Saturday, 1 March 2008

A Little Light Campaigning in Rochdale

I know pub crawls can be boring to read, but I like to go out and drink beer, so this time, this is what I'm going to tell you about!

On Wednesday I decided that the new X46 bus service, which stops at my nearest bus stop and passes one of our more far flung current GBG pubs, had to be tried out. I gave my fellow blogger Tyson the Beer Hound a ring and arranged to meet him at the Albion. Alas while the X46 did its part of the deal to perfection, I arrived to find a dejected Tyson standing outside a firmly closed pub. His tail was not wagging. Perhaps I should have checked the guide first I hear you say? I can only agree. Fortunately a bus was coming the other way and we hopped on it. We alighted at Sam Smith's Alpine Gasthof - I kid you not - a little piece of mock Bavaria in deepest Rochdale. Just look at the picture and you'll see what I mean! However we ignored the Alpine temptress and crossed the road to the Mark Twain. This is an ex Lees house, now free of tie, pleasant enough, but with an unfortunate layout. A tiny bar presents you with a wall of local's backs and horror of horrors, a pool table to the left as you go in. We settled down on leather sofas with very acceptable pints of Phoenix Navvy to plan our drinking attack. So acceptable, we had two in fact.

Then to the home of the former McGuinness Brewery, the Cask and Feather. More Navvy available here, but we opted for Hornbeam Best Bitter which was not at all bad. A half of Moorhouses, Blond Witch was cloying and unpleasant, but then again, I've never liked this beer. It is a blend and it shows! Next the Flying Horse. Despite the off-putting signs on the door listing the many things you can't do, the beer range was good. Lees Bitter, Taylor Best and Landlord, Moorhouse's Premier and Spotland Gold from Phoenix. This golden, hoppy beer was chosen. It is uncompromisingly bitter, full bodied and very drinkable. We drank two and cutting a long story short, came back for two more later!

In between we visited the Baum, an unusual wine bar like pub with sits in the conservation area, well single street that is Toad Lane. Three beers here. Two were from Owl of Oldham which sent alarm bells clanging. This brewery is very hit and miss, mostly I am sad to say miss. Night Owl was dark and acceptable, though not brilliant in any way, while Pacific Gem was astringent and unpleasant. My notes say we drank Monkey Biz, but I'm damned if I can remember anything about it! Not even who brews it. You can always rely on the Baum to have unusual beers on and the pump clip display has some excellent choices. It varies its range, so you take pot luck. I'd recommend it despite us hitting a choice we didn't care for.

We also popped into the Reed. (Pictured in its Banks Livery). This ex Bass House, now Marston's is a lovely little pub, down a ginnel, just off the main shopping street. It should thrive but clearly doesn't. It is up for lease yet again, a series of hopeless cases having driven it into the ground. We noted the turned round Jennings pumpclips and the sole offering, the ghastly Marston's Bitter. On enquiring about the Jennings, we were offered the unlikely explanation that he sells so much Marstons that the brewery won't supply him with Jennings! Eh? We made our excuses and left.

Then a bit of campaigning. The half timbered Spread Eagle (pictured at the top of this post) is again a lovely pub, bang in the centre, with unlimited potential. I used to go for a pint there 20 years ago. Now it is a sad parody of a pub, run down and unappealing. We went in and asked for cask. We knew they hadn't got any but wanted to make the point. Why no cask when it is successful elsewhere in Rochdale? Shrugs of shoulders! We then headed to the almost adjacent White Lion, right at the top of Yorkshire Street. A nice, neat, tied Thwaites House this. Same thing. No cask and the same vacant shrugs. Come on Thwaites. Get someone in there who cares and give us proper beer!

Our final port of call was the Flying Horse (again) where soothing pints of Spotland Gold calmed us down for our journeys home.

So as expected, we got good and bad. The GBG pubs stood up well as you'd hope, with the exception of the Regal Moon which I haven't mentioned as we found nothing worth drinking in there. The Mark Twain needs to spend some money on altering the layout I'd say and a couple of potentially very good pubs need to wake and smell the cask. Next time you are in a pub with keg beer or a crap range, complain. It might just help change things as complacency, incompetence and a complete lack of imagination, regretfully abound in the licensed trade.

I have deliberately pictured the failing pubs, just to show that they are fine looking boozers with potential.


Tyson said...

That was Grenfield Monkey Business, although Monkey Biz would be a good name for a beer. From my recollection, it was a light coloured beer, but had a strong malty taste which sat at odds with the beer style. We concluded it might be a reasonable beer if it was darker, but that malt overtones didn't belong in pale beers.

Tandleman said...

Aha. It all comes flooding back now.

The Southport drinker said...

Completely agree about the complaining, but it has to be to the licensee. Youngsters behind the bar look astonished when I say no thanks and walk out when they can't offer proper beer - but do they ever tell the manger? Probably not.
Despite everything CAMRA does, there's still so much ignorance about real ale, especially keeping it and getting the orders right. Some landlords say their drinkers prefer smoothflow, I doubted this until I started asking people at these bars as research for my blog. They say they prefer the taste and get quite annoyed when I tell them their mad. Why do they like it? Probably because of adverts, image etc. Perhaps its a form of auto sado-masochism
Because I'm sad I often write to the licensee pointing out the trade they've lost. They never write back, you'll be astounded to hear.
BTW, hope you're back in the 'land of the living' after the 8 JW Lees.