An early start was a good excuse for breakfast at the Peel, complemented by a pint of White Horse Epona. This 4.3% proved to be yet another so-so brown beer. White Horse seem to revel in producing average beers-not terrible but so dull as to be sold as a cure for insomnia. Not a good start, but despite the weather I set off in good heart.
Even more rain in Manchester-if it’s not careful it will get a reputation for wetness. This combined with the usual Friday Christmas crowds meant everywhere was more or less packed. Having fought a brave, but weary, campaign through several of Manchester’s hostelries, I was relieved when I arrived at my final destination. The New Oxford in Salford was having one of their celebrated beer festivals and what better time to take advantage of the seasons greetings?
The pub was already understandably busy, with the Scooper contingent holding court in the front. I thought they must have been sniffing the panda bottles again as they seemed unduly agitated. Turns out it was a friendly, if heated, dispute over a dubious tick. Eventually securing a seat, my first thoughts were food, as the afternoon’s beer needed settling before we went into round 2. I spotted my benchmark-cheese & onion pie-and promptly ordered. However, it looked as if my pie voodoo had struck again when the barman informed me it was unavailable. With no likely substitute on the horizon, things were looking bleak.
But the chef proved to be a white knight and offered to make one there and then-if I could wait? It would have been rude to refuse and the finished product was worth the wait. Beautifully light pastry, with a delicate balance of cheese & onion put this pie in the first division, leapfrogging the Pack Horse at Affetside in the process. Served with proper chips, all for just a £5, this was a treat indeed. The gang was all here by now and the serious business of drinking could begin properly.
As usual it was a tale of the good, the bad, and the indifferent. Hoggleys Saturnalla (4.5%) looked safe in being crowned the worst beer-it was pretty awful, but it was wiped out by the offering by Wyre Piddle. Now, Wyre do have a reputation for being a bit, er, shite, but they outdid themselves with Wee (ho, ho) Three Kings. This 5% was pure TCP and should never have left the brewery. I had a horrible flashback to St Patrick’s Day and Cherwell’s Crospredy Bridge. Surely Tim (the landlord) doesn’t always ask for a TCP beer?
Strangely indifferent was the Saltaire, whilst suitably spicy for Christmas was Maypole Butt Warmer. As usual the established breweries delivered, Glentworth’s Festive Fun was light and delicately hopped, while their Citrus Lite had an unmistakable lemon kick. Elland Emperor (5.2%) his its strength well under a powerful hop attack, and Blackwater impressed with Jingles Dingles (4%), a crisp, light session beer, with a good dry finish.
Having exhausted all options, we were pondering our next move. Time was getting on, but then Archimedes had a carrot dangled in front of him. Apparently there was a rum beer on in the Kings Arms-I’ve never seen him move so fast. Howard Town Dark Peak (6.4%) is apparently a rum Porter and there was no mistaking its main ingredient. A powerful heady aroma of liquorice and chocolate was followed by spices and, er, rum. Plenty of it. It’s either a complex, brilliant, Christmas brew. Or sickeningly shite.
Time to make the walk back to Victoria and the tram home. I’ve got a suspicion that Archimedes etc had been drinking, as when the tram appeared in the distance only I made the dash for it. Hence I was left to continue my adventures alone. I collared a pizza about 1.30am and headed home to watch Have I Got News For You. My viewing was interrupted by an excited text from Eddie, the eager, legal beagle. He’d arrived back from his own jolly jaunt and was delighted to find Pizza Pioneer still doing the business at 2.20am. I guess great minds really do think alike.