When I met my oldest friend Mike for a few pints, I made it my mission to take him to entirely new (to him) pubs. As we met at Piccadilly Station, him fresh off a rail replacement bus, we started in the Waldorf, a neat brick built pub just off Piccadilly itself and a pub that has, over the years, had more makeovers than a Channel 4 house. It was more or less exactly one on a Saturday afternoon and the pub was inexplicably rammed and for Boak and Bailey whose thoughts on pubs I have just read, it was rammed with young people. Well when I say young, I'd say mostly twenty to thirty year olds. Bloody young to me anyway. It was impressively noisy and our joint choice of Purple Moose Elderflower Ale, sufficiently interesting for us to declare it a good start, despite the rather grumpy service. What also interested me was why the pub was so busy. It wasn't a number of large groups, but just bunches of varied people having a good time. Maybe the Waldorf has found the magic formula at last. I hope so as it is rather a good looking boozer.
My plan fell apart at the next hurdle as Mike fancied a pint of Hydes, so we nipped into the Grey Horse on Portland St which was almost deserted. Nonetheless, despite me picking the worst tasting beer on the bar, we had a good time by the simple expedient of chatting to the few people there. The cricket was on the TV and followed with serious intent by a gent on the next table. We nattered about the slow rate of progress and general this and thats and then struck up a conversation with a Burnley fan, in the team shirt, though I had to inspect it closely to rule out impostors such as Aston Villa and West Ham. The forthcoming season's chances thus discussed, we left with sense of contentment that simple friendly interaction with strangers often brings.
Next up was back on the "new" theme in the shape of the Brink, a newish downstairs bar that majors on beers from no further than 20 miles from its location. That still gives it plenty of scope. They also pride themselves, rightly, on the quality of their cask beer and we supped our pints happily, while the pub, not big and busy enough to start with, became even busier and even noisier. This was a mixed crowd, mostly young, but spread across the age range. We had a couple, then retreated as it had become difficult to have our usual detailed political discussion, due to the enjoyment of others being expressed in rather Stentorian tones. This is actually a cracking little bar and I certainly don't begrudge others their loud appreciation of it.
Last up was another underground bar, the white tiled Gas Lamp. Just across the road from the Brink in Bridge St, but actually much more pubby to my mind, though the old white tiles do give the slight
impression of supping in a public lavatory. Here we encountered celebrity in the shape of Aiden Byrne, still dressed in his chef's whites and as he was having a few, hopefully not going back to the stove. Sadly Mike, a fellow Scouser had never heard of him, but there you go. Again the pub was jumping and we found seats only because a couple left and Mike, quick witted as ever, jumped into their graves as it were. Beer here's a good mixture of cask and keg (think Magic Rock,
Kernel, First Chop etc.) and the crowd was anything from 20 to much
older with the majority being in their 30s. For some unaccountable
reason, instead of my usual cask, I enjoyed some Schneider Weiss mein Helles
which was rather good, though pricey. (As an aside, Schneider, to my
mind, is the most improved brewery of the German biggies - most of the
rest have gone backwards.)
And that was it. Leaving Mike to stagger off to his longish bus journey, I reflected on our visits. Four great pub experiences, though all slightly different and apart from one, all really busy. There's hope for the pub yet.
I somehow forgot to take any photos. Those here are from the pub's websites.
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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