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.*

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.

The CAMRA Festival Cask-Keg Craft Quandary

Subtitle – A Real Problem (Answer: No, that was just a pun which I felt was too sloppy for the title but I don’t like waste, as trite as it is).

 

The month of January 2019 saw me visit the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival and, as very usual, the Bent & Bongs Beer Bash

I still hold that Bent & Bongs is not really a CAMRA festival.  It started with the local Round Table(s), moved on to Bent & Bongs Charitable Trust and whereas it has always had help in every aspect from local CAMRA branches (Wigan, mainly), it doesn’t really push itself as a CAMRA do.

Now Bent & Bongs has always had 3 stalls; right back from my attending at the much missed Formby Hall, which were casks ales, ciders & perries and foreign beers (sometimes with bottles).  2019 saw the introduction of “Craft Corner” where by 10 beers were presented by Keg (and the were keg, not CAMRA “real ale approved” KeyKeg).

Still, having visited the Manchester version from when it was the “Winter Ales” version and then when it moved to the velodrome and almost killed people with the amount of walking required, the set up has been fairly similar, up until the move to GMex (or Manchester Central if you must).

During this rather move the beer scene has evolved (or in-vovled) and so CAMRA, wishing to not miss a trick developed a way of getting Keg (any keg style) into their festival but for sake of brevity (set-up), this year, with the exception of the brewery bars and Irish Bar, the keg were kept in the “Keg & KeyKeg Bar” – note the distinction even here, they should really add Dolium just for the fuck of it too.

Anyway, it was only on the final day of Bent & Bongs I noted the clear distinction between Cask and Craft.

Not anyone’s fault, the terms aren’t mutually exclusive.  Same with real ale, keg, keykeg, or whatever material the cask is made out of.

Or for that matter is the cask it pump or gravity.

But you can only field the “what’s the difference between cask and craft?” question so many times, trying not to notice the glazed look in the eyes of the asker, not from beer but from your own overly long, if technically correct answer, before you just say…

Craft (beer), in the UK, it’s a marketing term.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Atherton – Between a Marston’s and a Gin Place

If you’ve ever wondered why this blog has the title it does then please observe the screen shot below.

 

I’ve been “working on” a historical blog about Atherton for over 5 years (yes, 4 edits, you should see the paper work and photos) and as such doing this piece is a stop-gap of sorts.

So I’m not going to go on about the town’s history or the name, though you pronounce it “a-THER-tun” not like the cricketer.

In reading this piece please excuse my use of the apostrophe, possessive, lack thereof, or otherwise as basically I don’t care, you know what I mean.

Entering Atherton from its various directions you will first encounter…

  • The Atherton Arms (Holt’s)
  • The Mason Arms (Heineken)
  • The Talbot (Marston’s – known as the Jockey after Shameless)
  • The Letters Inn (Random)
  • The Lion Inn (Random – known as the Little Lion)

An additional brewery tied pub is The Royal (Hydes).

Then it gets murky as we then have regular CAMRA award winner, The Jolly Nailor.

The Nailor was the scene for a meeting with a fellow and far better beer blogger

This was Thwaites, then (and currently) Allgates.

Not that Allgates exists as such any more, that is now subdivisions of Two Left Feet Brewing and Wigan Brewhouse.

There is also another perennial CAMRA award-winning pub in the shape of The Pendle Witch, owned by Moorhouse’s

In the past year Atherton has seen 4 individual alcohol based establishments open.

The Taphouse (micropub – cask, keg, gin) and across the road, set up by the same bloke, The Sin Bin (sports bar – keg).

There is also The Cazbah (gin, keg, real cider) and The Lamp (gin, keg).

The point about this piece is why I find it all very murky and annoying now, not that I wish to detract from any establishments named in this piece, that all have their merits and I will always frequent most of them as and when I can.

So, The Lamp has the same keg supply as the Taphouse (not unsurprising as breweries and suppliers will install lines for free/discounted, if you carry certain products).

The Jolly Nailor, which like all other Allgates pubs always has had Wainwrights on (Thwaites/Marston’s), seems to be getting no Wigan Brewhouse beers on recently.  In fact the cask range; barring we are approaching Halloween so it seems mandatory every cask outlet has to have Hobgoblin on (Hobgoblin Gold, for a small change), seems to be similar to that of the Taphouse.

Not only that but new keg lines are now installed on the bar carrying the DE14 Flight Suit (Marston’s) amongst others with Lancaster Bomber Ale (Thwaites) also a mainstay.

Switch over to the Pendle Witch and you have 10 cask lines. 5 are standard Moorhouses brews (but not Witches Brew recently, which is most annoying, perhaps they don’t have the right syrup in stock for it at the moment), 5 are guest, which used to man a wide range of breweries (at least at the weekend) were represented but now now one is always a cider, 2 are Moorhouses specials (one being always fucking Stray Dog) and oh…its another Marston’s beer.

Add to that a keg line now carrying 13 Guns by Thwaites Crafty Dan and then the addition of this…

As if the other 5 lagers they carry just isn’t enough.

Don’t get me wrong I love the Pendle Witch (and the Nailor) they are comfy, proper pubs with bench seating, gamblers and patrons from all walks of life.

Barring the last on that list the same can’t be said for The Lamp and The Cazbah, which are all brick, industrial metal and other repetitive crap that I really am getting sick of seeing in new alcohol-led ventures but that is a rant I’ll save for another post.

So quite what is happening with the beer selection in some of Atherton’s pubs I don’t know.  I obviously care enough to write this piece, it is probably written slightly out of worry, as I always do when pubs become seemingly change tack with regards choice of beer.

I know choice isn’t everything but both these pubs, though they have both seen owner changes over recent years, seem as popular as they were back when I started this blog and way before that.  They seemed to always be turning over their beer and always had a fine range of cask.  It is just a bit sad when you can walk between a few non-tied establishments and be confronted with the same bar.

It is a good thing they provide things additional to that, that still make them worth visiting.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Sidenote: In researching to clarify brewery relationships it was nice to see the TAND quoted in a Wikipedia piece

Zwanze – Beer Fools and their Money

This is a piece about observations and should not reflect on either the business or the brewery and their practices as they can do what they want.

Just like people can spend their money on what they want but this event just confused me, that is was something I’ve never heard of should suggest that I write from a place of ignorance, so be it.

Wiki History

I’d gone into Manchester, the first time in a while, for a drink and a large bite to eat.  On a tour of brewery taps, mainly due to location this was Runaway and the first and still the best Blackjack

It was here I bumped into a man who knows his beers and he mentioned he was off to Pilcrow for a beer tasting he’d got a ticket to.

I’m no fan of the Pilcrow.  For all its hand-made, locals-gave-their-time-and-labour ethos, it has always struck me as cold and efficient and all very, very cynical but as one of the party I was with hadn’t been, for the sake of plurality we trekked along and I was surprised at what I saw.

First it was busy, heaving in fact.  All seats taken inside and it was also very full in the courtyard.  I got a drink (as expensive as I’m sure the rent for this place is) and sat outside mulling it over when I bumped into yon mon again.  He’d been to a separate token bar and treated himself to a couple of other Cantillon beers and the Boon.

 

That’s £2.50 for a third but if you’ve been to IndyMan you’re used to this pricing structure/one measurement only thing.

The beers were nice; I realise nice can seem like it is damning with faint praise but that is all they were nice, above average but then again this wasn’t the main event.

Not knowing what was going on I was then surprised to see a queue start forming, snaking out of the door and around the table I was perched at.

It was a queue I’d not seen since the likes of Port Street and any number of other bars where people have a curious notion of what it is to wait at a bar for service.

It was then explained that it was 8pm and this is when the Zwanze 2018 goes on sale.

The queue went pretty fast as people with blue wristbands came out with their lovely branded glasses and their 1/3s of this brand new beer.

The cost of this little extravaganza…

£12.

Twelve quid for 1/3 of beer (5.5%) and a glass that some would end up forgetting.

Though some were lucky enough to have got to the newly opened Northern Monk gaff and had a suitable tote bag all ready bulging with glassware.

My beer expert pal was totally under impressed.  Being rather wry about the experience he did mention that he probably could have got it a damn sight cheaper from the places he regularly visits in Belgium but where as he was happy to attend he wouldn’t do it again.

It was at this point I was asked by a bloke with a most unsubtle Yorkshire twang where Victoria Station was.  I motioned it was a minute away, then thought that if you were planning a night out, always work out how and where you get home from.

Then I thought that given the bullshit with striking guards and the incomplete timetable Northern Trains are currently working to because of this (and numerous other UK train crap bollocks shit nonsense) that it probably would have been cheaper and quicker for said Yorkshire gent to have gone to Brussels to try the beer.

Fifteen minutes later was when then next and most startling observation occurred.  The whole place had emptied.

The inside was still well seated but no one was standing about and the outside looked like something from the Walking Dead.

It was eight thirty in the PM and that was Zwanze day.

A collective shrug was given as we said our good byes and went off to a far better drinking establishment.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

A 1977 Watneys Calendar (NSFW?)

Disclaimer 1: These images are used as part of fair use, with thanks to the original providers.

Disclaimer 2: Due to me suspecting that nude images will be flagged, I have edited the photographs in order for them to be “acceptable”

 

So, without getting into any kind of political rants at all, I simple present some pictures I found of the way beer was advertised in the 70s.  These are presented only for historical record, they may be of interest to anyone that likes charting beer marketing throughout the ages.  All comments are welcome below.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading.