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Manchester, United Kingdom
Tyson is a beer hound and cheese addict living in the beery metropolis paradise known as Manchester
If the people are buying tears, I'll be rich someday, Ma

Monday, 29 February 2016

Poulton-le-Fylde

Another compact pub crawl that was recommended to me is the little market town of Poulton-le-Fylde. Easily accessible by train from Manchester, it makes for a pleasant change and all the pubs are more or less based round the market square. Be warned though, this is a traditional area with lots of cask on offer but barely a wisp of hipster hair to be seen. 
Barely five minutes from the station was the first stop: the Poulton Elk. Formerly the Edge nightclub, this was converted by JD Wetherspoon in 2013 and it made for a good initial impression. Being in Poulton it was much more civilised-no screaming ankle-biters and cleaner than your standard Spoons. As one of our party remarked, you felt you should be wearing Harris Tweed rather than the de rigueur Spoons outfit of piss-stained tracky bottoms. Most importantly the beer was very palatable with the double offerings of Phoenix fitting the bill nicely.

The Grapevine on Market Place is the nearest to modernity you’ll find in Poulton. Spread over several floors, it’s obviously aimed at a slightly different crowd than its potential rivals. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, it has eschewed the possible lure of the daytime drinker and opens at teatime until late. That’s not to say it doesn’t offer a reasonable selection of real ale and if that doesn’t tickle your laughing stick; you can always try the Prosecco at £12 a bottle before 8pm.

The Bull on the corner of Market Place is your typical local pub offering big screen sports etc. and, unusually for a non-Wetherspoons pub, opens at 9am. However, it’s sadly a Stonegate tavern who, in my experience, run their pub estate quite badly. Certainly the beer choices you’re faced with in their establishments are little more than pedestrian. And so it was in this case; with only the drab malted brew that passes as Bombardier and Thwaites Bomber on offer.
Things improved in the quiet but comfortable Golden Ball, situated, appropriately enough, on Ball St. This is a former coaching house that is decorated in the house style of its former owner: Spirit Group. So lots of cushions, light wood and neutral pastel colours. I don’t know what their new owners Green King have planned for them but their beer range, whilst not brilliant, is still better than the insipid offerings usually on display in a GK house.
Easily the best two pubs in Poulton are the Old Town Hall and the Thatched House and I would recommend leaving them until last. Or first and last to be fully sated. The OTH on Church St has the bar with five pumps on the left as you enter with seating areas split up throughout the pub. Horse racing seems to be a bit of a theme here: check out the prints and copies of the Racing Post. Roosters Wild Mule was the pick of the crop here, I thought, although some went for the Bowland.
The Thatched House meanwhile is the Local CAMRA branch Pub of the Year 2016 and certainly offers the largest range of beers in the town. The bar stretches along the left hand corner as you enter and the first thing you notice is the high number of Chapel Street beers. This is because the microbrewery is housed in the old coaching shed at the rear of the pub. Some people giddy with the occasion may go straight for these but the seasoned professional will tread more carefully. All the ones I sampled seemed to have the same fault: lack of crispness and a chewy Crystal malt undertone. However, the guest beers were excellent.

There are two other points to mention about Poulton. Enviably it boasts a Booths supermarket right in the centre and also a renowned chippy: Doodles, which lived up to its reputation. The rest is up to you

Sunday, 21 February 2016

West Didsbury

There are numerous good pub crawls in and around the great beer metropolis that is Manchester. One of the newest and also one of the easiest is the West Didsbury run. Having sampled its delights myself on several occasions, I wasn’t going to miss out on another crack at it with some chums in attendance. All the famous faces were there: Stopwatch Sid, Archimedes and Pythagoras, The Wallsend Wonder, The Whitefield Holts Bandit. Not to mention Jack and Jill, without whom no pub trek is complete.

First stop was the handily placed Wine and Wallop on Lapwing Lane. I say handily placed as it’s practically opposite the West Didsbury Metrolink stop. It’s always good to be able to snag a pint quickly after a lengthy journey. Or indeed even if the journey isn’t lengthy. And, of course, it’s always good to be able to stagger onto your chariot home without inconveniencing oneself too much. Owned by the same people who run the nearby Folk Café, Wine and Wallop is apparently aimed at the more mature drinker. Which is handy; as the odd CAMRA member may just be over 21.
W&W has the relaxed-note the trad jazz music-feel of what used to be called a wine bar. However, that always seemed to be a derogatory term amongst serious drinkers and doesn’t do what is a comfortable, contemporary outlet justice. There is space upstairs and a small outdoor drinking area at the front but it is hard to wander too far from the bakers dozen row of pumps. I generally find the selection here very good and wasn’t disappointed by the Brightside and Marble on offer this time.
Barely five minutes away down Lapwing Lane, on the corner with Burton Road lay the next two, very different, prospects. The Railway is a small ex-John Smiths basic boozer that Joseph Holt’s transformed in the 1990s into something more fitting for the area. They have done well with the limited space by using snob screens to break it up into separate areas and the log fire is a nice touch. It may come as something of a shock to be paying more than £2.70 for Joey’s finest wares but they do stock the sadly all-too-little seen IPA. Perhaps a sign of the times are the bottles of Belgian and American ale also available.
Across the road is the Metropolitan. This is altogether a much larger, grander affair. It’s what Uncle Albert classes as a “proper pub”. Formerly the rather rough (with a capital R) Midland Hotel, quite a lot of cash has been splashed to make it the pub you see today. Now it is far more representative of the sumptuous Victorian railway pub it once was. The high ceilings, large tables and extensive al fresco drinking give it lots of space. Which it needs, as unsurprisingly it majors on food in a big way and is the area’s busiest pub. Perhaps because of this, they seem to rather let the beer side slide a little. Certainly the choice generally seems lacklustre and often one ends up with a rather expensive pint of Landlord.
Much more reliable, usually anyway, is Mary & Archie just along the way on Burton Road. This is another small bar; they usually are round here, with drinking areas to the side and rear of the bar. I say usually reliable as, on this occasion, some people had skipped ahead and supped all the good stuff. Perhaps a downside of only having three pumps? But, never fear, refrigerated goodness in the form of Founders and Beavertown came to the rescue.
On the other side of the road and next to each other are the Folk Café Bar and Volta. FCB is the opposite of the TARDIS, it’s much smaller than it appears from the outside. Past the Palm tree terrace lies the framework of the two shops that now make up this bar. As the name suggests, the décor is rather eclectic and music plays its part at weekends. Volta comes to you courtesy of the folk behind Chorlton’s successful Electrik bar albeit with more of a focus on being a neighbourhood eatery. This being Didsbury though that doesn’t stop it offering a couple of pumps to tempt you with.
Another Chorlton offshoot lies across the road at Saison. This one is the brainchild of the Dulcimer crew and has only been operating since September 2015. Very much a beer led venture, it consists of a narrow ground floor bar with seating all along the downstairs space and some upstairs. Most importantly is the choice of four cask and sixteen keg lines. Cask won out on this occasion as the keg offerings seemed to have fallen into the seemingly classic craft trap of being unpalatably strong.
Our last scheduled stop was the George Charles which cannot hide its origins as a corner shop. Nicely converted, the wraparound windows let in a pleasing amount of light. However, it is cosy with only a couple of tables, bench seating and stools to provide room for about 40 imbibers. There is more room downstairs but alas, the curse of the modern age, that is often reserved for diners. Having been lucky and acquired a table, all that remained was to sample some excellent Saltaire Gold. And Flying Dog, naturally. And we could hardly have left without saying bonsoir to Shindigger IPA.

A leisurely stroll round the watering holes of South Manchester that even the laziest of imbibers can manage. 

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Cafe Beermoth

Well there has been only one question on the lips of Manchester beery folk of recent: when will Café Beermoth open? Yes, ever since it was announced that N/4 favourite Beermoth was getting a bigger sibling, anticipation and expectation has been quite the mood amongst the hipsters and shakers of Cottonopolis. Whilst the announcement took some by surprise, it was the natural step after Beermoth quickly outgrew its original remit. And co-owners Scott, Jeremy and Simon did well in securing an empty site in Spring Gardens. Whilst the area is not synonymous with beer, it was for many years the centre of banking in the north-west; it does remain an important thoroughfare.


It’s a good location as it links the likes of the Waterhouse and City Arms with the centre of the city whilst remaining a destination in its own right. Opening night was a real celeb fest. I haven’t seen so many of the crafteratti out and about since the (false) rumour about KFC giving away chicken wing buckets. As promised it’s quietly stylish with one long bar and lots and lots of wood with a small space upstairs. It’s comfortable and I immediately felt at home. Well it is a bar after all. A little tweaking is still taking place. Food in the form of sandwiches and, hooray, cheese platters is promised and it is open from 8am to serve the needs of the coffee hungry.


Oh and what about the beer? There are seven cask lines and ten keg offerings with details displayed above the bar. They also seem to have an inordinate amount of wild and saison bottles. Saturday, like my photos, is slightly hazy as I was ten pints in before arriving. However, I do recall enjoying the reassuringly bitter Mallinsons Hop Tzarina along with some London murky Kernel Nelson Sauvin IPA. And there may have been an Odell IPA in there as well. Prices seemed very reasonable for the Manchester scene; although let’s face it I was past caring by then. It seems almost pointless to wish them well as it seems rather self-evident that they will do so. Manchester has a great beer scene and Café Beermoth is a great addition to that scene.

Cafe Beermoth, 40 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2 1EN

Saturday, 12 December 2015

A Prestwich Ramble

Prestwich village lies at the outer rim of the grand metropolis that is Bury and so it often gets overlooked in favour of its brighter, louder, neighbour Manchester. Although it harbours aspirations-some would say pretensions-to be a Didsbury clone, the reality has been somewhat different. Beer choice has traditionally been limited and was heavily dominated by Holts with only a very limited choice of other ales. However, things have been steadily improving and the burgeoning dining scene has started to have a knock on effect on the beer front. Eager to check out the latest disturbances in the Force, I set sail for pastures new.

New adventures in drinking, as everyone knows, can be thirsty work so the experienced traveller will always warm up with a pint or two. The logical place to start seemed to be the Coach & Horses, just over the border in Bury Old Road, Whitefield. This Victorian boozer is a traditional Holts pub divided into 3 rooms. I tend to find the Mild a little variable but the Bitter is always a safe bet. Prestwich Liberal Club also offers the lure of real ale but is harder than Fort Knox to get into. Even if you get past the swipe card protected front door, you may find yourself trapped in the foyer awaiting a friendly face to buzz you in. If you do get the hard-as-nails barmaid to serve you, the choice is Holts Mild & Bitter alongside Landlord.

Much more amenable is one of the new kids on the block: All the Shapes. This new café bar nestles on the site of a former tanning salon on Warwick St and is just the sort of place that Prestwich has sorely been lacking in. It’s cosy with a small downstairs bar area and more room upstairs. Obviously it offers the now de rigueur food options, which are very good I believe, but most importantly it has a decent beer offering. Two handpumps offer a changing selection of local ales: First Chop and the excellent Track Black IPA on my first visit. There’s also the likes of Cloudwater and Camden on tap and a decent bottled collection. This should do really well and you can see it expanding in the future.

(All the Shapes)
Already part of a growing empire is the other new kid on the block: Solita. Situated on Bury New Road, this will need no introduction to those who have visited the Didsbury or Manchester City centre branches. Known ostensibly for their food, particularly the burgers, they do also offer the opportunity to just go in and enjoy a few drinks. The Prestwich bar downstairs is comfortable and far larger than you might think. They seem a little shy about the fact that they serve real ale and the handpumps tend to go unbadged. Here the rather excellent Pale Ale house beer is brewed by Bury’s very own Brightside. They also brew the equally excellent house keg beer Solita Brau. Other options on draught include Kona Big Wave and Paulaner. Whilst not an obvious option as somewhere to pop in for a drink, the beer selection does offer something different for the area.
(Solita)
Whilst in the area it would be rude not to check out the Church Inn which is tucked away at the end of, appropriately enough, Church Lane. For many years the Church flew the flag for beer choice in Prestwich and was the first in the area to offer a no-smoking room. its Deuchars-when that was considered cutting edge-was also rated the best in the borough. Despite still being an Enterprise Inn pub, it makes the most of the available guest beers and offers four for your delectation. To get to the Church, you’ll have to pass Prestwich Conservative Club. It’s worth poking your head in here to marvel at the rather plush surroundings. They do have real ale on; it varies but was Robinsons Trooper when I called in. 

Now of course Prestwich wouldn’t be Prestwich without a drop of Holts. You’re spoilt for choice really, what with the Red Lion and the White Horse but on this sortie it was the Foresters that took the prize. This is a 1960’s two-roomed boozer where the Bitter is usually on form. You’re very close to the Metrolink stop now, but it’s worth calling in the Railway & Naturalist. Built in 1850, the ‘Nats’ was originally named after the members of the Botanical Society that used to meet there but the coming of thirsty railway labourers changed the name to its current status. When the pub was knocked through, along with the loss of the famous ‘Rat Pit’ room, it lost much of its character. However, in recent times it has returned to the real ale fold and now offers a changing guest beer.

Prestwich definitely looks to be on the up beer wise and is only a bus or tram ride away from Bury or Manchester centre. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: CREW Republic Detox

Today we step off this great sceptred isle and head for sunny Munich. Yes, Germany. Now I will let you into a little secret. The Germans brew beer. Quite a lot of it, actually. I know; get out of here, right? No they honestly do. And some of it ain’t bad. Ok it will never replace quality stuff like John Smiths Smooth in the hearts of the British bulldogs. But if you’re ever over there, put down that pint of Guinness, get out of that Oirish pub and try some of the local brew in some of their splendid beer palaces.

To be fair, you’re probably not very likely to come across CREW Republic in too many places. The traditional nature of the German beer scene-the very thing that makes it so appealing-has somewhat stifled the microbrewing scene. Or rather it had. Recent years have seen an expansion, albeit it not on the scale of some other European countries. Mario Hanel and Timm Schnigula formed CREW Republic to be part of this new wave. And certainly their beers and general business approach has more in common with the American model rather than traditional German practices.
But is the beer any good? Well it’s a 330ml bottle and is 3.4%. It’s described thus: “Is it time to Detox? Detox is a Session India Pale Ale and boasts a big hop aroma that satisfies ones need for a hop fix!!! Our idea of a session beer means that it’s a lower alcohol version of one of our favorite beer styles without having to compromise on flavor. This unfiltered light gold colored elixir has a much lighter body and less bitterness than its big brother counterpart, however delivers the entire hop experience one expects from an IPA.The two main hops in this beer are Comet from the Hallertau and Galaxy from Australia. The fruity aromas in these two hops compliment one another very well and we even used a new hopping technique for the first time in Detox.The CREW enjoys drinking this one a lot all day and it’s our favorite beer as soon as someone fires up the grill”.

It poured a hazy light-orange with a large, creamy, white head. The aroma was very appealing. Very little malt but plenty of sweet citrus notes. I think the Chinook is probably responsible for the slight floral aspect whilst I’m guessing the Galaxy is more impacting the tropical side. Good use of the Pilsner malt means it’s very clean on the palate and tastes very fresh. Lots of tangerine and grapefruit along with a little sherbet lemon. The finish is a medium level mix of tart orange and lemon dryness.

Tyson says: Punches well above its weight. This is a bit of a wunderkind. Prost!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Vote Sepp


Today’s little aperitif is a special little number from those pesky little Brewdog fellas. Actually I’m feeling rather pleased with myself as a guy in the pub last night wanted to sell me a crate of these at a knock down rate. But I insisted on paying full price. You can’t catch me out like that, no sir. Anyway, apparently, this was Brewdog’s attempt to bribe Sepp Blatter into giving Scotland the 2022 World Cup. But the joke’s on them, isn’t it? As Sepp himself will tell you, his international reputation for integrity and honesty is second to none. You’re no more likely to find his hand in the till than you are to find a Russian athlete who’s a drug cheat.
The bottle is the usual 330ml and is 3.4%. On the back it states: “Vote Sepp, an incorruptible hibiscus wit beer in honour of our tireless football führer, Mr Blatter.  Best served from brown paper envelopes to aid drinking with greased palms, one sip of this beer and Sepp will be putty in our hands”. It was very lively and poured fairly (for Brewdog) clear amber with a pink tint and a large off-white head. Given the hibiscus, it’s not a surprise that the aroma is big on floral notes. There’s also some bread and red berries there as well but it doesn’t really hit you as a traditional Wit.

It’s easy on the palate, but once again you’re struck by the lack of Wit characteristics. There’s no bready-dough yeastiness and you have to really delve quite far down to get the wheat hit. Saying that, it’s not unpleasant and once you get over the fact that Brewdog have produced a mild beer, there is little to find offence with. With no real backbone to underpin it, the lasting impression is of a slightly fruity-cranberry, perhaps, beer with an ever so slight tart finish.

Tyson says: “Like the great man himself, this is an easy-going, well-balanced beer that no one could find much wrong with”. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Rudy's Pizza

Rudy’s hasn’t been open for long but has already carved out a name for itself for knocking out some of (for my money, the best) pizzas in Manchester city centre. For anyone who has followed the pop-up street food trend that has swept the city in recent years or perhaps attended some indie beer event, the name will be familiar. Started by Jim Morgan and Kate Wilson: the name refers to their young dog, in case you were wondering, with the aim of bringing the Neapolitan pizza experience to Manc land. Of course to do that, you need more than just Italian ingredients and a wood-fired oven. It all comes down to the dough; in this case it’s a 48-hour dough-making process in which it is double-proved and hand kneaded to retain air bubbles. The result is an exquisitely light pizza that makes you feel as if you could immediately eat another. And some people do exactly that. Although, obviously,  I don’t know anyone like that.
Ancoats is an up and coming spot on the Manchester hipster map and Rudy’s have landed at a prime location on Cotton St. The Fairbairn Building which hosts them overlooks Cutting Room Square and is positioned directly opposite Halle St Peters. The regeneration of the former mills in this part of town has really gathered pace and apartment developments are all the rage. Some of the signs of a hipster neighbourhood-artisan coffee and bread hangouts-are already in place and more are due to open. Sadly the much vaunted re-opening of the former Edinburgh Castle pub has fallen through meaning that there is still a gap in essential services. However, with the Seven Bro7hers brewery planning to move in and Port Street Beer House only five minutes away, it’s not a real hardship.

Rudy's is open Tues 17.00-22.00, Wed-Sat 12.00-22.00 and Sun 12.00-18.00. Kitchen closed 3pm-5pm everyday except Sunday. They also sell some excellent bottled beer by the likes of Runaway and Cloudwater.