Greetings to any passing craft beer fans attracted to this blog by me saying nasty things about BrewDog. (And may I just say, that was an excellent half of Zeitgeist – at least, once it had warmed up a bit and lost some of the excess carbonation. Not quite as good as it was on cask, sadly.) I probably won’t mention them again – not in this post, anyway. This being another instalment of my travels in pursuit of Mild Magic 2012, Stockport and Manchester CAMRA’s annual effort to promote mild. There is a map. (I had Edge once; that was a terrific cask mild. Eheu fugaces eh?)
Altrincham is looking a bit sad these days – the town centre seems to have been hit particularly hard by the recession, perhaps because it was already wobbling from the impact of the Trafford Centre. Costello’s, on the other hand, is going from strength to strength. Being the brewery tap for a brewery as versatile as Dunham Massey comes with challenges; when I was in last year the Gold was kegged and the Chocolate Cherry Mild was on stillage in the cellar. Since then the range of handpumps seems to have doubled: both of those were on draught, along with much else; you could spend an increasingly happy afternoon working your way down the bar. Regretfully, I limited myself to a half of CCM, which was excellent as ever: the added flavours blend with the base flavour of the beer instead of drowning it. It’s not even a big chunky dark mild, either – quite a lightish, malty one. It’s a good trick.
By bus to Timperley, where the Quarry Bank – a big, open, multi-room pub – was buzzing. There really isn’t much to say about Hyde’s 18321863; it was in decent condition (and very cheap).
I headed back to Altrincham and walked to Broadheath, also known as “that bit as you’re just coming into Altrincham where you turn off for Oldfield Brow”. Or maybe that’s just in our house. The Old Packet House is a compact street-corner boozer and served a good (if a bit chilly) half of Timothy Taylor’s Golden Best.
The Metro then took me from Navigation Road to Sale, where my first stop was the J. P. Joule. I lived for a while in a flat above the florist’s opposite (now closed), and have vivid memories of what was then Ferguson’s (Bugatti’s after hours); not fond memories, particularly, but vivid ones. Particularly of weeknights when I was trying to get to sleep. The JPJ is a JDW with the usual tunnel-like layout, but with an upper floor which gets a bit more natural light. Wolf Brewery Woild Moild was fantastic, despite the name – a 4.8% strong(ish) mild with a big complex flavour. Joint MOTD (with the CCM, natch).
One thing this year’s MM has impressed on me is that I don’t go to enough Holt’s pubs. It’s true that they only ever have their own three beers, and that all three of them are on the thin side of sessionable – even the IPA – but they’re all, reliably, good. I like the pubs, too – they feel like pubs in Manchester used to (although without the fag smoke). The Mild in the Volunteer on Cross St was as good as ever, as was the IPA (I stopped for another half). The barmaid pulled the IPA through for me; when I asked, she said they don’t sell much of it – “They’re mostly bitter and mild drinkers in here.” Which in itself says something about Holt’s pubs – in a lot of pubs they’d be mostly Guinness and lager drinkers.
Back on the bus, finally, to reach the Bishop Blaize in Old Trafford – the name being another of JDW’s cunning attempts to blend in to the local pub landscape, Tardis-like, by using the name of a local worthy. The Tardis analogy is particularly appropriate here, as the layout is almost identical to the J. P Joule. I went upstairs with a half of Oakleaf May Bee Mild, a seasonal mild flavoured with honey (yes, I see what they did there). I’d like to say it was brilliant and a fitting end to the crawl, but it was… OK.
Next: eight town centre ticks, and around Salford in a half of mild! (Where’s the Crescent? Where’s the King’s Arms? More from NM next year, hopefully.)