I’m travelling a lot over the next few days. I won’t have the chance to do much exploring of any of the places I’m visiting, but I will be taking the opportunity to fit in a swift half or two on the way back to my train.
So, where’s a good place to drink – in easy striking distance of the station – in…
Suggestions in comments please!
Update I’m back in Manchester now, and not planning any more beer tourism. If I were, though, it would probably be in York. The Brigantes had a terrific beer range (I had York Guzzler), although the pub itself was a bit city-centre-gastro and not too comfortable for a lone drinker. The Ackhorne was more pub-like and had an equally impressive range (Rooster’s Yankee for me). ‘Ackhorne’, incidentally, is a medieval variant spelling of ‘Acorn’, which was the name of the old pub which was gutted to make way for this one. There’s logic there somewhere. Later, I found my way to the Maltings, which might as well have had a sign saying “tickers, CAMRA members and visiting Twissups this way”. In fact, larky signage is a feature of the pub, mostly featuring what you could call Pub Landlord Humour – a combination of hearty welcome, assertive jokiness and veiled menace. (“Be warned: our CHILLI will cure your CONSTIPATION!” “We don’t serve children, so DON’T ASK FOR ONE!”) If you like that kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you’ll like. If you don’t, you can always ignore the signs. Either way, this is a really great pub – basic but comfortable surroundings, a fantastic range of beers and a landlord who knows his stuff. I had Magic Rock Curious (“I hope you like hoppy beer! For a 3.8% beer, this is… bob-on.”) and SWB Nerotype #4 Herkules (“Hoppy beers all the way!”) Both were very nice indeed. The Nerotype black IPA was probably the best of the style I’ve had; as full-on as Buxton Black Rocks, but more subtle (more Thornbridge than Marble, you could say). It was also fairly lively; I was struck by the way it seemed to clear downwards, like Guinness. The Curious was… bob-on. There was a time when I wouldn’t have liked it at all – not so much “hop-forward in the modern style” as “hops smacking you about the face, in the style of a demented alcoholic Tango advert” – but fortunately my tastes have evolved.
I didn’t have much drinking time in Newcastle – just a swift one in the station bar, otherwise known as the Centurion. Just a few handpumps, overshadowed by a forest of keg fonts (nothing ‘interesting’, though; the one logo I didn’t immediately recognise turned out to be Woodpecker cider!) While I’m moaning, my pint was nothing special either – the CO2 was all in the head. But the pub itself is something else: every surface is tiled, with richly coloured and moulded tilework, and the space is approximately the size and shape of an aircraft hangar. Never mind the (beer) quality, feel the architecture.
Liverpool took me to the Swan, the Belvedere, ye Crack [sic] and the Dispensary. The Swan is a long single-fronted room stretching back from the street, with no natural light once you get about three feet over the threshold. It reminded me of bars in Edinburgh; in fact I don’t think I’ve seen this kind of pub anywhere else in England. Two more pale ones – Hopping Mad Brainstorm and Liverpool Organic Shipwreck IPA. Despite being 6%, the Shipwreck struck me as a light, easy-drinking IPA; not much more assertive than the Hopping Mad, and much less so than the Magic Rock. I know the Belvedere has its fans, but it hasn’t left much of a trace in my memory other than being a small back-street boozer where your choices are to listen to the conversation at the bar or to join it. The beer was pale, hoppy and I think it was another Liverpool Organic, but don’t quote me on that. Ye Crack, a name which is just dying to be asked about, is a multi-room pub with a big “local artists” thing going on and a substantial “we knew the Beatles before you did” thing to go with it. This wasn’t entirely my scene either, but the Gertie Sweet Dusky Maiden stout was very nice. By the time I got to the Dispensary I was jonesing for a dark bitter; I ordered George Wright Mark’s Mild, only to realise a minute later that I’d overlooked the pump serving Hawkshead Brodie’s Prime. There was only one thing for it (although I did only have a half). The mild was good stuff, but it was overshadowed by the Hawkshead beer, which is… what? A light-drinking strong porter? A black old ale? Whatever it is (and it’s in an area where beer taxonomies are having a lot of trouble at the moment), it’s very nice indeed.
Then back to Manchester, and straight to a beer festival. It’s a hard life.