Showing posts from March, 2008

back to the future part deux

There’s always at least one beer that people tend to remember. It may be your first ever, your first legal one, or simply that one that conjures up a special time. So it is with the Stomach, and Brains Reverend James. Having tried it several years ago, he’s been desperate to try it again ever since. Was it as good as he remembered? Or was it simply a case of a beer being at the right place at the right time? There have been a few near misses over the years, but every time he’s been alerted to a nearby source, it vanishes before he gets a chance to sample it. So when an afternoon visit to Wetherspoons revealed it to be on the bar, an urgent carrier pigeon was despatched.

Also on the bar was Bank Top Little Sam (3.8%) which was pale and indifferent. Robinsons Top Tipple and Wychwood Mad Hatter were both fine, if not quite up to their Manchester counterpart standard. Ringwood (not usually one of my favourite breweries) 78 at 4.2% wasn’t bad. It probably lacked the hops I prefer with gold…

knock knock

"Tell me who's that knocking at the knocking shop door tonight?"

A quiet venture today, with a late start drink wise, as the evening promised to be interesting. So, just a couple of pints warm up watching the mighty Man Utd cruise along.

Now, never being afraid to venture where other beerhounds fear to tread, I have been to all sorts of venues over the years. However, Saturday night was a first for me. It’s not everyday you get an invite to a brothel party. Well I don’t anyway. Having never been to a knocking shop before, the sociologist in me was curious to see the human zoo that patronise these establishments, both as customer and service provider. With the number of Camra types who I’ve discovered frequent these places, I’m surprised there isn’t a campaign for real ale in brothels! Anyway, a regular at such a place invited me along as his guest on the understanding that I would be merely an observer. Admittedly, apart from scientific curiosity, the lure of a free bar an…

back to the future

Well, having failed to source Stone’s California Double IPA, despite scouring Manchester, desperate measures were needed. So I found myself having breakfast at Bury’s gubernatorial Wetherspoons fun palace. Although what Sir Robert Peel would make of the dump named in his honour, God only knows. Anyway, 10am is probably the best time to visit here, as the deadlegs have yet to arrive, and you can’t argue with £1.99. I killed the time waiting for my lift with a pint of Kelham IslandPale Rider (5.2%) which failed to impress. Saltaire Bavarian Dark (4.9%) was much better and had a well balanced roast/malt ratio. Then it was straight over to the Regal Moon in Rochdale and my meeting with Stone’s. Truly an amazing beer and Nirvana for hop lovers. It does not drink like 7%. Unfortunately, my chauffeur wasn’t about to wait around indefinitely, and as I had to get back, I had to make do with just 2 pints.

Back in Bury and what to do? My next appointment wasn’t till 6, so how to fill the afternoo…

wetherspoons here we come

A message from Eddie: the eager, legal, beagle. Could I join him for a beer sojourner this evening? I tried pleading with him that I was intending to paint my toenails, but he was insistent. I had to go out and gorge myself on the hop-apparently it’s the law. Like beerites up and down the land, we wanted to check out the start of the Wetherspoons Beer Festival. Tandleman had already teased me with the delights available at the Rochdale outlet, whilst Bury had nothing to offer but the faint odour of last night’s vomit. So it was that we hoisted up our scooping buckets and headed for the bright lights of Manchester.

First stop was the Paramount on Oxford Road. This is the best JDW outlet in town and didn’t disappoint tonight. A full range of festival beers were available, all at £1.19 a pint for Camra members. The choice included Youngs and the Stomach’s favourite beer-Brains Rev James. We tried Marston’s Sunlight Ale (3.8%) and Bateman’s Spring Goddess (4.2%). The Marston’s was full of …

Beer festival, my arse

Live update from the Robert Peel. It’s officially the first day of Wetherspoons Beer Festival-except, it seems, here in Bury. There are festival programmes, a festival poster, and festival promotions on the pumpclips. But actual festival beers, not a sign. The same old tired beers from last night are still on, along with the usual suspects. Perhaps it’s an early April Fool joke???
A good turn out tonight-we even had the Stomach tagging along to entertain us with stories about Zeppelin spotting. A late work finish meant we restricted our imbibing to central Bury. No problem, Wetherspoons are starting a festival tomorrow-the Peel will doubtless have some festival beers on already. So, in hopeful anticipation, the Crazy Gang piled into the Troughside (AKA The Robert Peel).

No sign of any impending festival, apart from a t-shirt hung at the bar. Beer wise, apart from the usual suspects, there was Bank Top Brydge Bitter (3.8%), Wychwood Dirty Tackle (4.4%) and Exmoor Gold (4.5%). Brydge Bitter was flat and listless, whilst Dirty Tackle was soapy and obviously the end of the barrel. Exmoor Gold was the only drinkable beer and even that was far from perfect, verging on the bland. Some of the Crazy Gang were only use to seeing the Troughside at the end of the night, through alcohol infused eyes. Taking a look round stone sober, they were shocked. The Trackside gets some…

tyson is on holiday


Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday-an opportunity for quiet reflection and family gatherings. Super Sport Sunday-an excuse to indulge and imbibe with a bunch of drunks down the local ale house. Tough choice, but after deep reflection (2 seconds at least), I found myself in the Dogs with all the other beer and football zealots. As usual there was high drama and tears, and that was just choosing the beers.

Bank Top Leprechaun Stout (5%) was declared “even better than Guinness” by one obviously well versed connoisseur. Indeed, it was hard to argue with that, as the hint of blackcurrant made for quite a tasty pint. College Green’s Molly’s Chocolate Stout (4.2%) was also unusual, with roast oats, and a coffee bite, to add to the obvious chocolate notes. This exotic blend must have gone straight to Farting Freddie’s head, as he rashly tried a Boggart. When will people learn??? Boggart Dark (4.2%) was tart, then sour, then earthy-in that order. Completely undrinkable by any reasonable palate standards.

When the fi…
Well despite all the talk of cataclysmic weather conditions, Saturday wasn’t that bad at all. Windy, yes, but the early morning sun convinced me it was safe to venture further afield. Thus, I set off for the Star Inn in Huddersfield. Its twice yearly beer festivals are real treats as all the beer is served via handpump, both in the pub and in an adjacent marquee.

An uneventful journey later, I found myself in the centre of Huddersfield. The Head of Steam proved very poor-I’d heard this was on the wane and this visit only confirmed it. Much better was the Station Tavern which had several decent beers on. Then it was a brisk walk down to Albert St and the main event.

Church End Iron Brew (4%) was reddish in hue and, as I feared, sweetish in palate. Weatheroak Frog March (4.5%) was another new one for me. An amber beer, it also was leaning on the malty side, albeit it with some coffee notes-interesting but not one for me. Much better was Cairngorn White Lady (4.7%) which was a Bavarian sty…

good friday

Good Friday. An important day in the religious calendar. Also, a public holiday, and therefore a good excuse for an all dayer. Eschewing the obvious delights of Bury as, unfortunately, these occasions bring out the amateur drinkers in droves. Therefore, Manchester was the appointed imbibing spot for the day.

The Marble Arch at lunchtime wasn’t too busy and seats were quickly acquired. Somewhat late due to Don Juan Ricardo’s shaving accident, Pythagoras and Archimedes were already getting stuck in. The Whitefield Holts Bandit had managed to get a lift and was bearing his injury with manly fortitude. The problem with starting a crawl at the Marble is that often the temptation to stay is so strong that any thoughts of a crawl are soon forgotten. The excellent range, and not wanting to abandon the WHB, meant that the intended one or two became slightly more. The usual suspects were tried-JP Best and Manchester Bitter and found to be in good order. Titanic New World (4.4%) was disappointing…

Recap time

A busy week of intoxication. As they say “those who can, drink, and those that don’t, write about it.” Well, if they don’t say that, they should. Ah, so much beer, and so little time to write about it. Meaning only honourable mentions for Monday’s escapades in deepest Lancashire, and Tuesday’s session with the Whitefield Holts Bandit. Alas, I fear his days as our answer to Lance Armstrong are numbered, as he is currently seeking an Edith Cavell to soothe his cycle-induced injuries. Any ladies with a nurse’s outfit and soft hands are welcome to apply for the position.

A jolly evening jaunt to the George Wright Brewery ( at Rainford was Wednesday’s treat. I’ve long been a fan of their beers and jumped at the chance to sample them from the source. A very smart setup indeed, particularly for a micro of this size. We were provided with tables and chairs, some heating, and a bar with a choice of three ales. What more could a beerhound want! The presentation, by…

The Tracks of My Beer

A message reaches me from the ether. Could I manage an afternoon session in Bury? Of course, is the Vatican full of Nazis, is my reply. But I’m already booked up for the evening, so it will have to be an early start. Thus, after a false start at the Troughside, I find myself settled in at La Railside just before noon.

There is a diesel event on and whilst there are a few anoraks on the platform, luckily there is still space inside. Unfortunately, the Ossett I enjoyed on my last visit had gone, so it was decided we would start afresh and try everything left on the board. Acorn Old Moor Porter (4.4%) was very dark brown/black, with an aroma of roast malt, chocolate, and coffee. The initial bitter coffee taste gave way to a sweeter, almost liquorice flavour. A very good example of this style I thought.

Moorhouses Pride of Pendle was pale and pleasant enough, if just on the wrong side of sweet for my palate. Northern-Night To Remember was also on and it confirmed my earlier experience that…

Saturday Sport

This was more like it. Ronaldo secures the three points, England thrash Italy, Arsenal only draw, and then there was Wales. If that wasn’t enough to excuse a celebratory pint, then Google provides more. Apparently, I’m top of the search pile for anyone looking for “diacytol”. Well, I was, but a search today reveals I’ve slipped down to no 3. Such is the fleeting moment of fame. Anyway diacytol, diacytol, diacytol, diacytol-that should do the trick!

After yesterday’s adventures and with a day’s worth of sport to keep an eye on, I find myself once more at the Dogs. Dark Star Espresso (4.2%) is a classic of its type but one is enough on this occasion. White Park (a new brewery to me) at 4.5% was interesting. Reddish-brown, it had a smoky malt aroma which developed into a roast flavour that was perhaps a little too harsh. Dark Star Spring Equinox (4%) was much more like it. Pale and beautifully balanced, it eschewed the obvious (if tasty) option of overwhelming early hops, in favour of a l…

A session at the Ox

So, happy Naomh Pádraig’s (St Patrick to you) day. Ok, it’s a wee bit early, but there I was at the New Oxford St Patrick’s Beer Festival. A good excuse to drink some new brews and discuss why we don’t hear more about Brigid of Kildare. The usual motley crew was augmented by the Whitefield Holts Bandit who had just flown back, his holdall overflowing with towels from Edinburgh’s finest hostelries, and his collection of donkey-hide posing pouches.

Finding a seat proved impossible at first as the combination of after work drinkers and early afternoon lingerers was at its height. A group of lesser-spotted scoopers were ensconced in a corner and looked like they were there for the duration. Usually a benign pest, they really only come to the fore when they take up space best used by more serious drinkers. However, patience paid off and we were eventually able to secure seats handily close to the bar. Let the drinking commence…

As is the practice at the Ox (hence the scoopers), there were ma…

A Night To Remember

It was a night to remember alright. Well, at times it did seem like being on the deck of the Titanic as it quickly sank beneath the waves. It started innocently enough. Could I meet Eddie, the eager, legal, beagle, for a martini and a discussion on the Second Anglo-Sikh War. Perhaps I should have consulted the chicken bones more carefully? Anyway, the first signs should have set off alarm bells. The Railside had a reduced range on as they were clearing the decks for a big diesel weekend. Unfortunately for us, this only left Bazens Zebra as anything we really fancied. And even that was reluctantly, as recently Bazens have all had an unpleasant smoky taste. It proved an adequate, if undemanding, beer, but what has happened to the great Bazen taste?

Never mind says I. I’ve been keeping an eye on the Peel and the “coming soon” sign has been removed from Howard Town’s Wren’s Nest-if that’s on we will be in clover. So off to the peel we skipped. Wren’s Nest was turned round, but there seemed…

I do like Mondays

"Monday Monday, so good to me,
Monday Monday, it was all I hoped it would be."

Well, it wasn’t bad anyway. Apparently it was gale force weather throughout Britain, and according to the news you shouldn’t venture out unnecessarily. I have to say that Manchester has seen much worse-note to Met Office; the South Coast does not constitute the whole of the country. Not that I could actually see much of it from my dining table at Innfusion. This is the restaurant at Jury’s Hotel on Great Bridgewater Street in Manchester. Pretty standard offerings, but they seem to have done it up a little since my last visit. The hotel bar is now known as the Inntro (geddit) Pub which seems a little optimistic, but it’s pleasant enough as far as these places go. However, this beerhound doesn’t settle for pleasant, and so it was time to move on to something more challenging.

Luckily that was provided by the Britons Protection just next door. This is one of the finest boozers in Manchester and has long…

Sunday Morning Coming Down

"On the Sunday morning sidewalk,
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cos there's something in a Sunday,
Makes a body feel alone.

The glum mood at Tyson Towers hadn’t yet completely lifted. The hospital visit of Baroness T which had briefly lifted spirits had proved a disappointing false alarm. And then I had the misfortune to turn on the goggle box and catch The Andrew Marr Show. Who was doing the paper review but Kelvin Mackenzie. Amongst the many media arseholes out there, he truly is a prince. I’ve never heard a sober person talk so much unmitigated rubbish in such a short time. Quite an achievement really. Having dismissed the notion of child poverty in less than two minutes, he turned his glaring intellect on to a much more serious subject-pubs. Apparently he’s an expert on why these are closing, as well. Unfortunately, his favourite preface seems to be “The truth is,” which immediately tells you it’s the opposite. I got so mad I nearly choked on my duck croissant.…

How much is too much?

Oh woe is me. It’s doom and gloom all round. Grown men crying in their Babycham and pain etched in their faces. What’s the matter, old boy? First the mighty Utd throw it all away at home, and then those buggers with rugger balls get beaten by the kilt wearing brigade. It’s enough to drive a man, never mind a beerhound, to drink. And then, amongst this carnival of tears, the topic of the £255 pint comes up for discussion.

Carlsberg have produced just 600 bottles of Jacobsen Vintage No 1. This 10.5% barley wine has taken two years to brew and with a 375ml bottle size, it equates to £255 a pint. Apparently it tastes like an intense mix of caramel and sherry. Which actually doesn’t sound too good. However, it’s been acclaimed by some “beer experts”, who claim it will change your perception of beer forever. And each bottle comes complete with an original lithographic print by Danish artist Frans Kannik. Probably could have done with a couple of them yesterday. Certainly a round or two on t…

Carry on regardless

Thursday. Only Allagtes and Old Bear, both poor, in the Peel. What to do now? A message from Eddie, the eager, legal, beagle. Could I meet him to discuss the Relief of Mafeking? Never one to turn down such an opportunity, I agreed. So it was we endured another evening battling humulus lupulus. The Stomach, who was regaling us with his adventures in the Boer War, experimented with pretty much the full range before declaring Tempus Fugit the most palatable. Eddie and I, being veterans, went straight for Janine’s One, knowing it couldn’t last long. So it proved. With our considerable help, amongst much wailing, the cask eventually ran dry. Luckily, the replacement-O’Hanlon’s Yellowhammer was palatable enough to see out the rest of the night. Out of diligence, we tried Boggart Angel Hill. Thank God we only had a taster. This was phenol rich and an unbelievably bad beer. How do they get away with brewing such crap beer?

Again we were witnesses to the ebb and flow of customers. Faces, old a…

Ramsbottom Ramble

A gentle ramble took me to the extremities of Bury’s drinking area. To infinity and beyond. Or to Ramsbottom and beyond to be accurate. Passing through Ramsbottom’s famous real ale mile, I experienced both sides of being a real ale fan-joy and disappointment. I also picked up some juicy gossip titbits which is always a bonus.

First the joy. Surveying the bar at the Dogs, I immediately ruled out the offerings by Wentworth and Blakemere on the grounds of being dubious brewers. Dark Star Espresso (5%) is a good drink, but I settled on Saltaire Yorkshire Pale, which from our excursion to Halifax, I knew to be a good beer. So it proved, with a very refreshing clean hop taste. Outlaw Wild Mule was also excellent, as usual. Over at the Good Sam, I was forced to try Roosters YPA which was very pleasant. Grindleton Old Fecker (named after Don Ricardo?) at 4% was lighter than a traditional bitter, but had that mix of roast bitterness that one associates with that style-not too bad at all. Of cou…

Lets go foreign

When given the opportunity to combine two of my hobbies, I usually jump at the chance. Thus the adventure of a night on the ale, and a visit to the Theatre of Dreams proved too tempting. And what a night-pure poetry in motion and luckily I had a good view of the action. And that was just the barmaid in the Thirsty Scholar!

Pre match drinking was a leisurely crawl of the bottom end of Deansgate/Oxford Road, with the compulsory stops at Knott Bar, Kro Bar etc. Cask at the corner of Liverpool Road proved particularly popular, so much so, that it was chosen as first port of call on the return journey. It’s a small continental style bar that specialises in foreign beer, although, as the name suggests, it does sell cask ale. What sets it apart from the many clones that seem intent on promoting only Belgium beers is the range of German beers. I always think it’s a pity that more places don’t get some decent Kraut stuff in. Is it a case of don’t mention the war?

Anyway, going with the flow, I …

Forever Bury

Forever Bury is the name of the fans group dedicated to raising funds for the Bury FC-the mighty Shakers. There are various initiatives-car boots and the like. However, one of the main ones is an annual beer festival. Hence I found myself at Gigg Lane Social Club, tokens and glass in hand, waiting eagerly for that first drink of the day. Getting in for 1230 ensured a choice of seats-ideally as far away as the forthcoming entertainment as possible. Although this did make the football scores hard to read, thereby reminding us that life isn’t all beer and marmite.

A glass of Iceni Pilot 4% (light, but diacytol tang) and the descent into drunken excess had begun. Sooner or later, all the local drunks, sorry real ale connoisseurs, made an appearance. There was Plating John, Eddie, the eager, legal, beagle, the Whitefield Holts Bandit, Pythagoras and even Mr & Mrs Metrolink made an appearance. Jolly Brewer’s Jonathon’s Lager 4.5% was light and pleasant, whilst their Dusky Maiden 6.7% was…

When is a pub not a pub?

Anyone coming into Bury by car, or walking through the shopping precinct will come across the abnormality pictured above. The Flying Shuttle (AKA The Showboat, AKA Liberty Avenue etc) to give it its original, and proper, name is a strange beast. A new build opened by Thwaites in 1983, it takes its name from John Kay’s famous textile invention. Although exteriorly unattractive, it had some attractive traditional features. There were two rooms, each with their own entrances and bar-one large lounge and a pool room. It projected an image of comfortable prosperity and encouraged (then still relatively rare), lunch time diners. Being so close to the precinct, it was a gold mine and operated a strict code for dress and behaviour. Indeed, it passed into Bury folklore for banning Dan Juan Ricardo on its opening day for the sin of wearing a leather jacket!

However, fast forward to the late 90s and a different picture emerges. Standards had dropped due to changes in management and cask, when on…