as threatened previously, I am going to update you briefly on my last Friday night, or, indeed, any night, drinking of this month. Alas you see, May is a pay period procrastinator, having got my funds for this month on 28th April, just before a bank holiday (good, but guaranteed to mean you spend heavily at the beginning of the month ), with the much anticipated June wage not due until the 31st of May, near 5 weeks later and annoyingly the day after the bank hols.
So, relishing this final fling, and as is my favoured after work drill, I left before 17.00 and got on the 5 o clock 31 to Daniel Hill and hopped off for the Blake. I was meeting Carlos, who I haven't seen for ages, but have seen enough times to know he'd be late. Which was fine, apart from the fact I arrived at 17.12 and was due to meet him at 17.30.
Inside the pub was nicely busy but not yet rammed, and I was delighted to spot some of their fine pork pies on the bar, so bought one of them, and what was to have been a half. "A half? Its Friday you know " said the barman, and despite my crap insincere protests about being early and long nights etc, I caved in after a lengthy interrogation of about 25 seconds and had a pint of the excellent Oldershaw Dark, which was £2.20.
I sat at the back of the left hand room trying to find the paper interesting, taking a few pics on my trusty phone and eating my pie, all the while trying not to drink too much of my pint, but a lot was gone by the time my phone rang. It was Wee Keefy - me and he and our friend Jambon had made a vague rolling agreement to let each other know when we were heading for the Blake so as to meet up. Despite the fact that Wee Keefy and Carlos live in the same house, neither knew the other was planning on going.
Overhearing the plan secured Carlos a lift and myself a slightly shorter wait; although they arrived after 20 to, I might have been waiting much longer if they hadn't come in the car. Already familiar with Blake best practice, all 3 got a pie each, WK a pint of the Burton Bridge, Carlos a pint of Warsteiner or Becks, can't recall which, and Jambon a very "eclectic " pint of a Grafton beer.
On tasting it I noted that, despite his description of it tasting of furniture polish it was in fact the Ahtanum hops that were prominent. I had to also explain however that many brewers have harnessed their astringent flavour to glorious effect, when matched with complimentary citrus hops, but that Grafton had steered clear of this precedent and created a one dimensional dry metallic beer instead. I reminded him that I could have advised, and Keefy obligingly made reference to my status as the oracle.
All too soon the smokers in our party had us sat outside in the surprisingly large garden, in steeply dropping temperatures. Obviously I was dressed for a summers eve and was quickly feeling the chill as Keefy fetched me another Oldershaw and Jambon a pint of Keefy's Burton Bridge choice - I think it was called Top Garter. The aforementioned brother (note, he is actually my brother, I am not paraphrasing some creaking afro Carribean sterotype here...) had other plans afoot so had to leave us, and we sat outside for a while longer before my desperate plea to return to the warmth bore fruit.
We sat at the back of the left room again beneath an excellent poster advertising IPA from a London brewery that I thought was Reids, but on my pic seems to begin with an A. I tried the Burton Bridge myself and it was really nice with a floral fruity hop flavour, as well as the Allgates California that I had enjoyed on my last visit, before we headed off.
We visited the Freedom House, at my suggestion, and breaking with tradition, we opted to head right at the entrance - and lo it was thus becometh that oh the right was the wrong side in thee quaint Inne, for that was where the rapscallions and those loud of remonstrance were base-d.
In modern language, this means that the decision not to go in the welcoming (if unlit!) left side had demonstrated that I appeared to have been going in the best room all along. The right is a lot less comfy withalmost nowhere to sit, and definitely nowhere to have a quiet chat, and is very much targeted at people who play pool and consider sitting down to be a girls pastime. There was one beer on, Moonshine, so Jambon bought the round, with Carlos on cooking lager which may have been Fosters, and we went outside in to the beer yard.
Here I discovered that the Moonshine, though clear, had a rather strange taste, one that Jams found so distasteful that he threw all of the contents of his glass into a plant pot, a rather rash action which meant it was going to be difficult replacing mine. Basically the beer was old and had gone off, but there was no alternative to swap it for and I had gulped at first and then suffered more than a third by the time I admitted defeat.
After a refreshed gentleman took centre stage to deliver an evangelical descant on kebabs, and to question why we intended heading for the Walkley Cottage when he knew it as "the sausage cottage", we took our leave. I solemnly placed my half full pint on the bar and stated that the Moonshine was off, to which the barman replied "oh" but I was on my way out and didn't request recompense so I have no idea whether the beer was taken off. Having been my recommendation, this was a poor showing fro the House, but hopefully just a temporary blip in its recent good form.
We decided to change route slightly as I wanted Carlos and Jams to try the Red Deer, and not because we were concerned by what we might expect from a venue known as the sausage cottage. We jumped off past Henderson's factory and cut across the back, with me briefly nipping into Harrisons to see Dave, before we got to the Red Deer.
The beer range was good but there was perhaps less to tempt me than of late, Carlos was happy with his lager and me and Jambon had excellent pints of the Wharefebank Tether pale ale, after which I nipped back for a half of the Moorhouses Pride of Pendle. It wasn't very nice, and didn't taste anything like I thought it should, but on taking it back and ignoring the staff's insistence that it may be the wrong beer as it was the wrong colour, the mystery was eventually explained as being just that, and the beer was replaced with an actual Pride of Pendle, which in many respects was better than the Tether.
Next we headed for a food top up for Jams at a takeaway of dubious authenticity (kebabs, pizza and fish and chips, how scintillatingly uni-national!?!) before we headed at my behest, to the Old House, on the promise of real ale and good music. Alas on entering, the music was achingly bland townie cheese, which stops being ironic, if even it ever was, quite quickly I find. I lost my companions whilst eyeing up some decent real ale, and its a good job I hesitated to find out what they wanted to do, because the venue was roundly dismissed on their return from the facilities, and we headed on once more.
Perhaps being of a certain age and a certain musical disposition, it was inevitable that next we would wind up at the Washington, scene of many post work revelries from the past and probably until recently the only place to get a decent pint after midnight. Inside it was packed and there was Moonshine and Tetleys on the bar, with an interesting if slightly odd selection of tunes playing. The Moonshine in here is almost always cloudy and perhaps a little cold, but it always seems to taste OK, if unexceptional, and besides, I admit it, we weren't in here for the beer.
I bumped into Simon from the 3 Valleys fest last year, an event we both realised only then was on the next day, and which sadly finances have forbade me from attending. I only stopped for one pint as well, since much as I was enjoying myself, i wanted to avoid paying for a taxi and so ran to High Street ( erm, in my imagination at least ) to catch the last bus, getting there about 10 minutes early, but safe at least in the knowledge I'd save some cash.
Overall it was a good night out, with a few minor dips in quality, both beer and music wise, but this shows that you can find a mix of different pubs all selling real ale quite close by, whilst still enjoying their unique and particular vibes and idiosyncrasies.
I am off awaah to Scotland a week on Saturday but will have been watered financially by then so may have a quick night out, but otherwise will be back to update the details of my Caledonian Crawl in mid June.