Category Archives: W W W 2013

As I was a-wandering (3-4 of 4)

So then I went to this other pub and had a different beer, which was also very nice…

The plan to visit really quite large numbers of pubs in Stockport, and on the Fallowfield/Didsbury trail, didn’t work out; in the end I just made it to the 25-pub mark. Having done 17 pubs in the town centre and Chorlton, I’ve only got eight more to mention. I may as well run through them now.

In Rusholme, the Ford Madox Brown (JDW) was serving Peerless Full Whack. The brewery describe this simply as a strong ale (it’s 6%), but I’m using my discretion and putting it down as an old ale. I liked.

Down the road in Withington, the Victoria had another 6%er in the shape of Hyde’s Beer Studio Crystal Chestnut. A darkish and surprisingly aromatic winter beer; again, this ticks enough of the boxes to go down as an old ale. Up the road, my plan to make an early-lunchtime visit to the Friendship was foiled by the place refusing to open, or at least taking its time over it; an unusual sight of a  Christmas weekend. The Great Central (JDW) was open, unsurprisingly, and supplied me with… White Horse Rudolph the Red Nosed White Horse (4.8%). Which was fine.

A trip to Stockport, also on a weekend over Christmas, took me first of all to Robinson’s Visitors’ Centre… which was shut (and yes, I had checked the times). H’mph. Ho forth to the Cocked Hat, which was… odd. It struck me as one of those pubs which would be written up as warm, friendly and welcoming, but only by its regulars. Put it this way, there were five or six punters stood in front of the bar, and every one of them looked round as I came in. The last time that happened to me the punters were speaking Welsh. As for the beer, there were five or six hand pumps, but it was actually quite hard to see all the pump clips, what with the discussion group parked in front of the bar – or to read what they said when I did get a look, thanks to the low light… the whole thing just wasn’t very comfortable, basically. I ended up with some kind of stout. Had a half. Supped up and got out. I think somebody wanted my table.

The Arden Arms didn’t disappoint, with a half of Old Tom from a pin on the bar; a bit listless and lacking in condition, but still a great beer. The pub was rather full, on the down side; I ended up standing in a corner of one of the side rooms. The landlord, wont to hail anyone standing at the bar to check whether they want to dine, was taking an even more proactive approach and encouraging drinkers to budge up on the benches to let more people sit down. I stayed stood.

At the Railway (Portwood) I bumped into a fellow CAMRA member, who advised me to get along to the Stockport branch’s 40th anniversary dinner, an idea I’d been toying with despite it not being my branch. (It turned out not to be a great idea, but I blame lack of preparation on my part more than anything.) Anyway, Rossendale Pitch Porter was on, and was as good as ever.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man with a half of Old Tom inside him fancies few things more than another half of Old Tom. This was provided by the Swan with Two Necks – in excellent condition and sparkled. “Very nice indeed” would be an understatement.

If anyone’s keeping count they’ll have realised that we’re now up to 24. Pub 25 was… The Olde Woolpack, a pub I’d never made it to before. I’m as sorry as anyone that it’s had to close, but I’m not sure I’m surprised – it’s a bit of a trek from anywhere else, in a town (and in a part of town) that’s not short of good drinking opportunities. Anyway, I skirted the industrial estate, crossed the roundabout with the motorway signs and made it to the beckoning lights of the Woolpack, to find that they had absolutely nothing on that would qualify: no old ale, no stout or porter, nothing over 4.5% (while the only ‘seasonal’ was something called Christmas Slapper, which somehow didn’t appeal). They were, however, very big on polypin cider, so I had one of those – something from Gwynt y Ddraig FWIW.

Stats?

These areas Total
Old ale / Barley wine 4 6
Porter / stout 2 12
Others (4.5% and over) 1 4
Others (non-qualifying) 0 2
Cider 1 1

Only six old ales and ‘winter warmers’, out of 25 pubs – and three of those were Old Tom. Rather a lot of draught stouts and porters. (Looking on the bright side, hey – rather a lot of draught stouts and porters!)

How do these figures compare with last year, I hear absolutely nobody ask? Here’s how:

2013 2012
Old ale / Barley wine 6 4
Porter / stout 12 9
Others (4.5% and over) 4 9
Others (non-qualifying) 3 4

So it looks as if things are getting better; the WWW may be helping to encourage pubs to put more stouts and winter ales on. And it’s always good to have an excuse to visit pubs slightly further afield; I just wish I hadn’t had a cold to slow me down for so much of the WWW period. So many pubs, so little time. Ah well – roll on Mild Magic!

As I was a-wandering (2 of 4)

WWW 2013 part 2: Manchester (and Salford)

This year there are eleven participating pubs in the city centre (and Salford). Here’s what I found there.

The Marble Arch were offering a twelve-months-aged version of Chocolate Marble, and very nice it was too – more of the stout character I remember of old than I’d tasted in the ‘fresh’ version (the mild version, I suppose I ought to say).

There wasn’t anything very wintry on the bar at the Lower Turks Head. Brightside Amarillo would have qualified on strength grounds, but on an impulse I went for Hobgoblin (which was 4.5% so just qualified). I hadn’t had this in a while (as you can imagine), and I was quite pleasantly surprised – well kept, it’s really not a bad beer.

Over at 57 Thomas St there wasn’t anything dark on draught, but they did have the Marble/Emelisse Earl Grey IPA – a stunning beer, a smooth and mellow combination far greater than the sum of its parts. My only complaint would be that the alcohol is too well hidden – it’s really dangerously drinkable for its 6.8%.

The Castle, to my chagrin, didn’t have Old Tom on when I called. I can’t remember what I settled for, although I’m pretty sure it was a stout. (I draw a stout-coloured blank at the Waterhouse (JDW), too.)

Over in Salford, the New Oxford had Lees‘ Manchester Star on draught – something I’d never seen before; considering that the strength was dialled down to 6.5% from the bottle’s 7.5, I wondered if it was actually a rebadged Moonraker. Not that it matters – it was a fantastic beer either way; rich and dark, with those odd edge-flavours you get in a Burton-style ale (treacly malt, metallic malt, savoury malt…)

Up the road at the Mark Addy I saw the familiar and welcome sight of a Ticketybrew pump clip. Unfortunately it was the Pale Ale – which would have qualified on strength, but since they had Black Edge Stout on I felt duty bound to have that as well. Not a world-beater but a good solid stout, heavy and bitter without any sourness.

At the Bull’s Head near Piccadilly there was nothing that qualified on style, and only one beer – Jennings’ Snecklifter – that qualified on strength. I really didn’t fancy that, so I went for Wychwood Bah! Humbug – which is currently being sold at 4.3% on draught, but used to be much stronger. And that’s what it tastes like, too – a spiced bitter (mostly cinnamon), with some old ale character, but with the strength dialled right down.

The Paramount (JDW) had two or three qualifying beers on, but the standout – and, bizarrely, something of a house beer at this vertical-drinking-oriented city-centre Spoons’ – was Elland 1872 Porter. What a very fine beer that is.

The Deansgate Tavern had a rather fine tiled exterior, a small and uninspiring selection of beers (none of which qualified), a full complement of pre-Christmas boozehounds, a thermostat set on high and two or more people fighting over the music behind the scenes – insipid Christmas hits were replaced abruptly by “Teenage Dirtbag”, which itself was interrupted two minutes in. Not my favourite. I had quite a nice half of Thwaites‘ Lancaster Bomber, though.

Lastly, the Wharf – tucked away behind Deansgate, a mere ten minutes away down alleys, along paths and over canal bridges. Black Hole Brewery‘s Starry Night stout was more than palatable.

So where does that leave us?

This area Total
Old ale / Barley wine 1 2
Porter / stout 6 10
Others (4.5% and over) 2 3
Others (non-qualifying) 2 2

So, more of a Stout Wander so far. Let’s see if Stockport helps matters.

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