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The Hands of Time....

A few weeks ago I was sat having a natter with friends in the Jubilee Refreshment Rooms in Sowerby Bridge when one of the group mentioned that a box of old Good Beer Guides had been left by someone. Nothing unusual about that: Andrew, one of the proprietors, is a serious collector of pub and brewery memorabilia, and frequently there are bits of this and that being dropped off. Indeed, more than once, we have mentioned the old West Riding Brewery pub sign from the Barge and Barrel in Elland which ended up in my mum and dad's garage, only for it to be left behind and lost when they moved house, which always leaves Andrew looking wistful!

Anyway, back to the beer guides. We each took a volume to thumb through. I got 1979. Wow, things were more different than I remember. Yes, I knew the local pubs were dominated by Websters and Tetleys - both big breweries, both closed some years ago. But some of the pubs raised an eyebrow - the Calder and Hebble, a Tetleys house at the bottom of Salterhebble on the way in to Halifax and demolished years ago, was in the guide, as was the Heathcliff pub on the sprawling Illingworth estate in north Halifax, selling the long-gone Home beers from Nottingham. Leeds was naturally dominated by Tetleys, with long-gone classic pubs such as the Brassmoulders and Sun in Hunslet selling huge volumes of the local brew. In Manchester, some of the pubs such as the Briton's Protection and Peveril of the Peak are still there, but others, such as the Castle and Falcon, and the Harp and Shamrock, are but memories, bulldozed to make way for one or development or another.

The other day, I had another glimpse of the past, albeit more recent. 2011, to be precise. I have always been someone who makes lists of things to do, things I've done, things I like, etc. so I wasn't entirely surprised when I came across a spreadsheet listing the pubs I'd been in and what I'd drunk there over the year. Now the discipline and memory required to do this was quite taxing, which is why it didn't happen in 2012 or any subsequent year. I suppose I could take a little book with me and write things down, like a few people do - and it certainly would be handy for the blog, as I regularly forget what beer it was I had! But back in the days when you had just Tetleys and Websters to drink, no such effort was required.

Meanwhile back to 2011, and it is amazing what has changed in such a short space of time. Breweries from that year that have gone include Bob's, Brass Monkey, Owenshaw Mill, Boggart, Wentworth, and Wharfebank. And whilst the odd pub - most notably the Puzzle Hall in Sowerby Bridge - has gone, it is interesting to see the pubs I visited most often. These included the Olde Ship in Brighouse - at the height of its success in those days - and the Travellers at Hipperholme, still a popular Ossett pub. But it is more interesting to see what's not there in both breweries and pubs. Amongst the breweries, there is no Squawk, no Track, and no Anarchy, let alone Vocation or Cloudwater. And in those pre-micro pub days there is no Calan's, no Grayston Unity, and no Cafe Beermoth. The Port Street Beer House was there, laying an early claim for Manchester's fledgling hipster market. Things certainly do change rapidly these days.

I was back in Manchester the other day, for a bit of Christmas shopping and the odd beer. Having finished my shopping at Fopp, I was conveniently close to Cafe Beermoth and headed there for a pint. A lovely pint of Wylam Ekuanot was followed by half from Verdant, all the way from Cornwall, but typically I have forgotten the name! Very nice, though. After a pleasant hour or so chilling out there, I headed off to the Micro Bar, same as ever, and enjoyed a nice half of Phoenix Snowbound. From the Arndale, I headed off to the Northern Quarter and decided to pay a visit to the Terrace on Thomas Street, which I'd previously visited on works do's, but now featuring in the 2018 Good Beer Guide. This cafe bar had a very pleasant, chilled-out mid-afternoon ambience, very different to when I had visited with a crowd in the evening. I ordered half of Runaway Pale, which I enjoyed as I charged up my phone.

A couple of doors away is Marble's NQ outpost, 57 Thomas Street. It had been a while since I had last been in, and it had undergone a refurb in the meantime. The large table and benches that ran down the middle of the bar have been replaced by a number of smaller tables. The bar has been extended and an upstairs bar created. It is taps only downstairs, whilst cask is available in the top bar. I sat at the bar and had a Pint. Here again, there was a good ambience about the place.

The need to eat was increasing, so I popped across the road for a Lamb Karahi at Al-Faisal, which was very nice and good value for money. Duly fed, I made my way to the Smithfield, which never fails to please these days. I went for a pint of Five Points Pale, which was probably the best pint I had all day. The place was starting to get busy as the after work crowd logged off and came in to start their weekends, and what a good place to do so.

I decided to go to the Angel, but as I walked past the old building next door to the Smithfield which had been empty for years, I noticed lights inside. And people. And it looked like it had a bit of money spent on it. I stuck my head in, and then looking around, I realised it had had a serious refurbishment. This is the Mackie Mayor, situated in the old hall of the long-closed Smithfield Market, dating back to 1858. My first reaction was it was reminiscent of the Market Hall at Altrincham, except bigger, with an upstairs area with a balcony. Quality food outlets around the sides with refectory tables in the centre. The similarity with Altrincham continued with a Jack in the Box bar selling Blackjack beers and a few others. I even remembered the guy behind the bar serving me there. It is a stunning building,with a fantastic ceiling, which not surprisingly was restored by the people behind the renovation of the Altrincham Market Hall. I had a half of Shuffled Deck and had a look around. It has been open about 6 weeks, and I was surprised nobody at work or at the Buffet Bar had mentioned it before I went. Great to see an old building being restored and brought back to life with care and attention.

I had no time to go to the Angel, so I headed off to the Pilcrow, where I had a half of Cloudwater DDH Pale, 5.7% but very nice, before going back to Victoria to catch the train. And, I reflected that all the changes that have taken place over the last 40 years or so have their good and bad news. And the hands of time are only there as a backdrop....

Mackie Mayor, Manchester




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