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that could be said of most, if not every, day, but certainly Boxing Day is a traditional drinking holiday, despite the outdated British transport system.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.