Thursday, 8 January 2009

Joseph Holt

Have I mentioned Joey Holt's here? Only as an aside I think, but really I should do. I was prompted to tell you a little about them by a visit to their Old Blue Bell in Bury the other night for a CAMRA meeting. The Old Blue Bell isn't in the nicest area of Bury and for most of us who came by car, the nagging worry was would it still be in one piece when we came out? Still there is nothing wrong with the pub. A big solid red brick bugger with a decent sized vault and two, or was it three, separate rooms off, all comfortably furnished in upholstered benches and of course, a corridor or rather what was left of it before they opened it out a bit.

We had a nice room off the bar at the back where we could hear the mostly female hoots of laughter from the outside smoking area. Hardy lasses those from Bury. It would have frozen a yak outside, but it didn't seem to bother them one bit. The beer of choice for me was Mild. It is 3.2% and is absolutely delicious when on form, as it was on Tuesday night. Others had the bitter which is 4% and pronounced it excellent too.

Ah yes. Back to Holt's. Joseph Holt is a family owned brewer, founded in 1849 and based in the Derby Brewery, just outside Manchester City Centre. There are 127 Joseph Holt's houses. All lie within a 25-mile radius of Greater Manchester. The brewery produces a cask mild, bitter and seasonal beers in a fully modernised and flexible brewery and the company is fiercely independent. Relatively rarely for smaller brewers, they still brew their own lager too; Crystal and Diamond and, in cans only, the delightfully named "Holtenbrau". Alas they don't brew the half-palindromic "Regal" any more.

Holt's have changed over the years. They used to be very cheap, but now are catching up a bit but you'll still get decent change out of £2 for either Mild or Bitter. Mild is usually around 8p less than the bitter too. The beer, well the bitter mainly, has also changed. Once described thus in the GBG "its uncompromising bitterness can come as a shock to the unwary". It is still rather bitter, around 40 or so IBU's though a bit better balanced than it used to be. Holt's still deliver their beer to some outlets in the mighty hogshead or 54 imperial gallons. Full, they weigh in at a hefty 6cwt or 290 kilograms, so don't ever pick a fight with a Holt's drayman!

Holt's also brew a delightful Old Ale called "Sixex" which used to be available in nips, but now comes in the standard 500 ml bottle, as well as a full range of other bottled beers.


Neville Grundy said...

There have been many times I have consoled myself after the missing my train at Salford Central with a pint of Holts bitter in the Egerton Arms just next door. On more than one occasion I've missed the next train too.

It seems to me that Holts is what an established local brewer should really be like.

Anonymous said...

can't say I'm a holts fan,. Mind you, its a better brew than Lees! (#;

Paul Bailey said...

It's years since I had a pint of Joey Holts. Although a "soft southerner" I spent four very happy years as a student in the Manchester area during the mid 1970's, and Holts was always a pint well worth seeking out.

Even in those days there were grumbilings about the declining quality and increasing blandness of Boddingtons; someone we knew who worked at the Strangeways Brewery confirmed what many of us suspected- namely the company had secretly been reducing the hopping rate of the bitter in order to "increase its appeal to a wider audience". The more discerning of us had already switched our allegiance to Holts by then.

Regretably I haven't been back to Manchester since the mid 90's, when I attended a course there. The pints of Holts Bitter I enjoyed in the Old Monkey in Princess Street, tatsted as good as they ever did.

Must rectify the situation and try and get up to Manchester again.

Anonymous said...

Good God, cask in 54 gallon barrels.You would need some through put to keep that beer fresh.

NAM said...

The mild is indeed a beauty. The Volunteer in Sale put it back on when the management changed last year and they seem to shift enough to keep it in good nick.

I first started drinking Holt's mild as a protest when the bitter went past a pound a pint and the mild was still below a quid.

I can't be bothered with the bitter now. I much preferred the uncompromising version of yore.
And, sorry to say, I've found all of the bottled range I've tried close to nasty. Maple Moon - just say no.

jefffrane said...

I'm sorry to have missed this when I was in the area. Both the mild and bitter sound wonderful.

Erlangernick said...

I don't recall what I thought of Holt when I was up there...I don't suppose you remember if I liked it, do you? I think I had the bitter.

My god, but did I drink a lot in those 3 or 4 days!

Anonymous said...

Is Holt's another of those breweries whose bottled product bears no relation whatsoever to the cask product? I see a lot of their bottled beer in cornershops in London, stacked up next to the Badger, Marston's and Bateman's.

Tandleman said...

Mick I think we both had the mild and enjoyed it.


The Holts bottled beers are variable, but if Sixex is in the pile, snap some up.

Jeff Pickthall said...

What's that hideous-looking shaving foam they've squirted on top that pint?

Tandleman said...

It's like the shaving foam in the beer you are drinking in your photo!

Anonymous said...

I find Holt's bottled beers are definitely drinkable, but if you can find the same brew on draught then it's usually even better.

Case in point is their Fifth Sense - very nice indeed bottled, pure nectar on draft. IMHO, of course.

And all this talk of Holt's has made me thirsty. I reckon a trip to the Woodthorpe might be in order this evening.

Martin said...

I was at university in Salford in the late 80s/early 90s and cut my drinking teeth on Holts, mainly in the Crescent. Both the Mild and the Bitter were wonderful pints. Last time I tasted it was at the GBBF a few years ago and I wasn't as impressed. Maybe rose-tinted hindsight?