Wednesday, 30 July 2008
So it was that we kicked off in the Dogs. Eddie, being a well known weather jinx, ensured that our al fresco experience was brief. Never fear, we were more than comforted by pints of Outlaw Wild Mule, and Phoenix White Monk. Next stop was the Towler and some excellent Golden Pippin. Naturally one pint led to another, and despite my pleas to leave, Eddie forced me to stay. The Manx Minx was soon on the dog and bone. She’d finished ripping innocent teeth out and was expecting Eddie back to polish the gold taps in the bathroom. Like the British in India, we knew it was time to leave, so we tucked into our last drinks.
Sunday, 27 July 2008
The natural starting point was the Trackside, where the only problem was the snail like service. George Wright Summer Sizzler was good, but a bit on the strong side to kick off with, so I stuck to Acorn Yorkshire Pride for the duration. This 3.7% session bitter was straw coloured and had a pronounced bitter edge. Very good, as Acorn tend to be, I thought. However, Stopwatch Sid found it too one-dimensional and complained it wasn’t well balanced. Exactly why I liked it. Well balanced? Blimey, we’re on a piss up, mate, not wine tasting in Aix-en-Provence.
Shepherding the day trippers onto the bus, we headed, via the scenic route, to the Pack Horse in Affetside. A check yesterday had revealed that, despite rumours to the contrary, this was open and still run by Conrad. A case of Chinese whispers, perhaps? Anyway, we soon settled on the patio decking, soaking up the rays and enjoying a couple of Hydes finest. The Bitter was in particularly good form, being a lot dryer than usual. Also tried was the seasonal, Bells & Whistles, which was fine, if unexceptional.
Next stop was the Hare & Hounds and a shady spot out at the back. Once tried, I stuck to Phoenix White Monk which was fresh on and bone dry moreish. Eventually, those of us left, moved onto the Footballers in Summerseat. Here we took up position in the back garden with its very scenic views of the surrounding countryside. The Hydes Bitter here was good, if not quite up to the Pack Horse standards. I also managed a couple of Taylors Landlord before saying goodbye to Don Ricardo who seemed to have lost the ability to stand. Despite a new speed walking record of 6 minutes, I missed the bus due to an idiot driver seemingly determined to ignore the timetable.
However, plan B kicked in, and I got the bus going the other way. After all they all go past pubs, don’t they? As everyone else was heading home, I got off and sampled some Wainwrights in the Sundial before settling down with Golden Pippin at the Towler. Next thing I know I’m at home eating pizza and watching the goggle box. People are always complaining about late night TV, but personally I found Addicted to Boob Jobs very educational. It was a real eye opener, in every sense.
Saturday, 26 July 2008
Also tried was Marstons Old Empire. This 5.7% is an excellent replica of a traditional IPA. Or, previously noted, what we expect from a “traditional” IPA. Certainly, with Marstons having that love-it, or hate-it Burton Snatch flavour, this is the best they produce. The stronger alcohol content seems to suit their style of brewing, resulting in lots of juicy malt and a spicy aftertaste. Time to get near the action, so a strategic withdrawal to the bar was in order. This was Pimms themed, so it seemed rude to drink anything else. Not that they really had anything else worth drinking. Don’t they realise we artistic types require quality imbibing sustenance?
The play being good, but as is the way with these things, not short, thank God for the hip flask I say. Post curtain drinks consisted of some excellent Marble JP Best and Janine’s One, before finally giving in to the clarion call of cider.
Friday, 25 July 2008
A quick look round illustrates the point. Up in Ramsbottom, you’ve got the Good Samaritan. Once a thriving local, its closure has to be ascribed to the mismanagement of Enterprise Inns. Seems they’re not actually interested in running pubs anymore. If that’s the case, then they should get off the pot. The longer it remains closed, the less chance there is of it coming back into use. It’s already a miracle that it’s not been vandalised. Realistically, thinking of the car park space, you have to think that ultimately it’s destined for more houses.
Further up, right on the main road, and part of the infamous “Rammy Mile” is the Old Dun Horse. A large Thwaites pub, it always had a reputation for attracting hardcore dickheads. Always did a good trade, though. It’s got a place in history, as well, hosting the annual Old English Gamecock Show on New Year’s Day. This tradition dates back to 1843 and is believed to be the oldest such show in the world. Interestingly, this actually replaced an even older traditional event-cock fighting, but I digress. Recently Thwaites spent not an insubstantial sum bringing it up to scratch and, amazingly, reintroduced cask ale. However, now there’s metal plates on all the doors and windows-apparently the licence has gone and it’s rumoured to be on its way to becoming a nursery.
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Time to jump on the bus and hit the Dogs. As usual, an excellent line up here. However, still stinging from my recent encounter with it, Leyden Time & Tide went untried. Instead I made do with the likes of Phoenix Arizona and the even better Phoenix Spotland Gold. The world of real ale can be a small one and, purely by chance, I fell into conversation with someone who had attended the opening night of the Beer House, many moons ago. I also had to contend with an evangelist from Bury Ramblers. They’d just completed a new members 5 mile walk. Which, he was quick to point out, didn’t actually count as a “proper walk.” Apparently, they’d done 11.5 miles yesterday, and that was nearer to what he considered a “proper walk.” As he reached for a membership form, I took a "proper walk"-straight to the bar...
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
The posse’s first stop in Manchester was the Angel, as visited on Saturday. Phoenix West Coast IPA was fresh on and in superb condition, bursting with pungent hops. So good, in fact, that Don Ricardo had downed his first before we mere mortals had taken the froth off ours. This led to the first of his off-topic ramblings. Having chatted to the very amenable host, naturally we had to delay our exit. Curse these places for serving such good beer. It was nice to see some of the local apartment dwellers popping in for a drink. If it’s to get the success it deserves, then these are the regulars it needs to attract.
Somewhat reluctantly we pushed on to the Marble Arch. Here we were met by a quite amazing beer. Oakham Endless Summer was golden and full of grapefruit hops, as you might expect from this brewery. However, the real shock was its abv. It was only 3.4%. If they can brew a beer to this standard at such a low vol, then why can’t others do it? It really put into perspective that there are a lot of very average beers doing the rounds out there. Of course, that meant we had to have another. Curse these places for serving such good beer...
A quick walk took us to the Smithfield. Here I tried Salopian Matrix which was a blond beer with a biscuity edge. Meanwhile Don Ricardo was going into great detail educating Eddie as to the different sizes of timber. Why, we were never quite sure. Across the road, Bar Fringe was closed, and in darkness, although you could clearly see staff sat around. A pit stop at the Crown & Kettle gave us a Blackdown beer that was obviously a cask version of Hoegaarden. There seems to be a lot of those around at the moment.
Time for some Dizzy Blonde in the Castle before heading to Hunters for a very late tea of rice and three. But, what’s this? Don Ricardo refusing curry! Quick, draw the curtains. Is there a doctor in the house? Refusing curry and then trying to explain to me why beer is like diesel. A surreal ending to a rather good beer evening.
Monday, 21 July 2008
Rather worryingly, this was the first press release that I’ve received as a blogger. Either they appreciate my important position in the online community. Or they were targeting me as a potential customer???
Sunday, 20 July 2008
Renovation is still under way, both in and outside. Indeed, the old signage is still visible over the door. Being on Angel Street, it makes sense to call it “The Angel” and this was, apparently, its original name. Although, that must have been quite some time ago, as I couldn’t find anyone who knew it in that incarnation. The interior is nice and bright and, guess what, no smell. On the bar were two beers. One from Phoenix and one from Dunham Massey. Both were tried and were excellent. Not bad value at £2.50 either.
So far, so good. A look at the Specials Board and we were ready to order. Unfortunately, this is where the wheels came off the wagon. Due to family circumstances there wasn’t any food available. Never mind, we’ll just dine in the Marble Arch. That’s always good, isn’t it? It certainly has had glowing reviews of the new chef. But is it a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes?
First impressions were good. There was a great selection on the bar. So good, in fact, that any idea to move on was washed away with the pouring rain. Phoenix Midsummer Madness, Marble 08’ and Janine’s One were all excellent, with Whim Cascade, perhaps, just shading it as the best. A glance at the menu board revealed a large selection of possible choices. However, on closer inspection these were only available after 5. A much slimmed down lunch menu was now in operation. And a strange selection it was too. Fish & chips only available in the evening? Ok, what about a sandwich? Well the cheese option has disappeared completely: not a sniff of a Ploughman’s, or a simple cheese & tomato.
Usually any decent place would offer a cheese & onion pie option, but the Marble offers a dodgy sounding vegetable pie instead. My scepticism seems well founded as I’ve heard various reports since that this is their worst dish. So, no lunch for me, but how did others fare? Well, the cheese on toast was nice and bubbly, but the steak & ale pie was pretty poor. The top slid off to reveal mostly gravy, leaving the only option of putting the three accompanying potatoes in the mix to try and solidify it. Not a patch on the level of catering I’ve recently experienced in Bury. I did cling on to try the fish & chips, which were served with some excellent monster chips, but I shall be taking my dining custom elsewhere in future.
Back in Bury we staggered into the Trackside and tried Everards Hazy Daze (4.3%) a cloudy wheat beer. This was very much like a Belgium white, with an orangery aroma and a spicy Hoegaarden palate. The only way to follow this up was, of course, with some cider-yes, Saturday night is now officially cider night...
Saturday, 19 July 2008
I kicked off with York Peaches & Cream (3.9%) which was golden and pretty bland, with only a little fruit sweetness to distinguish it. Fearing the worst, I got Leyden Time & Tide (4.4%) out of the way next. Sure enough, this dark beer didn’t disappoint. Completely one-dimensional with the usual unpleasant Leyden tang. Talking of dodgy breweries, I was interested in trying Bazens Old Punch Ale as I had sampled it last week at the Castlefield Hotel. It was in a lot better nick in the Crescent and had lost some of that strange sharpness, but was still no great shakes.
3B’s Bee-jing (3.9%) was, surprise, surprise a sweet honey beer. Can’t see the point in them myself. Of the others tried, the best dark beer was probably Hornbeam Coral Stout (4.5%) which had plenty of flavour. Wentworth Rampant Gryphon (6.2%) was interesting. An unassuming amber beer, it was well balanced and hid its strength well. Yet again, though, the best beers were from proven breweries. Phoenix Ged’s Beer (4.5%) had plenty of hops but was surpassed by its stablemate, Irwell Gold (4.1%) which had a very pronounced bitter-hop kick and a nice dry finish. Close call between that and Leeds Samba (3.7%), which had a big, zesty, citrus kick to it.
The bus ride into the city centre was an adventure in itself. Scallies, the drunk, the soon-to-be-clubbing, all were getting out of Salford as fast the bus would allow them. Some entrepreneur was offering single ciggies for £2 to the back seat brigade, whilst one lass was arguing whether she was a slut or not. To prove the point she lowered her top and gave the lads at the back a flash of her assets. I never thought I would ever say this, but I was actually thinking put em’ away, luv. Not a pretty sight, believe me.
In the centre a quick toilet stop at the English Lounge revealed no cask, but a sign offering a bucket of beer for a £10. Full marks to the guy stood outside in a black sleeveless top, very tight white trousers, and a jaunty beret. Very circa 1970’s Shaft. Not many would have the balls to wear that on a dark, wet night in Manchester, but judging by the transparency of his crotch, he did.
Back on the tram to Bury, where more oddities abounded, and then a quickie in the Trackside. Robinsons Olympic Gold was obviously very green as it lacked any flavour whatsoever. Then it was last bus time and a nightcap of Golden Pippin in the Towler.
Friday, 18 July 2008
However, man cannot live by work alone. And as Oscar Wilde said, I can resist everything except temptation. So eventually I found myself enjoying a cheeky one in the Sundial. The next logical stop was the Towler, and who am I to argue with logic? Nice to see it busy and, more importantly, serving some excellent Golden Pippin. However, man cannot live by Golden Pippin alone-well he could try-so a bus ride into town seemed in order.
Once safely cocooned in the Trackside, I fell into discussion with Streaker Stan who was looking resplendent in his liveried shirt. Beer wise I sampled Hartleys Cumbria Way which tasted just like Robinsons should. More interesting was Wylam Gold Tankard (4%) which had a pleasing mix of oats and Willamette hops. This is the first Wylam beer that I’ve really liked. Generally they don’t seem to produce beers with any hops in the North East, seemingly content with mundane brown beers. Hence my initial wariness. Some very nice hinnys up there, mind. Anyhow, that did just fine for me until closing time. Apparently some people want to go home at 0100. What is the world coming to, I ask you?
Thursday, 17 July 2008
What a dilemma. Could I be excuse myself from the cut and thrust of picket politics? Ok, technically, this had only actually consisted of me chatting to a rather winsome typist from Bolton, but still...Reluctantly, I decided to sacrifice myself and meet up with him. Ok, technically, I was heading for the pub anyway, but still...
In the Trackside we were met by the unusual sight of a crowded bar. Initially I thought my comrades has used their initiative and set up an ideal command post. However, it turned out that these were no slouching strikers, but respectable members of the teaching profession. In fact, they seemed rather miffed by the assumption. Seems as if Algernon and Mrs Teacher had a good excuse for being on the lash. Apparently they had just finished school for the summer. Does anyone else remember the good old days when it was the kids who celebrated by getting pissed?
Obviously the WHB was greatly enthralled by all this excitement, and it was to be expected he would lose concentration in the presence of various nubile PE experts. Luckily for them he had to save his energy for the cycle home. Beer wise: the worst was Hidden Potential-which didn’t have any, whilst the best was an old favourite-Dizzy Blonde.
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Elgoods Black Dog (3.6%) is another dark Mild which has lost the “Mild” tag. It made for an easy enough start, although there was a little too much roast in this sample, I felt. Northern Hit & Run (4.5%) somewhat divided the party with one individual unable to stand even the aroma. The rest of us thought this blond, raspberry beer was quite palatable. I alternated this with Blakemere Lady (4.3%) which was also a blond beer, but with much more bitterness.
After lubricating our joints, we took a stroll to admire Eddie’s future kennel, admirably close to the drinking hub of Bury. He’s not as daft as he looks-well he couldn’t be, could he? As were in the area, we decided it would be rude if we didn’t check out the local hostelries. When I was doing my drinking apprenticeship, I was told Tuesday is the day to really test a pub’s mettle. And so it has proved over the years, with many failing the Tuesday night test. How would these two locals fare?
A quick check in the Trafalgar revealed that Jennings Bitter was unavailable, so nil points there. The Rose & Crown was depressingly quiet with only two barflies in attendance. One of the possible reasons for the locals having deserted it soon became apparent. Skinners Cornish Knocker was pure vinegar. As was the Deuchars IPA. And yet both were being merrily offered to any poor, unsuspecting soul. This once mighty GBG pub really is now a shadow of its former self. The barmaid agreed that the problem might be that the beer hadn’t been pulled through, but refused to do so-apparently that’s not her job. With no other choice, we settled for some Wainwrights.
Back in Bury we sampled Blakemere Womble (4.1%) at the Peel. Yet another blond beer, but this time lacking any major characteristics. Then it was time for Eddie to consult bus timetables-after his recent Metrolink trauma, he’s boycotting them-and head for Pizza Pioneer. Where we shortly caught up with him and, unable to resist the half price promotion, and with beer goggles on, we plumped for the belly-busting big un’. When will we learn...?
On a sociological note, it was interesting to see that the Trackside now has its own transvestite. Making her debut was a former glass collector. Real ale drinkers have been portayed on certain blogs as a group of nationalistic, misogynistic twits. However, the regulars never skpped a heartbeat and welcomed him/her as if they were wearing usual attire instead of pink bra and matching belt. Such is the inclusivity of real ale. In a lot of pubs, the reaction would have been quite different.
Monday, 14 July 2008
The earliest written records of the name feta date back to the 17th century when Greece was ruled by the Venetians and the name is said to derive from the Latin word "Fete" which refers to the practice of cutting the cheese into slices so they can be placed in wooden barrels. Cheese historians still argue over whether the production of feta gets a mention in The Odyssey, but it seems more probable that it was some other, not dissimilar cheese.
Traditional feta is matured in wooden barrels or tin casks at cheese-making units located inside the designation of origin areas (DOA) in Greece, namely Macedonia, Thrace and Epirus in Northern Greece, Thessaly and Mainland Greece in central Greece, the Peloponnese in southern Greece, and the island of Lesvos.
Some shops sell a 'variety' of feta made with cow's milk which is artificially whitened. This is done because of the high fat content in cow's milk which turns yellow after a few days. Authentic Greek feta cheese never turns yellow. Following a decision by the European Commission, non-Greek producers, notably Denmark, now have to call their “feta” something else.
Greeks obviously take their cheese seriously; they consume an average of 23 kg per person annually, 40% of which is feta. I’m going to make a dint in that total having acquired 523g of it from Tesco for £1.28. First project is a feta pizza and then I’ll take it from there.
Sunday, 13 July 2008
We started at the far end at the Castlefield Hotel. This is an unusual, modern YMCA complex that boats real ale on the bar. The bar itself is non-descript, typical of hotels throughout the land. Although there are three handpumps, today only is in action. This was dispensing Bazens Old Punch Ale. Rather a strange one this. Amber coloured, slightly hazy with no aromatic hops, yet it had plenty of bittering hops that gave a dry aftertaste. Having nothing to compare it to, I can’t say if it was supposed to an unbalanced beer, or was it a dodgy lot? However, it was very competitively priced, at only £2 a pint.
Next stop was the Ox. When this was a regular in the GBG, it was a pub called the Oxnoble. Interestingly, after all the recent discussions, the Ox makes it plain from the outside that it now considers itself a gastropub. Certainly all the seating inside is geared up for people dining. Before we’d even got a chance to order a drink, the barman was asking if we were dining. Politely declining, we selected a sample of the beers on offer and found a table. The Ox was never cheap and things haven’t changed. A pint weighed in at a top heavy £2.95. The Deuchars was warm and had obviously not been pulled through. Landlord was a better temperature and not in bad nick. Best of all was the Golden Pippin which was cool and tangy.
A short walk took us to the White Lion, which also focuses on the dining trade, although not as self consciously as the Ox. However, perhaps they were trying to prove a point, as the beer here was even MORE expensive than the Ox. Charging £3 for a 3.9% beer is daylight robbery without violence. I glanced round but, yes, I was still in a boozer basically off the beaten track. Perhaps they rely on naive punters from the museum who have more money than sense. The Pippin was pretty good (as it should be for that price) but when we tried to take advantage of the burgeoning sunshine, we were informed we would have to have plastic glasses for that. £3 a pint and they want you to drink out of plastic-sod that for a game of cowboys and Indians.
Next stop was Cask, which I’ve chronicled before. Two real ales on here and I tried a very good Facers Clwyd Gold. Pushing onto Deansgate, and the pub of the same name. Mirroring my last visit, the Robinsons Old Stockport was cool and in prime condition, with lots of moreish subtle fruit notes. We decided to push on to Knott Bar for some food. This, of recent, has been somewhat hit and miss on the beer front. Today was one of its down days. Only three beers were on, including the regular Manchester Bitter. The Spitting Feathers I tried was brown and very average. However, I think my companions were very satisfied with their Pictish El Diablo stout.
Perusing the food menu, I was amazed to see that Fish & Chips, which had been 50p more than the Deansgate on my last visit, was now nearly £10. Shear profiteering in my book. Warily I chose the exotic sounding Tudor Rose Pie. Luckily this lived up to its billing. A delicious blend of Lancashire and Wensyldale cheeses, with beetroot thrown in for good measure. Served with some decent chips and a salad garnish, this was just what the doctor ordered. Sadly, despite promising signs, Ginger Marble never appeared on the bar, prompting tears of frustration from one of our party.
A quick look in the Britons Protection revealed two All Gates guest beers which no one was willing to try. Finding the Pevril closed, we settled for a final beer in the Paramount. Unluckily Pipe Dream ran out as we were ordering it. The substitute-Hampshire King’s Ransom wasn’t bad though, being golden and quite dry. Then it was back to Bury and the Trackside. Here I tried a very nice Banks & Taylor Fruit Bat before moving onto Black Dragon cider. This 7.2% beauty was very aromatic and had a nice clean strong apple tang which was very drinkable.
Time was pressing now and it was time to move nearer home. A pit stop to refuel with a chip muffin propelled me into the Towler where I once more gorged myself on Golden Pippin till the wee small hours.
Saturday, 12 July 2008
Mr. Shmolik (recently voted Belarus referee of the year 2007) was overseeing a Belarus Premier League match when it became apparent something was amiss. An onlooker at the clash between Vitebsk and Naftan said: "In the second half, he hardly moved around the pitch at all. By the end of the game the reason was evident to everyone - the referee was drunk. This was confirmed with a medical test later in the evening."
Mr. Shmolik refutes any allegations of a vodka binge and claims he merely had back pain. Judge for yourself at www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXi-phDBacU
Friday, 11 July 2008
I’m totally appalled by this. I had no idea people were choosing to drink in Heywood. In my experience people can’t wait to get out of Monkey Town. Preferably before dark. And while I’m at it, the quality of journalism here is terrible. It fails to answer THE big question-the club is supplied by J.W.Lees, but is it cask?
I had a cheeky warm up in Wetherspoons with a pint of Skinners Betty Stogs. Looking at the pumpclip, I was struck by the resemblance to a one-time barmaid at the Seven Stars. Ah, those were the days. Putting nostalgia back in its box, I headed for the Trackside. An excellent board awaited me with several tempting beers on offer.
Beers tried included Butcombe Gold which finished a little sweet for me. An old friend-Titanic Iceberg, proved to be in very good nick and its mix of crisp hoppiness proved too good to restrict to one pint. A new one to me was Wentworth Imperial Ale (3.8%) which, like a lot of their beers, turned out to be a brown beer of no great shakes. However, it was much better than Titanic Sundeck (4.3%) which was tan coloured with an earthy pong. The taste was somewhat better, but a mix of malt and cloying sweetness is far from a satisfying drink. As a Friday treat we dined on a Clayton Park pie each. These were sourced from the only local outlet-the Hornby St chippy. These are proper pies and not the soggy, rubber crusted crap that Hollands produce.
Thursday, 10 July 2008
There is only one serious candidate for me-Gemma Garrett. She’s representing The Miss Great Britain Party. As she is the reigning Miss Great Britain, it makes sense. Now I think I owe Miss Garratt an apology. I initially thought it was all a publicity stunt and that it was a made up party. Ok, I never got any further than the picture of her in a bikini, but it turns out they have proper policies and everything. Blimey. Who’d have thought it, eh? And as she has correctly pointed out, they are the only party fighting on a full manifesto, rather than a single issue.
“Securing proper pay and frontline increments for British soldiers as well as rights to substantial guaranteed compensation in the event of injury or death."
"Ensuring that all necessarily incurred child care costs are fully tax deductible."
A better deal for home buyers by abolishing stamp duties for first time buyers and making family homes exempt from inheritance tax."
"A better deal for pensioners by indexing annual pension increases against the true rise in the cost of energy, food etc rather than using the RPI and by increasing tax allowances for women under the age of 65."
"Help motorists by capping increases in fuel duties against the rising price of oil”
Another Rainy Night In Georgia Bury
More of our beautiful summer weather curtailed any ideas of an adventurous nature. Just a quick pit stop at the Towler for some Golden Pippin. As I sat there swaying along to Procol Harlem, sipping the sweet nectar of the gods, I had no sense of the impending disaster. Traumatic as it is to recall, these things need to be shared. Innocently I went to the bar for a refill. And that's where it happened. The Golden Pippin had run out! How could this happen to me? What had I done to deserve such a fate? I felt like I was in an episode of "999" and Michael Buerk would appear at any time. But there was no time to feel sorry for myself. Drinking time was ticking away and action was needed. Realising a bus was due imminently; I dashed out into the tipping rain just in time to see the bus about to pass me. I don't think the driver was impressed when I threw myself in his path, but it did ensure he stopped. Well, it was an emergency.
Before too long my beer chariot had deposited me safely outside the Dogs, where I could seek medical attention for my recent upset. This took the form (naturally) of several pints of hop remedy. Slaters Top Totty was first to the rescue, shortly followed by Lemon Dream. Kelham Island Best Bitter (3.8) was on good form, being a nice light session beer. I then switched onto a couple of pints of Bazens new seasonal (Summer Beer?) which wasn't overtly hoppy, but was well balanced and had a good dry finish. The finale, of course, had to be Golden Pippin with a dash to the bar to double up before last orders. With some comfort eating at Pizza Pioneer, I finally managed to put that awful experience behind me.
This post (if it works) has been brought to you by Microsoft's newfangled Word Blog Post tool. And the reason the title is in the post is because it won't let me strikethrough just one word in the title bar-don't get me started on Bill Gates...
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
So, back to basics, as John Major use to say to Edwina after a night on the pop. It’s a cliché but a night in the big city does provide a good excuse for liquid nourishment. I kicked off with Tom Wood’s Bomber County (4.8%) but I should have known better. Wetherspoons are always putting their beers on and they always fail to impress. This had too much roast malt and too little of anything else to be palatable. It got slightly better with Highgate Fox’s Knob (4.4%) but this also failed to ignite me, despite its claims to be dry-hopped.
Monday, 7 July 2008
Being made of sterner stuff, I prepared for the coming festivities with breakfast and beer at Wetherspoons. This proved crucial in the long day ahead. On arrival we immediately made a beeline for the brewery. This was a small, compact affair, with a beer stand opposite serving 3 Thornbridge beers. Disappointingly, these proved to be the only beers available between both bars-it would have been ideal if one bar sold a different selection.
The Crispin Inn further down the street was a very cosy Jennings hostelry. The Cocker Hoop (4.6%) was a very crisp golden beer with only a hint of honey to detract from it. Served in excellent condition, it was very enjoyable. We made our way down to the Old Poets Corner, only to find that our party were well and truly ensconced there. Or were they just well and truly pissed? Either way we threw ourselves into the thick of it with the knowledge that the clock was ticking down. Quite a scene; with the likes of Stopwatch Sid, the Wallsend Wonder, Tandleman, Morris Minor Mike, Galadriel and Charlie Jolly all tucking in with abandoned gusto.
The lack of sparklers led Tandleman to question the landlord over the issue and I don’t think he was convinced by the answer. Ashover Lane Coffin Stout (5%) was dark with initial sweet caramel notes that quickly died off. Their other beer that we tried was also disappointing. Poets Tipple (4.1%) was amber, quite watery, with only a slight fruit tang to tickle the palate. Dark Star Summer Solstice (4.2%) was much better, being very pale and good zesty bitterness. Finally we tried Landlord-with a hastily produced old fashioned sparkler. This got the thumbs up from our resident Landlord expert who had tried the non-sparkler version beforehand.
Sunday, 6 July 2008
Salopian Lemon Dream (4.5%) was an interesting start. A wheat beer in which you could definitely taste the lemon, but I think the Cascade hops also contributed to the dry finish. Ossett Quicksilver (5%) had a nice golden hue but was disappointing by their high standards. Too much of the strength came through in the taste-never a good sign. Their Silver King (4.3%) was much better, with a good, clean finish. Kelham Island Pale Rider (5.2%) wasn’t bad, but it doesn’t appear to be the beer it once was.
Saturday, 5 July 2008
One of the problems that the Smithfield has during these events is the method of dispense. To supplement the handpumps on the bar, several beers are served from jugs. This obviously impacts on the quality, with flat, sometimes warm beer being the result. Okay for the gaggle of scoopers present, but more of a problem for those who prefer quality over quantity. There were actually spare handpumps that could have been pressed into use, but there was a definitely sense of organisational lethargy. This was compounded by them running out of jugs and then serving one beer out of an ice bucket!
Out of the beers, Beartown Pandemonium (4.8%) was the worst, being dark, extremely chewy, with a sickly blackcurrant aftertaste. The best, out of a mediocre bunch, was Norfolk Cottage Liberty Bell (4.3%) which at least had some hops in it and, if served in better condition, would probably be quite good.
Back at Bar Fringe, Tennis Elbow had gone. However, Phoenix Hopsack (3.8%) was available, as well as York Decade (4.1%). Both of these were tried and tested old friends and were in excellent condition. The last offering from (now defunct) Owl Brewery was also on offer. They have been inflicting terrible beers on an unsuspecting public for far too long, but, in the interests of posterity, I tried a sample of Omega. It didn’t disappoint and was pretty rank. The guy trying a sample next to me actually spat it out. Interestingly, some people think that it’s Owl’s best beer ever. Ok, it might be better than Leyden Referee, but I think you’ll find that even sweet smelling manure is still manure.
We called in especially at the Crown & Kettle to try the Coach House Blueberry (5%). This proved somewhat of a disappointment. It lacked the crisp fruit taste that I’ve experienced before with this beer-not bad, but not great. A tram ride took us back to Bury and the delights of the Trackside. Immediately we sensed trouble. Acorn Cascade IPA (5%) dried up after one pint. The beer board was worryingly sparse-a problem that can arise when Streaker Stan isn’t working; as no one else seems able to change a barrel. Luckily, he was there off duty. And, although heavily under the influence of Welsh perry, after a bit of cajoling, he put some fresh beer on. So I got to finish the night on some very nice Facers Landslide. But it is a problem they need to address in the future.
Thursday, 3 July 2008
A few pints sunk and then a quick bus ride to Bury. The Trackside didn’t have anything to compare with Golden Pippin, but I made do with Wolf Straw Dog. This is a 4.5% pale Weisse beer. It doesn’t actually taste like a Weisse beer, being rather bland, but did suffice for a pint or two. Rather foolishly I decided on a nightcap at Wetherspoons. Naturally there wasn’t anything decent beer wise available, so I plumped for a soothing whisky.
Wednesday, 2 July 2008
Things started promisingly at the Dusty Miller. This is a tied Moorhouses pub and delivered an acceptable pint of Premier. And we even got to sit outside. This feat was repeated at the Help Me Thro’, where Wainwrights was the drink of choice. This, like most Thwaites beers, isn’t outstanding, but the Help Me Thro’ usually serves a very acceptable pint of it.
From there we hailed a hackney carriage to transport us to the Brown Cow. A near miss here. One of the handpumps was turned round, but luckily it proved to be an Allgates, so no tears shed there. The other beer on offer was Cottage Mallard IPA (4.1%) which wasn’t an IPA by anyone’s definition. Having said that, it was pleasantly tart and went down without any trouble. A cut through the park up to Walmersley Road took our luck a step too far and the heavens duly opened up and delivered a deluge.
Arriving at the Sundial drenched-well one of us being a real man hadn’t brought a brolly; we tried to dry out over a pint of Wainwrights. Yet again, we weren’t disappointed by the beer quality, although it’s always sad to see a tied brewery pub selling only one beer. Thwaites have done a good job with the refurb here and restored the original two room layout. Ok, it has a slightly generic look about it, but full marks to Thwaites for investing in a community local. The second room is somewhat of a wasted space as they’ve crammed the ubiquitous pool table in, at the expense of more seating. There was definitely a split in character between the two rooms, with a good mix (including some nice eye candy) in the lounge, whilst the pool room looked to be full of the estate scallies.
We braved the weather to march a little further up to the Hark to Towler. The Walmersley circuit isn’t one Eddie is too familiar with, but with his impending move he’ll be but a bus ride away, so it was time to broaden his education. The Towler, too, I noticed, had crammed a pool table in. It really looked out of place situated so close to the dining area, but hey, we’re only here for the beer. And luckily the Golden Pippin was on top form. So good, in fact, that we were forced to stay for three pints. Time was pressing now, but Eddie wanted to complete the circuit by visiting the Hark to Dandler.
A forced march took us to this J.W.Lees house which I had visited only last week. Once again Lees bitter was the only offering and was fine-as far as Lees goes! Not unexpectedly there weren’t many in on a damp, late Tuesday evening. The main attraction was a senior citizen raver, who was definitely up for a bit, despite (or maybe because of?), the presence of her rather lethargic other half. Apparently Eddie and the Dandler have some underage history between them. However, it was time to summon a taxi to take us homeward bound, spurning the opportunity for a lock in, and some quality time with the grey haired sexpot.
Quite a wide ranging tour, with decent beer at every stop.