Yesterday was a lovely early Autmun day in Manchester and brought with it a day out with my oldest friend - well not oldest - but since day one of starting work in Liverpool almost 40 years ago, oldest in terms of length of friendship. A long time that. Boy have we supped some beer together in that time, but I digress.
First beer up, to decide over a pint where to go, was Holts in the unbeatable atmosphere of the Hare and Hounds on Shudehill. Busy as always, Holt's Bitter in perfect condition and a mere £2.50 a pint. Don't worry, no more prices, as this writer as always took no notes and can't remember much by way of detail. I only know it was a fiver for two pints, as we fought to get the first cheap round in. The raucous atmosphere here is infectious and despite having our ears assaulted, a rough plan emerged.
Next up - Mackie Mayor. This conversion of an old Market hall into a cornucopia of eating and drinking never fails to impress. My Squawk Bitter was even more bitter than the Holts and in great nick too. Mike liked his - whatever it was - so all was well. Just the one there and off to the Crown and Kettle. I plumped for Thornbridge Tropical Swan Nectarine; 3.5%, clear as a bell and utterly delicious, with notes of orangey citrus. One wasn't enough, so I had two, with Mike expressing satisfaction with his Hawkshead Pale. It was tempting to have another, but the next stop was a new one for Mike.
Cask is in a newish development in a canal basin in Ancoats and offers a great range of cask and keg beers. Expertly managed by Warren Mccoubrey, an old acquaintance of mine and former brewer with Marble Beers no less, he knows his stuff. Warren was there and said hello, but my pint of Pictish, though clear, had that bottom of the barrel taste. No problem. It was exchanged and Warren came over later to say he'd checked the cask and it was more or less entirely drained. Vindicated. Squawk Crex (I think) was our beer of choice. This time, pale and much more balanced than the bitter, but with tropical notes was the perfect foil to the warm Autumn sunshine. We basked in this for far too long as we chatted and put the world to rights over too many pints.
So Cask Ale Week was celebrated inadvertently, but in the best possible way. Drinking cask in good Manchester pubs isn't a lottery at all, but a reminder - hardly needed for us two - that served well it is unbeatable. And, as I keep saying, is not at all difficult to do. Despite the warm day, all our pints were at a perfect temperature, weren't over vented or flabby, but conditioned to perfection.
This wasn't intended to be a blog post so no photos were taken. I've just put the beer of the day in instead, though honestly, it could have been any of them, all were so good.
We did have one more beer on the way back to Victoria, but while it was
good, we didn't really need it and shouldn't have had it. It wasn't my idea, but by then judgement was somewhat impaired.
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.
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