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, 28 December 2009

Return of the Ploughman's

What I do I see before me at Marks and Spencer? A Christmas Ploughman’s sandwich. Not only does this abomination contain gammon-therefore disqualifying it as a real ploughman’s anyway, but they’ve completely bastardised it. Just so they can give it the daft moniker of “Christmas Ploughman’s”. Pure madness. Some of the proceeds may be going to Shelter, but frankly they should be ashamed of themselves. If they had any integrity, they would refuse the donation on the grounds of good taste.

And while I’m at it, why do all their sandwiches contain large doses of mayo? I want a nice cheese and tomato (or a proper ploughman’s), not something covered in Greek yoghurt etc.

Stuff this-I’m off for a Wetherspoons breakfast.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Idiot Wind

Boxing Day madness. That’s the only explanation for the hordes of shoppers queuing for the sales. 15,000 very sad people were waiting outside the Trafford Centre at 9am and the queue for Next had apparently formed at 3.30am. I have it on good authority that there were even people waiting for Bury’s Argos to open, despite its sales being described by an insider as “pants”.

What’s wrong with these people? Apart from having no life, don’t they realise that Boxing Day is meant to be spent in the pub. Come to think of it, that could be said of most, if not every, day, but certainly Boxing Day is a traditional drinking holiday, despite the outdated British transport system.

With this tradition firmly in mind, it was time for me and Eddie, the eager, legal beagle to pay our respects. With the Manx Minx occupied in her native land with the annual Gruffalo hunt, Eddie was a free agent, although she had cast the usual Manx spells to ensure he would (eventually), return home.

The frolics kicked off in the Robert Peel with several pints of some rather fine George Wright Pure Blonde. Eddie’s personal chauffeur then duly appeared and whisked us away to the Lamb on Tottington Road where more excellent George Wright-Pipedream-awaited us.

Eventually I found myself enjoying a late night drink in the Trackside with Pineapple Pete. York Three Kings seemed fittingly Christmas like and certainly was full of spices. The star of the show, however, was Leyden Brown Ale. It could have been: an exciting recreation of a forgotten genre of beer-the strong brown ale-using the finest ingredients and carefully brewed. It was: brown dishwater.

Friday, 25 December 2009

A Very Merry Spoons Christmas

It’s Christmas in Wetherspoons, again. It’s full of oldies, saddies and weirdies, so naturally I feel at home! They were obviously hammered beer wise last night as there’s very little left. There’s some Hook Norton Twelve Days-probably because it’s 5.5% and a little bit of Loddon Razzle Dazzle which goes down very easily. Only time will tell if cider is called into play.

Next stop: the Masons and some endangered Golden Pippin.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

As I Went Out One Morning

On my way to the WHB’s wild Christmas party-the cold weather producing some of the coldest Darkstar Hophead ever drunk, but boy was it good. My sensibilities were inflamed by a ruddy big poster that was truly disgusting. It was definitely not the sort of thing the genteel classes need to see before a spot of free binge drinking. I was left shocked by its sheer naked effrontery.

And what about the kiddies? Does no one care about them anymore? It was out in the open for any of the little ones to gawp at. I shall now take a moment to gather my senses and try to describe this horror. It was an advert, apparently paid for by the NHS, proclaiming the benefits of minimum pricing. Under the heading of “Small Change Big Difference” it went on to say that “if alcohol had a minimum price of 50p per unit, experts predict that there could be:

3000 Fewer deaths

97,000 Fewer hospital admissions

45,000 Fewer crimes

Nearly 300,000 fewer sick days

An end to world hunger and peace in the Middle East

Ok, I made the last one up, but you get the idea. I suppose “experts predict there could be” sounds better than some "people making a guesstimate", but honestly, what a cheek. Pure propaganda and paid for by the taxpayer. I don’t mind the NHS spending money on health education: eat an apple a day, don’t put your socks in the microwave, that sort of thing. But this has crossed the line into political campaigning.

I haven’t been so upset since they dropped the test card from BBC One.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Who Ate All The Pies

He’s too late to be considered for the BBC Sports Personality of 2009, but let’s raise a cheer to the region’s latest sports champion. Step forward Barry Rigby, who this week won the World Pie Eating Championship in Wigan. Now you may think pie eating isn’t a legitimate sport, but that’s fighting talk in Wigan where they take it very seriously.

Rigby, 36, chomped his way to success by demolishing a meat and potato pie in 43 seconds. This was particularly impressive as (1) it was his first time in the contest and (2) it had to be done without the aid of gravy. However, Barry isn’t a pie novice by any means and by his own admission gets through “between 10 and 20 a week, at least”.

The contest is held at noon-known locally as “pie noon” and the pie must measure 12cm by 3.5cm deep and have 66% meat content. For statisticians out there, the world record is 35.86 seconds. The contest is not without controversy, however. Three years it infuriated traditionalists by scrapping the eat all you can in three minutes rule and replacing it with the time trial.

This year there was uproar when local pies were substituted for nearby but foreign “Adlington” pies. ''We were stunned,'' said one of Wigan's local pie-munching favourites, Andy Driscoll. ''My mate and I have been practising for weeks on small, soft Wigan pies and at the last minute, they've substituted these monsters”. The lack of local pies forced the only female entrant, Julie Walsh, to withdraw her entry on a point of principle. And the ban on gravy (imposed after allegations that last year it was being doped with cough medicine) also proved unpopular.

I have my own quibble with the contest-the exclusion of vegetarian entrants, but it would be churlish not to celebrate such sporting excellence in a field well suited to the pub environs.

Friday, 18 December 2009

California Dreamin'

Some interesting celebrity news with the announcement that Guy Ritchie plans to expand his pub empire overseas. Seems Mr ex-Madonna, who owns the Punch Bowl in swanky Mayfair, wants to export the British pub to our American cousins.

In association with his business partner, Nick House, he intends to open pubs in Los Angeles and New York. And these won’t be plastic imitations of the kind that you find in the Costa del Sol. They will be clones of the Mayfair pub, offering real British food, a real British beer garden and, intriguingly, real ale. One thing’s for certain. Considering the price of a pint in the Punch Bowl, a round of Landlord in LA or NY will require some deep pockets.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

You've Had Your Chips

A promising development on the chip (sorry, crisp) front. Lacking the energy to walk more than a hundred yards, I once more found myself limited to the Co-Op range. With a scornful glance at the still piled high Lightly Salted Kettle Chips, I searched for a viable alternative.

And sat there, on BOGOF no less, were the CO-OP’s own special brand. Locally sourced, hand cooked, etc-but the question was, were they any good? I was a little sceptical, I will admit. Chardonnay white wine vinegar is less acidic than cider vinegar, so I was concerned that I wouldn’t get the full-on flavour I prefer with salt & vinegar crisps.

However, my concerns proved groundless. A delightfully light crisp, they combine a good crunch factor with plenty of flavour. Perfect for post pub munching or the morning after sobering up snack.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

A Christmas Carol Poser

Bad news on the Christmas drinking front. The local Spoons have announced their Xmas opening hours and therein put somewhat of a spanner in my plans for Christmas Day. Eddie, the eager, legal beagle has put into place detailed military style drinking plans for Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. This just leaves the big day itself.

Now I’m sorted for an early start at the Trackside and later afternoon drinks in the Towler before moving onto the Masons. The lunchtime slot is complicated by the fact that I’m supposed to be entertaining my dear old mother then. My cunning plan was to take her to the posher local Spoons (which she quite likes) thereby killing two birds with one stone-she could have her Christmas lunch and I could keep to my plan of spending all day supporting the British boozer.

Sadly, the posher Spoons isn’t opening on Christmas Day. Only the rougher one is. And, having spent some of last Christmas Day in there, I don’t think I can subject her to that misery. She may be as old as Methuselah, but she’s not gone completely ga-ga yet. So I’m pondering on options. It may come down to getting her leathered on whisky, putting her to bed and popping out for a bit. These old uns like an afternoon kip, don’t they.

Live and Exclusive

The Tandleman Appreciation Society's christmas party is now in full swing. There was palpable excitement as the awards ceremony reached its climax. Tandleman won best contribution to Tandleman writing and a lifetime achievement for his devotion to the Tandleman cause. He also came a credible second in the Tandleman lookalike contest.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose

The Rose & Crown on Manchester Old Road has had more ups and downs over the years than a bride’s nightie. An ex Good Beer Guide pub, it once was part of the Pubmaster Tap & Spile chain and offered an unrivalled selection of real ales, all served in lined glasses.

Since its glory days, it’s had an eclectic mix of licensees-the good, the bad and the indifferent. Hearing it was trying to make something of a comeback, I’ve been keeping an eye on the place. The trouble with it seems to be inconsistency. Although my Adnams was fine on this visit, you can never be sure of how many beers are going to be on or in what condition they will be.

A classic case of quantity over quality, you might think. But there also seems to be two other problems here as well. One is the grave reluctance to accept that there is anything wrong with the beer, however bad it is. And the strange matter of charging 10p for tasters. It’s the first time I’ve come across a charge for them and most people seem frankly outraged by the notion.

So, definitely could do better is the official verdict.

Friday, 11 December 2009

A Tiger In The Rough

Tiger Woods alleged mistress, Rachel Uchitel, has, allegedly, been paid a seven figure sum to NOT talk about their alleged affair and is now in discussions with Playboy magazine. Ah, I remember the good old days when you got paid for actually spilling the beans. But, inspired by Ms Uchitel's example, I will also be remaining silent on any possible relationship with Mr Woods. And as for Playboy, should they be willing to pay my bus fare and provide a bag of organic liqourice for lunch, I am at their disposal.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A Walk On The Wild Side

View A Walk On The Wild Side in a larger map

A walk on the wild side. Or at least as far as a Greater Manchester bus saver will take you. That meant relying on the not so reliable hourly bus service. But we were yet to learn that lesson and so we kicked off in an old friend-the White Horse at Edgworth. This used to be a popular haunt in the days when Bolton had later licensing than Bury and still remains a good pub.

No sign of the bus, so we decided to walk to the official start of the crawl-the Chetham Arms at Turton, some 1.2 miles distance away. En route we found time to call at the rather good Black Bull, but somehow managed to avoid sampling the JW Lees that was one of the choices on the bar.

The Chetham is one of four pubs in the Welcome Taverns group. They are developing a reputation for taking on underperforming pubs, increasing the real ale range and putting in a quality food operation. It had five cask beers on, but was quiet. Presumably because not many people dine out in the afternoon, but save themselves for Saturday night.

Walking down to Bromley Cross and the Railway Hotel took slightly longer-it is about 1.7 miles after all, but there are public houses in the vicinity to distract you, should you be that way inclined.

Time for a bus ride and then a short walk to the Thomas Egerton, taking in the Masons and some Theakstons on the way. The Thomas Egerton is another Welcome pub with one large front room, divided into distinct drinking areas and a small back dining room. A tempting menu was complemented by four ales. Of which Moorhouses and Brakespear were tried.

Back on the bus for the short journey to the Brew House. This is Welcome’s flagship pub and brews on site. On previous visits there have been three of their own beers on, but on Saturday there were five, including a rather pleasant low-strength wheat beer. They have a well deserved reputation for good food-the fish (with homemade tartar sauce) and (real) chips are hard to beat, but on this occasion I went for the Cheese & Onion Pie which proved also very good.

Afternoon had become mid evening, but there was just time for one last call, and some shelter from the now heavy rain, in the Brierfield. This was the only disappointment of the day-completely lacking in atmosphere and with two pumpclips turned round, only offering Old Speckled Hen. Very poor for a Saturday night.

Back in Bury, I spotted a familiar face whispering sweet revolutionary nothings to his beloved in the candlelit dim of Automatic. Yes, local celebrity Joe Stalin was in. He invited me to join them for a discussion on the ramifications of the Second Soviet Congress, but sadly I was needed elsewhere. Maybe next time.

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Curious Incident Of The Co-op Assistant And The Kettle Chips

Recently I was reminded of this exchange in the classic Sherlock Holmes story “Silver Blaze”:

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

And so to the curious incident of the Co-op sales assistant and the Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar flavoured Kettle Chips. Everyone knows the value of Kettle Chips: they are both a good source of post drinking nutrition and an easy to prepare breakfast. Their salt and vinegar crisps are particularly appealing to the connoisseur, offering a good, sharp, bite and oak-aged Modena vinegar.

Thus one night, having had my body once more tortured trying to keep up with Eddie, the eager, legal beagle’s excesses; I called in for some late night help. The local Co-op is always a reliable, if expensive (except when it’s 2 for £2), source. However, on this occasion, the cupboard was completely bare. Enquiries met with the response that they would be on the shelves tomorrow.

So, come tomorrow, I set forth with high expectations. Still nothing on the shelves. Apparently there is a Kettle Chip shortage, explains the assistant. They don’t know when they will be next coming in. Really? Dejectedly I returned home. Later I had reason to call in again for something else. Consider my puzzlement on discovering their shelves now groaning under the weight of Lightly Salted, Ready Salted and, frustratingly, Sweet Chilli. My inquiry as to the fate of the Kettle Chip shortage was met by a shrug of the shoulders.

Reluctantly I decided to take my business to those most successful of grocers, Tesco. Normally I try to limit my visits to Tesco to special occasions-shoplifting practice, hiding the Daily Mail in the freezer and that sort of thing. But the craving was simply too great. Once more, however, I was met with disappointment, with the shelves stubbornly empty of crisp nirvana. A gross failure of the “free” market system? Or a cleverly orchestrated conspiracy? You decide.

A helpful assistant suggested Burt’s as an alternative. They are from Devon and have a good reputation. However, I am not familiar with Burt’s and so unsure of their abilities. I may have been willing to experiment on this occasion, but the lack of a salt and vinegar option deterred me. The visit was not a complete waste, though. I picked up some Brewdog Punk IPA at 99p each or 4 for £4. And a new, rather yummy, cheese they were promoting-Isle of Man Vintage Cheddar. Oh and I managed to put the Daily Mail where it belonged, right next to the Beano.

In case you were worried, the story has a happy ending. I eventually reached the end of the rainbow at Asda where the rare Wave Cut style were on offer.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Beer, Gas, Lights

An unusual fate awaits a truckload of illegal lout. Customs have seized 41,472 bottles of lager and plan to convert the bootleg grog into electricity. The 13,686 litres of Becks were seized at Felixstowe for failure to pay excise duty and will be sent to a special plant where they will be broken down into gas to produce electricity. Every beer drinker knows that beer produces gas, but this is probably the first time that this unwanted by-product has been put to such good use.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Rat Race

Interesting piece in today’s paper about the Rat Race Ale House which opened last Wednesday at Hartlepool Railway Station. Landlord Peter Morgan was made redundant from Newcastle Building Society and promptly set about making a dream become reality by converting a former newsagents into a real ale pub.

The micropub-it’s only 20ft by 14ft- claims to offer four guest ales, books & newspapers to read, full pints, take home ale and civilisation. What it won’t offer is fizzy beer, alcopops, music, big screen TV, antisocial behaviour and, apparently, a bar! Sounds an interesting place to visit-but not when Hartlepool are at home.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Way Out West

Radcliffe is a suburb of Bury that borders the foreign lands of Bolton. Despite being only 2.5 miles from Bury, Radcliffe has a reputation as a strange place where the locals still worship the Norse gods and speak archaic languages. It’s the birthplace of Danny Boyle who embodies the dream of the some 34,000 residents who still live there: escape at any cost.

It’s also home to a number of pubs of dubious reputation, but which need documenting if the mapping of all of Bury’s pubs is to be complete. So, first stop was the Unicorn, the last pub within Radcliffe’s boundary. This proved a pleasant surprise with the pub advertising cask ales and delivering a cool, well kept pint of Hobgoblin, despite it being the first of the day.

It all went downhill from there, with the Turf, the Royal Oak, the Lord Raglan and the Flying Flute (the Horse Shoe as was) all delivering a cask free message in varying degrees of tattiness. The Colliers was particularly scruffy and, frankly, looked in need of fumigation. Things didn’t get much better in the centre of town. The ex GBG Bridge was doing a reasonable trade but has lost its cask Burtonwood beers.

Also reasonably busy, albeit it with an atmosphere of misery, was the miserable looking Woolpack. Lacking any atmosphere whatsoever or indeed customers, was the Wellington, which had an odd musty smell to it. Whilst the Old Tower, which could be most charitably described as needing some extreme TLC, merely had a stale piss smell. The Lock Keeper, a large modern build with a Wacky Warehouse attached, was much more comfortable, but still could only muster a few pensioners dining.

Luckily things started to improve on the way out of Radcliffe. There was some decent Holts in the Old Cross and in the Swan & Railway. The Swan is a cosy local and was just starting to get the Friday post work crowd in. Across the road, the long boarded up, ex Vaux, George looks closed for good. However, just a few doors up, the Staff of Life was very busy and this is another comfy local’s pub. Advertising cask, it had that seemingly Radcliffe staple-Holts on. Interestingly, yet again, the quality was high.

So it seems that Radcliffe is not quite the cask ale desert if you are prepared to seek it out. You can expect some decent beer in some decent pubs, but a taste for Holts Bitter is somewhat of a prerequisite.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Saturday saw us take a little tour of York, exactly one year after our last visit. This time, Eddie, the eager, legal beagle was under strict orders to keep his walking pace to sub warp out of respect for the elderlies in our group. Mind you, when the rain started coming down, there was no time for dawdling. Now everyone knows solicitors bring bad luck, but Eddie is actually known to the people of Eboracum as the “Rainmaker”, such is his habit of bringing bad weather to the city.

As per last time, the Rook & Gaskill and the Waggon & Horses were good, albeit quiet due to their location at the outskirts of the city and it being early afternoon. Not unexpectedly the nearer the Minster, the busier the pubs get and we were lucky to get a table in the Guy Fawkes. This is a historic inn and whether or not it really is the birthplace of Guy Fawkes, it certainly has a lot of atmosphere and a very promising menu.

Another interesting diversion was Pivo. This bills itself as a “world pub” and although we enjoyed its foreign offerings, it was somewhat surprising to find it had no cask available on a busy Saturday afternoon. Travelling back first class kept us comfy and out of the way of the Yorkshire chavs, although the guy sat opposite Eddie was definitely one Penny Black shy of a full stamp collection.

A nightcap in the Trackside was called for and Eddie insisted I couldn’t leave until we had made our way through the German collection. There were still some beers left from the recent Oktoberfest celebrations, including Flying Dog’s Dogtoberfest. This was amber coloured and had a caramel sweetness that, surprisingly, wasn’t unpleasant. With the beer flowing and the staff being very efficient and accommodating –you could tell the gaffer wasn’t there (joke)-we happily saw in the witching hour waiting for fresh drinking companions.

But time and bar staff wait for no one, so eventually we set off to find Don Ricardo. Drawing a blank we resorted to old fashioned methods-the telephone. A few rings later he confirmed that not only had he left the vicinity, but that he was in fact tucked up in bed. Honestly, you just can’t get the staff these days.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Bury Beer Festival

Bury Beer Festival took central stage at the Met over the weekend with its expanded format proving popular amongst drinkers and music lovers alike. Certainly the inclusion of the downstairs bar area into the festival was very welcome as it vastly increased the amount of seating available.

A quick head count made it some 77 beers for local imbibers to choose from. The hall was split along the lines of local and non-local beers. Bury’s very own Leyden took up the back bar-very convenient for drinkers wishing to ignore their wares. Much more palatable were the extensive offerings from Outstanding, including the rarely seen White; a cloudy wheat beer full of lemon and earthy spiciness. Local celebrity Joe Stalin was spotted enjoying a pint (or two) of this as he lectured on the Second Congress of Soviets.

Some familiar names delivered the goods beer wise: Marble, Mallinsons, Elland were very good, but Brewdog proved to be my favourite. Their 5% Sam Saint was an extremely (too much for some) hoppy, red ale. Biggest let down was Dunham Massey’s Milk Stout. This was described as a “full bodied, sweet stout with a creamy, roast malt character”, but in fact tasted like roasted razor blades.

The photo shows an original BBF 2009 glass with a Camra logo on it, as given out to early punters. Fearing the wrath of Camra (it wasn’t a Camra event) these were withdrawn as soon as replacements arrived. However, there are stories that some were smuggled out under pain of death and are now fetching high prices on the black market.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

This Is The Modern World

Now I’m all for modernity, but some things are just wrong. And urinals with swirling, changing, colours are one of them. I’ve tried, but I’m not warming to them. The scene of this affront to human decency? Barca, a trendy bar in the Castlefield basin of Manchester. Famously once owned by Mick Hucknall, it has recently returned to the cask beer fold and so is now back on the real ale map of Manchester.

Together with the nearby Dukes 92 (3 casks on), it offers a rare opportunity to sup a pint in or out (luckily it never rains in Mncr) surrounded by young, posh, totty. What more could a man ask for? Or, indeed, let’s not be sexist, any self respecting lipstick lesbian.

Now obviously this pleasure doesn’t come without a price. You can expect to pay around £3 or more for your indulgence. And for those prices, you don’t expect to be overwhelmed by some LSD 60s’ vision. Not when you’re having a pee, anyway.

Picture the scene-you’ve had a few beers, you enter (a very clean, nicely tiled) dimly lit toilet. You’re in position and let rip. Next thing you know, your senses are being assaulted by flashing blue, red and er, green, lights. It can be quite disconcerting. Indeed, the WHB was so put out of sorts; he may never be able to go to the toilet ever again.

Modern life: it ain’t always easy.

George Slays The Dragon

Or nearly, anyway. For it seems that a modern George, in the shape of Cobe Consulting, is set to slay a local dragon. In this case, the Dragon pub on Parr Lane. But local residents are hoping this particular George falls on his sword and forgets about any development plans for the now derelict pub.

The Dragon is/was an ordinary pub. Nothing to mark it out from the crowd: no award winning food, no great selection of ale, no outstanding historical features. But it did minister to local needs and its loss is confirmation of a worrying trend. That, just as the Amazon is facing deforestation, we are facing depublication of densely populated areas-the traditional heartland of the public house.

Cobe’s exciting plans for the Dragon; namely a Co-op with apartments (flats to me and thee) are proving as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit. Apart from being daft and unnecessary-there is a row of shops literally next door, the residents objections are based on sound practical issues such as parking. Hopefully, these will win the day and Cobe will retreat with a bloody nose. Although, sadly, I doubt it.

In my view, if Cobe were really interested in providing a “social amenity”, then they would look at something that would benefit the whole community. Something that would really bring everyone together and provide an invaluable service. Now what could that be?...Oh yes, a pub

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Send The Buggers Back

Confirmation comes today that Scottish & Newcastle are going to waste time and money and, even worse, piss me off by introducing new glassware emblazed with units of alcohol. And not just a few, but four million of the buggers by 2010. And then they intend to roll out the concept to other brands. Lovely.

Without revisiting the farce surrounding the flawed concept of units, anyone can see this for what is it: a shameless act of appeasement to the anti-alcohol lobby. Unfortunately, no one seems to have told Mark Given, S&N UK brands director, that appeasement seldom works. The enemy merely scents blood. His lame excuse is however worth printing for the comedy factor alone: “Foster’s has long been at the forefront of dispense innovation and we wanted to create a glass to complement the brand’s unrivalled draught credentials.”

Now my advice is to steal or smash these insidious vessels of the devil. Then S&N may get the message. However, those of you wishing to take the Gandhi option may simply prefer to refuse to be served with them. When faced with a round of them, remember the immortal words of Half A Shilling and burst into full song with:

“Send the buggers back, oh send the buggers back,
These aren't the ones I wanted, son, I'm sending them straight back

Thursday, 5 November 2009

A Nut By Any Other Name

Professor David Nutt certainly likes controversy-he’s courted much of it lately and won many admirers. Some however looked beyond the initial rumpus and questioned his underlying motives. Was he an innocent victim of politicking or, as the Pub Curmudgeon would have it: “In the final analysis, Nutt is not a hero of rationality and free speech, he is just, at heart, another Righteous bansturbator”.

Well it appears he has nailed his colours to the mast and he is indeed nuttier than a bowl of Swiss Muesli. In interviews today he reiterates his belief that alcohol should be a controlled substance, saying “This is not a stunt. I mean it. Alcohol will kill your kids not Ecstasy”. Failing that he would like to see the price of alcohol doubled, if not tripled. However, he claims not to be a puritan having enjoyed the odd booze binge and even dabbled with the odd drug or two when he was younger. So that just makes him a hypocrite then.

Prof Nutt should have stuck to his Bunsen burners and kept out of social policy. He’s gone way beyond his remit or, indeed, his expertise. His sacking now seems like a blessing in disguise. It’s hard to believe but sometimes politicians do get it right.

Reach For The Sky (But Not The Vodka)

And now for something completely different-a tale of woe taken from my Law and Disorder blog.

A 47 year old mother was arrested and charged with supplying a minor with alcohol after asking her teenage daughter to help her shop for a cocktail party. Petite Sue Savage asked daughter Tara, 15, to reach up and fetch £10 of vodka and mixers down from a high shelf at their local Co-Op. A seemingly reasonable request, as not only could she not reach, she was doubly handicapped by wearing an ankle brace. Whilst Tara on the other hand is an impressive 6ft 3in, so has no such problems.

The trouble began when she tried to pay for the items and a supervisor appeared and warned her that they suspected her of supplying booze to a minor. After tiring of explaining herself and not wishing to make a scene, Sue left without the alcohol. However, she returned later and (rightly I feel) insisted on purchasing the bottles, despite the manager now warning her that she was breaking the law.

Being an innocent in these matters and somewhat worried, she later rang the police to clarify the matter. Imagine her surprise when not only did they appear on her doorstep two hours later, they told her to return the bottles. And to add insult to injury, they arrested her and gave her a fixed £80 penalty.

Sue quite rightly now plans to fight this ridiculous fine in court and said: "It's ridiculous. Does this mean anyone with children cannot go shopping with them and buy alcohol?" Apparently not if the Keystone Cops have anything to do with it. And the overzealous Co-Op need a reality check as well.

You couldn’t make this stuff up...

Bury Beer Festival

Good news for local drunks, I mean ale aficionados, with the confirmation that Bury Beer Festival will be going ahead after all. As usual the venue will be Bury Met on the 20th/21st November with opening hours of 12-11 on both days and an entry fee of £4. As there is no Camra involvement this year, the format will be somewhat different, with there being an emphasis on live music throughout both days. Beer wise, local brewers will be peddling their wares, so expect to see the likes of Moorhouses, Thwaites, Phoenix etc. Not forgetting, of course, Bury’s very own Outstanding Brewery. Be there or be somewhere else...

Through The Barricades (Or The Designated Alcohol Zone)

Interesting news today with the report that Oldham (yes, them again) council are planning to “get tough” with supermarkets selling cheap grog. They’ve written to 17 stores warning of new trading conditions that they may apply if the store sells alcohol for less than 50p a unit. These primarily focus on having an in-store designated alcohol zone with a clear “gateway” to the zone and various conditions liable to the zone, such as having to provide a security officer for the zone and a ban on promotions outside of the zone.

Many of these conditions frankly sound like nonsense: There will be a limit on the size of promotional material advertising cheap drink-maximum 20cm x 10cm and a requirement to display one of five responsible drinking messages!
Of course this follows hot on the heels of their plans to impose similar conditions on town centre pubs and clubs. But hold on, you might say, didn’t most of those conditions fail at the first hurdle? Yes, as well these might if the likes of Tesco wish to flex their legal muscles. For, rather worryingly for a local authority, Oldham seem to have a shaky grasp of the law and like to put the cart before the horse, licensing wise.

It would be in the interests of drinkers everywhere if these proposals were to fall by the wayside. For as Peter Coulson, legal editor of the Morning Advertiser, warns, any attack on the supermarkets is merely part of a general attack on the whole licensed trade and could have worrying consequences for the on-trade.

Friday, 23 October 2009

The Circle Of Life

A busy day today. I’ve just returned from watching a piece of Bury’s drinking history being razed. Yes, the Brickcroft Tavern on Brook St has been reduced to a pile of, er, bricks. Sadly, the writing has been on the wall for some time now, as I speculated in this earlier story.

I used to pop in there in the 70s on my way back from school. I think Jim Grimshaw was the landlord back then and it was there I developed a taste for Tuborg snakebite before eventually graduating onto Thwaites Mild and then Bitter. Like all pubs, it had its share of mini-crisis and made the local paper on more than once occasion. A plaque commemorating local Fusiliers killed at Gallipoli was found in a nearby scrapyard and hung over the bar until an appeal found some of their descendants. And in 2005 police were called after the licensee found an unwelcome guest in her bed-her naked, estranged partner!

But it’s not called the circle of life for nothing. Out with the old, in with the new, as Jordan likes to say. And so it was I found myself enjoying breakfast early this morning at Bury’s newest pub. A liquid breakfast, naturally, for as Tandleman says: beer is the finest of breakfast drinks.

The Art Picture House in on the site of the former Chicago Rock and is named after the original Art Deco cinema that was built there in 1923. A grade 11 listed building, J.D.Wetherspoons have spent some £850,000 restoring it and a jolly nice job they have done. It’s got plenty of distinct drinking areas and has a mix of tables and comfy seats. The large, central, wraparound bar is unusual for Bury and is complemented by a smaller bar at the other side of the room.

Five handpumps are in action, although two are taken up by Spoons usual suspects. I kicked off with a couple of pints of Moorhouses Black Cat before switching to Pride of Pendle. Being a Lloyds No. 1 outlet will mean late night dancing and high jinks for the kids and wannabe youngsters. What they will make of it and indeed how long it will remain pristine under their tender ministrations we will have to see. But for now, it’s a very welcome addition to the town centre’s drinking scene.

Incidentally, our local punting expert tells me that there had been speculation that the Brickcroft would become a brothel. I think I was actually the source of this rumour, having speculated about its position within the punting triangle. So it’s good to know someone is reading this, even if it is only admirers of ladies of the night.

Time for tea and preparations for this evenings jaunt, I think.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Some Good Cheer

Some good news for once on the local pub scene. The Star Inn at Broughton in Salford has been saved by locals who have clubbed together to buy it at auction for £80,000. The Star on Back Hope Street is a lovely little pub in a conservation area that seemed doomed when Robinsons announced their decision to sell it. However, in just a matter of weeks, a consortium was formed and hopefully they have now secured its future. Having enjoyed many a cosy lock-in sat in the vault, I congratulate them and wish them all the best for the future.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Just Like That

They say our loved ones never truly leave us. And so it may be in the case of the late, great, Tommy Cooper. For some 25 years after he shuffled off this mortal coil, it appears he has returned-on the bottom of a steak pie. Chip shop owner Crad Jones stumbled across this amazing discovery whilst enjoying his usual lunch of chips and steak pie at his shop in Caerphilly.

Mr Jones, 45, said he called the manufacturers, Peter's Pies, when he noticed the silhouette so they could document his find. He went on: “The comparison was amazing. It was definitely Tommy Cooper. I called my daughter over and she recognised it as Tommy Cooper too. I got the pictures because I thought no-one would believe me."

This is pure nonsense, of course. Obviously, there is no way that this pie has Tommy Cooper’s face on it. It looks much more like Tandleman to me.

Dance Of The Mad

As we all know, binge drinking is the scourge of modern Britain and something needs to be DONE. Step forward Bury council who are tackling the problem of irresponsible drinking head-on. Cleverly, they are eschewing the obvious routes-targeting problematic venues, education and such like and are taking a more oblique approach.

The council brain boxes have decided to ban people from bringing drinks into council owned venues. This ban includes bottles of water. Something that hasn’t gone down too down well with the various dance classes that use the council facilities. Line dancers, for example, have been told that they must leave their bottled water in the foyer for collection later.

A council spokesman pointed out that there was a difference between types of events. Soft drinks would still be permitted for exercise classes, but purely “social” events such as ballroom, line dancing etc would be subject to the letter of the law. There is a licensing requirement to ensure responsible drinking and if people were allowed to bring their own drinks onto the premises, it would prove impossible to comply with this requirement.

The fact that people have been bringing water to these events for many years is irrelevant. One unhappy punter, Christine Gibbons, complained that: “We have always taken our own water as the room is like a sauna. We are not smuggling in gin or vodka”. Honestly, I don’t know what these people are whinging about. The council very kindly provides a bar where they can buy “a range of soft drinks” and where tap water is available for “a nominal fee”. And personally, I will feel a lot safer walking the streets in the knowledge that I will not be accosted by some tanked up geriatric line dancer. There’s too much of that goes on in Bury as it is.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Nancy Whisky

I knew it was going to be one of those weekends. It usually is. After last weekend’s drink till you burst wine tasting at Urbis, I was looking forward to a quiet one curled up with Wolf Hall. Naturally it was not to be as Eddie, the eager, legal beagle had other ideas.

Friday saw me join him and the Manx Minx at the Met for the cultural phenomena that is the Lancashire Hotpots. Obviously a few drinks were required pre show and, thanks to MALT being downstairs, actually during the very enjoyable 90 minutes top notch entertainment. Indeed Eddie was so overcome by the emotional impact of Shopmobility Scooter that he was seen dabbing his tears with his tweed handkerchief.

Of course post show drinks were called for. Time flew as did the Jever and then with the witching hour come and gone and the Trackside closing its doors, Eddie and Minx disappeared for a pizza. I decided to call at the Towler for a Golden Pippin nightcap and discovered there was free beer to be had. Well it would have been rude to leave too early and so, out of good manners, I stayed a wee while. Possibly not the best idea considering Saturday’s itinerary. And who would have thought it’s so difficult to get a pizza delivered post 2am? Still, with a diversion for pick up, I was soon tucking into a delicious garlic bedtime snack.

Saturday dawned bright and early. But not in my house. Well not early enough for my planned Wetherspoons breakfast meet up. Or indeed any breakfast. There was just time for a cold bath immersion and a brush of the teeth if I was going to be outside the doors with the gang at noon. Yes, it was whisky time

Manchester’s first whisky festival was held in the interesting venue of the MOSI’s Air & Space hall. The upstairs gallery gave us a good view of the exhibits and gave rise to the game of guess the plane-Avro Shackleton, in case you were wondering. Oh, and plenty of whisky. In fact, so generous were the measures of our first host-independent Irish distiller Cooley-that Archimedes was actually heard to say “smaller measures, please”. Cue gasps all round, but luckily fears that this was a sign of Judgement Day finally arrived proved false.

A very good time was then had by all and although the early pace of 5 whiskies in 40 minutes proved difficult to sustain, it’s fair to say some serious drinking was done. However, man does not live by whisky alone and so eventually Eddie and I staggered out for some beery refreshment. Of course, Manchester had been home to thousands of rugby fans and two demonstrations, so a lot of places were either still very busy, closed or seriously short of beer.

Still not easily deterred, we slowly made our way up to the Marble via Cask, the Deansgate, Knott, Dukes 92, Barca, the Waterhouse and the Bank. We also had a look in Bar Fringe and had a nosey in the newly reopened Band on the Wall, although the choice of cask-Ruddles meant a quick exit. The Angel was unusually busy, as less surprisingly, was the Marble. The pumps here were looking a bit depleted-no Pint or Manchester left and we just managed to get the last of the JP Best.

Back in Bury, the Manx Minx had a curry waiting for Eddie (now that’s what I call true love), whilst I somehow ended up with Saltaire Hazelnut Coffee Porter in the Robert Peel. And when that transformed into Pinot Grigio, I knew it was time to call it a day and put a lining on my stomach. No delivery problems this time and soon I was tucking into a supersize double garlic/extra parmesan treat. The perfect end to a decent day’s drinking.

*The picture capturing me in action is courtesy of Manchester Confidential.

Friday, 9 October 2009

David Cameron's Flying Circus

So the circus has packed up and is headed out of town. Yes, the Conservative conference in Manchester is over. A week of arguments, late nights and copious drinking has come to an end. And that was just me. The hotel trade did best out of it, closely followed by restaurants. Pubs didn’t do as well as they would have hoped, but although the Fourth Estate doesn’t quite knock it back like they used to, there were a few drams had in the Britons Protection and a jolly good knees up in the Pevril.

Of course, Conservative Chairman Eric “Britain doesn’t really have any riot police” Pickles had ordered restraint on the booze front and actually imposed a champagne ban. However, trying to keep a bunch of old Etonians off the fizzy stuff is like trying to catch a fart with oven gloves-impossible. Future PM David Cameron was pictured flouting the ban and Philip Whittington was so keen on the stuff, he spent the nights in the cells after staff at the Midland Hotel alleged he helped himself to a £150 bottle's worth of it.

There were also some unexpected (or not?) recipients of the visitors spending spree. Paying no heed to po-faced, feminazi Harriet Harperson, the delegates were so keen on Long Legs that extra performers were laid on and at least one city centre brothel was working, er, flat out.

Meanwhile, local residents were thrilled to see Bury’s very own Robert Peel featured on last night’s Northern news programme. They were canvassing people about David Cameron’s closing speech and somehow managed to avoid interviewing one single chav. Thus we were treated to a strange montage of solicitors and businessmen all presumably treating themselves to a cheap Wetherspoons curry.

Of particular interest to eagle eyed viewers will have been the sight of local legend Joe Stalin in the background. Reading what looked suspiciously like the Morning Star. Uncle Joe was, despite his protestations, the popular choice for taking on disgraced MP David Cheater’s mantle. This was, of course, before the Labour hierarchy in their infinite wisdom decided to impose an all female shortlist on the local party. This controversial measure has proved hugely unpopular and condemned Labour not just to certain electoral defeat but a spanking of the highest order. Ah well, vous avez le cervau d'un sandwich au fromage, as my French teacher used to say.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Let's Get It On

You’re never too old for a bit of slap and tickle, but you may need some help. That’s the message from Manchester Council who, in conjunction with the NHS, have produced an illustrated guide to bonking for the over 50s. The Guide To Good Sexual Health for the Over 50s is a handy 47 page booklet with chapters such as “Let’s Talk About Sex” and “Dating Advice”.

People featured include 68-year-old Pam, who writes: `We're more experienced, more mature and more confident and we're able to talk about what we want which makes us better lovers”. Right on, sister.

However, Sarah Kennedy on the Dawn Patrol quipped that by the time you were 50, hopefully you knew what you were doing and Tory MP Ann Widdecombe said: 'I think this guide is an incredible waste of money. If someone hasn't learnt how to have sex by the time they have turned 50 then a booklet is certainly not going to help”.

There have also been some complaints over the £8000 cost of producing the 5000 copies. Personally, I’m all for nookie on the rates but can’t help thinking they’ve missing an obvious companion booklet. I’d like to see the council promoting my as yet unpublished masterpiece-The Joy of Ale: A Guide to Rediscovering Real Ale For The Over 50s. Coming soon to a library near you...

Monday, 28 September 2009

Well I Never

I’ve been asked what I think of the recent survey of Pizza restaurant chains. Or the report of the bleeding obvious, as I like to call it. The Which Good Food Guide sampled margheritas from the country’s six largest chains and then rated them for taste, quality and restaurant experience. Pizza Express came top with 30.5 out of 45, whilst Pizza Hut came bottom with 11/45. Apparently they serve the smallest, fattest and crappest. So, they've officially concluded that Pizza Hut are shite. I could have saved them a lot of time and money, if they'd only asked.

Next week: dog bites man.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Here We Go

At the start of a very busy weekend, Thursday saw the start of the latest beer festival at the Hare & Hounds in Holcombe Brook. This is the biggest pub festival in the world and with 276 beers to come through the pumps, one of the UK’s biggest cask operations.

Some 38 beers were on offer and the first job was to try some new ones. Battledown Natural Selection was golden and slightly spicy. Beartown Peach Melba was like a cask version of Timermans Peche and proved so tasty that I had to return to it later on. Whilst both Acorns-Northdown Blonde and Summer Pale were old friends who delivered what was expected of them.

Another new one with Shugborough Mi Lady’d Fancy which was golden and easy going for 4.6%, if a tad sweet. Blythe Ridware Pale was similar in palate but without the sweet finish. Next up were two I was keen to try properly. Whitehaven Ennerdale Blonde and Ennerdale Bitter. Whilst the Blonde won universal praise for being a well balanced and moreish, I also was impressed by the 3.6% Bitter which was fruity and refreshing.

Unsurprisingly, Derwent Late Summer was the worst beer of the night, tasting something like smoked wet moss. Downton Quadhop, on the other hand, lived up to its name and delivered a delightful hop kick for 3.9%. And Hammerpot Martlet at only 3.5% continued the recent trend of lower vol beers being surprisingly tasty. Ilkley Olicana Gold seemed more amber than golden but had a powerful floral aroma and plenty of bitter hopping-another winner from them.With the last bus looming, it was time to press on with Nobby’s Best and the whisky infused Redscar Sands.

With the last bus come and gone, it was time to press on with Vale Haddas Autumn Ale, which despite being copper coloured was probably too citrusy to be a true autumnal ale. Silverstone Chequered Flag was a blend of malt and chocolate, while Roosters Prost was light but rather bland. Then there was just time to relax with a pint of Peach Melba (and a half of Castle Rock Screech Owl) before home and hearth beckoned.

Here We Go (Again)

But of course there is no rest for the wicked. Like the fourth emergency service, a good beerhound is always on call. So it was, that the very next day, I found myself at the legendary Septemburyfest, organised by our very own Eddie, the eager legal beagle. The great thing about this shindig is that you comfort yourself that your drinking is altruistic. It’s not for your benefit but done to swell the coffers of charity.

It’s definitely quality, not quantity, here as Eddie had selected guaranteed bankers. It really was a glut of riches and it will come as no surprise that the likes of Brewdog Trashy Blonde, Pictish Cluster and Mallinsons Octagon Tower were all very tasty. And Lakeland Gold was in such good form that some amateurs actually found it too fruity and hoppy to cope with. My favourite though was Meantime London Pale Ale. Eddie commented that the cask was literally full of hops and it certainly translated to the tongue-a very satisfying pint, indeed.

However, despite strong protestations from Don Ricardo, the fun had to come to an end. With Automatic and the Trackside shut, this led to a bunch of drunks scouring the bar of the Robert Peel for some lat night comfort. Alas, there was no real ale to be had but Wetherspoons do have three ciders just for this sort of occasion.

Now two pints of Old Rosie at 7.3% at that time of night was enough for me and I switched to the more manageable whisky. However, some people are made of more sterner stuff. Or are just plain bonkers. Hence Don Ricardo putting back a rather impressive 5 pints of finest apple juice in just over 100 mins. This did lead to some difficulty getting up and the amusing sight of him swaying from one side of the street to the other, setting off various car alarms, before slumping on the corner of his street. Remember kids: drink responsibly.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A Spoonful Of Beer Will Help The Medicine Go Down

All lovers of the grape or the grain know their wondrous abilities. Above and beyond the joyous taste, comes a whole load of miraculous powers: improved dexterity, making us more attractive and, of course, making Frank Skinner seem funny. Now, however, it seems that medical science is finally waking up to the possible benefits of a spoonful of booze.

Yes, in a comprehensive American study, people with alcohol in their bloodstream were found to suffer less severe brain trauma and have a reduced risk of dying. The study followed 38,000 patients over a five year period and demonstrated that some 38% had less trauma and spent less time on a ventilator. Furthermore, the death rate amongst imbibers was only 7.7% as compared to 9.7% in the non-drinking group.

Writing in the Archives of Surgery, Los Angeles based Trauma Surgeon, Dr Ali Salim, has speculated that the alcohol may reduce the inflammatory response of the body to injury. This raises the “intriguing possibility” that administering it to patients with head injuries may aid their recovery. Fantastic. Medicinal booze on the NHS. What would Don Shenker and the rest of the anti-drink fascists make of that?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A Brewhouse For Bolton

Greater Manchester’s newest brewery is up and running. Well, nearly. The Cheetham Arms on Blackburn Road in Bolton has had a £120,000 makeover and been rebranded as the Brewhouse. As part of the makeover, an onsite brewery has been installed by the indefatigable Porter Brewing Co who apparently now account for 3 out of every 10 new start-ups. This can be viewed through a glass partition.

The new owners are local pubco Welcome Taverns, who have leased the pub from Enterprise Inns who, it will come as no surprise, didn’t have a clue as to what to do with the pub. Welcome was formed in 2006 and they hope to build their estate up to 20 by revamping bottom-end freeholds, all within a ten miles radius of Bolton. Currently they own three other pubs, all of which now serve real ale and quality food. One of these is the nearby, similar sounding, Chetham Arms which with 6 beers on is worth a visit anyway.

The plan for the Brewhouse was for Bank Top founder John Feeney to supervise training and the initial brewing. However, that failed to materialise and Darwen based Hopstar have stepped into the breach. One batch has been brewed on the four-barrel plant and quickly sold out. Training is continuing and on my visit yesterday there were no house beers available, but 3 guest beers accompanied the regional regulars.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Chin Chin Cher-ee

Saturday saw us have a little canter out to the Old Hall at Whitehough, near Chinley in scenic Derbyshire. The Old Hall is a “proper pub” dating back to Elizabethan times. Originally licensed as the Red Cow Inn, it eventually became one with the adjacent Old Hall to form the current premises.

A pleasant walk from Chinley train station brought us to the pub and its beer festival. Sadly, not all the advertised beers were on, but it was a major plus to find all those that were, being served via calibrated handpulls into lined glasses. None of that gravity nonsense. And all the beers I tried were in good condition, proving once again that pub festivals are the best.

Arriving for some pre midday drinking also gave us a chance to bag a table in the beer garden. There we could wile away the afternoon untroubled by anything but one of creation’s most annoying beasts: the wasp. We came to the conclusion that it was the WHB’s Obsession For Men that was driving them crazy.

Beer wise, the Phoenix West Coast was very good and the Millstone Tiger Rut even better-fully of pungent, citric hops. Special mention should go to an old friend-Marble Dobber, a 5.9% hop beast that really hits the spot. Sadly, Marble Chocolate Heavy was adjudged to not be the beer it once was; being a little light on the chocolate side.

Our ruminations were temporary interrupted by the arrival of some familiar faces demanding bloodwine and gagh. Yes, Stockport Camra had arrived. Now I don’t care what the News of the World has to say about them, I’ve always found them to be a bunch of quite affable old drunks really. Led by chief scoutmaster JC, their number includes the legendary Bus Stop Bertie, who can apparently identify every bus stop in Britain by scent alone.

But time and trains wait for no man, so it was we eventually found ourselves back in Bury just in time for some al fresco drinking at the Trackside. The dreaded brown beer theme that seems to haunt the place was still very much in evidence but there was one glimmer of hope on the bar-Hornbeam Summer IPA. Of course this proved to be a false dawn, as it promptly ran out after one round. Having had an afternoon of quality beer, the likes of Leyden weren’t going to do, so I had to hit the bottled range once more. Although, Leyden might have been more appropriate as Archimedes and Pineapple Pete were actually discussing the merits of fertiliser.