Monday 25 July 2016

Two Pints of Draught Bass

A couple of Saturdays ago I was out and about in Manchester with E and the erstwhile landlady, now a staffer at a local JDW and her husband, a manager with JDW. Both are old friends and having just started a couple of weeks off, were enjoying a beer or two. We joined them after they'd made a reasonable start on the ale and had a decent little crawl through parts of the Northern quarter, the sole criteria, stipulated by herself, being that the Landlady hadn't visited it before.

We started in 57 Thomas St, Marble Brewery's outlet in this trendy part of town. I hadn't been since they did up the upstairs and made that a cask bar. Nicely done, but I was surprised - not in a good way - to find the beers served by gravity behind a glass partition. Very micro pub.  My pint of Pint was completely knackered, my experience not enhanced by the barman tilting the cask forward by hand to give me a full pint. Surprisingly after that it was clear, but unsurprisingly, totally flat. I had it exchanged for another, but somehow I feel that gravity pours rarely work that well unless turnover is mighty fast.  I also wondered why they hadn't reversed their refurbishment by putting the keg upstairs and the cask on handpump below. To me, this way round, it didn't work.

Moving on we discovered that on a warm late Saturday afternoon, cellars were obviously not working to their optimum. We had disappointingly too warm beers in the Soup Kitchen and the Allotment Bar, but the side was held up by Pie and Ale which was spot on.  Resisting the blandishments and blatant pleading from one of our party to move on to Spinningfields and ruling out of hand a visit to Lees Millstone, which was packed to the rafters and a bit rough and ready, even for me - and I'm not that choosy - we compromised by heading to the Unicorn for that rarest of beasts, Draught Bass. Our JDW manager doubted its existence (he may have thought it a Robinsons House) and still muttering about the Millstone - he has managed quite a few Lees pubs in his time - we entered to the usual mayhem. The place was packed four deep at the bar, every seat was taken and the hubbub of conversation took us all back to pubs of many years ago, this time without the fug of cigarette smoke. All types were represented here. Middle aged couples arriving for a night out, a hen party, gaga with booze, but adding shriekingly to the already vibrant atmosphere, ne'er do wells in corners conspiring over Carling, well dressed gents having one before moving on, locals standing at the bar, guarding their usual spot with pained defiance and practised ease, despite the mob behind baying for beer.  It was all rather marvellous.

The staff bustled about dispensing lager and Worthington Smooth at top speed.  Unknown beer from the wicket was seen being cranked up and down and dispensed at speed. From our place in the crowd we could just about see the rear of the handpumps in the circular bar. Our JDW man glumly bawled to me above the merry din "Bet the Bass isn't on."  I caught a barman's eye and shouted out that rarely heard order "Two pints of Draught Bass please."

Not only was the Bass on, it was superb. In this time capsule, it seemed just the thing to drink. We had two pints each.

The Unicorn was a Bass House and Bass is still one of the permanent beers. The presence of Worthington Smooth is another clue. I wrote about it and Bass here a couple of years ago, but I liked the Bass less then. I wonder why?

Our JDW man will enquire if he can procure a trial cask of Bass for his pub. I do hope he obtains it. I reckon it will sell.

I squeezed through the crowd for the photo. Wouldn't want to do that twice.


Curmudgeon said...

Sounds great. Underlines the point that the best pubs have a mixed clientele, not a monoculture.

RedNev said...

I was in the White Star in Rainford Gardens in Liverpool recently, which was famous for its Bass in the 1970s. They still sell it, and I find it quite enjoyable; in the 70s and 80s, on the other hand, I thought it was wonderful. I've no idea whether it has changed, or my tastes have changed due to the massive increase in choice that we now have.

Sat In A Pub said...

Was waiting for you to visit 57 Thomas St. They've made a right balls of it. Having the cask upstairs-which is often closed in the week-is either a basic schoolboy error or indicative of their attitude to cask beer. As is their actual choice of cask beers which often fails to include anything session strength. Add that to the mish-mash design effort downstairs and you've got something of a fail. Of course its location means it can't really go wrong.

The Unicorn is a classic market day pub. Tends to be a lot quieter on weekday evenings. If you remember, it use to always feature on CAMRA crawls when the Hogshead was nearby. At one time it was nationally famous for the quality of its Bass and hosted regular meetings of the Honourable Order of Bass Drinkers in the upstairs function room.

Phil said...

I had the flattest pint I've ever had at 57TS soon after it opened - even flatter than what I had the time a friend dragged me to the Bree Louise. When I mentioned it on Twitter there was a bit of muttering about early days and teething troubles, and to be fair I have had some perfectly decent gravity-dispensed beer from there in the intervening six years. Haven't been back in since the refurb, though - it sounds as if early days are here again.

Tandleman said...

Tyson: Yes. It does seem to be an odd move, but hey, they are the business. Do you feel that the commitment to cask is diminishing in the Marble Empire?

Sat In A Pub said...

Yes, there is a general feeling about that Marble's commitment to cask isn't what it use to be.

Anonymous said...


Manager of 57 Thomas Street here. Sorry you didn't enjoy your pint with us recently. I'l be honest, you're not the only one to say that you haven't liked our method of dispense. In mind of this, we have had some cask engines fitted in our cool room and will be using hand pulls by the weekend, if not before. Our line up will be Pint or Manchester alongside one of our stronger offerings, so there should be something to suit everyone.

Hope to see you again soon, and that you enjoy your next pint with us!



retiredmartin said...

Very glad you had good Bass. Wasn't the best last time I popped in, though you got the pub's merits spot on. Would love to see Bass served wider, particularly in Spoons. Ilkeston JDW had it and it was superb.

Matt said...

I'll be at the Unicorn tonight for a meeting of Manchester Jazz Society in the aforementioned upstairs function room. The Draught Bass there is always a decent pint, and as you say a rare find in town now.