Winter Wonders 5

WWW 2012 part 5: Stockport.

I’d been looking forward to this. Stockport boasts one terrific multi-ale free house (the Railway in Portwood), one even better than that (the Crown) and numerous Robinson’s houses, several of which were on the Winter Warmer Wander; what could possibly go wrong?

Well, one or two things. The beer running out, for one. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Arriving in the centre of Stockport, my plan was to head for the Railway and then work my way back to the Crown. The plan lasted until I passed the Swan with Two Necks, where I’ve had a very nice half of Old Tom before now. I went in. Old Tom was off. I came out again.

I still fancied the idea of hitting the Railway with an Old Tom already under my belt, so I went in the Tiviot. They were serving Old Tom from a freezer-jacketed pin on the bar. I’m in two minds about this arrangement; the half I got was close to room temperature and had lost most of its condition. On the other hand, it tasted really good. I think I’d still prefer it at cellar temperature and with a bit of condition, but it did work the way I had it – it seemed to bring different aspects of the flavour to the fore.

There should be a standard classification for pies, I feel. The main dividing line would be very simple: on one side there would be pies which can be held in the hand and eaten while standing up; on the other, pies which call for seating and the use of a fork, and which are liable to disintegrate messily if approached without due care. Every pie on sale for immediate consumption would be clearly marked as a “hand pie” or a “fork pie”. Customers purchasing a “fork pie” would naturally be offered a disposable fork to go with their pie, together with a paper napkin and perhaps a wet-wipe or two. I feel this would greatly enhance the customer experience offered by such businesses as Greenhalgh’s. No reason, it just crossed my mind.

By this time I fancied another Old Tom, never mind my original plan, so I went in the Arden Arms. There was a pin on the bar, from which the landlord managed with some effort to extract about a fifth of a pint – for which he very sportingly didn’t charge me. Unfortunately – if unsurprisingly – it was on the turn, so I left it after a couple of swigs.

What would the Railway be serving? I mused as I headed over there. (An old ale would be nice. An old ale other than Old Tom, especially. A barley wine would be really nice) What they were serving was about six different bitters in the 4% region, plus one strong one (Jaipur) and Rossendale Pitch Porter. So I had that (and a half of Jaipur). The Pitch Porter was every bit as good as it had been at the Mark Addy, and much more reasonably priced at £2.30 a pint – or, to look at it another way, three pints for the price of two.

I stuck my nose in Calverts Court but didn’t see anything qualifying except for Brewster’s Belly Dancer, which qualified on strength alone and didn’t appeal. (Besides, I had my 25 stickers now.)

Then ho for the Crown. I’d been spoilt for choice on previous visits and was looking forward to this one. I was greeted by the familiar and welcome sight of a forest of handpumps – how many beers is that, 12? 14? What came to light when I examined the pump clips, however, was a huge array of 4%-ish bitters with just a couple of dark ones, and nothing like an old ale. I tried Wilson & Potter’s Pudding Porter and wasn’t wildly impressed – it’s one of those “cake spice” beers made with actual cake spices, which I always think is missing the point a bit. Then Millstone Stout: a light, thin-tasting, easy-drinking stout. Which was OK. There were a few other things that I hadn’t tried, but nothing I particularly fancied, so I left it at that.

26 beers in 26 pubs, and they were:

This area Total
Old ale / Barley wine 1 4
Porter / stout 2 9
Vaguely Christmassy beer 0 4
A.N. Other Beer at 4.5% or over 0 9

I may just have been unlucky, but the numbers in those last two rows look rather high to me – and the number in the top row looks very low, particularly when you take into account that three of the four were Old Tom. I’m a huge fan of old ales and winter warmers, and I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed. I wonder how many other people went out in the hope of finding an old ale and wound up settling for something like Last Drop. I understand that numbers are limited, but then why exclude pubs that do serve dark beers (Electrik, De Nada, the Odds) and include pubs that don’t (Royal Oak, 57 Thomas St, the Hyde’s estate)? If the idea was to encourage pubs like these to stock ‘winter warmers’, it doesn’t seem to have worked.

Perhaps it’s a work in progress; our influence will be cumulative, and the next Wander will see 6%ers sprouting from bars across the city. We can hope. In the mean time, I’m looking forward to the NWAF – at which I intend to drink nothing pale, hoppy or below 5%. Mmm, winter ale.



  1. Arthur
    Posted 15 January, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink | Reply

    I’ve had dark beer in 57 Thomas st before, though it was about a year ago: on Christmas eve they were giving away a free half of port stout with every pint, and I think they may have had another one on.

    • Phil
      Posted 18 January, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

      On Christmas Eve at the Marble Beerhouse, the Port Stout is just plain free, whether you get a half, a pint or several; I’ve seen people getting properly tanked up on it.

      From other people’s comments I think I was unlucky this year, at Thomas St and in quite a few other places. You know how sometimes you’re driving home and every single light is against you? Like that, only once a year and with beer instead of traffic lights. I shall drown my sorrows at the NWAF.

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