yesterday me and Wee Fatha drove over to Dunham Massey for him to pick up his extensive Christmas beer supplies, and to visit a crematorium nearby. What with the crematorium opening early and the Dunham Brewery shop opening at 11.00 he could have done everything on his list by midday; but where would the fun have been in that? Sensibly I was invited along to provide suggestions for elongating the days activities, thus.....
We set off across the Snake in glorious sunshine, admiring the snowy peaks and hazy vistas over Glossop before we descended into fog, murk, and cloud, as we entered Manchester. First stop for WF was to be a personal one so he suggested I might wish to jump out near the Railway in Broadheath. That's not really a question to be honest! Of course I wanted to...
I took a few pics of the exterior on arriving and waited at the bar behind a guy who after being served with a pint of Holts Mild, which was my tipple of choice, asked if it was alright if he took some pictures - I turned to him and said "Oh I;m here to do the same thing". It quickly transpired that we were both fans of National Inventory pubs, and the photographing of them, and that he'd read my blog, which makes him a thoroughly nice chap. The landlady was quite amused about us arriving at the same time having never met, ordering the same drink and then setting off, me first, photographing a different room to one another all the way round this fantastic multi-roomed pub.
A couple of regulars arrived but it was quite quiet, allowing ample opportunity to photograph the interior (I'll put some pics on Flickr, with a link to follow), and it was nice to talk to the landlord about Holts, whose Christmas beer he will be putting on next week, and also of course fellow "Inventory-head" Martin. A great start to the day.
Soon I was back in the beer chariot and we were loading up oodles of lovely bottle conditioned beer (and I mean that literally - none of the sour piss that sometimes passes for BCA, from Dunham Massey brewery) before heading off to pick up a mixed case of bottles from Blakemere/Northern Brewing. Vehicle laden with bottles we clinked our way to our next stop, the Boot Inn at Boothsdale near Kelsall.
Thanks to Mudgie for finding the link to the interesting (if outdated) Olde World Cheshire pubs website from where I found out about the Boot. That its an old pub that WF has never been to in Cheshire is quite a coup - and despite the fact that it must do a roaring food trade, it was still warm and comfortable and selling 4 real ales from the Weetwood Brewery, which can't be more than a mile away. WF had a half (most of a half, since he's driving, and this will be the case, in lesser and lesser quantities, as we go through the day) of Cheshire Cat, and I the Old Dog, whilst we sat in the window near the fire.
We headed to the excellent Travellers Rest at Alpraham next, which is on the National Inventory of Unspoilt pub Interiors. You may recall my having mentioned this before.
I have only been in once, and t was dark, so it was nice to see the place in daylight, and better still that they replaced Deuchars IPA with Weetwood Eastgate Ale on the bar. A pint for me and a tomato juice for WF, we sat in the first room as you enter, warmed by a racing hot erm, electric fire, admiring the sadly slightly obscured 1930's style Allsopp Brewery mirror, and listening in on the lively conversation in the small bar room where, it seemed, everyone was playing dominoes.
Nantwich was our next stop, via their interminable one way system and lack of parking, we got to the Woodlands Brewery owned Globe. There was a huge range of beers in here but alas every table but for one in the bar with high stools that WF can't sit on, was reserved for Christmas meals, so we had to stand at the bar on the left. I had halves of Woodlands Generals Tipple and Oak Beauty, WF had a quantum of the Red Squirrel. That being the lighter opting it was fairly lacking in flavour compared with the others but the ales were nice enough - but no dark beers! It was annoying that so many empty tables were left awaiting diners, and although the staff were very friendly, helpful and apologetic, this could have been a far better pub visit.
Crewe beckoned next, and despite WF confusing a road or two from his childhood visits we found the Borough Arms quite easily. It was very busy with a range of about 7 real ales on, including First Rays, a strong orangey tasting pale beer from their own brewery, which WF had, whilst I had half an Abbeydale Bah Humbug. As with many pubs we visited, Thornbridge, Abbeydale and Welbeck beers were delighting the locals, but we wanted something from nearby! The First Rays satisfied that requirement and was excellent into the bargain, as was this popular town centre pub.
It was getting late and I was starting to feel peckish so when we arrived at the Hawk in nearby Haslington and smelled food, we decided to eat there. This is a fantastic old pub, selling Robinson's beers, and a decent traditional food menu at very competitive prices - mainly £4.95 or £5.95. Better still, we got sat in the real gem of this establishment, the Oak Room at the back. Sitting in this magnificent location eating hearty food is the perfect way to visit the Hawk I reckon. And it was topped off spectacularly by my ordering a pint of Grandma. A gorgeous fruit and toffee flavoured, caramel coloured 6% mix that went down far too easily.
Replete we headed for what was the best beer pub of the day, the Lower Chequers in Sandbach. We had to queue to get in but found space that seemingly no-one had noticed round the other side, and got sat down to drink halves of Joules Pale for WF, and the excellent Merlin Brewery Dragonslayer and Cheshire Brewhouse Squires XB for me. Hoping to add them to my list of on-line "followees", a quick chat with the landlord (who's name I knew I'd forget....) revealed that they steadfastly avoid social media - not that they need any more punters if this visit was anything to go by. This warm friendly busy pub sold impeccably kept beer and had it been at all possible we would have probably stayed all night.
Heading towards Stoke next we stopped at The Lodge in Alsager. This pub has its own brewery, Goodalls, and a range of about 5 real ales. Its a very large pub with rooms on both side, the right hand one containing the bar. It was absolutely rammed, with every chair and table taken up by punters or pints. It reminded me slightly of a canteen - a perfunctory area for a single purpose - they must sell a hell of a lot of real ale in here, and thats got to be good news. Talking of which, WF had a half of Mallinsons Station Bitter, whilst I had an enjoyable half of Goodalls Red Herring. A cracking pub.
Our penultimate stop saw us visiting the now to be demolished Coachmakers in Hanley. Much has been written about the decision to flatten the listed pub for what seems like very little palpable benefit, by the local council, so I won't go over old ground. But you can't escape from the fact that this is a fantastic multi-roomed pub selling great beer and retaining many interesting and important internal features. I suggest any fans of unspoilt town pubs make a visit ASAP, although I can't recall for certain when, next year, its set to be demolished.
Meanwhile we sat in the cosy back room supping halves of Titanic Mild and their delicious Plum Porter. Both were on excellent form and the porter was particularly well suited to fighting off the winter chill.
Our last stop was to have been the Royal Cottage, but possibly due to the ridiculous weather (fog so thick you couldn't see more than a few feet ahead), it looked like Cliff had decided that no-one else would be coming in and so was shut. Instead we headed to the Packhorse at Crowdecote, again (details in next post of previous visit) for a last drink; a tomato juice for Wee Fatha and a pint of the fantastic 5.7% Bottlebrook Yellow Mellow Pale Ale for me.
So, there ends a long but hugely enjoyable 200 odd mile trip around Cheshire and Staffordshire visiting some exceptional pubs along the way. Beers of the day were the Merlin Dragonslayer, Borough Arms First Rays and Bottlebrook Mellow Yellow, but we didn't find a bad one all day.