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

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Everybody's Gonna Be Happy

Heart warming proof-positive that binge drinking is still thriving. Yes, despite these harsh times, it’s still possible to get out of your tree for very little. And not in some student hovel or even a Wetherspoons, but a fully fledged, respected real ale outlet.

Wyldes is attempting to play everyman for everyman by selling both pongy beer and offering vodka shots for £1. Now I like vodka and I like garlic, but which is best? No need to fight it out as now there is there the garlic shot. Which must be good, right? Wrong, it’s not. It's very wrong. I didn’t try the Habanero Chilli but note it came with the same warning*

*Not suitable for pregnant women, people with heart conditions, or pussies.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Rock On

So the dust has finally settled a week after the opening of The Rock-Bury’s new £350M retail and leisure complex. Or the shopping centre as we like to call it. 200,000 paving slabs have been used and there is 500,000 square feet of retail space and 100,000 sq ft of leisure.

We’ve got a bowling alley, a super cinema (hooray), an M&S and Primark. We had Gemma Atkinson to open it and a Thwaites Shire Horse made an appearance-nobody knows why. However, there seems to be one thing missing.

I looked high. I looked low. But there’s no sign of a pub or a bar. So, as much use to a red-blooded male as the Trafford Centre. This embarrassing oversight probably explains their dislike of people taking photos.

How else to explain the fate of David Gibbs? The foolish 68 year-old was caught brazenly trying to take some photos by two heavies. I mean security staff. Mistaking Mr Gibbs for Mr Bin Laden, they warned him that everyone was treated as a potential terrorist now and that any more of his disgraceful behaviour could result in a permanent ban from the site.

I understand their reluctance considering their imbibing blunder, but just remember: they have to catch you first.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

New Brewery For Bury

Excitement continues to mount with the confirmation that Bury is to get its third brewery. Yes, Bury will officially become the brewing capital of Lancashire and, discounting the big boys of Manchester proper, Greater Manchester as well. Did I mention we will have three breweries?

The proposed site of the new brewery is in the little real ale hamlet of Ramsbottom. Formerly Atlas Works, the building is located on Irwell St/Square St. Built in 1888; the business was owned by coppersmith Richard Mason and was known as Irwell Steam Tin Copper and Iron Works-Ramsbottom.

The origins of the building account for the name of the brewery. The Irwell Works Brewery will house a 6 BBL plant and have a fully licensed bar on the first floor and accommodation for the resident licensee on the second floor

One of the people behind the venture, Sara D’arcy, explained: “The primary function of the building is to house a working craft brewery as a tourist attraction and secondly as a bar selling beer. Our food will be sourced locally as will our staff and services.”

I can see the queue forming now...

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Waiting For A Train

Has the Trackside gone too far in replicating the train experience by only having seats and no tables?

All Wright On The Night

ROLL UP! ROLL UP! FREE DRINK FREE FOOD. So read the sign outside the Moon Under Water on Tuesday night. Well, it didn’t actually, but perhaps it should have. How else to explain the low turnout for a meet the brewer night? After all, did I mention there was free beer and food?

And it wasn’t as if it was some stuffy, dull affair. Keith Wright, of the George Wright brewery, is a very entertaining and informative host. We have met him before, but recognising a bunch of grizzled drunks when he sees them, he eschewed the usual beginner’s guff about how beer is brewed etc and got us tucked straight into the ale.

What followed was an interesting drinking session intellectual discussion on his bottled beer range-I now know more about carbonation than is legally sane and he kept us regaled with his tales of the brewing trade.

He claims to have the most technologically advanced microbrewery in the UK and has some exciting plans for the future, including growing his own barley. Like everyone else he is getting into New Zealand hops. He will also still continue using American hops, even though their 500% price rise in the last 18 months is quite staggering.

So even though Tandleman couldn't make it-he sent his plenipotentiary instead-a good night was had by all and that was even before the wardrobe malfunction. But then, how can you go wrong with Beige Phil in attendance? Did I mention there was free food and beer...?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A Tale Of Two Beers

Correct                                Very Wrong


Another Saturday, another day in Huddersfield. This time for the Star Inn Summer Beer Festival. The Star has built up a well deserved reputation for its festivals: serving beer as God intended-on sparkled handpump.

That being so, it was no surprise that there was a queue outside long before it was due to open. This being the British summer and there being a hosepipe ban in force, it was no surprise that it was also piddling down.

Still, no worries, what with nearly 50 beers on in the marquee and a further 9 in the main bar, there was plenty to do. There was even live entertainment in the form of some halfwit asking for an unsparkled beer. I haven’t laughed so much since seeing Peter Kay at the Met.

No surprises on the beer front, with decent efforts from the likes of Southport African Gold, Wentworth Summer Loving and the excellent Backyard Sun Zinger. I didn’t try the topically themed Vuvuzela by Northumberland, but am quite happy to predict that it was, like all their beers, shite.

Best beer in the marquee had to be Roosters Stars and Stripes which had more zest to it than some of their recent lacklustre offerings. Was Brew Co’s 3.5% Raw Nerve really an American style Belgium Pale Ale? I shall leave that discussion to the beer geeks, but will say that it was quite an interesting beer.

Which is more than can be said for Fleeting Glimpse by Fulstow. This 2.8% brew was described as “pale and citrusy” and “one for the drivers”. Pale(ish) mebbee, but no citrus tones. It reminded me of those old alcohol-free beers and had the consistency of cold tea.

Much better, in the pub itself, were Brew Co’s Hop Monster and the (naturally) sublime Pictish Galactic. Overall a success yet again-but then, how can you go wrong with Beige Phil in attendance?

Two quibbles, though: Non-refundable glasses-what’s that all about? And the Ploughman’s. Come on now, bread is cheap. One (small) crusty cob does not, in my book, suffice.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Road To Nowhere

If a week is a long time in politics, then ten years is even longer in the pub game. Almost a decade, in fact. Back in 2000, I made the pilgrimage from Bury to Rochdale, via Bell Lane/Rochdale Old Road, to check out the roadside pubs for the now defunct What’s Doing. The tenth anniversary seemed an ideal opportunity to fire up the Zimmer frame and see how things have changed in the intervening years.

First stop now, as then, was the Cotton Tree. This ex-Whitbread pub didn’t sell any cask beer back then and nothing has changed, apart from a lick of paint. It still caters for a select clientele, none of whom is me.

Standing on the corner of Wash Lane and Bell Lane, the Old Blue Bell, on the other hand, has been a well known fixture on Bury’s cask ale scene for many years. Holts Mild & Bitter are sold in this large, solid boozer and the pub still retains its multi-room layout from its long-distant Wilsons days.

Ten years ago, the Golden Fleece was an ex-Bass pub that Hydes were struggling to make a go of. It had somewhat of an eccentric beer range. Hydes 3.2% Billy Westwood Bitter (remember that?) was subsequently replaced by the 3.5% Hydes Light. All sold at a very cheap price. Problem was (1) finding the pub actually open and (2) finding the cask offering on. It closed shortly afterwards and became a brothel. Recently raided by the guardians of law and order, it’s currently closed once more.

Sadly, there hasn’t been much improvement in the next couple of pubs. The Church Inn was a cask-free Thwaites dive back in 2000 and still is. At least it’s still open, unlike the ex-Burtonwood Grapes across the road, which has gone from cask-free to simply customer free, as it’s currently closed.

The Old Crow styled itself as a “fun pub” back in the day. I couldn’t imagine having any fun in it then and still can’t, but at least it makes the Church Inn look good. Next up is The Spotted Cow, which is a bustling boozer that sells Holts Bitter. Although, sadly, none was available on my visit. No chance of a drink at the New Inn, either. This ex-Wilsons pub is closed and boarded.
Luckily it wasn’t far to walk to the next stop. The Fairfield is a small Thwaites house. Unluckily, it’s another conversion to the Smooth only brigade. The Brown Cow was no better and so, with my thirst growing, it was another half mile hike up to the George & Dragon. Ten years ago this had just had a facelift, which resulted in the pub losing its charm and its handpumps. Neither has returned in the ensuing years.

Practically next door is the Gamecock Inn. I had high hopes here. It’s a former Good Beer Guide entry and a long time supporter of cask ale. Surely this well known pub would provide a haven for the real ale drinker? Sadly not. Previously it sold Boddingtons and Tetley Bitter. Today it’s a shadow of its former self and now sells only the fizzy stuff.

Once upon a time, the Waggon & Horses sold a well kept pint of Bass. However, by the turn of the millennium, it had turned to Smoothflow and was losing custom. Nowadays it’s a restaurant that trades as the Waggon at Birtle,
The Bird I’Th Hand is also well known for its food, but is a far more traditional affair. A long time Bass outlet, it has the ambience of a cosy country pub and, music to my liver, is still selling real ale. And yes, Bass still sits on the bar, alongside Old Speckled Hen.

Interestingly, some of the most marked differences between 2010 and 2000 came on the last portion of the walk. Reaching Bamford, I was pleased to see that the Hare & Hounds is still selling cask. This is an interesting Thwaites pub with little drinking areas on different levels. Both of the Thwaites beers I had here were in good condition.

Now you can tell Bamford is a posh place as all the bus shelters have glass in them. However, the Sir Winston Churchill lets the side down. In 2000 it was offering Boddingtons, Flowers and Pedigree. Now it’s only appeal is for those people who enjoy sitting in an empty barn.

The Grapes was, and still is, a Robinsons pub, so no problem getting the real stuff there. The Elephant & Castle is a large ex-Whitbread pub that used to sell Boddingtons, Pedigree and 6X. Obviously not doing very well, it was closed on my visit.

Another disappointment came with the Dog & Partridge. Yet another ex-Whitbread boozer, it has a large front patio and once offered Boddingtons, Tetley and Spitfire. The inside now resembles the Starship Enterprise with an array of bright fonts and all the character of a motorway services cafe. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Last stop was the Cemetery Inn on the corner of Sandy Lane. A frequent entry in the Good Beer Guide over the years, it stills sells real ale today, albeit with the reduced choice of Landlord and Black Sheep on my visit.

Last time I turned back and did the crawl in reverse. This time I was glad to get the bus back to Bury and some variety. Judging by the poor showing of many of the pubs, it will probably be another ten years before I attempt this crawl again!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Reckless By Name

More details continue to emerge about last week’s drunken antics in the House of Commons. From what witnesses have been saying, it sounds like a first class piss-up. And who can blame them? An MP’s life is a hard one and aren’t they entitled to let their hair down now and again?

Picture the scene: it’s a long day at the pithead. You’re kept hanging around until 2am. And what for? Only some boring emergency budget thingy, that’s what for. Meanwhile there’s a well stocked, subsidised, bar with a lovely river view terrace to relax on. Are you having it? Too bloody right, you are.

And it seems you’re not the only one. Witnesses claim a "significant number" of MPs who voted the budget bill into law were under the influence of alcohol. In parliamentary lingo, they were said to be “convivial” and “well-refreshed”. That’s pissed and well-pissed to me and you.

Not surprising as it appears that some of them had been on the lash for six hours or so. The excellently named Mark Reckless, the MP for Rochester and Strood, summed it up succinctly as “a bit like a lock-in”.

Mr Reckless, of course, was named and shamed for not actually voting. In his defence he said: "I remember someone asking me to vote and not thinking it was appropriate, given how I was at the time.” Which translates as “Vote? I can barely stand”.

The faces may have changed, but it seems the gravy train remains the same.

Manx Malarkey

Interesting news from the land that time forgot. Yes, Tandleman’s favourite holiday destination, the Isle of Man, could be on the brink of an interesting social experiment.

Bill Malarkey, a member of the Manx parliament, the House of Keys, is calling for 16 year olds to be able to buy alcohol in pubs. Currently, of course, and somewhat pointlessly, they are allowed in pubs, but can’t buy any booze.

It’s interesting as Malarkey is heading the island’s drug and alcohol strategy, so would be expected to know something about the subject. His basic rationale is that if they are in the pubs, they won’t be on the streets and it’s better for everyone if they are in a controlled social environment.

Unusually for a politician, this idea has a sound basis and the local police have signalled their willingness to discuss it, albeit with their concern that it may lead to an increase in consumption. Over here, Tim Martin has been a strong advocate of this measure, although it seems unlikely to be implemented any time soon.

(Just Like) Starting Over

More upheaval in Salford with the news that local brewery Bazens is relocating. Richard Bazen is upping sticks and moving into the revitalised Star on Back Hope St, Broughton.

As I understand it, the brewing operation will be scaled back to a 5 barrel plant. And although he will continue to supply his trade outlets with the Bazens brand, he will essentially be brewing under the Star Brewery banner.

I wish them both well with this new venture. Just let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, that this means the end of that god-awful, burnt-caramel tasting shite he’s become notorious for in recent times.

Monday, 12 July 2010

And Thus You Poured Like Heaven Wept

It’s official. Wasting beer is wrong. Yes, not only is pouring perfectly good beer down the drain morally wrong, but it seems it’s actually illegal. The Environment Agency has warned that as alcohol is hazardous; allowing it to pollute the water supply is an offence that carries a potential £50,000 fine or even a spell in chokey.

And who are the worst offenders of this heinous crime? Ironically, it’s our boys in blue. They have been pouring thousands of litres of the stuff down drains since the Confiscation of Alcohol Act 1997. They’ve now received a slap on the wrist and have promised not to do it again.

I just wonder what they are going to do with all that unwanted booze...?

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Seems that Salford’s pub resurgence has suffered a setback. The Black Lion on Chapel Street which was the first in a five-pub, real ale crawl along the A6, incorporating the Crescent, the New Oxford, and the Kings Arms on Bloom Street, has closed.

The Lion was brought roaring back to life under the stewardship of Tim Flynn, landlord of the uber-successful New Oxford. He was given a wide remit by the pubco and a pub that everyone assumed was finished rose from the ashes.

But, despite good press reviews, the BL struggled to find its niche. Understandably, Tim didn’t just want to clone the New Oxford and so avoid becoming just a tickers pub. However, a rather lacklustre beer selection didn’t catch the imagination of an audience with all the delights of Manchester to choose from. And anywhere refusing to use sparklers is, frankly, just asking for trouble.

Now it appears the partnership with Lucifer has come back to bite him with a vengeance. That old pubco classic-the upwards only rent spiral-means that it’s adios Black Lion. Let’s hope this is just a temporary setback. After all, a boarded up pub is of no use to anyone.

Cheaper By The Dozen

Amazon has entered the competitive online grocery market. This could prove somewhat troublesome as they are sourcing products from third parties-not ideal if you want all your goods delivered together. As you usually do when ordering groceries.

However, what really caught my eye was the fact that they are now selling booze. A rather ragbag collection of beer, wine and spirits. Everything from Purple Moose Glaslyn Ale to Jagermeister Herb Liqueur. But the pricing plan needs some watching.

A bottle of the said Jagermeister will set you back £20.75+£5.99 for postage. Ok. However, if you just fancy a bottle of Sam Smiths Organic Best Ale, it will set you back £7.30. And that’s with free p+p. Which, unless you want to show off to the neighbours/life partner/yourself by having one bottle of beer delivered, is an expensive way of imbibing.

Look a little closer, though, and you will see Bourdaire-Gallois Brut Champagne Jeroboam 1.5l (Tandleman’s favourite, btw) for £112.99 plus only £3 for p+p. The lesson seems obvious: if you’re going to have it, have it large.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

One For The Ladies

Trust Leyden to brew Bury’s (if not the region’s) strongest beer during summer. This thirst quenching “Summer Old Ale” weighs in at a respectable 10%. And although it’s not totally disgusting-quite an achievement for a Leyden beer-it wasn’t exactly flying out of the pumps.

What does it taste like? I could wax lyrical, beer blog bollocks style, but I shall leave it to the words of the old geezer at the bar. “By ‘eck. I’m having 3 pints of that and then calling the missus to pick me up. In fact I’m ringing her now!”

Guinnes Was Good For You

Hot on the heels of news of the Guinness Surger comes the revelation that the brand itself is in decline. Seven million pints less of the black stuff were sold in the UK last year. That’s a fall of some 2% of sales by volume compared to the previous 12 months.

Nor does it seem that this is merely a blip. According to the market research company Mintel, sales of Guinness have dropped by £28.5M over the last three years. That’s not loose change even to a behemoth the size of Diageo. Particularly considering the amount of money they spend advertising the stuff. It accounts for an eye-watering 54% of all advertising revenue in the ale and stout category.

Taking all this into account, it’s no wonder that Diageo have resorted to “diversifying”. Desperation others might call it. Hence Guinness Lager, Guinness Mid-Strength etc. Zak Avery has written an entertaining, if rather sentimental, piece about it. Iconic it may well be, but “tasting pretty good,” is a debatable point. And, as others have pointed out, it’s actually more of a distress purchase than a trusted friend in some pubs.

The reasons for its decline seem obvious to me. Although there have been changes to our drinking habits, these have been maturing longer than three years. And neither do I think that the increased sales of alcopops or the resurgence of real ale are to blame. The alcopop (RTDs) drinker was never going to be a big Guinness consumer and the real ale drinker often still turns to Guinness when circumstance demands.

No, the reasons for Guinness’s current predicament are rather more fundamental, I would argue. They are simply victims of the universal law of supply and demand. Having hit saturation point in a declining market, they are now on the down curve.

Any microeconomist will tell you that as prices rises, supply falls. This seems to hold true in every field. Indeed, I was reading some research by behavioural economists that seems to indicate that even sexual preference may react to the law of supply and demand. But that’s a subject for another post.

The simple fact is that with Guinness now averaging £2.94 a pint and lacking any innovation-its Extra Cold brand is ten years old; its hit an economic brick wall. Diageo have heavily milked it and overpriced it for far too long. No amount of cost cutting, brewery closures and brand diversification can hide the fact.

Good things do indeed come to those who wait...

The Surrey With The Fringe On Top

An interesting, if somewhat puzzling, bit of news comes from the land of Max Boyce. Michael White, licensee of the Ruperra Arms in Newport, Gwent is less than happy with Punch Taverns. Nothing new there, you might think. But the cause of this dispute is not the usual-rent increases, the price of tied beer etc.

No, in this case the issue is his right to be able to use the “Guinness Surger”. This is a device whereby bar staff pour a can of non-widgeted Guinness into a pint glass and then place the glass on an electronic plate.

This then sends sound waves through the liquid creating a creamy head. Mr White is upset because Diageo are happy to supply the unit, but Punch are refusing to allow him to use it until they have trialled the device. Which, to be fair to Punch, does not actually sound unreasonable.

However, what interests me is the nature and purpose of this device. Apparently it’s intended for outlets that sell less than half a keg a week. Now that’s very little beer indeed. We’re always being told that if a pub cannot sell enough cask ale, then it shouldn’t really be selling any at all. Surely the same thinking applies to draught keg beer?

Michael White says “At the moment I’m wasting Guinness because it’s going past its best before date. I don’t want to remove Guinness from my bar because it’s a quality brand.”

Guinness may, or may not be, a quality brand, but the evidence is certainly telling Mr White that his customers don’t care for it. So why persist with it? Diageo have a vested interest in selling these devices, but of what actual benefit are they to the customer?

A can with a widget would produce the same result. And at a much cheaper price. Of course, therein lies the problem. Call me cynical, but I suspect that Guinness drinkers are expected to pay for the privilege of a creamy head created by sound waves. Are there any Guinness drinkers out there who have tried it?

In God's Own Country

It doesn’t take much of an excuse for me to saddle up and ride into the Wild West. West Yorkshire, that is. So when Eddie, the eager, legal beagle suggested a trip there, I took little persuading. The sensual beery delights of Huddersfield are well known to us, but for the likes of Eddie’s vater and Old Uncle Albert, it was all virginal territory.

Before embarking on the main course, however, an aperitif was called for. Only ten minutes further on from Huddersfield is the delightful Dewsbury West Riding Refreshment Rooms. This is classic boozer situated on the railway platform and famously made an appearance on Oz & James Drink to Britain

Uncle Albert soon made himself at home and seemed to be auditioning for a Burl Ives role in a Western. Suitably refreshed, we were soon back on the platform and heading back to Huddersfield. Our first stop there was the Star on Albert Street where the Pictish proved too good for just one pint.

After finally dragging ourselves away from the Star, it was only a short walk to another old favourite-the Rat & Ratchet. This needs no introduction as it has been on the real ale map of the North for many years and, once again, didn’t disappoint.

Our next stop was a new one to everyone in the party, bar me. The Grove, on Spring Grove Street, has steadily, but quietly, built up a reputation not simply as one of the best pubs in the North, but in the country as a whole.

As we know, more isn’t always better when it comes to beer, but the Grove is one of the few places where it is. Having eighteen handpulls is impressive enough, but having dedicated pumps for the likes of Marble, Durham and Jaipur is even more so. And that’s before you even get started on the bottled selection.

However, it’s not just the beer range that marks the Grove out. It’s the fabric of the pub and the nature of its customers that make it unique. So naturally we were reluctant to leave and many a (supposed) last pint was drunk. We even sampled the intriguing cask strength 10 year old Ardmore whisky.

This unusual whisky boasted of condoms and skunk on the palate. I can’t say I detected them, but then again, I’m not particularly au fait with their taste, so perhaps it did. It certainly needed a dash of water to make it more approachable.

Our next stagger was to the Sportsman which was a first for everyone. This comes from the same stable as the West Riding Refreshment Rooms and has two small anterooms leading off from the main bar. Choice was a little disappointing with nothing light or hoppy (save the regular Landlord) in sight. They did, however, have Bury’s own Outstanding White amongst the fonts.

No surprise that the two last stops of the day were at the two pubs adjoining the railway station. Both served up some excellent beer and after a dalliance with a couple of real ale swingers, it was back to the Devil’s own country. Top tip: get the express. Not only is it quicker, you can snooze undisturbed by the feckless chavs that frequent the other routes.