It is the way of things that CAMRA days out are a mixed bag. Sometimes you are lucky and the chosen pubs all produce ale at its best for the descending thirsty hordes, or more usually there are some where, shall we say, optimum standards aren't quite reached. Thus it was on Saturday when our CAMRA branch went to East Lancashire, a lovely part of the country with neat stone built villages and rolling green hills.
Our first stop probably spoiled us. The Swan with Two Necks in Pendleton is in a very pretty village location, with a little stream directly in front of it which is fenced off, no doubt to stop you staggering straight from the pub front door to an unwelcome early bath. When the landlady opened 10 minutes ahead of time for us and we were met with a sparkling pub, shiny handpumps and beer which had clearly been pulled through, we knew all would be well - and it was. It couldn't fail to be with Copper Dragon, Harviestoun, Marble and others on the bar. I had the Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted to start. It was in tip top condition. Others spoke highly of the same brewery's Freddie Truman and the Golden Pippin was well thought of too. Of course Marble Pint was beckoning and didn't remotely disappoint. Wonderfully, clean, bitter and resinously hoppy, it was sublime and a reminder that when on form as it was here*, this is one of the finest beers in the UK. We had an hour there. It wasn't enough and many rightly congratulated the landlady on her wonderful inn keeping.
I won't say much about the next two pubs. Both were just OK, though I did have in the Old Sparrowhawk at Fence (through a duff pint of Bank Top Flat Cap being changed), a pint of Draught Bass, which was a lot better than I expected and didn't taste much of Marston's at all. It was fine in that "I wouldn't want any more of it" sort of way. Likewise in the George and Dragon at Barrowford, a somewhat dull pub was lifted by a very decent pint of Bowland Pheasant Plucker which drank well for its 3.6% gravity. Shame about the name though. We were also lucky enough to sample some excellent Mallinson's Hit for Six as well as very creditable house brewed beer at the Ministry of Ale in Burnley.
Last up was a great pub though. The Crooked Billet Inn at Worsthorne is stone built and imposing. Originally built by Grimshaw's Burnley Brewery, it had many original features; much tiling and mosaic, a fantastic bar and gantry and delightful etched Grimshaw's windows. The beer of choice was Lancaster Gold served in proper brewery glasses with Red Rose emblem. Friendly locals and a chatty landlord ended the day on a very high note indeed.
* Much better than the one I had the night before in the MA.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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