Burnage to The Heatons – A Crawl of MicroBar Bottle Shops

Burnage (Pronounced: Bur-ni-d-g; or Bur-n-arrr-ge if you want to sound posh) always registered in my young mind as one of those places you don’t want to get caught out being in after dark.  Not quite as ominous of Longsight, Broughton or the infamous Moss Side but still just an “avoid” place.

All titles are links.

So you get the train out of Piccadilly for 2 stops, about 10 minutes, get off at Burnage Station and walk 1 minute to…

Reasons To Be Cheerful (@R2BCBeerCafe)

 

Of course I never had any reason to go to Burnage until the news was announced that this place was opening (it opened in January 2017) and I needed to do a recce to gauge roughly where it would be located and what this crawl would be like.

There is cider, 6 keg fonts and 3 casks (cellared) and most importantly…coat hooks on the bar…

 

Lovely little venue with a guy serving the beer, at the time of calling, called Dave who was very friendly and talkative.

The only odd thing about the place is its frontage is kind of subdued next to the ramp way of the take-away next door.

 

You then walk back passed the train station and continue over Kingsways in a straight line for about a quarter of an hour, passed the sign the lets you know you’re entering Stockport, you can tell this too because they’ve still got Co-Op stores, and you’ll end up at…

The Beer Shop

Which was closed on this occasion…but I had been before…

 

Beer Shop opened in 2011, and the place acts more like an off-license with a great range of beer bottle AND that happens to have a couple of casks (jacket chillers) that an actual micro boozery.  With its TV usually showing sports and its location in the middle of a housing estate it also feels more like someone’s front room, so overall it is a bit of a unique experience in the realms of drinking in Greater Manchester.

It is a bit of a windy 15 minute walk (that’s wind as in the movement that isn’t of the bowels) to Shaw Road which it the venue of the next place, which is…

Bottle Stockport

 

Opened in 2015, recently extended opening hours make this place more likely to be open when visiting these days, it is all keg and bottles and the seating and tables are those high, posing ones but its a nice little place with a good and varied range of beers.

 

Beers Manchester wrote a more detailed blog about Bottle here.

Then all you have to do is get up and take a left on to Heaton Moor Road which merges into School Lane when it crosses the A6 and you have reached…

Heaton Hops

There isn’t much more to be said about this place seeing as since its opening in 2015 it won award after award and the only time I’ve been able to get a seat is if I get there just as the shutters open.

2 cask, 8 keg, loads of bottles, a downstairs I’ve still never visited and the 70% chance you’ll get ranted at (and can join in with) by Jimmy from Malay Street Food  which is always good fun, though not as much fun as his food.

Once again, Beers Manchester writes more on this place, here.

After you’ve sampled the delights of Heaton Hops you can then walk back on yourself to Heaton Chapel train station and take the train back the Manchester (passé) or go via Stockport way and onward to where the drinking delights of Cheshire await.

Of course, other beer outlets are available

 

Thanks for reading.

The Pubs of Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales

It seems I’m going to be going off to that there Ynys Môn or Anglesey in a short while for what will appear to be long beach walks and not much else.

It been a long while since I was up that way, Bangor specifically, I’m thinking my last time there was 2002 and while doing a bit of a tidy up I found a CD full of pictures, mainly of people but also of pubs.

 

 

Belle Vue

My local – though it took me 4 years to win the bloody quiz.

Black Bull

This Wetherspoons pub saw me take full advantage of their 2 meals for £5.

County

Very much like a “country” pub inside, all horse brasses and the like.


Greek

They guy who managed this at the time looked like Patrick Stewart.

Harp

The site of many a lock-in and 4am games of pool.

OSheas

An Irish pub.

Patricks

Another Irish pub.

Ship

I recall this had spiral staircase (stupid idea) and a dance floor on the 2nd level that, by means of dense glass, you could see up from the ground floor.

Skerries

Very much like the County Arms.

Tap & Spile

Near the pier and the destination to go for a filled Stottie breakfast after a heavy night before.

Waterloo

Again, like the County Arms and Skerries.

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Like the County Arms Waterloo Inn and Skerries.

Firkin

This was one of those “Its a Scream” pubs, prior to that is was a Firkin (I forget what the & part was) but it remains the site of my greatest domination of pub quizzes.  So much so that our team couldn’t spend all the prize vouchers we won each week so ended up buying take-outs all the time, leading to my one and only….beer fridge.

fridge

…plus milk.

Absent from these pictures is The Globe, which I was always warned not to go in, especially during the 6 Nations and also The Mostyn Arms, which was around the corner from where I briefly lived and if memory serves was so small you could get a sweat on if you sat too close to the gambler.

There are of course the obligatory bars and clubs (mainly the Octagon) that I found myself in, surrounded by mini-buses full of people who’d made the weekend pilgrimage from the hills and valleys of the area.

Oddly, apart from the weekends, when the students were away on holiday it was like a ghost town.  I don’t been noticeable because it was so busy when the students were there, I mean really, really quiet.

It made for a hell of a pub crawl, just in lower Bangor alone.  A complete bugger trying to stagger up Glanrafon at the end of the night though.

The thing is, I looked up all these pubs on What Pub? and to my surprise (given the current trend) most of them are still open.

I look forward to going back.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

All photo courtesy of Frivolous Monsters

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.

Marble 57 Thomas Street…What Are the 39 Steps?

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After the “success” of my drunken blog about Cafe Beermoth this is the the next in a non-existent series I threatened to do.

And apparently I do mean threaten…

To be fair I have no idea why I put a Flash Gordon/Brian Blessed reference into that previous review title and the one I had planned for this review I promptly forgot on the walk to the train station, so please make do with reference to one of Hitchcock’s (and the world’s) greatest ever films.

While I tarry some more please cast your eyes over some previous reviews by Si, the Leeds BeerWolf and Tom “Full Fat” Ingham

(While I great increasingly pissed off at how wordpress links links to other wordpress blogs)

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This is the downstairs – if you’ve been before you should be semi-familiar with it.  Gone is the long “strangers drink together” table, replaced by smaller, raised tables and a more open bar serving keg beers (and spirits).

They also do far more food the previously, this is because, with the 1st floor now being open they have room for a bigger kitchen…

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Which you can barely make out to the right of the photo above but what is does it mercilessly taunt the senses of all those upstairs into wanting food.

That is if you aren’t playing “Jenga”

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Quite where you play Jenga Jeronimo remains to be witnessed.

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When I was there there was a huge centre table, reminiscent of the original beast originally downstairs but I am unsure as to whether this was merely because a large group was there and had pushed smaller tables together.

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I went in the revamped 57 Thomas Street sometime between Christmas and New Year of 2015 (when it was just the ground floor) and now it has 2 floors it does feel very much like two microbars stacked on top of each other.

The mood is relaxed, more so upstairs but for me it was a tad confusing.

When you walk in on the ground floor you see a big price list for all the keg (this is from memory).

When you walk upstairs the same kegs are on the front bar but there is no price list for them that I could see.

You have a price list for cask and cocktails, with the food list being downstairs (see above picture) and menus on the tables when required.

The casks are gravity, stored in what appears to be a temperature controlled room behind the bar.  It is a bit odd to see the bar staff walk away from you before reappearing in some kind of space station air-lock but you quickly get used to it.

The beer is reasonably priced for a Northern Quarter haunt and the atmosphere is both neither poncey nor repressive like I get in some other NQ establishments.

In short – blah, blah, yes its gravity cask – but given the choice and the relatively short walking distance, this would be my port of call if I wanted/needed a quick, quality drink before getting the train from Manchester Victoria.

 

Thanks for reading.

Addendum (25th Feb 2016)

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This is the hand dryer in the men’s toilet – far, far better than the one in Cafe Beermoth (then again, blowing on your own hands is more effective than that one) and the same style as the one in the Marble Arch.  It is one of those that really dries your hands while deafening you at the same time.

 

This is Ira.

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He was in our family for 17 years and while being the patriarch of all our cats he also seemed to cast a strange cult like spell of them all, male or female.

Sadly today was his last with us and he is now buried next to his brother George, who went some 10 years previously.

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So this obviously means me next post will be full of anger and hate, yes not really much different to usual.

 

Thanks again for reading.

Beer Hates You

It really does hate you.

It hates you for your race.

It hates you for your class.

It hates you for your Instagram account.

It hates you for your food matching twattery.

It hates you for your use of sparklers.

It hates you for your use of gravity.

It hates you for your blog about craft beer.

It hates you for your blog about beer that isn’t craft beer.

It hates you for your attendance at beer festivals.

It hates you for your mantra that beer people are good people.

It hates you for your cynicism about the mantra that beer people are good people.

It hates you for your opinions on craft beer.

It hates you for your opinions on beer that isn’t craft beer.

It hates you for your willingness to spend huge amounts of cash on craft beer.

It hates you for your willingness to buy from supermarkets.

It hates you for your drinking of real ale.

It hates you for your drinking of grapefruit ales.

It hates you for your drinking of key-keg.

It hates you for your drinking of dead keg fizz.

It hates you for your will to try to set up your own brewery.

It hates you for your hatred of family brewers.

It hates you for your CAMRA membership, or lack of it.

It hates you for drinking in industrial-chic and retro-fitted bars.

It hates you for drinking in a pub.

It hates you for serving it too warm.

It hates you for serving it too cold.

It hates you for #Dryanuary

It hates you for #Tryanuary and #TryJanuary

It hates you for drinking it in thirds.

It hates your liver.

It hates your kidneys.

It hates you because there is no safe limit.

It hates you for making it complicated.

Golden Pints 2015

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This is my entry into the Golden Pints of 2015, also known as the “bloggers just make up awards for specific things they wish to heap praise on.”

Best UK Cask Beer – Nothing fancy, just massively high quality beers that I have to split into categories to heap enough praise on both: Dark goes to Espresso Stout by Squawk and Pale goes to Sonoma by Track Brew Co.

Best UK Keg Beer – Evil Keg Filth award goes to – CloudWater – DIPA – don’t let anyone tell you any different but they got off to a very ropey start which the hype, marketing and the courting of London steered them through long enough to see them hit a really, really strong and positive stride in the final quarter of 2015 and this was one of their crowning achievements (along with their lagers).

Best UK Bottle or Can – Bottle goes to Native Sun Pinot Noir Barrel Aged Doppelbock (2014) by BlackJack and Can goes to Heart & Soul by Vocation Brewery

Best Overseas Draught – Think I’ll plump with Of Foam & Fury by Galway Bay Brewery (a highlight at Indy Man)

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer – Black Albert by Struise

Best Collaboration Brew – Hmmm, I’ll go with Five Towns Brewery and the Art Decade made in collaboration with Beers Manchester…and me…(I’d like to thank the academy, my mum and dad…)

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Best Overall Beer – Though I may feed into an ego I will go with Satanic Mills by Beer Nouveau

Best Branding, Pumpclip or LabelThe Runaway Brewery (so good even Greene King ripped them off)

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Best UK Brewery – Allgates Brewery

Best Overseas Brewery – De Struise Brouwers

Best New Brewery Opening 2015 – Going with Vocation Brewery

Pub/Bar of the Year – I still won’t be drawn on, there are too many good ones.

The What the Fuck and Why – Common Bar, Manchester – Lets turn a great bar with its own personality into a cold, sterile 10-a-penny IKEA knock-off to look more mature but then have a really childish and unprofessional Twitter account.

Beer Festival of the Year – Easily Salford Beer Festival though EastWestFest ran it quite close.  The rest of you can vote for Indy Man, Leeds or something in London.

Supermarket of the Year –Still don’t really use supermarkets for beer shopping.

Independent Retailer of the YearHeaton Hops – hands down, no contest.

Online Retailer of the Year – Not shopped online for beer in 2015.

Best Beer Book or Magazine – Not read many so would seem daft to give an award from a field of 2.

Best Beer Blog or WebsiteBeers Manchester for his beer/pub crawl reviews and Mark for his Beer Compurgation blog about everything else

Best Beer Blog Piece – This piece by Mark it isn’t about beer but it is one of the most important & honest pieces I’ve read on any subject (and he probably isn’t drunk enough to take the praise).

Best Beer AppTwitter. Untappd is just for badges.

Best Beer & Food Pairing – Well as the Tagine by Squawk isn’t available nationally (two fingers up to those who haven’t tried it) I’m going with Karkli

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Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer@CraftBeerHour – granted its a collective effort but I can think of nothing better than bouncing ideas of fellow beer drinkers and brewers, well apart from going to the pub with the same group, which would be financially crippling.

Best Brewery Website/Social mediaSquawk Brewing Co (@SQUAWKBrewingCo) – you like beer, food, wild animals and 80’s cheese then this is just pure entertainment.

 

Roll on 2016

Thank the Beer for Friends, Thank Friends for the Beer.

The Guardian article below cropped up in my twitter time-line a few weeks ago…

Is it just me… or does everyone lose friends in their 30s?

Of course typically the title is misleading as it then proceeds to bemoan how it is men that lose friends and then does its liberal hand-wringing over such matters but I’ll leave the role of “men” in a modern society till another time.

You can debate till the cows come home about what makes a friend and how (and if) there is a place to differentiate between what is a “mate” or who is just an “acquaintance” and all the other synonyms given to people who fulfil similar roles in our lives.

I personally don’t deny that over the past few years I’ve not had much contact with my university friends but these things are two-way streets and you can only make contact a certain number of times with little reply before you think that if they don’t make they effort then neither will I.

Not that there is any malicious motive behind such acts, there was a time when people knew about social interactions and that people come and go throughout the course of our lives, now we just have to over analyse everything in some wrong-headed way to make it appear that be considering everything we as people are considerate.  The truth is, all that is merely stuff to pass the time, or just click-bait articles for mass digestion of a species with very little time to do much of anything.

Why am I writing this piece?

Well I’ve had numerous pieces in my drafts in various states of flux but I can’t seem to finish them off.  There is a passion and driven (even an anger and hate) in some of them when started that just ebbed away (oh how my feelings are like Guardian readers friends).

Then I read the article and a fair few of the pieces I’ve written recently made me realise they all had a common theme.

No, not just beer.

But beer is the catalyst to the friendships I have formed over the years that I’ve had this blog, my twitter account and joined various different beery cliques that have arisen from the two social media interactions.

So I’ve met commercial brewers, home brewers, bloggers, drinkers, bar staff and landlords/landladies and whereas these people are never, ever likely to have to entertain my deepest feelings; they are people I can happily spend whole evenings in the company of.

And if you appreciate that the drunk is the real and honest version of the sober one everyone else encounters then I’ve been quite lucky to meet some jolly nice real and honest people.

So, in essence, because of beer and pubs my social circle has actually grown; these are people I would actually bug to see if they were free to go for a few jars (and that isn’t because I know they can’t say no).

Really this piece should be a lament to beer, pubs and the people who still use these things.  Real, tangible people.  But like my draft posts there doesn’t seem to be a main focus, however unlike my drafts I’m publishing this because I just needed to say it.

 

 

 

 

 

I did warn people this would be soppy.

And no, this doesn’t have some darker undertone to it.  I will be drinking for a long time to come.

Thanks for reading.