Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Alive Alive O

If Conwy had gone some way to restoring our faith in cask ale, Chester had it centre stage and shouting its quality to all comers.  Handily underneath the Premier Inn where we were staying, Harker's is a well known Brunning and Price pub on the canal-side.  Lavishly appointed, the haunt of Chester's well heeled and with a great range of beer, we struck lucky with superb Crouch Vale Amarillo, which was by a long chalk our best beer so far.  The handpump was red hot as it cranked out pint after pint, so we had a second as we assumed it would be gone soon and we had other places to visit.

Next stop was the beautiful Cross Keys and Joules (pronounced Jowls) beer. The pub is a Victorian masterpiece and as good a place as you'd want to spend an hour on a Wednesday night. The beers surprised me.  Since I last had them in Eccleshall around a year ago, they seem to have improved beyond all recognition.  Across the road was Okell's Bear and Billet and there it was the Manx Pale Ale that stood out, with the charming service a close second. MPA is is a beer that you want to drink a lot of and we should have stayed for more, but the boys wanted to visit the nearby Spitting Feather's Brewery Tap in what was once a Jacobean Banqueting Hall.  Now I did warn my friends that the place outshone the beer in the way a lighthouse outshines darkness, but they wanted to see it.  Suffice to say other than the wonder of the surroundings, only the superbly attentive young lasses behind the bar, gamely trying to fashion a silk purse out of a sow's ear, made the visit worthwhile.

Our second last official port of call was a Sam Smith's house (can't remember its name) which one of our number had always wanted to visit.  The OBB at £1.80 was just about OK but comfortably better than our previous experience.  Then to JDW and one of the oddest, strangest, bestest, differentest pints ever.  Bateman's Hazelnut Brownie (6.3%) was a liquid version of its name.  It did what it said on the tin and no mistake.  We all loved it and it was still a talking point at breakfast the next day.  Round the corner, and back at our hotel, Harker's beckoned again, but alas it had closed at eleven.  All wasn't lost though, as two of us nipped across the road to the Cellar and the very welcoming sight of Marble Manchester Bitter. Again the hospitality couldn't be faulted and the beer was on superb form.  We staggered back across the road around the half one mark, slightly the worse for wear. 

So there you have two of the simplest ways to make your pub shine.  Offer a warm welcome and good beer. See a theme developing?

Such was the welcome that my companion was hugged by a barmaid from Harker's who was supping at the bar.  This was by way of apology for being unable to serve us at 11.15 she said.  He was also hugged by the landlord as we left.   Nobody hugged me!


M.Lawrenson said...

If it was just up the road from the Bear & Billet, the Sam's pub would have been The Falcon. I remember being visibly amazed when asked for £1.50 for my pint of OBB back in 2011.

Phil said...

I saw the Hazelnut Brownie on the bar at our local Spoons' the other night & turned my nose up at it - wish I hadn't now!

Curmudgeon said...

Yes, the Falcon. Their other Chester pub is the Boot off the Rows on the north side of Eastgate Street.

Was the beer in Harker's twice as much as the OBB?

Professor Pie-Tin said...

I miss 'oop North.
Lived and worked there for donkey's years before heading to that there London to seek fame and fortune.
Your piece reminded me how friendly Northern people were in those days or maybe it's just me who eventually disappeared up my own hole after being seduced by those posh Southerners.
Either way thanks to you I am this very second mentally organising a week-long pub crawl around the Whippet Triangle of Sheffield,Leeds and Manchester with a sojourn to Chester.
I shall report back on whether this ever takes place.
Cheers Tandy.

Simon said...

I had the Hazelnut Brownie in my local Spoons on Sunday. As you say does exactly what it says on the tin - and tastes mighty fine!

Leigh said...

That Manx Pale Ale is lovely stuff; I've 'sessioned' it a few times, as you suggest. We get a lot of it Market Town Taverns pubs, and it's delicious.