Allgates Brewery – The Road To Wigan Beer – 04/10/2014

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“It’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I have to make my way back home,

standing here in this old depot, waiting for my train to come on,

so come on train……”

(“Come On Train” – Don Thomas – Clip courtesy of “The 45s Club” via YouTube)

One of my all time favourite tunes, never mind just Northern Soul. From a former member of The Drifters, this is a dance floor classic, a Northern Soul floor filler that I never tire of hearing. It has that trick of many great tunes of just…building. Building momentum, building sound. That middle eight “Moving….down the track….got to get….my baby back….” Just bloody….moving. Has had this particular large fella shaking many a floor (never mind a “tail feather”) Used to great effect in 2009 in an ad for Visa cards. Have a listen. Feel that swelling sound, from the initial plaintive piano notes, the initial drum roll, the plucked strings to the blast of the trumpets….just bloody….soulful.

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley” So said Rabbie Burns in 1785 in his poem “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough” And how right he was!

This planned jaunt took several forms in the planning stages and was originally intended for the previous weekend. However, that excellent Sussex-based blogger Glenn Johnson had re-scheduled his illness blighted trip from earlier in the year. That was my priority, as much as I love the Allgates bus “crawl”. Then, the Allgates bus was cancelled until the next weekend. BONUS!!!

So, monitoring the Allgates Brewery Twitter account like a ravenous hawk, I awaited confirmation of the details……and waited….only to see a tweet in apology. Bus was fine, but no driver!!! Damn those fates! I NEEDED a day away from the stresses of planning The Independent Slaford (or even Salford!) Beer Festival………There was only one thing for it then….

DIY. On public transport.

Now then. Some of these pubs are damned slow to get to by bus. So the first leg of this journey started at Manchester Victoria (Arch-Nemesis – who else?) and Walkden (YT). The destination? Gathurst. First stop after Wigan Wallgate on the Southport line.

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The first mis-judgement of the day? No raincoat. Fortunately, the (rather picturesque) walk along the Leeds-Liverpool canal was wet, both overhead and under foot! The area had just received its first significant rainfall for ages and was…a touch mucky!

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Now then, having said that I needed a break from the planning of a certain beer festival, I get a call from a brewer (who shall remain unnamed, let’s call him…..Rob) with a beer proposition. he threw me a beery curve ball. But I was a) thirsty. b) thirsty and c)……. in short, I needed that first beer! And we were only half way to the destination!

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The Crooke Hall Inn (Crooke Village, Wigan)

This really IS a delightfully located pub, situated in Crooke Village, a conservation area. With tables on the banks of the Leeds-Liverpool and a large marina just around the corner, it’s a beautiful spot. We’ve had quite a few Sunday dinners here with the kids and they love it so much they almost rip my hand off if I offer to drive over! (As long as Attila drives back……)

The A-N & I were (unsurprisingly) first in (we were there 10 mins early!) and shambled towards the bar….

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Bad Seed Brewery – Waimea Pale Ale – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale (Love the pump clip!)

With an almost amber colour, this beer took no prisoners as a first beer of the day. It didn’t last too long either! Peach and passion fruit in both nose and mouth, this was an assertively bitter beastie and no mistake, with one hell of a dry finish! My first cask beer from this most excellent Malton based brewery and it most certainly didn’t disappoint!

The Crooke really is a lovely pub, with three distinctly separate rooms, great, reasonably priced food and that fabulous location…

Two decisions. Food? And next beer…. The Beer battered Fish for me with something from a new brewery to me….

Longman BreweryAmerican Pale Ale – 4.8% abv – Pale Ale

This pale golden beer was fruity but maltier than I expected. With blackcurrant and citrus on the nose and quite fruity with that big malty base, it stood up well to the astringent preceding Waimea and went superbly with the excellent Fish & Chips! Next up, with 5 ales on the pumps, I went for the other guest beer.

Magic Rock BrewingRingmaster – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale

I’d had one or two less than sparkling pints of this since it was rebadged from its Curious days. This, however, was right back on the mark! Light Pale gold, big and fruity with a lot of hop going on this was back to its Curious best. A cracking beer to finish with, standing up well to both of the preceding – higher abv – beers. A proper session pale ale.

Now, with a couple of leisurely hours spent at The Crooke, we were under the gun a bit, so a brisk muddy walk back to Gathurst and the rattler back to Wigan Wallgate to stop number 2 which was….

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(Archive shot!)

The Anvil (Dorning Street, Wigan – adj to Wigan Bus Stn)

What is effectively the Allgates brewery tap manages to have the feel of a multi-roomed pub, without having any doors. Light and bright, with three separate drinking areas, this is one popular and busy pub. I’ve been in on several occasions and never seen it quiet. Justly renowned for the quality of its beers, this pub is a multiple award winner and a CAMRA Good Beer Guide staple. A thriving pub. It was here that I got another pleasant surprise with the beer selection…..

Cheshire Brewhouse – John Barleycorn Green Hop Temptress – 4.0% abv – Pale Ale

This man makes good beer. Shane Swindells that is. I was chuffed to bits to get my hands on this especially when it went down my throat! It was pale gold, with a slight haze. A beautiful fresh fruity & refreshing pale ale with a little spice hit in the finish. Beautiful. (A welcome surprise!)

Longman BreweryCopper Hop – 4.2% abv – Amber Ale

Another one from this Litlington brewery (in the South Downs National Park), seeing them all too infrequently, I had to have it, didn’t I?

Copper coloured beer, fruity on the old hooter, a nice fruity bitter beer with a toffee malt backbone. A beautifully balancing bitterness. A proper nice beer.
Being only two minutes walk from Wallgate train station, this pub is worth a trip to Wigan itself (will only get better, with the opening of Wigan Central – new Prospect bar run by Dan & Gina Buck – next month!)
Time to move on and test both my planning skills and the timeliness of Arriva Buses! The 575 to Aspull….and….
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The Victoria (Haigh Rd, Aspull, Wigan)
To walk in and find that the landlord is a City fan just topped off this visit! A top chatty bloke too, as were the regulars at the bar. A two-roomed pub with (what appeared to be) a traditional “Lounge” & “Vault” layout, again in cracking good nick, this is a lovely boozer that I would be chuffed to have as my local. The beer happens to be cracking as well….
Black Jack Beers – Curse of Mexico  – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale
A cracking pint. That good, I had to have another! Pale Ale almost copper colour, with a really fruity peachy tropical aroma, Light toffee malt for balance, and beautifully bitter, loads of tropical fruit. A Brucie bonus this beer, was a new one on the Arch-Nemesis as well!
It made a change to see The Victoria in daylight, as it constitutes the last stop on the organised bus trip. Being less “refreshed”, I could appreciate this for the cracking local that it is. Another bonus was realising that it was reachable from Bolton on a single bus…the 575…that conveniently goes through the beery hot spot of Horwich! Needless to say…I’ll be back!
Back into the rain we went, without a raincoat, for the return to Wigan and the next leg, catching the 32 bus to Hindley (via a swift half in The Anvil (rude NOT to really. What with time to kill between buses!)
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The Hare & Hounds (Ladies Lane, Hindley)
Leaving aside the walk from Gathurst to The Crooke, the walk from the bus stop was the longest we faced – about 7-8 mins – but to get to my favourite pub, was time (& effort) well spent. I simply adore this pub. There may be pubs in Manchester that I visit more frequently, but this stands head and shoulders above them. Why? Because it is, quite simply, a community local that also happens to have a cracking partnership (Nigel & Adele) running it and keeping great beer in cracking nick.
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A two-roomer without having actual doors, the bar to the right upon entry with six  pumps with the usual mix of Allgates’ own and excellent guests. Lovely real open fire in the other room. Unfortunately no Nigel or Adele today, but the same friendly welcome,
Time was passing. Only time for one and a half in here.
Cwrw Ial Brewery (Eryrys, Mold) – Haf Gwyn – 4% abv – Extra Pale Ale
A pale cracker of a beer! Mango and grapefruit aromas leaping from the white head on that pale golden body, the fruity promise was delivered in the mouth. Bucket loads of citrus on top of a light pale biscuity body. A belter of a beer. I had another. Again, rude not to really!
This is the stage of the trek where the forward planning for the bus timetables paid dividends – YOU try interpreting TFGMs bus leaflet library after a “few” beers on a mobile phone!
The 33 bus was the selected chariot. Therefore, following an 8 minute walk and an uneventful 20 minute bus ride, we were in our fifth port of call….
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The Union Arms (Castle Street, Tyldesley)
Despite the signage, this is most certainly an Allgates pub. It would be a rare Thwaites pub to have such an adventurous guest beer policy! (Certainly outside of its Blackburn heartland)
Whilst technically a two-roomed pub (one of the rooms wrapping around the bar) this has five distinct drinking areas, A Vault style area to the left of the entrance, two areas to the rear of the pub which link the main room to the Vault and an elevated area in the main room which is used mainly for eating (this pub also does excellent value grub). pub looks way better inside!
We may have had some more grub at this stage….memory fails me!
Tiny Rebel Brewery (Newport, S Wales) – One Inch Punch – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale
Golden. Tropical, almost peachy nose, fruity as hell in a smooth full bodied mouthful, loads of mango and none too bitter in the finish. With the taste buds starting to flag a bit, this was a bloody lovely refreshing livener.
Technically, The Union is my closest Allgates pub. I really should go more often.
The next leg of the journey was made slightly more complex by our missing the designated bus (582) and having to go on a two bus journey with the 33 to Astley then the 26 to Leigh. Needless to say, by the time we got there, I had started to wilt – just a little!
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The White Lion (Leigh Road, Leigh)
One of two Allgates pubs to be a CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year in 2014 (the other being The Crooke). This three roomed pub is another belter. The bar and busy main room is to the right on entry with two rooms to the left with the quieter being to the rear close to the Gents. Allgates have had this since 2011 and, with its beer selection, it is justifiably popular.
The problem here was nothing to do with the pub. It was me. Good grief was I flagging. I had a nice pint of something dark. But made no note so have no idea what it was! What kind of blogger am I, eh?
Reachable from Manchester by X34 & 26 buses (Leigh, tragically, has no train station – the largest town in England without one apparently!) and the 582 from Bolton – passing both The Union and the other Allgates pub The Jolly Nailor – the prices of the beer (as well as the selection) reward the intrepid traveller!
One more point. The buses. With only one exception (the last leg in Astley where the bus was SERIOUSLY late), the buses were all on time. We’d never have got to The White Lion otherwise!
Ah. Those prices….Just consider the beers we drank. Then think of all those beers being at around the £2.40 mark. That’s right, £2.40! No CAMRA or membership discount scheme. Just straight prices! You’d get a HALF in some Manchester pubs at that price!!!
I’m assured by young David Mayhall (Co-Owner of Allgates) that the bus will be back on the menu at Easter. All I will say is, you’d be daft to miss it! A £4 odd train ticket return to Wigan is a small price to pay for what is, in (not just) MY humble opinion, a grand beery day out! (You’d save that amount after 3 pints!!!)
Go on. Where’s your sense of adventure? Treat your taste buds and feast your eyes on some cracking pubs!
On that note…’til next time…
Slainte!

 

 

Bottled Ales – May 2014 – Pt 3

“Just out of Monday, I run into a friend down the street, down the street where I live.

Sad things begin. I could feel from within from the message, from the message he had to give  about a buddy of mine. 

He run out of time, his life run out of time
Somebody past noon, shot across the room and now the man no longer lives”

(“Billy Jack” – Curtis Mayfield)

(Video clip courtesy of “Geepereet” on YouTube)

Curtis Mayfield is one of my all-time musical heroes, a musical giant. A man who was tragically disabled in an accident whilst rehearsing on stage in 1990.The fact that he was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame ( a rare “double inductee” – having been inducted with The Impressions in 1991) on the same day as Paul McCartney, should indicate the massive influence the man had on popular music.

If you know a single Mayfield track, the chances are that it will be “Move On Up”, a song that is simply a soul/funk classic. However, it was arguably one of his lesser works. A man who was writing and recording in the 50s at the start of the Civil Rights struggles. A man who wrote the all-time classic “People Get Ready”, performed with his ban “The Impressions”. I could eulogise all night about songs like “Choice of Colours”,”This is My Country” Civil Rights era classics, delivered in his sweet falsetto.

His most famous album was arguably the soundtrack to the Blaxploitation movie Superfly (incidentally, a bloody great film!), notable for it’s social commentary, rather than a glorification of gangster life. For me though, his greatest achievement was the recording of his final album “New World Order”. The man was a truly great guitar player, but paralysed, no guitar playing here. The sheer effort of will to record your lyrics line by line whilst lying on your back…a heroic effort.

Did I mention that he was almost the OKEH records house songwriter (or so it seemed!), that he wrote masses of songs for other Chicago artists, so much so that there are compilations of songs that he wrote for others? That if James Brown is “The Godfather of Soul” then Curtis should be called “The Godfather of Funk”?

I love the man and his music – all thanks to a special man called Phil – who persuaded me as to the greatness of the man. And he WAS great.

(Recommended albums – in order of release date: Superfly, New World Order)

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. Devils RestBurning Sky Beer (Brighton, Sussex) – 6.5% abv – IPA – £3.59 (330ml) – 10% for 12 btls or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

A lively deep amber coloured beer, well carbonated, with a big white head and an even bigger aroma laden with mango and orange. Inviting.

Oh oh ohhh! A big full-bodied beer this with masses of sticky orangey marmalade sweetness, oh this is love at first sip! That initial sticky sweetness is more than matched with an uncompromising hoppy bitterness that dries the mouth almost the instant that you swallow.

The second and third mouthfuls give some hints of mango and peach, all the while menaced with that bitter finish to each sip. Big sticky resins in here too. It may be “only” 6.5%, but this is a not a beer to be trifled with. Respect to Mark Tranter. My first Burning Sky in bottle. Bloody marvellous!

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2. Urban IPATiny Rebel Brew Co (Newport, South Wales) – 5.5% abv – IPA – £3.45 (330ml) – 0% – Beermoth (Tib St, Manchester)

This glowing amber coloured beer is as lively as a lively thing that’s feeling particularly….er….lively! The head is HUGE, fluffy and white giving off smells of orange rind. Really fresh citrussy aroma.

Given the massive carbonation, this is really smooth and full-bodied with initial flavour being a bready malt toast with lashings of orange marmalade.

Further mouthfuls give up more orange fruit but with notes of white grape and gooseberry. The smoothness is the thing here, this is just SO easy drinking for an IPA, with little bitterness, just a lovely dryness followed by a gentle grassy hop finish. Beautiful.

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3. Galaxy Pale AleHornbeam Brewery (Denton, Gtr Manchester) – 4.3% abv – Pale Ale – £2.80 (500ml) – 15% for 12 or more – Great Ale Year Round  (Bolton Market Hall)

When I got word that Dan & Gina had been to Hornbeam, my heart leaped! A brewery that doesn’t get the respect that it deserves in my book, just going about their business of making full-flavoured beers without fuss or fanfare. Happy days.

This is a mid-gold in colour with a nice lacy white head and some orange and passion fruit in the aroma.

Both of those flavours carry on into the mouth. Medium-bodied, with a brown toasty malt and lovely fruity hoppage! Really balanced (as are all Hornbeam beers), that fruitiness tapers off into a beautiful grassy tinged bitter finish. Lovely beer!

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4. 08/01Brew By Numbers (Bermondsey, London) – 6.1% abv – Stout – £3.39 – I think! (330ml) – 10% for 12 btls or more – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Pitch black, just as a good stout should be. Opaque, with a creamy tan coloured head. So far, so good! The aroma is of bitter chocolate and has a peppery note, making the nose tingle a bit.

Full-bodied beer this, with a lovely creamy texture to it. The initial flavour is of REALLY bitter chocolate (the high percentage cocoa type), topped off with the merest hint of fresh brewed espresso. The second mouthful intensified those flavours, rounding them off with a big hoppy bitterness.

A really full-flavoured and satisfying stout. My kind of beer!

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5. Jack of Clubs Wild Card Brewery (Walthamstow, East London) – 4.5% abv – Ruby Ale – £3.49 (330ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Another beer from Raj’s expanding emporium!

Packaging. This is the third brewery that I’ve had that displays a tag suspended from the bottle by string. Classy use of a playing card style tag on a plain brown bottle. Really attractive – well, to me anyway!

Well, it’s definitely a ruby coloured beer! Topped off with a good slightly off-white head and an aroma that reminds me of bonfire night treacle covered in milky chocolate.

Medium-bodied this, is it a sin to call a beer a Ruby Mild? Not in my book it ain’t!!! This is really smooth, with caramel and treacle sweet malty flavours but quite dry in the finish. This is right up mein strasse! Not too heavy on the alcohol, this is just so balanced and smooth and has a gentle grassy note over the slight sweetness. I was kind of expecting something really hoppy, but got this. A really pleasant surprise. A superb “Ruby Mild”.

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6. Fire PloughWiper and True / Arbor Brewery (Both Bristol) – 5.5% abv – Smoked Porter – £3.49 (500ml) – The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N  Manchester)

Black as a stout. Beautiful tan leather coloured head. A winner with me already……shall we stop there? No?

Given that is made with smoked malt from the Baltic island of Gotland (Sweden), would it surprise you to learn that there is a significant, yet not overpowering, smoky aroma? Bloody hell! This has got it going on! (Apologies to Tone Loc)

Yes, there is a smokiness to this full-bodied beer, but the balance with the citrussy fruitiness of Simcoe and the added spicy note from the rye malt…This is a beautifully smooth mash-up of flavours…like a Black IPA, yet not. Confusticating, yet massively satisfying, there is just SO MUCH HAPPENING here! You’ve got the smoke, pine and citrus, a slight spiciness. A triumph of a beer. Why did I wait so long to drink it? Mmmmmmm…..SO looking forward to my impending trip to Bristol!

Well….That’s all folks….well, not quite. Allow me a rant.

I love social media. Now and again, people (lovely people too!) approach me and ask, “Are you….?” and we chat, we put faces to Twitter handles and d’you know what, it’s great. Social media is fun. It’s also a damn powerful tool, sometimes used irresponsibly.

When pontificating about beer, I keep my negative shit private. If I have some “constructive” feedback to give, I NEVER do it openly, but always directly to those that it may concern. With this Social Media bollocks comes a degree of responsibility.

What it isn’t for is airing matters that should be kept private.  If you have shit to deal with, keep it private. The people who are involved in this (if they read my tripe) know who they are. This shit isn’t fun and it isn’t worthy of celebration. It’s bullying. If I see this kind of shit again, you won’t be getting me patronising your businesses and I will encourage others to do the same. Period.

Sorry. Needed to vent.

Historic Manchester Pubs- Pt 2 – 08/05/2014

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 (corridor – The City Arms)

“I wish that I could push a button and talk in the past and not the present tense.

And watch this hurting feeling disappear, like it was common sense.

It was a fine idea at the time, now it’s a brilliant mistake.”

(“Brilliant Mistake”  – The Costello Show ft The Confederates)

(Hyperlink video courtesy of  lisap2468 on YouTube)

Coming 2 years after the (rather harshly derided) “Goodbye Cruel World” – liner notes in the re-issue stating “Congratulations! You just bought the worst album of my career.” – “King of America” was, stylistically, a bold move by one of my favourite artists – if not quite as left field as the C&W album “Almost Blue”. There is almost no comparison between his Americana tinged 1986 classic and the likes of his bigger selling early albums like “This Years Model” & “Armed Forces” (I was strangle never overly struck on his biggest single “Olivers Army” – preferring the delights of “Accidents Will Happen”)

King of America is certainly my favourite Costello album. The lyrics (as usual) pin sharp and the subject matter spanning the range of emotions from the love-struck “Lovable” to the heart-wrenching end-of-relationship “Indoor Fireworks”, this is simply a stunning album that dragged me back into the Costello fold and is a diamond amongst the dross of late ’80s “music”. I wondered why he would want to play with members of his namesake Presley’s band The TCB Band, then I listened. the results are, quite simply, lovely. For me, the greatest album by a man who should be treated as a national treasure.

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I’m getting to that time of life when I’m meeting old colleagues at retirement dos with increasing regularity. I tend to pick and choose the ones that I go to. The sole criteria being respect. Last nights event, though I didn’t stay long, was for an utterly stand-out bloke. Unfortunately, however, the event was to be held in the Spinningfields branch of Slug & Lettuce. My sinking heart needed to be buoyed. So I floated it in the excellent Salford Arms with some colleagues of the current vintage.

Excellent pints of Black Jack Blackbird Stout (beautifully roasted and creamy with just the right amount of bitterness) and Zool by Tiny Rebel (fabulously fruity and hoppy pale ale) set the stage. As ever, both beers excellently kept by Tom – I haven’t been in for a while, but some things never change – excellent Steak & Onion ciabatta BTW – he just keeps the beer superbly in here. An essential staging post en route to Manchester.

Next up was a stop off in the re-opened Mark Addy. Again, excellent pints of Dark Revenge by Privateer (just SO smooth, coffee roast and ever so slightly hoppy and bitter – a class beer), Cascade by Blackedge (beautifully hopped, light and refreshing – probably my favourite pale by them on cask so far) and a nice hoppy Pale Ale by Shiny Brewing of Derby at 4.5% – the name of which escapes me. These were all bolted down – something I rarely do, for fear of the inevitable consequences! A really nice surprise was meeting Pete Killip behind the bar – someone with whom I’ve had many a pleasant social media exchange, but hadn’t met. Nice bloke, glad to see him back behind the MA bar. Good to see the Mark Addy open at all!

The do was…well, it WAS in the Slug….not my venue de choix! One (untried) cask ale by Hardy & Hansons (St George Ale, I think), meeting old colleagues was great and chatting to some with whom I’ve shared many a beery misdemeanour over the years was just a pleasure. It’s sad that I’m at that stage of life, when meeting old friends tends to be at Retirements or Funerals, but good people are always that, good people.

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Over a year ago, I did a piece on a mini-crawl around some of Manchester/Salford’s older pubs and planned to do a follow up (or Pt 2) soon afterwards. Well, this IS that sequel. A bit long in the making, but, safe to say, I enjoyed the making of this one a bit more than the last!

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The Rising Sun (Queen St/Lloyd St)

Manchester. The Rainy City. The umbrella in the shot says it all. It was wet. Very wet, as I sprint walked up towards the Rising Sun. I had kept the Arch-Nemesis waiting for over half an hour and felt a tad guilty. Good man that he is, if he had a grudge, he hid it well and had got me a pint of Mill Town Mild by Howard Town Brewery of Glossop.  A lovely mild, dark brown in colour, all toffee malt, caramel and chocolate in a light body at 3.5%, with little bitterness. A fine example of a Northern Mild from this local brewery.

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The ‘Sun is what can be described as a “cut” pub, with an entrance on both streets, originally designed to draw in passing trade from both streets. It is a single roomed and narrow pub with confusion surrounding its initial opening as a pub (with dates as early as 1684 being mentioned – which would indeed make it Manchester’s oldest by a distance). Logic dictates that this is probably wrong as, apparently, this part of Manchester was undeveloped at that time. I prefer to go with the date of the excellent Pubs of Manchester which gives it a date of approximately 1777. Bloody hell, the year after the US Declaration of independence!

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(This is so cute! I want it!!!)

The pub has had a refurb in the past couple of years and looks as good as I’ve ever seen it (Been drinking here – on & off – for 30 years). Nice neutral colours a few tables and comfy chairs. a couple of unobtrusive (ie: not gigantic) TVs. It’s a cracking little bolt hole, although one that is hardly a secret anymore, being 30 seconds from Deansgate and popular with the after office set. Good boozer. (Lovely tiled loos too….the toilets say a lot about a pub, ask Mrs BM!)

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Next on the list was a bit of a walk to clear out a few beer induced cobwebs. All the way across to Great Bridgewater Street, where, in the shadow of the mighty Bridgewater Hall (AND Manchester Central!), there are two gems amidst all the modernity….

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The Britons Protection (Great Bridgewater Street)

Still wet (well, it IS Manchester!), the walk was turned into a thirst-inducing power walk, the quicker to get out of the wet and into the dry!

The Britons is simply stunning. Standing in isolation and unprepossessing from the outside, it is simply BEAUTIFUL inside!

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Apparently dating from 1811 (see here courtesy http://manchesterhistory.net/), this is a true multi-roomed pub with the main room being fairly narrow with a long bar and, unusually, two entrances at the front with one giving direct access to the bar from the street.

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(gorgeous isn’t it?)

Again, another pub I’ve been coming in for 30 or so years. Even when it was a Tetley house, the beer was superb, The usual semi-macro suspects adorn the bar, with Robbies Unicorn & Jennings Cumberland (I think) to the right. My eyes alighted on the two pumps to the left that were adorned by local; micro clips, Privateer & Outstanding being the two tonight. Having already had a Privateer, I opted for the Outstanding Brewery and its 3.9. A very pale ale at (shock!) 3.9% abv, passion fruit nose and orangey refreshing bitterness in the mouth. Just what the doctor ordered to slake the thirst. Outstanding do the simple things very well, they make damn good beer.

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A warm and friendly pub with loads of beautiful decorative features, stained and leaded glass windows here, a real fire there….the two rooms to the rear are rarely empty and are great places to have a sit down and chat with friends. Beautiful pub, friendly staff, excellent beer, do you want anything else?

Maybe whiskies? The pub has a reputation for its wide variety and huge selection. Tonight I could see why!

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Next pub, fortunately, wasn’t too far away on this damp evening!

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Peveril of the Peak (Chepstow Street)

Apparently dating from the early 19th century (again, thanks to manchesterhistory.net), this wedged shape multi-roomed pub holds a special place in my drinking history – more later!

Beautiful green enamelled tiling adorns the outside, with lots of wood and warm tones inside and more original type features than you could shake a proverbial wotsit at….The bar football table (covered over tonight) is legendary in Manchester and has been a draw as far back as I can remember. The beer choice leaves something to be desired – could they make room for a local micro on the bar? Best option tonight was a pint of Deuchars IPA, with all the local micros around, not ordinarily my first choice, but do you know what, it was a rather pleasant refreshing pint, in tip-top condition. Golden, bittersweet and refreshing. More than did the job!

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Another rarity in the city centre is the pool table in the back room (probably, the largest room in the pub. The front room (with the main bar area) curves around the bar. There is a further (rather beautiful) third room, triangular in shape, with a real fire, small, but perfectly formed – a bit like this rather unique old boozer.

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That thing about a special place in MY drinking history!

In December 1981, I was due to see a band called Pigbag at the club on Oxford Road that used to be called Rafters. They got snowed in in Bristol, Dislocation Dance stepped in and a musical love affair commenced! However, Pigbag rescheduled for early 1982 and a few of us went to see them. Now, I do NOT condone under-aged drinking……yawn!…….but we started the night in The Pev. I was drinking Carlsberg. A good pal of mine, Smudge (take a bow Martin Murray!) was drinking a brown liquid that looked rather nice. Passing me his pint of what I learned was Wilsons Bitter, I took a taste. It was creamy textured and rather lovely. I put the Carlsberg down and ordered a pint. It was my Damascene conversion. I never drank Carlsberg again. 32 years later….

As I needed a bank for some funds, my original plan had to change, as there was no machine en-route to The City Arms. Thinking on my feet, we headed to another gem – one that had been a tad controversial recently.

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The Lass O’Gowrie (Charles Street)

According to the map contained here (manchesterhistory.net again!), the Lass has been around since at least the mid 1800s, when the area was (patently) more residential, with workers housing (no doubt staffing the mills at the end of the street).

The Lass is another beautiful old pub, but one that’s been knocked about a bit inside. Recently given a bit of a facelift following the rather controversial removal of the previous landlord, The Lass looks like it might regain some of its erstwhile popularity, lost no doubt following the relocation of Auntie to Salford Quays. I still remember the fond days of the 80s when, before The Marble Arch started brewing, The Lass was the original Brewpub. They may have been made from Malt Extract, but LOG 35 & 42 added much-needed variety to the beery diet dominated by Boddingtons and the national brewing conglomerates.

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Last time I entered, there was only one local micro on, it may have even been the only beer, but tonight things looked a little healthier, with the Arch-Nemesis buying me a pint of Cherry Baby from Blakemere  (Northwich, Cheshire). Chestnut hued, with a huge fruity aroma (yes, cherries), this was an excellent lightly roasty mild with plenty of cheery flavour. Perked up my flagging taste buds!

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Good footy related chat with some guys in the small room (bottom left of pic above!)

The Lass is looking up. It was a bit quiet, but on a Thursday evening, where (other than Port Street) gets busy? Nicely decorated, beer in excellent nick, a nice option on the Oxford Rd corridor.

I couldn’t pass Joshua Brooks without going in eh? Glad I did, as there was a First Chop beer on the bar that I hadn’t had. TOC was the beer. Typical of Rik Garner’s paler offspring, golden, fruity as hell (oranges and tangerines) with a hoppy and bitter finish. Brewed for The Other City festival recently, there may not be much of this about. It was lovely and in great nick, as usual with JB. Great to see the quality being maintained following Jon Turner’s departure.

Still a bit moist, though no longer throwing down stair rods, a bit of a walk to the next pub.

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The City Arms (Kennedy Street)

Located just off Princess Street/St Peters Square, in a parallel universe, this would be an undiscovered gem. In this real timeline, this pub has been hugely popular in the 30 years that I’ve known it Again (with thanks to Manchesterhistory.net) the pub occupies what was an 18th century town house, being known as a pub from the late 19th century.

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2 main drinking areas here, the main bar area with 8 handpumps on the go, with the second room accessed by a couple of steps down. Like the Britons Protection, 2 entrances here, with the one to the left giving access to a serving hatch, enabling people to use this as an overspill from the frequently busy main rooms.

The main bar area is sparsely furnished and serves as the main (mostly vertical) drinking area. On a busy evening, it’s best to use the left hand entrance, to avoid the struggle of entering a (justly) rammed pub!

On entry tonight, I was a bit rude. I didn’t scan the pumps. My eyes hit AllgatesAll Black Mild (well, May is Mild Month!). I love this beer and needed look no further – ticking be damned! Black, light chocolate and coffee notes with a hoppy kick from the use of New Zealand hops (hence the name!). I generally have it wherever I find it. A beautiful beer that cut through the clagged up taste buds at this late stage of the evening!

NB : The City has been garlanded by Trafford & Hulme CAMRA Branch as their Pub of the Year 2014. This particular member from Bolton lauds this fine choice!

Finally (are you still awake?)

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The Vine (Kennedy Street – next door to The City Arms)

Again (with thanks to Manchesterhistory.net) this dates from a similar era to The City Arms, having been a pub since the late 19th century. This bijou (Salfordian for lickle!) boozer is on 3 levels. A good job really because the bar area is a bit dinky! We headed downstairs where, last time that I went in – some years ago TBF – it was used as a restaurant. Oh how my eyes were opened!

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Downstairs there was a fully fledged bar with room for the handpumps that they couldn’t fit upstairs. Fairly quiet, the A-N selected a Lancaster Blonde at 4%. Golden, with a nice refreshing hoppy fruitiness with an orange note to it. I’m just astounded that my tastebuds had survived at this stage of the evening! Nice, fruity light and refreshing. A nice pint to sign off with.

Bloody hell, that WAS an evening! (Managed to have 3 Milds as well. Happy boy!)

Thanks due to the blogs Pubs of Manchester and Manchesterhistory.net for my liberal pilfering of data. A valuable service they provide. There is an absolute dearth of information on the net about Manchester’s drinking establishment heritage. Frankly, I was embarrassed how little I would have found without the above resources. There’s a Boak & Baileyesque gap here that needs to be filled. Any takers?

 On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!

“It was a fine idea at the time….” But on Friday morning it felt like a Brilliant Mistake!

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!)

Manchester Beer & Cider Festival – Pt 2 – 24/01/2014

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“My face is like an old film, shaky
There’s nothing through my window, oh my
No photo by my bedside, black, white
No image in my mirror, bye bye”

(“Listen To The Sirens” – Tubeway Army)

By the time you read this, it’ll all be over. The festival has a 19:00 finish time this evening to enable the complete clearing of the venue by close of play on Sunday.

So then. How was it for you? It has to be said that there were reports of several issues in the area of accessibility for those of limited mobility, the location of the toilets and others. For my part, yes, the toilets were a trek away, but it needs to be borne in mind that this is a sports stadium. That issue comes with the territory. I can only comment on MY experience which, to be fair, was completely positive.

Whilst I heard complaints about the location, I, for one, have none. For me, Manchester’s premier Real Ale event has an iconic venue in the National Cycling Centre (aka The Velodrome). I hated the utilitarian grimness that was The Sheridan Suite and, to be quite frank, there’s something to be said for watching Jason Kenny & co whizzing around the track….even made ME think of getting on my bike!

Turning up at The Velodrome, I had a quick chat with one of the Campaigns many volunteers who informed me that sales were ahead of expectations and that they had had to get more beer in! The fact that I had to queue to get in as early as 13:30, told me it was going to be busier than Wednesday. It was!

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(Spot the Arch-Nemesis? – A bit like a beery “Where’s Wally”!)

I’m not a one to make a list of “must haves”, however, there was one beer that I was absolutely determined to sample…Sloe Stout by Allgates Brewery (Wigan, Gtr Manchester) which, at 7.2% abv may not have been everybody’s choice of first beer of the day, but I couldn’t risk it running out!

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(Allgates Brewery – Sloe Stout)

As I said, maybe hardly the wisest choice of an opening gambit, but 5 minutes after I plonked it on the bar and took that picture, I received a message that it had run out! There, you see. It WAS a smart move after all! It was as black as sin with an alluring tan head which (not being sparkled) swiftly diminished. The smell was hugely fruity with a slightly astringent note and a definite chocolate background. In the mouth, there was the expected chocolatey and roasted flavours overlaid with masses of fruit with the astringency of the sloe. A real fruity mouthful which had a quite puckering dry finish with more than a hint of espresso. Spectacular start!

I had a wee walk around whilst drinking this and had a chat with the mighty Tandleman who looked a little more relaxed than on Wednesday, probably the result of being with his lovely wife Eileen, who – to my horror – was immediately in front of me in the entry queue and I had failed to recognise her! (Puts hands to head in shame!) A positive mine of information, it’s always nice to chat with Tandy, even with the pressures of this huge event!

After wandering round like a mole staring into headlights, I finally managed to locate someone else that I really wanted to chat to, Darren Turpin who writes the excellent Mancunian drinkers resource Greater Manchester Ale NewsNice to chat and swap notes (Darren being a far better – and more professional – writer than I!) and we may work together in some small way in the near future hopefully.

Now then. If you have read many of my random beery wafflings, you may have gleaned that I have a particular weak spot for the single hopped Pale Ales brewed by Mallinsons Brewery of Huddersfield. However, I have only ever had them in bottle. I was chuffed to see that their Amarillo was on draught on Bar 2 and allowed myself a pint. Once secured, I briefly swapped notes with Darren on this who seemed to enjoy it too! This is a lovely pale golden beer at 4.2% abv with a beautiful Seville orange fruity marmalade nose. The orangey flavour carrying on into the mouth. Really clean, sharp and refreshing, nicely bitter in the finish with a nice resinous aftertaste with echoes of that marmalade. A cracker to try on draught if you see it!

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By this time, Team GB cycling were in training session and I found myself trying to get a good picture, at which, as you can see, I failed miserably!

Next up – as a “thank you” I think for tipping him off about the Mallinsons – Darren pointed me toward the Oatmeal Stout by Harbour Brewing (Trekillick, N Cornwall) 5% abv and black with a quickly diminished tan head and a smooth chocolate nose, a luxuriously smooth beer in the mouth this, really silky. Flavours of chocolate and roasted oats and quite an earthy finish. Classy.

Next up, my buddy asked me to choose one for him. Knowing his “crafty” leanings, I spotted a brewery that I personally hadn’t tried and, having ordered his and taking a quick sniff, I had to have one myself. The brewery was Siren Craft Brew and the beer was Soundwave. A deep golden beer with HUGE aromas of peach, mango and grapefruit which continued into quite a full-bodied mouth. Really fruity with quite an assertive resinous finish which hit me between the eyes, really hoppy. I’d heard a lot about this brewery on social media and had seen them raved about. Now I understand why!

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The next beer was a big change in all areas. Firstly, it was dark. Secondly it was fairly light in alcohol at 3.8% abv. It was a beer that I had wanted to try for quite a while, Blackberry Stout by Waen Brewery of Llanidloes, Powys in Welsh Wales. I missed this by the merest of whiskers at Joshua Brooks some time back and was determined not to do so again! Such a dark brown ruby beer as to be almost black, the aroma reminded me of Old Jamaica chocolate bars, chocolate and really vine fruity. Ooh…Medium-bodied with some dark chocolate and really fruity with the slightly tart blackberries, really tasty fruity beer with a surprisingly quite grassy dry finish. A sessionable Stout? I think I have died and gone to dark beer heaven – or is it hell?

Having chatted for so long, time was moving on and some of my companions were considering moving on into Town, so I plumped for another beer that I’d had in bottle but never on draught – Ratsputin by Rat Brewery (Huddersfield). At 7.4% abv, this Imperial Stout was definitely one to finish with. A big deep ruby beer, almost black, this had a really vinous nose with lots of dark fruits and chocolate in the background. Full-bodied and much fruitier than I remember in bottle with oodles of vine fruitiness and a good helping of bitter chocolate. Different from the bottle but equally as gorgeous, fruity finish on this with a good degree of bitterness rounding it off.

I hear all the things that have been pointed out about the issues with this festival. However, I loved it. The critiques were taken on board and was acted upon where possible, the tables in the hall being the most immediately noticeable. You could never move the toilets! Given that they are looking to host it there again next year, I’ll be interested to see what changes are put in place…for changes there will be! Short of holding it at GMex (or whatever it is called these days!), I can’t see a better venue in the “Rainy City”….speaking of which….!

It was BLOODY POURING DOWN as we left. And I had NO raincoat! The 6Ps sprang to mind (Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!) at this point. Jumping the Metro, we squelched off at Piccadilly Gardens with a substantial number of fellow revellers. However, the Arch-Nemesis & I had clear plans to visit my favourite Manchester bar Joshua Brooks.

A long very wet tramp across town led to us being absolutely soaked by the time we got there. However a goodly beer selection of ales that I was yet to try cheered me up no end!

Nice to see Jon (manager) as I hadn’t been in for a few months. He was busy changing casks as a couple had just gone, but what was on was good enough for me!

Wisely skirting the beast that is Dark Star Imperial Stout, I alighted upon Cwtch by Tiny Rebel Brewery (Newport, S Wales) – A red ale at 4.6% abv and a really fruity hoppy beastie this! Mango & peach with a little grapefruit too, medium bodied fruity mouthful with a quite big resinous pine aftertaste. A corker!

One of the beers that Jon was putting on was next. This was Clovis Point Brown by Caveman Brewery (Swanscombe, Kent) 5.4%, deep red and slightly hazy, this had a nose like a slightly spicy Cadbury’s Caramel, with chocolate and toffee. Medium bodied, quite fruity in the mouth with some burnt toffee and a lightly smoky finish. Unusual and very nice indeed!

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Back with Tiny Rebel Brewery and another beer that I hadn’t had previously Full Nelson at 4.8%, a straw coloured beer with a peachy aroma from the Nelson Sauvin hops. Really fruity with peach and tangerine on the tongue and a touch even of grape, medium-bodied and a classic resinous piney finish. Superb!

Finishing off with a second beer of the day from a brewer that I hadn’t previously tried….Siren Craft Brew and their Rysing Tide at 7.4% abv – entering into DIPA territory with this! A red rye beer with a nice tight white head and big mango on the nose. HUGE mango in the mouth, sweet with the malt and spicy from the rye and tart, deep and fruity and a really cracklingly dry finish with more piney stuff. Wow!

Last night, Joshua Brooks was REALLY busy. Gratifyingly so. Maybe it’s down to The Lass next door being closed, maybe people have finally cottoned on to what I have been banging on about for ages. This place simply does great beer at great value (and with cracking tunes!). Long may they prosper!

That’s all folks!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

Allgates Brewery – The Road To Wigan Beer – 03/10/2013 – 13/10/2013

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I have a lot to thank my Arch-Nemesis (Jaz) for. One of those things is the rekindling of my love for beer and pubs (resulting in these wafflings, I suppose!) Another thing that I have him to thank for, is my discovering the pubs – and beers – of Allgates Brewery. Over the last year, I have sampled many of their beers, all of which have been very tasty and full of flavour – from the Mild made with NZ hops (AllBlack) through the citrussy, zingy Ostara all the way to the Oatmeal Stout which I had a small part in the making of. I suppose – to cut a long story short – they are now, without question, my favourite brewery. But, I NEVER use one word where 2000 will do, do I?

Allgates, the Brewery & Pub Company is owned by two partners, David Mayhall & Ian Thorpe. They own 7 working pubs, all 7 being based in – or around – the Wigan metropolitan area. The ethos of these pubs is simple. They are rooted in – and are very much of – the local community. They offer excellent, locally brewed beers, alongside a wide range of superlative (and imaginatively sourced) guest beers from the best breweries in the UK, often supporting the youngest and freshest Microbreweries.

20131005_170827(Beer selection previously served at The White Lion, Leigh)

Another key matter that distinguishes Allgates’ pubs from their competition, is the pricing of their beers – both their own AND guest beers. To say that they are good value is to massively understate the effect that ordering a guest beer in an Allgates pub can have on the unwary. As an example. I ordered 2 pints of Motueka (single hopped Pale Ale) by Arbor from Bristol. An ale that would cost upwards of £3.40 in Manchester. I paid £4.20. That is £2.10 a pint!!! Obscenely cheap. In bloody good condition too! (Which, if you stay awake, you may read about later!)

In March this year, along with Jaz & my other good friend Col, I had a go at the previous RTWB, trying 3 Allgates pubs, The Anvil (technically, the Brewery Tap), The Hare & Hounds in Hindley and The Jolly Nailor in Atherton. 3 cracking pubs, but each distinctly different from the others. The beers in this “festival” were uniformly excellent. Not a single bum note to be had. I have subsequently had a number of Sunday Lunches in a further Allgates pub, The Crooke Hall Inn (Crook Village) on the bank of the Leeds – Liverpool canal. Another fabulous pub, with great food!

The principle of The Road To Wigan Beer is that it is simply a different kind of Beer Festival. One that is spread across all 7 pubs (in this instance) across 11 days. The trick is, to try to get to all 7 pubs. How? I hear you ask! The answer……(as I was advised by young Mr Mayhall…) by BUS!!! It transpires, that a bus had been organised for some regulars to get around all 7 pubs in the one day. Being somewhat of a cheeky little tyke, I had to ask, didn’t I?

Road To Wigan Beer Oct 2013

So, the Arch-Nemesis & I find ourselves meeting at Wigan Wallgate and watching (what seemed like) the entire town, clad in Cherry & White, emigrating to Old Trafford for the Rugby League “Super League Grand Final”, of which, more later! Grabbing a swift pork pie from Galloways, we strolled into (for us) the first pub of the day. The Allgates Brewery Tap, The Anvil.

Wigan pub ,The Anvil, built 1894(pic – www.beer-meister.co.uk)

The Anvil is a large pub occupying a corner plot on Dorning Street, just around the corner from Wigan Bus Station and a 2 minute walk from the brewery itself. A single roomed pub but with distinctly separate drinking areas giving it the feel of a multi-roomed premises. Each time that I have been in, it’s always been busy both with ale drinkers from far and wide and, predominantly, locals attracted by the excellent beer, keen prices and a core clientele with betting slips in hand and more than an eye on the TV watching the sports. This is a busy pub. It also sells damn fine beer. Like my first pint of the day…..

Atomic BlondeRevolutions Brewing (Castleford, W Yorkshire) A 4.5% abv blonde beer sticking to the core Revolutions themes, Music themed beer and a fine beer at that! This was only the second of their beers that I have had on handpull over here. Have had loads in bottle and they have been uniformly superb, full-flavoured, tasty, balanced beers. This was no exception. Pale gold with a fruity aroma, medium bodied and full of fruity bitter flavour with gooseberry and apple (or so I thought), sharp and zesty with a hint of tartness. Fresh, refreshing with a supremely dry bitter finish, absolutely cracking nick. The only problem was, it went down too damn quick! With a few minutes before the bus showed up, I hazarded a swift half of something else….

Odyssey BlondeFallen Brewing (Kippen, Stirlingshire, Scotland) Another “Blonde” beer, this time at 4.1% abv, super pale beer, with a spicy, almost savoury aroma which I couldn’t quite pick, fresh clean and spicy/bitter, the kicker came in the aftertaste with quite a hit of wood smoke! No doubt about it and very unexpected in a paler beer like this, unusual, damned tasty and also hurried down as I was told by David that the bus was here! Though I hate rushing good beer (and the Fallen was VERY good!), there was nothing else for it but to bolt it down and follow the throng! A good start on the beer front!

Onto the bus we go. It felt a bit like the works outing scene from Carry On At Your Convenience, replacing Londoners with the most genial bunch of people, Wiganers to a man/woman, that it’s been my pleasure to be on a bus with. On the top deck the banter was immediately flowing, I was soon chuckling and grinning from ear to ear listening to people that I was soon to get to know far better! The bus was headed to the most westerly Allgates pub…

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The Crooke Hall Inn is situated in Crooke Village and the pub is located on the picturesque banks of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Unfortunately, the access road couldn’t accommodate the girth of our historic white, orange and brown GM Buses double-decker, so we bailed out outside a Marstons pub for a 5 minute walk to the pub. A true Multi-Roomed pub with 4 separate drinking areas (including the bar area) and a beer garden area to die for on the canal side.

Been here a few times now, the last Allgates pub I’d “discovered”. My family has enjoyed a few excellent Sunday Roast dinners here over the last few months (of course, the excellent All Black Mild had nothing to do with my choice of venue, Oh No! *fingers crossed*). As with all their pubs, the landlord – in this case Gregg – keeps a fine cellar with excellent ale. Knowing this, I had high hopes for a beer that I knew he had on….

EP – Revolutions Brewing (Castleford, W Yorkshire) Now, I’ve written about my love of both Andy & Marks’ beers and their musical leanings/ethos. A short conversation with Andy left me in no doubt about his love of both beer and good music (of all kinds). All the beers are brewed to strengths consistent with music formats (3.3% abv / 33RPM, 4.5% abv / 45RPM, 6.0% / C60 ……), the EP is at 3.9% abv, being halfway between a vinyl single and an album. More importantly, the beer tasted just as good as I expected it to. A golden beer with a slightly resinous grassy hop aroma, it was clean fresh and hoppy with a hint of a bitter lemon character in there.

20131005_131033(Revolutions EP & Bexar County Texan Pecan Coffee Mild)

Texan Pecan Coffee MildBexar County Brewery (Peterborough, Cambridgeshire) – For me, one of the beers of the day. Unfiltered and 3.7% abv, a hazy, murky brown beer comes from the pump, but give it a moment, then a sniff and Cafe au Lait comes over on the nose. In the mouth, more coffee, quite gentle, then a real nutty overtone. A “Ronseal” beer (does exactly what it says…..) and a belter that would go down well (even with the light abv) in some of the better Manchester “craft” pubs. As I finished and popped for a quick chat with Jonathan (Allgates head brewer), about current happenings at the brewery, it was apparent that I’d finished my beer too soon. Ah well, a swift half is called for again….

Bitter KiwiBristol Beer Factory (er…Bristol?) (5% abv) Pale gold again with big grapefruit hop aromas, really zesty fruity in the mouth too, zingy sharp hoppy flavours. Bloody good (if ill-advised – at 5%!) beer, as BBF normally is!

Ding, ding…..back onto that bus, with a further passenger, Gregg, the landlord from The Crooke!

A good 25min or so drive now. We were due to go to The Union in Tyldesley next, but the driver obviously had other ideas!

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The Jolly Nailor sits on an imposing corner plot on Market Street in Atherton. Quite a large pub with three distinct drinking areas, again, a proper multi-room. Again, as with all Allgates pubs, several handpumps dispensing both Allgates own and guest beers. Last time I came, on the previous “Road” trip (read here), there was a rock band warming up. The pub has live music on each Friday and Saturday, good nights, so I’m reliably informed. I was “here for the beer” so, in that spirit….

Harts DesireHarthill Village Brewery (Harthill, nr Sheffield) (4.4% abv) – Another new brewery to me. The Harts Desire was a mid-brown beer with a spicy fruity (mango/apricot) hop aroma. Medium bodied with some biscuit malt overlaid with fruity hops (gentle apricot). This had a dry bitter finish with a hint of licorice root in the aftertaste. Another superb beer in great condition. Followed by….

Citra BurstAlechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) Citra is the Marmite of hops. Me? I love it! This was no different. A golden beer with the bitter grapefruit aroma characteristic of single hopped Citra beers. Loads of toffee maltiness giving this excellent balance with a hint of vanilla, I thought. Big bitter finish with a lingering hint of toffee in the big zesty grapefruit aftertaste.

20131005_145602(A selection of previous ales at The Jolly Nailor)

With a bit of time left, a swift half was called for….

HopspurRedemption Brewing (Tottenham, N London) – 4.5% abv Amber coloured beer with a surprisingly citrussy aroma. Biscuit malt but quite bitter with more than a hint of grapefruit, good clean bitter finish. Another good beer from the makers of the superlative Trinity Pale Ale.

Now, Jaz was gutted to see a new beer clip on the pumps. So, not wanting to miss out, the sod got another half in……

GalaxyTwo Roses Brewery (Darton, nr Barnsley, S Yorkshire) – 4% abv pale beer, slightly hazy with a super aroma of mango and passion fruit. Fruity and slightly resinous in the mouth with a tremendously bitter finish. Had the bottles from TR before, but first time on draught. Superb!

Ding, ding…….

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Back onto the bus to….Tyldesley and….

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The Union Arms, Castle Street, Tyldesley – A deceptively large pub, with a central bar and three drinking areas, with one, slightly elevated, being set for food. The, now about 45 strong, bus load swarmed into the pub. The first time that it took more than a minute or two to get served, but it was more than worth it….

MotuekaArbor Brewery (Bristol) 3.8% single hopped pale ale. The jaw dropper here was the price. £2.10 a pint! I have paid nearly £1.50 MORE for this in Manchester. Ludicrously good value for a super fruity pale gold beer with abundant grapefruit aromas. Light biscuit malt with super fruity hoppy taste. Nice bitter finish too. Nice chat with two guys we hadn’t met before, Tony & Jay.

Onwards……

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The White Lion, Leigh Road, Leigh.

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(Value? I kid you not!)

Nice cosy traditional pub with three separate rooms. Lots of wood, warm and friendly. being on her own, the landlady rang for reinforcements! Down came Harry the landlord! Friendly as hell behind the bar, but what mattered even more was the top quality of the beer, in this case…..

#10 Smoked Porter – Shamblemoose Brewery (Haslemere, Surrey) – A new brewery for me and a lovely black beer with a gentle coffee aroma. The smokiness really came through in the mouth with some dark roasted coffee in there too. Lovely, full-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Really goo (or even “good”) ale!

The pace was slowing now (but not for all!), I was taking more time to chat and simply enjoy the ale….but Tempus Fugit and all that latin stuff……..

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The Hare & Hounds , Ladies Lane, Hindley.

If I could have a local pub, let it be like this. I LOVE the Hare! A dog friendly pub, with cracking beer, a real fire  and friendly locals. Four walled heaven!

Scouting the bar after a quick smile at Nigel, the landlord, my eyes hit another brewery I hadn’t had before….

ParklifeWindsor & Eton Brewery 3.2% abv – The lightest beer of the day. Well received by others. Copper coloured, gentle citrus aroma with some fruitiness in the mouth. Not bad, per se, I suppose, but given all I had heard about this brewery, I expected, well…more. As I said, some really enjoyed it, but I just wasn’t overly struck.

Moving on to another brewery I had never had…..

Drops of JupiterBumpmill Brewery (Alfreton, Derbyshire) 4% abv. Instantly getting the music reference (“Drops of Jupiter” being an album by the US band Train), I was warming to the beer before I had it in my maw. Pale gold again, nice full citrus aroma. Loads of fruity grapefruit citrus in the mouth. Refreshing, really fruity and a nice bitter finish. MUCH more like it!

First half of the Rugby was in here. Not going well. Lots of handling errors and mistakes by Wigan allowing Warrington a 16-2 lead. An unconverted try just before halftime lightened the spirits and fired optimisms’ flames!

Not enough time here for me. So I’ll be back on Tuesday! Moving on (and getting a little darker now……)

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The Victoria, Haigh Village, Wigan – First time at this pub for me (and the final Allgates pub. I now have the whole set! Two main rooms with a corridor linking the two. We got in with 5 minutes of the second half of the Grand Final played. Better from Wigan…… Pool table in the right-sided room where most settled to watch the finale….

Here I had….

Rhapsody – Alechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) 3.8% abv – Being a wee bit (ahem) refreshed by this point, my schnozzle may have lost its “beerhound” sharpness as I didn’t get much aroma from this, but it was a damned tasty pint. Pale gold with a tight white head, crackling with grapefruit sharpness. Really fruity and refreshing. At the strength, it stood up really well.

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(all eyes on the screen!)

Back end of the second half was all Wigan as the pressure was poured on. A couple of tries close to the posts (both converted) took Wigan ahead to ecstatic scenes in the pub as they emerged as 30-16 winners. 24 points without reply in the second half!

Jubilant happy faces as we got back on the bus (just WHO took that sneaky pic in the pub?) we were back to where it all began 8 1/2 hours before….

20131005_203232(Once more unto the breach…..!)

Ostara was on. I simply had to do it! 3.6% of fruity hoppy heaven. One of my Beers of The Year so far. We’ll leave it there shall we. There was a train to be caught and I seriously hope that I made sense to David by this point!

I think I can say that, without exception, that in my opinion (for the little that THAT is worth!), each of the beers that I drank / sampled was in excellent condition. There was only one beer that I didn’t truly enjoy, the rest were all excellent. If I had to choose favourites on the day – which is difficult, I would say two from early on, The Atomic Blonde from Revolutions Brewing at The Anvil and the Texan Pecan Coffee Mild from Bexar County Brewery. Both superb, tasty beers, as were they all.

But this is, in my experience, what you get from Allgates’ pubs. Great beers in excellent condition, in a friendly, traditional pub environment. Just the kind of places that we should be treasuring. I do, that’s why I’ll be back in The Anvil and Hare & Hounds tomorrow evening!

This was a total blast! I met and chatted with many people I had never previously met. All with broad Wigan accents. I do believe that there may have even been a bit of Wigan dialect spoke on the bus! A huge thanks to David & Ian, Jonathan for humouring me by listening to my blathering on,”Stig” for sorting the bus and everyone else who contributed to this most excellent of days.

There is still a week to go on The Road To Wigan Beer. Treat yourself. A return ticket to Wigan can put you within a 3 minute walk of both The Anvil and (on the return leg..) The Hare & Hounds. Give it a go…and thank me later!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

There is an ancient Celtic axiom that says “Good People Drink Good Beer.” Which is true, then as now. Just look around you in any public bar and you will quickly see: Bad People Drink Bad Beer. Think about it.”
Hunter S. Thompson

Because too much is never enough…..Or my good friend Col couldn’t make Saturday’s Epic Crawl, we decided to pop into a couple of Allgates pubs along our train line (Manchester – Wigan) and sample some new beers that I didn’t get to try on Saturday. Greedy, but hey…….

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Back to The Anvil, being in the centre of Wigan, within 3 minutes of Wallgate Station, Reasonably busy for a Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the Jarl by Fyne Ales had sold out, as expected. However, more than adequate compensation was to be found…..

HankTiny Rebel Brewery (Newport, Gwent) A 4% abv pale ale that was really pale and full of the sharp grapefruit aromas of Citra. Really balanced with plenty of biscuit sweetness cut through with that grapefruit tang. This mellowed as I went down the glass and tangerine came through. A good beer in cracking form. 

Tempus Fugit. We had a train to catch to the next and final pub, but we certainly had time for a couple more…..

American Pale AleClarence & Fredericks (Croydon, S London) 4.1% abv. Deep gold with a creamy white head, a little tartness in the aroma which was more than represented in the mouth! Bitter orange seville marmalade with maybe a hint of tart gooseberry, nice smooth texture and full of mouth puckering fruity hop flavour. The aftertaste had quite a resinous hit. Only the second beer I’ve had from this brewer. Both excellent.

Just about time for a cheeky half before the train…..

Blackhouse (Smoked Porter) – Fallen Brewing (Kippen, Stirlingshire, Scotland) – A hazy deep brown beer with a chocolate caramel nose (made me think of a liquified Cadburys Caramel). The flavour matched the nose with addition of the late appearance of a warm smoky note. Really smooth and creamy. Shame I only had time for a half!

A swift walk to Wallgate Station for the 20:27 toward Manchester and the second stop on the line. From there, a 5 minute walk downhill to…

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The Hare & Hounds is just a proper local. The kind of pub which just gives you a warm hug of familiarity when you push open the door. Again, I was hoping for Jarl, but it seems like I was a day early. Col however, was as happy as a pig in muck, ‘cos he’d come for the next beer (and that alone)

Mud BrawlerBoggart Brewery (North Manchester) A 4.4% Vanilla Porter which feels like a Stout. Very dark brown , a creamy coloured head with a milky coffee and vanilla aroma. Full bodied smooth drinking beer with vanilla on a dark roast choclolaty coffee malt base. As good as I had it at the brewery tap, The MicroBar in Manchester. Winner of top gong at Peterborough 2013. I can see why.

OstaraAllgates Brewery (Wigan, Lancashire) Sometimes, you just don’t need to go for a guest beer, when there is something as good as this. Pale gold, with a zesty grapefruit / apricot nose. Really fruity in the mouth with bitter citrus over a slightly sweet malted milk biscuit base. Nice bitter finish with bit of grapefruit in the aftertaste. Just one of my very favourite beers. Kept very well.

Finally, to lubricate the excellent conversation we were having with Nigel (mine host), his good lady and some of the regulars (see what I mean about friendly?) …a beer I had the other evening

Rhapsody – Alechemy Brewing (Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland) 3.8% abv – Feeling slightly less (ahem) “refreshed” as I was by close of play on Saturday, I thought I’d give this another bash – and was glad I did! A pale golden “blonde” ale. Nice fruity nose with passion fruit and kiwi. A lovely slightly dry bitter finish. I think I appreciated it a bit more tonight!

That’s it! In the words of the great boxer Roberto Duran (having taken a fight full of punishment from Sugar Ray Leonard) “No Mas”!!!

I’m off for a cup of tea and girding my loins for The Independent Manchester Beer Convention tomorrow. Having volunteered for yesterdays “set-up” session, having seen many of the beers delivered, I can say but one thing. If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, you’re in for a treat!

Slainte!

The Southampton Arms, Gospel Oak, London

southampton-arms4(pic – http://www.londoniscool.com)

As I’ve said on many an occasion, I can resist anything except temptation, so when given an opportunity to try a new pub (to me) in London, even thinking of resistance was futile!

Now I’d wanted to try this pub for ages, but the opportunity never seemed to present itself, until now!

Tube to Kentish Town on the Northern Line then a C2 (or 214) bus drops you outside the door. Entry reveals this to be a single roomed  bar, narrow(ish) but fairly long. The door to the rear leads to the beer garden and an externally located Gentleman’s facility, via an upright piano!

20130529_130817(You give me hope, Joanna!)

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(View from the bar to the front)

10 hand pulled ales from breweries as geographically diverse as Fyne Ales and Dark Star and 8 real ciders and perries. Something for everyone here (inc 2 craft keg : Magic Rock 8 Ball and Camden Hells). In fact, if it wasn’t for a small selection of spirits, this would almost be a beer house! On first inspection, it certainly looked like my idea of a bar!

First up for me, was a small Dark Star 1810 Porter. This had a nice roasted malt and chocolate aroma and was lovely dry and chocolatey with more than a trace of bitterness in the finish. This was superb accompanied by some PROPER pub food, Pork pie and mustard. Lovely!

I (sort of) introduced myself to Alex behind the bar who was the essence of personable and managed to serve all the customers speedily whilst maintaining a friendly chat.

20130529_130809(‘Get in my belly!’)

Whilst chatting with Alex and one of the regulars, I started to notice some of the detail around the bar, including something that astonished me. No jukebox, CDs or MP3s here. Oh no. The excellent music (Ray Charles for starters) came courtesy of a VINYL TURNTABLE! I started to fall in love with this place!

Next up, a wee Cwtch by Tiny Rebel. First time I’ve had their beers. A red ale weighing in at 4.6%, this had a lovely mango citrus hop aroma which carried through into the mouth, lovely and smooth with a nice citrus bitterness. I’ll be looking out for them up North!

20130529_131803(A lovely original Lacons Brewery mirror – recently revived in Gt Yarmouth)

(One for Nate!)

A Kent Brewery Maori (NZ hopped) at 4.5% was a pale almost lager like beer. Delicately fruity and really refreshing with a dry grassy finish. Not sure what category this would fall into, but it was crisp, refreshing and delicious.

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Tempted to try a small Dark Star Revelations, I gave in to the smooth bronze beer with the hoppyness not initially apparent, but becoming more assertive the further the glass emptied. Superb.

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This place has a whole lot going for it. A stripped down basic boozer I thought as I entered. Slowly, its quirky charms revealed themselves, bit by bit. Value wise, I think I’ve had none better in London. Most of the ales were £3.30. The food was reasonably priced for a small yet tasty looking offering. My portion of pork pie was superb for the price.

The Southampton Arms. Overall, a fabulous bar. Excellent ales, friendly locals and bar staff (Thanks Alex for the chat – hope you get to Leeds International & IndyManBeerCon).

A serious recommendation. Only 10 minutes (or so) from Euston. Give it a bash!

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On that note….’til next time.

Slainte!