I'm going to try and make this is as concise as possible. This tour lasted from Friday afternoon to late Sunday night (we came home Monday, and I don't think anyone had a drink!). It was the now annual trip away with Fluff and John and Si, Donny, Nat and Steve, this time joined by Col, Gonejohn and Nextdoorjohn, plus 3 others along the route. Here in beers and pubs is what happened....
We started by having a beer in the Sheffield Tap to see us off - halves of Moor Somerland Gold and Amoor for me, both of which were excellent. Our first Manchester pub was the Salisbury. A rather unremarkable range of Hobgoblin, Deuchars et al meant I had half of Batemans Summer Breeze. Others unwisely continued with pints.
We would have visited the Peveril of the Peak next but it was closed, so we went to the Britons Protection. A better range here, but I wasn't yet in photographing pumpclips mode, so all I know is I had something pale from Allgates - narrow that one down anyone?
The Knott bar was next, SWB Gorilla Cash and Buxton Rye stood out but the SWB Teleporter was off. The barman claimed it tasted different because of the smoked malt, the sharp acid vinegar of the offering slightly giving away his assumption that we knew nothing about beer. He did change it for us though. The Deansgate was next, Unicorn and 2 guests in here, one of which was rancid, all but one of us had the alternative which I think was another local beer.
Off next for an excursion, AKA getting lost trying to find our digs, the Salutation off Oxford Road near the University - I would say thank god for maps on phones but you need to know how to follow the directions..... Here we had an annoying wait for our rooms (at about 18.00?) and supped Magic Rock Curious, or Cloudiest as it should have been called whilst we waited, and were joined by Manchester John and Paul. The accommodation was OK in 2 rooms, and positively eclectic in the other. They also didn't do food and recommended a sister pub - that didn't do real ale. They didn't shower themselves with glory on the first night I have to say.
So we ate at Troff where some people were slightly shocked by the cost of BrewDog on keg - I had water! Our next pub was the Marble Arch, plenty of beer on in here although not a huge number of guests, I had a Marble mild (6.0%) and a something from Blackjack whose beers we saw a lot of. I also had water - clever eh? Nat was really smitten with the Marble Dobber in here.
Round the corner to a packed Angel for halves of exotic sounding beer that my camera forgot to record, then onto the Smithfield. This seems to be on a downward slide, having always been a bit tired and tatty, there was now an issue with undrinkable beer. The Piddle in the hole was that, as was the Burscough offering and another, in fact we reckon only the Adnams Gunhill Dark (£2.00) and the Robinsons Old Tom (which some tried) should have been on sale.
The Crown and Kettle welcomed us next, we said goodbye to Manchester John and Paul, and I had halves of West Berkshire Maggs Mild and Dunham Massey Bollington Bitter from an excellent range, before we persuaded trip organiser Fluff, now quite tired by events, to walk with us and final visiting guest Anthony to the Port Street Beer House. Here a plethora of Keykeg and cask Cromarty ales was on offer, but I went with a Red Willow Smokeless (pint! I must have been confident...) and a half of the excllent Cromarty brewed awakening which was fantastic.
Me and Nat walked back via the Grey Horse for what I think was Robinsons not Hydes? Anyone? And met up with Col at the Salutation for a last pint of the Pennine Salutation ale.
Day 2 - the Rail Ale Trail
Hangovers were cured in the Paramount Wetherspoons with big breakfasts, and our first stop at 11.00 was the Circus. We all had pints of excellently kept Tetley and tried to persuade ourselves that we were ready for a day of trains and beers and time constraints.
We met Si at the station, and then Trevor from Crewe, and got the train to Dewsbury (the whole trip was £13.40 I think) and started in the West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms, where I unwisely started on Hawkshead NZ IPA (6.0%). The sheer size of the crowd leaving the station should have prepared us for the trip ahead. Off to Mirfield next for a very long wait to be served (not the staffs fault) at the Navigation - I had the Mallinsons Sorachi Ace lemongrass and their Mudstopper from a good range, although it wasn't immediately obvious what was on the other bar.
In Huddersfield we went to the Kings Head for Brown Cow Frazzles celebration and Pictish Columbus, which we drank in the sunshine outside. Alas the Head of Steam was really rammed and the beer range disappointing so we went back to the Kings for me to try an Owenshaw Mill SWP, whilst everyone else was on pints of the excellent Magic Rock Curious, this time crystal clear.
Slaithwaite saw us in the brilliant Commercial enjoying Naylors Black and Tan (one of the beers of the weekend) and Kingstone Classic from Tintern, along with good company and redoubtable fishcake buttys. This was also one of the best pubs of the trip, despite the yomp back up the hill.
To Marsden next and the choice of three pubs was always going to be the excellent Riverhead Brewery Tap. From a good range I had a pint of Titanic chocolate and vanilla stout whilst sat in the grass on the riverbank in an idyllic setting. Mind you the crawl back up hill nearly killed us. Off next to Greenfield for the second best beer garden in terms of views at the impressively situated Railway. It was becoming obvious here that some of the 100 strong revellers had not paced themselves and it was all getting a bit rowdy but Millstone Tiger Rut hit the spot. Last stop Stalybridge was suitably chaotic with halves of Tiger Rut again and Abbeydale Revelation from an average line up in the Station Buffet, plus my customary water.
Final Manchester stops of the day were the Peveril of the Peak where I have no idea what I had, the Lass O Gowrie where I had the dreadful "Outstanding" Bettys best and Bridgehouse Gold, then onto Joshua Brookes where a pint of Brodies White IPA was 7.3% and £2.50 a pint! I had a half of that and a half of Little Valley Ginger Pale, but the half of Brodies was £1.75. A misleading literal advert caused little amusement, and the DJ was poor. Just time to leave here for junk food and then Pennine in the Salutation.
Day 3 - Salford
More Wetherspoons breakfast then walking in torrential rain to our first stop the Sawyers Arms, whose cask marque accreditation cursed it to sell two of the dullest beers we tried all trip - Ruddles County and Bombardier. Next was the excellent Gas Lamp on Bridge Street. Just two pumps here, dispensing malt madness in the form of Great Orme Orme, and Little Valley's Two Lads bitter in this atmospheric cellar bar.
Over the Irwell near the Peoples History Museum next (amusingly renamed by me the Museum of Ordinary Life, which made us snigger for the rest of the day, imagining exhibits such as a chair, a kettle and a carpet....) to Salford and the Mark Addy. This is a really nice place to hide from the rain and "admire" the river, with a great range of beers - Merlin Merlins Gold and Red Willow Mark Addy is Fearless for me, which was excellent. More Blackjack stuff in here as well.
Our longest stint in any pub was the three hours we resided at the New Oxford. This excellent pub didn't disappoint despite "only" having 10 beers on, plus key kegs from the UK and Europe.
The jukebox was 10p a track for the first hour so we were well catered for and we tried everything that was on - I especially loved Empire Extra Stout at 6.0% which was sublime (a pint and a half's worth). The Dunscar Bridge Clocking off, Conwy brewery's excellent Beachcomber ale, Blakemere Summer Breeze were also sampled, along with a half of SWB Teleporter on key keg, which unsurprisingly tasted of smoke and roast malt as opposed to vinegar.
Round to the Crescent next via a depressing itinerary of derelict and closed pubs. John (in)famously described the Crescent as a derelict shambles, perhaps a tad harsh but the walls did wobble and there was an especially "unique" aroma to the place, made all the more tolerable by a chip cob for me and Boggart Rum Porter for us all (too much Cottage on the bar though folks...).
Back to the Salutation for excellent Hornbeam Galaxy Pale, before we headed out by taxi ( a farcical journey including the cabbie asking if we minded if he stopped to fill up, which we did, then ignored us and charged us more than we paid for a very similar journey later) to 57 Thomas Street, the Marble bar. Three casks (on) on stillage plus bottles and taps afforded us a great choice, and I had a pint of Marble Lagonda, and of course, a half of water.
By this time Si and Steve had gone home, Donny and Nat were in search of food or something, and Gonejohn had stormed off in a huff on morning 1, so only the 5 of us enjoyed a wild goose chase to almost no pubs as Fluff's return train time approached. The Hare and Hounds appeared to have no real ale and some dreadful entertainment, then Mother Macs was described by advance party Nat and Donny as being hostile and also having no real ale. We ended up in the Waldorf trying to hear ourselves over a crowd of rpwdy football fans making idiots of themselves and tolerated a dire pint of Holts seasonal, before we ended up in the Bulls Head near the lower Piccadilly entrance.
Slightly better range and better kept ale in here included Ringwood Boondoggle and Martson/Banks etc French Hop, before we waved Fluff off home and got a taxi (£3.00) to the Salutation for more Pennine - (the Magic Rock High Wire, at 5.5%, was £4.00 a pint. What? Where did they find a price like that? And it was cloudy!). We finished the night in here and did in fact get a free drink or two since it had only emerged Saturday night that we were entitled to a discount on pints. I bear no malice to the friendly staff at the Salutation, but it seems incredibly disorganised.
None of us braved a pub on Monday, and so came to an end a fantastic weekend of beer, including the excellent rail ale trail and some great pubs, the highlights including the New Oxford, Crown and Kettle, Circus, Gas Lamp, Commercial at Slaithwaite, Marble Arch and Mark Addy. Highly recommended!