So after the jollity of the 29th Bent & Bongs beer festival in February and the recently passed 31st Wigan CAMRA beer festival next up will be the Bolton CAMRA beer festival held at the Ukrainian Club (not to be confused with the other Bolton Beer Festival, now held at the Macron Stadium, that was once held at a rugby ground in a giant awing heated by jet engines that caused condensation to drop from the roof into your pint).
I thought I’d quickly search twitter for any news on beers and was greeted by their most confusing of pinned tweets.
Our planning for 2018 is now underway, with some exciting adjustments: card payment will be accepted; more #darkside#beer; more prominent stand against #sexism; and more still! #BCBCF18 👍😊🍺🍻
There is a physical stand, the ones made of wood, against sexism where one can view leaflets and other materials?
If this is going to be the case then I’ve never seen a stand dedicated to being against sexism in all the times I’ve gone to this festival so anything, as opposed to nothing, is always going to be more prominent.
Might there be a physical stand, the ones made of flesh legs, where people will protest against sexism?
This, again is not something I’ve witnessed at beer festivals past, so it will definitely be more prominent. Though if it is this type of stand being taken and it happens while I’m waiting to be served I will be slightly miffed. If this is the case I hope there are times displayed around the hall to highlight when these stands will take place.
Perhaps there will be a stand with the CAMRA commandments on it?
Again, new so obviously more prominent. Then again B&B and Wigan managed to pass off (and have do for 3 decades) without the need for this.
I guess people in Bolton and Manchester are more sexist and this is required in this little backwater towns. Who knows?
And on the food stall at Bolton I’ll trust you can also purchase a word salad to go with your beer?
Last September I wrote about the history of Wigan Council and their complete disregard for local community assets in their sale of The Formby Hall in Atherton. Today is the final day that letters by the government Planning Inspectorate can be received after they “called in” the process of the sale, re-sale and subsequent proposed demolition of this historic local and popular site.
So it without any shred of surprise but with a healthy dose of irony that today also sees another local town’s asset that comes under the claws of Wigan Council now perhaps the victim of yet more dubious sales practices.
Apart from the above, I shall let the links speak for themselves…
I am going to try to write this piece without it drifting into the realms of party politics and hopefully non-libelous comments.
Much has been made recently about a Northern Powerhouse and also devolution of power to the major cities of the North of England and giving more autonomy to county councils. The general hope being that communities will have greater say and therefore a choice of how they are governed.
The town of Atherton in Greater Manchester falls under the control of Wigan Council.
They have a community centre called The Formby Hall.
This hall was a gift to the town of Atherton back in the early 1900’s.
Two annexes were added to the hall as part of the festival of Britain.
In circa 2011, with a valuation of the hall of about £235,000 Wigan Council sold The Formby Hall (and numerous other community centres under their ‘control’) to a company called Rose Leisure (or Eight Wonder, you know how businesses like to change names and have various subsidiaries).
The sale price, on record, for The Formby Hall was £65,000.
The covenant was that the sale would be made under the proviso that Rose Leisure would maintain all their newly acquired buildings so that they could continue to function as working halls to host a variety of activities.
The Formby Hall, for example, hosts (hosted) NHS Blood Donations, various gigs, charity nights, dance clubs, wedding receptions and probably most well-known The Bent n Bongs Beer Bash
Rose Leisure never really maintained the building, the roof is in a particularly bad way and only with some local people did it get fixed to an adequate level so that the Beer Bash could go ahead in 2015.
In about May of 2015 rumours spread that Rose Leisure were telling people with bookings that they would only fulfill them up until July of 2015 and all events after that would be cancelled.
Due to this “leak” it then forced Rose Leisure and Wigan Council to admit that The Formby Hall had been sold to a company called Hilldale Housing Association.
Hilldale are a bit of an odd company in that they themselves are only a conduit for investors to buy up properties for development.
In August of 2015 South East Lancs CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) successfully had an Asset of Community Value (ACV) put on The Formby Hall under the Localism Act of 2011.
Hilldale had made assurances that the hall could stay open until March of 2016 but the doors were locked and as such no one can use the hall, it can fall into a further state of disrepair and of course it can be claimed that it is not being used and therefore it’s now lack of use by the community does not make it an asset worth saving.
In September of 2015 a notice of demolition was put up outside The Formby Hall, this is because due to a loop-hole an ACV can only protect a pub from demolition and the ACV had forced Hilldale’s hand.
There have been various groups formed and a petition of about 4,500 was handed in to Wigan Council to object to not only the initial sale (primarily to Rose Leisure) but also the demolition of a building that in essence belongs to the town and people of Atherton.
It is sad that said local groups have been butting heads with not only the council but with locally elected councillors and that relationships have soured and become cynical and cold.
This is how modern politics work. It is not a democracy but an elected dictatorship whereby small outlying towns are ostracised. It is unsurprising that voters are becoming more disillusioned by the whole process.
The case of Formby Hall is still ongoing and very much up in the air, it is hoped the council will listen, for once, to one of its communities.
The above link gives most of the information you need to know, the fate now lies in further planning meetings and a possible intervention by Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government Greg Clark and the constituent MP Chris Green.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 AllgatesBrewery 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.
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
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.
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.
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 WhiteLion and eventually back home again.
As I write this the White Lionis 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’pennyBrewing 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:
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.