Whatever it takes

I like Beer in the Evening as a quick reference on pubs I’m thinking of visiting, but the comments can be a bit of a mixed bag.

Moor Top many years ago used to have a reputation, but that was just me and my mates who were rather large and hate United fans. Times have changed and this is a community pub with community spirit, whole families go in there, even the ex-mayor of Stockport drank and drinks still in there (who is a good friend of mine and my old CO).

As reassurance goes, this… wasn’t. At opening time on a Thursday lunchtime, however, the Moor Top was devoid of boisterous squaddies, and indeed of anyone else. A half of Tetley’s Mild was very pleasant – a light, easy-drinking dark mild, but with a definite depth of flavour. The landlord told me he’d only put it on for Mild Magic, but it had been going so well he was thinking of keeping it on.

It was Mild Magic, of course, that had taken me to Heaton Moor. From there, a substantial trek through residential streets, ending up on a cobbled lane, brought me to the Nursery, for a visit I wish I’d liked more than I did. There wasn’t anything wrong with the pub – it’s a nice old-school multi-roomed pub with a good range of Hyde’s beer. It was partly the beer – 1863 just doesn’t ring my bell – but mainly a matter of timing; not only was the place empty, but by turning up early doors on that particular day I’d arrived six hours early for a small beer festival, which was a bit galling.

But upward and onward, or in this case mostly downward and onward, to Stockport proper. Here the Mild Magic Map (or the bit of it I’d printed off) gave out on me; I found it incredibly difficult to locate any of the three pubs I was looking for. Correction – I knew where the Crown was, but I was saving it till last; in the mean time, I struggled to locate either of the two pubs I was looking for, viz. the Tiviot and Calverts Court. Finally, completely lost, I studied a bus shelter street map and worked out that I was round the corner from the Arden Arms, and went there instead. A small, busy multi-room pub, with framed “Pub of the Year” certificates on the walls, lots of Robinson’s beers on tap and… a sign over one of the archways leading off the main room asking customers to see the barman and wait to be seated. Maybe it only applied to that one room, I don’t know – but as a solitary drinker I felt a bit inhibited and ended up perched on a bar stool. Needless to say, I didn’t stop long. The Hatters was perfectly acceptable; a bit more body and character to it than the 1863, but not as good as the Taylor’s Golden Best back at the Old Packet House.

I headed back out into Stockport and immediately got completely lost all over again. Eventually I got my bearings and worked out how to get to Calverts Court. When I got there, however, I discovered that it’s a Spoons, decided that on my last Mild Magic trip I could and would do better, and went off in search of either the Waterloo or the Red Bull. Given my past success in finding my way around, and especially given that neither of those pubs was on the bit of the map I’d printed out, this was optimistic to say the least. What followed would have been an excellent dérive if I’d been in the mood, but as a journey from pub A to pub B it left rather a lot to be desired. (Stockport, city of psychogeography! Maybe not.) But eventually I got to the Red Bull, and found myself in a large, dark, low-ceilinged pub with a heavy dining orientation – the first thing I saw on my way in was a birthday cake, complete with sparkler, being delivered to a table. For the second time, I drank a half of Hatters while perched on a bar stool and feeling slightly in the way.

A day characterised mainly by dining pubs and disorientation was about to get a lot better. It didn’t take me more than a couple of false starts to find my way back to Wellington Rd, and once I’d found Wellington Rd I knew how to find the Crown. And what a very fine pub it is. A quick scan of the bar revealed only one problem: nothing identifiable as mild. Fortunately the barman told me that Pictish Black Diamond is a dark mild – despite the brewery having a name for anything but – so I had that. The Crown is another largeish multi-room pub, with that comfortable but slightly shabby decor that makes you vaguely feel you’re in your grandma’s back room. The room I sat in had bell-pushes all around the walls, which is something you don’t often see – they hadn’t even been painted over. The mild was very pleasant and quite unusual – sweetish but distinctly hoppy; my second half, Kitty Wilkinson Chocolate and Vanilla Stout from Liverpool Organic Brewery, was superb. Best of all was the sensation of being in a pub – somewhere people come to drink beer, relax and pass the time away – which, with all due respect to the Arden Arms, was a feeling I hadn’t had since I left the Nursery. The Crown is that rare breed – a ticker’s pub that’s still a pub pub – and long may it continue.

I didn’t manage quite the roster of Stopfordian pub ticks I speculated about a few days ago (Longsight, Heaton Norris, Edgeley, Stockport (x3), Portwood, Shaw Heath, Adswood, Great Moor, Hazel Grove…) but I did fill my (second) card, which was nice – and it wouldn’t have been right to do Mild Magic without tasting (light) Hatters. BOTD was the Kitty Wilkinson; if we restrict it to milds, probably the Tetley back at the Moor Top. A real discovery – let’s hope it survives the move away from Leeds.

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6 Comments

  1. John Clarke
    Posted 22 May, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Good God man- lost in Stockport? Don’t you possess an A-Z? And the Arden Arms is certainly not a “dining pub”, with perhaps the exception of Sunday lunchtime (is that when you called?). And what’s this about an “archway”? There isn’t one in the place.

    • Phil
      Posted 23 May, 2011 at 7:53 am | Permalink | Reply

      On Stockport geography, I think it’s a question of orientation – having some idea whether you’re heading towards, away from or parallel with the A6. I had absolutely none & was genuinely surprised a couple of times when I found a map to check. And I’m usually OK at finding my way around, particularly in towns I’ve been to several times before.

      On ‘archways’ – I didn’t spend much time in the Arden, but I formed the distinct impression that it had side rooms and didn’t have doors leading in to them. The apertures in the walls of the main room leading into the side rooms are what I referred to as ‘archways’. What would you call them? I’m sure it’s a great pub – certainly the staff are friendly and the range of beer is great – but I really don’t like signs saying, in effect, “please don’t bring your beer in here”, particularly when it’s not clear what ‘here’ covers.

  2. Posted 22 May, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Certainly agree on the Moor Top. It’s former incarnation as a John Barras was less than inspiring but visiting for Mild Magic we found an excellent local with friendly interested staff & good beer.

    Really bad decision on the Calverts Court – when we did the Stockport section of our Mild Magic 48, the Calverts’ B&T Black Dragon was up there with The Railway, Portwood as easily the best mild of the day.

    Despite JC’s protestations, I know where you are coming from with The Arden – at certain times it does have a bit of a problem deciding what it’s primary purpose is. Have been there on a number of occassions where I felt as a mere drinker I was in the way. Not to say I was treated badly, just given the impression it would be easier for those serving food if I wasn’t there.

    As for getting lost round Stockport – granted the two level section around Market Place & Hillgate is a little confusing but in reality it’s basically a four road town. Have a look at this – I’ve not updated it since I first created it and Stockport CAMRA have declined to take it on themselves but it is a start:

    http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=216132170511952353600.00047571a7fa25bfbed34&z=12

    Cheers

    John

    • Phil
      Posted 23 May, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink | Reply

      I’ve had B&T Black Dragon twice in the last couple of weeks, so I don’t think I missed that much. I was expecting better (or ‘pubbier’) from the Red Bull – a folk club I know used to meet there – but whatever keeps the doors open, I guess.

  3. John Clarke
    Posted 24 May, 2011 at 6:12 am | Permalink | Reply

    Arden Arms – they are in fact doorways – with actual doors still in situ.

  4. Posted 6 June, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Given some of the odd angles and different levels, I can well believe that the geography of Stockport town centre could be a bit confusing to someone unfamiliar with it. And if the Arden really is doing the “diners please wait here to be seated” trick it considerably brings it down in my estimation – that is a sure-fire way of eroding pub atmosphere. Those wishing to dine should take their chances for a seat alongside everyone else.

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