Manchester Public Transport Part 1 – The Scourge of Guardianista

I’ll get this out of my system first because Part 2 (whenever I get around to writing it) will be actually about the public transport system in (Greater) Manchester but as things stand now, I’ll just take this moment to laugh at a typically deluded Guardian journo, who now seems to be on a bit of a crusade after the shock of bus fares in the county hit home.

Given the begging letters you see when you ever visit the “newspaper’s” website, I take it that expenses are a bit short for the Guardian’s staff these days.  Either that or they themselves aren’t employees, meh I don’t care, it’s your life.

 

It’s the self-flagellation that always gets me.  The unnecessary virtue signal and moan about first world problems and then the moment of realisation that, all your own morals are expendable when broken down into the realities of hard cash.

Damn this capitalism, nationalise everything all ready.

I’d have slightly more sympathy for her supposed plight if she hadn’t followed it up with this:

“How can I possibly be expected to walk a bit in order to pay over the odds for bog standard food at restaurant prices when I’ve had to fork out for a bus an Uber.”

Life is what you make it.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Advertisements

The CAMRA Festival Cask-Keg Craft Quandary

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Track Brew Co Tap Room – Quick Review

I’ve always had a soft spot for Track Brew Co of Manchester.

When I first went to the brewery and talked to the people there, they stated that they fined their beers (possibly not now) which I thought was honest and, given the unnecessary hatred craft people have for finings, a bit of a revelation.

There was also while I attended a beer festival in Leeds, the first brewery to DM me via twitter and as a fledgling beer blogger I felt that I’d “arrived,” it was the little things back then, when things were bright and new and even innocent.

So I was quite happy to hear that they were opening their own tap-room.

64 Chapeltown Street Manchester M1 2WQ.

The third floor of Crusader Mill.

Given that I’d walked from The Smithfield (and Crown & Kettle) and was coming from an unfamiliar and unplanned route I was happy that I stumbled upon it so easily and that it was well enough signposted (within the mill complex) when I got there.

Built into an area that struck me as a modern and posh version of back-to-back housing for the easily impressed, after what was about a mile of walking I was then faced with the interminable hike up narrow, short-spaced stairs.

Still, I knew that while there would be no cask (and Track cask is rather good), their keg can be just as rewarding.

The floor was reached, the smell of street food hit my nostrils and the warm heat and sound of a fair few people all gassing away greeted my senses.

The drink area was fairly bright, a bit industrial-chic but pleasant and it is a mill so to be expected.  Seating was very much long tables, like a beer hall.

I walked over to the bar it was wooden, naturally, and the list of beers was clearly written as was the pricing.

I studied the list and made my choice.

 

I then saw “THIS IS A CASHLESS VENUE”

 

I went to another pub.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Lets Drink – To the Beat (nikz Republic) & Northern Monk MCR

Well that was an interesting day out in Manchester and so now let your favourite performing monkey and conduit for your own negative opinions vent so you don’t have to.

I like Beatnikz Republic and I like Northern Monk.  I’ve been to the NM refectory in Leeds and visited the tap at Red Bank that is Beatnikz’s gaff.

The places themselves are OK.  Despite one my friends describing it as “like Terminus from Walking Dead” I preferred BR’s space.  Clean and simple, still with far to much “industrial chic” that makes it look like every other place that opened an IKEA catalogue and stuck pens in items while wearing a blindfold, I thought that it was well laid out and, most importantly, the board was bright, easy to read and straight forward.  It shares it’s space with Idle Hands – a coffee house.

Oh and the beer was good too but I’ll come to that later.

Northern Monks gaff was a bit more, meh.  It was never going to recreate the school canteen surrounding of the Leeds branch and to be fair the staff, bar one I recognised previously from Piccadilly Tap, showed very much nous about service.  Then again I was never a big fan of Kosmonaut, which itself fell is standards massively after what would appear the main man that ran it so well went over to run the then newly reopened Smithfield.

Northern Monk Manchester is about 30 seconds from Beatnikz and it next door to Takk – a coffee house.

NM’s beer list is small and though clear a bit too far away for the size of the letter used in the spelling out of the beers on sale.  Couple that with a vibrating bar floor (hi-vis jackets were seen so I assume this was short term building work) and glasses that were like the stupid butt-plug one but without the base (the glass of choice if you ordered 2/3rds) again the beer could not really be faulted, but I’ll come to that later.

It was then off to the all Caucasian, racially pure paradise that is Grub.  I can’t comment on the beer as such but I will say, if you are going to serve anything in semi-darkness on a high blackboard please, for the sake of sanity…

WRITE THE SALE ITEMS IN FUCKING BLOCK CAPITALS.

I then raced around to try out Ol Nano Brewery on Oxford Road.  Its in an area under the Mancunian Way that became a bit of a tent city, so thankfully all of the scruffs and bums have been moved on to be replaced by card payment only wooden enclosures – and a coffee house.

I then went in The Salisbury, had a nice pint of well kept but typical Robinson’s fare to the tunes of Pantera & Megadeth and all seemed right with the world.  I was away from the zombie hordes of students and no cash places, of wood and metal and twatty glassware and dicks who think coming into Manchester to spend money on tat from Christmas market stalls that aren’t even from the local area is a brilliant way to spend a Saturday.  I don’t know how far I was from a coffee house.

I then went round to The Brink, was treated to the last remaining cask and kegs of Cloudwater’s takeover (takeovers – pointless) and then settled down with a nice cask pint of something from Pomona brewery.

Beer Thoughts

I’ve written before about keg beer sometimes (most of the time) being too cold for certain beer styles and this day proved to have no deviation from that train of thought.

Or rather, all the cask beer I had pissed on it quality wise, which should in fact speak highly for all the places mentioned who did indeed present their cask beer very well.

Case and point was the Torrside Dogs of War presented on keg at Grub.  A solid drink, kindly bought by one of my friends and at 10% it isn’t something you can put on cask and hope to sell in a 12 hour period (maybe a pin perhaps) so keg makes sense financially but stylistically it did a disservice to the beer which no amount of hand warming could help.

Also, for the record, I’m wasn’t all that taken by the Cloudwater India porter on cask, preferred their keg offerings, speaking from the point of view of a lover, not an authority, of porters.

 

“A brewery bar, a brewery bar, wood and metal and a brewery bar

Coffee House, Coffee House

Wood and metal and a brewery bar.”

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Cloudwater Can’t Save Cask Beer, But…

….ooh dramatic ellipsis after a click-bait title…

Choose your own subtitle, it was either going to be:

…they can save themselves.

or…

…neither can CAMRA.

Now, on reflection since I started penning this I’ve thought is might be…

…they could destroy it.

I should hasten to add that this piece is not anti-Cloudwater, they are just an exemplar of the perceived problems with cask beer, or not as the case may be.

In fact the initial subtitle was only based on reading an interview with yon mon Jonesy in Brewers Journal (Vol 4. Issue 6, July/August) before reading the October blog post but then that is how quickly viewpoints change within a business and when looking in from the outside.

 

 

I’m impressed with the health and safety of the glasses, less so about the pose, anyway…

Cloudwater’s Launch (2015 blog)

It was Tandleman’s post that piqued my interest, rather ironically the last blog post I read from the Manchester Messiahs was when they talked about themselves binning off cask.  How times change.  That post also feature some rather childish political epithets and where I’m obviously never going to suggest people just “shut up and brew” (or “shut up and stick to business” in this case) as that isn’t a ringing freeze peach endorsement, you should never be surprised when nailing your colours to a mast when it comes back to butt fuck you.  Which it did.

Still, upon reading Tand’s post my first thought was “they must be desperate” (*cheerfully withdrawn by request*) – but to be fair there may well be gaps in the market for premium cask beer.

What is a premium cask beer?  Well personally I’m only going with a price band.  There is talk, most of it with some merit that the advent of Wetherspoons has forced the hand of other cask pubs to demand a lower price for their cask, couple this with SIBA and their tied trade pubs and don’t it becomes increasingly difficult for a brewer to make a good profit on cask.

There is in general a lot of smoke and mirrors about what JDW actually pay and, just how fresh the actual product is but truth be told, there is a fair whack of cask beer that is sold off cheap just to get it out there and not be ullage.  The hard point of this is that regardless of what “best before date” is placed on a cask of beer by the brewery there is still little reason for it not to be in good nick when it is on the bar, because most obviously as with many products a “best before date” on any foodstuff is not a science and it really is up to the customer to use all sense to discern whether the product is fit for consumption.

Of course the difference between short coded food items reduced in a supermarket, that bit of cheese you find that is 3 weeks out of date but you know if you cut off the blue mould it will be fine and cask beer is quite vast.  The latter being that you are being served it from an establishment you expect to sell it to you in at least some respectable state.

So let us talk price points (exclusive of VAT in all instances). £50 seems to be the general figure banded about for Wetherspoons cask.

I know of many breweries that can and do sell their beer at around this price and up towards £69.  That is a stock price, across a range, with little variation when it comes to ABV.

Though the beer duty escalator does have an influence on the price once the ABV goes over, what was it, 4.2-4.5%, some breweries do have the capacity to keep their prices lower.

Of course it is a total joke that I know of one Manchester pub that pays no more than £60 per cask. Now with line cleans and lost beer even if you were only getting 60 pints out of a firkin but charging Manchester centre prices of £4+ you can see just how much profit some pubs can make on cask beer.

So, again what is a premium price for beer.  Some prices I’ve seen are clearly not based on ABV but clearly the cost of the ingredients needed to make it, so these beers push around £100-£120.

But as the launch of Cloudwater cask comes around I noted that one cask of their 5.5% beer is being sold to pubs at *cheerfully withdrawn by request/correction*.

I’ve written about the difficulties of cask beer previously and really though it all falls on the brewery, it really is the pub that should bear primary responsibility.

It is said that a rising tide carries all ships, that Cloudwater seem to only wish to sell their cask to reputable pubs with excellent cellaring is logical and sensible, though I do wonder if they are going to send out staff to check, a Cloudwater Marque if you will.  Given the customer facing nature of the brewery I expect them to know full well if a cask of theirs isn’t up to par and that should make for interesting bantz between punter, pub and Paul.

Therein lies another strange schism that could develop but this is the second day of writing this post and I’ve realised I don’t really care that much.  Something about pubs willing to pay for big premium cask; something, something, turnover, something, something would people pay £5+ for 2/3rds of a session strength beer; something, something, beer goes off regardless of how much you’ve paid for it.

As an aside, would a punter solely used to keg know any minor faults in a cask beer, would the general, natural differences between cask and keg delivery of beers cause confusion.

Do people even fucking care?

CAMRA could of course be trying to do more for the sale of cask beer and its quality but they seem to be rather confused at the moment, where press releases don’t really seem to match the general feeling at a branch level.

Plus Manchester Beer & Cider festival organisers are shedding a tear now they can’t trumpet their own festival as having “last Cloudwater cask,” for the 3rd year in a row.  Shame.

Of course cost is not equivalent to quality, it can be said and I will say it too, that people are quite happy to pay over the odds just to be seen to be paying the price along with what they are drinking and where they are drinking it.  It is a status symbol to some.  I bring it up only so I can post this line from Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (time stamp, 7 mins 50 seconds)

 

 

Thanks for reading.

 

06/11/2018 – Post edited on request – I’m now in the odd position as to whether to approve the comment with the request in for full transparency or keep it anonymous out of respect for the poster, in this instance I’ve chose the latter as it would then seem to undermine the request, but that is their choice and can be changed if need be.  Still it is good to know my blogs are still be read by the great and powerful.  Go me.

Atherton – Between a Marston’s and a Gin Place

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

 

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

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

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

Entering Atherton from its various directions you will first encounter…

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

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

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

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

This was Thwaites, then (and currently) Allgates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thanks for reading.

 

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