Mild Magic – the last crawl

With this post my travels in pursuit of Mild Magic 2012, Stockport and Manchester CAMRA’s annual effort to promote mild (map here), come to an end.

This was a trip involving walking; lots of walking. It started with a bus route minutely planned out and perhaps a mile of unavoidable walking in total; it didn’t quite work out like that. I started in Longsight with the New Victoria (thanks, John), externally a rather grim-looking estate pub but internally… well, a rather nice estate pub. Unusually, it’s an Oakwell house; the brewery lists the pub on its Website and comments

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Oh well, I’m sure they’ll update it some time. More importantly, the Oakwell Mild they serve there is terrific: a bitter, porter-ish dark mild, without much sweetness but with a really rich flavour, while still being drinkably light. As well as being one of the best milds I’ve had in the last few weeks, it was insanely cheap – sub-Spoons level. I wish I could have had more, but I had buses to catch, places to be.

The next stop, reached quite a while later – a misjudgement of the bus route had left me with a very long walk – was the Sidings in Levenshulme: externally an unprepossessing estate pub, and internally… an unprepossessing estate pub. The sight of a pump with two clips – for Mild and IPA – didn’t inspire confidence, but apparently it was Mild‘s turn on the pump that day, and the barman duly pulled it through for me. I’m normally a bit of a fan of Holt’s Mild, but this was in very poor condition. I drank it up, looked at the posters and left.

The next stop was supposed to be the Hinds Head in Heaton Chapel, but the bus route or my map-reading let me down again. After another long walk I ended up at the Navigation in Heaton Norris, a Beartown pub (another unusual sight), drinking a half of Black Bear in the public. Beartown beers tend to err on the side of sweetness in my experience, and this was no exception; it wasn’t bad (and it was in good nick), but drier would have been better.

From there I found my way – eventually – to the Hinds Head, a sprawling gastro-pub set back from the road. I found a sofa and took the weight off my feet with a half of Timothy Taylor’s Golden Best (which was approximately twice the price of the Oakwell Mild). I give the pub six out of ten, the beer eight and the sofa ten.

I’d come out with four ticks left to get, and I’d been to four pubs. However – I realised at this point – I’d miscalculated, as what I needed was four stickers from pubs in different areas, and I’d already been to the Navigation’s area of Heaton Norris East. Heading back into Stockport with a vague plan of going to the Olde Woolpack (Heaviley), I noticed that the bus I was on was going to Shaw Heath, where not one but two Robinson’s pubs were listed. Something I’d noticed in a couple of Robbies’ pubs on my last trip to Stockport, but never tried for obvious reasons, was Old Tom on draught. The vision formed of getting my very last sticker at a Robinson’s pub and following up the obligatory 1892 by celebrating with a half of Old Tom…

All that remained was to get to Shaw Heath. Getting off the bus I found myself, firstly, lost; and shortly afterwards, in the leafy and attractive Cale Green area, home to yet another Robinson’s pub (the Adswood Hotel). I headed that way. (I don’t think the beer I drank that afternoon is going to make me fat.) However, when I finally got there it was shut. Heading back to the main drag I found myself on Shaw Heath itself, home to the Florist – which was also shut – and, eventually, one very long walk later, the Armoury. This is a small and unpretentious pub, and in many ways looked like the ideal place to finish the crawl. There was no Old Tom, though, and there was piped music, which – as I finished a well-kept half of 1892 and debated whether to get a bottle of Old Tom instead – switched into a rather noisy and energetic slab of grime, or dubstep, or something in that general area. Why this came on is anyone’s guess – I don’t think it was the juke box (and the average age of the few punters in must have been at least 50), but the bar staff looked as if they were trying to ignore it. I tried to ignore it myself for a while, then gave up and called it a day.

Noo I hae been tae balls, and I hae been tae halls
I have been to London and Balquhidder
But the bonniest lassie I e’er did see
She was herdin’ yowes amang the heather

Well, I’ve been to All Saints, Alti, Broadheath, Cheadle, Cheadle North, Cheadle Hulme, Chorlton, Chorlton Green, Didsbury, Didsbury West, Fallowfield, Heaton Chapel, Heaton Norris E, Heaton Norris W, Levenshulme, Longsight, Manchester (all 7 areas), OT, Parrs Wood, Portwood, Rusholme, Sale, Sale North, Salford, Shaw Heath, Stockport (all 3 areas), Timperley and Withington. But the best mild of the lot was probably that Oakwell Mild. Unless it was the Dunham Massey Chocolate Cherry Mild, or Wolf Woild Moild, or Bank Top Dark Mild, or Acorn Lightness (hors de concours). Or possibly one of the others.

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