My Love of Holt’s Pubs

Subtitle: Oh great, if my grammar wasn’t bad enough I’m going to struggle with possessive apostrophes.

Search Holt’s Pubs

Only 12 Holt’s pubs are Cask Marque apparently.  Good, ignoring those chancers is one of my fanciful whimsies I get when I go drinking.

I don’t treat Holt’s pubs the way that some would a Hard Rock Cafe, then again if each pub did their own pin badge then I might consider the pilgrimage to every one, I’ve already got their “bee glass” and my Untappd history seems to suggest I’ve had every beer they’ve done (give or take).  Make it happen Joey.

Now I can’t say I’ve been in a vast range of Holt’s pubs and as my previous post alluded to, the city centre pubs, like The Old Monkey and Ape and Apple just don’t do it for me, not because of the pub itself but because of the location.

If you want a list of my main visitations then it would be:

Tamar (Leigh), Mort Arms (Tyldesley), Atherton Arms (er, Atherton, pronounced a-THE-er-tun), Cart & Horses (Astley), Rosehill Tavern (Daisy Hill), Edington Arms (Hindley), The Crown (Horwich) and a few others more out of the way (i.e. not a simple bus/train ride).

I used to go in The Park in Monton, replete with fish tank and bench seating.  Then they gutted it and made it a mimic of the micro bars that sprung up in “the new Chorlton,” way back when every little enclave just outside of Manchester was “the new Chorlton.”

Now I could bang on about another of my whimsy annoyances which is purely of Holt’s own making and that is their pricing.

They are cheap as chips across the board for all their wares but don’t expect a menu saying 4.5 or 3.0 as a price guide, just some well trained bar monkey going £2.57 or £9.52 all together.

Yep, you’ll be coming home with pockets bulging of coppers to stick in your empty, over sized Bell’s whisky bottle.  Unless you wish to tip the weird amounts “no, you keep the 8p, luv.”

The beer isn’t half bad either but this isn’t about the beer it is about the pubs. “Always a warm and friendly welcome;” carpets, except around the bar area, strategic coat hooks (or full on hangers/stands), bench seating, the right temperature, nice toilets, very well trained staff, TVs at the right volume that can still be easily ignored if need be, cubbyholes, etched glass, etc.

You get the picture.

To conclude this post, I’ll finish with two quotes which sum up with brevity what I’ve drawn out to pass the time; one from Martin:

A TOAST TO SIR HUMPHREY IN THE BLUE BELL

Sam Smiths pubs most easily convey that sense of peace and contentment that justify getting out of your sofa to visit pubs…”

Except at Holt’s you can still use your electronic devices, should you so wish.

The second from my mum:

“If you’re old and can’t afford the heating, just go and sit in the Athy Arms.  You wouldn’t really have to buy anything and you’ll be as alone or as talkative as you want.”

 

Thanks for reading.

Not Tired of Life, Just Tired of Manchester (pubs)

I’ve never liked crowds; or being honest, people in general, the thronging masses of homo sapiens and their need to get wherever they are going and quickly as they can and fuck everyone else. Or the opposite of this, who toddle along or stop and chat on stairs or outside doors and are a general nuisance to everyone trying to get somewhere. Misanthropy can make you view things in extremes but all I see it common sense not being that common.

When I stopped working in Manchester I stopped having to commute through Manchester and I stopped having to go to pubs there to console my time wasted as another train or bus home was late, delayed or cancelled.

I started working and therefore drinking, in earnest, in Manchester some 15 years ago, not long in the scheme of things but a lot has changed in those years and I suspect a lot of people who communicate about beer probably weren’t old enough to drink back then either. For a point of reference it was a time before Port Street Beer House existed, then during, when it opened and became excellent and then further down the line, when it went on to become arrogant and shit.

During the past few weeks I’ve drunk in many towns and cities on extended holidays, especially in London, a place I have also seen change over the past decade or so I’ve made regular trips down there for drinks and the purposes of entertainment and relaxation (get your mind out of the gutter).

I note how the first stop is the Euston Tap and they just seem to be coasting along, resting on their laurels and the captive audience they have but at least that place was deserving of a pedestal at one time, unlike its Manchester Piccadilly counterpart which has always been a hollow shell.

I entertained finally going to the Bermondsey beer mile, if only to indulge my love of Kernel Brewery beers but they don’t open apart from to sell bottles and seeing as very few of the micro (call them craft if you so wish) London breweries are actually much cop (Weird Beard being one rare exception), it wouldn’t be worth my time or money. Full marks to Kernel for not being a slave to trends which now seems to have convinced people that drinking in industrial units under heavy neon lights surrounded by a bit of art is tip-top entertainment. I like Fox’s Biscuits and Heinz Beans but you wouldn’t see me clamouring to get to the a taste of those wares in the factories at Batley and Kitt Green, far better to consume them at home, in the warmth, away from notice-me-wankers (and probably Greg(g) Wallace).

London as a whole has changed, always a heaving metropolis, the description that opens this piece fits it best, though I’ve always respected the seeming fact that London centre pubs are treated as iconic and as necessary furnishments to the economy, something that Manchester, in its clamour to look exactly like London spectacularly loves to ignore and destroy. The personal epiphany though was that all the pubs in London I went in to were havens from the gaggling hordes, something I can’t say for Manchester.

That my opening gambit in every pub and bar I went into was “do you still take cash?” and only once was the answer a “no” still heartens me.

I thought it was just city drinking I was dulled to however not only tolerating but actually enjoying recent trips to Leeds, York, Edinburgh and Sheffield and a whole host of small towns coupled with the London excursion showed that maybe its a case that familiarity breeds contempt and it is well possible because every time I’ve been back to Manchester it has just been a bit meh.

I speak for me, this is my “Rekall moment,” and not to slight the pubs, old and new that are there or the drinks that are on offer.  I am fully aware I’m the factor here.

This piece seems to be acting as a nice intro into another small bit I’m working on called “My Love of Holt’s Pubs” which will be published, when I can be bothered.

 

I’m Linus van Pelt and pubs, except for those in the centre of Manchester are my security blanket.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Oh, of note in London pubs.  Cask beer was significantly improve over recent years (I don’t take my own thermometer though).  Sam Smith’s pubs vary in whether they bother in enforcing their “no mobiles” rule or not.

The Dishonest Opening Times of Micro Pubs

I think most of us have long been aware and made angry comment about the unreliability of micro pub and micro bar opening hours.  I suppose if you’ve planned a crawl or just a visit and find yourself with suddenly two extra hours to mooch about because one micro wasn’t opened at its stated time then it would be annoying.

Indeed, but I suppose you could at least go and drink/eat/wanderlust elsewhere until said new opening time rolls around.

But what about the dray people out there.  The deliverers of the beer.

Those who plan a route and can be doing 100s of miles a day, all of which can only be planned out by stated opening times of the pubs of that days itinerary.

That twattery greeted me today.  It has done a few times in the past, people running late being the main one but I can deal with the odd quarter of an hour provided it is (and usually is) accompanied by an apology.

Said micro that has inspired this rant is a good one, even I will say that, I won’t go as far as the local CAMRA branch who willingly fellate themselves and all concerned with it, but it is a good bar.

It’s Facebook page says it opens at 14.00 on a Thursday.

It’s own website says it opens at 12.00 on a Thursday.

WhatPub splits the difference and says it opens at 13.00 on a Thursday.

So getting there just after 2pm, to be on the safe side and you find yourself with this staring back at you.  Empty casks at your feet expecting to be picked up.

 

It is fantastic that you know you’ve got ever warming cask beer in your van and you now have to drive another round trip of 70+ miles to have to come back when they feel like opening.

Another few hours on to your day driving through the flooded back waters of Cheshire in order to be greeted by the pot smoking and all ready pissed locals of this gaff that are probably angry they aren’t middle class enough to live in Horwich but thankful they don’t live in the shit hole that is Daubhill (that’s pronounced Dob-ull) and are just desperate for a cold drink from the bottle fridge because all the other beer isn’t cold enough.

Enjoy my slightly compromised cask you fuckers.

But it’s all OK, they’ll be voted pub of the year again in the cycle of pubs that local CAMRA branches have when it comes to awards.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

*Note: September 9th 2019 – I will not post the comment from the owner of this bar.  This was not meant to identify the owner or the establishment, just a wry aside on the perils that face all in the beer world and i’m well aware of the juggling done in running a business and a family.  There were no hard feelings in writing this and hopefully none are reciprocated.*

Any Pump Clip You Want – As Long as its Plain

There is a logical fallacy known as slippery slope, thin end of the wedge, or domino theory.  Only when it comes to public health it seems to be playing out exactly as predicted.

Start with banning smoking in public.  Then hiding cigarettes.  Then making the packaging not look to appealing to anyone who has the misfortune to lay their eyes on it and have a such weak and feeble mind as to be convinced there and then to tack up the habit.

And then when we start “saving lives” but losing tax revenue it’ll be time to find something else to blame to keep the coffers full.

Salt was a big thing a few years ago but the sudden push on sugar in foods, with soft drinks being the first industry to be heavily punished with levies which subsequently led manufacturers to change their recipes so they now taste shit because of all the artificial sweeteners used to replace sugar.

I went into my local the other day and as I was with a designated driver they were on the soft drinks.  All options were; light, diet, sugar free or “max” – a water was ordered, well done pub you’ve just cost yourself some cash because you didn’t give adults the option of a full and free choice.

The populace is being conditioned (nudged) to be use to the nanny state looking out for the best interests so much so that it was only a matter of time till this happened.

Call for plain packaging for unhealthy drinks and snacks to combat preventable disease

Beer will be next.

Articles with a clear anti-alcohol bias have been around for ages but the temperance movement, emboldened by the nanny state have gone into overdrive, much like this article

Girl and Tonic blogger: ‘Giving up booze helped me buy my house’

The more truthful and sensible headline would be “Idiot realises that saving cash will help in future purchases” but instead we have to get a feature on a lifestyle twat and their stunning and brave decisions.

Nothing is more aesthetically unpleasing as walking into a bar and seeing a hand written pump clip, well perhaps jaggedly cut fluorescent flashes for drinks promotions but nothing puts me off buying a beer more than a lack of pump clip.

Then again pump clips are expensive, so sending out hand written paper clips would help with the margins, meh, get the bar to do it themselves and save even more cash.

This reminded me of the clash between Tiny Rebel and the Portman group over the design of one of their cans.

Just think how much money Tiny Rebel would save if their new cans were just had plain.

 

In fact all breweries may get in on this.  It could be a good thing in the long run for all micro breweries.  What a sight it could be when the shelves of independent beer shops could look like this.

It’ll be a brave new world

 

Writing this I thought of “Any Colour You Like” by Pink Floyd and then in popped another song of Dark Side of the Moon and stayed there all day.

 

Thanks for reading.

Vegan Haze and the Murky Zealots

I hate waste.

It is one of my pet peeves the amount of food that is wasted and a lot of this waste is down to not only confusion but an unnecessarily strict adherence to use-by/sell-by/best-before dates on food items.

We humans evolved (no apologies, creationists) a fair few senses to recognise when something that was edible probably wasn’t really edible any longer.  Sadly in this day and age the one sense that should have precedence over the others, common sense, has been for gone in an age of comfort and easy.

When it comes to beer the dominant sense would clearly be; what does it smell like, what does it look like and what does it taste like, though I’m sure there must be some Cicerone tweedle or CAMRA twaddle who reckons that can hear the beer as if it was some sentient being.

If you’re reading this that it probably goes without saying that anything you drink that is cloudy really does have to be appraised fully before its complete imbibing, milk based drinks aside.  And beer was no exception, a cloudy pint would, decades ago, indicate that it would be pointless to even continue with the purchase of the pint.

And so, finings of various nature but mainly the fish-orientated, vegetarian repelling Isinglass, was added to beer in order to draw all the murky causing bits out of it (yeast, proteins, etc) to give a nice pin bright pint.

As an aside, a sealed cask of nothing but beer will last a good few months in correct conditions, it is the addition of said Isinglass which shortens the longevity of it.

Beer is funny in the alcohol world in that respect.  You don’t expect to see a completely clear cider or perry and these days everyone loves a gin with all manner of things floating in it.

But this is about beer and its appearance and in my opinion I don’t care that much what it looks like as my other sense will tell me about its suitability to actually consume.

Though I will admit that adding Isinglass to a beer (an addition other finings) is not my most favourite part of brewing.  Adding anything to a beer at the casking stage, even additional hops, will always slightly increase the possibility of an infection.

Fruit puree, lactose (not suitable for vegans), spices, liquid flavourings and syrups; all manner of things added to a beer that isn’t during the boil will always heighten my science brain that whatever can go wrong, probably will and no manner of sterilising will stop it.

Having said that, beer is actually quite hardy too, especially given the state of some of the containers I’ve seen it delivered in.

This is off point though.  I don’t mind a hazy pint.  I don’t mind a cloudy pint.  I don’t really mind a murky point.  The chicken soup pint is pushing it but I’ll still drink it if it meets the standards of my other senses.

What I feel has happened with the boom in breweries is the accompanying arms race to brew all matter of things under the sun.

And another facet of the schism between “older” (experienced) and younger (modern) was opened in what a beer could look like.

Maybe I’m creating another straw man for the sake of writing this piece but what appears to be happening now is that the zeal that the older drinkers have for having a clear pint, and clear pint = good, hazy = bad, has been met with a 3rd law of motion in modern drinking circles in that murky = natural, clear = chemicals.

Of course the murk debate is, erm, clouded by what the beer “is supposed to look like” as the brewer intended verses the reality of what is actually served and yet again, no amount of brewing integrity to get a beer that is as clear as possible and as suitable for vegetarians is going to survive poor cellaring practices.

 

Use all your senses and drink what you like.

 

To provide a public service and for the fussy drinkers out there is your beer vegan?

 

Thanks for reading.

 

CAMRA MUPpets

After the Revitalisation project CAMRA started, whenever, no one really cared, they voted on many things.  Needing 75% approval but only achieving 72%, the organisation failed to recognise that all beer was equal, or something like that.

Cask was the ultimate and keg was secondary.

I’d agree but as we have learnt with voting…well as the Simpsons put it

 

You never get the results you want and most appreciate that and with an organisation such as CAMRA you can simply cancel your membership and leave and in all honesty that decision won’t impact on you enjoyment of beer and where to have it, well pubs may continue to close but CAMRA aren’t really trying to stop that, no one can except those who wish to continue spending money in those establishments.

Quote Joni Mitchell…

Many left CAMRA at that moment and bragged about it in a show of pure virtue, the stay-and-reform-from-within group looking slightly bemused by the whole process.

You pays your money, you takes your choice.

The insidiousness of the public health lobby groups coupled with an authoritarian nanny state is leading to us responsible adults being forced into to take numerous hits no only to our personal freedom and the appreciation of the fact we are responsible for our own well being, but also being hit in the pocket.

Tax, tax and more tax.

Which brings us onto minimum unit pricing, or MUP, and quite frankly I’ve just waffled on enough when the title of this piece would have been enough.

Like all CAMRA proposals, it won’t really have any impact as MUP will be steam-rollered in by far more powerful and of-the-zeitgeist organisations than the sandal brigade ever were.

Slow. Hand. Clap.

Just when voices against were required.

Fuck it.  I’ll just drink beer under my bed covers, locked in my own home, that way I might get some peace.  The stockpiling begins now.

Democracy – so good the Simpsons did the same joke twice.

Thanks for reading.

They Fear Cask Beer Round Here

Subtitle: Anecdotal evidence on the continuing tribulations of cask beer.

Yes, the title is used for the rhyme and not for casting any aspersion on the drinkers I observed.

 

A few years ago I was in my local chippy when the bloke in front of me requested a chip barm* in his order.

“We’ve got no barms left I’m afraid” came the response from the server “but we’ve got bread if that’s OK for you?”

“It’s not brown is it?” came the worried follow-up from the customer.

I still vividly recall the trepidation in his voice, I pictured that after a hectic week his Friday treat of a chippy tea was about to get less rewarding as it would feature non-white bread.

Let’s be honest, brown (and wholemeal) is fine for toast and sandwiches but for a chip or crisp butty it is both pointless and akin to those people who order lots of food in a take-away and then insist on a diet drink (not that you get much choice of avoiding the bitter, chemical drek the sugar tax has forced the big chains to make).

No one likes the taste of diet soft drinks really; just like no one likes the taste of highly processed bread that isn’t white, and thick, doorstep thick.  If you’re going to treat yourself, do it right.

Sunday just gone I had the pleasure of travelling to York (visited many times before) to watch Leigh lose by 1 point in the championship division of rugby league.  I’ve travelled far further to see Leigh lose by 1 point (and by far more) but I’d never been to the Bootham Crescent ground before.

 

As a side note, it should be noted the Leigh’s home ground now only serves bottles and cans (poured into plastic cups) at the ground on match days, the time of even keg beer has passed it would seem.  To be fair all grounds I’ve been to only serve keg beer, with the exception of The Shay in Halifax.  Though all the grounds to make an effort to re-badge known brands as their “own” – so if you’re a ticker or are on Untappd, maybe trek along on a match day.

It should also be noted that drinking can still occur on the terraces of rugby matches and on the supporter coaches too so go fuck yourselves, South Ayrshire Police (and nanny Scotland in general).

 

We had arrived not in enough time to get to any pubs in the centre but in enough time to grab a few at the closest venue which was York Burton Lane Club it is always gratifying to find a Whatpub entry that is incorrect as they were serving cask beer, so York branch may wish to update this page sometime and look after your clubs as much as your pubs.

Paying a £1 entry as a non-member I clocked the rather obvious poster, which were also behind the bar, highlight that they had A Knight’s Ale by  local microbrewers Isaac Poad for only £2 a pint.  They also had John Smith’s (bitter) on cask too as well as a variety of Sam Smith’s keg amongst the usual standard lagers and ciders.

I’m always slightly trepidatious myself about cask beer at a certain price; it is on the turn and they are just trying to shift it and being in a strange environment with a horde of other piling in behind me I wasn’t about to ask to try it first (not that I actually do anyway, just go for a half, that’s a taster).  So a pint was ordered and very good it both taste and condition it was too.

But the conversations I heard around the bar reminded me of the aforementioned chip shop incident.

“Pint of bitter please” was a regular cry (other than “pint of lager” of course).

“Cask or smooth” was the barmaid’s reply, not even attempting to ever push the guest ale (which I suppose wouldn’t count as a bitter per se but still…)

“Smooth…smooth” were the numerous, convulsed replies.

Stick with what you know I suppose, price isn’t really an object in a rushed environment when you’re on a day trip.

Scanning the busy drinking area there were a few on the cask, I’m not going to put a number on it, nor what the average age of the clientèle was as this is just anecdotal.

 

But if you can’t shift cask beer at £2 a pint to the thirsty; then really, is it a premium product that can attract top whack and are those breweries that sell it for less really creating a rod for the backs of themselves and every other brewer?

 

Thanks for reading.

 

*barmcake, bap, cob, roll, batch, muffin, teacake, etc.