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.

 

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Modernising Manchester – Making it Mundane

This post was provoked by reading this thread – about Oxford Road and the “Manchester Corridor”.  The thread is meant to be about plans and general speculation about the proposed changes to Oxford Road Station and the surrounding area.

Most people (including myself) were struck in mid-2014 by the proposed removal of The Cornerhouse and its relocation to another new build, with the stick-in-the-back-of-your-throat-named-by-committee moniker of HOME.

What peaked my interest was the discussions about The Salisbury Pub being worthy of saving but there was less love for The Grand Central.

Manchester has a fine musical heritage, I’d argue the best and most diverse in the world (but I am biased) and we are used to seeing our musical institutions being converted.

The Grand Central crowd of rockers/punks & goths, etc. were left homeless (for a short time) after the closure of Jilly’s RockWorld and before that, arguably the most famous of England’s clubs The Haçienda was closed down and turned into the same boring red-brick flats you see in every major city.  Jilly’s ended up being a Tesco, or a Pizza Express – you chose the evil empire that fits in with the jist of this piece.

The Salisbury does CAMRA discounts, it also caters to the rock crowd too, but it is what you would call a proper pub.  The Grand Central is very much in the vain of the dirty, stale lager places that I frequented as a kid.  You know, the ones with character, because it wasn’t about what was on the outside that really mattered but who was in the inside.

I’m not trying to match the pubs up against one another, I enjoy both pubs, in fact the whole area along with Font and Thirsty Scholar is excellent for a very, very short-walk drinking crawl.

This comes at a time when there is a campaign to get more money to save the Ancoats Dispensary (direct link to funding is here).

There are also campaigns to save (from the clutches of absentee landlords Britannia) the London Road Fire Station.  A building left to rack and ruin by said landlords inability to do anything with it and a typically inept Manchester Council wishing to spend it’s money more on pot-plants and junkets abroad than pay attention to anything about Manchester centre that doesn’t involve driving (literally) people away to out-of-town shopping centres.

The Star & Garter – another Manchester pub with a massive musical heritage, has a doubtful future as a redesign of Piccadilly Station will see it either removed or forced to close when access to it is severely restricted during the proposed building works.

There are success stories, of a sort, with old buildings being saved.  The Victoria Baths by way of a BBC programme, now sees the venue used regularly for many different events, the most relevant to this blog being the Indy Man Beer Fest.

Case and point about design by committee which isn’t fit for purpose and is fast turning into a danger is Piccadilly Gardens (and its Wall).

People can talk about Grand Central being a bit of an eyesore but Piccadilly Gardens, the first thing many tourists would see from either train or bus, is an absolute shit-tip.  Granted it is a major transport hub now, but what used to be open and actually had something to do with a “garden” is now closed-off (walled-off if you will), claustrophobic and as crime begins to rise and austerity policy means police on the ground have to be cut so Councillors can still get their free holidays abroad, the rise of CCTV will continue unabated, along with that fucking horrible, massive wheel.  Whoo a city centre that doubles as a fairground park.

As I write this MPs have voted against a bid to tighten pub planning laws which really comes as no surprise.

This isn’t some Luddite rant – progress is vital to keep things moving and viable for the future – but taking a look around, everything that is new build, all it is is functional.

I’m struck by the cotton mills near me.  Some being put to use for a variety of things, others bulldozed and left either as wasteland (or a zombie car park) or….oh yes, another bloody big supermarket.  The actually lack of planning for the future is stark.

I could get into conspiracy theories about social engineering, the destruction of communities to build a mass of individuals with no collective power and without he ability to give a crap about anything other than the self, but that is not the point of this piece.

With little or no public consultation, buildings are being ripped down and their replacements have no character, no history (obviously), no romance, nothing artistic or photography worthy.

It seems that each city wishes to become a copy-and-paste job of every other city, not only causing a loss of history but also of identity.

Let us end with a oft-repeated quote amongst pub campaigners but that I feel can apply to all things touched upon…

“When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England” -Hilaire Belloc