Beer & Music (Pubs with Jukeboxes Pt1) 09/05/2013

Aside from family, my two great passions. Beer and music. To me, they just go together so well. Beans/Toast, Cheese/Onion, Beer/Music. Don’t get me wrong, with social drinking, conversation is the thing. But, a top tune in the background…….The number of times I’ve been in a pub in the last 30 years and said “tune” are innumerable.

Jaz & I were thinking a while back, that whilst the vast majority of the venues we drink in have great tunes, the pub jukebox is dying out in favour of the tastes of the bar staff. Now, when the staff have eclectic tastes that match your own, that’s dandy. But what if they don’t…… It got us to thinking…How many pubs in the City Centre still have Jukes? Let’s call this series of articles a (less than scientific!) ‘survey’!

Before all that, I got a message from my arch-nemesis yesterday morning, telling me that Micro Bar had Dunham Massey’s Chocolate Cherry Mild on. A beer I’d only tasted in bottle once. I promise you faithfully, I REALLY wasn’t intending to sally forth last night, but that was a temptation too much. Oscar Wilde had it right….

Micro Bar

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Micro Bar by name…….No jukebox here. This was a ME moment!  Chocolate Cherry Mild by Dunham Massey Brewery. Given that the brewery is probably 15 miles from my front door, I have had very little of their stuff on draught. This is probably their most famous beer and I had only tried the bottled version (and that was only last week!). Time to fill that gap.

This dark ruby beer instantly filled my hooter with Black Forest Gateau aromas. This carried on in the mouth. Lovely fruity cherry with a dry almost cocoa powder chocolatey flavour. This is a Ronseal of a beer (‘Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin’!), a nice hoppy grassy touch in the aftertaste as well. As good as cherries in beer gets short of being a Kriek.

This was an early start for me, as this bar shuts at 18:30. As its name implies, this bar is indeed small and is the nearest I’m likely to get to a Micro Pub any time soon. That said, they still manage to fit in 5 hand pumps (one being for cider) and a number of craft/keg fonts.

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Within its limited footprint, Micro Bar also manages to fit in a role as a substantial ‘off-licence’! Bottles from around the world with a large proportion being UK sourced. I was seriously tempted to buy the Dark Star Imperial Stout, but….next time, maybe!

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Who’d have thought that such an oasis could exist within the walls of the hideous Manchester Arndale! Food tip. If you’re feeling peckish, there are a lot of take-away vendors of quality on adjoining stalls. Pancho’s Burritos being two stalls away. You can even sit in the bar area AND eat your grub. What more could you ask for?

With shutters dropping around us, the decision was made by others for us to move on…

The Smithfield Bar & Hotel

Smithfield

(pic – courtesy of Google)

The Smithfield has the feel of a local on the edge of the city. It sits four square within the Northern Quarter without actually feeling part of it. When compared with other nearby bars, it certainly is a character apart.

6 or 7 ales on hand pump here. This is as traditional a drinking hole as you’ll find hereabouts with nary a sign of a craft font! Local ales mostly with (I’m advised) a tendency to source beers from breweries rare to the area. Looking across the pumps, I remembered that May is the month during which CAMRA seeks to promote Milds. With that in mind, I opted for Smithfield Mild, brewed for the pub by Facers from Flint, North Wales (formerly of Salford)

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(Facers Mild)

A good choice. Toasty on the nose with a lovely creamy texture and full of roasted malt flavours. 3.3% abv and lots of flavour. The Jukebox leaned heavily on 80s/90s Manchester staples, Joy Division, New Order, happy Monday, Stone Roses etc with an Irish slant via some compilations and a bit of Van Morrison. A good selection, but not the most eclectic you’ll find. Certainly no match for the zany, surreal wallpaper!

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(Not from B&Q I take it!)

For me, one of the standout things in this pub is the presence of a pool table, something you don’t see much of in Town.

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(A rarity)

Given that the pub was fairly quiet, I gave the Juke a miss. The regulars at the bar were friendly enough and I saw no reason to disturb their chatter. After just the one, we moved on, across the road and about 50 yards to…

Bar Fringe

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Now. If you’ve never been here, you need to. Frequently. This is possibly the most eclectically decorated/furnished pub in Manchester. There is no overt attempt to be cool. It just is.

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(Rear toward the ‘beer garden’)

5 handpumps with one for cider.Lots of craft/foreign keg fonts. One rally interesting thing by its absence. Guinness. Replaced by Marstons Oyster Stout. An interesting and welcome touch.

Beer? Continuing with Milds, Midnight Rose by Pennine Brewery at 3.7%. Dark ruby, buttered toast nose. A fruity mouth with more than a hint of damsons/plums. A belting pint. (Not had much by Pennine before). I was hoping to meet the legendary landlady, but more later!

The jukebox? A cracker! Just to have Curtis Mayfield (one of my musical heroes) was a winner for me. Put a few tunes on in here, Freddie’s Dead and You Gotta Have Peace by Curtis and Misty Mountain Hop by Led Zep. Classics all.

The landlady made her presence felt via Twitter by recommending the Ducktor Who by Green Duck Brewery. Who was I to argue?

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(You can glimpse the famous Motor Bike top right!)

A good recommendation. A golden beer with an apricot/grapefruit hoppy nose. Juicy sweet malt with oodles of citrussy American hoppy flavours. At this point, a female cyclone blew through the room, chatting to the regulars. The famous landlady, known to Twitter as Banana Charlie! To say the least, she left an impression! Top lady, top bar.

20130509_203015(Gratuitous decor shot!)

This is another bar where you can source some hitherto unseen beers. Tonight, Great Yarmouth Brewing CompanyDNA‘. A 3.8% pale hoppy brew from Norfolk. Am informed by the mighty Nate Dawg that this is a new set up in the seaside town. I had a sneaky sip and it was nice indeed. I’d have had another one, but another juke was calling!

The Castle

Castle

(pic – Beerintheevening.com)

Walking down Oldham Street from Great Ancoats St, it was difficult to miss the space where a recent fire burned down a huge premises a few doors up from this pub.

There was daylight as we approached to pub entrance. Walking in was like being back in the womb. Dark reds, warm, comforting. It was that dark you could imagine this being a vampires lair. Anyway, there was a band on and it was busy. Notwithstanding that, we got served quickly and Jaz grabbed a seat whilst I scoped the Juke.

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(Where the magic happens!)

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(Spooky!)

Another cracker this. For my £1, Prince ‘Sign O’ The Times’, Talking Heads ‘Take Me To The River’ and Ray Charles’ ‘What’d I Say Pts 1 & 2’. Aural class! First beer, Another mild, this time a 4.8% fruity number from Titanic called Nautical Mild. This was almost as plummy as their Plum Porter! Dark, fruity with a nice dryness to the finish.

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(The selection)

My tunes finished. Then some genius located Bloodbuzz Ohio by The National! The High Violet album on a Juke? I had to leave to calm down! Great album!

I’ve loved The Castle for over 30 years. Good to see it thriving and new generations of drinkers enjoying its charms. 9 handpumps on the bar too!

I was up for more Jukes, but that would’ve taken us to the other side of town (and Jaz was feeling lazy!) so, the lesser of evils, we popped for some good tunes, just no Juke, to…

The Crown & Kettle

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Assured of a good pint & good tunage in here. Beer? Another mild for me with Stokers Slake from Three Bs Brewery of Blackburn. A smooth Dark Mild with lots of roasted malt flavours and a slight smoky touch. Mmmm….. Walking in to the strains of Janis Joplin “Another Piece of My Heart” was a bonus. Misleading though as most of the following tracks had a distinct 80s bias. Modern Love by Bowie (a favourite – great circular chorus), Dancing With Myself by Generation X…..A little Joni Mitchell with Big Yellow Taxi gave a little 60s seasoning.

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(Gratuitous Ceiling Shot!)

Good beer, beautiful pub. An architectural gem. (A gorgeous back room too). I like this place. A lot.

Jaz now wanted to put his feet up and relax in his front room. His front room being….

The Port Street Beer House

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(Last nights cask offerings)

By now, you should all know what you get here! Craft beers in both cask and keg, reliably tasty and served by staff who drink them themselves and know what they are talking about. Simple eh? They do this stuff well. Which is why they’re always busy.

It isn’t an architectural gem like The C&K, but it does it’s job. Tonight, in the absence of a mild, I went local for American Amber Ale by Quantum Brewing from Stockport.

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(Mr Krause. Amber my arse!)

Jay Krause does some great things with hops. But if that’s an amber beer, I need to go to Specsavers! What it is, is a nose full of beautiful hoppy aromas. Dark ruby coloured (as you can see!), a mouth full of lovely malt with some licorice hop overtones. Only thing to add was it was probably my pint of the night!

A nightcap Mr Jazwinski? Oh, I shouldn’t really! But if you insist, a 1/2 pint of Ageless by Redwillow please!

I’ve only had this in bottle previously and it knocked me off my feet. A double IPA full of grapefruit citrus joy. Pineapple as well. Joy! The same in the mouth with resinous notes. So good, I had to have another 1/2!

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(Coming soon to an architectural marvel near you!)

Now Jaz is lucky. He only has to stumble 100 yards to his door, whereas I need the assistance of First Transport! So, off to Piccadilly with me for that old favourite. The last bus!

On that note…..’til next time…..

Slainte!

Manchester NQ – 16/01/2013

Midweek Beer in the Northern Quarter

Sub zero in Manchester. What kind of fool would want to travel to Manchester for a pint in such cold? You guessed it!

Stepping into The Marble Arch on Rochdale Road, you stand for a moment to drink in all of the original features of this unique pub. The glazed tile walls, Victorian fireplace, lovely ornate bar, the ‘ski slope’ descent to the bar! (It takes some believing!)

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(A grand entrance!)

My intention was to drink just Manchester area beers, but that died on my breath as there was a beer waiting for me from Hand Drawn Monkey in Huddersfield! So, that was that!

Pale Ale Experiment #2, (the said beer) is a 4% abv pale refreshing and lightly bitter ale. Moving onto the ‘Dark Side’, I had to try the Marble Brewery Stouter Stout and revel in its satanic blackness! Dry, creamy and earthy, with some gentle charred coffee bitterness.  Mmmmm…..

I do like a little stroll, so, wandering down Rochdale Road, past the site of the former Pot of Beer (an old friend!) we approached The Angel.

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Somewhat overlooked by the huge new Co-Op HQ, The pub has a restaurant upstairs with a good reputation and the pub itself has had a few rebirths over the years, but is now settled as a free-house

Always guaranteed an eclectic selection in here. Open plan in an L shape with the bar on the left, the room has a peculiar (and unique, for Manchester) feature. A baby grand piano!

20130116_202440[1] (Fancy a tinkle?)

Quite quiet in here with some nice background music, I settled down to a nice pint of Culloden Stout from BrewHouse Brewery at 5.6% abv. Dry, slightly bitter with a hint of vanilla. The pub has around 7 beers on at any one time and frequently has some hard to find gems.

Moving on, we crossed over Rochdale Rd and popped into The Smithfield on Swan St, another pub with an unusual feature for the city centre, a pool table!

20130116_205637[1](A City Centre rarity!)

Another open plan pub, this has a small square mezzanine with some ‘shabby chic’ comfy chairs (VERY comfy!) and has an arrangement of comfy chairs located at the end around the large screen TV (for Sports). This has the feel (and clientele) of a true ‘local’ pub and is very friendly.

The usual good selection of beers on show, I opted for a beer from Bury, namely Deeply Vale ‘Still Walking’ bitter. 3.8% abv, a nicely balanced beer with lots of flavour and a clean dry finish.

Bar Fringe up next, as eclectic as you want it to be! There is always a decorative surprise in here (as well as a decent beer or two!) The Mezzanine Motorbike being a personal favourite!

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(Eclectic Decoration – Fringe Style!)

A nice pale and hoppy Frost Giant from Sadlers Brewery in the West Midlands at 3.8%abv was the choice in here. I do like friendly bar staff, and the gravelly voice bloke behind the pumps certainly was that! Normally 2 or 3 ales on in here, with a large array of draught Belgian and German beers.

On this bitterly cold night, the next walk was short, across Oldham Road to The Crown & Kettle.

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A beautiful building inside & out. High ceilings and ornate details. 3 distinct rooms in here, a main room, small off room and a snug to the rear. Some nice classical prints on the walls. My preference is for the small room just off the bar area with a nice coal-effect fire.

Now warming up, I enjoyed a Peerless Brewery Hop Nob at 3.8% abv a pale, quite malty beer with some subtly flavoursome hops in there. Some soft soul music in the background, nice!

Finally, The Castle on Oldham Street. The only pub I’ve ever been refused service – a LONG time ago – by an old misery landlord! Times have changed! This pub is an old friend and has undergone a transformation in the last two years. The large rear room is now a performance space and the upstairs has been opened up into another public room.

The pub has a large selection of Robinson’s beers and some interesting guests. Tonight, I had a Lurcher Stout at 4.8% by Green Jack Brewery from Lowestoft. Smooth, creamy and lush! Chocolate flavours from the dark roasted malt and subtly smoky. And more friendly bar staff! A nice end to the evening.

Now then, where did I park that bus?

‘Til next time.

Slainte!

Manchester – A Festival of Festivals – 25/01/2013

The last National Winter Ale Festival in Manchester*. I had to go, didn’t I? Rumour started to get back about a number of pubs in Town having their own mini-fests…….working on the basis that you can NEVER have too much. of a good thing, my Yoda, Jaz, tried to do the lot! Including The New Oxford (Technically in Salford)

So, accounting for that little technicality, I started my effort to visit all those in Manchester in the Micro Bar in the Manchester Arndale Centre.

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I HATE the Arndale. Always have. From the days when i roamed its walkways as a school kid, checking bargains in Bostocks Records. The Arndale is a soulless testament to the worst that mammon can throw down.

However, tucked away in the corner, butting onto the multi-story car park carousel is the Market Hall. This place is almost the antithesis of its host. Local traders and providers on little market stalls. Fresh food, take-aways and…..The Micro Bar!

Run by the guys behind Boggart Brewery, an aley oasis. 5 handpumps. 3 Craft/keg fonts and, this week, a mini beer festival (30 ales)! It would have been SO rude not to!

A friendly bunch of people at Micro. A brief chat with the nice young lady who (i think) does the tweeting and I got the chance to speak with Mark Dade (aka The Boss!). Top bloke. A chat about the way ‘the business’ of beer works provided me with some insights.

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The beer? Arbor Ales Triple Hop Series at 4% and their own Boggart Extra Rum Porter at 6.5% (aged for 6 months!). The Arbor is a pale beer from the barrel, nice and hoppy, one for a repeat. But not today eh?

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Now, the Extra Rum Porter!

Smells of Rum & Coke – dangerously so. Lots of roasted malt, quite bitter, like a dry stout more than a porter, i thought. Sweetness from the Rum and some molasses and burnt sugar/caramel comes through. Lovely, but a good job I’m only having the one!

A little note about a food vendor adjacent to Micro Bar called Panchos Burritos. Had a superb Chicken Burrito which I ate at the bar in Micro. £5. Excellent, tasty and great value. Also a superb match for the Extra Rum Porter!

The Micro Bar fest has ALL the beers priced at 3 quid a pint! Get in tomorrow and take advantage. Excellent beer at excellent value.

Now on to The Smithfield and Leg No 2. Caveman Brewery Citra at 4.1% and Oates Brewery – OMT at 3.8.

The Smithfield is one of those Manchester pubs that just FEELS like a proper local. Quiet today though, which is a shame because they do seem to procure beers that no-one else does. For instance, I’ve never seen/had Caveman beers before. Having said that, I can’t complain. At least I have a seat!

The OMT is pale at 3.8% and tastes like a light mild, not much bitterness but some nice gentle malty stuff going on here. That said, some bitterness and dryness in the aftertaste. Hey, I CAN be wrong you know! The beer was slightly warm and may have been first from the pump. Still a nice refreshing beer.

The Caveman Citra at 4.1% has all the usual citra hop characteristics, tropical hop aroma, some citrus pineapple and grapefruit flavours, pale beer with sharp dry finish. Can someone please explain to me why this bar is so quiet? The value at 2.60 for two halves is extraordinary!

Next up, The Crown & Kettle on the junction of Great Ancoats St and Oldham Road (A62).

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(As a photographer, I make a damn fine drinker!)

This is (architecturally) one of Manchesters’ gems. A gorgeous (presumably) listed building, dating from the 1840s with loads of original details (described on house hunt programmes as ‘period features’!).

20130125_142020[1](Digging that chandelier!)

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(The room behind the bar)

5 ales on handpump out front, with more in the covered courtyard out the back (will check later)

First taste, Bear Ass from Beartown Brewery. Brown beer at 4%. Berries on the nose. So far….. Then BANG! Loads of fruit flavour where bitterness was expected. Tremendously surprising. Initially, I thought red berries, but now definitely some blackcurrant (no doubt Beartown will correct me on that!)

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Next beer is Onyx from Sandstone Brewery at 4%. Black with a tan coloured head. a fairly light Stout . Full bodied and a creamy texture, with some bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. First time brewery for me, again.

Having checked the ‘Outside’ bar (not set up until 15:00, I decided that now was the time for some serious girding of the loins. Off to The Winter Ales Festival!

This used to be held, more centrally, at the New Century Hall near Victoria Train Station. However, it has now been at The Sheridan Suite (approx 1 1/2 miles up the Oldham Rd for a few years. *For reasons best known to CAMRA bigwigs, it’s off to Derby next year (BOO!)

I had been on Wednesday evening with Jaz. Wednesday / Thursday being probably the best days to go, as they are a little less packed and you can walk around without knocking into people all the time.

The beer on Wednesday was little ‘hit & miss’ for me. Some of it was actually quite warm, which is disappointing. Let’s be honest, it isn’t as if this was the first time this festival had been held!

In my (humble!) opinion, the three best beers that I had on Wednesday were (in no particular order)

Allgates – Double Espresso (4.4% abv) – A black stout with a strong coffee aroma, more subtly coffee in the mouth with a nice dry bitter finish.

Bridestones – Vanilla Porter (4.8% abv) – Black with lots of sweet vanilla aroma. Full bodied with some vanilla sweetness balanced by a dry finish.

Cheshire Brewhouse – Engine Vein (4.2% abv) – A really nicely balanced hoppy bitter with a gentle smokiness in the aftertaste.

Not to forget my nightcap of choice at Port Street later – Hawkshead NZPA – 6% of massive hops. Mmmmm…..

Back to Friday!

The Sheridan Suite is, quite simply, a cubic lump of concrete. Uninspiring and utilitarian. To be frank, it wouldn’t have looked out of place as a 70s Sports Halle in East Berlin!!! (Enough Prince Charles critique……!). However, my daughter does occasionally work there and tells me that the owners are excellent friendly people. So there! (Her words)

I got there at about 3:15 and the place wasn’t TOO full. Up the escalator and into the main hall, the majority of the ales were arranged around the perimeter, in roughly alphabetical order. The major exception to this was “The Champions Bar” where the beers in the Champion Winter Ale competition were hosted, set apart from the rest. Maybe I’m just a touch, err, thick, but this layout / format confuses me. There’s simply TOO MUCH going on. It takes a while to spot the beer that you want to try and by the time you find it, it’s gone!

I don’t know what the answer is. Or even if I’m alone in this. I find the format tired. The Leeds International and The IndyManBeerCon were just SO much more logical and housed in gorgeous surroundings….I’m getting opinionated and boring (I know) so…moving swiftly on….

The beers were priced generally aligned to the alcoholic strength, from £1.30 a half to over £2 for some of the more stupidly intoxicating offerings…..Baz’s Bonce Blower….Oh please no……Can’t we get rid of the most stupid names?

The staff are mostly CAMRA volunteers and to be fair, were a really friendly helpful bunch.

The beer….

Firstly I had Liverpool Stout by Liverpool Organic – (4.3% abv) – This was a black stout which (I thought) was slightly sweet, like a less lactic Milk Stout. I expected something more dry and assertive, but pleasant enough.

2. 13 Guns by Daniel Thwaites – (5.5% abv) – I may need to reassess Thwaites. This was a cracking IPA. A bit of a hop monster aroma, but more gently hoppy in the mouth, certainly more smooth and rounded than the aroma indicated, a surprising beer and one of the weeks best for me.

20130125_173046[1](Starting to get busy now!)

3. Dry Stone Stout by Hawkshead – (4.5% abv) – Not as assertively roasted as I hoped. A smooth gentle roasted flavour, slight chocolate with a subtly smoked aftertaste.

4. Siberia by Ilkley / Melissa Cole (Collaboration) – (5.9% abv) – If you’ve read this blog before – and my eulogising of this great beer – I had this simply because I could, OK! Hazy, wheaty, slight sourness with some lovely rhubarb taste. A stunning beer. Anybody who says different……I’ll see you in the car park! OK!

5. Venus Ella by Prospect Brewery – (3.8% abv) – This is one of a series of collaborations by a trans-atlantic alliance of Brewsters (lady brewers – to the uninitiated, like me!). A nice pale bitter beer with a substantially hoppy aroma with more body than a 3.8% should have. A really nice beer. A contender for beer of the week (A pale beer? Am i going soft?)

6. (And finally) – Fireside Porter by Ilkley – (4.2% abv) – Another beer with plenty of body / texture for the light strength. Lovely roasted flavours and another with a gentle smokiness lasting into the dry finish.

Moment of the week? The threats of biblical retribution posited toward the (believed) women who were thieving the soap from the ladies toilets. (Along with the implied threat of body searches! Classic!!!)

Beer of the week. A close one. For the Darks – Allgates Espresso probably just shades it. For the Pales – Prospect Venus Ella, which surprised me.

Jaz and I (of course he was there!) left (into a blizzard!) and popped into a few pubs on the return journey. Checked out the bar at the back of the Crown and Kettle and had a (cold) Detention by Old School Brewery (OSB) – a nice amber coloured bitter, just too cold!

Then, The Castle. We went upstairs to drink our Roosters Humble Pie – a pale slightly hoppy beer -What a great job they’ve done in opening up the upstairs. A really nicely decorated room which more than makes up for the space lost to the “performance” room.

Finally, onto Soup Kitchen. Only one beer on, but Privateer Brewery – Dark Revenge. This was as good as I remembered it. A strong mild at 4.5%, the lovely chocolaty dark malt flavours revived my (by now) jaded palate! Nicely busy, with Some excellent tunage being spun (on vinyl) by the DJ!

At this point, I waved the white flag and set off home. However, I grabbed the opportunity for a swift half of Salford Arms Ale by Black Jack in the……..(where was I again?)….ah, yes, The Salford Arms. Nice and hoppy. There was a band setting up at the far end. However, it was a swift half, unfortunately. Raising the White Flag again, I jumped the 37 bus to home.

Do you ever have those semi-drunken conversations on a bus? (So it’s not just me then!) Tonight, I was talking to a bloke. Nice beer related conversation. The bloke was formerly from Swinton, but more latterly had migrated to Saffron Walden in Essex.It turned out that he was the Brewery Liaison Officer for North West Essex CAMRA! I’ll be e-mailing Richard the blog address – of course!

‘Snowmageddon’ was now blanketing North Manchesters’ suburbs in a thick white quilt. The 37 bus struggled along the route, eventually depositing me opposite my igloo. Donning my snowshoes, I crossed the glacier and opened the front  door with the immortal words “Hi Honey (hic), I’m home!”

On that note (and reaching for the tub of Andrews’)….Til next time!

Slainte!

Impromptu Stroll Northern Quarter 01/12/2012

As the week drew to a close, the yearning for draught beer grew stronger. Finally, on Saturday evening, I could stand the drought no longer. Being able to resist anything except temptation the Oracle was consulted and tea-leaves were read. The stars aligned over Manchester. But where? A quick word with your friend and mine, indicated a meeting place of….The French Xmas Market on King Street. What MADNESS was this? A bar, with no real ale!

Not only that, but KRONENBOURG! Needless to say, having braved herds of people and the chill air, I plumped for a swift Vin Chaud avec Cognac (get Moi!). However, there was only so much Allo Allo accentry I could prendre, so, the metaphorical shepherds crook was wielded, the madding crowds were braved and we found ourselves hiking across town toward Le Quartier de Nord (ENOUGH FRANGLAIS!!!) and approached……

The Angel

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As with everything else in Manchester this mad evening, it was crammed with bibulous humanity. It was quite a feat to reach the bar, but, after some weaving about we got there. The usual fine selection of beers were present (including an intriguing Black Isle Stout at 10.6% abv!). However, for the first beer of the evening, I chose a beer from Liverpool Organic – Shipwreck IPA at 6.5%. This was a big beer. A sturdy malt base overlaid with huge tropical hop flavours, mango? Grapefruit? Very assertive and very moreish. Not a beer to trifle with but hugely enjoyable. Another brewery producing an exceptional range of beers. (Kitty Wilkinson Stout being a personal favourite!). Jaz had a Culloden Oatmeal Stout by Beer House Brewery. It looked lovely (and tasted mighty fine – so I’m told!)

I wanted more. I wanted a half of that Black Isle Stout! But the bar was thronged. So, disappointed, we strode off toward…..

The Smithfield

(pic courtesy of http://www.the-smithfield-hotel.co.uk)

It was almost a year to the day, the last time I’d been in the Smithfield. Too long. Often bypassed en-route to other bars. No longer. The Smithfield has the feel of a welcoming Salford local. The kind of local I wish I had near me. A wide selection of beers, including a house beer by Facers (formerly of Salford, now of Flintshire, North Wales). As we walked in, a game of pool was going, the Italian Football (the Turin Derby, as you’re asking!) was on telly and a couple next to us were serenading us (unbidden!). Facers Porter was my choice in here. A dark brown beer at 5.5% abv, a slightly sweet start gave way to fruity dark roasted malt, the sweetness tending toward a mocha coffee kind of thing. A nice pint in a lovely friendly boozer. Certainly worth a visit. Onward we go…….

Bar Fringe

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Every time I go into The Fringe, more quirkiness reveals itself! From the breweriana on the ceiling (see above, literally!) to the Green Man wall hanging and the Motorbike on the ledge (see previous visit), The Fringe never fails to please. Great Jukebox doing sterling work again, the bar got very full as soon as Jaz and I got served. A pint of Prescott Ruby Stout was order of the day. A dark brown, rather that jet black, smooth roasted flavour was had. Didn’t catch the strength, but approx 4.5%. A very nice pint indeed.

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(Design – Bar Fringe. Pic – Yours Truly!)

I love The Fringe. Would gladly have stayed for more, but it was getting busy. And, how could this be a ‘stroll’ without moving on…..

The Crown & Kettle

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A short walk from The Fringe, just across Oldham Road. A gem of a different hue. Another well stocked bar, plenty of choice. But, you know me. When The Dark Side calls, I submit totally. On this occasion, Peerless Oatmeal Stout from the Wirral.

A 5% abv Stout. A lovely smooth flavour, dark roasted with a hint of sweetness from the oatmeal. Another excellent beer from Peerless. I took my time enjoying its dark pleasures whilst a fabulous musical selection washed over me. Somebody working tonight had an obvious love of Northern Soul! Bobby Hebb, Marvin Gaye, Frankie Valli……

Jaz advised me to have a little look around. Once I’d taken my eyes off the poster featuring the stunning Christina Hendricks, the architecture of this great pub was glorious. Vaulted ceilings, Stained glass. This is a gorgeous building housing 3 separate drinking rooms, each room having a different feel.

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20121201_212214[1]   (I love a nice feature…or 2)

Finishing the Peerless. We headed in the general direction of Port Street to check out a rumour that 3 Magic Rock ales (including the immense Dark Arts) were on. However, that’s a long walk. And I’m sure you’ll have concerns about dehydration (as did we!), so a stop at……

Soup Kitchen ……was prescribed – medicinal purposes of course! Quite busy here on Spear St! But getting to the bar was easy enough. It didn’t take long to select a pint of Dark Star Old Chestnut. 4%abv. Not a Stout, not a Porter, not a Mild. Hmmm……Is this a Brown Ale? A darkish brown beer, an initial slight sweetness gave way to something much more mysterious. Some slight bitterness. Couldn’t quite place this one in a category. A very nice ale nonetheless from an excellent brewery. (Espresso Stout anyone?)

Now then. Off to Port Street. Disaster! I followed a couple of lads heading for the door and No Entry! The place was heaving. Slightly deflated at no Magic Rock…. we headed for pastures new…at least for me.

Kosmonaut

(Needless to say, courtesy of  http://www.kosmonaut.co)

As stated. I was a Kosmonaut virgin. Up the steps into the bar. Excellent tuneage pumping out. Proper Saturday night feel. Jaz slotted straight in at the bar. Nice friendly staff. Excellent vibe generally.

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2 bottles of Goose Island Matilda were soon to hand. described as a strong Belgian ale, this had echoes of a fine wheaty beer to me, a bit of coriander and clove on the tongue. Possibly deceptive, as I was drinking from the bottle. Nice beer though.

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(Anyway, back to those friendly bar persons!)

On seeking the facilities, a whole new level opened up! Downstairs, as well as the loos, there is another room with loads of space down there. This is one excellent venue. Apparently, they do excellent food as well. Like a certain Austrian exile “I’ll be back”.

We tried our luck back at Port Street. Jaz went first this time and entry was gained. Busy, as you would expect. Just enough time to wolf a pint of Magic Rock Dark Arts. Now officially my favourite beer and a more than adequate night cap! Deep dark roast, by turn buttery toast and coffee roast, full of flavour and dangerously, dangerously alluring and moreish! Unfortunately I had a bus to catch.

Back to the 37 bus and back to that beer desert that is Farnworth. Ticket shown, iPod on…..home.

Next day, no wallet…….bugger!

With that……Til next time…..

Slainte!