Showing posts from June, 2009

One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer

They’re picking on poor old Oldham again. As if people there haven’t got enough problems, what with having to actually live there. Now they’re about to be condemned by not one, but two, reports. Yes, “health experts” (my emphasis) were called in by town hall chiefs and, according to the local media, their conclusions will “rock Oldham” when presented to the council. Ooh er missus.

Since they proclaim to expose Oldham’s “booze shame”, we’d better have ganders. Apparently there are more “harmful” and “hazardous” drinkers in Oldham than anywhere apart from the Moon. But what the Jimmy Cricketty do these terms mean? Well, some 23% of drinkers are classed as “hazardous” by virtue of drinking more than the government’s recommended weekly total. Ah those meaningless totals again-actually not hazardous by any means.

But what about the 7% of “harmful” drinkers? They’re putting away 50 units or so. So about 21 pints of Robinsons’ Unicorn. In a week. Now I’m glad to see that they’re making an effo…

Wanna Be Startin' Something

Well there I was enjoying a quiet drink when suddenly everything went crazy. Everyone was reaching for their phone and Twitter was in meltdown. Something was up. I feared the worst-was this another terrorist outrage? Or even worse, had the world’s hop crop failed? No, the king of pop, Michael Jackson had died. He certainly was a “star” on the global scale and we’ll never see records sold in the quantities that he shifted. Even if he did sing a love song about a rat. So what if he had a private menagerie at his mansion and solid gold taps in the bathroom. After all we’ve all seen Tandleman Towers...

Meanwhile, MALT is now fully operational. Daleside Blonde, Thwaites Bomber, Otter and Outstanding OSB are currently available. In the main bar of Automatic, Bomber and Otter have joined Outstanding Blond. Celebrities such as Lisa Riley, Abi Titmuss and Julie Buckfield-remember her from Grange Hill?-have already paid a visit. Apparently, Abi Titmuss was particularly disappointed to have just …

Automatic For The People

Bury town centre has gained another real ale outlet, well two, actually. Automatic, next to the Derby Hall, have installed three handpumps. Already the best bar in town, this is a welcome and natural addition to their range. As they only came online this week, only Outstanding Blond is currently on-at £2.70 a pint.
Such a momentous event cannot go uncelebrated. And the cream of Bury society (and Don Ricardo) were eager to be seen imbibing there. Eddie, the eager legal beagle, Arsenius the Great Hermit, and the Stomach all paid a visit. Not to mention local media star, Joe Stalin and his inamorata, Rosa Luxemburg. Just don't mention David Cheater.
Even more impressive are the changes to the adjacent room which used to house the Tourist Information Office. This, at some considerable cost, has been transformed into a specialist real ale and whisky bar named Malt. Four handpumps raised on wooden frames dominate the bar and you can glimpse the casks (all on auto tilt) through a glass pa…

The Not So Good Pub Guide

I’ve been road-testing the new Good Pub Guide website. It’s now up and running and officially open to the public. Unfortunately, the content is still rubbish. It’s ok not having the resources to do a comprehensive job but what you do cover should at least be accurate. Either you’re a select site covering a certain genre of pub or you go a bit broader, but still only covering those you can personally review or guarantee fit your criteria. The other route is to be a general public review site such as Beerintheevening with all the benefits and cons that such an unedited approach brings.

The problem seems to be that the GPG seems to be going along the second option but with a bit of its own input thrown in. And that input doesn’t seem to be very good. Take that metropolis of beer, Bury. The GPG lists 87 entries for Lancashire’s finest but you’d be better off looking in Thomson Local. Some pubs have wrong addresses, some aren’t even in Bury, the Gamecock is listed twice and one isn’t and ne…

Chicago Rocks No More

One of Bury’s landmark venues-Chicago Rock, shut its doors for the last time at the weekend. Known variously as The Rock or Chicago Cock, despite its prime location at the centre of town, its appeal has been on the wane for some time.

Once a haunt of local luminaries such as the WHB, the writing was on the wall when they gave up on daytime trade. Next went midweek evenings until they were only left with weekend £12 in and all you could drink promotions. Now Sunday’s Grab-A-Gran night will just be a fond memory. Word on the street is that JDW have purchased it and it will reopen as a Lloyds No 1. Which is excellent news. In the meantime, Bury is bracing itself for an onslaught of homeless ageing Lotharios and predatory members of the blue rinse brigade.

In The Black Country

The weatherman had promised us a dry, possibly sunny Saturday. Why then was I not surprised to find it lashing down as I stood patiently waiting for the coach in Manchester centre? At least I had come prepared, unlike one rather more trusting member of our party who was resplendent in his summer sandals. He-well we all were-hoping that the sun would be shining in the Black Country, for that is where we were heading.
We made very good time on the outward journey and were in Sedgley well before noon. Luckily the pubs are very civilised in that neck of the woods with the Bulls Head opening at 10. This is a comfortable Holden’s pub and I tried both the Bitter and the Golden Glow. Mention has to be made of their legendary £1.20 cobs which proved, er, legendary-proper pub food. A short walk took us to the Beacon Hotel-home of the famously strong (6%) Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild. This is a fantastic pub with a myriad of rooms and complete with original features such as serving hatches. It’s …

Bewitched By Betwixt

Cask lagers, once seen as the way forward and the progressive face of real ale, seem to be on the wane. Schiehallion burst on the scene some time ago and was quickly followed by a number of imitators, all with varying degrees of success. Some were good and some were Cains. The idea seemed to be that it would convert large numbers of Fosters (and its ilk) to real ale. Except that it never did-not in large numbers, anyway. So cask lager remained within the novelty niche of cask ale and you see less of it than you used to.

I was therefore very pleased to come across a new (to me) one at the Dogs the other night. Eddie, the eager, legal beagle was back from his sojourn in Australia, where he’s been busy apparently filming I’m A Lawyer, Get Me Out Of Here. After enjoying a number of excellent beers, including the very bitter Elland Rocker, we alighted upon Betwixt Storr. This is a 4.8% cask pilsner and proved delightfully drinkable.

The problem is that beers tend to disappear quickly at the …

Money Money Money Must Be Funny

Oh dear-it appears that David Chaytor, currently MP for Bury North, really does deserve his local nickname of “David Cheater”. There doesn’t seem any other way to interpret the latest revelations about his expenditure claims other than plain and simple fraud.

Claiming almost £5000 for work allegedly done by your daughter could be dismissed as just plain cheeky, but when you register her under an alias, people are bound to be suspicious. Where he really seems to have come unstuck is claiming for work allegedly done by local people. Top tip, Dave, if you are going to claim for imaginary work, use imaginary people. Not real individuals who can be found by the press.

Step forward Joe Stalin. Now Joe is well known in the local hostelries and is indeed an IT guy. And he knows Mr Chaytor. However, what he doesn’t know is where the invoices furnished by Mr C in support of £1950 worth of supposed IT work came from. He didn’t do any work for Chaytor and certainly didn’t get paid for it. And, know…

It's Life Jim But Not As We Know It

I haven’t had chance yet to peruse the Government’s proposed mandatory code of practice for the licensed trade-no doubt another winner-but have glanced at the Digital Britain report. What a missed opportunity. The time was right for a bold statement on the future of digital Britain and the media in the 21st century. What we got was an ill-conceived mess of half-baked ideas.

The problem lies at the top. Lord Carter is an apparatchik of the old school tie establishment who was bunged a peerage after a less than successful career with No 10. His lack of prowess and understanding underpins the whole report. Interestingly, I found myself agreeing with the Daily Telegraph on its faults, but for completely different reasons.

The right-wing hawks of the Telegraph are upset that the BBC isn’t being forced to give up MORE of its licence fee. Whilst I, on the other hand, am outraged that they should be forced into giving up ANY. The licence fee isn’t a slush fund for dipping into at a whim. Slicin…

Kerb It, Boris

Bonkers Boris, the two-nails-short of a plank, Mayor of London got a reality check this morning. He was greeted at work by protestors angry at his latest crackpot idea. Unfortunately, this one isn’t just daft, it’s dangerous.

The shared streets scheme is a classic piece of urban planning gimmickry. The idea is to eliminate kerbs (and other street furniture) on Exhibition Road, thereby creating a “shared space” between drivers and pedestrians and giving it more of a “village” feel. Sounds lovely-if only it wasn’t a load of bollocks.
The reality is that, by removing natural markers such as pavements, you are putting the blind/partially sighted at immense risk. These schemes are dependent on eye contact between drivers and pedestrians to establish right of way-not too easy for the visually impaired. Guide dogs are trained on the basis of stopping at kerbs and find these situations very confusing. And they’re not the only ones. Children are taught from an early age the basics of the Green C…

Summer Wind

You can tell it’s a slow news day when the press start taking an interest in the culinary attitudes of the Royal Navy. The Daily Telegraph has an interesting (?) story about HMS Bulwark. Having caught wind of a rumour that fried food had been banned from the ship, they made enquiries of the ship’s captain. And that’s when the sprouts hit the fan.

Captain Keble flatly denied that he had banned fried food BUT did reveal that he had initiated a ban on Brussels sprouts. “They are the devil's vegetable and the only thing I do not like, and the only thing I hate,” he was quoted as saying. This caused something of a flap at the MoD, where a spokesman was quick to point out that the ban only applied to the captain’s table. However, everyone knows that at sea, the captain’s word is law and a ship-based source confirmed that the ban was indeed total.
In my opinion, Captain Keble is to be commended for his stance on this most loathsome of vegetables. Healthy it may be, but user friendly it isn…

Who Loves Ya, Baby

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee and lover of silk cushions, is at it again. He obviously loves his job and seems to think people should listen to him. Understandably then, he got a little cross with the Government when they decided against his committee’s recommendation on minimum alcohol pricing.

In the follow-up debate at Westminster, perhaps not surprisingly, he attacked the Home Office for not following through with minimum pricing. Rather oddly, I thought, he threw in the fact that Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, was also in favour. As if that added weight to his argument. Keith, you’re supposed to be concerned with law & order. What the dotty doc has to say on the matter is irrelevant (or should be) as far as the Home Office is concerned. If we’re going to bring in just anyone with opinions on the matter, I’ll start quoting Coco the Clown-hold on, he already has.

I Do It My Way (Oldham Council Anthem)

Talking of Wetherspoons, I was disappointed to see that they were the first to cave in to Oldham Council’s moral blackmail. The council had, in an incredibly overzealous and probably illegally move, threatened to review the licences of all 22 town centre venues. Sadly, JDW became the first operator to “voluntarily” agree to new restrictions. They have now been followed by several others who have simply caved in under the pressure. Thankfully it appears there are still some who are willing to take on the licensing Gauleiters of Oldham and have their day in court.

Wetherspoons Wine Festival

Wetherspoons wine festival is once more amongst us and Friday gave me my first opportunity to indulge. The format is slightly different this time around, with six new wines all created by award-winning winemaker, Matt Thomson. With those and the seasonal guest wines all available for £7.69, choice was no problem.

This being Bury JDW, and despite the staff all wearing festival t-shirts, there weren’t any tasting notes-they hadn’t arrived was the official excuse. Never fear, the first bottle was soon being poured. Merlot has taken something of a battering since the (very funny) Sideways, but the Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007 was surprisingly mellow and had, not an unpleasant, plum nose.

The festival Rose would have been nice, but as this was Bury JDW, of course they didn’t have any. They did, however, have Blossom Hill White Zinfandel on offer at £2 below house price. This was nicely chilled and very refreshing with a good infusion of summer fruits.

The next bottle was always going to be a challe…

And Then Home

Sunday saw us kick off, before noon, at the Postal Order, a Wetherspoons in Worcester. It was very busy for a Sunday morning and we were greeted by the sight of local (to us) Thwaites beers on the bar. The Fruiterers Arms at Uphampton gave us some Canon Royal beers, which met with something of a mixed response-the Mild went down well with aficionados but the other beers proved less popular.

The next stop was a real gem. Coombs Wood Sports & Social Club had an impressive range of beers and offered a rare opportunity for some al fresco drinking. I hate to contradict my learned colleague, Ciderman-I mean Tandleman, but it was definitely Mauldon Silver Adder, not Ossett Silver King, we threw down our necks as quick as possible.
The Waggon & Horses in Halesowen proved a fantastic finale with an amazing array of (hooray) light, hoppy beers. Interesting to hear about plans to extend into next door, as judging by the crush at the bar, it needs to. Very friendly locals who are lucky eno…

There And Back Again Part 2

Saturday got off to an interesting, if very wet, start as we had a pre noon appointment with some cider. There was a choice of two ciders and a perry at the Monkey House. It was here that it became apparent that Tandleman has had something of an epiphany. Once he used to scoff at us appleheads, but no longer. After his experience at Oldham Beer Festival, he’s developed a taste for it and he sees the many advantages it has-it came to the rescue more than once when beer choice was lacking. Rumours that he intends to change his moniker to Ciderman are premature, however.

The rest of the day was a real mixed bunch. The famous Fleece at Bretforton lived up to its rep and we enjoyed some decent Enville as the old-timers on the trip regaled us with a tale about an unfortunate fart on their visit some 20 years ago.
The Mount Inn at Stanton offers truly spectacular views across the Vale of Evesham and certainly looks the part. It’s accessed by a very steep road-remember to keep an eye open for …

Tewkesbury. Or There And Back Again Part 1

Tandleman has already commented about our sojourn to the Cotswolds. Suffice it to say that the trip, organised by Morris Minor Mike, was interesting with some highs and lows.

It started off very well on the Friday, with an excellent stop at Alcester. Never heard of the place before, but we were left wishing we’d had more time there. The Holly Bush had it all as a pub-some great architecture, great staff, decent food and, most importantly, some very well kept beer. The Turks Head also delivered the goods and Tandleman was certainly taken with the quality of the local barmaids.
Three Choirs winery was interesting, although the wine itself veered between the decent-Willow Brook-to the frankly poor, Rosè. Tewkesbury, our base for the weekend, is very historical, but lacking in top-notch boozers: the main fault being beer choice. Or rather lack of it. There was an awful lot of brown beer around. Indeed, the whole surrounding area seemed awash with it.
In Tewkesbury itself, I tried the Bell,…

Cigarettes & Alcohol

Every little helps. Or so they say. But apparently not if you wanted to buy some booze before (or after) the jinxed Oasis concert at Heaton Park. Not a worry for those of us who took advantage of local hostelries to get our fix, but a lot of punters were given a nasty shock by Prestwich Tesco’s limit of one alcohol purchase per customer. As one said: “What’s the facking point of Tesco if they won’t let you get steamed up?”

Hello World

Do you ever get the impression that people aren’t listening to you? Another week, another Strongbow offer. This time they are trying to bribe me with a bag of Strongbow goodies in exchange for a few kind words. Obviously, they didn’t read my response to their original offer. To make sure they get the picture, I have sent them the link to the posting. Be assured I will not compromise my beliefs. My integrity cannot be bought. A holiday in the Caribbean would be nice, though...

Time For Tea

Macaroon is tucked away on a row of shops along the main road between Bury & Rochdale. It’s a new venture run by Alison Seagrave, who was previously (amongst other things), head chef at Harvey Nichol’s award winning Second Floor Restaurant & Brasserie.

The former post office has been transformed into a light, intimate patisserie that offers a mouth-watering selection of homemade cakes and tearoom favourites. The tea was posh-Taylors of Harrogate-and despite being from the wrong county, very tasty. I can also recommend the Afternoon Teas (£9.50) and the Blueberry Pavlova dessert.
Macaroon is at 569 Bury Road, Bamford and is open Tues-Sat 9am-5pm.

Vote For Me And I'll Set You Free

Well the seemingly never ending saga of rising Daily Telegraph circulation figures, I mean MPs’ expenses, has finally had a positive result. Anti-liberty and Cabinet jester, Jacqui Smith, is set to quit as Home Secretary. Hooray, we can finally sleep a little easier in our beds. Although, any celebrations may prove premature, what with the track record of recent post holders.

Sadly, it’s also claimed the career of local MP David Chaytor. Despite me not winning him over completely to the pro alcohol school of thought, I generally found him open to discussion and certainly his intelligent approach was a welcome change. The worry is who we will get instead.
The problem is that Bury has been badly served by MPs in the past-actually half of it still is, in the shape of Bury South MP and sex text pest, Ivan Lewis. However, even he pales into insignificance when compared to Alistair Burt, who was Bury North MP for a depressing 14 years. A grammar school swot, his attitude to constituents was …

Set Me Free And I'll Vote For You

There was shock and disbelief throughout the land yesterday as justice was served in a British court of law. District Judge Ken Sheraton, sitting at Cambridge Magistrates Court, cleared Martin Jahnke of behaviour likely to cause “harassment, alarm or distress”.

Mr Jahnke’s alleged crime? Disrupting a visit to Cambridge University by Chinese dictator, er, premier Wen Jiabao. Apparently Jahnke blew a whistle, called the premier a “dictator” (shocking), before throwing his (left) trainer at the stage. How this was supposed to cause “alarm and distress” to a man who’s in charge of state-sponsored mass murder is anyone’s guess.

The real crime here is that the CPS let this farce go ahead; leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill. Again.