About Me

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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

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel

Wednesday night, so it must be Manchester, again. That’s how it goes, you don’t drink there for awhile and then, suddenly, you’re back into the M groove. The excuse this time was the opportunity to show my one and t’other the revamped Angel. And to catch up with Eddie, the eager, legal beagle on his home turf before he quits it for pastures new. Yes, he will soon be giving up his Manchester eyrie for a motte and bailey castle in sunny Bury.

The first thing we noticed on entering the Angel was how busy it was. It was absolutely heaving, not bad for a midweek, tucked away boozer. Obviously the rave reviews have got diners flocking there. However, we weren’t there for grub, but the bread of life, beer. Once Eddie had sorted out the rather lackadaisical barmaid, we let our taste buds do the walking. Dunham Massey Cheshire IPA (4.7%) was being advertised as a new beer, so it had to be tried. A light copper coloured brew, it delivered crisp malt biscuitness, and a short dry finish. Not bad, but perhaps not as good as some of their other beers.

A real puzzler was the next beer we tried-Dunham Massey Light Mild (3.8%). This was very similar in colour to the IPA, but that’s where the similarity ended. This was clean tasting-a testament to how quickly DM have reached a level of quality a lot of other micros can only dream of-hello Leyden. However, this Mild was TOO mild. It lacked any character whatsoever. Why you would want to brew it, and who would choose to drink it, I don’t know.

From the Angel it was only a short walk to the Marble Arch. Again, this was busy-some suspicious Camra types were spotted, but we managed to squeeze in the back room. First thing we spotted was that the Marble beers had new pumpclips. Not better, in my opinion, than the old ones, just different. Another case of change for change’s sake at the Marble? The Blogger Godfather (AKA Tandleman) would have no doubt taken a nice little photo to illustrate the point, but as he’s away enjoying some bruhwurst, you’ll have to take my word for it. More bizarrely, was the rebadging of “Janine’s One as “Pint.” Luckily it still tasted as good as ever. Also sampled and enjoyed was Elland Sinner Boy (4.5%), which was a well hopped golden beer, with a long dry finish.

From the Marble to the Smithfield, where we settled in for the rest of the night. More surprises here, as it seems, at last, that the old girl is getting a facelift. New wallpaper for a start. Whatever next, toilet paper in the loo? Anyway Durham White Whopper (3.7%) packed a nice citrus punch and Little Valley Hebden Wheat (4.5%) was also rather tasty. Then it was a dash for the tram, accompanied by heavy rain. Sadly the rain followed us back to Bury, making our journey home a very wet one.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Groovin (On A Sunday Afternoon)

Sunday is the new Thursday I was told some time ago. I can’t remember what that makes Thursday, but it’s a good excuse for a trip into Manchester. The WHB had decided to cut loose and, in that mood, only the city centre can hold him. As the new brolly hadn’t even survived the journey to the first pub yesterday, I had to venture out unsheltered. But, never mind, the weather was lovely in Bury, so no need to worry then.

What a difference 9 miles makes. It was absolutely pouring in the centre of Manchester. Needless to say, I got soaked. We met at the now very-vogue Angel, where only a handful of drinkers were taking advantage of Sunday imbibing. We tried both the Dunham Massey and Pictish Little Gem. The Pictish was a pale 4.5% beer brewed with Bramling Cross hops which imparted a the slightest of bitter finishes. Both were in good condition, with the Pictish being particularly lively.

Our next stop was, inevitably, the Marble Arch. Once here, it’s always difficult to shift the WHB. The combination of beer and women usually proves too much. It was pretty full when we arrived, with diners chancing their arm with the unpredictable food. Unusually the beer choice wasn’t very appealing. A lot of strong beers dominated the bar. Where were the summer quaffing beers? Gone along with the sunshine, it appears. I tried a Coastal and Abbeydale Steel Hammer, both of which were underwhelming.

And then a moment of madness. Before falling back on the tried and tested Marble range, I decided to sample Chateau Leyden. This strong brew has already gathered a reputation as being the worst Leyden beer ever. And that’s saying something. But I can never have imagined in my wildest nightmares just how bad it was. An overpowering stench of rotten eggs and raw fertiliser greeted my nostrils. The smell actually made me nauseous. Holding my nose I attempted to drink some, but unfortunately it tasted like it smelt and for a moment I thought it was coming back up. Luckily (or unluckily) my stomach managed to hold firm but there was no way that half was being drunk. Easily the worst beer of the year, and straight into the top ten of all time.

After the Leyden horror, I played safe with Janine’s One until we called it a day. The tram then took us back towards Bury-the WHB getting off in the jungle of Prestwich, whilst I continued on to enjoy the delights of Sunday evening in the Trackside.

Monday, 11 August 2008

A Fine Romance

Traditionally, Friday night was lad’s night out, and Saturday was couples night. Yes this does beggar the question when is girls night out? Don’t ask me, I didn’t invent Northern rules. I just have to live by them. Actually, I did once ask an acquaintance when is girls night out, and got the rather obvious answer-anytime they want. Bu I digress. It’s good to see that some traditions are still respected, as witnessed by this snippet of conversation overheard on Saturday night.

“Do you fancy a bit tonight, luv?”
“What, tonight?”
“Yeah, it’s Saturday.”
“What, after Big Brother?”
“Have you washed your feet this week?”
“Alright then.”

If there’s one thing you can say about Bury folk, it’s that they’re sticklers for tradition.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Saturday Siesta

So Saturday dawned, the day after the night before. I was feeling bloated, beered out, and my stomach was complaining about not having had a proper meal in days. The weather was uninspiring, with heavy bursts of rain, and it looked like being a quiet day. Luckily, by mid afternoon I had rallied, and made clear to my liver who was in charge.
So, equipped with my new, unused in London, brolly I journeyed round to the Hare & Hounds. A nice easy start, with Outlaw Amarillo (3.9%), an easy going golden session bitter that delivered a moderately bitter finish. This was quickly followed by Ossett’s Real Ale Revolution which was brimming with coriander and tangerine notes. Moving along the bar anti-clockwise, a new one on me was Clark’s Henry’s Heady Daze (3.6%), a golden, pleasantly fruity beer with a sweetish finish.

By the time I had gone half way round the bar, the pub, which had been fairly quiet, had started to fill up. The afternoon drinkers-a mix of families and the more mature drinker, were giving way to a younger crowd. Groups of lads out on the beer, and/or the pull. Girls doing the same. Which meant getting to the bar was getting more difficult. Which meant it was time to say my goodbyes and head for pastures new.

Down at the Trackside it was a case of how you were. Some of the regulars looked like they hadn’t left since last night. Strangely, I felt right at home. I soon got back on the Acorn Liberty IPA, but feeling like a change I quaffed a couple of Wadworth’s JCB. This 4.7% amber beer is brewed with a high rate of crystal malt and is moreish for its strength. A good blend of biscuit-malt and fruit gives way to a surprisingly bitter finish. I’m told it’s 35 EBU (European Bitter Units), which is quite high as, if I recall correctly, Holts Bitter is 40.

Naturally the evening ended in cider consumption. Well, it was Saturday night. Which, naturally, led to Pizza Pioneer. Well, it was Saturday night...

Saturday, 9 August 2008

London's Calling (Or Wot I Did At The GBBF)

Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘N’ Roll. But that’s enough of what Tandleman gets up to in his lunch hour. What about the GBBF? A massive feat of logistics, it’s impossible to do it justice even over a couple of days. As the Wallsend Wonder says about working at ICI-if you can remember it, you weren’t there. However, I’ll try and summarise it from what I can recall.

The first thing to do was acclimatise. Like many a seasoned pro, I’d already decided that I’d mainly be concentrating on the foreign beer as the choice was impressive. However, I warmed up with a couple of cask offerings. Mauldon’s Silver Adder being the first. Well, technically, I’d warmed up with a couple in J.J.Moons, whilst waiting for the doors to open, but we won’t count them. From Bar Noveau I quite enjoyed Flowerpots Bitter, an easy drinking golden session Bitter. I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy the 11% Tsarina Extra and, sure enough, it was horrible. Barrel ageing had given it obvious notes of oak and vanilla-two flavours not good in beer normally and, despite the strength, too heavy on the palate here as well.

Much more enjoyable were some of the American beers. Victory Hopdevil at 6.7% was full bodied and spicy, and very drinkable. Captain Lawrence Freshchester Pale Ale was even better, with the Columbus and Cascade hops combining for an incredible lingering finish. Dogfish Head weren’t to my palate and I thought Rogue were a bit, er, roogu. Several of the German offerings weren’t too shabby, even the odd Braustelle Pink Panther proving surprisingly tasty.

The Irish contingent also proved interesting, with an all too rare chance to sample cask conditioned stouts and pale ales. I note that the Beer Nut was disappointed with Galway Hooker. I bow to his superior knowledge. I have to hold my hands up-I was one of the English tasters who thought it was actually rather fine. Foreign find of the event, though, was definitely the Italian beers. I knew nothing about these and found them a real mixed bag. Saison Dau was a real peppery thirst quencher, whilst their attempts at Lambic style brewing didn’t hit the mark for me. But man does not live etc, and once again there was a good selection of food outlets to choose from. Indeed my only solid sustenance the whole trip was what the Crusty Pie Company could offer me. Taking a wrong turning whilst staggering back to the hotel on Thursday evening, I did discover a decent pizzeria on Pentonville Road, but alas, too late.

Obviously there is more to London than the GBBF and hanging round all that beer can make one thirsty. So I found time to call in a few hostelries. Apart from my usual pilgrimage to the Royal Oak, I couldn’t resist paying a visit to Stonch’s now famous boozer. JDW’s proved useful for an early and late drink, and I enjoyed the craic in both the Speaker, and the Swan which was just off Gracechurch Street.

On Wednesday no one could find the elusive Tandleman, with some people denying his very existence. Ok I was asking for him in Czech, but still. Anyway, Rochdale’s Robbie Coltrane* duly appeared on Thursday and was soon knee deep in totty. No wonder he likes working the German bar. All the women in the place seemed to be making a beeline for it at some point or another. Including, at one point, some genuine frauleins. The old fox isn’t as daft as he looks. Well, let’s be honest, he couldn’t be, could he? He does have his uses though, and he helped me pick out the wheat from the weiss.

No rest for the wicked as my journey home was interrupted by a session in the Trackside. Acorn Liberty IPA and Bradfield Blonde slowly gave way to Rich’s Legbender Cider which was hazy golden and basically did what it said on the tin. Where’s the Crusty Pie Company when you need them?
*I see there has been some specualtion as to Tandleman's resemblance to Robbie Coltrane. Long ago, in days of Yore, he had more of a Jimmy Clitheroe look. Not any more . He still has the shorts, mind.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Over The Hills And (Not So) Far Away

We needed passports and inoculation jabs for yesterday’s trip. Yes, we were crossing over into Yorkshire. As we weren’t leaving till 1050, I realised valuable drinking time could be wasted. So I headed for breakfast at the Peel and a little aperitif. Butcombe Blonde and Wickwar Coopers set me up before the serious drinking began. Keeping our dictionaries handy, we set off for our first stop. This was the Cock O’ The North in Hipperholme, Halifax. This unusual boozer is home to the Halifax Steam Brewing Company. It’s basically a portakabin decked out in sub art deco style, and a long bar with a massive array of handpumps. There is a room at the side where the brewery can be viewed. I’ve only ever rated HSB as average, so it was interesting to sample their beers from the source.

Ramsden’s Lilly Fog (4%) was a pale beer that was pleasant enough, but lacked any real punch. Marilyn (4%) was another pale beer that had just that bit too much malt to make it quenching. Frankie, yet again 4%, was more or less the same. I began to see a pattern. Like a lot of brewers, I think they could do with using a few more hops to make their beers more distinct. Their ordinary Bitters were a little too ordinary. However, they do brew some interesting beers. I heard good reports about their Jamaican Ginger and I couldn’t resist trying their ginger/nettle beer. This was as unusual as it sounds. The ginger comes through immediately, but instead of the usual strong aftertaste you’re expecting, the nettle cancels it out. Interesting, although I couldn’t imagine having a session on it.

It was only a short hop to our next stop-the Travellers Inn. This is a traditional stone-built local and is part of the impressive Ossett empire. It had a good selection of their beers and an even more impressive whisky range-which I’m kicking myself for not trying. Their house beer was actually rather bland for an Ossett beer. From there it wasn’t far to Halifax and a couple of hours to wander round there. The weather had improved and we went al fresco at the Pump Room. I’ve written about this place before and once more it didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed Golden Pippin (naturally) and Phoenix Hopsack. The latter of these was the source of some discussion, as some people found the hops used “too rough,” but personally I really enjoyed it. By now I was wellnigh clemmed, as the locals would say, so I tucked into a rather tasty fish pie.

We moved over to the nearby Three Pigeons which again had a reasonable selection of Ossett beers and I sampled some of those and a guest from Bradfield. There was yet more Ossett to be had at the Drop Inn at Elland. We’ve been here a couple of times over the years and I recall the side room use to be the no smoking area. I tried the Ossett Wheat (4.6%) which proved to be a clear wheat beer, with a hint of coriander. Just round the corner was the Barge and Barrel-yet another old friend. Of the beers imbibed, Ossett Yorkshire Gold (4.2%) was the best, being both dry and spicy. Meanwhile, the Wallsend Wonder was regaling us with her visit to see Mamma Mia. At one point I thought she was going to break into song to illustrate her point, but luckily the danger passed.

Last port of call was the Red Rooster at Brighouse. This stone flagged pub had beers from Copper Dragon and Moorhouses, and I managed to sample both before Stopwatch Sid called a halt to proceedings. Then, suitably well oiled, we headed home. The Bury contingent promptly decamped to the Trackside and got cidered up, al fresco style. I stayed loyal to the beautifully orange Cheddar Valley, while some heathens went for the honey cider. In my opinion, honey, like rum and whisky doesn’t belong in cider. Or beer for that matter. It’s at this point that things get a bit hazy. I remember going to Blind Tiger at some point, but don’t remember the journey home. A check this morning revealed that wallet, phone, and I had all arrived in one piece. But it remains a mystery exactly how...

Friday, 1 August 2008

The Golden Compass

A tale of two cities drinking. Or rather a town and a city. After the formalities, it was time to down a few pints of Holts. This led to a quick session on shorts, and then a little trip into Manchester. And who should be lurking round in the backstreets and alleys, but the WHB. We rendezvoused in the English Lounge for convenience. I’ve never spent any time in it during the day, my visits being nocturnal and it was interesting to see who frequents it during daylight. For a city centre venue it didn’t seem very busy, although it was past lunchtime, when presumably they do a fair trade. I always thought that this place doesn’t attract the clientele it was designed to. And looking round at the guys in vests and shorts, complete with bubblegum blondes, I was convinced I was right.

However, it’s all about the beer. And it seems that this is one of those venues that are better in the day. A good range was on, with a couple of Copper Dragon beers amongst them. I settled on Golden Pippin-very predictable, yes, but in very condition I must say. The Whitefield Holts Bandit lived up to his name by balking at the £5.50 a round price, but hey, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Or even Whitefield. All good things must come to an end, however, and so I found myself back in Bury. Not ready to call it a day yet, I headed for the Dogs and some half decent Roosters. Getting ready to wind down, I called in at the Towler for yet more Golden Pippin. No, I never tire of it, in case you wondered.

But my plans for a nightcap as the sun sets were rudely interrupted. Eddie, the eager, legal beagle was passing through and could I join him for a highball or two? Quickly stopping at home en route for a clothes change, I met up with him at the Peel. A burger and a pint of Wickwar was the order of the day before moving onto the TS. We settled on Wadworth Horizon, an easy drinking 4% golden beer. A couple of pints and soon last orders were ringing round the room. Horizon had proved too popular and had gone, so we girded our loins and sank some Marble Ginger. After all the Copper Dragon I’d had, it actually didn’t have its usual bite.

It was at this rather late stage of proceedings that things began to unravel somewhat. Mother’s best, never-to-be-lost brolly had gone MIA. And it was raining. Eddie made a dash for the last tram only to find he was about 20 minutes too late. He had no choice but to start the long, wet, walk back to Eddie senior’s ranch. I don’t think the Manx Minx was best pleased. Me? I somehow managed to lose my taxi fare and also ended up trudging home in the unforgiving rain. Que sera, sera as the Greeks use to say.

Life Ain't Always Beautiful

"Life aint always beautiful
Some days I miss your smile
I get tired of walkin' all these lonely miles
And I wish for just one minute I could see your pretty face
Guess I can dream, but life dont work that way."

I hate funerals.

Well I suppose everyone does. Except perhaps for funeral directors, and members of the clergy, who make a few bob out of them. What surprises me is what happens at the humanist, celebratory ones. I always figured I’d feel different at them. The idea of replacing the usual maudlin affair with a celebration of life is a great idea. But therein can lie the problem. There you are having a good old knees-up and, sooner or later, you speculate how much so and so would have loved it. And then it’s all too apparent that they’re not there. And then comes the anger at the bitter nature of fate. And if you’re angry, what can her family be thinking? What can you say to an 82 year old mother who’s seen her vibrant, intelligent daughter fade away in front of her? What can you say to children who’ve lost a loving, supportive parent? Empty plaudits and clich├ęs? As I stood there cursing the God that I don’t believe in, the heavens promptly opened with a thunderclap and soaked me. I know Anne would have enjoyed the irony.

Anne was 52 when, like 44000 women each year, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Unfortunately, like 12500 other wives, mothers, and daughters this year, she lost her battle for life. Typically she made no fuss, wishing to spare her friends and family. It was only at the very end, with everything taken care of, and wanting to say her goodbyes that she went public. I hadn’t seen her since my big birthday bash some time ago, and the contrast was a shock, if I’m honest. However, she’ll always be “Greggsy” to me. Nothing to do with the bakery-although I did tease her about that-but because of her resemblance to TV presenter Anne Gregg. Who herself succumbed to the big C just two years ago. Anne saw the funny side of that parallel as well. She’d hate me making such a fuss, but I can only tell it as I see it. Of course the world keeps on turning, but I can’t help but think that it’s that little bit poorer today

I hate funerals.

"Life Ain't Always Beautiful" (C) Gary Allan.