My non-Usual Drinking History…So Far

As I make my way through yet another Bent & Bongs Beer Bash a wave of nostalgia hit me that I feel best to recount, perhaps to realign this blog briefly into a less political state.

I started drinking at around 13 on the fields near mine and my mates houses (parents houses obviously).  Back then it started on stupidly strong stuff like Kestrel Super and Ice Dragon cider, the former of which should never really be drank by anyone with functioning taste buds so as a starting point it could poison your idea of beer from the very start.

We were away from the public, actually quite quiet and respectable of our surroundings.  It took me a long summer of finding the right cans before I first got drunk; two cans of Strongbow did the trick back then, my mates were may ahead having spent each weekend seemingly trying to increase their tolerance a can at a time.

That I’m still mates with most of them, or rather they are still mates with me, highlights that the only evolution on that scale has been that we now go out drinking together in the pub, or around each others houses (our actually own houses because we’re all sensible and grown up and have responsibilities now).

We moved into drinking in pubs at around 16-17, after all there is only a certain amount of time your growing body can get used to drinking alcohol while playing football.

I’m tempted to suggest that my pub experience started in the 2nd wave of keg beer.  After Red Barrel and Double Diamond, I drank up in the Smooth Flow era.  A time of a seemingly Irish beer invasion, where it wasn’t just Guinness of off but Murphy’s, Beamish (red and black), Kilkenny and Caffrey’s, which back then started out at 4.8%.  This went along side Boddington’s launching a “Gold” version, while you could also get Thwaites Smooth, Tetley’s Smooth, John Smith’s Smooth and the personally missed Calder’s Cream Ale.

Can drinking was awash with cans with “widgets” in them; for an authentic creamy pub head in your own home, or in the case of Carling Premier, then need to mop the floor each time one was opened.

I honestly don’t recall much, if any cask at all, nothing of note anyway, that phase only entered my life when I went to university in Bradford.  A place of Flowers IPA for £1 a pint, or the premium offering of Directors (when it didn’t just taste of syrup).

Bradford had the Biko Bar, at the time it was sold as “the only student bar in the Good Beer Guide” – they regularly served cask Moorhouses’ Witches Brew (again before it tasted of syrup) and Younger’s No. 3.

Fun smoking fact about the Biko Bar; it had a no smoking section that was on a raised platform to the rest of the pub.  The pub was basically a rectangle, the platform near the windows and opposite the door, so naturally all the smoke from the rest of the pub went over the non-smoking area and out through the windows. Genius idea.

In fact back then they did a pub quiz on a Sunday, where once a team name was called “What kind of crap pub has a no smoking section” – how times change.

A pub near my halls called The Shearbridge (now a curry house I believe) had regular beer festivals and always sold Skull Splitter and Dogs Bollocks as part of them.

This brings us up to starting going to beer festivals (Bent & Bongs I’d been aware of since my dad started going from its inception) and the fact that I still didn’t really care what I drink, style wise.  Back then it was – oh what’s this 14% beer, Sam-something-or-other.

I write this piece because I’ve realised only necessity has made me “have” a preferred drink. Cans as a kid was lager or cider.  Pubs at the beginning was generally lager, sometimes Guinness.  Cost as a student meant it was Flowers or some random lager.

Going into pubs now, with the choice far more varied than it was, I still don’t have a drink, I’ve never got to hear the bar tender ask “the usual” and I’m wondering if anyone does any more.

Though I think I’m just happy that my usual is the places I go and the people I go with.

 

Thanks for reading.

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Brew-denell – 3rd Annual Beer Festival 2015 – Review

Subtitled “if students did beer festivals…”

I hope in reviewing this that I don’t come across as patronising, that is not the intent at all, I have a very good time, there were just a few niggles for me…

This event took place (or rather is still taking place) between the 9th to the 11 of January 2015.

It took place at the Brudenell Social Club in the Burley Park area of Leeds, which is a 4 minute train ride out of Leeds, one stop before Headingly.

It is quite the student area by the look of it, grid layout of terraced housing left over from an industrial age, some with full door-size security gates over the front doors.  Much like Hamsterdam.

Tickets were £4 per day, bought in advance, £5 on the door and, I think £7/8 for the whole weekend, Sunday being free.

Entry included either a regular pint glass or a stemmed one, or an extra quid got you a half or pint tankard.

WP_20150110_002You also got a rather nice booklet.

Beers were sold in halves or pints, priced more or less to alcohol volume, ranging from about £2.50 to £5 a half, there was an even split between keg and cask, there were also about 5 ciders and a big range of bottles too.

The average age of the punters couldn’t have been much above 23.

Food was pizza or burgers by The Pizza Bus (@eatourpizza)

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£5-£6, the pizzas were very good, the burgers were also good, if the patties were a little on the small side.  If you can read the above list, most of the ingredients were marinated/contained beers, which I though was quite a good gimmick.

Queuing up outside to get in I noted a list of bands set to perform; Sick Of It All, Julian Cope, Gruff Rhys, Turin Brakes – what the hell kind of venue was this, it just looked like a regular club from the outside?

On the bar they had Estrella Damn (£2.90 a pint), a few other high-end keg lagers, mixed with the regular UK ones.  Cask lines with Kirkstall Brewery beers on, a special keg line for, at the time Left Hand Brewing’s Black Jack Porter (6.8% and I think about £4.50 a pint).  What the hell kind of venue was this?

The main room where the beers were was a good size, but quite small when all the beer equipment was installed, the food was outside, then there was another room with an additional large bar area and then a games room, which itself was two good sized rooms, one containing about 4 pool tables and what looked like a snooker table; which were moved for the bands (not the ones above) to play.

The venue was excellent.  If you want to go to uni, I am now recommending Leeds based on this venue alone, let alone the city centre drinking holes.

The even have a very good hand drier…

WP_20150110_005I’m not going to review the all beers on here, well just a special one, but what I would like to do is thank, part of Manchester’s Brewery Mile, Track Brewing Co. for making me aware of this festival, due to the crowds I was unable to have their Ozark but having had if before, if you can find it, I recommend it.

So I end on as many positives as I can, I’ll state my two niggles…

1) Staffing – there just weren’t enough.  One guy on the door was doing a sterling job for about 8 hours before it looked like he got a break.  The bar itself wasn’t exactly teeming with beer pourers either.  Those that were there were displaying a mainly excellent effort of getting through the queues, but just a couple more people at each service point (even one more) would have made things go a lot quicker and in the end get more people spending more money on more beer.

2) Servings – now I’m not expecting to get 2/3rds of a pint when I ask for a half, but what I don’t expect to get is short-served most of the time.  The oddest moment happened when one of my drinks went slightly over the half-line and rather than just giving me the beer, the additional amount was….POURED AWAY…..what madness is that?

Having said that, the staff were all bob on with their service; friendly and as quick as could be expected.

The large choice of beers was clearly marked on the boards or on giant posters and to make things easier for all, were given numbers like a Chinese menu, even if the numbers themselves weren’t in any order behind the bar.

My special beer of the day, and I did have quite a few very good ones but this stood out, was The Sun Before The Darkness, a 10% Belgian style strong ale by The Yeastie Boys of New Zealand.  The brewery and beers are new to me and this was a very dangerously drinkable beer, maybe too honey-sweet for some, but a lovely complex tasting brew with a very pleasant aroma and no taste of the high ABV at all.

I think I’ve all ready decided that a few days at this place next year might be in order.

So thanks to all the organisers and volunteers – a most excellent time.

To end, this sign did was funny given the circumstances

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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.

Bolton Beer Festival 2013

This event took place between 9th – 12th October 2013.

I went on the Thursday (10th) – the first of my ‘3 different beer festivals over 3 days’ quest. The Preamble can be found here.

It takes place on Bolton Rugby Club and raises funds for Bolton Lads & Girls Club.

Tokens were in sheets of £6 or £12, getting you 10 or 20 tokens respectively.  Individual tokens could also be purchased for those irritating little left overs.

It was £5 entry, which got you a nice glass and a very plush booklet, even featuring a description of difference beer types and a ‘How to taste beer section’.

The was a huge range of cask beers, along with draught and bottle beers from around the world.

The beers were organised in alphabetical order and also numbered, which helps both customer and server from any confusion over beer and brewery names.

The tokens are crossed out with markers, the measures were 1/2 and pint – though there was no actual 1/2 marker, which leads to so very generous servings, especially if some of the staff look like they are actual punters who’ve leapt over the bar to lend a hand.

The food is virtually non existent, the toilets are porta-cabins, the place itself is a massive tent, heated by things that look like they’ve fallen off something Tom Cruise would fly in a massively gay 80’s movie.

Beers in alphabetical order, of which many were local and a great many were Scottish:

Bank Top Brewery brought along a Sweeney’s (3.8%) which had the smell of brackish water but tasted perfectly fine for a standard bitter.

Blackedge Brewing Company had provided a new one of theirs to me, the Dark Rum (4.6%) a heavy stout, full of malts and liquorice flavour, but I didn’t detect any rum. Good stout either way.

This was in contrast to the Darkside Stout (4.6%) by Brightside Brewing which was your light kind of stout, almost like flat pop, with coffee and chocolate tastes. My kind of dark drink really.

Brewed Awakening (4.7%) by Cromarty Brewery was a massively coffee stout and I mean massive coffee.  The most coffeeiest stout I’ve ever had. Rather nice.

Harviestoun Brewery had brought a ‘craft beer’ called Schiehallion (4.8%) which had good, light hop flavour and was almost lager like.

Orkney Blast (6.0%) from Highland Brewing Co was a big drink, hopey and fruity, you knew what you were drinking was above average abv.

Slainte (4.3%) by Houston Brewery was my last drink of the night, and a nice simple ale to end the night.

Isle of Skye Brewery had brought along their ‘Supreme champion beer of Scotland’ in Cuillin Beast (4.7%) and a very good, smooth drink it was too.

When the number system pays off was with a Caer Edin Dark Ale (4.2%) the type font of the booklet made it even harder to read, by Kinneil Brew House which my notes say was ‘typcially celtic’. This is a positive term, even if it did smell odd.

A fine bit of strategy and the power of twitter came into its marketing own next. As I’d tweeted that I was at the Bolton Beer Bash, I picked up a follower Matt Holmes from Ramsbottom Craft Brewery, which basically made my mind up to chose, out of a list of 209 cask beers for the Chocolate Porter (4.4%). To be fair I would have gotten to it eventually solely based on the name, but this spurred me on more so and boy was it a good brew. Sweet, chocolatey – everything you’d want if you were a porter fan, even if you aren’t too keen on the chocolate flavour.

Spey Stout (5.4%) from Spey Valley was a toffee smelling but nicely bitter, lighter stout.

From Windswept Brewing Co was The Boy Who Cried Wolf (4.6%) a nice, fairly strong bitter.

And finally from XT Brewing Company came the XT13 Pacific Red (4.5%) which was actually my first beer of the night, but the closest barrel to the ticket stand. A red ale that my notes simply describe as “Good”.

Thanks to all the servers and organisers.