Smile…CAMRA is being Candid

In a flu ridden state I am quickly writing this.  Having observed all week chatter of what CAMRA was planning, really you should think, as a member, I would have known about this in advance.

Last December I wrote a piece suggesting that CAMRA may well evolve (it is there, in between the ranty stuff).

Reports of the death of CAMRA are greatly exaggerated but they haven’t helped themselves with self-published articles like this

Of course that is the idea; to get people talking that the biggest consumer group may be coming to an end based on some article that has that pissant question/non-question title.

If CAMRA move from solely being about real ale and instead are revitalising their campaign then the shift of focus does mean the acronym is not correct, but that is mere pedantry.

The organisation I’m a part of has been changing over the years anyway, with the dawn of the Asset of Community value, pubs are trying to be saved and so when the BBC writes “Should there be a crusade to save British pubs?” (oh look, there is that twatty question mark again), the answer is that there already is.

You also get poorly researched articles like this (oh look another question mark) – but that is the standard of random journalism about beer these days – take a hand full of clichés, sling in a few names of breweries, add the word beard and suddenly you too can become a freelance journalist with little knowledge of any subject to back anything up, but the pay check is in the hand so who cares, modern paid journalism isn’t about getting across facts any more, it is about clickbaiting.

Anyway, as far as I am concerned that gap between “old” and “new” beer drinkers is still a bridge too far and something that CAMRA isn’t going to build on its own, especially when it comes to saving pubs.

*Insert relevant Hilaire Belloc quote here*

People who deal only in “craft” beer do not care about some dirty old pub and the dirty old people who are in it and the dirty old community that it holds together.

I’m still of the opinion that most are following a scene.  A scene that is still not inspiring people to go out and drink, as on the whole the entire “night-life” industry in on a downward spiral.

The nature of drinking, in the home or on the town, is changing.  People don’t go to the same places and are unlikely to be coaxed back into them.  It is all about trend and maybe in that respect CAMRA and pubs should consider themselves to be like heavy metal.

There are off-shoots and little cliques that raise the profile once in a while but once these are spun off there is always a faithful core that remains, always open and welcoming to both the original purpose and future evolution.

It won’t ever go out of fashion because it has never been in fashion.

 

Thanks for reading?

My Favourite Pub(s) in Greater Manchester

I was asked to write this piece for Manchester Beer Week and figured whereas most of the focus will generally and inevitably be towards the city centre of Manchester, there is a whole metropolitan county erroneously formed in 1974 to focus on and whereas I’ve visited some great pubs in Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and the cities of Manchester and Salford my drinking life began and very much remains in the borough of Wigan.

So as the evil claws of Wigan council look to stick their crest on every street sign and strip away any semblance of history and independent identity from those towns unfortunate enough to fall into their dark embrace I’d first like to make some honourable mentions:

The White Lion in Leigh and the Jolly Nailor in Atherton are excellent pubs.  Also of note is now the sadly lost Dog and Partridge in Bolton.  All have/had a fine range of beers and a warm welcome.

There are many others too but this is written as a piece of history; an ode to the first pubs I drank in and more importantly, still do to this day.

Union Arms, Tyldesley

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I find this pub to be quite an unorthodox shape.  It is a largish pub, though deceptively so as a central bar (with 2 main bars and a smaller one) services 5 distinct rooms but all are open plan so as not to be cut-off from each other.

Entrance through the main door generally takes me through to the right-hand side of the pub, up a couple of stairs to one of the main bars and a large room with an additional raised seated section, where bands sometimes play.  It used to house the pool table (now strangely absent) and a jukebox.   When I first started going in the main barmaid (who curiously still does some shifts there) used to whack on 20 free credits, select 3 songs and then leave the rest for myself and my comrades.

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From this side of the pub you could then go up another small step to another area of about 4 tables where the toilets are located along with the smallest bar and the staircase up to the landlords accommodation.

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Down a couple of stairs and you would be greeted by a small room that kept the table football and lots of football (mainly Manchester United) memorabilia.

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This opens up into the other main bar which had a lot more tables and a dart board.  Some gamblers and quiz machines were dotted around the pub.

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As you can see, bench seating is prevalent in this pub.

The pub served (and still serves) a range of keg Thwaites products and Warsteiner can be counted amongst its lager offerings.  After a change of ownership there are now 6 cask lines available, along with the “usual” international suspects.

The Pendle Witch, Atherton

Tucked down an alley from the main town centre, the Pendle is a rather small pub, though a few large alterations opened the pub out while also brightening it up and, along with the ban of 2006, made it less smoky (oddly something I seldom noticed in the Union).

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There is a beer garden to the back while the pub consists of one large room, a conservatory and a slightly smaller room where you’ll find a pool table.

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There is a jukebox, which due to the nature of most of the regulars will play heavy metal on very heavy rotation.  It is a Moorhouse’s brewery pub and their beers make up 5 of the 10 casks on offer.

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There is a wide, wide selection of international bottled beers at stupidly cheap prices and these go hand-in-hand with the regularly held bottle tasting events.

The pubs mentioned here are all great example of a public house with a good beer selection, cheap prices, welcoming atmosphere and a wide mix of drinkers; young, old, regular and passing trade but above all they are actually proper pubs.

What does that mean?

For me it is just a place I’d feel as comfortably in as I would my own home.  A place for both solitude and friendship and above all, a decent drink.  In writing about these pubs I could never possibly sum up just how important they are to me because pubs are more than just a place to that serves beer; they are part of the fabric of my life, integral to communities and they are worth fighting to keep because they are always more than just bricks and mortar.

Thanks for reading.

Its Meet the Brewer not Reinventing the Wheel

A while back I saw a tweet from a Guardian lifestyle journalist which went along the lines of “What *is* a meet the brewer?”

Of course Guardian, lifestyle and journalist are also mutually exclusive terms that bear no relevance, as individual terms or as a collective, to sensible people and their enjoyment of life.  But I suppose they have a function if someone is willing to pay for that nonsense.

The thing is what *is* a meet the brewer (MTB)?  It seems I’ve been very lucky in all the ones I have attended.  On each occasion I’ve always actually met the brewer, listened to them talk about their beers, their brewery, their history and their future plans.  This is usually accompanied by food of some kind and a fair amount of beery samples to kick-start the discussions.  They are also always attended by home & commercial brewers alike.

Over the years it would seem that MTB events have either been misrepresented by the establishment hosting them (really they are a tap-takeover, a beer launch or such like) or the brewery has sent along a marketeer who knows lots about “brand brewery” but not much about anything else.

I suppose these in and of themselves would be quite irritating and a let down to those who were expecting something far more involved.

Of course what you don’t need is an over-priced event.

Forced food pairing with morsels probably made from ambergris and Zuzu’s petals to further justify an inflated ticket price.

 

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And who honestly gives a fuck about any specially selected music either?

There is a certain pretension that doesn’t so much creep in as is at an event’s core and for me too many events can only exacerbate the pretext that “craft” beer is elitist.

It is obvious the MTB’s are less about the brewer and more about the attendees and an over emphasis and curation of a whole session of what is and isn’t consumed creates a claustrophobic scenario that is as unhelpful as any poorly constructed meet.

 

Thanks for reading.

SpinningFields Manchester – Spreading the Disease

It seems that separate bits of Manchester architecture comes under threat at the same time in an almost cyclical fashion.

In January of last year I ranted about the sad state of some of the proposed decisions facing the heritage of central Manchester.

While the situation with the Fire Station on London Road is resolved in so much as Britannia have finally attained their 30 pieces of silver and like wise the Ancoats Dispensary reached its funding targets, just this week Bruntwood put forward their plans for the redevelopment of Oxford Road Station, which made no mention of its plans for the listed Salisbury Pub (or Grand Central for that matter).

Other news was that another historical pub The Sir Ralph Abercromby (petition) was also being tendered to be flattened along with a few other buildings in the area.

There are a few places in Manchester I don’t like to go to drink; namely the Printworks, Deansgate Locks and Spinningfields.

As banal as Printworks is and as loathsome as the Locks are they are at least honest and exist in such away as to work well with the area they have been created in (unless you are the Police).

The same I can not say for Spinningfields; a place as fake and phony as the wankers that go there and the food, drinks and “culture” that exists between the artificial grass, cold steel and empty glass.  It is a lifeless, soulless place.  A cut-through between Manchester and Salford and a place now deemed worthy of expansion by taking a wrecking ball to more of Manchester’s places and sites & sights of interest.

As plans and rumours keep swirling it may well be that most of the buildings will remain and be renovated but the Sir Ralph will make way for, it would seem, a car park, which given Manchester’s history will be horrendously overpriced parking in a bid to drive trade away from local and small businesses and seemingly push it towards that other soulless place that is the Trauma Trafford Centre.

Councils are not my favourite group of people.  From some reason, no matter the size of the council or the make-up that may consist of apparently local people the continually make decisions that run against popular opinion

This piece is not about the politics (or football) of red and blue, merely another hair-pulling exercise about the short-sighted decisions made by our increasingly untrustworthy public officials and that whereas jaw-jaw is preferred to war-war they all fall to more-more.

I hope you find time to sign the petition(s).

 

Thanks for reading.