Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Real Ales In High Peak Pubs

Now then,

a further report on travelling to pubs in the surrounding area - this time its a new year yomp to the high peak - this was written January 2008, so as with these first few posts details might change.

New Year, New Beers 2008
On 2nd of January, with the house still full of beer, I persuaded Wee Fatha to take a drive around the high peak, sampling a few pubs and real ales. The only potential problem was the threat of snow, and the fact that a lot of pubs might not open on a freezing cold January Wednesday......

We drove through fog to Dove Holes, and being a bit early for visiting the Queens, took a tiny single track road down to the village of Combs, near the reservoir of the same name. Despite being quite small, the village boasts a large stone pub called the Beehive, already open at 11.40, and setting the tables for lunchtime diners. The pub's website made no mention of real ales so I was pleased to find Bass, Boddingtons and Landlord. We didn't try the Bass for once, but the other beers were well kept and priced at £2.40 a pint.

We followed the road into Chapel en le Frith, where we parked up and went in search of the Memorial Pub. All we knew was it used to be the Memorial club and had recently reopened. It took a while before we found anyone who new where to go, but after walking back to almost where we started we found the memorial hall next to the town hall. The inside still looks like a social club, but the bar is festooned with pump clips. There are 4 handpumps in all, but unfortunately only the Pedigree was on - judging by the clips they recently sold Thornbridge and Howard Town beers. Transforming the business into a pub is going to be a big job because of the sheer size of the building, but if they can fill it with thirsty real ale drinkers they should be able to maintain a good range.

We carried on over Eccles Pike into Whaley Bridge where the reality of new year pub crawls hit home - the White Hart, Goyt, Navigation and Jodrell Arms were all shut so we pushed on to find refreshment elsewhere. Having recently read about the White Lion at Disley selling a range of real ales, we were surprised to find that this renaissance mirrored that of the Meadow in Sheffield. The pub was already boarded up and fenced off only a month or so after the report of its success. Undeterred we drove into the Goyt Valley and through Hague Bar to New Mills, only to find the Rock was shut and our stomachs rumbling.

We decided to go for a tried and tested venue and the Sportsman at Strines did not let us down. This popular pub has always been packed when I have visited before, but the near empty rooms suggested why other pubs in the area had chosen to open later or not at all. The four real ales were Cains Bitter, Dunham Massey Big Tree Bitter, Shaws Cascade and Boddingtons. We tried all but the Boddies and they were well kept and priced between £2.00 and £2.20.

After lunch we drove over to the Werneth Low country park, where the weather had cleared enough to get reasonable views over to Hattersley and Hyde. The Werneth Low pub was open but its chef and brewer signage put us off and we continued on to Compstall. The Andrew Arms is a Robinson's pub in the GBG and has a traditional layout and fittings with real fires. There are 3 pumps dispensing Hatters and Unicorn Bitter, and we spotted a tiny poly barrel of Old Tom on the bar. This gave us the opportunity for a pint of Grandma or Mother-in-law - we went for the Grandma (old and mild) which despite the strength of the Hatters still packs quite a punch. This is a friendly pub and it seemed to be bucking the trend for the day since all the time we were there it was busy.

It was turning colder as we drove through the dark lanes to Rowarth. The little mill inn was bathed in light when we arrived, probably quite annoying for the few local residents but at least we knew it was worth parking up. Inside we found a spot by a very hot range and had pints of Coachouse Thoroughbred at £2.25, with Banks Bitter and Pedigree also available. Although not far from the road to Mellor, the location at a dead end in a wooded valley makes the pub seem very isolated, but we tore ourselves away from the warmth of the fire to visit the Oddfellows Arms at Mellor.

Seeing the Oddfellows car park in the dark is quite difficult since its only signed in one direction, but after more than 5 minutes perseverance we were at the bar choosing from a range of 4 beers. We had a pint of the Adnams Explorer and a half of their bitter and sat down in a cosy corner, once again appreciating the fire. The beer was well kept and the same price as at the Little Mill, but the £10.50 fish and chip supper seemed a bit steep. We pressed on thinking we'd get something a little more competitively priced later on.

We took a brief trip into Hayfield to check out the food on offer there but nothing especially caught our eye, and after finding the Lantern Pike at Little Hayfield was not serving food ( and was creditably packed despite that ) we headed back to the Beehive at Combs. This time we both had the Bass, and a generous meal which was good value, despite the fact that hadn't saved any cash. We were very impressed with the quality and service (and the real ales) so will bear it in mind for the future. Our penultimate stop was back at the Quens at Dove Holes.

By now an icy gale was blowing in and the pub was quite busy with locals who seemed immune to the wintry weather. There is Tetley's and a guest beer at the Queens; this was Idle Brewed from the assumedly not idle brewery. I was feeling a little full up by now so only had a half but the beer had a good fruity flavour to it, and was priced at £2.40. We finally arrived at the Cheshire Cheese in Hope around 22.00 to catch the quiz night and enjoy a half of Hartington Bitter from a range of four beers. Although it is admittedly small, the pub was packed out and they seemed to be selling a lot of real ales, proving that the most depressing week of the year doesn't have to be spent at home if you are lucky enough to have an excellent local pub on your doorstep