Remember Woolworth's? Woolies to us old'uns. They used to be big around here and had a large distribution depot a few miles from where I live. Now big businesses (remember them?) spawned social clubs and Woolies had a fine one, up a leafy (well not at this time of year obviously) side street, not far from the now closed depot. This still carries on and I read in a notice in the bar when we called for our quiz match last night, that the club has been bought from the receivers, which is good news. As part of that new freedom, they have immediately tied themselves (by loan I assume) to a brewer. Oh well, needs must and all that.
I have rather a long history with social clubs. It started with Denny's Social Club in Dumbarton, another club which long outlived its parent (shipbuilders in that case). In Liverpool it was the Docker's Club and through my years in the Liverpool Social Clubs Darts League, many others. Almost without exception, the ale (old fashioned CO2 keg) was bloody awful, requiring recourse to that old Scouse favourite, brown bitter, which accounts for my almost encyclopaedic knowledge of North Western bottled brown ales. The one exception was Walton Ward Labour Club, where a lone unmarked handpump dispensed Burtonwood Dark Mild. I don't recall cask in any other club back then.
Things have changed. In our quiz league, we often come across clubs with cask beer, though bright fonts still dominate. Back to Woolies. Their new supplier is Hydes and all the beers are smoothflow. I had the Hydes Black, a mild which knocks Guinness into a cocked hat flavour wise and doesn't taste "just cooked" and which, despite its Arctic temperature, was a decent beer well worth drinking. The boys had various Hydes' smooth beers and professed themselves as more or less content. As they pointed out, Hydes aren't known for pronounced flavour, so it was put uppable with.
My own view is that smoothflow only really suits milds and stouts. If only it wasn't served at 3 or 4° C!
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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