I meant to write some posts about the local CAMRA branches’ Mild Magic promotion this year, following previous years’ posts. The trouble is that I didn’t get round to it before sending the tokens off, so it’s all getting a bit vague. I did complete two or more cards, I remember that, giving me a total of eleventy-three stickers in umpty-two separate areas, which will entitle me to a Mild Magic Wizard sweatshirt with the big droopy sleeves and everything. So that’s something to look forward to. And I’ve got all the ‘free mild’ tokens for the Stockport Beer and Cider Festival that a man who’s just drunk hufty-ten halves of mild in two weeks flat could possibly want. If not more.
(Some of the details in the previous paragraph may not be precisely accurate. It was more like three weeks, for one thing.)
But what was the beer like, and what new and interesting pubs did I get to? I’m really not entirely sure at this point, but I’ll have a bash.
In Chorlton I hit the Sedge Lynn (JDW) and the Beech; the mysteriously-named Leeds Vienna and the reliable Timothy Taylor’s Golden Best, respectively. Mmm, Golden Best.
In Town, there were the (Arndale) Micro Bar, the Waterhouse (JDW), the Rising Sun and the Castle. I’m drawing a bit of a blank all round here, although I’m pretty sure they were all dark. The Castle stands out – Titanic Nautical Mild (just this minute got the pun), a big and unsurprisingly bitter mild at a robust 4.8%. Then there was the Wharf at Deansgate Locks, which is one of those areas of Manchester that seem to have appeared out of a fold in the map over the last few years. Great place to go if you haven’t seen it before – particularly if you like footbridges – but the pub was very Brunning and Price. It felt like a country pub from deepest Cheshire or points south, with prices to match: Conwy Mulberry Dark (3.8%) at £3.60/pint, the dearest mild of this year’s MM by some margin. I felt much more at home in the New Oxford in Salford, which also served the best mild I had on this year’s MM – Black Jack Conasta [sic].
I’ve had a bit of a problem with Mild Magic crawls in previous years, which is that I don’t much like Hyde’s 1863. (I’m not crazy about Robinson’s 1892, either, which is a real problem for serious Stockport crawling.) This year I decided to cut down on the Hyde’s quotient by skipping the Oxford Road crawl (Fallowfield/Withington/Didsbury). Higher up the road, I did manage to get to the Ford Madox Brown (JDW; Vienna again) and Sand Bar (a very nice dark mild from a brewery I hadn’t seen before and now can’t remember – something to do with an anteater, possibly, or else an armadillo).
And so to Altrincham, via the Bishop Blaize (JDW) in Old Trafford (where I do remember the Moorhouse’s Black Cat). Sale offered the J.P. Joule (JDW) and a very nice half of Holt’s Mild at the Volunteer. (This was one of only a couple of places where I was offered a MM sticker without asking; I guess a bearded guy walking in mid-afternoon and ordering a half stands out in some way.) Walking to Ashton and the Plough seemed like a good idea at the time; Hyde’s Light Mild was very welcome when I got there. It was also a lot nicer than I remember 1863 being – is this a rebadge or a new (old?) recipe? In Broadheath the Old Packet House featured its usual handful of regulars who looked as if they’d taken root, and its usual well-kept Timothy Taylor’s Golden Best. In Altrincham, lastly, I headed for Costello’s, where I’d planned to celebrate the end of that day’s crawl by drinking my way… well, drinking some of the way… along the bar: the last time I’d been there they’d had Chocolate Cherry Mild on, plus not only East India Pale Ale but also the strong Gold on handpump. ‘Twas not to be. I like Dunham generally, but if they have a fault it’s a tendency to turn out beer after beer in very much the same low-strength, easy-drinking range. That day the six handpumps offered the light mild as well as Dunham Dark, plus their milk stout and three different bitters – in other words, nothing at all challenging, and nothing over 4.5%. I finished the day with a Red Willow at Altrincham Pi.
That’s sixteen – which just leaves one final, eight-pub crawl, from Stalybridge to Stockport. Featuring the cheapest mild, some of the least comfortable pubs, the emptiest Cuban restaurant and the eternal mystery – what do you do for food in Stockport if you don’t go to the Arden Arms? And what on earth would you do if you didn’t like pies?