There are numerous good pub crawls in and around the great beer metropolis that is Manchester. One of the newest and also one of the easiest is the West Didsbury run. Having sampled its delights myself on several occasions, I wasn’t going to miss out on another crack at it with some chums in attendance. All the famous faces were there: Stopwatch Sid, Archimedes and Pythagoras, The Wallsend Wonder, The Whitefield Holts Bandit. Not to mention Jack and Jill, without whom no pub trek is complete.
First stop was the handily placed Wine and Wallop on Lapwing Lane. I say handily placed as it’s practically opposite the West Didsbury Metrolink stop. It’s always good to be able to snag a pint quickly after a lengthy journey. Or indeed even if the journey isn’t lengthy. And, of course, it’s always good to be able to stagger onto your chariot home without inconveniencing oneself too much. Owned by the same people who run the nearby Folk Café, Wine and Wallop is apparently aimed at the more mature drinker. Which is handy; as the odd CAMRA member may just be over 21.
W&W has the relaxed-note the trad jazz music-feel of what used to be called a wine bar. However, that always seemed to be a derogatory term amongst serious drinkers and doesn’t do what is a comfortable, contemporary outlet justice. There is space upstairs and a small outdoor drinking area at the front but it is hard to wander too far from the bakers dozen row of pumps. I generally find the selection here very good and wasn’t disappointed by the Brightside and Marble on offer this time.
Barely five minutes away down Lapwing Lane, on the corner with Burton Road lay the next two, very different, prospects. The Railway is a small ex-John Smiths basic boozer that Joseph Holt’s transformed in the 1990s into something more fitting for the area. They have done well with the limited space by using snob screens to break it up into separate areas and the log fire is a nice touch. It may come as something of a shock to be paying more than £2.70 for Joey’s finest wares but they do stock the sadly all-too-little seen IPA. Perhaps a sign of the times are the bottles of Belgian and American ale also available.
Across the road is the Metropolitan. This is altogether a much larger, grander affair. It’s what Uncle Albert classes as a “proper pub”. Formerly the rather rough (with a capital R) Midland Hotel, quite a lot of cash has been splashed to make it the pub you see today. Now it is far more representative of the sumptuous Victorian railway pub it once was. The high ceilings, large tables and extensive al fresco drinking give it lots of space. Which it needs, as unsurprisingly it majors on food in a big way and is the area’s busiest pub. Perhaps because of this, they seem to rather let the beer side slide a little. Certainly the choice generally seems lacklustre and often one ends up with a rather expensive pint of Landlord.
Much more reliable, usually anyway, is Mary & Archie just along the way on Burton Road. This is another small bar; they usually are round here, with drinking areas to the side and rear of the bar. I say usually reliable as, on this occasion, some people had skipped ahead and supped all the good stuff. Perhaps a downside of only having three pumps? But, never fear, refrigerated goodness in the form of Founders and Beavertown came to the rescue.
On the other side of the road and next to each other are the Folk Café Bar and Volta. FCB is the opposite of the TARDIS, it’s much smaller than it appears from the outside. Past the Palm tree terrace lies the framework of the two shops that now make up this bar. As the name suggests, the décor is rather eclectic and music plays its part at weekends. Volta comes to you courtesy of the folk behind Chorlton’s successful Electrik bar albeit with more of a focus on being a neighbourhood eatery. This being Didsbury though that doesn’t stop it offering a couple of pumps to tempt you with.
Another Chorlton offshoot lies across the road at Saison. This one is the brainchild of the Dulcimer crew and has only been operating since September 2015. Very much a beer led venture, it consists of a narrow ground floor bar with seating all along the downstairs space and some upstairs. Most importantly is the choice of four cask and sixteen keg lines. Cask won out on this occasion as the keg offerings seemed to have fallen into the seemingly classic craft trap of being unpalatably strong.
Our last scheduled stop was the George Charles which cannot hide its origins as a corner shop. Nicely converted, the wraparound windows let in a pleasing amount of light. However, it is cosy with only a couple of tables, bench seating and stools to provide room for about 40 imbibers. There is more room downstairs but alas, the curse of the modern age, that is often reserved for diners. Having been lucky and acquired a table, all that remained was to sample some excellent Saltaire Gold. And Flying Dog, naturally. And we could hardly have left without saying bonsoir to Shindigger IPA.
A leisurely stroll round the watering holes of South Manchester that even the laziest of imbibers can manage.