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

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Hi Ho Silver Lining

It was nice and quiet in Manchester’s pubs today. The lull before the New Year storm? Or were people busy throwing themselves at the so-called sales? I say so-called because you can guarantee if there’s 75% off it, it’s bound to be tat that the shop wants rid of. Is beer discounted? Is Cheese? Or toilet roll for that matter? No. So my weekly outgoings remain completely unaffected by the sales frenzy.

Anyway, whatever the reason, apart from a lack of daytime customers, the pubs seemed to be suffering from a little lack of choice. Probably not geared up for tomorrow night yet, but still annoying. The first stop-the Marble Arch is usually reliable, but today half the pumps were turned round. They would be pulling some through, but beer and tide wait for no man, so after some JP Best, it was time to move on.

The English Lounge only had 2 beers on, but both the Cumberland and the Landlord were in decent form. No real ale at all at Odd, but Pennine Ales White Owl and Bank Top were both on at the Crown & Kettle. No sign of cask at Cask-it was Kwak for me, whilst the Bank was also depleted but delivered a surprisingly light hued Polar Bear. Best beer of the day, however, was found at the Waterhouse-Phoenix Snowbound-beautifully crisp and hoppy.

The sun had long since set when I heard some old fogey Camra types were about to drag their Zimmer frames to Manchester. All those people do is talk about beer-who wants to do that? Anyway, as I had drinking business elsewhere, I set sail for a port nearer home. First up was the Whitchaff at Townsend. This was very busy with most people seemingly here to dine. I tried both of the real ales on offer-Old Stockport and Hartley’s XB before getting the bus back into Ramsbottom.

Unlike Manchester, Rammy was doing well with people getting an early start on the New Year festivities. I squeezed into the First Chop only to be told there was no keg lager available as the cooler was knackered. Oh no. In despair I turned to the cask offerings of Flat Cap and Outstanding Ginger. The Major was even busier with both a quiz and the football attracting attention. The plan was to move on, but we never did. Was it the lure of the Golden Pippin? Or the close proximity of a scantily clad 32D? I guess we’ll never know.

Don't Call Us

Former glamour totty, Linda Lusardi, is in the news again. Yesterday she got a roasting for dialling 999 unnecessarily-she was running late for her panto and wanted permission to use the hard shoulder. Today, far from being repentant, she claimed she was right, as she was brought up to believe you “phoned the police if you needed help.” Let’s be fair here-she did ask permission and she’s still got great cheekbones. Still, this is clearly not an emergency and does not warrant ringing 999. Look at me, when faced with a true emergency-the Towler running out of Golden Pippin, I’ve shown remarkable restraint in not calling for assistance. And so should Linda. After all, everyone knows that 999 is only for when you catch the landlord pouring the dregs back into the Mild.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Sign 'O' the Times

So the dust has settled on the recent Orchid pubs fiasco. The latest in a series of capitalistic crisises which would have had old Marxie chuckling, this was more worrying as it concerned pubs, not banks etc. Seems they’ve done a “Cains” and bought most of their own pubs back. Now if I did anything as shady, I could expect a call from the boys in blue. In their game, you can call it “financial restructuring” and get away with it. This upheaval has caused problems at the Shovels in Blackpool, but luckily, local outlets such as the Hare & Hounds have continued to trade normally. Orchid blamed their problems on “the smoking ban” (yawn), and the “downturn in consumer spending.” And theirs me thinking it was all that debt they saddled the company with...

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Control The Juke Box, Control The Pub

Another Saturday, another party. This time in the posh part of Radcliffe. Yes, there really is such a thing. Although usually the lure of free beer guarantees our early attendance, today we were a bit tardy. As the bus passes the New Inn, a pub I’d been hearing about for some time, we decided to take a little detour. Originally a Bass house, it had been for many, many years, something of notorious dive. Very dimly lit and downright dirty, it featured a hardcore of regulars who didn’t take too kindly to visitors. Not that you would want to visit, as the single-bulb bar only offered Guinness and warm lager.

However, word kept getting back to me that it has been done up and that handpumps could be seem through the windows. Indeed they could and it certainly was looking much better. Cleaned up and opened out, the windows were letting in a lot of natural light. And, most importantly, cask was back on the bar courtesy of Moorhouses. Premier was selling well-no doubt a result of the £1.95 a pint price tag, whilst Witch Hunt was faring less well at £2.36 a go. Quietly impressed, we stayed for a couple. A hot topic at the bar was why don’t we eat horses in Britain, as they do In France? Of course, French cuisine is one big con-give it a fancy name and our cross channel comrades will eat any old shite, but that’s another story. What I didn’t realise was that King Arthur had something to with it-you live and learn.

However, free beer doesn’t get drunk by itself (or does it?) and so we braved the cold once more. The party itself was an exclusive affair, relying more on quality than quantity. Phoenix Spotland Gold was the poison of choice and once I had the sparkler in place, we were ready to rock. The beer was good, as was the homemade chilli. Progress was good, with the firkin emptied shortly after 2000 hrs. I made that about a gallon or so each, although some people drank less and some people more.

Too early to retire, we were soon corralled once more in the New Inn. Here we were soon involved in a juke box war-not surprising at only 10p a tune- as we were taught the wisdom of the maxim “ control the juke box, control the pub.” Despite Pineapple Pete’s attempt at killing the party atmosphere with his selection of “Shut Up A Ya Face” a good time was had by all. Reluctantly the post midnight bus signalled the end of our festivities, but no doubt, like MacArthur, we shall return.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Boxing Day Bus Blues

Far from being a joyful time of year, Christmas is actually the most stressful time of year. December sees the highest rate of suicides and a boom in calls to the Samaritans. Whilst in January we can expect a sharp rise in domestic violence and the breakdown of many relationships, after the forced jollity of the so-called festive season. You also get a spike of violent crime. But this year, it looked like being an unusually peaceful Crimbo. But, hark, the BBC doth sing. We’ve got two stabbings yesterday in Tandleman Turf (Middleton) and a double homicide in Blackpool on Christmas Eve. My faith in humanity (and sociological patterns of behaviour) is restored.

Boxing Day and the start of Kwanzaa. Two good reasons to party. Unfortunately, due to the Middle Ages approach of British transport, options are somewhat limited. Everyone’s moaning about the lack of trains, but I would settle for a bus. However, this is where my cunning plan to be within walking distance of several pubs and the Metrolink, comes into its own. But first there was the little matter of the afternoon match. A brisk walk took me to the Knowsley and a cosy corner spot. Now, Greene King don’t often get praised, so let me express my appreciation. One side effect of selling turgid beer is that it kills the appetite. Meaning one can spend time in their pubs and remain totally sober. Saving money and capacity for some real real ale. I salute you, GK.

Having seen the Reds ease past the Potters, it was time to make tracks for the Metrolink (geddit?) and the joys of Manchester. The Marble proved hard to leave, with the usual mix of their own hoppy delights and an interesting beer from Burton Bridge. Well the beer was amber and malty (sigh), but the pumpclip was excellent. Featuring the great Fred Dibnah, it commemorates an event 25 years ago, when George, a ginger tom, had to be rescued from a mill chimney before Fred did his thing. Down at the Waterhouse, Springhead St Nick’s Porter proved strange. A little thin for a Porter, it had roast flavours but no real complexity to recommend it. Bateman’s Salem Porter was much better, with notes of plums, coffee and chocolate. I just had time to squeeze a Brakspear Bitter in at the City before heading home and my appointment with a curry.

Fully curried up, it was time to risk the Peel. Here there were some terrible Northern & Blakemere beers on-phenol on acid, but luckily the Outstanding Standing Out was ok. Then it was time to put Elton Cabs to the test. They’d advertised normal rates over Christmas, but, having been stung on Christmas Eve, I was a little wary. However, I’m happy to say they delivered on their promise-well done, lads.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Do They know It's Christmas?

Well I’ve got the laptop working and here we all are in Wetherspoons. The place is looking surprisingly clean and the staff have never been so attentive. It’s either the festive spirit or the expectation of large tips. Some chance with the disparate group assembled here. It’s a mix of the sad, the lonely, and the grateful drinker who’s killing time before the dreaded family get together. There’s a coAdd Imageuple eating their Christmas lunch in complete silence, and a guy tucked in the corner nursing a pint of Fosters. Actually he was here before me-doesn’t he know the Crimbo rules-get as much down your neck before they throw you out.

Beer wise, we’ve got some dodgy 3 Rivers, and (no surprise) Allgates. Luckily the Outstanding Ginger is ok and we’ve been alternating it with some single malts. We can only wistfully think of what might have been if the bosses at the ELR weren’t such scrooges. Seems the staff at the Trackside were willing to work (unpaid) today so that the regulars could enjoy a few drinks. However, the miserable toads who run the ELR (the Trackside’s owners) didn’t want to know. Letting people enjoy themselves? Unimaginable! To them it’s just a money making machine. It’s enough to drive you to drink.

Anyway, Merry Christmas. And may your camel spit nothing but dates.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time

What idiot said it’s best to prepare food drunk? How many times have I said on this blog that that is the worst thing you could do. Everyone knows I live by that mantra. If only Eddie, the eager, legal beagle, had listened to my warnings. He turned up today missing a portion of his thumb. Seems it’s not such a good idea to slice and dice when pissed. How many times do I need to say it before people will learn?

Christmas Eve at the Trackside. The seeming improvement in Piston & Broke became clear. Seems it was really Derwent Christmas Lights-the pumpclip was on the wrong pump. The real Piston & Broke was as grim as we remembered it on Saturday. A much safer bet was the Phoenix Snowbound which remained the poison of choice till closing time. Then it was a Pizza Pioneer special before checking everything was ready for tomorrow. The laptop is charged and with fingers crossed, I shall be blogging live from the pub on Christmas Day. Tidy.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Another day. Another Christmas do. Well, two technically. Definite déjà vu today. The last working day for many was the perfect excuse for those canny drinkers who knew last Friday would be busy everywhere. So it was we had an early lunch kickoff in the Trackside. Not too many on yet and what there was tended to be dark and strong.

First out of the hat was Ossett Treacle Stout. This was very rich, with liquorice coming through first, followed by the inevitable treacle. But not too much to overbalance it. Still, not really to my palate. Wickwar was next with Old Arnold. This was also dark, but not as sweet, with some fruit in the mix. Phoenix Navvy is usually a friend, but seemed a bit tired and lacked its usual hop bite.

There followed a (very slow), crawl of Bury until, seemingly inevitably, once more I found myself stuck in the Knowsley. Apparently “it’s convenient for the bus station.” Hmmm. After forking out £2.75 for the St Edmunds, I decided I wasn’t paying over the odds for that rubbish again, so went on orange juice instead. Which turned out to be a wise move, as it kept me in the game for later.

For just as things were winding up, I received a message from Eddie, the eager, legal beagle. He’d finished work and wanted to discuss the impact of existentialism on the paintings of Willem De Kooning. Really I should have gone home and saved myself for tomorrow. But...who can resist the chance to discuss the work of De Kooning? Not me. So it was back to the Trackside.

Luckily the board had been filled up in my absence. Coach House Credit Crunch (3.4%) was listed as a no 1 in colour, so I was expecting a light Mild. Seems Robinsons (they can’t distinguish gold from copper), aren’t the only colour blind people around. For the record, Credit Crunch is dark copper in colour (No 3 on the scale) and easy going, if a little thin. However, Ossett Silver Link was light and very palatable. We had to try Piston & Broke again, as it was fresh on. Some of Saturday’s impressions proved correct. It is a strange beer-citrus notes followed by sourness, with a dry finish. However, it seemed to (just), about carry it off.

As we know, time and tide waits for no man. How true, as Eddie soon discovered. Now he and the Manx Minx are always in constant communication-him telling her how much he loves her smoked kippers, she full of adoration for his tweed underpants. But as the night drew to a close, her last call had more of an admonishment tone. Seems Eddie was in the doghouse. The in-laws were due tomorrow and he was supposed to be cooking French onion soup and preparing potted crab. Not covorting in the Railside. I don’t know exactly what was said, but I think castration was mentioned. He got the message anyway and bounded off home to do his Jamie Oliver duties.

Personally, I can’t see the problem. Everyone knows the best way to prepare food is to get pissed first. That’s a well known fact.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday

Another day. Another Christmas do. Another blonde-although it was a bloke this time. There’s no rest for the wicked. Two fellow bloggers and part-time beerhounds were visiting the great metropolis. Could I meet them for a drink? Of course it meant giving up my Sunday drinking to go, er, drinking. So once more I made the ultimate sacrifice for Queen and country.

We met up at Sinclairs where I played it safe with Old Brewery, whilst my guests experimented with the excellent bottled range. The Triangle shopping complex isn’t my natural habitat-there being nothing to recommend it apart from perhaps Zizzi and Pizza Express. However, I happened to mention to Apiarist that it also hosts top lingerie shop Bravissimo. This was enough to warrant a detour-well he does write a sex blog. With his curiosity satisfied, we moved onto Tiger Tiger. 7 bars on 4 floors and not a drop of real ale to be had. After my usual formal complaint, we got stuck in.

I was outvoted on not going French and out first conquest was Petit Chablis Prieure St Come. This wasn’t too shabby, being refreshingly citrus in tone and a not unpleasant mineral finish. I was less happy with the Rioja Cosecha Saigoba-fruit and coffee flavours-whose idea was that? Colombard Ugni Blanc was much better with a nice, crisp, apple body. Popping our head in at the Wetherspoons, we were surprised to find Titanic Iron Curtain Russian Stout on the bar. Too burnt for me but my companions enjoyed the “chewiness.”
Some solid nourishment was now in order and I took them to one of my favourites-Efes. Even at their Sunday rate of £8.95 their Mediterranean buffet is hard to beat. Somehow I was talked into having the Burton Bridge Staffordshire Knot Brown Ale in the Paramount-a mistake I’ll never repeat. The Britons had to be visited and after an aperitif of Unicorn, it was whisky time. The train was looming for Manchester’s latest converts and hearty goodbyes were exchanged with much hand shaking and back slapping.

A classic day out-I could get use to this drinking lark.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Tonight I'm Going To Party Like Its 1999

Another day. Another Christmas do. But not a blonde in sight. The WHB was throwing a party and we were all invited. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Well not much of the first, although there were strange noises coming from the bedroom later. Actually we were the clean up brigade-I think he’d had his real friends round on Friday, but a beerhound isn’t going to say no to free beer on a Saturday afternoon.

And very good beer it was, as well. Darkstar Expresso Stout is a rich, satisfying stout that definitely does what is says on the label. Compare that with the recent poor offering from Meantime and I think Meantime’s brewers should hang their head in shame. Its stablemate-Darkstar Hophead was also in excellent condition. No need to say anything more about this beer except it lived up to its reputation as one of the greatest session beers around. Naturally both were served as the Good Lord intended-handpulled and with sparkler. For a jest, I tried the Hophead without sparkler. As Tandleman says, condition is everything, and this was proved as the beer was fine without it. However, as everyone knows, the sparkler doesn’t deliver a big head, or mitigate bitterness, but intensifies what can be subtle flavours. In Hophead’s case, it brought grapefruit to the fore, with a resulting fruit explosion in the aftertaste.

Talking of TM, sadly he couldn’t be there to witness this sparkler validation. Indeed, without his sex appeal and the drinking capabilities of the Wallsend Wonder, we were short on heavy hitters. However, we persevered and we had the Hophead drunk by 9pm, with a sizeable dint in the Expresso as well. Although how much of that was left after Archimedes had finished his “quality testing” yesterday, is anyone’s guess. It was a good time to leave anyway as pint pots were beginning to get weary. I wanted to go home, but Eddie, the eager, legal beagle convinced me that the cure was more beer. I begged him, but he insisted we call in at the Trackside. Here we tried the new house beer-Piston Broke. This is a 3.9% offering from Outstanding. And rather strange it was too. Light in colour, it weighed in much stronger than it really was, with a sour bitterness that wasn’t very appealing. Cottage Whippet Clause was phenolic-another no goer. With Darkstar proving so hard to follow, we drowned our sorrows in a series of Jevers. Finally, when the last bell had tolled, Eddie let us leave. One chip muffin later and it was a slow weave home.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Another day. Another Christmas do. Another blonde. I could get used to dining out with the glamorous jet set. But where to take a slinky sex kitten for lunch? Prague? Paris? It was a close call, but Ramsbottom just edged it. We decided to try the First Chop and put Rick to the test. The lady dallied with Wainwrights and I tried out Hydes seasonal-Rockin’ Robin (4.6%) which proved to be pleasantly seasonal.

We opted for some of the Lancashire tapas. One advantage of lunching with these model types is they don’t eat very much. So whilst she licked the breadcrumbs off her fishcake, I could tuck into the rather delightful Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Rarebit. Suitably nourished we moved on to the Hare & Hounds where we sampled Hart Snowella and Outlaw Wild Mule. Being the last Friday before Christmas, the pub was getting busy with people on work outings and a chance for an early start to the weekend festivities.

As it lashed down outside, the svelte eye-candy leaned in closer. Our eyes met and I could see desire in her eyes. Definite desire. She wanted me. Yes, she wanted me to get her another Outlaw Wild Mule. Well, it is a great beer for the driver, being hoppy but low in volume. I settled for Hart’s No Balls (what would Freud have said), which was easy going if not too distinctive. A nice outing but all too soon, I was back at home. Bearing in mind the weather conditions, and tomorrow’s party, I decided to stay in and open one of my Christmas presents. From me to me with love-a 1991 Lagavulin. Bitingly smokey to begin, the sherry casks are felt in the bitter-sweet finish. A good start to the weekend.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Madness They Call It Madness

Another day, another Christmas do. Slightly under the weather from yesterday’s excesses-note to self, eat, I bravely struggled on. Manchester was the city; Abode (a rather a la mode hotel) was the venue. Leaving my flat cap at the door, I sensed this wasn’t a place that would serve Dark Mild. Lunch consisted of vegetable soup, Ravioli of goats’ cheese and basil and some wild mushroom risotto. And cheese, of course, to finish. The place was busy-no sign of the credit crunch here and people were busy pouring copious amounts of booze down their neck. Eager not to be left behind, I dived in headfirst.

Betty Blue (once blonde, now brunette) explained that, unusually, the wines were ordered by grape type, not country. Hence, we kicked off with a powerful red-Aresti Estates Carmenere, from Chile. This was very rich, with heavy cherry notes and a peppery finish. No sooner had this disappeared than its French replacement appeared, as if by magic. Chateau Davide Bordeaux Superiore. I think this was Merlot in nature-not really to my taste but chacun ses gouts as we say in Bury. Seems Flaps McGraw (once blonde, now brunette) visits France a lot with hubby no 3. Apparently for her last birthday, they got a holiday home there.

My choice next. I celebrated my love for Italy with Le Vele Verdichhio Dei Castelli Jesi (I think!) which was beautifully fruity and went down all too quickly. At some point the champagne flutes came out, as did the brandy. All this drinking can make you thirsty, so a mini crawl for the hardy, or foolhardy, was proposed. I think I had Lomond Gold in the Waterhouse before being accosted by Groping Gail. Living up to her nickname she cornered me for the full Xmas snog. Seems she’s ditched Mr Not So Right and had a boob job to celebrate. Did I want to go back to her boudoir and road test them? A lovely offer, in keeping with the season, but being a gentleman I naturally declined. Well I was late for my rendezvous to see Madness, anyway.

A quick dash got me to the concert in time, but sadly they were rather disappointing. I think a lot of the audience had also been on the sauce and were geared up for some serious sing-along action. However, the band were premiering their new album, so not enough of the familiar hits to keep most people happy. Still, noisy enough to stop me from falling asleep. Which is the main thing after a day on the pop.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Once More Unto The Breach

A few pints with some visiting Camra types was proving disappointing. the Peel was poor, the ropey Two Tubs proved ropey, and the Greene King was turgid. Only the Holts in Wyldes was decent, so I was looking forward to a quick exit. Alas it was not to be. No sooner had I seen them safely to the bus station than I receive a plea from Eddie, the eager, legal beagle. Apparently he wanted some advice on guinea pig grooming. Cleaning their grease gland can be tricky, so I was glad to help.

We kicked off in the Trackside. Slater’s CRB (3.8%) was light and had a decent bitter kick for its modest volume. Deciding to spread our wings we headed up to the Hare & Hounds. Some interesting beers on including Hart-those of the terribly sexist pumpclips that make Eddie physically sick. Spurning their offering, and that of Purple Moose-despite their seasonal pumpclip, we settled for George Wright Three French Hens. This was exceedingly pale (0.5 on the colour scale) with very good condition and a pleasing fruity/bitter finish.
Next stop was the ever reliable Major. Here we sampled Hawkshead Red (4.2%) which like all their beers was very palatable. A traditional red bitter, it had just the right balance of bitter-sweet malt and spices, leading to a pleasing dry finish. A good winter beer I think. Over at the First Chop, we had a chat with Rick, the proprietor whilst we tackled some Wainwrights. Fancying a change we headed for the Royal Legion in expectation of some Hydes. But what’s this? Hydes has been replaced by that king of clubland-Lees. Yes, Tandleman’s favourite tipple has conquered another account in Ramsbottom. And to be fair, it wasn’t in bad nick-for Lees.

Our final stop was at the Good Sam. This was eerily quiet with not a soul in. And nobody came in the whole time we were there. Usually this doesn’t bode well for a pub, but the Sam continues to surprise with the beer in excellent form. Deuchars has replaced the poor selling Theakstons, but the big sellers remain Copper Dragon and...Lees. Blimey those Middleton brewers get everywhere. The landlord quickly exchanged Eddie’s pint after noticing it was cloudy, explaining that he had just put a fresh barrel on. It seemed a waste judging by the level of custom, but we weren’t complaining. The Golden Pippin was as good as I’ve had it, with plenty of tangy hop bitterness, and an exquisite dry finish. There was no shifting us then and all we had to do was await the last bus. Handily (when you’ve had a few), it stops right at the door, so for once getting home proved very easy.

Let Them Eat Cheese

Ah, to be Italian right now. Seems they’ve got a government who knows where their priorities should lie. Contrast them with the English, Chaplinesque, bunglers of prohibitionist Nu-Labour. Over here, the government rewards incompetent, greedy bankers, whilst simultaneously beating the poor drinker over the head with a blunt object. There’s no money to offer relief for struggling pubs, but there’s billions to waste on white elephants such as ID cards. Now take a look at our Mediterranean cousins. They know where their bread is buttered. Or where their cheese is toasted, anyway.

Yes the Italians are bailing out their cheese industry. Parmigiano Reggiano, Italy's King of Cheese, is apparently in trouble. Consumption has fallen, just as costs have soared. As a result, almost a third of craft cheese producers now face bankruptcy. Riding to the rescue of cheese lovers everywhere, the Italians plan to buy around 3% of Parmesan production, at a cost of some £44 million. This equates to 100,000 35Kg wheels of Parmesan. They also intend to buy the same amount of Grana Padano. And what are they going to do with all this cheese? Distribute it to the poor and needy. Free Parmesan! Ah, to be Italian right now.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Dr Who In Government Propaganda Shock

London can be shocking. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the shock I received there. The advert on the flickering big screen shows alcohol, so naturally I tune in. Some guy is enjoying a pint and then a glass of wine at home. At last, I think, an advert extolling the virtues of drink. But hold on, what’s those numbers on the screen? And then we get the dick-kicker. In a voiceover suspiciously sounding like the eighth Doctor (I always said he was pants), we get “Did you know that if men regularly exceed 3-4 units a day, it could add up to a serious health problem.”

What??? This is wrong on so many levels. Apart from the use of the discredited units system, what do they mean by “exceed?” 5 units, 6 units? And who says so? Er, nobody it seems. The nice lady at the Department of Health I spoke to couldn’t furnish me with the research this is based on. Not surprising, as it’s probably been concocted at the Ministry of Bullshit & Balderdash. This is pure scaremongering at its worst. As I’ve pointed out in my complaint to Ofcom, next they’ll be expecting us to believe that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction...

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Wisdom Of Solomon

Sunday lunchtime in Ramsbottom. A walk round the Farmers’ Market (Tomato & garlic Bread, blueberry pie and various chutneys), proved so exhausting that the only remedy was drink. Well it would have been rude to say no.

Down at the Hare & Hounds, I kicked off with George Wright Partridge In A Pear Tree. Nice and lively, this strong (5.1%) pale beer promised much. Unfortunately, probably not one of their best, being rather unbalanced with too much sweetness coming through. Outlaw Vanilla Porter (4.7%) wasn’t quite right either, with the vanilla component outstripping the Porter element, making it rather one-dimensional. A quick sample of the Leyden Christmas Stocking proved it was indeed Leyden. Leyden by name, Leyden by taste.

Back to the pale beers with Hart Snowella. This did have a pleasant floral aroma, but lacked the hops to follow through. Moving up to the Major proved a good move, as Hornbeam Christmas Champagne Beer really delivered. Golden coloured and bursting with complex fruit aromas, this went down quicker than Jonathan Ross’s Xmas bonus. An excellent beer-score one to Hornbeam. Reluctantly dragging myself across the road, I called in at the First Chop. Here I supped Outstanding Ginger and heard tales of Eddie, the eager, legal beagle, and how he had drunk them dry last night. God, I hate people who don’t know when to quit-you won’t catch me doing that.

Final stop was the reopened Grants Arms. Here, sat with my Moorhouses Premier, I was asked to settle a heated philosophical debate. Pub arguments can require the wisdom of Solomon-for instance, is Noam Chomsky correct in his interpretation of Plato’s Problem? What is the meaning of life? Or, in this particular case, who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Iron Man? Clearly, Iron Man, but Spiderman is way cooler. Having brought peace to two restless souls, I could retire home happy. Or at least as far as the Towler, where the lure of Golden Pippin proved just too much.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Laughing On The Outside (Crying On The Inside)

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.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Stella, Stella. My Kingdom For A Pint Of Stella.

The staff at the newly reopened Knowsley are slowly starting to find their feet. Or at least they seem to have worked out how to pour the St Edmund’s. This, of course, is the “trendy” GK beer that is served at 7C and can, gasp, be served Southern style-or properly. Having tried a couple, I’ve come to the conclusion that although this is a fantastic (i.e. bland but drinkable) beer by GK standards, it’s a daft gimmick. It appeals to neither the real ale drinker, nor the lager guzzler. Apparently it’s aimed at the supposedly premium Guinness market. Where people, presumably, choose to drink, er, Guinness. Oh, and yes, I did try it both ways. Northern pour wasn’t any better-I suppose there are things that even the sparkler can’t improve.

There are a few things that still need working on at the Knowsley, though. Like staff training. There was a sign hung over the Stella font proclaiming “Not quite ready.” The barman explained they were waiting for it to settle...

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

It will be lonely this xmas. Without you....in Wetherspoons

In a move sure to gladden the heart of Jeff B (AKA Stonch), I note that my local Wetherspoons is open on Xmas day. That's me sorted then. Fa la la la la, la la la la...

Monday, 8 December 2008

A winter's day- in a deep and dark December

A rainy Monday in Manchester-who’d have thought it? Yes unfortunately the day was dark and very wet, but it did provide a good excuse to linger longer in the pubs. The primary reason was a visit to the Christmas continental markets by Lytham John & Moonstruck Maria, but let’s be honest; a drink was always on the cards. Maria was a Manchester virgin (not a phrase you hear often), and it’s always interesting introducing new people to our drinking dens.

We kicked off in Sinclair’s Oysters Bar. This Sam Smiths institution had a few lunchtime stragglers in, and indeed we were joined by our own favourite Manchester straggler-the WHB. I sank a couple of Old Brewery here whilst others toyed with Porter, Organic Cherry Beer, and the like. A pit stop at the German market produced gluhwein-they’d already sold out of wheat beer. No wonder they lost the war.

Next stop was the City Arms on Kennedy Street. Surprisingly busy for that time of day, we squeezed in and sampled Brains Rev James. Literally next door is the Waterhouse where Saltaire Yorkshire Pale proved zesty and very refreshing. Obviously being away from Bury has had an effect on LJ, as he was already struggling with his beer. However, Maria, being a true lady, helped him polish it off-a pattern that soon repeated itself.

The Britons Protection proved popular with both the Unicorn and Cumberland in good nick. As our visitors were catching the train back, we moved down to Knott Bar. As on recent visits, this proved disappointing with Marble Manchester Bitter tasting like wet cardboard. No wonder the place was empty. Much better was our last stop-Cask, on Liverpool Road. Ostensibly we had gone there to sample some of their fine foreign range-ideally Kwak, but Pictish Susan proved so good that we stuck with the locally brewed stuff. Then it was time to escort out guests to the station before slowly winding our own way home.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Going, Going, Gone?

I returned from my London sojourn last week to two pieces of contrasting news. Firstly, on the down side, was the demise of the Brickcroft Tavern on Brook St. This small backstreet pub closed quietly some time ago, but it seems that Thwaites have given up on it, as it’s now all boarded up and a for sale sign hangs outside. A sad end to one of my early haunts. Nicely tucked away from prying eyes, you were always guaranteed a late lock-in. Old Harry Tattersall use to hold court, spinning tales of the good old days when the landlord would only serve light Mild in the taproom-he wanted to avoid “chaos” in the lounge.

Of course the Brickcroft went keg several years ago and then started only opening in the evening. Still it stubbornly held on as the only pub in Freetown, having seen off both the Star and the Bridge. Its future looks bleak, although never say never. Its position at the heart of the knocking shop quarter may tempt a change of use and a new lease of life. That’s what happened to the Golden Fleece on Bell Lane. Bass managed to offload it to Hydes, who struggled with it for years before finally giving up on it. Now it trades as World (nothing like a bit of hyperbole) Famous Babes. Mind you, Knocking Shop Neville says times are tough in the brothel game, so it may it be bye-bye to the Brickcroft for good.

Better news in the centre of town. The Knowsley has reopened after a major refit. This is the closest pub to the travel interchange and has been, for several years, only good for a quick pee before getting your bus or tram. Originally a cosy Whitbread pub selling some decent Boddingtons, it was opened out, and gradually became a place to avoid. More sad than dangerous, though. Greene King eventually took over, although there were no visible changes. Until now. In a move obviously aimed at taking it upmarket, they’ve installed a wrap around bar, moved the toilets upstairs, put plasma screens in, and are heavily pushing food. Rather impressively they open at 7am for breakfast. Although Eddie, the eager, legal beagle is disappointed. His dream of getting tanked up on Old Speckled Hen before going to work and tricking some old lady out of her inheritance has been shattered. They only sell alcohol from 11am-well nowhere is perfect.

Yes, the Knowsley has finally gone cask. An array of pumps seems only currently to be serving OSH and St Edmunds Ale, which at £2.65 has been pricey but indifferent. I’m no fan of Greede Kerching, or their insipid beers, so they won’t be seeing much of me. Except of course when I swallow my pride so I can watch the footie in comfort. It may have to be orange juice, though. It will be interesting to see how successful it is at keeping out its old clientele. It currently has bouncers on the door (front only btw-you can sneak in at the side), on weekend afternoons. Never a good sign to me and one has to wonder how long they will keep this up. One to watch.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Mistletoe And Fine

The festive season is a time for joy and goodwill to all men. Or is it? It appears that the spirit of Scrooge lives on in the guise of Norwich City Council. They’ve written to some 104 hairdressing salons to remind them that they need a licence to sell alcohol. And to ensure that they’re not being naughty, they will be carrying out spot checks. Anyone not in Santa’s good books could face a fine of up to £20,000, or six months in gaol. Obviously the local crimpers are not too happy about this, as all they wanted to do was offer the odd complimentary glass of sherry or wine.

I say bah, humbug. That is a very strict, if not downright miserly, interpretation of “supply” in the 2003 Licensing Act. People wishing to exercise their God given right to access booze should not be hindered by minions of the state. Particularly when they wish to give it away. But do not despair, tong twirlers of Norwich. Remember it’s perfectly legal to have alcohol on the premise for your own consumption. And if a customer should happen to drink the wine you’ve poured for yourself, well, accidents do happen...

Or you could always simply move to Bury, where we positively encourage philanthropic drinking.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Life's A Gas

Flatulence. There I’ve said it. It’s a problem, isn’t it? Picture it; you’re out with the boss, or trying to impress the new girl from typing. You’ve just had that third pint of Boggart’s Old Trumper, and the yeast starts to work its magic. Or maybe it’s your partner who’s bursting to release that Chicken Phaal? After all, it’s an equal opportunity problem. And, of course, it’s even worse for the poor, gassed-up lager drinker.

But never fear. The solution is here. And just in time for Christmas as well. An American (naturally) company have come up with “Subtle Butt”, a pad designed to absorb any unpleasant smells emanating from your underwear. The material slips easily into your pants and, held in place by two self-adhesive strips, contains gas neutralisers made from carbon fibre, preventing any errant odours from escaping. Just what the world has been waiting for.

Watch the video here