This is the penultimate instalment of my travels in pursuit of Mild Magic 2012, Stockport and Manchester CAMRA’s annual effort to promote mild, concentrating this time on the Stockport end of things. (And here’s the map again.)
This was a trip involving unprepossessing pubs, pubs in odd locations and, mostly, rather average beer. I started at the Gateway in Parrs Wood. It’s a big roadhouse-style pub wedged in between two A-roads; an unpromising location these days, but it seems to be doing OK in JDW’s hands. There was no mild on – the barman said they’d ordered two, neither of which came – so I had a half of Gateway (i.e. the pub’s own-brand), which is brewed by Moorhouse. Not sure if it was a hoppy best bitter or a malty pale ale, but pretty nice. The pub, though… I think the critique of JDW’s in general as soulless and un-publike is a bit overblown – my local Spoons’ is the only pub in Manchester where I’ve ever heard a spontaneous sing-song break out – but the Gateway that afternoon was very much like a cross between a hotel lounge and a motorway restaurant, only gloomier. Better beer than most hotels and better food than most motorway restaurants – and cheaper all round – but still; the Moon Under Water it ain’t.
Then I headed south (I decided to give Gatley a miss after my first attempt), walking to Cheadle – through open country, somewhat to my townie surprise – and stopping at the
CheadleCheshire Line. This is another roadhouse-style pub, set not so much back from the road as below it; the fields on one side of the road drop away and suddenly you’re looking down on a pub, set alongside an enormous garden centre in the shadow of the M60. (This part of the journey wasn’t very rural.) It’s a big, food-oriented pub, which seemed to be doing all right, despite its almost unwalkable location. There was no mild here either; the barman said they’d had a barrel on, but hardly anyone had drunk it and it had gone off. I had Bateman’s Spring Goddess, which (unless my mental tasting notes are getting hopelessly confused) was also in hoppy-best-bitter/malty-pale-ale no man’s land. It was certainly nice, I remember that.
In Cheadle, the Crown turned out to be a smallish pub with a tunnel-like layout and an atmosphere a bit like the more upmarket working men’s club. I had Hyde’s Owd Oak, which was rather nice – when well-kept it’s a decent, drinkable dark mild.
After Cheadle I had big plans – Woodford! the Church Inn! Woodford and then the Church Inn on the way back! – but I’d misjudged the time, the buses or both, and eventually decided to cut it short with a quick trip to Cheadle Hulme. The Cheadle Hulme is a big, purpose-built roadhouse-type pub on the way out of Cheadle Hulme, set not so much back from the road as above it. It’s light and airy, which made a nice change, but very anonymous and hotel-lounge-ish. Holt’s Mild was as good as ever, but the combination of beige plush and 40 Greatest Love Songs on the widescreen drove me on. Back on the main drag, the King’s Hall is a Spoon’s, which – unusually – was serving nothing at all I liked the look of. I particularly didn’t like the look of the one mild, but needs must. Coach House Gunpowder Mild tastes very like a sweet dark mild, only without actually tasting of beer. I wouldn’t say it was revolting, exactly, but it was the first time on my MM travels that I’ve knocked a mild back as quickly as possible, to get it over with. Then, as I say, there was nothing else on the bar I fancied, so I headed out in search of somewhere else where I could get something decent. Then I gave up and waited for my bus – which was ten minutes late.
Mild of the day: a half of Acorn Lightness, at Pi in Chorlton. A lovely beer – a light mild for golden ale drinkers. Shame about Cheadle Hulme, though.