Black Dogs and Englishmen

I went out for a friends birthday on Saturday and unusually I deceided to drink lager. I had a couple of stubbies before we went out and decided that I’d stay on lager to avoid mixing the fizziness of lager with ale.

Let me say now I have decided that lager does not agree with me. It’s not that I’m an ale buff and I think lager is bad and the mark of the devil, it’s more that it doesn’t suit me. Like putting diesel in a petrol engine, it fucks everything up.

tuborg

So I had the stubbies then we went to Wetherspoons as a special stage on the way to the main event. At this point I had Tuborg which is pretty nice… for a lager. Lagers taste much of a sameness to me. The thing is I can tell a high quality one from a low budget hangover juice but the difference is much more subtle than ale. So I think Tuborg is pretty much in the middle of the road, though it’s very fizzy. So I had a desperado for my next drink. Which if you haven’t tried it is great stuff, it’s tequila flavoured beer! You can only get it bottled but it’s very refreshing and not too fizzy. Wetherspoons was good ‘n’ cheap as usual and that’s all I can say on that one, though I regret not getting some ale.

the waterhouse

desperado

We then moved on to the Garret which was the staging area for the birthday party. It has to be one of the ugliest pubs in Manchester. The Garret is one of those pubs that was cool when you were 18. It always seems to be too busy, there’s no ale which is why I hadn’t bothered with any all night. Despite how it looks it isn’t cheap either with most lagers being well over the £3 mark, well over…

This was the best picture I could find it's like the photographer was trying to avoid showing it in all it's grim glory.

This was the best picture I could find it’s like the photographer was trying to avoid showing it in all it’s grim glory.

The best thing you can get in there are the £8 pitchers of cocktail and it keeps all the dicks out of the good pubs, like some sort of knobhead magnet. I had kronenburg though, it’s definitely a lager… In hindsight I should have moved on to cocktails, this is where the headache started to develop. The other problem with the Garret is it’s next to 5th Avenue so you get studenty people pre-drinking which is never pretty plus the weird old guys who watch all the girls and try to re-live their 20’s. It’s pretty obvious they don’t belong, you can see their beer bellies.

Yup it's lager...

Yup it’s lager…

It’s very cramped in there as well when it gets busy. Plus we’ve been kicked out before when some bitch claimed my friend had pushed her in the toilets and she was ‘friends’ with the managers. So yeah maybe I don’t like the Garret there’s nothing to drink the people in there are usually idiots and the music to loud which is the final nail in the coffin because what’s the point of being in the pub when you can’t talk to people, not that you’d want to talk to anyone in there. Also there are TVs on the wall it’s like all my pet hates rolled into one. No-ones watching them, turn them off!

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This is where we move to the new Blackdog Ballroom off Oxford Road near the Thirsty Scholar and Font. I thought this was just going to be the usual club style, pay to get in, be forced to sit in a loud room while other people dance and I don’t. It wasn’t like that at all, there are three levels a top bar, a lower bar and a club level below. We didn’t have to pay in which is always good in my book, this became interesting when we could sit comfortably upstairs and talk without loud music, in a club! It was nice I have to say but again it was a bit pricey. £3.70 for a pint of Tuborg though it came in an actual glass, in a club! It’s like they trust you or something.

We lost the birthday girl in a haze of alcohol and our party of four split the drinkers stayed upstairs and the dancers went downstairs and for one I actually had a good time in a club. It was comfortable, not too loud and had a bit of atmosphere. There are big comfy sofas and we availed ourselves on these whilst we drank and waited for our dancing friends. I should now mention they had cocktails as well, these were £6 each so not the cheapest but then again unlike most clubs it was a comfortable place to drink. So you know I’m all for it. There were loads of pool tables as well which were busy but definitely a nice touch. We would have been better meeting in there and just moving downstairs when we felt like it instead of suffering through the Garrett.

Now normally this is where these reviews end but my hangover the next day after drinking lager (which I don’t normally drink) gets special mention. It was like the tiny men inside my head were all on pogo sticks trying to escape by hitting their heads against my skull. So it was impressive to say the least. So to sum up, lager bad for me, I don’t like the Garret and I found a club that I like. It was an interesting weekend.

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Only a Couple for me…

I apologise for my recent absence, I really do. I don’t quite know what happened over the New Year I was going to write a happy new year blog but in the end it was a fairly calm night with only a few nice ales (Bank’s Bitter from the bottle 99p in aldi, Everard’s Tiger and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord from the pub) plus some Jagerbombs which were very nice but not exactly blog worthy in my opinion. Though I did venture up to Derbyshire to ring in the new year so that was quite nice. bull's head tintwistle

The Bull’s Head in Tintwistle is my friend Dan’s local and has to be one of the oldest pubs I regularly go in. They even gave us free pie just before midnight, the Landlord was very friendly and the pub was great. All in all pleasant but not that exciting.

A week later I met Dave of Sheffield fame in the Bull’s Head in Manchester from my previous post (https://drinkingaloud.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/a-drink-in-the-afternoon/) at about 3pm for ‘a couple of pints’. Let me say this now, if someone says only for a few pints it never happens, never. We had a pint of Sunbeam and a catch up talking of all things drinking. IMAG0200

We moved on to fresh territory after that because the Bull’s Head is great but we’ve all been there and a session in there depletes the beer tokens very quickly. We all know how much I like it in there so I’ll skip ahead to uncharted territory.

The next stop was the Waldorf which is just up the road past the train station opposite Piccadilly station approach. I don’t go in very often but I’m not sure why not. The beer is good and the Bar staff are friendly. I think one of the problems is that it has little or no atmosphere if it isn’t busy.

the waldorf

They had plenty of hand-pumps serving Acorn and Timothy Taylor beers. Yay. I had Acorn’s Blonde because I don’t think I’ve had it before and it looked the lightest on the bar. It was very nice had a bit thin texture. It tasted great though and went down quickly and was only around £3 if memory serves me correctly, which it might not be as I’ve had a fair few drinks since as well.

Acorn Blonde

This was round the time Billy arrived. The slow accumulation of people through the day is always a bad/good sign for what is supposed to be only a couple of pints. It was dead in the Waldorf but I think it gets busier later on. We decided to ditch and to move on again because we were getting hungry. Cheap is the name of the game when you’re building up to what looks to be a session. So we headed to Wetherspoons.

I think a few people may have clicked off to another page because, for some reason, they don’t like Wetherspoons. I have to say I think it’s great, the beer is cheap and there’s a wide range. I think it gets a lot of bad press because it’s cheap and there are admittedly a few dodgy ones however, you can’t argue with the beer. They train their landlords well and the beer is always excellent also the selection is always good.they were all the same I know it’s a franchise and lord help us if  You could probably argue with the food if you wanted to but not for the price. I’m with ‘spoons all the way. So anyway I had a pint of Buckeye by Roosters Brewery. I have to admit that from here on in my picture taking failed me partly because of busy bars plus the battery on my phone was low and the flash wouldn’t work. I hate my phone.

buckeye

As you can see on the picture it describes itself as a session beer and I think I was blinded sided. I’ve never had Roosters before but I’m won over, it was very good and they were right about it being a session beer. It’s pale, tastes light, it’s not too strong and it was only £2 which is one of the cheapest pints in Manchester. I wish I could have had more with my burger but alas back to the grind and the ever lengthening pub trail.

It was at this point I mentioned in passing The Gaslamp pub in comparison to The Temple because they are subterranean tiled and quite cosy in winter time. Dave had never been and if there’s something we can’t have it’s a lack of adventurous spirit so to the Gaslamp we headed.

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The Gaslamp is just a doorway on Bridge Street which is easily overlooked. It opened around 2010 and for a while I put off going in because frankly descending into a tiled bar with no windows. I braved it eventually though and it was worth it. The Gaslamp is in the kitchens of an old childrens street mission and apart from  the Temple located in some ex-public toilets has to be one of the strangest places to have a drink. There are pictures of the children on one of the walls.

45395_the_gaslamp

I’ve saved you a thousand words.

There’s another room about the same size as well so it’s much bigger than you might think from the door. The staff are always great. There are a range of bottles behind the bar and 2 real ale pumps, though be warned none of these are cheap. Dave payed over £4 for a pint of Brooklyn beer which he liked very much. I’m more of a fan of Brooklyn when it’s bottled, in a pint it’s a bit to stodgy somehow and it tastes more like a dark larger to me so a good compromise if there are no lagers you fancy.

brooklyn

I had a pint of Beginners Luck by the Blackjack Brewery who I’ve just googled because I’ve seen a few of their beers recently but before that I’ve never seen anything of them.

Apparently they are a new Manchester Micro- Brewery based in the Northern Quarter. Here’s their website (http://www.blackjackbeersltd.co.uk/home) however there won’t be any pictures because they haven’t put any up and I didn’t take one, more fool me. The hand-pump looks like a playing card and says blackjack brewery on it so it’s hard to miss. It was nice though deceptively heavy for its colour but I liked it very much, enough to try another one of their beers a few days later. The Gaslamp is expensive though, it was £3.50 a pint but I think it’s another pub where you pay for your surroundings. I like it in there but my wallet doesn’t. The only other beer on was very strong as well so it seemed like a good time to go to a pub I’ve been meaning to take people for a while. It’s a bit further out of the city centre and into Salford further up Chapel Street. It’s not quite far enough into Salford to be on the part marked ‘here be monsters’ but it’s far enough out that you don’t get the scenester hipster guys pretending to like ale because it makes the skinny jeans look a little less feminine.

I don't know who that man is...

I don’t know who that man is…

The New Oxford was a regular haunt for me when I was at university because it had lots of real ale, bottled beers and a beer bible. If you like beer you’ll love it, they have lots of European beers, have a look at the bar.

NewOxford bar

There’s a bar on the other side as well with more beers and a few ciders as well. The pumps you can see in the foreground are fruit beers, ciders and some really nice lagers. Veltins is my favourite lager and it’s started to be in more pubs, it’s really nice. I had though  a Leeds Best from the Leeds Brewery for the average cost of a pint of ale in the New Oxford £2.90.

leeds best

It was a nice light beer nothing special but OK none the less a standard drinker. I preferred the beers I’d had earlier. I drank that fairly quickly as I’d sunk deeper into my drinking state. I felt like a change from the regular ales so I had a half pint of Fruli Strawberry beer.

You get the right glasses as well when you order beer, it’s a nice touch. 150.05-Fruli-Strawberry-Beer

It’s not as sweet as you think it’s going to be but you couldn’t have a pint of it. It’s quite refreshing and a nice break from hoppy beer. It’s worth trying though it’s around £3 a half, I think it’s worth it though you’d pay far more for it in the Northern Quarter or further into Manchester. The guys at the New Oxford know how to keep it as well which can’t be promised by the indie bars. Try some anyway.

I then had another Acorn beer called Strisslespalt IPA.IMAG0209

I’m not even going to pretend I remember drinking this there’s only this picture mysteriously in my phone and that’s definitely the New Oxford’s Bar so I can only assume I drank it but I have no idea what it was like. I’m going to go with it was nice or I would have remembered it. Dave had wheat beer which really doesn’t agree with me, I like the taste but the after effects aren’t worth it. There really is a mine of great stuff to try in there and it’s not to expensive for what you get either.

While I’m trying to remember it I’ll tell you a bit more about the New Oxford. I think it’s fair to say that it’s mainly an older crown who drink in there but they’re always friendly and hospitable. The bar has two sides there is a larger room with tables and chairs at the back  whereas when you walk in it’s much narrower with a few high stools and cushioned wall seats. If that looks full head round to the other side of the bar there’s always room somewhere. I still can’t remember the beer so I’m going to move on. We were at a point where we were debating where to go next. I suggested the Salford Arms which is just down the road and under new management so there are new beers to try where before there was only lager. Dave’s mate had joined us in the mean time and they were planning to head to a club, possibly 5th avenue later on. It was agreed then we would head further into town to The Temple at the top of Oxford Road.

temple

The Temple is tiny, only has lagers on tap but you will not find a better drinking hole on Oxford road. It’s size gives it an intimacy and you can make friends on the next tables easily. We stood at the bar for a while waiting for a space to open up but it’s not usually long before you can sit down. The second we sat down the lady next to me told me there were 4 free songs left on the jukebox from her turn. The jukebox is really good but the music isn’t too loud. I had a bottle of Coniston Bluebird.

coniston bluebird

It has a proper bitter taste but it goes down very easily. at £3.40 it isn’t cheap but space is a premium in there. It’s good to start on but if you’ve been on a sweeter beer it can be quite jarring to move on to. The atmosphere in the place is always friendly and everyone I’ve taken in there has loved it. I have to say though the toilets are pretty rough. You can get Tuborg on tap if you don’t fancy a bottle which I think Billy had. I try not to mix lager and ales though because it gives me a horrendous hangover. Dave had more wheat beer in the shape of bottled Bluemoon, again, I like wheat beer but it doesn’t like me and mixing at this stage in the game is never good.

bluemoon

I’m not sure if we had one or two in there. We left after that they headed down Oxford road going to Footage. it’s along way from my flat and they only have lager, plus my wallet was empty so I decided against it. It later turned out they didn’t make it gave up and got on the bus. Billy had to get off later though because he was dry heaving and if there’s a moral to this story it’s don’t mix your drinks.

I got home at around 1am having started drinking at 3pm this is the kind of thing that happens when you go out for only ‘a couple of pints.’

A Drink in the Afternoon

Drinking in the afternoon is a skill, learned by experienced and mastered by time and commitment to the cause. It was with this in mind that I left work and met my good friend Billy who I’ve been drinking with for years and we headed to the Bulls Head next to Manchester Piccadilly station.

bulls head

We arrived around two o’clock and the place was heaving. I suppose I should have expected it the last Friday before Christmas.The plan was to have a few beers then sit tight for the free buffet that gets put out on the bar at around five pm. We placed ourselves at the bar and Billy was served immediately with a pint of Sunbeam.

I suffer from a rare disorder known to my friends as ‘Invisible Man Syndrome’ which means I often cannot be seen by barstaff, it used to happen a lot but it flares up occasionally resulting in me standing at the bar and whoever I’m with being served, but I don’t. Billy’s pint was already starting to go down when the barmaid said in a surprised voice “Oh sorry I didn’t see you there!”. Which frankly I used to find annoying but now it’s quite funny. It’s a bit odd though. Anyway I ordered a pint of Sunbeam brewed by Marstons.IMAG0200

It was the best beer of the day. It’s a nice fresh hoppy beer. A good balance between bitter and sweet which is good. According to the tasting notes it has citrus overtones. I did not get that at all. At 4.2% as well it’s not the weakest beer but it was the closest so we went for it.

The Bull is a deceptively big pub it’s just one room but the use of space allows for loads of people to be in there and it to still feel OK. There were obviously a few office Christmas dinners in and the food looked great. We were very hungry. There is a slightly raised area at the back of the pub with a real stove in it which warms the whole place and gives it a nice feel.

We managed to get seats on a high table out of the way. There was definitely a few big groups in but as they left more people came it giving the place a nice transient feel as people left for their trains. I’ve missed a few trains in there. More people came in and it was definitely getting busy.

Second beer was Cumberland from Jennings. I did want Boondoggle but they were changing the barrel. IMAG0202

Cumberland was much too bitter after the sweeter Sunbeam. I think talking about palates is a bit poncy but it was truly a bit of a clash. I would say Cumberland is very close to bitter and after this experience I would say you should start on it and you could stay on it all day.

Pace is the trick with these afternoons. You have to pick the right strength of beer and stick with it so I probably would normally have stuck with Cumberland as it struck me as a good session beer. If you peak too soon you end up slumped in the corner while your friends have a good time around you. You also get a ‘pre’-hangover which is when the headache gets you in the evening instead of the morning. To avoid this simply carry on drinking.

I thought I would be thorough though so I moved on to Boondoggle by Ringwood.

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A great beer very light and an easy drinker. Sweeter than it is bitter, it made for a nice change after the Cumberland. It’s definitely easier to go to a lighter beer from a bitter. I had no trouble being served at the bar this time. The staff are usually friendly in there and the lack of TVs makes conversation easier. I don’t like TVs in pubs, I used to think it was great but more recently I’ve found that people don’t actually converse (which I thought was the whole point of going out) they just stare at the screen which is usually on mute and have no idea what’s actually going on.

I think people drink more as well when they’re not talking to people, so possibly it’s all a big plot… Probably not though. On this afternoon there was definitely an older audience but I don’t know whether that’s just because of the time, the day or even the pub itself. I hope it isn’t the pub, it’s not an old man pub.

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In my quest to test everything on the bar I moved on to the porter. I hoped this might slow my drinking as Porter is usually thick enough to fill you up and I was having a good run with the Ringwood Brewery and the porter did not disappoint it was really smooth and went down far too quickly. It was getting close to the deadline for food and we were hungry.

The other beers hey had on were EPA by Marstons which is a bit watery, definitely not worth a look in. Billy had it and was disappointed. I already knew to avoid it it’s one of those beers that’s a little more satisfying when it’s out of the bottle and has a little bit of fizz.

the Porter was rich but with a very smooth texture which made it quite easy to drink but I tried to pace myself a little more. Some Porters are difficult to get through and a bit too heavy but this one wasn’t, I’ll be having it again. I think the problem with Porters is that they don’t really fit in with drinking lots as they don’t mix with other beers so they are best for just one drink maybe two of the same thing.

It took a little longer to get through these beers as we mused the afternoon away talking about the friendly bar staff. The man who I think is the Landlord is also a nice guy, to avoid any trouble on match days he locks the doors but if you peer in and look hopeful like I have on a few occasions he’ll let you in the side door. What a nice man.

The other beer they had on was Hobgoblin which is a good standard ruby beer but I didn’t fancy it that day after the Porter. It was after we had finished our drinks that it was getting to 5 o’clock and hopefully the bar snacks which I’ve had before and are excellent. The Bulls head is not the cheapest pub and our wallets were starting to feel particularly light. Every pint we had was around £3.20 and that is my major gripe about the Bulls Head it is quite expensive but I suppose they can be because of their location. At least they beat the pub in the station who charge around £4 a pint and don’t have ales, so fuck those guys.

We had now been sat without drinks for 20 minutes and with our wallets and stomachs empty we decided the food was not going to arrive soon enough. We freed up our table and left getting a cheap takeaway and some more beer on the way home. All in all it was a good day, I really wanted the free food though, really wanted it. I’ll be back.