Wednesday 5 April 2017

The Alpine Gasthof

Perhaps the oddest of Sam Smith's pubs is its take-off of a German local pub, uprooted it seems, in looks if nothing else, from Garmisch or some other Alpine resort. Only it is in Rochdale. Not only is it in Rochdale, but it is on a busy main road, which if you follow it for not too long, will take you to Bacup.  This is the Land that Time Forgot. Don't do that.

Not only is it incongruously in Rochdale, but it is in a less than salubrious part of town. One has to wonder if Sam's wanted to cement its (expired) relationship with Brauerei Aying whose lager it used to produce, why it didn't choose somewhere, more, shall we say appealing?  Somewhere with a nod to rolling Alpine meadows? Haven't they got a few in that Yorkshire place? But they didn't. It's in Rochdale, so we live with that. You will see though from the accompanying photo that the old German looking geezer forever trapped in plastic beer founts, has been released in XXL format as the pub sign. It was nice to see him again, so that's a bonus.

The pub has the usual German style high sloping roof and inside is, well, a sort of pastiche of a German pub, but done, unusually for Sam's, sort of on the cheap. It all looks kosher enough, but isn't so substantial. A bit like a film set version. It was deadly quiet when I called on the first sunny Saturday of spring.  One guy sat on the bench seating regarding the bar solemnly, playing with his loose change and supping something lagery. That was it until a barmaid appeared, cheerfully announcing she had seen me approaching on the CCTV. That's another given in almost every Sam's pub - CCTV - with warnings about it posted prominently. I shouldn't be at all surprised if they are all linked to Smith Towers as evening entertainment for Humphrey.  It certainly appealed to our barmaid who regarded it hopefully as if to a crystal ball, looking for customers - or maybe Mr Smith?  I ordered a pint of Samuel Smith Stout. Very tasty it was too and a mere £2.30 a pint for a 4.6% beer. A bargain.  I sat at the bar, munching own brand pork scratchings and waited for something to happen. It didn't for ages then the customer who had shown no sign at all of knowing the barmaid, burst into life, went to the bar and remarked about the weather, calling the barmaid by name while his mix of Taddy Lager and Alpine was dispensed. What excitement.

This hectic pace was maintained when two "lads" in shorts with a child toting a fearsome looking plastic knife came in. Two pints of "half n half" were ordered.  Yes, the local drink again. Taddy cut with Alpine, or is it Alpine beefed up by Taddy? Either way, they spookily knew the barmaid too - and the sole customer. This was great end to end stuff.

The barmaid engaged me in dental conversation about the detrimental effect pork scratchings can have on your gnashers, while remarking that it was always busier on Sunday, presumably having noticed me prowling around the other deserted rooms, though not the balcony, which I felt might be going too far.

I should also mention the lass from the kitchen appeared and gave me a cheery "Hello".  There is lots of restaurant seating in the back, on the balcony and in a variety of rooms - all deserted.  That's very German. The barmaid mentioned that the pub had been done up a few years ago in exactly same colours as it had always been, so it is original I suppose. I think the carpet was the same as the one in the Eagle, so perhaps another job lot?

So, to sum up, the bar and cold shelves had the following. In bottle, Chocolate Stout, Pale Ale, Pure Brewed and Cherry Beer. On the bar, Taddy Lager, OBB,  Sovereign and Alpine Lager (2.8%).   Disappointingly Wheat Beer was absent.

In a nod to passing hipsters, Sam Smith's Stingo ale is priced, I noticed, at a reassuringly expensive £9.30 for 500ml. Well it is bottle conditioned and 8.3%.  I don't think they had any though, but don't let that put you off.

The chatty kitchen lass assured me it wasn't always this quiet. Hmm. Roll on Sunday then.

Next up:  The Corporation Inn. One to look forward to.  Trust me.


Curmudgeon said...

I'm not that familiar with Rochdale, but would I be right in thinking that part of the town has rather gone down the nick over the past thirty or forty years? I believe the pub used to very much major on food.

I suppose an Alpine and Taddy mix makes a tolerable 3.65% ABV lager at a bargain price.

And no mild whatsoever, either light or dark? I'm not sure I've ever seen a mild-free Sam's pub.

Tandleman said...

I think the Alpine/Taddy mix
was £1.85. As I hint in my article not a great area but not that bad either.

A real rough diamond coming up next. Well not a diamond,just rough and no mild either.

Rob Sterowski said...

Stingo is about £6 a bottle in the off-trade, so £9.30 is not surprising.

Smith's stout is a really good beer. I was pleasantly surprised recently when I drank it for the first time in about ten years. I vaguely remembered it as similar to Guinness, but either it has improved, my palate has improved or Guinness has got worse. I suspect a little of all three.

You have doubtless heard the story of how it originated, when Humph told Guinness where to stick their proposed price rise?

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there a smart South African owned place up near there a while back. Good food, OK Tim Taylors. When you're from the Fens, that Whitworth Road seems like the path up the Materhorn.

Tandleman said...

Yiss. The Albion run by the legendary Kivin Johnson. He kept a great pint actually and is a great character. Kevin was born Rhodesan and last spotted running a pub in West Yorkshire.

Top marks for recall.

Tandleman said...

PS. Albion still open.

Tandleman said...

Indeed. I was surprised how decent it was too as it it ages since I had one.

Tandleman said...

Kevin Robinson of course. Doh!

Tandleman said...

Kevin Robinson of course. Doh!

Fred Smith said...

Your description of this "...take-off of a German local pub..." reminds me of Ye Olde Swiss Cottage, a Sams pub in London. True, that was busier last night than yours in downtown Rochdale, more expensive - although OBB at £3.20 ain't bad in the Smoke - and more vibrant.

Nevertheless, it's dark red theme and chateau-like appearance is odd, and one can't help thinking that it would be rammed if it appeared more welcoming. One wonders if Sams are genuinely excentric, or just trying to appear so !

JonathanD said...

I live just down the road from The Alpine in Rochdale and until I read your comment I'd completely forgotten about Ye Old Swiss Cottage, which I visited once as a friend my mine worked in the offices across the road. I remember it as looking incredibly similar in theme, though it didn't even register with me that it was a Sam's pub at the time.

One of these days I'll make it into the Alpine, Tandleman's review of the Stout is making me think a visit is in order.

Bailey said...

The Swiss Cottage is a weird one -- it's been Alpine themed since long before Sam Smith's took it on -- as far back as 1840.

Stanley Blenkinsop said...

Beer bloggers are a funny old breed.
They sniff about the stripped pine,church pews and big picture windows of contemporary craft beer bars and have a right old moan about how every pub makeover seems to have diners rather than drinkers in mind.
And they're STILL not happy when a genuine oddball does something completely his own way in a Sam Smiths.
Some people are never pleased.

JonathanD said...

Drove past today, all boarded up. I wonder if its gone for good or whether they'll find someone new to run it.