Stockport has been a mainstay of past Mild Magics (to say nothing of Winter Warmer Wanders). The loss of Robinson’s mild meant that some familiar names didn’t appear this time round; I also skipped some of the usual suspects, as they would only have scored one point.
All in all, this visit to Stockport isn’t going to look much like previous years’. For one thing, it started in Levenshulme, at Fred’s Ale House – a tiny bar (I counted seating for 13 maximum) which seems to have been carved out of the pub next door. A nice place, though, with a beer selection uneasily balanced between the usual Marston’s suspects and a couple of more interesting contenders. No mild, though; I had Solitaire, a pale and sproingy bitter from Blackjack.
Then the orienteering began. Rather than wander down the main road, taking in the reliable but low-scoring Hope, I struck off towards Heaton Moor. The Crown is one of those big old pubby pubs; that day it came complete with a big old pubby barman, deep in one of those animated and just slightly truculent conversations with two regulars. (One of the regulars seemed to be holding forth about paying somebody to wash his car for charity, and complaining that she wasn’t offering to take her top off – “what’s the point of that?” He wasn’t joking.) I was pleased to see that they had a mild on, then disappointed to see that it was Coach House Gunpowder Mild – one of my least favourite beers, not to mention brewers. How to describe it? If you like Coca-Cola, you’ll probably like it; the main differences are that it hasn’t got so much sugar in it and it will get you drunk if you drink enough of it. At least, I assume it will; I’m never going to find out.
An even longer walk brought me to the Nursery, where the barmaid queried whether Hyde’s 1863 qualifies; you can see her point of view (it says ‘bitter’ right there on the pump clip). Being pretty thirsty by that point I followed it with a half of a Beer Studio beer, the self-explanatory Citra Chinook; not up to the standards of the Blackjack beer, but rather good.
Another trek took me back to
civilisation Wellington Road and the Railway… which isn’t on the list (although it did appear to be on the official map). I supped up my Rammy Craft pale ale (no mild, perhaps unsurprisingly) and moved on. I passed the George (reluctantly – it’s the only place I know that regularly has Timothy Taylor’s Dark Mild on) to arrive at the Spinning Top. This is a new one on me, but if the opportunity arises I’ll be going back – it’s a really nice bar, more bohemian and less ‘dressy’ than Fred’s or the Orange Tree, and with an excellent range of beer. The landlord knows his stuff, too; he gave me the back story to the beer I had (Cryptic 1049 Dead, an excellent strong dark mild).
Sadly, this was the last mild of the day; I had Castle Rock Harvest Gold at the Baker’s Vaults and Outstanding Ginger at Live Stockport. I haven’t really got on with the Baker’s Vaults since the refurb a couple of years ago; it’s nice enough, just not terribly welcoming (to the solitary middle-aged CAMRA type). Live Stockport was a revelation, though. The moment you walk in the door you know you’re in a live music venue. It’s a one-room pub – a big, cavernous space with a stage off to one side – and the space is just made to be filled with a crowd of gig-goers. I was there at opening time (5.00) on a weekday – just me, the barman and the barman’s friend – and even then the place had a really nice feel to it. What it reminded me of most of all was the old Firkins, before David Bruce sold out – that same sense of old premises repurposed without much adaptation, that same slightly studenty, slightly bohemian feel. I liked it a lot. (According to the barman, incidentally, they had had a mild on order – Phoenix Monkeytown Mild – but it hadn’t turned up.)
Six pubs, one light mild, two dark. Which gives us…
Light mild: 5 (4 different beers, counting the mysterious Hyde’s Light Mild)
Dark mild: 12 (9 different beers)
No qualifying beers: 4
Breweries: 16 (12 producing mild)
Pubs I go to anyway: 2
Pubs worth going back to: 7
Once-a-year pubs: 12