Category Archives: Mild Magic 2013

A ticker is born

Around the 27th Stockport Beer and Cider Festival in 20 beers, give or take a few:

1. Marble Barley Wine
2. Marble Emancipation
3. Red Willow Witless II
4. Fyne Ales Jarl
5. Marble Decadence
6. Red Willow Shameless
7. Bollington Goldenthal
8. Quantum SK2
9. Blackjack King of Clubs
10. Fyne Ales Sublime Stout
11. Marble Bennington
12. Worthington White Shield
13. Fuller’s London Porter
14. Happy Valley Dangerously Dark
15. Fuller’s ESB
16. Fyne Ales Bell Rock & Hop IPA
17. Ilkley Lotus IPA
18. Liverpool Organic Shipwreck IPA
19. Buxton Dark Knights
20. Okell Maclir
JW Lees Manchester Pale Ale
Worth Coppice
St Feuillien Grand Cru (bottle)

1-20: beers I picked out on the programme, in descending order of desirability
In bold: beers I ended up having
In italics: beers that weren’t on

You’ll notice a rather high level of italics, particularly towards the top of the list. I wasn’t entirely expecting all three of the strong Marble beers advertised to be available, but I didn’t expect that none of them would be. I’m gutted to have missed Witless on cask, too, and the Bollington and Quantum beers both sounded rather fine. Looking on the bright side, the top five beers I did have were all excellent; it was particularly good to make the acquaintance of Jarl after all this time, especially as it didn’t disappoint.

Not sure why I didn’t get to the Buxton or Okell beers. Worth Coppice used up a Mild Magic token, as did Marble Bennington. Those are the only two milds on the list, despite my having gone armed with four MM tokens; when you’ve seen 24 milds, you’ve pretty much seen them all. (Except Bennington, which was distinctive – as you’d expect from Marble – and rather fine.) I left my other two tokens lying around for a passing mildophile to snaffle. Lees’ MPA was on the festival charity stall, and it just spoke to me. As for the St Feuillien Grand Cru – which, at 9.5% over a 330ml bottle, was approximately four times as strong as the thirds I’d been drinking upstairs – it was excellent; one of only a handful of beers at the festival whose taste I can still bring to mind. I have to confess, I’d only turned up at the bottle bar in the first place because of a rumour going round that they were accepting MM tokens in exchange for British bottled beer. Not the case, sadly – somebody had got MM tokens confused with volunteers’ tokens. But I was feeling flush, and my tick-list was looking rather sparse – particularly in the skull-splitter department – so paying money for some Wallonian loopy juice seemed like a good idea. As, indeed, it turned out to be.

I’m not moaning about the lack of beers. (Well, maybe just a bit about the Marbles.) I’ve come to the conclusion – if I may address the Festival collectively for a moment – that it’s not you, it’s me. There was some terrific stuff on – as well as the beers I’ve mentioned already, there was Marble Pint, Red Willow Wreckless and Endless, Magic Rock High Wire and Curious, a Dark Star, a couple of Buxtons… I wasn’t tempted by any of it, though. This is partly because of where I live, and partly – I’m afraid to say – because I’m a ticker. And I’d never even realised. The evidence is there, though – the disregard for mild, the thirst for novelty, the disdain for established beers, even the St Feuillien Grand Cru. The shame of it.

What’s to become of me now? What shall I do? Where shall I go? Here, I suppose.

Mild but hazy

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?