Prestwich village lies at the outer rim of the grand metropolis that is Bury and so it often gets overlooked in favour of its brighter, louder, neighbour Manchester. Although it harbours aspirations-some would say pretensions-to be a Didsbury clone, the reality has been somewhat different. Beer choice has traditionally been limited and was heavily dominated by Holts with only a very limited choice of other ales. However, things have been steadily improving and the burgeoning dining scene has started to have a knock on effect on the beer front. Eager to check out the latest disturbances in the Force, I set sail for pastures new.
New adventures in drinking, as everyone knows, can be thirsty work so the experienced traveller will always warm up with a pint or two. The logical place to start seemed to be the Coach & Horses, just over the border in Bury Old Road, Whitefield. This Victorian boozer is a traditional Holts pub divided into 3 rooms. I tend to find the Mild a little variable but the Bitter is always a safe bet. Prestwich Liberal Club also offers the lure of real ale but is harder than Fort Knox to get into. Even if you get past the swipe card protected front door, you may find yourself trapped in the foyer awaiting a friendly face to buzz you in. If you do get the hard-as-nails barmaid to serve you, the choice is Holts Mild & Bitter alongside Landlord.
Much more amenable is one of the new kids on the block: All the Shapes. This new café bar nestles on the site of a former tanning salon on Warwick St and is just the sort of place that Prestwich has sorely been lacking in. It’s cosy with a small downstairs bar area and more room upstairs. Obviously it offers the now de rigueur food options, which are very good I believe, but most importantly it has a decent beer offering. Two handpumps offer a changing selection of local ales: First Chop and the excellent Track Black IPA on my first visit. There’s also the likes of Cloudwater and Camden on tap and a decent bottled collection. This should do really well and you can see it expanding in the future.
|(All the Shapes)|
Whilst in the area it would be rude not to check out the Church Inn which is tucked away at the end of, appropriately enough, Church Lane. For many years the Church flew the flag for beer choice in Prestwich and was the first in the area to offer a no-smoking room. its Deuchars-when that was considered cutting edge-was also rated the best in the borough. Despite still being an Enterprise Inn pub, it makes the most of the available guest beers and offers four for your delectation. To get to the Church, you’ll have to pass Prestwich Conservative Club. It’s worth poking your head in here to marvel at the rather plush surroundings. They do have real ale on; it varies but was Robinsons Trooper when I called in.
Now of course Prestwich wouldn’t be Prestwich without a drop of Holts. You’re spoilt for choice really, what with the Red Lion and the White Horse but on this sortie it was the Foresters that took the prize. This is a 1960’s two-roomed boozer where the Bitter is usually on form. You’re very close to the Metrolink stop now, but it’s worth calling in the Railway & Naturalist. Built in 1850, the ‘Nats’ was originally named after the members of the Botanical Society that used to meet there but the coming of thirsty railway labourers changed the name to its current status. When the pub was knocked through, along with the loss of the famous ‘Rat Pit’ room, it lost much of its character. However, in recent times it has returned to the real ale fold and now offers a changing guest beer.