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.’

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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.

 

The Lass O’Gowrie

The Lass O’Gowrie is located just off Oxford Road next to the crumbling and mostly flat remains of the BBC, I think that the pub has been struggling since the alcohol hungry and generally nice people of the BBC have moved to the desolate wasteland of Media City. In fact inside over the bar there is a letter telling you so and that also Greene King are money grabbing bastards who are essentially putting the pub out of business with their ridiculous beer costs.

On Charles Street off Oxford Road

On Charles Street off Oxford Road

Now I’ve been in the Lass O’Gowrie a few times and I always think it’s OK if not good but there’s something missing. The place looks great if not cluttered with accumulated tat from a few decades of video games and films. It kind of makes it feel like my Mum and Dad’s loft with a load of crap you just can’t throw away because you know, it might be worth something someday. When I first went in I liked it but as I go more I like it less, like a joke that gets less funny with every telling. It does have a snug though which I always like in a pub. I think it’s supposed to be retro.

The pub has a few vintage arcade games propped up just behind a wall and a couple of old game tables. They are pretty cool if you can get on them but they’re set away from the rest of the tables meaning that you pretty much have to go on them alone or you have to drag whoever you’re with away from the table (long suffering girlfriend). So they’re kind of there and you want to use them but it means leaving the conversation, the table and company to go over to them in the hope some fat guy isn’t stood in front of them.

The layout of the pub is a bit jumbled as well. There are two big booths at the top end of the pub and a great little smoking area for those that smoke. There’s also the snug which is also nice and cosy (snug if you will). Those are all well and good. The problem arrives when you come into the main area next to the bar and just along from it. It’s cluttered and the tables get in the way of the main part of the bar if there’s a queue. The smaller tables are in the way and get pushed together so you can’t quite get round them or even sit comfortably. At some point I remember they had long benches there, that was better. Sharing is better than trying to sit on uncomfortable stools back to back with other people.

Anyway, they have good beer at the Old Lass. The standard is Betty’s Best apparently in honour of the cleaner, which I quite like.

Betty inn ale her Glory. (Get it?)

Betty inn ale her Glory. (Get it?)

It’s only £2 a pint for students as well! Yay! It’s brewed by the Outstanding Brewery. It’s a nice light, hoppy beer and very drinkable. They have a few guest ales as well but I can’t remember what they were they’re usually pretty good though.The Lass O’ Gowrie is a great pub with loads of character and despite my gripes I do genuinely like it. I go in all the time because it’s cosy if you get the right seats. It really just needs a major re-ordering, the beers great and the staff are friendly. It’s a true quirky manc pub and needs our business.

I feel like I’ve been harsh in this review but I have written it like my teachers wrote my reports at the end of the year. ‘Must try harder.’ My teachers liked me, they liked my work but my effort was low. Now I understand completely. The Lass ‘O’ Gowrie must try harder.

Sheffield’s Dark and Twisted Mistress

Sheffield_Station_from_Sheaf_Square

I arrived at four o’clock in Sheffield train station and was met by my good friend and drinking buddy Dave. Dave is at University in Sheffield and had been promising me a night out there for some time but up until this point I somehow not managed to get there. Little did I know how many good proper ale pubs were awaiting me. I had introduced Dave too ale a few years back after he complained he couldn’t drink very much larger. I think  Copper Dragon was the first beer and he hasn’t looked back since.

On arrival I was given two options “We can go straight back to the house then head out. Or we can pub crawl back there.” I went whole heartedly for the second option. We started with the pub in the station. The Sheffield Tap.

Sheffield Tap

They had a wide range of beers on but I chose a weaker beer called Curious by the Magic Rock Brewery.

Curious

I knew I was settling into my drinking trousers and this could turn out to be quite a session. What people don’t seem to realise is that pacing is the trick when it comes to beers, stronger beers are great but if you know you’re in for a long one you may as well give yourself a chance drink weaker ones first and then move to stronger ones later when you’re acclimatised to the alcohol. The beer was great from what I remember but to be honest I made no notes. I will do better in future I promise. The selection in the pub was good though with plenty of options for the ale drinker. With The Tap getting busier we decided to move on to stop number two. One thing i have to say against Sheffield is there is nothing around the station worthy of note. The next pub was further up the hill and we passed nothing of interest apart from the fancy fountains surrounding the station.

The Rutland Arms was our next port of call.

rutland arms

It was tiny inside and they seemed to have gone haywire on the fairy lights but again it seemed to be popular, though it was clearly geared towards students but there were loads of older people in there, it was a bit weird. The beer however I do remember was Blue Bee’s Nectar Pale.Nectar Pale

As you can see it was one of Sheffield’s own brews and it was quite refreshing with a slight honey taste, not too overwhelming or sickly, which is always good when you get slightly nectary beers. It was time to move on to The Red Deer.

RED DEER

It was freezing outside and going into the extremely busy Red Deer was a shock to the system. Even though it was packed there was barely a wait at the bar. Though we did have to stand up which I think lessens a beers affect. I have to say I went for the least exotic option which was Copper Dragon.(See The English Lounge for review)

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They had other beers on but i’m not sure what they were. We were forced over to the far side of the bar by the sheer volume of people but we were stood by where the used glasses were stacking up which frankly was a little off putting. I’d like to go back when it was quieter because i have a feeling it was a real cosy pub, if we had found seats we probably would have stayed longer. With regret we stepped out into the cold.

Following a food stop of little significance we found ourselves in The University Arms of which we were the only people there, at all. We literally had the place to ourselves which was a little strange to say the least after the Red Deer. I hope the University Arms has more drinkers in the week otherwise they won’t be there for much longer.

uni arms sheff

I had a pint of Bradfield Brewery’s, Yorkshire Farmer. It was a decent pint and I wish all University pubs had beer this good. It was another light one but I didn’t fancy the other Christmas themed beers on offer as they usually give me gut rot.

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There really isn’t that much more to say about the University Arms apart from it needs some customers on a Saturday night. A few people came in and left which always annoys me. People have to commit then more people will come other wise no-one would go in anywhere, think about it, you know it’s true.

The Hallamshire House was our final stop.

hallamshire

It’s a Thornbridge pub but it was so busy by this point we had to sit outside in the smoking area. The booze had kicked in by then though so it was all good. It says on the tasting notes it has hints of bitter lemon. I’ll take their word for it.

wildswan

I had a Wild Swan which was quite hoppy (I think) I promise I’ll take better notes next time, honest. I liked it anyway. We decided to have a second before heading back.

Dave then went to the bar so I could save our seats because even the smoking area was getting busy. I asked for Jaipur, but they’d run out. Let me tell you this, if you see Jaipur in a pub. Buy it, it always runs out. It’s because it is so good. Very strong but the flavours are intense and fruity. Anyway I had a supplement which was Kipling. Nice strong flavours and a little darker than my previous choices and quite fruity but a little understated.

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After that we headed home to drink another day. We returned to the Hallamshire House the next evening. I had a Brother Rabbit which was excellent and a seriously good find. again it was fruity but not over powering making it refreshing and quick to go down.

On our return to the bar the barman heard Dave and I talking about which beers to go for and recommended a strong dark beer made from the best hops available. My interest was peaked and I asked for a half. The beer was a staggering £4.80 a half but it was totally worth it. It was like drinking port by the half.

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If you can’t see the ABV it’s 10% and I felt every percent. It tasted like treacle and it took me a good hour to drink it. It tasted like it had been roasted with a slightly nutty aftertaste, it was epic but definitely not for everyone. One weird effect was it made my ears very warm.

IMAG0192

I finished with another Kipling. The next day I sweated the Bracier out, it was really weird stuff and my insides haven’t felt the same since. I was seriously pickled. The thickness was something special but even though I hadn’t really had that much to drink the stickiness of the beer has stuck with me for days.

The English Lounge

english lounge

I’ve somehow never been in the English Lounge before, I will definitely be going back. The place was heaving even for a friday but the background music was quiet so people could do what they want to do in a pub and talk. They had a bar full of beers and ales. There was plenty of seating and while it they clearly focus on food, people who were only drinking were well looked after. Even though the place was packed the atmosphere was good and friendly even though everyone was crammed in. The barstaff were efficient and friendly even though the bar was packed both my pints had the perfect amount of head instead of the as I like to call it ‘Panic Pump’ when the pint is not allowed to rest before being topped up resulting in there being too much head on the beer. To be clear THAT DID NOT HAPPEN HERE.

From memory, on the hand-pumps they had;

Sharp’s, Doombar – A great rich beer. Native to Cornwall.

Recognise your handpumps!

Recognise your handpumps!

Golden Dragon’s, Golden Pippin – A pale ale very light and an easy drinker, definitely in my top 5 favorite beers. I had two pints. If you are new to ale I think Copper Dragon is a good beer to start with as it is quite light, refreshing and easy to drink.

copper dragon golden

Timothy Taylor’s, Golden Best – Great Pennine beer, very rich, tasted to me slightly like caramel. I would have had one had I not had to move on.

timothy taylors golden

Marston’s, Pedigree – Standard bitter, I haven’t had any for a while after a few dodgy pints of it. A good beer if it’s done well.

marstons pedigree

There had been another pump, however they had run out so we can assume it was good. All in all I would rate the English Lounge(http://www.englishlounge.co.uk/about-us.) You should go! I don’t know how I had missed it for so long.