4 Beer Festivals In One Day (inc Manchester Beer & Cider Festival Pt 2) – 22/01/2015

“Too many Florence Nightingales, not enough Robin Hoods
Too many halos not enough heroes, coming up with the goods.

So you though you’d like to change the world, decided to stage a jumble sale,
For the poor, for the poor.

It’s a waste of time if you know what they mean, try shaking a box in front of the Queen
‘Cause her purse is fat and bursting at the seams……..”

(“Flag Day” – The Housemartins)

 I think that it would have been in 1986. I was sat in the office in the arse end of Trafford Park, when word reached me that if you called the right number (I think it was the magazine City Life) you could get free tickets for a special performance by The Housemartins at a place called City Lites in Farnworth. There were 10 pairs available. I rang on the dot of 9am and snaffled 2, so me and my mate Nige ended up in a town I’d never yet visited. And a town I’d end up living in for the last 25 years!

The performance was for a TV programme which I have recently found out was called “Hold Tight” on Granada TV. The band were superb. It was a short performance, but managed to cram in a No 1 & No 2 single in “Caravan of Love” and “Happy Hour”. My memories are hazy other than 2 things. Firstly, the band finished by breaking up Hugh Whittaker’s drum kit. Secondly, Paul Heaton declaiming that “We fucking hate Tories!” Some things resonate!

Whilst preparing for this blog piece, I was looking for a vid for “Flag Day”, yet stumbled upon the Granada TV programme that the concert was recorded for! The link is here. A reminder of what a great band The Housemartins were and still sound like. “The 4th best band in Hull” indeed! (The other 3 were Red Guitars, Everything But The Girl & The Gargoyles – apparently!)

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Four Beer Festivals in One Day. Some things just have to be done, don’t you think? Obviously I do. But then again, I’m both stupid and easily led. Or so I thought when travelling to work at a preposterously early hour, in order to finish in time to start this malt & hop marathon! So, I yawned my way onto First Buses finest chariot….

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The New Oxford, Bexley Square, Salford

Tim (mein host) doesn’t really need to host beer festivals. The selection of 16 (or is it more?) handpulls is like the Elysian Fields for local cask ale devotees and Tim has a positive talent for pulling rare and unseen beers like rabbits out of the proverbial titfer. But hold a Beer Festival he does. And does it well. My advice if you fancy an evening beer here, get in early. It can get rightfully busy!

As I entered before midday, I could hear the voices of tickers picking off the beers that they were going to try. Me? Am I a ticker? I suppose so, but only in so far as it stretches to trying new beers from Northern breweries. You should know what I’m like by now!

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The first beer of the day was South Island Pale from the mighty Allgates of Wigan. Ultra pale and bursting with tropical fruit sharpness. Allgates just make excellent drinkable beers. Drinkability is vastly underrated as a characteristic.

Next up was Gold Top Milk Stout from Rebel Brewery of Penryn in Cornwall. Roasted coffee with a lactose and vanilla sweetness. Lots of cocoa/chocolate too. Sweet tooth, consider yourself sated!

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With the Arch-Nemesis and Jeff now in attendance and with thirsts slaked, time for walkies!

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I have absolutely NO idea as to how I let them persuade me to walk! But by the time we got there, a thirst had indeed been generated. I let the A-N sort out the beer choice whilst I sorted out my hunger pangs at Panchos with a large Burrito! ALL long days should start with a Panchos!

The Micro Bar, Manchester Arndale Market

In here I had a Pikes Peak by Elland from West Yorkshire. Yes, they of the mighty 1872 Porter. The Pikes was a beautifully pale golden beer bursting with zesty citrus and possessed of a bracing bitter finish.

Micro Bar is one of Manchester’s unregarded gems in my opinion. There’s always an interesting guest or two courtesy of Boggart’s own distribution setup, the staff are friendly and there is a cracking bottle selection for takeaways. All that and you can eat your burrito there too. Bonus!

We move on….

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The Crown & Kettle, Oldham Road, Manchester To what I now consider my favourite pub in Manchester. For me, it has it all. Beauty, increasingly great beer selection and (at £2.95 a pint for cask), great value.

To be fair, when I see a Rat on the bar, I’m gonna bite. Always. This Huddersfield emporium knows how to knock out a damned good beer on their kit. The collaboration with the Pied Bull brewpub in Chester was absolutely no exception. Pied Rat was a big bruiser of an IPA. Amber with a creamy textured white head and barrow loads of citrus leaping from the glass. Chewy malt and massive hoppage. Even at 5.5% I had to have a second pint. Wise? Possibly not, but it tasted fantastic!

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Now, as you may have gathered over the last year or so, I’m a bit of a music nerd. So to hear an entire album and a bit from one of my favourite bands – the immense Beirut – I was beyond joy. Transcendent. Rounded off an excellent start to the day. The C&K is a belting pub, more than worth your cash.

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(Another Beer Festival? If you insist!)

This was where I finished off my “Dance Card Dozen” as listed here. On the previous day I had pretty much been rooted to the ground floor whilst my jaw ached from the talking to some seriously good beer people. But this day was for the beer! First up was a visit to the Concourse for a treble from Offbeat & Bridestones/Hebden Bridge Brewing.

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Disfunctional Functional IPA from Offbeat came first. Refreshing, with punchy fruity hops. An excellent beer, as I have come to expect from this Crewe brewery. Great beer brewed by a chick indeed!

Psychedelic – Hebden Bridge Brewing – I only had a taste of this at ISBF and before I knew it, it ran out! I couldn’t miss it, could I? Being conditioned over a market stall full of citrus fruit, it was every bit as fruity as I remembered and had a damn nice dry hoppy finish too. A cracking beer (hope to have them back with something ace for ISBF2015!)

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Then the collab between the two (in Hebden Bridge’s Bridestones guise). The wackily named “Sprocket Wort Orange”. An unusual mouthful to say the least, but a damned enjoyable one to be fair. Chocolate and orange with a little hoppy nip. No surprise to me, I like both Offbeat AND Bridestones.

Next up was a beer high on my list. Being a smoked porter, from Rat Brewery. Workhouse Rat was everything it was meant to be. Dark and smoky, a little starting sweetness and lovely coffee/chocolate flavbours. Nice hop finish. Accomplished, from a brewery that I see too few darks from. (Try the Ratsputin IRS if you see it – it’s a belter of an Impy)

Then. A walk. For a foreign beer. Well, it WAS from a bit South of Crewe! Fang Pale Ale from Black Flag. I holidayed in Perranporth in Cornwall this year in the tail end of a hurricane. This beer in bottle made that seem a small price to pay. In cask it was even better. Really zingy with more than a hint of lime with the mango. A fruity cracker from a small craft operator that if I knew how close they were to Perranporth, I’d have knocked on the door!

I was gutted to miss just one of the beers on my list. Being from Jamie Hancock and his Five Oh Brew Co, it shouldn’t have been a surprise, as it was only the second casking he’d done (no prizes for guessing where the first one was served!). This was a slight tweak on the Sorachi Ace Stout he did for us (doh!). As I said, gutted.

However, that left a gap. Which was filled with one of those beers that rocked my head back. A #Beergasm indeed. This was the Stocky Stout from Richard Conway’s Thirst Class Ale. The first mouthful prompted a “BLOODY HELL IS THIS GOOD!” Creamy, bitter and beautifully roasty, a proper winter beer without the need for you to fall over. 5.2% abv of roasted perfection. It’s that good, that I’m going to Ashton to pick up a couple of bottles tomorrow from Browtons!

I really enjoyed this festival. I could have spent 4 days there and STILL not had all the beers that I wanted. The only thing I would say (and it’s assuredly NOT a criticism) is that I was (as Atilla would say) “over faced”. There was so much good beer that I struggled to decide on occasion. Hey ho! If only ALL beer festivals had that problem eh?

Over the two days, Beer of the Festival for me was the Stocky Stout – with the Imperial Buckwheat Stout by Quantum a close second. Bring on the bottles of both!

On that note….’til next time.

Slainte!

A Salford Stroll – 10/12/2012

To have one more ‘stroll’ in 2012 was decided when my good buddy Col informed me that he had a free night on Monday. (He’s not precious, he works nightshift!) As there was a particular pub I’ve been wanting to try for a while and one I wanted to revisit, I decided that a waddle around Salford was in order (or, at least, a small portion of it.)

Getting off the 37 bus opposite Salford Central train station, I showed Col where 6 (SIX) pubs had been lost since my youth. In order, The Pen & Wig (Wilsons/Websters) on New Bailey Street, The Albert Vaults (Tetley/Free), The Tallow Tub (Chesters) and The Punch Bowl (Tetley/Robinsons) all Chapel Street. Moving into Greengate (as was), I pointed out the former locations of The Three Legs of Man (Robinsons) and The Old Shears (Wilsons) on Greengate. I mention these, because they were all pubs of great character(s) which I frequented when I first started drinking real ale in the early 80s. They were great pubs, dearly missed. 2 of the buildings still stand (Albert Vaults and Punch Bowl) but sadly, never to be warm welcoming pubs again, I fear.

Anyway, reverie over! I chose this slightly convoluted route to another old favourite. One that I hadn’t visited for many years…..

The Eagle (AKA The Lamp Oil Shop)

The Eagle, Salford, Review And Elegy

(Courtesy of http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk)

As I’d told Col, The Eagle was an old friend it took me a long time to find. Located on Collier Street, set back slightly from the Trinity Way inner ring road this is a PROPER Salford back street boozer! Frankly it’s amazing that it is still standing. Back in the day (I HATE that phrase!), it was one of many pubs in the Greengate district.  Once thriving. Now all gone. You could say that The Eagle is truly The Last Bird Standing. The pubs all catered for the factories in the Greengate and Trinity areas. Again, gone. In their place, posh high-rise flats and car parks for the Arena. Progress eh?

Taken on in the last 12 months by the team who renovated The Castle (another old favourite), I was intrigued to see what they had done with it. I was not to be disappointed.

Layout wise, they’ve left well alone. A smart move. A lick of paint in classy subtle warm tones set the scene (that and the Xmas tree being put up!) They’ve made good use of the small back yard and the back room looks better than I had ever seen it before. This is a comforting, warm welcoming pub. As I said earlier a PROPER Salford back street boozer! AND, the smallest pub in the Holt estate (or was).

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Walking into the pub, ‘Is that REALLY Guy Garvey’? Indeed it was, enjoying a chat. Star struck (I’m a sad git!), I didn’t wan’t to say hello for fear of being a bumbling idiot (A 47 year old one at that!). So, Beer choice took over. On the bar, Holts Bitter, Holts Mild, Holts’ winter brew Bah Humbrew and Shepherd Neame Spitfire. The Bah Humbrew having just run out, we settled for 3 pints of Mild. In good nick as well, roasted malt and slightly bitter – Holts Mild as it should be! The pricing seemed slightly high (£2.70 I think), but is more than worth it for supping in what is one of a rapidly diminishing breed. The true back-street pub. It is a classic, sensitively refurbished. Changing little, enhancing much. Nice jukebox as well, bit of folk, bit of reggae. The Eagle in the 80s was renowned for its Juke.

Those aforementioned flats give me hope for the pub. A lot of people live within a coin toss of The Eagle now. I hope they wake up and see the polished gem from their balconies. And patronise it. A classic pub. I’ve had some great times  in The Lamp Oil. I hope to have more. Back soon.

(If I may venture just a slight improvement suggestion? Ditch the Spitfire for a local Micro? There are loads – after all, this IS the team behind The Castle! – A Black Jack, Outstanding, Quantum?)

Having congratulated (who I presumed was) the Landlord on a job well done – apologising to the nice Mr Garvey for interrupting! – we walked past two other lamented pub losses (The Black Friar and The Braziers – Boddingtons) and were generally moving toward Chapel Street. Getting our thirsts back, we decided to pop into….

The Kings Arms

Walking into The Kings, the knitting club was pearling away in the Snug. The main room was quite quiet so we were swiftly served with Facers Porter (Me) and Blackedge American Pale (Jaz & Col). I’d forgotten I’d had the Facers Porter in The Smithfield recently, but never mind eh? Mocha on the nose, coffee and dark roasted malt with a chocolate hint in the mouth. Fairly potent for a ‘school night’ at 5.5%abv, but SO nice! I sampled the Blackedge as well. This had an amped up hop nose with a smoother American hop flavour (amarillo?)

I was gutted to note (too late) that Old Tom was on cask on the bar!


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(A pleasure denied!)

We had a nice chat in The Kings over the beer. A chance to note the other beers on the bar. 2 more from Facers, 1 from Happy Valley and one from Copper Dragon. A nice selection. Weird to see a bar in Salford with 3 from Facers now that they’ve moved from Salford to Flintshire!!!

Some of the decor took my eye. I’ve always loved the 7″ singles covers on the wall from the heyday of punk and New Wave, but the vast number of hotel ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs? Nice!

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By the way. More excellent music. Al Green, The Imposter (Pills & Soap!) Ahhh….we move on, to……

The Salford Arms

Walking silently back in….It WAS quiz night after all! We slid towards the bar (very quietly) with a quick Hello to Tom, we ordered the Iron Gate Stout by Black Iris Brewery. First beer from this brewery for me. I snatched the first pint poured. Just after the second…disaster. Finito! Being the consummate gentleman, Col gave up the pint to Jaz and chose a pint of Hornbeam. The Iron Gate was SUPERB! A lovely smooth coffee roast tinged Stout. Nice and dry. Certainly worth seeking out. Another at 5.5%abv. Possibly sensing our disappointment at the Stout expiring, Tom indulged in some cellar wizardry (barrel tilting!) and conjured up another 3 pints for the team. Nicely done!

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Whilst that was going on, I had a belting chat with The Quizmaster, Dave. A lovely bloke who patently loves a nice pint and a nice pub to drink it in. He loved similar pubs to me and managed to suggest one I am yet to visit, The Molly House. One for the early new year methinks!

A quick chat with Tom reveals more Saltaire soon to come…was that a Triple Chocoholic with CHERRIES!!!!!??? He also has hatched plans with Black Jack to make the house beer Vegan by using alternative finings. Given the Vegan food evenings they have on a Tuesday, an excellent move. They’re serving some excellent beer here. Just remind me when that Saltaire is on! (Defintitely worth the 8 mile bus journey!)

Having had two, it was time to move on. Farewells said, we strode off along Chapel Street to….

The New Oxford

A perennial favourite of both myself and Jaz, but the first time for Col. Again, fairly quiet, bit of rock on the Juke.

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(Beer Heaven Pt 2 – The Bottles)

The usual large selection to choose from. Dark Side wins again with a Townhouse Brewery Barney’s Stout. The usual roasted malt flavours present. Nice enough, but after the series of 5.5%ers, possibly a bit light! I finished off with Hop from Blackedge. Again, possibly suffered from the time of the evening. 3.6% abv not wisest at this late stage. A nice bitter though. Pale, slightly bitter with a balanced flavour and aroma (Bramling Cross hops?). Slightly maltier than I expected (I love to be assaulted by hops!)

A nice end to the stroll, Col and myself headed for the 37 bus (we actually got the 8 and walked!), Jaz probably headed off to a central bar (knowing him!). A good evening, with good company, excellent pubs and excellent beer. Isn’t this how it always should be?

Til next time.

Slainte!