Every year in recent years, around this time, I'm invited to an exclusive do. The Retired Gas Men's Annual Pissup. When I say retired gas men, these aren't the meter readers, or the guys that shovelled coal into hoppers to produce coke for town gas, but the mob that investigated "gas incidents". Explosions, carbon monoxide suffocations and the like were their bag. They are a funny lot with a wealth of tales to tell, including how the Bridge at Heap Bridge, Bury, a pub I used to frequent, blew spectacularly apart in the middle of the night, though fortunately, the landlord and landlady walked through the falling debris unscathed. This apparently is often, but not always the way. The pub was never rebuilt though and is now a block of flats.
My old mate Steve, who was a forensic chemist God help us, is the source of the invitation. The venue is always the Ape and Apple, a tied Holt's house in central Manchester. It is interesting and instructive to see the old guard in action. It takes you back to how things were and in a lot of Holt's pubs still are. Not one was under 65 and the oldest was almost 80. To a man they stood on their hind legs, drinking proper beer like proper men always did. Cask Mild was the predominant drink, though a few drank bitter. Pints were jugged down in the casual, practised manner of ones to the manor born. Banter flowed, photos of families were examined and Christmas cards exchanged. I was even given some advice by one group on my recalcitrant central heating, while another group avidly discussed the recent massive gas explosion in Salford. "It wasn't the gas pipe". Old habits die hard in more respects than one.
The Ape and Apple was the perfect venue for such a gathering. Old fashioned (though not that old as a pub) and everything a proper tied house should be, with charming, efficient bar staff throwing casual banter around to the many regulars and pouring perfect beer from the wickets. In a very busy pub, waiting time was non existant and pints were topped up automatically. The Holt's Mild was in superbly drinkable nick. At 3.2% this is the perfect lunchtime pint. After four, I left. I had a quiz later and anyway, these guys needed to catch up.
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. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
This blog mentions specifics; pubs and beer, good and bad. The opinions will be forthright, but you can always disagree, just don't be offended. Comments from those mentioned are particularly welcome and a right of reply is hereby offered.
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