Manchester and Buxton pubs

Last month we took a trip to Manchester, and then to Buxton in the Peak District. Here are some of the pubs we visited.

Manchester

Port Street Beer House

PortStreetBeerHouseThe Port Street Beer House on Port Street in the ‘hip’ Northern Quarter was probably my favourite pub in Manchester. Set in a little terraced street, and shuttered up during the day so you would hardly know it was there, this two-floor pub has a good selection of beer on tap and keg. Downstairs was pretty busy on the Friday evening when we were there, and upstairs was more spacious with big comfy seating and large tables. The Hawkshead IPA on keg was beautiful with thick resinous hops, the Founders All Day IPA on keg was light, hoppy, and easy drinking, and the Cloudwater Session IPA was deliciously moreish. Here’s a pic of some of the beers they had on that evening, taken from their Facebook page.

Beer Studio Bar and Kitchen

This new bar is located in studentville, or Fallowfield – take the bus right through Curry Mile from the city centre, and it’s further along Wilmslow Road. One part of this impressive big building, once a church, is the 256 bar, and the other part is the Beer Studio, a Hydes pub designed in a modern ‘craft beer bar’ style, with a tiled bar, bricks, stressed wood, and a board listing lots of beers. Most beers are bottled, but there were several on draft (they mention that they have 23, but I can’t remember seeing as many as that on our visit) and I was pleased to see Flying Dog Pale Ale on draft amongst the other not-very-exciting offerings such as Amstel, Tiger, and Erdinger. A nice – and incredibly loud – bar on this Saturday night.

Piccadilly Tap

IMG_1200We were lucky enough to arrive in Manchester on the day this new beer bar was opening. We just happened to be in Beermoth (great bottle shop) buying beer when the guy behind the counter told us this new bar was opening at 4pm. By 4.30 we were near the station trying to find it, and then spotted people drinking beer in what looked to be a dark, closed shop in a 60s looking shopping arcade, known as Gateway House. Inside it was pretty bare, and rough and ready, but functional – the few tables were taken, so it was standing room only. A large bar circles the top end of the space with keg and cask lines at the back and some along the sides near the tills. A large blackboard detailed the ever-changing beers on keg (around 20) and cask (7). I went for a lovely Summer Wine Redwood, rich, spicy and full of berry flavours. The Saison Dupont was pretty good too (@pintsandpubs thought it was ‘superb’). Other beers included Lagunitas IMG_1204IPA, Magic Rock High Wire. I didn’t enjoy the Bristol Beer Factory Sorachi on cask – I just really don’t like the Sorachi hop flavour, but I keep trying it in the vague hope that my tastebuds will change their mind (they never do). It’s a great place with decent beers at pretty reasonable prices, but go there expecting to stand while you’re drinking, unless you get there early.

Night and Day Cafe

IMG_1228I only came to this bar in the Northern Quarter, located near Afflecks and lots of record shops, in the daytime  so can’t comment on the ‘night’ part, but I really liked it. It reminded me of the Central Saloon bar in Seattle. It had a chilled out vibe, and people were eating brunch. We just had a coffee (very nice) and soaked up the atmosphere, and I can’t even comment on what beers they had on (a few on draft), but it was just a very cool place with great décor and friendly staff. The back of the bar is a stage area, and there was a sold out gig taking place that evening. I’ll go there at night next time.

Brew Dog Manchester

This bar is a typical Brew Dog bar with its industrial decor, graffiti, bags of malt dotted around, etc. I liked it. It was busy on a Saturday afternoon, but there was loads of seating on the ground floor and more upstairs. We munched on chips and drank tasty 5AM Red Ale (formerly 5AM Saint), Mikkeller Tomahawk, a really beautiful single hop IPA, and a Brew Dog This is Lager, which isn’t really one I’d go for again – not to my taste.

Crown and Kettle

IMG_1241Located just over the road from Oldham St on the edge of the Northern Quarter, this is a proper pub that serves real ales. This Grade II listed pub has an ornate, stunning ceiling in the main bar and back bar, covered in netting to protect us from any errant falling masonry I suspect. A Smiths CD was playing in the background – very apt. There were several ales on at the bar – we had Wild Beer Fresh, a pale citrus hopped ale Wild Beer Millionaire, a chocolate and salted caramel stout – too rich for me – and Caveman Citra.

Buxton

A few weeks after Manchester, we headed back up north to Buxton, the ‘Gateway of the Peak District’. This spa town has around 16 pubs to explore, and it’s only about an hour from Manchester, so it’s possible to do both places on a trip to that area. On the way to Buxton we popped to Hartington; the village shop stocks lots of decent Thornbridge beer including Thornbridge Jaipur X, Bearded Theory, and Bear State (we picked up more Bear State from the Thornbridge Brewery, just outside Bakewell, as it was so good – the brewery is worth a visit).

Buxton Tap House

IMG_1269 The tap house for Buxton Brewery was the pub of this trip. Located just round the corner of the Crescent, on George St, it’s dimly lit around the bar area, with exposed brickwork in the walls, and quite bright in the area to the right where the walls are painted white. Fairy lights run along the bar giving it a lovely atmosphere. There’s a small outdoor seating area out the back too. There were 8 beers on keg and 6 on cask, including Ring Your Mother XS, a soured mild, and Tap House Lager, a variant of Moravka lager, brewed at Taddington. We sampled several, including Axe Edge on cask, High Tor on both keg and cask, and Rough C’s. Axe Edge was delicious, but could have been slightly colder. High Tor was nicer on cask as the spicy favours came out more and it was rounder and more delicate, even though it was lovely on keg, where the hops punched you in the face a bit more. Rough C’s is a colab with Brew Dog, and this amber lager was very tasty with caramel flavours.

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The Old Courthouse Wine and Coffee Bar

A couple of doors down from the Buxton Tap in the Old Courthouse complex is a Thornbridge bar – people up in these parts are lucky to have Thornbridge and Buxton brewing on their doorstep. It reminded me of a little Parisian cellar bar/cafe, with chandeliers, old pictures, low vaulted ceiling, comfy leather sofas and chairs, and flowers and candles in wine bottles on the tables. There were three Thornbridge beers on keg, including American Sister and Made North. I had the Made North, which was easy drinking if a little thin, and it was less than £4 a pint – great prices for keg beer compared to what we are used to in Cambridge. The American was less tasty – the ‘new worldy’ hops were a bit overbearing, it’s ‘brewed with experimental hops from across the pond’. I’d like to know what particular variety of hops they are so I can avoid them in future. I’d like to have seen something like Jaipur X on tap, but I know the taps are constantly rotating so it’s just chance what you get.

The Ale Stop – micro pub

IMG_1277This small pub housed in a former wine shop just off Buxton’s market square is cute, and more spacious than you’d think, but doesn’t particularly feel like a pub, probably because it is still quite new, even though pump clips are stuck on the walls to give it a pubby atmosphere. The walls are brightly painted, and it’s a nice little space. The bar has three beers on cask available, as well as bottled beers and ciders. We had a Hopcraft Deutsch Projekt, with orange/fruity flavours and a bit of spice (didn’t really like it) and a Cornish Crown SPA, a golden and relatively dry beer.

The Cheshire Cheese

This Titanic Brewery pub was holding a beer festival on our visit, with casks lined up at a bar at the side of the pub. It’s pretty spacious, with some nice features and rounded windows creating pleasant rounded seating areas. It was busy but we managed to get a seat. We had a Salopian beer from the festival casks which was slightly flat unfortunately, and Wreckage, a strong Titanic ale at 7.2% which is a winter warmer – it tasted more of sherry than beer, and had nutty, spicy flavours.

Cat and Fiddle Inn, Wildboarclough, between Buxton and Macclesfield

The second highest pub in the country (the first being the Tan Hill Inn). Unfortunately, when we visited it was so foggy and rainy that we couldn’t see the view to admire it, which was the whole point in going really. Shame. We sat inside in the main bar on a comfy shabby sofa and drank the one and only Robinson’s beer, which was rather uninspiring, so much so that we don’t remember its name. The other large bar is a wooden panelled dining room. A lot of live gigs take place at the pub; several posters on display advertised the various bands about to play. It would have been nice to see this pub in its traditional state, before its refurb which turned it into more of a dining pub.

Three Stags Heads, Wardlow Mires

IMG_1295This is a proper traditional pub, with a historic interior, completely unchanged for years – it’s on CAMRA’s National Inventory of unspoilt pubs. The landlord Jeff is a character, and he took great pride in his pub, cleaning the iron range and throwing coal on the fire before taking a seat in his chair by the fire accompanied by his three lurchers who occasionally jumped onto the tables. The four cask ales were all from Abbeydale Brewery; one called Black Lurcher, at 8%, is named after one of the dogs and brewed exclusively for this pub. The Abbeydale Absolution was in great condition. Don’t try to order lager in here or the landlord will politely ask you to leave (he probably won’t ask you politely actually) – there’s a sign by the bar telling you not to ask for it.

three-stagsThis pub really feels as if you are in the middle of nowhere, despite the fact it’s on a busy A road – once you enter you step back in time. As well as the main bar with its stone flagged floor there are two other rooms; one with a fireplace, and the other displaying pottery made by the landlords. We were there as soon as it opened at 12 (well, when they unlocked the door about 12.20), but it would be great to see the place jam-packed in the evening with locals. There really aren’t many pubs like this left anymore, unfortunately.

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Published in: on May 16, 2015 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Golden Pints 2013

It’s December, which means it’s time for this year’s Golden Pints awards:

Best UK Cask Beer
1st) Cambridge Moonshine Ison. Wonderful, resinously hoppy beer from a great brewer.
2nd) Oakham Green Devil. Always wonderful to find this fruity IPA on draft. Such a shame they stopped bottling it.
Honourable mention: Bexar San Jacinto – a hop monster from this Texan brewer based in Peterborough doing in-your-face exciting things with beer.

Best UK Keg Beer
1st) Buxton Wyoming Sheep Ranch. Fantastic beer, first sampled at the launch event of the beer at Euston Tap, and I’ve had it several times since (on keg at Norwich Tap was the last occasion, and very nice it was too).
2nd) Summer Wine Pacer. Light and easy drinking with lots of floral hops.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
1st) Any of Buxton’s bottled beers really, from their IPAs such as Axe Edge and Wild Boar to their Rednik Stout. I’ll settle on Buxton Axe Edge today, but that could change tomorrow…
2nd)  Magic Rock Rapture. A fruity red ale, one of my go-to beers.
Honourable mention:  Thornbridge Jaipur – another go-to beer, citrus hops and full bodied.

Best Overseas Draught Beer
1st) Ithaca Flower Power (NY, USA). I had this in Salem, MA, and Boston, MA. Loaded with fruity and floral hops, golden, drinks SO easily, wonderfully balanced, I could go on…
2nd) Maine Beer Co Peeper (ME, USA). I drank this in New York, Portland, ME and Boston, MA. Fresh hops, sweet and delicate, wonderfully crafted beer.
Honourable mentions: The lovely Mendocino Imperial IPA (CA, USA) and the fantastic Lagunitas IPA (CA, USA) with its tropical fruit flavours. And De Praal Mary should also get a mention, a wonderful barley wine from the Netherlands. Wow to all five of these beers.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
1st) Green Flash West Coast IPA (CA, USA). Intensely hoppy, my sort of beer.
2nd) Ithaca Flower Power. Ditto
Honourable mention: St Bernadus 6 -Pater. A go-to beer when I’m after something velvety and comforting.

Best Collaboration Brew
Hard to call.. I haven’t had that many, and none have particularly stuck in my mind.

Best Overall Beer
Ithaca Flower Power. Just lovely.

Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label
1st) Grain Brewery wooden pump clips in general – you can immediately see if there’s a Grain beer on at the bar.
2nd) Magic Rock – I like the carnival/funfair style of their designs.
Honourable mention: Buntingford Brewery, for the witty and sometimes rambling wording on their pump clips.

Best UK Brewery
1st) Buxton. Consistently great.
2nd) Magic Rock. Love their beers, keg or cask.
Honourable mention: Partizan. They are are doing great things with beer; I haven’t had a bad one from them

Best Overseas Brewery
I’d have to go with Rogue (OR, USA) – I’ve had many of their beers on draft and in bottles, and I love the Dry Hopped St Rogue Red, Mocha Porter, Juniper Pale Ale, Brutal IPA… the list goes on…
2) St Bernardus, Belgium – high quality, easy-drinking beer.

Best New Brewery Opening 2013
Redwell in Norwich, even though strictly speaking they opened towards the end of 2012. Great little brewery that sells good quality keg beer and lager and hosts many events in its small and cute space.

Pub/Bar of the Year
InternationalMcSorley’s Old Ale House, NYC. Wonderful atmosphere with sawdust on the floor, banter from the barman, dusty antiques and newspaper cuttings all over the walls, and when you order one beer (light or dark) you receive two, whether you like it or not.
Closer to homeThe Free Press, Cambridge (quality beer, banter and atmosphere) and the Elm Tree, Cambridge (cosy, candlelit den and lots of Belgian beer).

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013

Pint Shop, Cambridge, for the large range of high quality hard-to-get-hold-of keg and cask beer from breweries far and wide.

Beer Festival of the Year

Cambridge Beer Festival. Great beer and crowd, and fantastic location on Jesus Green – you can’t beat drinking beer on the grass in the sun.

Supermarket of the Year
Waitrose. Good selection of beer from the likes of Thornbridge, BrewDog and Fullers.

Independent Retailer of the Year
Bacchanalia, Cambridge. Nice and local with a good range of local and national beers, as well as beers from Europe and the USA.

Online Retailer of the Year
Beers of Europe. Fast delivery and a good selection of beers.

Best Beer Book or Magazine
CAMRA’s quarterly BEER magazine. An interesting read.

Best Beer Blog or Website
pintsandpubs.wordpress.com. Lots of well researched pub history, amusing anecdotes, and random interesting information about beer and breweries. Always an enjoyable, informative read.

Best Beer App
Craft Beer London. Well, it was useful when visiting London! I don’t tend to use beer apps much.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
@pintsandpubs .

Best Brewery Website/Social media
For social media I’ll go for Buntingford Brewery – the blog posts are very amusing, dry, witty, and ever so slightly sarcastic.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Thai green curry with a light, refreshing Oakham Citra.

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