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Showing posts from November, 2008

The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round

You come out of the Manchester Arena after a great night watching the legendary Leonard Cohen. Of course the Metrolink normally finishes at 1030, but they’re obviously running a later service. Aren’t they? After all, they wouldn’t leave thousands of people stranded in (very), cold Manchester, would they? That would be really silly. Er, it appears they would. The slinky, blonde eye-candy isn’t happy-I think her tassels are starting to freeze. Luckily for us there’s a late bus back to Bury. As we pass hordes of revellers facing a scramble for taxis, I can’t help but reflect on the joys of an integrated transport system.

Down In The Wild Garlic Valley

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Cold and crisp. Perfect weather conditions for drinking. Logistics were somewhat complicated by the need to avoid the Trackside until late afternoon. The Santa special had started running and who needs people running round screaming and throwing crisps everywhere. And that’s just the parents. So we needed somewhere to drink until it was safe to venture into central Bury. No problem. It was the perfect excuse to take the Whitefield Holts Bandit and Archimedes on a Rammy ramble.

First stop was the Good Samaritan. Not many punters in and those that were in were riveted to the horse racing on TV. Their leader was definitely one scoop short of a vanilla cone and took some shaking off. Combine this with the Alsatian jumping round the seating and it was something of a surreal start. However, yet again, there was no faulting the Golden Pippin. I, along with the WHB, would have gladly stayed for another, but Archimedes doesn’t believe in drinking the same beer twice, so we pushed on.

Next up was…

Joke Of The Day 2: Alistair Darling

“We're living in a North Sea Bubble
We're trying to spend our way out of trouble
You keep buying these things but you don't need them
But as long as you're comfortable it feels like freedom”

(Billy Bragg)

Well the dust is just starting to settle after yesterday’s robbery without violence. The blogosphere is full of anguished drinkers bemoaning Mr Darling’s latest attempt to deprive them of God’s greatest gift. Not only has the miserable git stuck us with an 8% rise, we’ve still got next year’s inflation+4% increase to look forward to. Luckily, when VAT returns to its normal level, so will beer duty. No, hold on, it won’t. Just when you think the Government couldn’t treat you with less contempt, they do. Either pee, or get off the pot. If the Government want to make alcohol illegal, then they should come right out and say so. But, please, stop treating us as mugs. So, I ask you today to raise a glass to Alistair Darling, the jester in a pack of clowns.

Joke Of The Day 1

Talking of everyone's favourite, Wifebeater, I see they've launched a website aimed at festive drinkers. At http://www.gethomesafe.org.uk/ you'll find tips on how to get home safely during the Christmas period. Apparently 83% of Brits will get frustrated when trying to get home after a night out, due to not planning our journeys home in advance. Or because we're pissed, more likely. Anyway, very commendable, but this quote made me chuckle
"This reinforces the brand’s responsible drinking message ." I can see the 2009 adverts now-"Stella, the choice of the responsible drinker." Coming to a billboard near you, shortly...

Enterprise Don't Give A XXXX

In a move guaranteed to warm the cockles of any cask drinker’s heart, Enterprise are to delist Carlsberg and Castlemaine XXXX at the end of January. Ok, they’re replacing them with Becks Vier and Amstel, so nothing too exciting, but I love it when the lager boys have a spat. It’s obviously very bad news for the brands concerned, but they are a bit of a joke, aren’t they? Enterprise claim Carlsberg is no longer viable because volumes and demand have dropped. Carlsberg hit back with “At a time when tenants are facing unprecedented challenges and need support, Enterprise has taken a decision to restrict their choice and offer them brands that are not comparable, in that they are significantly less popular with the consumer, are more expensive and have a much lower rate of sale.” Ooh, bitchy.

It seems though that not everyone is happy-licensee Grant Hollier has written to Enterprise complaining that Carlsberg contributes 33% of his draught sales. He says that if they can’t provide the exac…

Shout Hallelujah. We're Going To The Promised Land

The Government’s plans for cutting anti-social binge-drinking, ahead of a possible Christmas clampdown, have been leaked to the press. As part of its ”war against alcohol misuse,” which “could cost more than £25 billion a year,” there are plans to ban free drinks for women. Also pubs will be encouraged to sell only small glasses of wine. I, for one, will sleep more soundly in my bed tonight knowing that.

Bury My Wounded Knee At Marton Cum Grafton

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Eddie, the eager, legal beagle, suggested we pop out for a drink. Apparently it was National Tweed Underpants Day, which is a sacred day on the IOM. Hence, whilst the Manx Minx was busy washing his Donegal tweed smalls, he was free to drink at will. I reluctantly agreed-I had planned to spend the day cataloguing my Dana record collection, but Eddie is very persuasive. But where to go? Obviously it had to be somewhere local and easy to get to. And that’s how we ended up in York.

Our primary goal was to visit Ye Olde Punch Bowl in Marton cum Grafton-the home of Neil Morrissey’s brewpub venture. The omens weren’t good, with cancelled trains and mad dashes from platform to platform. However, eventually we arrived in York. We’d missed our bus connection, so had 40 mins to kill before our next one. A pint was in order, so we headed straight for the Maltings. This small, one-roomed pub was already busy, even though it was barely noon. Rather annoyingly all the tables were marked reserved, lea…

Pizza For The Mentally Ill

Pizza Hut (or should that be Pasta Hut?) are offering 50% off when you order £40 or more. Holy Mother of Mary. Has the world gone mad? Are there really people who spend £40 in Pizza Hut??? They must be completely and utterly bonkers. Instead of getting 50% off, they should be driven away locked in a straitjacket. And what is the Government doing about this national scandal? Nothing. That's right, nothing. Instead of wasting money on ID cards and reminding people of the supposed dangers of not wearing a seat belt, they should be tackling the real issues. I want to see TV adverts making clear the dangers of such places. I want kids steered away from this evil social blight. As Billy Bragg said "Wearing badges is not enough. In days like these." We need action NOW.

What Am I Going To Do With Your Tattoo?

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Déjà vu all over again as I visited Ramsbottom once more-this time in my semi-official capacity as a local beerhound. First stop was the Good Samaritan where I had a chat with the landlord. Seems (as was speculated) that he is just a manager keeping the seat warm till Enterprise can con, I mean convince, someone to take it on. Seems a bit daft to me. They’ve got money to pay someone at least minimum wage , for months on end, and yet they consistently increased the financial pressure on the one successful tenant that they did have. Or am I missing something here?

Anyway both the Copper Dragon and Theakstons Mild were good, although it’s hard to see the Mild lasting long as there simply aren’t any customers. Only two people in-there would have been three, but the landlord’s rather large dog went for some poor old bloke as he was coming in, necessitating a hasty exit. Over at the First Chop things were also quite, but slightly more relaxed. This is the bar I was approached about some time…

I Lost My Husband To Ale

That headline grabbed me today. It was in an article on infidelity in Woman magazine. At last I thought. Some brave soul has finally come forward and revealed the torment and heartache that a love affair with real ale can bring. Making up excuses to try and cover that illicit rendezvous. Pretending you’re late at work when you’re really spending time with Golden Pippin in the Dog & Duck. Telling the wife you spent the night with a hooker, when in reality you’ve been gently caressing a pint of Adnams. We’ve all been there.

Sadly, closer inspection revealed a clever typographer at work. They’d coloured in the X at the end, so it actually read “I lost my husband to Alex.” Alex apparently being some loser on the X-Factor. Well they’re all losers appearing on that show, obviously, but you get the idea. The Jeremy Kyle showdown between Camra and spurned spouses is on hold. But it’s only a matter of time...

Doing The Ramsbottom Rumba

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Eddie, the eager, legal beagle, was at a loose end. The Manx Minx was out collecting wild mushrooms under the light of a full moon. Well she claimed she was going for a curry, but we’ve all heard that before. Honestly, I ask you, which is the more likely? So abandoned and unwanted, his thoughts naturally turned to drink. I accompanied him merely to ensure that the statutory minimum number of drinkers, as required under EU legislation, was met.

Our first stop was the Trackside. A good mix on the board and the first pint-George Wright Cheeky Pheasant (4.7) was pleasantly fruity and made for a good start. Unfortunately, our second choice proved disappointing. Facers Flintshire Bitter was only 3.7% and should have been light quaffing ale. Sadly it suffered from “Bazens Disease” i.e. it was very heavily smoked, making it very difficult to enjoy. I hope this malady isn’t spreading amongst the local microbrewery population; otherwise we’re all in trouble.

Moving on, we decided to take a punt …

Biobeer-Coming To A Future Near You

Beer drinkers could soon get many of the health benefits that wine drinkers enjoy, thanks to American students of genetic engineering. Apparently, they've bio-engineered a beer with anti-cancer properties. The new brew contains resveratrol, a chemical found in wine and thought to be responsible for reduced cancer rates in lab tests. Currently Biobeer's chemical additives don't taste too good, but as it isn't due in the UK for five years, so there's plenty of time to tweak it.

Just bang it in Bud I say-it's bound to improve it.

A Brewery Visit And Then Some Beer

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Another day, another beer festival. Well another day at Bury, anyway. Before that though was the little matter of a brewery visit to Outstanding. Being the BLO for my (sometimes too) local brewery, I was the natural choice to lead the great and good of Chester Camra to this hard to find beer outpost.
We met up at the Trackside at lunchtime for a quick aperitif. Unfortunately the beer range was obviously suffering from festivalitis, as the severely depleted board offered nothing under 5%. Undaunted we managed some of the rather fruity Atomic Bomb before winding our way to Outstanding. Based in a rather run-down industrial area, it’s surrounded by a number of brothels which I’m sure don’t offer real ale, although several people seemed interested in verifying this. That’s dedication to the cause. At the brewery we enjoyed a couple of entertaining hours sampling the likes of Blonde etc. Not forgetting the sublime Barley Wine. Then it was time to get back to the festival before all the bee…

Festival Frolics

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There was only one thing on the mind of Bury’s drinkers today: was X-Factor rigged? No, hold on, that was last week. Today was Bury Beer Festival day. Build it and they will come. And come they did, bringing together a mix of the usual well-known faces and first-timers. People studiously scrutinised their festival programme before plumping for a drink. Tickers ticked. Scoopers scooped. Celebrity spotters sort out the exalted beer pulpiteer Tandleman as he held august court over his minions. And Don Ricardo had to be smuggled in via the fire escape. It was all happening in the Derby Hall.

My own appearance at the festival was somewhat delayed by a visit to Outstanding Brewery. I had to check arrangements for tomorrows visit, and their early morning hospitality being what it is, I was unavoidably detained there. Clearly a breach of my human rights, but what can a beerhound do?
The festival proved to be somewhat of a combination of (mostly) good, the bad, and the ugly. The good were beers…

Do That To Me One More Time

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This morning it felt like I’d been mixing whisky and beer last night. Probably because I had. No time to wallow though. The WHB was on the loose and demanding an afternoon drink. The weather wasn’t very welcoming and neither were most of the pubs in the centre of Bury. A problem meant they had no running water and so had to close. Luckily no such worries for the Trackside-they’ve got their own supply, and the staff don’t wash their hands anyway.
So it was a repeat performance with Mallinsons featuring once again. Oakham did appear on the bar later, but by then it was already too late. and it was Talisker time. Until recently the Trackside had only sold the abysmal Bushmills, but things are slowly improving. Talisker is now available for the more discerning pisshead. Gloriously peaty with notes of underlying chocolate and pepper, the finish is very dry and pure North Sea. A great way to finish off an afternoon’s drinking, and, as a bonus, mask the effects of last night.

The Winner Takes It All

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Another Day. Another Beer. Actually that’s what I’m calling my autobiography, but it happens to be true. What would be today’s excuse to ease my worries about the credit crunch, global warming, and the plight of the Javan rhino? Ah, yes, the Hairy Mounds winning Cask Ale Pub of The Year. As good as any reason to enjoy Humulus lupulus, I’d say.

So it was that I found myself at the bar of the aforementioned winner tackling George Wright Longboat. This was pale with some summer fruit sweetness and a short, dry, finish. This was followed by the wonderfully named Cumbrian Legendary Blue Monkey Amber Ale, which, like all their beers I’ve tried, was excellent. In between shots of celebratory whisky, I also managed some Outlaw and Crouch Vale Eureka. The latter of these was indeed copper-coloured and, although easy drinking for 4.6%, failed to live up to the hoppy claims of the pumpclip.
Down in the Trackside the beer of choice was Mallinsons Stadium. Straw in colour, it packed quite a bit of f…

And The Winner Is

Congratulations to the Hare & Hounds in Holcombe Brook for scooping the Publican’s Cask Ale Pub of The Year award. There were some excellent pubs in the finals, but having visited most of them, I think it’s a very fair result. It’s long been known that Bury has some of the finest ale houses in the land and I’m happy that this is finally being recognised.

Sadly, despite being in London, I didn’t get to attend the swank awards ceremony yesterday, but will have to make do with a celebratory drink later. Such is life of a beerhound-always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

Brought to you by Tyson, your local Reuters correspondent.

Hanging Around In Whitefield

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The Southport Drinker recently did a piece highlighting Albert Pierrepoint’s role as a local licensee. Never afraid of plagiarising a good idea, I thought I’d do the same for Harry Allen.

Harry Bernard Allen (1911-1992) was Britian’s last hangman. He reached the peak of his somewhat dubious profession after some 14 years as Pierrepoint’s deputy. People tend to get the two confused and indeed many think that Albert had a pub in Bury, when it was actually Harry. In those days, despite the important nature of their job, executioners weren’t well paid and had to maintain a “proper” job. Mr & Mrs Allen had run a pub in Farmworth-the Rawsons Arms, before taking over the Junction Hotel in Whitefield in July 1952.

The Junction was the last pub to be built by Bury’s own Crown Brewery, and, in time, it duly passed to Duttons and then Whitbread. It was in its final incarnation as a Tetley outlet that I became familiar with it. Sadly, as with so many pubs on the main road to Manchester, it’s no…

Cheese Of The Moment: Ossau-Iraty

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Ossau-Iraty is a superb cheese-indeed it won the World Cheese Award in 2006, but remains the least known Appellation d'Origine Controlee (A.O.C) cheese. Why I’m not sure, but I suppose one has to be, and Ossau-Iraty is probably just not mainstream enough. Strange really considering its highly palatable flavour.

This cheese unites two regions of France in the Western Pyrénées: Ossau in the valley of the Bearn and Iraty in the beech forests of the Pays Basque. It’s unpasteurised and semi-soft, made with the milk of Manech ewes. During the summer the herds move up to the better grazing land higher up the mountains, which is reflected in its rich texture.

Ossau-Iraty is very complex and tastes creamy and buttery in the mouth with slight hints of fruit and a nutty, deep finish. Interestingly the rind is also edible, but be warned, it is quite tart. Good for all uses, although I tend not to use it for pizzas as the complex taste tends to be lost amongst the maelstrom of stronger cheeses.

Destination Dewsbury

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A morning tram ride took me to Manchester in order to get the train to Dewsbury. But as I sauntered past Piccadilly Wetherspoons, I was struck by a strange impulse to venture beyond its grubby doors. Famously once voted the roughest JDW in Britain-quite an accolade considering the competition-nowadays it seems to cater mainly for the sad and desperate. A typical JDW some might say. Anyway, it does have its share of celebrity visitors-Tandleman has been known to pop his head round the door, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

Already fairly busy and it wasn’t 11am yet, I positioned myself at one end of the long bar directly in front of the elusive Proper Job. Quite clever I thought, as after serving the village idiot ordering two coffees it was obviously me next as there was no one else anywhere near. Alas the Czech ice maiden behind the bar proved to be a clone of her sister in Huddersfield. Whilst she was at the till counting out change one of the local deadbeats sidled up beside me. No…

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Where Is All The Decent Beer?

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The plan was to take it nice and easy and save myself for tomorrow. However, the Whitefield Holts Bandit had others ideas and proposed a post-work drink in Manchester. I was a little reluctant as I was already ensconced in the Peel. But, as the Highgate Red Rogue was proving disappointing-like most of their beers, I decided to go for it.
The first sign something was amiss was the delay to the tram service, apparently caused by heavy congestion in the city centre. This turned out to be a knock-on effect of the Christmas lights being turned on and I began to suspect that things wouldn’t run that smoothly pub wise either. So it turned out at our first stop-the usually reliable Marble Arch. It wasn’t actually the best time to visit the place, as it was very busy and you constantly ran the risk of people bumping into you. They had obviously been hammered during the afternoon as two pumps were derelict, the Budvar had run out and a lot of the food options weren’t available. Never mind I tho…

Brown Beer And Diacetyl

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What a Tuesday night. It was great to be part of such a historical moment and I celebrated late into the night. The sort of evening you want to tell your grandchildren about. Yes, Alan Partridge (And Less Successful Characters) was back in Manchester-what did you think I meant? Really I could have done with a night in, but I was teased with the lure of football and so reluctantly (for me) I turned out. I had a bad feeling in my water about it though, and it wasn’t all down to the curry & tequila I had last night.

It started badly with word coming through that the Towlerhad let us down and we needed to find a quick alternative. The good news was that the Sundial was showing the match, so only a minor detour was needed. The bad news was that they only had Flying Shuttle (4.6%) on handpump. Although the pub was busy, no one else seemed to be drinking it as quite a bit had to be pulled through. Even then it was warm. A innocuous brown beer is the most generous comment you could pass o…

End Of An Era

So, the chop has come at last. Carlsberg have announced plans to close the Tetley brewery in Leeds. No doubt the blogosphere will be buzzing with views all day. Let’s be honest, the Leeds operation must have always been a sideshow to a company with no interest in real ale. They do plan to continue brewing Tetley-preferably in the North of England, but “definitely” still in the UK. Doh!

Obviously they will still brew here-unless Denmark has suddenly become a major cask ale producer. In reality this means under contract, which in reality means changes to the beer, which inevitably leads to the brand dying off. How the mighty have fallen. A sad day for Leeds and the workforce. And for those who recall Tetley in its glory days. Very interesting, though, in terms of what will happen to the market when the last of the big players leaves.

Vikings Take No Prisoners

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My plans for a quiet night in the company of the latest Mills & Boon were scuppered. Eddie, the eager, legal beagle was back from his German jaunt and wanted to reacquaint himself with some proper beer. He’d been drinking far too much of that damn Boche beer. I begged to be excused, but he quoted some obscure EU directive at me and so I had to attend.

Our rendezvous was the Robert Peel, in the hope of securing some festival beers. My journey down was quite eventful with the bus driver punctuating the air with expletives urging the traffic to go faster and traffic lights to change colour. The reason for his haste soon became apparent when he informed the bus “Jesus, I think I’m going to piss myself.” Luckily, for all of us, this didn’t occur-a quick dash at the bus station merely left the waiting hordes bemused I was expecting Eddie to turn up resplendent in his Hitler-Jugend uniform but, apparently, it’s at the dry-cleaners. There were several beers on offer, and I settled down to s…

Yellow Fever

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Well the nutters in Whitehall are at it again. You’d think the Government would have plenty on its plate and wouldn’t have time to harass the pub trade any further. You’d be wrong. Obviously they know where their priorities lie. They’ve written to local councils advocating a number of measures that should be applied to so-called problem pubs.

Apparently, under review pubs should display a yellow card in some sort of bizarre naming and shaming exercise. That’ll teach them. Other proposals include employing over 25s only and forcing them to close at weekends. The trade has hit back saying that there should be a green card scheme for the vast majority of pubs that abide by the law. Rightly they are miffed that the Government chose to write to councils without first consulting those most affected.

As usual this is the Government marching to its own beat. One of its obsessions seems to be passing more legislation, so as to be seen to be doing something, instead of ensuring that current laws …

Every Little Can Helps

In a move likely to gladden the heart of the Southport Drinker, I see that Tesco have fallen foul of Alcohol Concern. They held a 24hr sale offering 15 can crates of Stella for only £5. I must have been washing my hair on that day as somehow it passed me by. Anyway, apparently it was for purely altruistic reasons-a spokesman said they were merely trying to help “hard-up families.” However, AC have branded it “totally irresponsible.” And, for once, I find myself in agreement with them. It is totally irresponsible. How patronising to think that all hard-up families want to drink crap. What about the poor drinker who just wants to enjoy a beer at home without feeling the urge to beat his partner or mug old ladies?

I’ve written to Tesco to point out their erroneous thinking and look forward to their first 24hr bottle-conditioned sale.

Manchester Festival Hunt

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After a splendid afternoon spent watching football, a tour of Manchester seemed like the natural thing to do. Aren’t those chaps at JDW having a beer festival? I believe so, old boy. In that case let us make haste to the nearest hostelry and imbibe some of Mother’s Nature’s greatest gifts.

First stop was the Moon Under Water on Deansgate. A giant, soulless place, that use to be a cinema. The lack of natural light doesn’t help with the ambience and the place is packed with an eclectic mix of characters. From the upstairs bar we sampled Firestone California Pale Ale (4.5%) and Sharp’s Own (4.4%) which made for an interesting contrast. I have to agree with other commentators who found the Firestone underwhelming. The initial Burton Snatch gives way to a short bitter finish, and that’s that. Not a hint of any hops. The Sharps was dark amber and had a malty/barley mouthfeel that led to a lingering bitter finish.

Once we had managed to get served downstairs, we tried Wadworth Camrale and Badg…