Mild Magic – day 4 and a bit

More ticks from Mild Magic 2012, Stockport and Manchester CAMRA’s annual effort to promote mild. (Is there a map? Yes, there is a map.)

In this post I’m going to wazz through the town centre and Salford, running together one decent-sized crawl and two shorter ambles.

I hadn’t been in the Rain Bar before, & the interior came as a surprise: it’s a large, opened-out multi-room pub – the kind of place you sub-consciously expect to see Sunday lunch being served – and about as unlike a ‘bar’ as you can imagine. JW Lees Brewer’s Dark was pretty nice, if unspectacular. Lees are doing some interesting stuff on the quiet, but not much of it was in evidence. Well, there were a couple of variations on session bitter, but nothing particularly strong or unusual – no Moonraker, to name but one.

It was standing-room only in the Grey Horse, not because it was especially busy but because it’s tiny. Two TVs (showing the racing) did battle with the din of as many as ten or twelve people in animated conversation. I drank my half of Hyde’s Mild at the bar and got out. (Presumably it was actually 1863, since (other than that) Hyde’s don’t brew a light mild any more.) Getting visiting celebs to sign a plate rather than a photograph is a nice touch, although it backfires a bit when you can’t actually read the signature (full marks to the late Pete Postlethwaite for thoroughly legible signing).

I know the City of old – I used to work at the council, although for some reason most of my colleagues preferred the Vine next door. The food menu isn’t what it was – I’ve got fond memories of their bacon and egg barms – but the beer is still good; it’s also one of those unusual pubs that has books on display which are actually interesting. I passed a very pleasant ten minutes with a half of Howard Town Mill Town and Ronnie Barker’s memoirs, as you do (and if you don’t, you should try it if you get the chance).

The Ape and Apple joins my growing list of rather agreeable Holt’s pubs; I really have been missing out. (On the other hand, when am I ever in search of a beer in town and not in search of something new and interesting, as served in the City and the Waterhouse? It’s a curse being a ticker, a curse I tell you.) I was less taken with the Crown and Anchor, another Holt’s pub, which had a bit of a hotel-lounge vibe and a large TV mounted over the bar – although in fairness it was (a) muted and (b) showing an old British film. The Mild in both places was reliably good.

From the C&A I headed into Salford and the New Oxford – not the easiest pub to find or to reach, unless of course you’re starting in Salford. And what a very fine pub that is, and what an extraordinary range of cask and bottled beers they have. I was surprised not to see the King’s Arms or the Crescent on the MM list, but in retrospect I’m quite glad of it – if either of them had been there I would never have made it as far as the NO. I had a half of dark mild from a brewery I’m afraid I quite forget Ossett (viz. Dark Ruby Mild – very nice) and followed it with a half of Hawkshead USPA – a beast of an IPA, so dry as to verge on being positively unpleasant. I’d got to like it by the end of the glass, though.

Then back into Manchester – anyone who doubts that Manchester and Salford are separate cities need only walk out of Manchester down Chapel St, then head back via Quay St; I’ve made trips to Liverpool that felt shorter. Being on Quay St I could hardly walk past the new BrewDog bar, but I’ve written about that elsewhere. After that I stopped off at the Paramount, where memory fails me again. It was dark, I know that (the mild, as well as the pub). (Update: somehow the resurfaced memory of the Ossett at the New Oxford has brought the memory of this one with it; it was Rudgate Ruby Mild. It didn’t really stand out, but that’s often the case by this stage of the day.) Apart from the Smuttynose, the 1863 and the TT’s Golden Best, the milds this year have all been dark and treacly; Dunham’s Chocolate Cherry Mild is probably the lightest of them.

Some time later (life intervened) I found myself in the Molly House in the Gay Village, drinking Offbeat Wild Blackberry Mild. I used to spend quite a lot of time drinking in (what wasn’t yet officially labelled as) the Village, first in the New Union & later in Manto. I’m honestly not sure what the appeal was now, although it certainly helped that in those days places like Manto described themselves as ‘mixed’. The Village generally seems a lot less ‘mixed’ than it was, which was probably inevitable and is probably a good thing overall. To cut a long story short, although the MH looks like a terrifically interesting pub on paper (or on their Web site), I didn’t feel entirely comfortable in there, and not only because my beer was on the dear side. (Didn’t much like it either – too heavy on the sweet fruit flavours for me.) Oh well – tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis, and that’s all there is to it.

It had been too long since my last visit to the Castle, finally; I hadn’t even seen their amazing new extended range of bar-pumps and keg taps. Having a bit of spare capacity and a bit of time to kill, I followed a half of Hatter’s Dark (very nice indeed) with a half of keg GBGB (OK) and – O joy – a half of Old Tom, from a pin on the bar. What a very, very fine beer that is – roll on the next Winter Warmer Wander!

31 pubs down, 17 to go. Stockport is calling!


  1. Posted 9 May, 2012 at 8:11 am | Permalink | Reply

    “Lees are doing some interesting stuff on the quiet, but not much of it was in evidence”

    What’s that then? Do tell.

    • Phil
      Posted 9 May, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink | Reply

      That comment was on the back of the JW Lees beer stall on the Christmas market, which featured two seasonals, one strongish and one very strong (I don’t think it was Moonraker rebadged, but who knows), plus some interesting-looking bottles. Nothing interesting-looking at all at the Rain Bar, sadly, unless you count “the Governor” – which I don’t, really, as it was in the same strength and style brackets as virtually everything else on the bar (and I’ve got a prejudice against celebrity chefs).

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