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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Green Man Beer Festival, Grantchester

I was looking forward to visiting the Green Man Beer Festival in Grantchester, mainy because I’d missed their first ever festival and heard good things about it, and secondly because I’d heard which breweries were providing beers.

The festival was held between Friday 30th September and Sunday October 2nd. We headed there briefly on the Friday (by bus, too hot to walk), got off at the Blue Ball and headed to the lovely old Green Man pub in the middle of the village.

The beer festival marquee had been set up between the pub and the garden. The beer selection was very impressive, with beers from Redemption, Skinners, Buntingford, Summer Wine, Thornbridge, Milton and more. The festival glass was £2 to hire, and for CAMRA members beer was priced at a reasonable £3 a pint. There were over 50 cask ales and there were also ciders available.

Green Man Beers

Green Man Beers

Immediately I went for a Redemption Trinity, having missed out on this beer at the Cambridge Beer Festival. I couldn’t believe this beer was only 3% – I had to question the chap behind the bar and he confirmed that was right. He also said it’s quite difficult to get hold of Redemption beers, and he was pleased that they had managed to get some. We took a seat in the shady area of the long garden. The golden ale was full of fruity hops and was very pungent and piney. Lots of flavour for its impressively low abv.

Next up was some Summer Wine Diablo IPA, 6%. It was double the abv of the Redemption, and it tasted strong but incredibly tasty. Those resinous US hops and tropical flavours made this beer a winner.

I then got myself a Cambridge Moonshine Spiritual Matter, 3.7%, and was told I was probably the first member of the public to try this in Cambridge as it was brand new. It was fantastic; light fruity and flavoursome, and probably the best Moonshine beer I had tried. But we then had to head off.

The Green Man, with the Red Lion behind

The Green Man, with the Red Lion behind

On the Sunday we strolled back to Grantchester, despite it being far too hot to be walking across the meadows to the village from the city centre.  Those last few steps to the back garden entrance of the Green Man were pretty tough, I could hardly put one foot in front of the other by that point. But I knew what was inside, so I just kept going.

Redemption Big Chief had taken the place of Trinity, so I went for some of that straight away, although water may have been a wiser idea. On the label on the barrel it stated that this was 3%. Really? It tasted so much stronger. Then again, the Trinity did too. I asked for confirmation of this, as before, and it was confirmed. However, after knocking back this hoppy and full-bodied beer and realising that it couldn’t possibly be that weak I checked the beer list on the bar. It said it was 5.5%. I looked at the barrel again. That said 3%. Hmm. I brought this to the barman’s attention. He said he knew, and had now informed all bar staff. Bit of an issue, though, if you are driving and thought you were just drinking a quick half of weak beer. Luckily we weren’t.

Brewsters Decadence was  next, a tasty beer at 4.4%, hoppy and refreshing and moorish. I love Brewsters beers, especially their wonderful Hophead. I then wanted to try some of the fantastic Skinners Cornish Knocker on cask (I usually drink it bottled) but was upset to find that I had missed out and it had all gone – this tasty beer is one of my favourites; full of hops and wonderful flowery flavours.

We sat inside the marquee to watch a fantastic jazz band, Have You Heard, and I finished off with a Buntingford Polar Star, 4.4%, a great beer from one of my favourite breweries. Pale and light with US hops giving it a grapefruity and citrussy flavour, it was delicious and perfect for the sunny weather –  recorded as the hottest October day ever in England.

The Green Man Garden

The Green Man Garden

The Green Man did a great job in sourcing their beers and organising this wonderful festival. My one comment would be that I’d have liked some tasting notes – it cuts down the time spent at the bar wondering which ale to try next! All in all it was a great event and I look forward to the next one with anticipation.

Top Beers of 2010

I thought I would make a note of my Top 10 beers of 2010 so I don’t forget my favourites. But picking out just 10 beers proved a bit too difficult, so I ended up with a long list which I managed to edit down to 15; I just couldn’t get it any lower. So here they are, my Top 15 beers of 2010 (not particularly in order of preference, that’s just too difficult to do):

Oakham Citra, 4.2% – Pale and grapefruity, bursting with Citra hops, very light and drinkable
Oakham Tranquility , 6.5% – Strong, highly hopped,  citrussy and very powerful
Bungtingford Imperial Pale Ale, 6.2% – Absolutely delicious. Full of American hops. I need say no more
Buntingford Chinook, 4% – Golden ale with American hops, grapefruity and very moorish
Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, 5% – Full of Cascade hops, an easy-to-drink, sweet beer
Rogue Dry Hopped St Rogue Red , 5.2% – Red ale and bursting with hops and a piney taste sensation
Stone Levitation, 4.4% – Similar taste to the Rogue with the piney hop flavour, but not as strong. Loaded with a variety of American hops
Odell St Lupulin EPA, 6.5%- Delicately dry hopped and gentle, a pleasure to drink. Lovely beer label too.
BrewDog Punk IPA, 6% – A beer that smacks you in the face. Lots of NZ and USA hops, fruity, floral, zesty – an assault on the senses. Love it.
BrewDog Trashy Blonde, 4.1% – A weaker, not so face-smackingly blatant as Punk IPA, but light and delicious and bursting with hop flavour. Punk’s little sister. That’s how I see it, anyway.
Red Squirel White Mountain APA, 5.4%  – I loved this beer at the Cambridge Beer Festival 2010, it was my beer of the fest. Full of Golding and Cascade hop flavour and aroma. Lovely.
St Austell Proper Job, 4.5% – Golden and light, full of American hops, citrussy and thirst quenching. Very easy to drink.
Thornbridge Halcyon, 7.7% – Imperial IPA, so strong, how could I have drank it as quickly as I did?! Green hopped, fruity, utterly delicious. Intensely powerful.
Thornbridge Jaipur IPA, 5.9% – Smooth but bursting with citrussy hoppy bitterness. Easy to drink fast.
Thornbridge Kipling, 5.2% – Jaipur’s little sister. Intense grapefruit aroma and flavour, sweet, fruity and hoppy. My second favourite ale at the CBF.

So that’s it for my 2010 beers. I’ll be surprised if some of these amazing ales don’t make it onto my 2011 list in 364 days time.  But there’s plenty of time for lots of new brews to come my way, and I look forward to them finding me! Oh, and it’s the Cambridge Winter Ale Festival on 20-22nd January in the USC on Mill Lane. See you there, and Happy New Year!

The Kingston and The Cambridge Blue

I have just returned from two of my favourite pubs in Cambridge, the Kingston Arms and the Cambridge Blue. And they are only about 30 seconds apart (if you run, like I did, as it was raining, as it always seems to be this August..)

Kingston Beer Fest

Kingston Beer Fest

The Kingston was hosting its 10th mini summer Monthly Beer Festival. They started these beer festivals last summer, starting indoors with loads of beers – far too many really for a weekend beer fest, and taking up a lot of valuable indoor seating space – and they subsequently moved the festival outside into the cute and secluded beer garden under a marquee, using their own cooling system, and reduced the number of beers on offer to a manageable
amount. These summer mini festivals have been popular ever since, allowing the visitor to vote for the beer of the fest, the brewery of which receives a nice certificate and write-up on the website. Nice.

There were 5 festival beers on offer this month. That’s not many for a beer festival, you say. That’s because it’s  a mini festival, I reply. And if you look at all the beers available at the bar at any one time – about 5 regular ales as well as the 5 or so ever-changing ‘recession beers’ at an even lower price, your biggest problem is trying to decice which beers you won’t try this time round. Plus, you get a discount if are a CAMRA member. So you are always on a winner, I think.

Festival ales

Festival ales

Here is the festival beer list. The first beer I went for was BrewDog‘s Alpha Dog, 4.5%. I may as well say now that this was the beer of the festival for me. I love BrewDog. Their Punk IPA is one of my favourite beers, and whilst Alpha Dog was more chestnut coloured and not as strong, in a blow-your-head-off kind of way, it was also dominated by hops with a honeyish tinge, and was definitely moorish. I was almost sad when I drained the last drops from my glass, but I felt I had to move onto something new.

Alpha Dogs and Harvest Pale Ale

Alpha Dog and Harvest Pale Ale

The next beer I tried wasn’t a festival ale; Castle Rock’s Harvest Pale Ale. 3.8%, was on tap at the bar, voted Champion Beer of Britain 2010 at the Great British Beer Festival, and it was beautiful. If I didn’t know any better I would have sworn this was an Oakham ale, the sherbet hop aroma and flavour produced from using American hops, a sweet and light beer. But it wasn’t a festival ale so I couldn’t vote for it. Shame.

Rooster’s GCB (Good Cheer Beer) was next up at 3.9%, another light pale ale. I have tried this before at The Regal and loved its flavour with its NZ and US hops. But unfortunately on this occasion it was not as tasty, it was slightly tart and bitter and none of the gorgeous hoppy flavours came out. I swiftly got myself an Elgood’s Pageant Ale, 4.3%. This beer actually got better as it went along, becoming more hoppy and less malty, less vanillary, and generally more flavoursome. In the meantime, Adam tried some of Cliff Quay’s Black Jack Porter, 4.2%. It’s described in their own tasting notes as ‘A Marmite beer, you will either love it or hate it’. I love marmite, but I hated this. It’s horrible aniseed taste dominated the next few sips of my own beer. Adam said it reminded him of dandelion and burdock. I never liked that either, but if you did then I am sure you will love this beer.

Some of the beers at the bar at the Kingston

Some of the beers at the bar at the Kingston

After giving the highest number of points on the voting slip to Alpha Dog, we ran round the corner in the rain to the Cambridge Blue to see what beers were on. It was pretty busy with people getting their Sunday lunch (the pub serves good and reasonably priced food, and their Sunday roast is delicious) but managed to find a seat indoors. Their beer garden is lovely, one of the loveliest in town, so it was a pity we couldn’t sit outside – damn this British ‘summer’! Here is the beer list at the Blue:

At this point I couldn’t really drink an awful lot more, but I spotted Thornbridge‘ s Lumford on tap, 3.9%, and being a Thornbridge fan (I love their Kipling and Jaipur) I naturally had to try some of it. It tasted and smelt very dry hopped, was quite dark in colour, and although initially thought it was delicious and reminded me of Stone Levitation, an American ale which I adore, I soon went off the odd astringent aftertaste. This is branded as a New World Beer, with Ahtanum, Nelson Sauvin and Pacific Gem hops, and I really should have liked it, but it was just too odd for me. Shame; I liked the grapefruit flavour but it was just not enough to counteract the bitter ‘oddness’. I can’t be more specific as I don’t know what it was that I didn’t like; I’m sure it wasn’t the hops as I love overly-hopped beers and have never tried a beer that I felt was ‘too hoppy’ . However, Adam had a lovely Lupus Lupus ale from Wolf brewery, 5%, and this was golden and subtely hoppy, which was just right for me at that point in time so I had a fair bit of that.

Lupus Lupus and Lumford Ale

Lupus Lupus and Lumford Ale

So that’s my day in a couple of my favourite Cambridge pubs. Luckily this is a Bank Holiday weekend, so there will probably be more of the same tomorrow. Let’s hope the sun shines for it…

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