The quote that heads this post is from Sophocles. He was a Greek guy. Its truth was evidenced last week when in the company of blogger and Publican Jeff Bell and his pal (the guy who is opening the Piccadilly Tap - let's call him Mr PT - whose idea it was), we ventured into the Hare and Hounds on Shudehill, Manchester.
Winding back slightly, we had been in the Marble Arch with Mr PT when he mentioned a pub that he'd been in which was a smashing example of the kind of city centre pub that you rarely see any more. Could we go there for one? From his description, I couldn't quite place it, but as we approached the Angel, he said "It's just over there that pub" and all fell into place and I knew exactly where and what he meant. The Hare and Hounds is a small three roomed, ex Tetley pub just opposite the Arndale Bus Station. It attracts, shall we say, a more mature clientèle to sup its keenly priced handpulled Joey Holt's Bitter and various smooth beers. You'll often find it jammed from end to end. Despite their age, there is much vertical drinking and the place positively buzzes with conversation and noise. There used to be (and may still be) a piano and a bit of informal singing. Yes, sometimes they sing. If you want to see how Northern pubs used to be, there's probably few better places.
The back room and bar were heaving when we arrived and squeezed into the hatched snug on the right as you enter. It gives you a kind of railway tunnel view of proceedings. There was a geriatric karaoke in full swing. At the far end an oldish guy on an electronic music box was squeezing out old time tunes accompanied by even older types giving it laldy on the microphone. Others sang along or watched happily. Some cheerily awaited their turn on the mike. No-one was being shy here. Supping Holt's Bitter, we three watched transfixed from the hatch. Jeff loved it and Mr PT remarked as if in a dream, "Some of these guys are pretty good." And they were at that. We cast our eyes over proceedings until our pints were finished and left, the merry din ringing in our ears.
Mr PT is right. It is the kind of place I remember from my time in Liverpool many years ago and which sadly is all too rare nowadays. It cheered us up immensely to think of the pleasure these senior citizens were getting from the simple act of singing together, though no doubt lubrication played its part.
For sure, these cheery customers aren't dead yet.And this pub is very much alive too.
These days impromptu singing is likely to get you chucked out of most places. I don't think it does here.I thought the Holt's Bitter on good form. Other opinions may have varied slightly.
Sophocles who was a bit of a philosopher on the side also said “If you were to offer a thirsty man all wisdom, you would not please him more than if you gave him a drink.” Mine's a pint!
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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