Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Up North’ - Journals From A Trip – Part 2

Not so long ago in a county a few hundred miles away……

Having conquered the pubs of Stockport, myself and twelve other drinking troopers are ready to move on to Manchester and in particular the National Winter Ale Festival. Porters, Stouts and other winter warming ales awaited but the toils of the previous days activities created a disturbance in the force……..

Another day, another dawn and another fuzzy head! Memories of the previous afternoon’s jollities around the pubs of Stockport swam through my mind and they all seemed to contain drink in them somewhere. Even Charlie, my parent’s dog seemed to take pity on our plight and stop his barking for a while! Finding the courage to venture out from under my duvet, a shower and my mums fried breakfast had soon sorted us out and it was off to find the bus to take us into Manchester. Text messages were soon reaching us which not only confirmed that the others had found their hotel last night but that they had all managed to get up at a reasonable hour and set off into Manchester before us. They had even found time to call at The Circus Tavern, a tiny Tetley’s pub on their way to the festival!

After a little confusion and a short stop at a coffee shop, we managed to find The New Century Hall, the venue for this year’s event and we made our way inside. The festival is split between two floors and offers a wide range of ales, not just those of the dark wintry warming variety as one might expect. The selection of old ales, milds, porters and stouts were, none the less, much more in evidence than you would expect at many other festivals and we settled down to try and sample a good selection of them. Particular personal favourites with me were Sarah Hughes’ Snowflake and Fuller’s London Porter which notably won the Stouts and Porters category and took the Silver Medal for the supreme champion beer. It is such a shame that this fabulous Porter is rarely seen in any of Fuller’s pubs and I hope that they are taking note of these awards. Green Jack’s Ripper (a barley wine) took the Supreme Champion beer of the festival but it had run out by the time of our visit so none of us were able to try it, maybe one for next time. After spending a very pleasant few hours at the festival, we decided it was time to try a few of the pubs around Manchester, the first of which being a mere stagger away.

Passing the currently closed (lets hope not for long) Beerhouse we arrived at The Marble Arch with the Marble Brewery situated at the back of it. This is a small pub which was understandably very busy due to its close proximity to the festival; however this did not detract from the splendour of the tiled frontage and interior, vaulted ceiling and slightly odd sloping floor. A small seating area at the rear offered views of the brewing coppers and fermenting vessels. A good selection of guest beers complemented the full range of Marble Brewery offerings, Ginger Marble and Port Stout being particularly notable – look out for these at Poole Beer Festival in October – and after enjoying a very pleasant drink whilst discovering that the relief landlord had once managed The Central in Lower Parkstone (spooky, huh?), it was time to carry on around Manchester.

A long walk through the centre of Manchester brought us to the Briton’s Protection, a multi-roomed inventory listed pub offering Cheshire Gold and Burn’s Auld Sleekit for our thirsty walkers. With early evening setting in and news of another defeat for Charlton (sorry, Roger!) filtering through to us we moved on to the nest pub, Peveril of The Peak (so famous there is even a picture in Manchester’s Art Gallery, see below). Isolated between two main roads and surrounded by high rise buildings, the location of this pub is a little unusual to say the least, a description which can also be extended to the interior with its maze of little rooms around a central bar. Sadly the table football was broken but one of the rooms at least contained a pool table and having acquired our drinks from a choice of Deuchars IPA, Golden Pippin, Black Sheep Best and Bombardier we settled down to display our pool playing prowess to a few of the locals………well ok, we’d had a lot to drink………the table is slower than the one’s we usually play on…….and it slopes to one end……..maybe it was time for something to eat and soak up all this beer!

Luckily (or did I plan it!?) we were a mere stones throw away from an area for which Manchester is becoming famous; a short bus ride took us into Rusholme and its curry mile. We were soon munching on poppadoms and indulging in some very good curry before it was time to make our way to the last pub of the day, The Sandbar. Being close to the university, there is a very student influence throughout the many rooms of this pub and we certainly weren’t the youngest people in the place on this particular evening! (Some of us never are, mentioning no names, ED) Abbeydale Absolution, Pheonix All Saints and Moorhouse’s Premium made up the selection of ales at the bar although our full stomachs and the fact that the weekend was catching up with us was by now taking up much of our attention. Having visited fourteen pubs, a national ale festival and a curry house in two days it was time to catch the bus home for some much needed sleep!

Thankfully everyone at the hotel was up bright and breezy for their trips back down the M6 while I took the opportunity to have Sunday lunch with my family, taking Dusty, Tree and Roger with us to The Sportsman’s Arms at Strines. With an ever changing selection of ales (York Breweries Yorkshire Terrier and Pictich Brewers Gold when we were there), this pub offers great views down the valley into Marple and a pleasurable couple of hours was spent there with my sister’s young children as extra entertainment!

Sadly all good things come to an end and with snow starting to fall we set off on our journey back home, although I’m sure it won’t be too long before I’m asked to arrange another pub crawl around my home town again!?

Meanwhile, Luke and Hans Solo were on their way to……….oh no, that’s a different story!


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