last year you may remember I went to the Manchester (you've seen the Manchester) with Fluff, Col, Gone John, John, Next Door John, Si, Nat, Donny and others, for a very long and thirsty four days in the capital of Greater Manchester, as well as a trundle on the rail ale trail. This year I had prior arrangements to keep to but was free, if not entirely sober, on the Sunday, so popped over to meet Fluff, Col, Next Door John and briefly Duncan, for a few beers.
We met at Piccadilly at noon then walked to the Port Street Beer House. It was nice to see the place in daylight, and to get some semblance of an idea of where it was. I started on a pint of the Wild Brewing Co's red, which had a name and everything, a lovely tasty dark brown ale with the distinctive red malt characteristics found in Rapture and other examples. This was swiftly followed by a rather heavy pint of Dark Star Espresso, and another half of the Wild. We had to leave Duncan here (oh the horror for him!) and head off, as he had a train to catch.
I tried my best to take us to the Mark Addy, knowing that if I could hit Deansagte it would be easy to find the Sawyers Arms and thus Bridge Street. A few minor direction changes took place until we found the end of Deansgate and headed Sawyer-ward, but my looking at the map twice spooked Fluff and Col and before you could say "The Museum of ordinary life" we were passing the gas lamp and were dropped off over the Irwell at the Mark Addy.
Just as last time it was banging it down but this time inside the pub was also completely rammed with fans of association football team Newton heath, or whatever. It was hot, loud and difficult to get served but at least I managed a pint of Old School Brewery Blackboard, which was very nice, but Col and John seemed to be enjoying their Red Willow wheat beer even more.
Next we walked (they trusted me with the bit I'd done before) to the New Oxford. The plan was to stay here until 5ish and then for the others to head back to Manchester and for me to meet Dimpled Mug and head of to the Racecourse Hotel. Alas this plan went awry. I somehow managed to console myself with pints in the New Oxford instead....
I started on a pint of Brewhouse Java and moved onto a pint of Blackjack Mild as we put a modest 30 songs on the jukebox. Col and John were on the Java and loving it, but I moved onto Townhouse Mai bock (a couple) before finishing on a palate cleansing Budvar Yeast, which was every bit as tasty and refreshing as I'd hoped.
We hopped in a taxi back to the Port Street Beer House next where despite having been offered a taste of the 10% Kernel Imperial Brown Stout, (it was £8.00 a pint, but no Pivovar penny pinching here) we decided it was probably a very bad idea, and opted for rather more sensible beers. A pint of Magic Rock Curious woke my palate back up before I paid a not inconsiderable amount of cash for a bottle of Green Flash/St Feuillien Friendship Brew, a 6.0% Black Saison.
I can't say that I completely get the black saison concept especially since the St Feuillien saison is supposed to be a classic (according to them!) but it was an interesting taste experience. After this my companions headed back over the Pennines and I set about getting lost.
I remembered where there was a dodgy burger joint and got just that in there before I headed off on a somewhat mazey hazy walk - all the way back to the Gas Lamp, near the Mark Addy. Here there were two Red Willow beers on and it was easily the quietest venue I encountered all day. The Red Willow Heartless was very nice though.
A mysterious memory gap appeared next, one which doesn't just affect my memories of the day now, but affected my already rather crap memory of where to walk to find Thomas Street. Luckily I happened across some kind folks who pointed me in the right direction - as I was about 5 minutes away.
At 57 Thomas Street there were only two casks of Marble on so I had what was one of the best pints of, um, "pint" I've ever had. Unfortunately, I became Wee Sleepy in here, despite the cunning plan of drinking halves of water, and had to sup up and escape in shame after the barmaid came to see why my head was lolling to one side.
Moving on, and via a series of confusing turns and guesswork I mysteriously arrived at the Smithfield, so at least I knew where I was. Not that I particularly fancied going in after last time. So I headed for my final Manchester pub the Crown and Kettle, where I had a half of beer which was beer coloured, and stared in admiration at the ceiling and the deepening blue dusk light, highlighted by the tall windows at the front.
After a long sleep on the bed on wheels, it was off to the Sheffield Tap, almost refreshed, for a packet of needlessly spicy chorizo flavoured crisps and two halves, of Hawkshead Windemere pale and dry stout respectively Both were in excellent condition, although I would have preferred the dry stone to have been a little less dry.
So ended a boozy Sunday in sort of the North West, heralding great pubs, beers and company, and serving as a rather neat practice for tomorrow - when Wee Fatha and I are off to the Racecourse Hotel in Salford, plus a few other gems. Please note - the Racecourse is due to close a week tomorrow - so if you want to experience the promised magnificence of this giant mock Tudor road house I suggest you expedite your plans.