An unusual little crawl this time. Spurning the obvious Manchester choices-N/4, Oxford Road etc, we were reconnoitring the Liverpool Road pub scene. This is the area that houses the Science and Industry Museum. At one time a popular crawl in its own right, the emergence of bars and pubs nearer the main thoroughfare has somewhat overshadowed this area.
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.