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

Monday, 30 June 2008

Wherever I Lay My Hat

I’ve got a new local. Well, temporarily at least. The Hark to Towler was mentioned back in February. It's seen quite a change over the last year or so and has more of the feel of a bar than a community local. However, that hasn’t stopped me installing myself at the bar-very Norm from Cheers. In fact I hear the staff cheer every time they see me coming. Or is that a groan? Anyway, never let it be said that Tyson is an inverse snob. I’m quite happy to help punters choose their entree’s over a pint, whilst the staff have given up asking me if I’m dining. But I hear you ask, why, oh why Tyson have you done such a thing? Is it because the Towler is within staggering distance of home? No, because it’s actually further out than the centre of Bury, although luckily, still within crawling distance. The reason is that they’ve now got Copper Dragon Golden Pippin on. The perfect pint for when you don’t want to be farting around experimenting with Billy Boyd’s Homebrew, or the like. Perfection in a glass.

In fact, I think I’ll drink to that...

Take A Dump With Darling

I see that San Francisco are proposing to hold a ballot on whether to rename a sewage works after George W Bush. Apparently, the only serious opposition is from people who think it’s unfair to name such a useful institution after GWB. Anyway, I think it’s a good idea and wondered if we couldn’t do something similar here? Alistair Darling surely deserves some recognition for his sterling work on behalf of the licensed trade. There must be a useless building out there just crying out for a rename. The Darling Dump, perhaps? But then I thought, hold on. What about opening a brewery and calling it after our beloved chancellor. You could take a bit of Boggart, throw in some Leyden and sprinkle with Wooden Hand. It would be truly awful. However, it would then give us the opportunity to write headlines such as “Alistair Darling is shite” or indeed “Alistair Darling gives me the shits.”

Just a thought...

Start Running, Bill Gates

So here I am with a brand new state of the art pc. My seven year old steam driven faithful companion is still working, but a cheque popped through the letterbox, and I thought now’s the time to move on. We’re just not the same people we were when we met. I’ve skipped past dual-core processors and gone straight for quad power, a giant hard drive and Blu Ray & HDD media drives. Etc etc. And Vista. Is it any coincidence that Bill Gates retires just as I get hold of this little devil? I think not. Bill, it wouldn’t do you any good-you can run but you can’t hide. I will hunt you down and then you can explain why the ruddy thing keeps freezing up. A problem I never had with XP. Oh, and to add insult to injury, I find that discs prepared on my old pc won’t open in Vista. Great. And my wireless keyboard doesn’t work. And if I’m going to get my money’s worth, apparently I’ll need a high def monitor at some point, as well.

Come back Win 95, all is forgiven...

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Good Golly Miss Dolly

Yes it’s that time, once again, to dig out that sequined dress, those Western boots and cowboy hat. But enough of what I get up to on my days off. Dolly Parton was back in town and the MEN had the feel of a disco rodeo about it. Actually a gay, Western rodeo, judging by the number of Dolly drag queens present-some of whom were very good, by the way. Personally, I prefer seeing Ms P at smaller venues, but an arena setting does give her free reign to really pull out the stops, even if at times it means overdosing on camp. Still, enough genuine bluegrass moments to remind us what a great singer and songwriter she can be.

Of course, no trip to the big M would be complete without a drink or four. Despite being definitely under par, I gave it my best shot. Loddon Ferryman’s Gold (4.4%) was a pleasant enough start, being an easy drinking golden beer with a slight hint of something more substantial waiting to come through. Orkney Northern Light (4%) was also pretty good, and although golden as well, had much more of a biscuit malt crunch to it. I couldn’t detect any apricot in it, though; despite being assured it was present.

Things were looking good, but took a downward turn with Wye Piddle-Piddle in the Wind (4.5%) which tasted as if someone had done. Once more Phoenix came to the rescue with White Tornado and that carried me through till after the show. A bit of a departure afterwards as I gorged on German wine. Christoffel Erben Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese was full of fruit, and pears and honey came through at the finish. The 1998 Forster Pechstein Riesling Spätlese Trocken also had honey notes but was much drier in the finish. Best of the bunch was Markus Fries Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese Trocken 2003 which was quite spicy but had a neat dry finish which really appealed.

Altogether now: Joleeene Joleeene...
The illustration of Ms P is by Rick London and is entitled Salvador Dali Parton: Persistence Of Mammories

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Take Me Home Country Roads

A nice, dry day with a promise of some sunshine. An ideal opportunity for a little peregrination. The Lord Raglan at Nangreaves was having a beer festival and who better than Seasider and I to check it out.

To get there for a lunchtime start, first we had to endure a journey on the legendary Nanny Flyer. This little bus winds its way round various back streets before making the journey up to the Raglan. However, the journey lent me the chance to kill two birds with one stone. For, at the bottom of the road leading up to the Raglan, is the Hark to Dandler. This is a J.W.Lees hostelry that use to be just a locals boozer. However, it’s had a makeover, and was now pushing the food angle-with some success at weekends, I’d heard.

First impressions were favourable. Smartly set out tables and chairs now dominate the far side next to the windows. Apparently this has upset some locals and I could understand why, as it did mean the normal drinking area was vastly reduced. Only Lees Bitter was on offer and we enjoyed a pint of this whilst we perused the small, but attractive menu. It promotes itself on the Steak on a Slate concept, but it was the homemade cheese & onion pie that caught my attention. This duly arrived, and came as described-with proper chips and a nice portion of mushy peas. The pie was excellent with a light pastry that was a delight to bite into. Very satisfying, and at £6.20, cheaper than some other, less able establishments.

I couldn’t help but notice, though, that the place was completely empty during our stay. The pub gamely stays open during the day, but even with good food and a nice setting, competition for daytime punters is fierce. We’d timed it nicely, so we just had to step outside and get the next Nanny Flyer up the hill. Now when people think of country inns, they tend to conjure up images of homely pubs, good food and cheerful hosts. The Lord Raglan is none of these. Well, it’s quite nice inside, but the food (apart from Raglan chips) is so-so, they brew distinctly homebrew beers which they sell for wallet busting prices and the owners are famously miserable. Still, fortune favours the brave.

Inside the Raglan, we once more found ourselves to be the only customers. In fact, the barman kept disappearing to load up the van, leaving the bar unattended. Yes, I was sorely tempted to self service. Anyway, there were 9 handpumps on the bar, but only 5 were in use. And the promised marquee was something of a disappointment. Both the Slaters Top Totty and Bank Top Bikes & Trikes were on good form, though-you have to say they do keep their beers well. However, there were a couple of their own beers on and I, foolishly, decided to try the new one. Referee (3.8%) was surprisingly dark and absolutely horrendous. The aroma was bad enough with smoky malt and some unpleasant unidentifiable pong. Heavily smoked malt gave way to a bile aftertaste that you usually only get at the back of your throat after you’ve thrown up. I found the only way I could actually drink any was by holding my nose. Even then I could only manage half before admitting defeat. Seasider, being Leyden’s No 1 fan, naturally found it “interesting” and “not too bad.” Nothing as queer as folks, is there?

Now you think that they’d be interested in paying customers, but oh no, not at the Rag. Last orders were called at 230, although I did manage to get another half an hour out of them. Interesting to see that there was no one dining here-in the summer, once upon a time, they’d be busy every day. So it was back down the hill and some more Lees-this time al fresco. Come teatime and a steady trickle of locals started appearing. However, we took our leave and walked down to the main road in order to get the bus to Ramsbottom.

The plan was to call in at the Good Sam first. Seeing that was still closed up-despite rumours to the contrary-we proceeded straight to the Hare & Hounds. Here an excellent selection of ten handpumps greeted us and kept us busy for the duration of the night. Ossett Wot No England (4.3%) was copper coloured and a nice bitter tang to it. Of the rest, two old Phoenix favourites stand out-Hopsack (3.8%) and White Tornado (4.3%) both of which were very thirst quenching. The strain did begin to show round the tenth pint, when Seasider switched to a mix of Erdinger and Fruli. You can’t take these Fylde Coast people anywhere.

A grand day out, finished off in classic style at Pizza Pioneer.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Who'll Stop The Rain

It must be the season of long overdue returns. Hot on the heels of Leonard Cohen comes John Fogerty. In fact, his return makes LC’s seem positively hasty. I thought some of the crowd were getting on a bit and it soon became apparent why. I got chatting to a guy (I think my Willie Nelson For President t-shirt broke the ice), who had been to his last show over here. This tuned out to be when I was in very short pants (no, not last summer) and Edward Heath was still finding his feet as PM. Blimey.

Anyway, I think the wait was worth it. He delivered all the classics you would expect, but I was also eager to hear his new stuff after buying Revival last year. These are his best songs for ages and he really brought the Mississippi to Manchester. Highlights-Credence Song and, of course, Who’ll Stop the Rain. There was also, naturally, time for a little drinking. Archers Crystal Clear was the weapon of choice. This 5% was, indeed, blond and clear, without any of the sweetness that can mar Archers beers. Certainly worth a couple of pints. The nightcap, once more, chose itself. What else but Jack Daniels could conjure up the musical bayous that Fogerty and CCR inhabit?

Sunday, 22 June 2008

I am a cider drinker

"I am a cider drinker
I drinks it all of the day
I am a cider drinker
It soothes all me troubles away"

Usually if it’s raining in Lancashire, you can be assured it’s sunny everywhere else. And vice versa. So it was with high hopes that I set off for Hebden Bridge and the delights of sunny Yorkshire. Alas, it was not to be. A train ride over into that land of great verdure produced only more wind and rain. Very much like Bury, really. A pity, as the setting would have been ideal for a bit of al fresco. My destination? The international cider festival at the Stubbing Wharf.

The Stubbing Wharf is a deceptively large public house about a mile from the train station. One of its claims to fame is being mentioned in a work by Ted Hughes. As its name suggests, it’s on the side of the Rochdale Canal and hosts an annual cider festival. This is based upstairs with a mix of stillage and bottled cider. There was one on handpump-Lemaisson Organic Brut (4.5%) from Normandy. This was dry and quite moreish I thought. One problem was that these were being dispensed in plastic glasses, but a quick visit to the main bar solved that problem. From a good selection, I tried Oldershaw Regal Blonde (4.4%) which is a cask conditioned lager. Not too bad, if not in the class of Schallion. This provided me with a real glass with which to sample properly.

So began a session of experimentation with drinks like Cherry Perry (7%) and Dog Rough-which wasn’t. Disappointingly, the kitchen was closed during the fest, with a ploughman’s being available, for £3.50, from a moored canal boat. Carnivores were catered for with an outside hog roast. Luckily, we had seats, as the inclement weather meant the pub was soon pretty packed. The Morris Men (and controversial this, women) insisted on performing indoors, which was something of a nuisance. However, as cider was free for them, there was no way they were going to be denied.

After enough cider had passed through me, I tried the Little Valley Sixpenny Beer (3.7%) which was very light in colour but terrible thin and bland. A yomp back towards town took us to the Good Beer Guide listed Fox & Goose. This cosy, little pub also had a good selection to tempt the thirsty drinker. I sampled two excellent beers-Durham White Gold (4%) which was pale and hoppy, and Millstone Tiddlywinks, which was very crisp and hoppy.

A great find next-the Trades Club on Holme Street. Up the stairs in this assuming building are three handpumps serving Moorhouses Premier at £2 a pint, and two guest beers. June’s guest brewery is George Wright, and on offer was Pipe Dream and Roman Black. Both were excellent and it was interesting to discover that they regularly hold beer festivals. I was also pleased to see that they stocked some fine Macallan whisky, although the small matter of having spent up prevented me from actually trying one.

Then it was back to the station, via a nosey at the Inn on the Bridge. This was disappointing by Hebden Bridge standards, being a plastic, sterile place that, needless to say, didn’t have any of the real stuff. Back in Manchester it was time for nourishment at Hunters. Then a toilet stop at the English Lounge and a pint of Bombardier. I managed a pint of Copper Dragon Challenger IPA in the Unicorn before deciding to hit the tram and get nearer home. Back in welcoming Bury, there was only one real choice for a nightcap-Cheddar Valley Cider, naturally.


Saturday, 21 June 2008

Welcome Home

A tearful reunion tonight. Eddie, the young, eager, legal beagle was back in town. He’s been over the water to the good old USA, apparently hoping to bag a Bigfoot. His plan was to coat the Manx Minx with honey that Bigfoot would find irresistible and then trap him when he tried for a nibble. Unfortunately, he used the wrong honey and so, alas, the Manx Minx will have to go another winter without a Bigfoot-hide coat. Still, we were glad to welcome him back to the Bury drinking scene.

Daring to go al fresco, a small band gathered outside the Trackside. The Whitefield Holts Bandit even made an appearance on his unicycle. Apparently he hasn’t been lying dead at home buried under a pile of junk mail, clutching a bottle of red, but merely lying low. I kicked off with Leeds Best (4.3%) which seemed a traditional Yorkshire bitter, with a good bitter bite. Next up was Skinners Spriggan Ale (3.8) which was a nice light golden colour with a pleasant Goldings bitter aftertaste. Unfortunately the beer was falling like nine pins and having had a taster of a terrible Northern Brewery beer, I stuck with Leeds Best for the duration.

I was supposed to be taking it easy before the planned adventures of Saturday, but Eddie was having none of it. He insisted we take a stroll down to the Trafalgar on Manchester Old Road. This ex Burtonwood pub has recently been featuring Jennings Best and since the advent of the smoking ban is a much improved boozer. Having sampled a nice drop of Jennings, we made the short journey to the Rose & Crown. Now this pub has been in and out of the Good Beer Guide for years and is currently in an “out” phase. However, I have been keeping a close eye on it recently having been tipped that it does feature guest beers.

Indeed the situation now is that it always has Deuchars IPA on, accompanied by two guests. A far cry from its heyday of 6 beers, perhaps, but still worth a visit, if the guests prove worthy. As they did on this occasion, with both the Bitter & Twisted and Adnams Explorer being on excellent form. I was particularly pleased to see Adnams Explorer, as it is an all too rare sight in these parts. With such good beers available, my pleas for early release were wisely ignored by Eddie and only the dreaded last orders bell saved my kidneys from any more work.

So, gaily singing the Star Spangled Banner, we staggered homeward bound after a jolly little evening in Bury.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

De Do Do Do De Da Da Da

Another day in the life of the cultural capital of the world. Yes, of course I mean Manchester. The Police were in town, or the Old Bill as some wit has christened them. They are, of course, a popular musical combo who have reunited to please their fans. Or, for lots of money. Either way, it’s a very long time since I last saw them in concert, so I was curious to see how Father Time had treated them. Overall, very well, and if they had played around with the arrangement of some songs, it was mainly for the better. Of course there can be problems with concerts in the MEN and I’m not sure the sound was always as good as it should have been. Still, worth it to hear Mr Summer belt out Roxanne, once more.

Luckily there was time for a few drinks beforehand, as no one in their right mind will pay stadium prices for slosh served in plastic. I started adventurously with Titanic Longitude (4.4%) but soon wished that I hadn’t. This copper coloured beer had far too much caramel sweetness, made even worse by a burnt malt aftertaste that made it quite unpleasant. Better was Derwent Whitwell & Marks IPA, which was also 4.4%. This was golden, but quite thin, with more malt than I would have liked, but still an improvement.

Things started looking up with Skinners Cornish Knocker (4.5%). This was also a golden ale, but with much more about it. A nicely balance of malt and hop made it quite refreshing. However, the best was yet to come. Robinsons Dizzy Blonde (3.8%) was in much better condition than last time I tried it. This time it lived up to its appearance. A clean, straw coloured session beer, it had the perfect balance of biscuit malt and subtle citrus fruit. Who can resist a tasty dizzy blonde? Obviously not me as I managed three before reluctantly dragging myself away.

Afterwards was something of a whisky fest, but that’s something we probably should draw a veil over...

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

73 Not Out

In this case, that great song wordsmith, Leonard Cohen. It was a return trip to the Opera House, to see this legend perform. As year became year after his last tour, many moons ago, I don’t think anyone thought he’d play on these shores ever again. And yet, here he was, an amazing 73 and full of the joys of life. Well, as joyous as Leonard Cohen can be. Actually, his songs aren’t the misery fest of popular legend, but full of humour and subtle human observation. And age certainly has not withered him-he delivered a show of Springsteen proportion. Highlight for me: So Long, Marianne. But it could have been any one of a number of classics.

Yet another great night out in the UK’s top city. This is becoming something of a habit.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Sex In The City

Sadly, not what I got up to last night, but rather, the title of a popular moving picture. Yes I’ve finally caught up with the big screen antics of Carrie Bradshaw & co. To get in the mood, I decided to indulge in some appropriate pre-film cocktails. After all, I doubt those New York girls have ever had a decent pint of real ale.

I kicked off with a classic Mojito, enlivened by the addition of Strawberry for a mere 30p. Pausing briefly to wonder if that technically made it a Strawberry Mojito, I moved on to something called a Rocktail. This also has Strawberry in it, but had a heady mix of Passion Fruit to balance it out. Just time to polish off a bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio Rose-keeping up with the summer theme, you see, before settling down with a bucket of Haagen-Dazs. If you liked the TV series, you’ll like the film: if not, what the hell are you watching it for? Apparently, there are about 300 costume changes, although I only counted 298.

But what is it with Sarah Jessica Parker? Her character is the main lead, when it’s obvious that Kim Cattrall is the star. Sure, she’s dollied up, and not wearing that ridiculous poodle perm she sometimes sprouts, but there’s no getting away from the fact that she ain’t no looker. A lot of women admire her fashion style, but don’t want to look like her. I don’t blame them. Let’s be honest, she’d struggle to pull in Bury on a Friday night. If you’re reading this Sarah, your best bet would be to wait for Sunday night in Chicago Rock. It’s grab-a-granny night and the Radcliffe lads are even less fussy than usual. On the other hand, Kim, if you ever fancy some Holts and a plate of tripe, give me a bell.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Lowry Laughs

A nice bit of Sunday culture at the Lowry. That’s in Salford. Yes, they do have arts and entertainment in Salford. An evening with the anarchic comedian, Arthur Smith. Just time for a bottle of Coldwater Creek Chardonnay beforehand and a few pints of Knoll St Porter afterwards. The show itself was excellent, with Smith at his idiosyncratic best, covering everything from poetry to Tommy Cooper anecdotes. He also, naturally, did his grumpy old man act from TV.

A nice start to the week.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Southern Sun

Manchester has a famous, rather loosely defined, area called the N/4. This is home to a collection of bars and pubs, and in recent times, has become something of the chic place to be. Actually, it was probably at its peak (beer wise) several years ago, but then, the trendies are always one step behind. Anyway, for a change, we decided to do a crawl of the “Southern ¼” which is based round the Oxford Road area of town. Being student-land, it also boasts a lot of pubs and bars, a lot of whom do cask.

First call was the Paramount. This JDW had several tempting beers on offer. The Otter Bright went untried, but Archimedes tried Ossett Silver King whilst I sampled a rather tired George Wright. Kro 2 is a trendy bar with a large outdoor drinking area. Luckily the sun had come out allowing us to enjoy this facility and I could pat myself on the back for packing my sunglasses, despite the promise of intemperate weather. Also luckily, the Landlord was on top form, delivering a cool, very crisp pint. Round the corner at the Lass O’Gowrie on Charles St, there were mixed signals. It’s a great place to eat, with proper chips, and real homemade pies. However, we decided not to eat as the beer choice wasn’t very good. Probably not helped by the fact that the place was absolutely dead. Having said that, the Brains I tried was in good nick.

The Sand Bar was closed-perhaps they had heard I was calling? So it was across the road to the Deaf Institute. Or Trof 3, as it is the third in a chain of very trendy, music, beer bars. Although the name raised a few eyebrows at first, it’s a listed building, so any changes could only be minimal, and the name has been given the blessing of the Manchester Deaf Society. Anyway, it’s a big improvement on their first choice-Deaf & Dumb. Inside it’s a mix of booths and tables, and, bizarrely, the kind of chairs you find at primary school. Now there’s a fine line between idiosyncratic and plain silly, and, personally, I think this crosses it. It is nice however, and an excellent venue for student-totty-spotters. For a chain that prides itself on their drinks range, they let themselves down by not offering any cask. They really should know better, but I did enjoy an excellent bottle of Anchor Steam Beer. Archimedes seemed pleased with his mega breakfast, as well.

Odder is yet another trendy bar. The beer range had much improved since my last visit and my first pint was, inevitably, Copper Dragon Golden Pippin. Feeling I should get some beer soaking sustenance, I opted for a Rosemary & Thyme (what I use for my pizza bases, incidentally) pizza with sautéed potatoes. Not bad value at £3.99, either. I washed this down with a cloudy, but very enjoyable, pint of Leeds Yorkshire Gold (4.2%) which had a real bitter bite to it. It was a case of as you were at the Pevril of the Peak, as Copper Dragon Golden Pippin made another appearance. It was al fresco time at the Britons Protection where I enjoyed a pint of Robinsons Unicorn. Then it was tram time, before settling in the Trackside for a nightcap.
I’ve found the Southern quadrant a bit variable on previous occasions, but on this evidence, things are looking up.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

A Night At The Opera

Well, a night at the Manchester Opera House, anyway. Radio 4’s Just a Minute was in town and I wanted to attend the recording. Now it’s always good to attend these occasions with some eye candy on your arm, but having been blown out by one pinup, I was in need of a quality substitute. But where can one find a sex icon at short notice? Luckily, Tandleman stepped up to the plate, and we arranged to meet up for a couple of drinks beforehand. Not too many, as obviously we didn’t want to turn up half-canned. So, a dry day, and then just a couple. Easy, innit?

So far, so good. But what’s this? A message from the Tandlemeister. He’s managed to get himself “accidentally pissed,” again, but he was on the way. Well, it happens to the best of us, I suppose. At least it helped to assuage the guilt of my four warm up pints. I was expecting the worst, but when he arrived at the City Arms, he was surprisingly compos mentis. Perhaps it was the Chinese banquet he’d just enjoyed, or simply his years of experience drinking JWLees, but whatever the reason, his seven pints hadn’t dulled him. He was still talking sense, some might say more sense than usual, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

We managed three pints before curtain call. TM played safe and stuck with Tetley Bitter, while I first tried a bland Everards Tiger, before switching to Tanglefoot. I also tried Okells Doctor Okells Eastern Spice, which was every bit as spicy as I remembered. The show itself was very good with Paul Merton consummately pulling the strings. Quite a youthful audience, with a group of Yanks (or were they Canadian?) as well.

The search for a post show pint took us to the Moon Under The Water, which was pitiful, and then a yomp to the other side of town. The Unicorn disappointed by having its Copper Dragon pumpclip turned round, so we found ourselves at Bar Fringe. Here we plumped for a beer from Dervnetio, the small Derbyshire brewer. The beer was golden, but pretty thin, only saved by a subtle spice flavour. We chose the Smithfield for our nightcap. A rather dry, golden Salamander beer was our reward. Not too bad at all. Then it was home time. Thanks to the tram, I actually managed to get back to Bury in time for last orders at Wetherspoons and a pint of Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted. And a quick double whisky-the perfect end to an entertaining day.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Well, it had to happen one day. I’ve finally come across a Boggart fan. And, apparently, there are more waiting to come out of the closet! I have actually met a Boggart fan before. Well, two really, but I don’t count the second one as he was seriously bonkers. It was on the excellent “A swift One” that this shocking revelation came to light

It’s interesting that Boggart’s reputation hasn’t crossed over to our Yorkshire cousins. Everywhere I go, the mere mention of Boggart is enough to drive people into a rabid gnashing of teeth. And I know Tandleman isn’t their biggest fan either. Perhaps Yorkshire Water adds something to keep the locals sedate?

Next week, an Owl fan… (Yes I do know they’ve gone kaput, thank God)

Theoretical Al Fresco

A pleasant looking evening gave me the urge for some al fresco drinking and a bit of a wander. First call was the Brown Cow at Burrs Country Park. This freehouse usually offers a choice of two, with one often from a local micro. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the local offering was from All Gates. A small sampler revealed this 5% to be phenolic in flavour and definitely not one for me. Clark’s No Angel (4%) was much better. Despite being pale brown in colour, it had hints of fruit leading to a slightly bitter-sweet finish. However, I had to jettison any plans for al fresco, as there were swarms of midges everywhere.

Next stop was the Hamers Arms in Summerseat, where a very fetching young lass served me a pint of Theakstons. Now I’m not so shallow as just to judge someone on their looks. Oh no, I was waiting to see how she handled the ale. And, well cover me with quicksand, she drew a perfect pint. Looks and technique-what more could any man want? However, putting any thoughts of marriage on the backburner, I headed for the beer garden. Alas, once more the dreaded midges were out in force, forcing me to spend more time indoors with the lovely Tina.

Over at the Footballers, I kicked off with a pint of Hornbeam Bitter (3.8%) which was sweeter than I’ve had it before. Switching to Rudgate Viking (3.8%) improved matters as this at least had some bitterness behind an initial smooth taste. You can’t beat the classics though, so I finished my session here with a pint of Hydes Original (3.8%) which was very refreshing. Bizarrely, by now, the pub was infested with midges-I’ve never encountered them inside before, but the reason soon became obvious. As I was waiting for the bus into Bury, it became clear that the nearby fields were being cut back, presumably causing some disturbance for the neighbourhood midges. Who, in turn, were taking their revenge on anyone they could find. Ah, the joys of country life.

Safe inside the Trackside, I enjoyed a very dry pint of Ossett Pale Gold, which at just 3.8% really is a good beer. I followed that with an excellent Phoenix White Monk (4.5%), but was prevented from enjoying another by the inexperienced barman’s insistence on calling time.

Realising there was still time for a couple at Wetherspoons; I took a deep breath and prayed to Zeus that a decent beer would be forthcoming. The first thing I noticed was how busy it was very late on a Tues night-everywhere else had been dead. The second thing that caught my eye was the range of beers. A draught Belgium, Pale Rider, and several more. Had I walked in the wrong place my mistake? I kicked off with Caledonian XPA (4.3%), a pleasant, golden ale, that thankfully had none of the tang that Deuchars often has. Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted (3.8%) was deliciously fruity, but time was really pressing now, so I finished with a nightcap of Phoenix Wobbly Bob (6%). Sadly, it wasn’t on top form, being obviously tired, but proved still sufficient to send me to my bed beered out and content.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Send in the Clowns

Send in the clowns
Don't bother, they're here

The nutters on Bury’s licensing panel have done it again. Or rather not done it. Having failed to close Lush, despite being given the opportunity to do so, they’ve now let another one slip through the net. Police had wanted Club NV (geddit?) stripped of its licence for operating beyond its 230am closing time. Quite an unusual offence actually, considering the flexible nature of today’s licensing regime. But, then of course, NV has a bit of previous. It was the first town centre venue to get a 4am licence, and the first to have it revised after a drunken mob tried to storm it. The problem is that late night drinking was the only appeal NV had. Hence their attempts to be economical with their licence. Not surprisingly, the police have had enough of this place. You don’t have to convince me that it should be shown the red card. It is, after all, a seedy, knuckledraggers dive populated by blokes who should have “Sad and Stupid” tattooed on their forehead. I say blokes as it’s mainly a testosterone driven zone, apart from the occasional, very desperate, slapper.

Anyway, what have the panel of wise monkeys decided? Despite its reputation and police advice, they’ve slapped it with an order saying that it has to close by 215am and be emptied by 230am. Way to go. If that had been a neighbourhood local, they would have been down on it like a ton of bricks. But a club on the street of shame-who cares? After all, I bet none of the panel frequent the town centre late at night. And who can blame them? They need to get out of their ivory towers once in awhile, and spend some time in the real world. We hear a lot of nonsense talked about “drink and anti social problems,” but if those in authority fail to act when needed, what hope is there? Or is it a case of do as I say, not as I do?

If you’re not going to pee, get off the pot…

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Friday at the Ox

Another weekend, another festival at the New Oxford. A Friday session was agreed in order to beat the marauding hordes of Saturday scoopers. And because all the best beers tend to have gone by then. Despite a 30 min wait for my bus, I managed to secure a table and awaited the arrival of my fellow imbibers.

If I had been keeping score (which I wasn’t), I would say that the mean average was definitely higher than the last festival. There weren’t any real shockers and all the beers were drinkable, or better. I’m not sure you can extrapolate too much from this-my theory was that, looking at the bar, there were simply more beers from established breweries. Thankfully, nothing from Tandleman’s nemesis, Wooden Hand. Probably most disappointing was the mysterious Shedded Brewery, with its Right Shed Fred (4%) which was thin and bland.

Much better were Glenworth Ice Magnet (4.5%) which was nice and refreshing, and Tigertops Castlemaine Stout (4.5%) which had a satisfying chewy texture. Acorn Sun Strom (sic), weighing in at 4.8% was pretty good, and Okells also delivered the goods with its 4% Chequered Flag. I also liked Elland Summerbreeze (5%), whilst the Belgium import Alvinne Lex-Ke (6.3%) tasted exactly like a Belgium wheat beer. Which is not surprising, I suppose. Beer of the festival was Dunham Massey Chocolate Cherry Mild, which was a ruby coloured 3.8% little beauty. Lovely cherry textures, with a delicate chocolate undercurrent, leading to a very pleasant almond-bitter finish. Definitely one to watch out for.

By now we were all feeling the munchies. My bus delay had prevented me from stopping off en route and as we had nearly exhausted the offerings-no one was willing to gamble on the Allgates-we decided to move on. The Crescent seemed a good option, being not too far away and there being a chance of some butties available. Alas, the bar was bereft of food and I was surprised to see that the beer choice was somewhat depleted as well. I know the students have finished for the summer, but apart from a small, noisy, birthday bash, the place seemed much quieter than it should be for a Friday night. It could also do with a little TLC. All the handpumps in the backroom were out of action, so I went for Roosters Special off the main bar, This proved adequate, if unexceptional, in terms of quality.

It was time to move again and we jumped on a bus to take us back into the centre. Here I introduced my companions to the delights of Hunters and their rice and three. Although it has now reached the dizzy heights of £3.95, it’s still a great place for a meal fix. Of course, it was too late to physically help with our alcohol intake, but psychologically it’s a real boost. Being right in the heart of the N/4, the world was our cloister, and we decided on the English Lounge for a farewell pint. Sadly, this was something of a disappointment. All the beer was warm. Not something you expect at 10pm on a Friday night. Luckily, the Copper Dragon wasn’t actually bad, and being a London veteran of warm beer, I managed to drink mine. As did Pythagoras. Archimedes struggled gamely on before admitting defeat. Although I must admit, warm Hobgoblin is not the most appealing of beers.

Then it was tram time back to Bury. Here, just time for a nightcap in the Trackside. I plumped for Acorn Palisade IPA (5%) which I’d sampled the day before. I’ve been very impressed with Acorn’s range of single hop IPA’s-Chinook and Cluster have both been very good. Palisade is (yet another) new American hop to me. A good bittering hop, I’d guess, as it’s not the citrus fest we’ve come to expect with a lot of these. It was spicy and bitter on the palate, with a good long finish. A very satisfying end to an enjoyable Friday session

Back Together Again

So, normal service is resumed at last. Just as I was thinking I could hang my fountain pen out to dry, the problem with Blogger resolves itself, and here I am again. As Tommy Trinder use to say; you lucky people!

A lot of beer has flown down the pan since my last post. Bonkers Boris got elected by bonkers Londoners for a start. I’ve seen the Boss, twice, had a nice pint in the Dog & Bell in the wilds of Outer London, and contracted tonsillitis. Oh, and tried my first South African cheese.

Now bring on the beer and dancing girls.