First stop was the New Oxford. Unlike a lot of other places we’d visit that night, the NO was comfortably busy. Seated at the bar, we kicked off the house beer. Facers use to do the honours, but their inconsistency had put off more than one drinker. Now brewed by the excellent Mallinsons, it packs a pleasing dry bite for a sub 4% beer. Feeling daring, we tried a sample of Allgates What A Year. I’d like to say it was amazing and changed my opinion of Allgates as a brewer. But I’d be lying. Cardboard was the dominant flavour here (GK would have been proud), with a very unpleasant phenolic finish. If only their brewers were as good as their marketing team-the damn stuff is all over the place. Desperate for cleansing, we managed to kill the taste with Salamander Gold.
A bit of a trudge took us along Liverpool Road and, whilst passing, we checked out the YMCA (or whatever it's called) hotel. Three Bazens on here, including their one-time show piece Blue Bullet. This use to be a well-hopped, crisp pint. A sad reflection of how poor their beers are now, it was worse than the Allgatesand tasted like some homebrew disaster. Peering through the window at Cask, we weren't tempted by the sole real ale
offering, so moved onto the Deansgate. This very comfortable, smart, pub was quiet, but the Coach House Cheshire Gold was in good condition. We popped round to Knott Bar and were unsurprised to find it disappointed once again. The Pevril was open today and, despite being quiet, delivered an excellent Golden Pippin. The Paramount, for the second time in the week, wasn’t worth lingering in. Ditto the Bank.
It was a different story at the Athenaeum on York St. This impressive building should be a jewel in Manchester’s drinking crown, but a legacy of neglect over several years has left it in need of some TLC. It went keg a long time ago but recently returned to the cask fold. Talking to the (sadly temporary), cask-enthusiastic barman, it seems it’s now the sister pub of the Piccadilly. We tried the reasonably (for central Manchester) priced Youngs and found it in sparkling form. Also available was their best seller-the rarely seen cask John Smiths. Apparently Smooth drinkers come in and ask for it and as they don’t sell the Smooth, they get the cask version instead. Only one person has complained so far. Seems you can fool some of the people all of the time.
The English Lounge couldn’t offer anything to tempt us, so it was straight round to the Unicorn. This had its usual mix of characters. The sleek Polish blonde, obviously bored with her boyfriend, the strange couple with a laptop and, best of all, the two old dears out on a session. A pint of Carling with a whisky chaser-respect to the elderly binge drinkers. The Golden Pippin was in fine form, so we stayed there until we were the only ones left. Eventually we were politely evicted by the landlady and her sister-who, it seems, runs the Ralph Abercromby. Landladys of the old school, Eddie commented that had they been twenty years younger, they might have been worth a tickle. I said ten-well I like to think I’m always open to compromise....especially on a dark, cold, Thursday night in Manchester...