Prequel: If Beer Was…

If Brewdog Was…

They Live

This past weekend, a reincarnated ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper took a trip up to Aberdeen, Scotland.

 

 

On the way there he was given some sunglasses which caused strange things to be seen when he tried them on…

 

 

 

He then found his way to a meeting of, well he didn’t know what to make of it…

 

 

 

He snapped at the gathering…

 

 

The more loyal members of the fan club became enraged and went on the attack…

 

And sadly Roddy and his morals were no more…

The moral of the story is, you never know what you are buying in to…

…or who you are drinking a beer with…

 

Thanks for reading…

 

 

 

 

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Day 11 – #12BeersofXmas 2015

Day 11 – #12BeersofXmas 2015

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Brewery – Allgates & Northern Monk

Location – Wigan, Grt Manchester (historically Lancashire) & Leeds, West Yorkshire.

The Drink: Northern Gates

ABV: 8.2% – 750mL (or maybe 660mL)

Style: Barley Wine

This collaboration between the red and the white rose was a limited bottle release from 2013.  Each bottle was labelled “1 of 500” which though correct probably got a few people to soil themselves thinking they’d actually got bottle number 1.  As such this bottle has been aged by me for about 2 years.

It had to happen and when it does it comes to how we approach the situation.

In this instance I’m referring to an under performing bottle.  Choosing 12 drinks in advance for the #12beersofXmas pens you in to only reviewing those 12 and only being able to do so when near both the drink itself and a computer, hence the delay in Day 11 (and 12) of these reviews.

When I tweeted my 12 bottles one response was from a concerned follower about the Northern Gates as the reviews for it had been less than glowing.

A quick scan of Untappd showed that not only was this the case but that, rather conveniently, those most recent reviews had come from people I “know” via twitter/Untappd and beer gatherings in general and therefore people whose views I would trust.

A bit more research (and really I should have contacted the breweries directly and for that I apologise) from others close to the brewery suggest that a faulty batch of caps had lead to what was really a 50/50 shout.  Some closures hadn’t sealed properly, some had even gone rusty, others would be OK.

Funny thing is the more I think about it the more I think I may have had this on keg and Indy Man upon its initial release…who knows, this review is about the bottle…

The bottle opens with an audible hiss and pours a glorious deep amber colour and is clear as a bell.  A small, white sticky head forms but quickly dissipates.

Sadly this is where my hope that I was lucky with my bottle.  The smell was tart fruits but a pungent aroma of something that wasn’t quite right.  Perhaps all the negativity was impacting and I was just being to trepidatious but sadly upon tasting my worries were confirmed.  The taste was as it smelt, overly acidic and quite unlike any beer let alone barley wine I’ve tasted in some time.

It is a shame, less because of hope it would be good or from any money being wasted but because both breweries are very near the top should I ever compose a list of my favourites.  Allgates themselves won my 2015 Golden Pints award and I really enjoy Northern Monk beers (and even chocolates made from their wonderful Strannik) and had a great time at their Refectory.

Breweries big and small do make a duff beer sometimes (regardless of how much sycophantic fans wish to laud every beer released by certain breweries) but sometimes luck plays a part too.  You can get everything right up to delivery to the customer and still a beer will never hit 100% of the intended aim set out to achieve.

But then that is the joy of beer; if you got nothing but great beer served properly in great pubs by highly competent and attentive bar staff then I for one wouldn’t have much to talk about and you lot wouldn’t waste your time reading this amateurish nonsense.

 

 

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy 2016.

 

The Road to Wigan Beer – The Allgates Brewery Beer Festival/Pub Crawl 2014

The Festival started on the 17th April 2014, it runs till the 27th April 2014.

If you can’t catch it, because of some geographical reason being the only fit excuse, then it will come around again (hopefully) in October.

This is the festival’s 1 year anniversary, but as it appears to be a bi-annual event the idea of an anniversary is rather moot.

I first went when it first started, last April, but then I only took in 3 of the pubs on the tour.

I then took in all 7 pubs last October, which I did a week after the bus and decided to rely on public transport – you can read about those exploits by clicking on this whole, entire sentence.

This year I decided to get on the bus. It was a shame that the Jolly Nailor of Atherton (pronounced a-THER-tun, not ath-er-ton) decided not to take part this time around, but that didn’t stop me going and still managing to do all 7 pubs – plus some additional ropey ones in Wigan town centre.

Now if you want a proper review, with photos and proper descriptions of the beer then go to this link for ‘Beers Manchester’ and his review of exactly the same day, and actually, more or less the same drinks.

Just a quick one at The Anvil and it was the 4.3% Bourbon Milk Stout by Sonnet 43 Brew House. I worry about drinking my type of drink first, everything will always be judged by it. What a gloriously sweet and full stout.

Then it was off to catch Old Wigan Bus. In any decade I don’t know where orange and brown was every considered a good colour scheme. Still, it brought back days of yore when sherbet was my drug of choice, but given that sugar is the new dietary evil I suppose alcohol deserves the break for a while.

Off to Crooke Hall Inn. I noted that some people chose to eat here. I’d eaten at Crooke Hall last year and it was a monster of a lamb shank that really set the day off to a good start. But with so many of Allgates Brewery pubs doing food, I thought it only fair to ‘save myself’ and to eat a meal at a place I hadn’t tried yet…more on that later.

Crooke Hall is built on the canal, it was typical that what was a sunny and calm day most of the time chose our visit to this pub to actually become over cast and a bit windy.

I got a fair few halves down my in this place – trying as many of the 11 pumps that were on offer than were new to me.

Anarchy Brew Co was first with the Blonde Star. A 4/1% IPA that went down very quickly and was a good balance to the other pale ale I had…

…the Pacific Pale Ale (4.5%) by ShinDigger Brewing Co. This was a massively popular drink.

Getting off a bus with a load of beer drinkers you can be guaranteed 2 things – a good laugh and a ready-made queue (either for the toilet or the bar). Upon entering Crooke Hall, it turned out that every one had gone for the Pacific Pale.

I had had it before at The Love Beer Festival in Chorlton, for free – on keg.

Getting it on cask was a no brainer and obviously you get all the full fruity flavours when it is served at a more reasonable temperature. Now I just have to find the West Coast Pale Ale – which is also on at the festival, just a question of keeping an eye out for when it comes on.

An Elderflower Blonde (4.0%) by Saltaire Brewery was very refreshing. Having never had Elderflowers, I can now say I have, the taste and the smell were wonderful, a good sensory assault.

Next up were Pictish Brewing with the 4.0% Lubelski. Pictish had it all to play for. They’ve set themselves up for a fall because every beer I’ve had from them is wonderful. Maybe it’s the Rochdale water, most probably its the talent of the brewers (I hear they swapped brewers recently, but I’ve not noticed any drop off). The over-riding thing I get from Pictish is the smoothness of their drinks. They can be any variation of hops, malts, water, barley; but in the end they always go down very well and the Lubelski was no exception.

Finally came the Risky Blond (4.4%) from the people of Fool Hardy Brewery. Another well-balanced, quickly drunk pale ale.

Back on to the bus for the big journey to The Union Arms.

This was a challenge for the bladder. With every twist and turn of the well-known roads, with every revolution of the wheels on the bus going round and round, I got that bit more on edge.

Off the bus and into the toilet I went – leading a veritable troupe of punters behind me.

Couple of ‘off-programme’ brews were had in here. Elland Brewery had 4 on the programme but Beyond The Pale (4.2%) was not one of them. Still, not to worry as this was as drinkable session pale as you can want.

Also consumed was OSB – Old School Brewery and their Detention (4.2%) and a welcome session bitter after so many pales.

Because of the set-up of the bar in The Union, a central bar with rooms around it, you have to rely on colourful card signs, sometimes in lieu of pump clips, to let you know what is on the other casks. And after another quick toilet break (seal well and truly broken) I noticed that a Black Jack Beers brew had gone on the bar. Black Jack, in my estimations, are very much like Pictish, in that they have not let me down yet with any of their beers. New Deck (4.2%) which I insist on calling New Jack (a confusion between the brewer and the psychotic ECW wrestler) was again no different, another pale ale and another easily quaffable brew.

Some took the opportunity to eat here. I have many times and I was waiting to the next pub, in Leigh, The White Lion.

The bus arrived at about 3.50pm, food service ended at 4.00pm – bit of a blind panic came over me, ordering beer and begging for some food. Both came through.

Food at The White Lion, Leigh
Food at The White Lion, Leigh

Check that lot out. £5.50 each – or 2 for £10. No I didn’t have both. But I did mix and match between the all day breakfast and the Steak Pie. Look at the size of that pie. Big chunks of meat and rich gravy. The breakfast was huge too and then you’ve got a massive boat of additional gravy. Nice one Harry.

This would have been perfect alone but then I got what were probably my two favourite beers of the evening.

Atom Beers Pale Ale (4.5%) are another very new brewery, great website that appeals to my scientist persuasion. Yep it’s another pale ale, but it was a goodie, lots of hops, smooth and clean.

But then came the daddy of the day. Off-programme it maybe, but having a Chili Plum Porter (6.1%) on cask it like a red rag to a bull with me and this The Waen Brewery was the absolute dogs bollocks. Smooth, full-bodied, big gulps were taken of this, then the tingle of the chili came in the after-taste. A stonker.

On to the bus and off to Hindley to visit The Hare and Hounds.

I sat in the corner and let my food digest while I was brought, well I was told it was a Session by Allgates themselves, but I have no idea about the details other than it was a reddish ale and it was nice.

Back on to the bus and off to Haigh Village to visit The Victoria.

This time it was the Ostara (3.6%) by Allgates and the Five Towns Brewery with their Day At The Races (3.9%). Both pale ales and both drunk with gusto that belied just how long a day it was, so that is testament to how good those beers are.

There was hot-pot on offer, but I declined, still full from the meal(s) at the White Lion.

All that was left to do was get back on the bus and return to The Anvil.

It was at this point that my evening got rather odd. We then visited a few other bars in Wigan. Yes, bars – not pubs (to be discussed later).

Then it was back on the train and to get off at Atherton to make our way to The Jolly Nailor to complete all 7 of the Allgates pubs.

Do I know what I drank there?

No, they had 5 cask pumps and a rock band on and it was getting close to midnight.

I still went over the road to The Pendle Witch for another beer I can’t remember.

Then I went home – again I can’t remember how.

A long, long day. I’m keeping my eyes on the twitter feeds of all the pubs, to see if anything comes up that really interests me.

Thanks to all the pubs and staff and the bus driver for an excellent day out.

Same time in October?

Obviously.

Bent & Bongs Beer Bash 2014

This event, the 25th hosting of it took place between January 30th and February 1st 2014.

Bent – short for Chowbent is the nickname of Atherton.

Bongs – is the nickname of Tyldesley, no I don’t know the etymology of it either – anyone?

Entry is £5-£7 depending on the day (discount for CAMRA members and if you arrive after a certain time).

You get your glass and programme as part of the entry fee, so no glass refunds for those that are used to them.

Tokens are in papers booklets of £10 and the major quirk of this festival is having to rip off the amount you need, yep no help with marker pens here.  So what you end you with is second guessing yourself doing that self-deluding drunken maths where you think “if I take £1 and the 10p of this sheet I can take to 10p tokens off another and then I’ll have £X and X pennies left for the next drink.”

What you end up doing is dropping loads of paper ‘cash’ on the floor like confetti and generally not realising as you stagger away from the bar.

The men’s toilets also queue, but it goes down quick and you get some of the best banter in there because of it.

The coat room is through into the lady’s toilet area – yes, this was the first year I put my coat in (and umbrella) and I was taken aback – its run by St. John’s Ambulance who merely ask for a donation.

The festival raises money for local charities and has raised somewhere in the region of £400,000 in the 25 years its been going.

I’ve been going to this festival a fair few years now.  Usually on the Friday, with opening times of 5-11pm and you’d think it was 9.30pm when really it was 6.30pm and you realised just how hammered you were.

It now opens at 4pm, I think mainly because Fridays prior to this (this only being the 2nd year of 4pm opening) were rammed – one in, one out, if you weren’t in the queue by 5pm you probably wouldn’t get in till everyone else was hammered at 6.30pm, so popular was it.

Now, whereas I will queue with about 45 minutes till opening, all my cohorts can turn up at 4pm on the dot and be in within 10 minutes and the hall remains a breathable and fairly fresh place – because sometimes it was almost a heaving primordial soup of drunkards – the best kind.

Drinks are served by the half or pint and the food is how I judge all other festival food.

You’ve got Bury Black Pudding, Roast Beef Barms, Cheese & Pickle Barms (for veggies apparently), a wide variety of sausages and the piece de resistance…HOT POT.

Hot pot, with peas, red cabbage and suet crust – again you could tell how busy the festival used to get when the crust used to sell out.

Great, proper stodge, home-made and nothing more than £4.50 currently.

It was this event that taught me the vital need to eat something every 4-5 drinks if I wanted to last – and I do, long enough to go on to the Pendle Witch (Moorhouse’s) or the Jolly Nailor (Allgates Brewery), which always have beer festivals running alongside (to mop up the pre/post-drinkers or the unlucky souls) and be equally busy and where I always end up, if I’m not ‘tired’.

You always get good live music on too from a variety of acts over the 3 nights (and 1 afternoon session).

On to the beer – and this year’s was an absolute stormer, especially for the dark beers, so in saying that, I can’t even pick a favourite this time. I also forgot a pen, but improvised with other stranger’s pens and some lipstick.

Sadly I didn’t get hold of anything that 4Ts Brewery had to offer, so hopefully next time.

I ended the night on a Broadoak Moonshine Cider (7.5%) – my mates swear by it, they also swear a lot more when on it. If you like rather sweet, easy drink, bastard strength cider than I can recommend this.

The festival also carries quite a large range of foreign beers (bottle and keg) from around the world, sadly I didn’t get to go for a second session otherwise I would have tried some of these – I’ve got my eye on you Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout.

Anyway, the beers. In alphabetical order we have…

The aforementioned Allgates Brewery who provided their new 3.9% Crombouke Day-Eye TnT, which was a complete bugger to order but was a great, light pale ale; which was almost as enjoyable as their 4.2% Blue Sky Tea another light pale with the aroma and subtle flavourings of tea.

Ascot Ales were one of the brewers of one of the numerous great dark ales with their 4.5% Penguin Porter. Good malty flavours with the lovely coffee taste I want to have in my dark alcoholic beverages, something I’d happily have by a fire on a cold day – or even a badly-needs-bleeding radiator on a wet Friday night.

Binghams Brewery provided the truthfully named Space Hoppy (5%), a vanilla IPA that worked with the light vanilla taste round off the hops nicely, deceptively strong.

Next were some Southerners in the form of East London Brewing, of which I sampled to of their beers; the Jamboree a lovely golden ale, something that revives the memories that summer might come soon, but not a session ale at 4.8%, but very drinkable. The other was the 5.2% East India Spice a winter ale with a wonderful aroma which if it tasted like it smelt could have gone wrong (too many spices) but happily the actual spicy taste was no overpowering at all, I liked it, though I suspect some might not.

Ludlow Brewing Company were the next to tickle my taste buds with their dark offering with a Black Knight, more coffee and roasted tastes and smells from this 4.5% stout which was that good I’m willing to forgive them using the word Artisan on their website.

Next up are Naylor’s Brewery, continuing a fine dark drinks drinking experience with their 4.1% Porticus Stout, which I insisted on calling Portcullis (a ‘later that night’ drink). A lovely, smooth and velvety stout. I think I may have got almost overcome by all this wonder dark booze.

The amusingly named The Devils Deadly Weapon at a satanic 6.66% and an even more evilly labelled bespoke beer from North Star Brewery was a bit like a red-ale/barley wine hybrid to me and again something good enough to make me forgive the use of one of the horrible marketing descriptors.

Penpont Brewery brought along their quite lovely winter dark brew that was Silent Night. You new it was strong, it was at 7.2%, but it reached the cockles with a welcome warmth and an ensuing beer flushed face will follow.

Red Willow Brewery brought along their 6.5% Soulless which is what I would expect from a brewery who have yet to make a beer I didn’t like. Black IPA with a citrus twang.

A collaboration next from Great Heck Brewery and Steel City Brewing in the form of another wintry, festive brew called Yule Twig (5.2%). Brown ale with hops and Xmas pudding – something to enjoy sat next to a blazing Sheffield steel furnace (well, not too close).

Thwaites. What the fuck is going on with Thwaites? While they decide what the fuck they are doing, so long as they keep producing great beers like the 6.5% Old Dan (a good fruity old-ale like brew) and Smoke Stack a very smoky 5.8% dark beer that had good body a flavour even if the smoke was a bit too much like bacon they should at least maintain some sort of drinking base (if not a work force).

TrueFitt Brewing had brought along their Ironopolis Stout (4.7%) which all I can say was I enjoyed so much when I previously had it, about a year ago, that I went and had it again despite all the other choice.

Sarah Hughes Brewery. I will state now that the name Sarah Hughes Ruby Mild is one of my beery muses. The pinnacle of what I call ‘dangerously drinkable’ (6%). Along with queuing & eating the other ritual I have for this festival is this drink. I had never seen it anywhere else, yet it is always here. I wait 365 for this thing. I’m like an out of shape, shorter version of Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi in Point Break, but I won’t be waiting 10 years for this wonderful beer storm.

Yes I love it. But I will say that all the other drinks more than held their own against it, so I was a very happy (and massively pissed) boy.

So thanks again to all the organisers and volunteers (even if they didn’t respond to my requests to offer a hand).

Same time next year for more queues, beers and Hot Pot.

Beer Festivals 2013 – A Debrief

I started this blog at the back end of May this year (2013) and consequently I missed out on reviewing quite a few beer festivals.

I’m not going to do that now, I’m just going to look back fondly on them.

Beer Festivals 2013

The joys of attending beer festivals is you are never going to be short of etched glasses, or for that matter beer programmes (or t-shirts if you are that way inclined).

A quick roll call for the above photo, much like a sports team’s yearly squad photo is:

Front Row (l-r): Wigan CAMRA Festival, Salford Summer Beer Festival, Manchester Winter Ales (sharp eyes may spot the glass is from 2012 but I went in 2013, no idea where the glasses went)

Back Row (l-r): IndyMan Beer Con, Bolton Beer Festival, Marble 125th Birthday Festival, Boothstown British Legion Festival, Love Beer in Chorlton, MOSI Beer Festival, Bolton CAMRA Festival, Bent & Bongs and the Leeds Beer Festival.

This doesn’t include the ones that either didn’t do their own glasses or had run out, such as Allgates Festival/Pub crawl and the Scrumdown Festival.

The Wigan CAMRA was new to me but has been going years, Salford Summer was an inaugural event and the Winter Ales festival I’ve been to a few times, but I believe the ‘winter ales’ side has located to Derby for a while and so the new incarnation for the upcoming Manchester festival will be the one at the velodrome.

I don’t suppose the Marble Arch will have another one for at least another 25 years.

IndyMany is in its 2nd year (as is the Leeds one, though it was my first time attending that), Bolton CAMRA has been going a while as has the other Bolton one and they are nicely spaced at different times of the year and different ends of the town.

MOSI is in its third year, with a maybe permanent change of late summer from its original early summer dates.

Allgates did its first two Festivals/Pub Crawls this year (as far as I’m aware) and I can see that being quite the regular event, for which I will get their provided transport for.

Love Beer was also an inaugural event (I always seem to miss the other Chorlton Beer Festival), Boothstown is in its 2nd year, Scrumdown is in its 6th and Bent and Bongs will celebrate its 25th birthday in 2014.

These all take place in a myriad of different locations, some very (too?) well attended some not so much, some easy to get too, some worthy of a trek.

But there are now quite a few new ones popping up everywhere and this blog will endeavour to travel even further afield to sample beers and the atmospheres.

This kind of begins with my trip to Sydney (Australia) in February, so if anyone reading this can recommend so good brew pubs or beers to try when I’m over there please comment.

Here is to 2014, long may we be kept in beer.

Boothstown Beer Festival (2nd)

This is a review for the 2nd, my 1st and hopefully annual, Boothstown Beer Festival.

As of writing this the event is still open, running from the 15th-16th November 2013.

Boothstown Itinerary
Boothstown Itinerary

Boothstown is a place that if you don’t live there then it is merely a place people drive through to get from the East Lancs. (A580) to the motorways (M60, M62, M602). Or when you’re a kid, its that place with all them big houses on ‘Millionaire’s Row’.

For me its a place where I had a rather dodgy curry experience and a rather hair raising driving experience when I was allowed out driving for the first time after passing my test.

It is now also the home of the personification of the simple, easy to use and even easier to have fun beer festival.

£5 entry gets you a lovely, simply pint glass.  Marked with full and half pint measures, a lovely poppy logo and a taxi rank number.

Beer tokens come in £5 sheets and are crossed off at the bar with marker pens, £3.20 is the most expensive pint.

The guide is simply laid out with an introduction and then split into ‘Amber’, ‘Golden’ and ‘Dark’ Ales with a separate Perry/Cider section.

With no tasting notes (which is a subject I’ve been meaning to cover for a while), just brew name, brewer name,  price (per pint), %ABV and the barrel sponsor.  The barrel flashes feature the exact same info should you forget your guide and I think the beer is arrange in alphabetical order (ish).

The food was a cheese and onion barm or sausage and onion roll (we are talking proper sausage here too) or a pork pie from a local butchers, glistening in jelly as proper pork pies should.  Hopefully there might be a bit more of a range next year, a good lobby perhaps?

In no particular order here are the beers I tried:

Allgates had brought along 3 beers, one of which was their Poppy (4.5%, 10p donation to Poppy appeal with each pint sold) was a very dark amber beer.  Indian pale in taste, with big hoppy flavours offset with a malty sweetness.

Thwaites Crafty Devil (4.3%) was another tasty, malty hoppy amber ale with a certain sweetness to it.

Liverpool Brewery had provided a 4.0% Pale which was just the right side of a hoppy golden ale for me to enjoy.  The kind of golden ale you drink it winter than makes you yearn for the summer.

4Ts Brewery also had a few brews and I tried their Red & Hoppy (4.9%) which you can just about see in the above picture.  Its redness is something to be hold as is its hoppiness, yes the clue was in the name.  The colour mixed with the flavour really did mess with my head, but in a good way and could be quite a dangerously drinkable beer.

Another Allgates beer to try was their Hung, Drawn & Portered (5.2%) it a fine dark Porter, smooth and rich and malty; what I want from a Porter with a distinct sweetness too.

Blackmere Brewery (Northern Brewing) next with a 5.0% Deep Dark Secret another smooth, dark ale with big coffee flavours and a hint of liquorice.

Greene King, them of the ever present Greene King IPA, or if you’re in Scotland Belhaven Best had brought along their 4.5% Porter called 1799 after their year of foundation and when it came out of the barrel in its dark and frothy ways I thought and was actually proved correct that it had an over-riding taste of an old fashioned Dandelion and Burdock, in a good way.

The Leyther (that’s Leigh for the uninitiated) brewery that is Urban Hop had brought along their Golden Jack (3.8%) which I had previously enjoyed in Manchester and this time I finally got to try their Black Jack (4.0%).  Finding this beer had been teasing my for a while, walking into pubs which had the pump clip on the wall, or even had their branded pint glasses or beer mats to drink and rest someone else brew from.  This was a smooth and if I’m honest too quickly neckable drink.  A session ale in dark form.

Finally we get to the Cheshire Brew House offering of Stormy Point, the reassuringly most expensive beer in the guide, by a whole 20p, because this beast was 6.7%.  The taste belies its strength, so this is another dangerously drinkable dark brew that should come with a disclaimer.  To me it also had a fruitiness to it too, kind of like the cherry (or strawberry) on top.

A small and perfectly formed beer festival, a live blues band provided the music too, which was far more entertaining that England’s performance against Chile that only a handful of people were watching.

Thanks to all the volunteers and the everybody else who put this all together.

It is all for a good cause too, so always remember them.

Lest We Forget.

The Road to Wigan Beer – The Allgates Brewery Beer Festival/Pub Crawl 2013

This event took place between the 3rd – 13th October, over 7 pubs.

If memory serves, this event took place earlier in about March of 2013, but as it stands I went to all 7 magnificent pubs over a very drawn out 12-hour period of drinking and commuting on Saturday 12 October 2013, this was the 3rd and final of my ‘3 different beer festivals over 3 days’ extravaganza.

Take ‘took place’ with a pinch of salt because Allgates pubs regularly rotate guest ales – from a drinkers perspective (especially cask) they are a dream, while the ‘Road to Wigan Beer’ might not be officially ‘on’ any more, the chance of doing your own pub crawl to all 7 is a yearly event of your own making – just plan ahead – and don’t try and walk it or rely on First Bus if you wish to keep relatively sane.

This review will be as much about the pubs as the beers, which I suppose is the crux of the actual festival.

Now if you follow my Twitter feed, you may be aware I spend a good portion of my rants going off on Northern Rail.  This Saturday though (and if I’m being honest most weekends, shame they have to mess my working week about so much) they were faultless.  Which leaves me sad it can never run this smoothly for at least one week, five continuous days of return journeys. There, the most backhanded, caveat laced compliment I can give to them.

Getting in to Gathurst station sometime around 12.30pm, it was a mere stroll down to the canal, passing a man with a hawk – I shit you not, I wish I’d got a picture, but if ever you’ve seen a better omen to the start of a long day I welcome you up the ante.

The Way to Crooke Hall Inn
The Way to Crooke Hall Inn

6 minutes by bike to the 1st pub The Crooke Hall Inn which means for my pace a leisurely 15 minutes on foot. Oddly the sign pointing the way back to Gathurst suggests its 10 minutes by bike.

I can only assume the sign makers added 4 minutes on for the alcohol induced staggering that may be one consequence of visiting Crooke.

Crooke Hall Inn
Crooke Hall Inn

What a glorious site. It screams England in every utopian sense of nationalistic pride even I get once in a while. Even the weather held all day.

I started off the day with Bexar Brewery and their Texan Pecan Coffee Mild (3.9%) and this probably was tied top drink of the whole trek; dark, smooth and with a good clean flavours of, well, work it out from its name.

Late Knights Brewery also tripped my taste buds with their 3.9% Crack of Dawn  – a pale ale of very good quality.

Crooke Hall Inn is quite lovely, inside and out – and check out this Should of Lamb

Lamb Shoulder
Lamb Shoulder

To all intents and purposes this was actually the worst pub to start the crawl on – I mean, there were about another 4-6 ales on the bar, the food, the location – who’d want to move?

(Distance walked: ~ 2 miles)

Well the bar man did look a bit like Sam Tomkins and being as I’m a Centurions supporter and was a man on a mission I needed to get a-walking, so it was back to the train station (via the pub on the platform for a shandy) and a quick 5mins back to Wigan and to visit The Anvil.

The Anvil, Wigan
The Anvil, Wigan

It was about 2pm and this place was fairly heaving, a proper town centre pub that I’d been in a couple of times before, but some time prior.  As my years have rolled on, this is more the type of pub I like – its very local, but not intimidating – if you’d never been in before, you’d be surprised at what is on offer at the bar.  If you get the train you also walk passed the Allgates Brewery too, which I went up to and pushed my nose against the windows like some kid out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

In The Anvil I was served, by a rather pretty bar maid, the Bosuns Whistle (4.3%) from Bosuns Brewing Co. and the Insomniac Stout (4.0%) by The Malthouse Brewery.  The latter was a smooth coffee stout, very nice; the former was a nice hoppy, summery and good representation of a golden ale.

Back on the train for another 3 minute ride and 2 minute walk to The Hare and Hounds in Hindley.

Hare & Hounds, Hindley
Hare & Hounds, Hindley

Another new pub for me and a jolly nice, fairly small boozer.

The small bar surrounded by the locals.

A sign cheerfully telling me to “not be offended if we ask you if you are over 25” is immediately rendered ironic as I’m served by a very pretty girl who looks to be barely in her 20’s.

Here I had the ever excellent Boggart Hole Clough Brewery presenting me with a to be expect excellent Mud Brawler Vanilla (4.4%). A rich, lightly vanillary porter and my joint No.1 of the day.

I was bowled over by the Fubar (4.4%) from Tiny Rebel Brewing Co., (1) because I’d heard a lot about them and (2) because according to the booklet it wasn’t supposed to be in this pub, but I’m not about to get worked up about this welcome surprise which as the notes said, was all over the place with regards taste, but in a good way.

It was then time to leave this lovely little boozer and do THE trek. Disheartened that no buses operated along the route I set out like Captain Oates.

It turned out to be a near 6 mile round trip to The Victoria

The Victoria, Aspull (Haigh Village)
The Victoria, Aspull (Haigh Village)

I got there only to hear them talking about how busy they were last week when Allgates had organised a bus around the 7 pubs and that how all the beer they had got in for the festival had all ready been emptied.

I settled for one of Allgates own Napoleon‘s Retreat (3.9%) which I’ve had and enjoyed before and sat down in the rather large and luxurious village pub contemplating just what I had done and what I was still about to do.

Back on the train to disembark at Atherton (Bent) and walking (1.3 miles) into Tyldesley (Bongs) to visit a pub I’ve been a fair few times called The Union Arms.

Union Arms, Tyldesley (Bongs)
Union Arms, Tyldesley (Bongs)

Full Nelson (3.8%) by Two Roses Brewery was finished off by a man who was in massive need of a light ale and got just that.  A Swift (3.9%) by Trumans Beer was another good stab at a golden ale, as was the Golden Rivet (3.7%) from Bosuns Brewing Co..

Sadly I’d got to The Union just after they’d stopped serving food, but I can tell you then do some great stodge, which has saved my beer days/afternoons/nights out a few times. The pub itself is set on many levels with the bar in the middle and a very good jukebox. Its another welcoming ‘locals’ pub (a theme it would seem).

Now here is were First Bus decide to mess me about. A number 12 service that would have taken me to Atherton and then on to Leigh would make good value even after 8pm for a day saver given the length of bus rides I still had to do, but it merely chose not to turn up.  So walking (1 mile) it was into Atherton to visit another familiar place to me in The Jolly Nailor.

Jolly Nailor, Atherton (Bent)
Jolly Nailor, Atherton (Bent)

The Nailor is a rock pub in the best sense.  A rock pub that is actually clean, late closing, usually with very loud, live music and of course a large range of ales.

By the time I reached here I was flagging, not solely through physical exertion but also the need for another dark ale before I succumbed to a golden ale coma.

Nothing doing with regards dark stuff; a Citrus Burst (5.3%) from Alchemy Brewing Limited certainly perked up the taste buds with a fruity IPA hit, but the real find was again from Bexar Brewery and their Rye (4.0%). An IPA of sorts, but bitter and sweet and red in colour and very, very different.  These people seem like one to hunt out more from.

Another walk to a bus stop and up roles a belated 12 service, but its not going to Leigh, its going back to Manchester.  I’m not walking another step, I can’t, but here comes the 582 which will get me to The White Lion and eventually back home again.

White Lion, Leigh
White Lion, Leigh

As I write this the White Lion is slated to do food on Fridays & Saturdays, but I settled for a few packs of Seabrooks (the best crisps, just) and a fair few beers to celebrated doing all 7 pubs.

The White Lion is another pub I’m familiar with, a middlish-sized pubs full of welcoming locals of every strata, well whatever possible different strata inhabit Leigh.  Here I had a Cockleroy Black IPA (4.8%) from Alchemy Brewing Limited, black IPA’s always flip my head and this was no exception. More stout like (malty) than any other other black IPA I’ve had, so by default its the best I’ve had so far.  The London Particular (4.0%) by Ha’penny Brewing Co. was a red brew full of sweet and malty flavours, and the Star (4.3%) by Portobello Brewing Co. was a good fruity bitter to end the night on.

So there you have it:

15 beers.

7 great pubs.

10 miles walked (give or take)

That’s a walking distance of 5.29e-13 parsecs Star Wars fans.

I was left to finish off the 3 final drinks and read about all the beers I hadn’t had chance to try.

I also resolved to get the sodding Allgates arranged bus next time.

That or hire a chauffeur for the day.

Thanks to all the brewers I got to sample, to all those I sadly didn’t and especially to all at Allgates and all the staff at every pub.

Same time.  Whenever.  Forever.  Our pubs are always there, we just have to use them.