About Me

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Manchester, United Kingdom
Tyson is a beer hound and cheese addict living in the beery metropolis paradise known as Manchester
If the people are buying tears, I'll be rich someday, Ma

Monday, 30 November 2009

Way Out West


Radcliffe is a suburb of Bury that borders the foreign lands of Bolton. Despite being only 2.5 miles from Bury, Radcliffe has a reputation as a strange place where the locals still worship the Norse gods and speak archaic languages. It’s the birthplace of Danny Boyle who embodies the dream of the some 34,000 residents who still live there: escape at any cost.


It’s also home to a number of pubs of dubious reputation, but which need documenting if the mapping of all of Bury’s pubs is to be complete. So, first stop was the Unicorn, the last pub within Radcliffe’s boundary. This proved a pleasant surprise with the pub advertising cask ales and delivering a cool, well kept pint of Hobgoblin, despite it being the first of the day.

It all went downhill from there, with the Turf, the Royal Oak, the Lord Raglan and the Flying Flute (the Horse Shoe as was) all delivering a cask free message in varying degrees of tattiness. The Colliers was particularly scruffy and, frankly, looked in need of fumigation. Things didn’t get much better in the centre of town. The ex GBG Bridge was doing a reasonable trade but has lost its cask Burtonwood beers.

Also reasonably busy, albeit it with an atmosphere of misery, was the miserable looking Woolpack. Lacking any atmosphere whatsoever or indeed customers, was the Wellington, which had an odd musty smell to it. Whilst the Old Tower, which could be most charitably described as needing some extreme TLC, merely had a stale piss smell. The Lock Keeper, a large modern build with a Wacky Warehouse attached, was much more comfortable, but still could only muster a few pensioners dining.

Luckily things started to improve on the way out of Radcliffe. There was some decent Holts in the Old Cross and in the Swan & Railway. The Swan is a cosy local and was just starting to get the Friday post work crowd in. Across the road, the long boarded up, ex Vaux, George looks closed for good. However, just a few doors up, the Staff of Life was very busy and this is another comfy local’s pub. Advertising cask, it had that seemingly Radcliffe staple-Holts on. Interestingly, yet again, the quality was high.

So it seems that Radcliffe is not quite the cask ale desert if you are prepared to seek it out. You can expect some decent beer in some decent pubs, but a taste for Holts Bitter is somewhat of a prerequisite.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

York

Saturday saw us take a little tour of York, exactly one year after our last visit. This time, Eddie, the eager, legal beagle was under strict orders to keep his walking pace to sub warp out of respect for the elderlies in our group. Mind you, when the rain started coming down, there was no time for dawdling. Now everyone knows solicitors bring bad luck, but Eddie is actually known to the people of Eboracum as the “Rainmaker”, such is his habit of bringing bad weather to the city.

As per last time, the Rook & Gaskill and the Waggon & Horses were good, albeit quiet due to their location at the outskirts of the city and it being early afternoon. Not unexpectedly the nearer the Minster, the busier the pubs get and we were lucky to get a table in the Guy Fawkes. This is a historic inn and whether or not it really is the birthplace of Guy Fawkes, it certainly has a lot of atmosphere and a very promising menu.

Another interesting diversion was Pivo. This bills itself as a “world pub” and although we enjoyed its foreign offerings, it was somewhat surprising to find it had no cask available on a busy Saturday afternoon. Travelling back first class kept us comfy and out of the way of the Yorkshire chavs, although the guy sat opposite Eddie was definitely one Penny Black shy of a full stamp collection.

A nightcap in the Trackside was called for and Eddie insisted I couldn’t leave until we had made our way through the German collection. There were still some beers left from the recent Oktoberfest celebrations, including Flying Dog’s Dogtoberfest. This was amber coloured and had a caramel sweetness that, surprisingly, wasn’t unpleasant. With the beer flowing and the staff being very efficient and accommodating –you could tell the gaffer wasn’t there (joke)-we happily saw in the witching hour waiting for fresh drinking companions.

But time and bar staff wait for no one, so eventually we set off to find Don Ricardo. Drawing a blank we resorted to old fashioned methods-the telephone. A few rings later he confirmed that not only had he left the vicinity, but that he was in fact tucked up in bed. Honestly, you just can’t get the staff these days.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Bury Beer Festival

Bury Beer Festival took central stage at the Met over the weekend with its expanded format proving popular amongst drinkers and music lovers alike. Certainly the inclusion of the downstairs bar area into the festival was very welcome as it vastly increased the amount of seating available.

A quick head count made it some 77 beers for local imbibers to choose from. The hall was split along the lines of local and non-local beers. Bury’s very own Leyden took up the back bar-very convenient for drinkers wishing to ignore their wares. Much more palatable were the extensive offerings from Outstanding, including the rarely seen White; a cloudy wheat beer full of lemon and earthy spiciness. Local celebrity Joe Stalin was spotted enjoying a pint (or two) of this as he lectured on the Second Congress of Soviets.

Some familiar names delivered the goods beer wise: Marble, Mallinsons, Elland were very good, but Brewdog proved to be my favourite. Their 5% Sam Saint was an extremely (too much for some) hoppy, red ale. Biggest let down was Dunham Massey’s Milk Stout. This was described as a “full bodied, sweet stout with a creamy, roast malt character”, but in fact tasted like roasted razor blades.

The photo shows an original BBF 2009 glass with a Camra logo on it, as given out to early punters. Fearing the wrath of Camra (it wasn’t a Camra event) these were withdrawn as soon as replacements arrived. However, there are stories that some were smuggled out under pain of death and are now fetching high prices on the black market.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

This Is The Modern World

Now I’m all for modernity, but some things are just wrong. And urinals with swirling, changing, colours are one of them. I’ve tried, but I’m not warming to them. The scene of this affront to human decency? Barca, a trendy bar in the Castlefield basin of Manchester. Famously once owned by Mick Hucknall, it has recently returned to the cask beer fold and so is now back on the real ale map of Manchester.

Together with the nearby Dukes 92 (3 casks on), it offers a rare opportunity to sup a pint in or out (luckily it never rains in Mncr) surrounded by young, posh, totty. What more could a man ask for? Or, indeed, let’s not be sexist, any self respecting lipstick lesbian.

Now obviously this pleasure doesn’t come without a price. You can expect to pay around £3 or more for your indulgence. And for those prices, you don’t expect to be overwhelmed by some LSD 60s’ vision. Not when you’re having a pee, anyway.

Picture the scene-you’ve had a few beers, you enter (a very clean, nicely tiled) dimly lit toilet. You’re in position and let rip. Next thing you know, your senses are being assaulted by flashing blue, red and er, green, lights. It can be quite disconcerting. Indeed, the WHB was so put out of sorts; he may never be able to go to the toilet ever again.

Modern life: it ain’t always easy.

George Slays The Dragon

Or nearly, anyway. For it seems that a modern George, in the shape of Cobe Consulting, is set to slay a local dragon. In this case, the Dragon pub on Parr Lane. But local residents are hoping this particular George falls on his sword and forgets about any development plans for the now derelict pub.

The Dragon is/was an ordinary pub. Nothing to mark it out from the crowd: no award winning food, no great selection of ale, no outstanding historical features. But it did minister to local needs and its loss is confirmation of a worrying trend. That, just as the Amazon is facing deforestation, we are facing depublication of densely populated areas-the traditional heartland of the public house.

Cobe’s exciting plans for the Dragon; namely a Co-op with apartments (flats to me and thee) are proving as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit. Apart from being daft and unnecessary-there is a row of shops literally next door, the residents objections are based on sound practical issues such as parking. Hopefully, these will win the day and Cobe will retreat with a bloody nose. Although, sadly, I doubt it.

In my view, if Cobe were really interested in providing a “social amenity”, then they would look at something that would benefit the whole community. Something that would really bring everyone together and provide an invaluable service. Now what could that be?...Oh yes, a pub

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Send The Buggers Back

Confirmation comes today that Scottish & Newcastle are going to waste time and money and, even worse, piss me off by introducing new glassware emblazed with units of alcohol. And not just a few, but four million of the buggers by 2010. And then they intend to roll out the concept to other brands. Lovely.

Without revisiting the farce surrounding the flawed concept of units, anyone can see this for what is it: a shameless act of appeasement to the anti-alcohol lobby. Unfortunately, no one seems to have told Mark Given, S&N UK brands director, that appeasement seldom works. The enemy merely scents blood. His lame excuse is however worth printing for the comedy factor alone: “Foster’s has long been at the forefront of dispense innovation and we wanted to create a glass to complement the brand’s unrivalled draught credentials.”

Now my advice is to steal or smash these insidious vessels of the devil. Then S&N may get the message. However, those of you wishing to take the Gandhi option may simply prefer to refuse to be served with them. When faced with a round of them, remember the immortal words of Half A Shilling and burst into full song with:

“Send the buggers back, oh send the buggers back,
These aren't the ones I wanted, son, I'm sending them straight back
”.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

A Nut By Any Other Name

Professor David Nutt certainly likes controversy-he’s courted much of it lately and won many admirers. Some however looked beyond the initial rumpus and questioned his underlying motives. Was he an innocent victim of politicking or, as the Pub Curmudgeon would have it: “In the final analysis, Nutt is not a hero of rationality and free speech, he is just, at heart, another Righteous bansturbator”.

Well it appears he has nailed his colours to the mast and he is indeed nuttier than a bowl of Swiss Muesli. In interviews today he reiterates his belief that alcohol should be a controlled substance, saying “This is not a stunt. I mean it. Alcohol will kill your kids not Ecstasy”. Failing that he would like to see the price of alcohol doubled, if not tripled. However, he claims not to be a puritan having enjoyed the odd booze binge and even dabbled with the odd drug or two when he was younger. So that just makes him a hypocrite then.

Prof Nutt should have stuck to his Bunsen burners and kept out of social policy. He’s gone way beyond his remit or, indeed, his expertise. His sacking now seems like a blessing in disguise. It’s hard to believe but sometimes politicians do get it right.

Reach For The Sky (But Not The Vodka)

And now for something completely different-a tale of woe taken from my Law and Disorder blog.

A 47 year old mother was arrested and charged with supplying a minor with alcohol after asking her teenage daughter to help her shop for a cocktail party. Petite Sue Savage asked daughter Tara, 15, to reach up and fetch £10 of vodka and mixers down from a high shelf at their local Co-Op. A seemingly reasonable request, as not only could she not reach, she was doubly handicapped by wearing an ankle brace. Whilst Tara on the other hand is an impressive 6ft 3in, so has no such problems.

The trouble began when she tried to pay for the items and a supervisor appeared and warned her that they suspected her of supplying booze to a minor. After tiring of explaining herself and not wishing to make a scene, Sue left without the alcohol. However, she returned later and (rightly I feel) insisted on purchasing the bottles, despite the manager now warning her that she was breaking the law.

Being an innocent in these matters and somewhat worried, she later rang the police to clarify the matter. Imagine her surprise when not only did they appear on her doorstep two hours later, they told her to return the bottles. And to add insult to injury, they arrested her and gave her a fixed £80 penalty.

Sue quite rightly now plans to fight this ridiculous fine in court and said: "It's ridiculous. Does this mean anyone with children cannot go shopping with them and buy alcohol?" Apparently not if the Keystone Cops have anything to do with it. And the overzealous Co-Op need a reality check as well.

You couldn’t make this stuff up...

Bury Beer Festival

Good news for local drunks, I mean ale aficionados, with the confirmation that Bury Beer Festival will be going ahead after all. As usual the venue will be Bury Met on the 20th/21st November with opening hours of 12-11 on both days and an entry fee of £4. As there is no Camra involvement this year, the format will be somewhat different, with there being an emphasis on live music throughout both days. Beer wise, local brewers will be peddling their wares, so expect to see the likes of Moorhouses, Thwaites, Phoenix etc. Not forgetting, of course, Bury’s very own Outstanding Brewery. Be there or be somewhere else...

Through The Barricades (Or The Designated Alcohol Zone)

Interesting news today with the report that Oldham (yes, them again) council are planning to “get tough” with supermarkets selling cheap grog. They’ve written to 17 stores warning of new trading conditions that they may apply if the store sells alcohol for less than 50p a unit. These primarily focus on having an in-store designated alcohol zone with a clear “gateway” to the zone and various conditions liable to the zone, such as having to provide a security officer for the zone and a ban on promotions outside of the zone.

Many of these conditions frankly sound like nonsense: There will be a limit on the size of promotional material advertising cheap drink-maximum 20cm x 10cm and a requirement to display one of five responsible drinking messages!
Of course this follows hot on the heels of their plans to impose similar conditions on town centre pubs and clubs. But hold on, you might say, didn’t most of those conditions fail at the first hurdle? Yes, as well these might if the likes of Tesco wish to flex their legal muscles. For, rather worryingly for a local authority, Oldham seem to have a shaky grasp of the law and like to put the cart before the horse, licensing wise.

It would be in the interests of drinkers everywhere if these proposals were to fall by the wayside. For as Peter Coulson, legal editor of the Morning Advertiser, warns, any attack on the supermarkets is merely part of a general attack on the whole licensed trade and could have worrying consequences for the on-trade.