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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.