ROB CAMRA@AllGates Brewery
Saturday saw the good, simple folk of ROB CAMRA adventure into the wastelands of Wigan. Now Wigan is nominally part of Lancashire, but it exists in a time zone of its own-about 30 years behind everywhere else-and the
good, simple folk there have their own ways and customs. One thing that should be cleared up immediately, though, is that their nickname of “pie eaters” is historic and nothing to do with their fondness for Greggs.
First stop was the Good Beer Guide listed Anvil which is one of six pubs owned by the nearby AllGates brewery. This kept us entertained until the main event: the AllGates brewery visit. Since they started brewing in 2006, they have steadily built up a reputation for producing some innovative and classy beers. Quality remains very high and you usually know what you are getting with an Allgates beer.
The brewery itself is in a lovely restored Grade 11 pre-Victorian building. Lovely but, as was explained to us, not very practical. Looking at the narrow steep steps with rope banisters and a ginnel too narrow for delivery trucks, you could see why. Originally a brewery for the long defunct Dog & Partridge (now the Last Orders) pub next door, the beer used to be rolled into the adjoining cellars via a connecting tunnel.Inside the cosy brewery bar we were offered a choice of Pretoria (named after the coal mining disaster of 1910) or Caskablanca. Both were excellent, but the Caskablanca, originally brewed with all American hops and now retweaked with New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops, just shaved it for many. The invitation to “help yourself” always has CAMRA members charging like wildebeests to the bar, but it certainly helps when the beer is this good. Indeed Jack, of Jack & Jill fane, was like a greyhound on steroids as he raced to the bar.
The brewery tour and bar action was overseen by Cheryl. Now when you have been on more brewery tours than George Osborne has brain cells-obviously, loads more, actually, then you can become a little jaded. The last thing you want is just the dry bones of how beer is brewed. What is interesting is bringing that particular brewery alive with the fine details. Cheryl gave a very apposite tour and was good value all afternoon.
We also got a chance to talk with-bore?-the gaffer, David Mayhall about their future plans and all things beery; as is their wont when CAMRA members get the opportunity. So our thanks must go to Dave and Cheryl for a great afternoon.
Sadly, the centre of Wigan is a bit of beer desert. Upon asking a local in the Anvil where the nearest decent pint was, they replied “Manchester”. Not quite true as the Boulevard, located opposite the brewery, is certainly worth a visit. A cellar bar/nightclub, it has an impressive range of beers and the Saltaire Blonde and Hawkshead Windermere Pale went down appreciatively.
It was then back to Manchester for the kind of drunken debauchery you expect when in the company of Jack & Jill. A poor innocent like me stood no chance. A warm up of Red Willow Macclesfield Bitter was called for in Common before the last survivors staggered to the Port Street Beer House. This proved a successful visit. Well, these days I consider any visit where we’re not thrown out a success.
The early rounds are a blur, but the two nightcaps do standout. First up was Schneider Weisse Hopfen-Weisse. This is the classic wheat beer given a massive hop twist; superb. And finally we tried the Mikkeller 1000 IBU beer. The clue really is in the name and was a step too far for some who compared it to snorting hops up your nose. It’s certainly not subtle, but for hop fiends who want something under 5%, I’d recommend it. It certainly cuts through a jaded palate.
Then it was back to the bright lights of Bury where I begged to be released from the shackles of alcohol, but Eddie, the eager legal beagle, insisted we all had to carry on. He’s a bugger like that.