A really refreshing beer and another 3 points in the bag for Buxton (C’mon, the footy season has just started!)

Zenith (Cask Conditioned) by SummerWine from Holmfirth was next for me at 4% abv. Another juicy sharp pale ale. Fragrant with peppery hops, a lovely, slightly resinous, hoppy refreshing mouthful with a lovely dry bitter finish. This day was getting good! Then…….

Cannonball (Dry hopped with Simcoe – Cask Conditioned) by Magic Rock. At 7.4% abv, was a bit early in the day, but REALLY wanted to have a pop at this before it went. It just didn’t work for me. Slightly warm, musty smelling in the glass, there were definitely hops in there, but no zing like I expect from Simcoe (a powerful hop that I adore), the only flavour I could get was that of red delicious apples. If I wanted that, I’d go for a cider……..Not for me. Didn’t finish it. (Not done THAT in a while!)

Draft by Marble got me back on track at 3.9%. Cool, pale light and hoppy. Just what was needed after that mis-step.

It was getting uncomfortable busy, and, consequentially warm. So, with one more arrival possible (having been joined by both Jeff and Terry by this stage, Jaz & I sloped off to see what was happening at Black Jack.

20130803_192223(“Underneath the Arches….”…aww c’mon, SING!)

Damn! That is one devil of a slope on Gould Street! Scene of many a legendary uphill trek from what used to be a cracking pub, The Queens Arms on Red Bank, up to The Marble. Now, we were looking for another brewery. Luckily, young Mr H had provided some useful signage and we were soon in an open airy courtyard with some lovely smelling food on the go.

About 6 or 7 handpumps in here, mostly dispensing Robs fine beers, I was on a cool keg tip here….I spied a beer from a London brewer that I’d heard loads about, but was yet to sample. Redchurch Brewery with Hackney Gold at 5.5% abv. Gold obviously not being a colour description for this amber to tawny coloured brew. Nice malty spine with generous hopping (Cascade and Nelson Sauvin). Took me a while to get into this, but it really grew on me.

This truly came into its own when I ordered a Salt Beef, Piccalilli and Mustard sandwich from The Moocher pop up truck! Lovely tender pulled salty beef, nice crunch from the veg and a bit of mustard heat on beautiful artisan bread. The spiciness of the Hackney Gold earned its spurs here and was a cracking foil to the sarnie.

Having obtained a freely available seat just along from a gaggle of current and former Port Street people including Will, now well into his career change, (brewing at SummerWine – nice chat earlier!), we settled in for a few more

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Being a warm day, I stayed with the keg offerings at Black Jack. Next up was Black Jacks’ own Mosaic, a single hopped pale ale at 5.2% abv. Golden and slightly sweeter than I expected, it didn’t take long for the piney hops to come through. Nice and refreshing again. Whilst mostly hop-forward (to quote a phrase!) Rob makes some lovely balanced beers here!

Sticking with Mr Hamilton’s fine beers, I had a Schafkopf next, Robs’ take on a German Wheat beer (I think!) which was a bloody good stab, if I may be so bold! Refreshing, quite sharp with a yeasty and herbal tinge to it. A really good UK take on a German wheat beer.

At this point, the Table football became free and provided Terry and I an energetic diversion (modesty forbids from mentioning the winners name! Close game though) and we worked up a slight thirst.

Now. Those who regularly read these waffling verbal wanderings of mine, may have noted an omission from the days efforts. No dark beer! I just HAD to put that right, didn’t I? I did it with one of my favourite beers from 2013 (previously had on cask), but this time on keg. Black Perle by Weird Beard Brewing from that there London. Being a “Coffee Milk Stout”, it was as black as you would expect. 4.5% abv, it had a gentle coffee aroma and in the mouth the coffee came though like a strong latte, shot through with a little lactic sweetness. Lovely. (As has happened before, another beer I prefer on Cask – a texture thing – but a really nice beer)

The siren call of an Imperial Stout was almost physically lifting me from the bench seating, so, bidding farewell to Mr Hamilton, we set up back up Everest (oops) Gould Street, back to the press of humanity at HQ, The Marble Arch.

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(Dancing? In an ale house? oh yes!)

Here, the entertainment mooted in the advertising was in full swing, with a 4-piece band playing their takes on Irish classics. The percussion was provided by courtesy of an enormous bass drum slung over the shoulder and hanging low, bringing to mind (for those of a certain vintage) the Viz character Buster Gonad (with his unfeasibly large testicles)! They were making a joyous racket (the band not Buster…..), but we had to head indoors for “refreshment”. Now, the idea was to snaffle a final beer. That being the Emelisse Imperial Russian Stout (at 11% abv, my sleeping draft of choice!) however, something I had wanted to try (from the complete opposite end of the abv range) was spied on cask.

Cool as a Cucumber a collaboration between Fyne Ales and The Wild Beer Co. I love Fyne. I hadn’t had anything from Wild Beer yet (though a bottle of Wildebeest is lurking in my stash) A beer with cucumber was sufficiently intriguing to sample with a pint. Oh that cucumber is there alright. The beer tasted as if it was liquified and the green colour removed. It was an absolutely refreshing, fresh cleansing beer. With the cucumber, I’m not sure I would want more than 2, but it was a stunning effort which worked. A real palate cleanser.

Now. The entertainment again. The landlady informed us that the bar was closed for a while and asked the drinkers to step back for a while. Then we saw why!

20130803_205226(This WAS a surprise!)

To the joyous strains of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”, on come 3 dancers, clad in towels. The men in the audience strained for a view! This near burlesque was a fabulous piece of theatre to say the least! A fun diversion.

Back outside to that big drum and some jolly Irish tunage. Finally, my sleeping draft de nuit. The Emelisse. The fact that it is an Imperial Russian Stout, tells you that is as black as sin. It had a gorgeous deep smoky aroma which carried through in the mouth. Sweet yet dry. Smoky, oily, vinous and warming. A gorgeous end to a superb day.

From the moment I had a paella in Piccadilly Gardens from a street food stall, to the moment I walked from The Marble with a smile on my face, this was a truly lovely day. A well-organised fest (albeit VERY busy), with superb beer, great food and excellent entertainment. To top it off, time spent chatting and laughing with old friends. Isn’t that what this beer lark is all about, eh?

Thanks to the organisers, Marble, Rob at Black Jack, The Moocher for that superb Salt Beef sarnie. Above all, Terry, Jeff and Jaz. Without whom…….

This fest is still on today. Get down there and treat yourself!

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte!