Well it had to happen didn't it? "What?" I hear you ask? A good, old fashioned, clean, bright, Sam's pub with no oddballs whatever, that's what.
The Roebuck is bang in the middle of Rochdale, set off two main thoroughfares down a ginnel - a passageway to anyone not from the North reading this. I called in last night pre Regal Moon, having failed in the same endeavour last Wednesday when it was unaccountably shut, though the lights were all on. A mystery that one, though I'm told the same thing happened at the same time in a couple of other Sam's pubs locally. I guess we'll never know, but with Samuel Smith there are lots of things you will never know. That's just a fact of life. Accept it and move on.
One thing to say though is that in this case I have been here before. Several times in fact, but not for some years and anyway in this case I was looking at it through fresh and critical eyes on your behalf Dear Reader. The pub is very well laid out. A central bar with a cluster of brightly lit boxes, a well appointed room to the right of the main door and a comfortable, wooden floored main bar area with an adjoining lounge sweeping gracefully through to the right and another door to the rear. All this area has leather bench seating and the whole place gleams with cleanliness. It works. There is the usual Sam's quirkiness with a prominent notice above the bar advising that the brewery has decreed a no tolerance policy on swearing throughout its estate. The punishment is unstated, but the threat is clear. Swear and you'll be chucked out on your ear. I therefore didn't swear and no-one else did either. See? You just have to ask.
The pub was relatively busy. In the room on the right a guy stood at the hatch to the bar, alternating his desultory chat to the barman with a seat at a nearby table. At the bar, some women were finishing off their drinks, Coronation St Factory style - that is after work as they all had overalls and badges. At the partition which demarcated the bar from the lounge, a couple of respectable gents, chatted on the lounge side, while in the public bar, a table was occupied by two men and a woman, all drinking beer. All were similarly respectable looking. This was just as it should be really.
I ordered a pint of stout and the barman called me "Sir" without smirking at all. Another couple wandered in and ordered pints of cider. The orderer was similarly addressed. This was very civilised. I scrutinised the bar - all keg. There was though a kind of new one on me - Sam Smith's Best Bitter at 3.7% dispensed from a red font. In addition to the stout, there was OBB, Taddy Bitter, Sovereign,Taddy Lager, Alpine and Cider. I don't think Double Four was on though it might have been. There was no mild, light or dark and the two glass fronted fridges contained no bottled beers at all, just mixers and a packet of opened chocolate digestives. Nice.
As I supped up one of the table occupants came to the bar and pointed out politely that his glass, which he had just finished, had a slight chip on the rim. This was acknowledged equally politely and the man took out an old fiver and scrutinised it. He remarked to me that he was in the habit of checking new fivers for the additional etching that can be found in rare cases and described to me the "winners" so far. We talked about this pleasantly while I drained my pint and he took possession of his newly poured pint of bitter. With a smile he rejoined his companions.
As I left he wished me goodnight. The barman was nowhere to be seen, but I'm sure he would have too.
I must go back to the Roebuck on a Saturday afternoon when town is busy. It was a nice pub, but I'd like to see it in full swing. It would have looked better too with a couple of handpulls.
This is a Quiz League venue and the pub's success is celebrated with some gleaming trophies. I checked them to see if my name was on any, but alas no. Such cups do exist though.
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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