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Showing posts from 2019

Real Ale, Real Music...and Real Cricket!

Last Thursday, England surged into the cricket World Cup final by blowing Australia away in an awesome display, and set up an intriguing contest with underdogs New Zealand in what was to be the first major cricket match to be shown on free-to-air television in this country since Sky bought up the TV rights way back in 2005.
I mention this because the cricket was very much in my thoughts when I visited Leeds on Saturday evening. I was looking forward to watching the cricket - albeit on TV - the following day, which was something I did in the flesh regularly when I lived in Leeds, particularly when I was based in Headingley during the early 80's. I used to say to people - only half-jokingly - that it used to take longer to put the kettle on for a brew at my flat than walk down the road to the cricket ground and order a pint!

Not that the beer was normally up to much. In those days it was keg Tetleys - warm, of course, as fondly referred to by former Prime Minister John Major when re…

Head For Heights....

A pint on a lovely evening at a pub high in the Pennine hills in a former part of Yorkshire set me off thinking about how many similar places we have lost over the years....
The Royal Oak is situated at a spot called Heights, in the Tame Valley in Saddleworth, high above the lovely village of Delph. I pass through the village most days on my way to work, but this time I had dropped our Tom off for a birthday do for one of his old mates who lives there. Driving back, on a lovely summer's evening, on a whim I decided to call at the Royal Oak, a Good Beer Guide regular, several years after I had last visited. I turned off the road to Denshaw, up Tame Lane and along a series of narrow country lanes until I came to a widening of the road, with a chapel on the left and a solid farmhouse-like building on the right, which is the Royal Oak.

I turned the car around to face back down the hill and parked up. There was the sound of birdsong and a distant bleat from a sheep. The soothing, timel…

The Night I Was There....

Manchester has had its fair share of iconic gigs.

Bob Dylan's 'electric Judas' gig at the Free Trade Hall.

The Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade.

Both gigs where seemingly everyone claims they were there, although I have to say that I wasn't at either myself (I did see Dylan at a festival in Hampshire once and I was at another everyone-was-there gig when I saw the Sex Pistols play their last ever UK gig at Ivanhoe's in Huddersfield on Christmas Day night in 1977 in a benefit gig for striking firefighters).

Time will tell if the recent sell-out gig at the Band on The Wall featuring Hebden Bridge's Working Men's Club and local guys W.H. Lung will in the years to come be an I was there gig, but I wouldn't mind betting that it does. Two bands on the cusp of great things. Both having released some of the best music of the year so far; Working Men's Club, a killer single in Bad Blood, W.H.Lung a killer album, Incidental Music, both released on Melodic…

Are You Being Served?

Beer comes in so many different styles these days that it can be difficult to know what you are getting for your money without any guidance. Are pubs and bars doing enough to make it clear what you are buying and help you, the customer? Here's a few thoughts....
Once upon a time, it was a lot easier for beer drinkers. They were simpler times, a time when choice was limited to bitter, mild, maybe a stout or a porter, maybe a strong bitter or premium bitter, usually from the same brewery who more often than not owned the pub too. Back in those days, when you went to the pub - more often than not, the same one - much more regularly than you probably do now, you knew what you were getting. You got used to the style of the beer you liked, and even if you only tolerated it, you'd still drink it because that's where your mates and family went, you'd maybe play for the football or darts team. The pub was a big part of your life and played a huge part in knitting together the f…

A Gander at Gloucester....

The M6 was in unforgiving mood as I drove south on my way to Gloucester. Torrential rain, coupled with roadworks at regular intervals, made for an unpleasant driving experience, which was further compounded when I hit the M5 in Birmingham, where there were further roadworks between Junctions 1 and 2, and the odd high-powered, souped-up boy racer lane-hopping once we cleared the roadworks. So when I eventually pulled into the car park of the Premier Inn at Gloucester Quays I was not in the best of moods.

I got checked in. Newish hotel, nice room. OK, the view over the flyover wasn't the best, but then again I wasn't planning to stay in my room and stare out of the window all evening. Washed and changed, I went down to Reception and was told it was about 10 minutes walk to the city centre. I had already listed the pubs in the Good Beer Guide for the city, and so I set off walking away from the 'leisure park' - horrible phrase, that - passing a couple of disused warehous…

A Game of Two Halves....

On the day that Liverpool played Spurs in the Champions League Final in Madrid and the Spice Girls played another comeback gig at the Etihad, I made my first visit to the Stockport Beer Festival and went to see Dutch indie band Pip Blom at the Band On The Wall....
I got a ticket to see Pip Blom months ago, but my decision to visit the Stockport Beer Festival was only made a few days earlier when one of my friends at the Stalybridge Buffet Bar said they were going. So I got the Manchester Airport train over from Huddersfield, and as luck would have it, the journey involved stops at Manchester Victoria, Oxford Road, then Piccadilly - from where trains from Stockport leave. Get in!

But, there was an additional delight. The route from Victoria to Oxford Road involves traversing the Ordsall Chord, a short stretch of line that only opened in December 2017, linking the main stations in Manchester. It was amazing, for a few minutes there were stunning views of the old buildings, new developme…

Steady Rollin' Man....

"I'm a steady rollin' man, I roll both night and day
I'm a steady rollin' man, hmm, I roll both night and day" 
So sang Robert Johnson in his song of the same name from 1937, later covered by Eric Clapton on his classic 1974 album 461 Ocean Boulevard.

Steady Rollin' Man is also the name of the hoppy New England pale ale from DEYA brewery which was named recently as one of the most influential beers of the past 10 years in an article in Pellicle Magazine, a new publication "devoted to exploring beer, wine, cider, travel, and food, and the joy we find within these cultures." Curated by Jonny Hamilton, the article is a series of short essays by a number of eminent beer writers, brewers, and critics in which each extols the virtues of a beer that they believe has helped to define the British beer scene over the past decade. 21 different beers are named, and included in the list are several well-known beers (some less so), and I was pleased to see a few…

Cask By The Canal....

I visited a few different places on a visit to Manchester last weekend, including an excellent place a little off the beaten track....
I was in Manchester because one of my work colleagues had organised a leaving do before she headed off for a new job in Amsterdam, and so I decided to go over a bit earlier, check out HMV - sadly Fopp Records on Brown Street was closed as part of the same deal that saved HMV* - and visit Cask, situated by the canal in New Islington, just beyond Ancoats.

I caught the fast train from Huddersfield to Victoria - 27 minutes station-to-station - and waded through the sea of Saturday shoppers to the Arndale Centre. I normally avoid such places like the plague at weekends, so it was helpful reminder as to why. Still, my efforts were rewarded with a copy of Led Zeppelin 4 on vinyl at a bargain (for nowadays) price of £14.99, and a copy of the new Stealing Sheep album 'Big Wows' on CD.

I made my way to the Northern Quarter, and decided to pop into the Ab…