We had a quick warm up pint in the Rising Sun on Queen Street. This used to be an old haunt of mine many moons ago but has had a chequered recent history. However, it’s back on top form with a keen young landlord and a good line-up of wickets. As Eddie noted, it has the feel of a London pub-no, that doesn’t mean warm, flat beer. The Golden Pippin was in fine form.
Next stop was the Bowling Green on Grafton St. A new one for Eddie-that’s what you get for studying in Liverpool-he was suitably impressed by the exotic sausage menu. Sadly, the likes of antelope are proving too exotic for most punters and these are likely to be phased out. Very much a student haunt, the Easter break had left the pub empty. Unfortunately, but understandably, this meant a reduction in beer choice but there was nothing wrong with the Exmoor Hound Dog we both tried. A chat with the friendly landlord resulted in directions to his other pub-the Ducie Arms.
Although it’s only five minutes away from the BG, you really do need to know where the Ducie is, as you’re very unlikely to stumble across it by chance. Most people, including the usually knowledgeable Deathly Hallows, confuse it with the Ducie Bridge near Victoria Station. Of course I hadn’t made such an elementary mistake, but still it wasn’t the pub I was thinking of. This meant a very rare double first-a new pub for both Eddie and me.
And it’s a little cracker. Despite being tucked away, it has a large band of regulars and according to the barmaid is busy most nights. Quite compact, it has a little snug type side room and a rare shelf bar. It has a great pubby feel and a good mix of punters were in. There was a meeting of American Democrats and a Catholic priest in full uniform. The Cocker Hoop was top notch as well.
The RNCM bar was closed and although Kro 2 did (unusually) have all handpumps in action, we hadn’t come to Manchester to drink Thwaites. Oh God, we’re turning into beer snobs. Font produced the best beer of the evening for me-Goose Eye Chinook. This was a beautiful straw colour and delivered all the name suggests.
A yomp took us into the centre and a pint of Bitter & Twisted at the Bank. Then it was the turn of the Castle: one of the reasons for our Manchester jaunt. Amongst much publicity it has recently reopened. But could it really deliver? After all, the Castle had been a Manchester institution under the late, great Kathy Smethurst. And there was a kind of symmetry here, as on Sunday I saw Simply Red say goodbye after 25 years which is exactly how long I’ve been visiting the Castle.
Any fears we had were soon dispelled. It’s early days yet, but there is already an air of success about the place. It’s a revelation to see the walls a clean white, but it’s more a case of restoration rather than transformation. And that’s how it should be. Sharing a pint with one of the team behind its comeback, Johnny Booth, was very enlightening. He’s obviously got a passion for the place and with his pedigree I’m sure he’ll do well. There’s a good selection of Robinsons beers-although I feel the poor selling (and frankly dull) Double Hop should be replaced with the moreish Old Stockport.
Most importantly all the beer was in fine fettle, something it hadn’t been for quite awhile under the previous tenant. The toilets, despite only being temporary, are practically luxurious after what we had become used to. All in all, very impressive and it looks like the Castle is going to be better than ever. Mind you, it’s really no surprise-Johnny is after all a Bury lad.