As I was a-wandering (1 of 4)

Time once again for the Winter Warmer Wander, Stockport & South Manchester CAMRA’s annual effort to promote ‘winter warmers’ (with some support from neighbouring branches such as my own). Forty participating pubs or bars this year: eleven in the city centre or Salford, six in Chorlton, seven on the Rusholme/Fallowfield/Withington/Didsbury trail and fourteen in Stockport, plus one further down the A6 in Hazel Grove and one solitary pub out in Hyde. The idea, as ever, is to drink a half (or more) of an old ale/barleywine/winter warmer or porter/stout, or failing that any cask ale of 4.5% or above.

Here’s how Chorlton looked:

Font wasn’t the greatest start. Font were in a low-strength pale-and-hoppy mood the night I called in; there were only a couple of cask beers above 4.5% on the bar, neither of them dark or particularly strong. I had… something from Anarchy Brew Co; something pale, hoppy and around 5.5% (can’t remember what it was, or work it out from their Web site).

Marble Beerhouse were serving the eponymous Chocolate Marble, and very nice it was too – except that it was very smooth and chocolatey, to the point of sweetness. In fact it tasted more like a chocolate dark mild than the chocolate stout I remember having before.

At the Sedge Lynn (JDW) I had Bath Ales‘ Festivity: a smooth but rich and complex porter, which put Bath – a brewery I’d always rather overlooked – up several notches in my estimation.

Oddest had just been having a winter beer fest when I called; they had six beers on, every one of them a stout or porter except for one old ale. I was tempted by the old ale (from the very reliable Brightside) but as soon as I saw the Ticketybrew pump clip there was only one choice. Ticketybrew Stout was rich, smooth and generally superb. Those people are going from strength to strength.

At Electrik I passed over their own (very good) Blackout XO in favour of Black Jack Honeytrap porter. It wasn’t great, sadly – a bit thin, a bit sharp. But my expectations may have been partly to blame. I’m sure Martyn‘s right when he says that stout and porter are historically the same thing – and can’t be consistently distinguished from each other even in revival forms. Still, my expectation from a porter is of something malty and mellow, in contrast to the sour roastiness of many stouts. This particular porter was (according to my personal tasting map) much more of a light stout; not much honey discernable, either.

Finally I made it to the Parlour, who – just as they did last year – were serving Robinson’s Old Tom, albeit at a hair-raising price. It wasn’t the only potential qualifier, but it was the only old ale – and besides, it was Old Tom. Fantastic beer – like alcoholic malt extract, only better.

How’s it looking so far, then?

Old ale: 1
Stout/porter: 4
Other >4.5%: 1

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