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Showing posts from 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 …

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.

Sign 'O' the Times

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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...

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 p…

Boxing Day Bus Blues

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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 Me…

Do They know It's Christmas?

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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 couple 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 f…

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.

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

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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 …

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday

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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 c…

Tonight I'm Going To Party Like Its 1999

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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 …

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

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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…

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 …

Once More Unto The Breach

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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 p…

Let Them Eat Cheese

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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…

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 …

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 comp…

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. Tur…

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

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The staff at the newly reopened Knowsley are slowly starting to find their feet. Or at least they seem to have worked out how topour 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...

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...

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

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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. Literal…

Going, Going, Gone?

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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 t…

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 …

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