A mini-fest at the Smithfield provided the excuse for some Friday night drinks in Manchester. Not that I wanted to go, of course, but Pythagoras and Archimedes can be quite insistent. So I sacrificed an evening of embroidery for the delights of the hop field. I had a couple of warm up pints of Phoenix Tennis Elbow (4.5%) at Bar Fringe-nice, light and hoppy, before crossing to the Smithfield.
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.