How We Make Cider – Part One

The Apple, the Harvest and the Pressing

In this series of four pieces we look at How We Make Cider and Perry – alcoholic drinks fermented from apples and pears respectively. The UK is still the largest producer and consumer of these drinks although other countries are catching up fast!

The apple

Apple variety is a defining characteristic in cider; the best ciders are made with cider specific varieties. Like wine grapes, cider apples have the tannin, acid, sugar and aromatic precursors necessary to make a complex fermented drink. These characteristics are sometimes contained within one variety, but more often are blended.

Apples used in cidermaking are classified as bittersweet, bittersharp, sweet or sharp. These terms don’t explicitly include the sugar content of the apples, though this is also an important factor in cidermaking as it drives the alcohol content of the finished product. 

A variety such as Dabinett or Yarlington Mill is called bittersweet as it has a low level of acidity and a high level of tannin; others like Kingston Black or the lipsmacking Foxwhelp are classified as bittersharp as they contain high levels of both.

A sharp such as Braeburn is high in acidity but low in tannin; in a Cider made from ‘eaters and cookers’, a cooking apple such as Bramley could be considered a ‘sharp’.

A Sweet Coppin or Sweet Alford apple is categorised as sweet due to low tannin and low acidity. The term doesn’t necessarily refer to its sugar content relative to other apples, but more to the perception of sweetness, because of this lack of sharp flavours. In an Eastern Counties acid led cider using eaters and cookers, apples such as Discovery would be classified as sweet.

For Perry, there are two classifications: Perry Pears are rich in tannins, with varying degrees of acidity and sweetness (though all Perry Pears retain some sweetness after fermentation due to a natural sorbitol). Table pears which are very low in tannins are sometimes used to produce a Pear Cider, sometimes called a modern Perry.

The harvest

Craft Cider is a seasonal drink, it gets made just once a year during the apple harvest.

Chris Hewitt (Dunham Press Cider) and Nicky Kong (The Crown & Kettle) harvesting apples ( ©Richard Withecombe)

Unlike apples bound for the supermarket, which are often picked before fully ripe to prolong shelf life, for cider ripeness is critical. Part of the skill of an Orchard based cider maker is knowing exactly when to harvest, by hand or from the ground, to attain optimum sugar and flavour levels.

Harvesting season can be roughly divided into two halves, early and late. The early apple varieties such as Major and Foxwhelp start to ripen in early to mid-September. The later varieties such as Dabinett and Yarlington Mill tend to start coming in late-October to mid-November.

Pressing is in three important stages; first scrupulously cleaning the apples, second using a scratter to break up into a pressable pulp, and third pressing. At home chopping up apples or using a hand scratter and a hand press will produce a low yield of juice. The more powerful the press, the higher the juice yield that can be achieved.

Factory produced ciders

Industrial cider making does not follow the seasonal nature of craft, orchard-based, cider making. Therefore, it manipulates the process in several ways, one of which is very prevalent. This is to use concentrated apple juice, which can be stored and fermented year-round by industrial processes.

With the growth of many industrial fruit ciders, we have seen an increase in use of bulk concentrates and as more fruit or concentrate is brought in from the world market, orchards in the UK are in further decline. This is a trend which stretches back several decades due to other factors such as improvements in agricultural techniques and technology, causing the price of apples as a commodity to consistently fail to rise even in line with inflation. For UK apple growers, it is an uncertain future.

The actual apple content required in UK ciders is shamefully low; a paltry 35% minimum.

Even worse, fruit ciders are regulated differently as ‘made wines’ for which there is NO minimum juice content. Virtually all “Fruit Ciders” regardless of production scale or quality of ingredients are diluted to 4% abv because of exorbitant tax bands above that.

There are exceptions such as Tom Oliver’s At The Hop range  and Turners Elderflower, both coming in at 5.5% abv. Here the makers have made the decision to not add more water or unfermented juice to hit the 4% mark and have taken the hit on the extra duty this alcohol level incurs. This takes a degree of integrity as a cider maker and, in my view, should be recognised and celebrated.

Part Two of this series – Terroir and fermentation – will appear in the March 2020 issue of Beer Buzz

Talking Tech

Pumping beer – from cellar to glass

One thing that is guaranteed to set the lifelong cask ale drinker’s alarm bells ringing is when the bar server pulling their pint of cask tells them – “oh, I’ll just have to go and change the gas”. Having spent all their drinking lives believing that cask ale is unsullied by dreaded CO2, a pub that requires gas to serve their cask ales is surely up to no good?

Well usually, they aren’t, it’s just part of the modern pub cellar. In this piece, we’ll look at how your cask ale gets from the pub cellar to the bar.

The first thing to remember is that not all pubs are the same. How the beer gets to the pump in somewhere like Manchester Arndale’s Micro Bar is going to be very different from its route from one of the three cellars in JD Wetherspoon’s Moon Under Water.

While pins of Old Tom have seasonally appeared on the bar of Robinsons’ pubs, the recent growth of the ‘micro-pub’ has seen a revival of this most traditional method of serving – your beer poured directly from a cask. Micro-pubs like Stalybridge’s Bridge Beers have their casks on display on a rack behind the bar and use nothing more than gravity to fill your glass.

In the 70s, cask ales were regularly served by metered electric pumps but since the 1980s, the bar mounted handpump has become synonymous with cask ale.

The simple syphon pump, also known as a beer engine, was first patented in 1691 by a Dutch inventor called John Lofting. The principle of operation is simple – an airtight chamber sits between the line from the cask and the pump’s nozzle. A piston in the chamber is connected to the pump’s handle. When the server pulls the handle, the piston is pulled up, drawing beer into the chamber via a one-way valve. When the handle is returned, another one-way valve allows the beer to pass through the piston. On the next pull, the beer is pushed out of the chamber and through the nozzle while more beer is pulled into the chamber.

©John O’Donnell

As beer may be sat in the cylinder for some time between pulls, pumps are typically fitted with a cooling system which circulates chilled water through a jacket surrounding the cylinder.

The amount of beer dispensed on each pull can be a quarter, a third or half a pint. The larger the volume dispensed with each pull, the larger the effort required. With casks located in a traditional cellar, the beer engine must create enough suction to lift the beer from the cask. It must also overcome the natural resistance to flow of the beer line – the longer the line, the more effort required.

Flojet pump (©John O’Donnell)

Where the length of line and/or height between cellar and bar is too long, the handpump must be assisted with an additional pump in the pub cellar. While electric pumps can be used, the most common type of pump is a gas driven diaphragm pump – usually known as a Flojet pump, the trade name of the most commonly seen model.

In a diaphragm pump, two flexible diaphragms oscillate back and forth, creating chambers which suck in and then push out the beer. The diaphragms are connected by a shaft so as one sucks, the other pushes. The movement of the diaphragms is driven by compressed gas which does not come into contact with the beer.

On the first stroke, the gas moves one diaphragm to push beer from the first chamber via a one-way ball valve. At the same time, the second diaphragm is sucking beer into a second chamber. At the end of the stroke, the gas flow is diverted to push the second diaphragm, pushing out the beer drawn in on the previous stroke, while more beer is drawn into the first chamber. The cycle then repeats.

©John O’Donnell

Flojet pumps allow pubs to serve cask ale from cellars some distance from the bar and allow smaller diameter lines to be used, reducing the amount of beer in the lines at any given time. As they reduce the effort required to operate handpumps and reduce wear on the pump seals, they are regularly fitted in lines even where they aren’t strictly necessary.

Although electric powered flojet pumps are available, as pub cellars usually have a ready supply of gas, the gas-powered models are the most common – which leads to that unfortunate situation where the gas running out does stop cask ale flowing.

The Flojet is also the secret behind cask ale service from back bar taps such as those seen at the The Oast House and Stubborn Mule’s tap room. When the tap is opened, the flojet sets to work pumping the beer through the tap. They can easily generate enough pressure to force beer through a cask sparkler.

Extra Focus On….. Castlefield

Steve Davis explores the pubs amid Manchester’s Roman ruins and canals

While all the buzz around Manchester’s beer scene seems to be concentrated on areas to the north of the city centre, the Northern Quarter, Ancoats, and now the Green Quarter, other parts of Central Manchester should not be overlooked as they have pubs that have been consistently serving good ale for many years. Following a request from the Editor I decided to organise a quick Friday afternoon crawl around Liverpool Road and Castlefield basin to check out the bars and pubs locally. Castlefield can be easily reached by public transport with the Metrolink stop at Deansgate/Castlefield, Deansgate railway station and from Piccadilly station, the No 1 free bus around the city centre (Saturdays only) or No 3 (Evenings only).

©Steve Davis

I started at the Oxnoble on Liverpool Road. This is a food-led pub but there are areas if you just want to drink in front and to the side of the bar. There were a few small groups eating and one group of four chaps having just a drink, I soon deduced they were Norwegian United fans, the ‘Stavanger Reds’ on the back of one of their jackets was a bit of a giveaway. There is a bank of four handpumps but two clips were turned around, leaving the not very inspiring choice of Doom Bar or Robinsons Dizzy Blonde. I chose Dizzy Blonde and the welcoming barman did pull some through before serving me a half, it was actually quite good. One of the turned around clips was Adnams Ghost Ship, which I would have chosen. I am sure pub industry insiders can give me a plethora of reasons, but why do pubs turn clips round and not take them off? You are left with a sense of ‘And this is what you could have had’.

I was now joined by fellow Central Manchester member, Steve Ingham, and we moved onto the next pub, the White Lion 100 yards up the road (passing Manchester’s Roman ruins on route)

The first thing that struck me as we walked in was how cold it was, was the heating not working or not switched on? Again there is a bank of four handpumps and two clips were turned around leaving the choice of Doom Bar (again) and Sharp’s Atlantic. The barmaid struggled a little in getting two halves of the Sharp’s as it was very lively, but the beer tasted fine. It was £5 for two halves and this was the most expensive pub we visited in what is generally an expensive part of town. The only other customers were the Norwegians, but I know during the summer it can be a lot busier with the large outdoor area facing Liverpool Road. The pub itself is pleasant; bare wooden floorboards, a nice fireplace and lots of United memorabilia on the walls including signed player photos mixed in with old prints of Manchester, including the pub when it was a Threlfall house.

Our next destination was Cask, a Good Beer Guide regular on Liverpool Road. This was by far the busiest pub that we visited; we couldn’t get a seat. Many office workers were having a pint and their lunch there having brought their fish and chips in from the Fish Hut next door. There were four cask ales on. I chose Ilkley Fireside, a smoky Porter, this was not a bad beer but I couldn’t detect smokiness in the taste or the aroma. Steve chose a pale ale, Thirst Class Mosaic, which he pronounced very good. The other cask ales on offer were Pictish Wakatu and Rooster’s Highway Fifty-One, an American Pale Ale. This pub does also serve many excellent keg and continental bottled beers, and these were proving more popular sellers than the cask ale.

The Wharf (©Steve Davis)

We next proceeded to The Wharf, the furthest pub away of the three remaining to visit. In hindsight I should have started there. The Wharf is a Brunning and Price pub and this chain do deck their pubs out to a very high standard. It does possess, I believe, the best outdoor drinking area in central Manchester with the view over the canal basin surrounded by warehouses converted to offices, but on a cold November afternoon it was only populated by one man and his dog. Inside there were small clusters of drinkers, many also dining. There were ten cask ales and a cider on, pleasingly three of the ten ales were dark beers. I chose an Epic Beetle Juice, described as a black ale and I struggled to identify exactly what beer style a ‘Black ale’ is, notwithstanding that it was very good. Steve had one of the regular beers, Weetwood Cheshire Cat, which he really liked.

The Wharf (©Steve Davis)

Out next stop in Castlefield was Dukes 92, named after the adjacent Lock No 92, known as Duke’s Lock after the Duke of Bridgewater who used to control it.I

had no great expectations as on my only previous visit about four years ago I had a very poorly kept pint of Holt’s bitter here. We walked in and the place was certainly busier that the Wharf. It is hard to spot the two handpumps as they are at the left-hand end of the bar and are metallic cylinders but we spotted a pump clip. This was offering Joseph Holt’s Paterson’s, one of a series of one-off beers being brewed to celebrate 170 years of the brewery. It tasted to me like a stronger version of Holt’s IPA and was very pleasant. The other clip was turned around, Brightside Odin. I warmed to the place, it had a buzz to it and whilst the many indoor artificial trees might not be to everyone’s taste they did separate the large room up well.

Our final destination was the The Knott, a one-time regional pub of the year. This is now described as ‘The Home of Wander Beyond’, the brewery which is under the same ownership. This brewery provided one of the six cask ales on sale, Peak pale ale, which Steve tried and liked. I had the Beatnikz Republic Boardwalk, a gluten free pale ale which was my favourite of the day. As well as the cask ales there is a bank of 25 keg fonts which featured beers from such highly rated breweries as Cloudwater, Buxton, Pilot, Tiny Rebel, Northern Monk as well as four keg beers from Wander Beyond. This pub was smartened up a couple of years ago and the entrance moved onto Deansgate, though people still try to get in through the old now locked glass doors.

In summary a very enjoyable afternoon with friendly bar staff in all the pubs and neither of us had a bad pint, even in pubs where cask ale is not a big seller. So, if you don’t know this part of town get out and explore!

SIBA Judging at Bolton Beer Festival

Tony Mitchell recounts his experience judging champion beers

Bolton Beer festival held at the University of Bolton Stadium, (or U-Bolt for short), opened on Thursday 10 October, at 6pm for customers but for a chosen few the day began at 10.30 with registration for judges of the best beers competition. For not only was it a beer fest, but it was the SIBA (Small Independent Brewers Association) North West championship for which I was one of these chosen few.

There are many types of people able to judge a beer, not just aficionados; – a trained palate is not a prerequisite as these beers are on sale to the general public and not specifically to any one class of drinker.

I arrived by bus and train in plenty of time and was presented with my name badge and a lanyard, and was offered tea or coffee and biscuits, which I duly did before having a look around. There were a few faces I recognised from similar events in the past and after a short while I was approached by Ian Addleston of Belmont Labels who had asked me to represent his company at last year’s event. This was typical of the companies associated with the beer trade as I also found representatives from maltsters, hop farms, brewery equipment, even a sales rep who sold cardboard boxes, plus of course from the breweries themselves. This latter group however were not allowed to take part in the judging, they could possibly recognise their own beers and thus give them better marks, so were asked to act as runners, bringing the beer to our tables when the time came to judge.

There was a free bar set up for us with five localish beers available, Peerless Skyline, 4.2% Blackedge U.S.Ale 4%, Bank Top Bad to the Bone 4%, Northern Monkey Last Drop 3.6%, and from Ulverston Stringers Copper 3.9%. These were racked bright though as I noticed early on that they hadn’t been spiled or tapped.

©Tony Mitchell

We received our call to arms at 11am, and there were 12 tables of judges, all containing between 4 and 6 people on each and each trying different categories – Pales, Best Bitters, Speciality, Bottle and Cans, IPAs etc. My first table was dark beers of up to 4.4% and included stouts, porters, milds, browns and dark bitters. Guy Sheppard from Exe Valley Brewery in Devon was our MC (despite his badge proclaiming him as ‘Head of long speeches’) and explained the task ahead. We each had a printed sheet on which we would write the beer number and our marks for appearance, aroma, taste, aftertaste and saleability. marks out of 10 for most, though 20 for taste, of course it was all blind tasting. We had Mark from Lancaster brewery to take our questions, pour our drinks and remove our finished glasses while our runner was Claire from Bank Top who would bring us jugs of our beers and tell us what the beer was, mild, porter or whatever, and whether it was fined or unfined. We also took water and crackers to clear our palates (I was told of one instance at a previous event where the first drink was a chilli beer which left a lingering taste in those judges’ mouths and affected the taste of the subsequent beers). Of the last two of the eight we tested on this run, one of them was unfined, yet it was the other which was cloudy. We all thought that there might have been a mix up in the delivery, but this wasn’t so. Needless to say the cloudy one was marked down by all of us.

©Tony Mitchell

There was nothing however which jumped out at me as being a really good ale and all in all my marks tended to be in the top 30’s and 40’s out of a maximum of 60 points.

Round one was finished and we left the tables to be cleared for the next round, which was soon to follow and this time I was on table two, which was Cask Bitters 4.5%-6.4% which we were told included Bests, Blondes, Goldens, Pales and Premiums. However we were told in advance that all but one were premiums, the other being a pale, and that all had been fined. The first one looked good and was marked high for appearance but the taste was disappointing. Drink with your mouth and not your eyes aye! The rest would be either darker or a light almost Boddingtons colour, with the last being an enigma as it was the best conditioned, but poor in all other aspects. So it received the fewest points from me.

Once again it was time to let the tables be readied for the next round and by now the aforementioned free bar was open.

Now I bumped into an old friend of mine, Eric Cruise, who has been helping to organise this event for years; the festival itself is to raise money for Bolton Lads Club which is in turn supported by Bolton Rugby Club, where the event used to take place and Eric is a retired player but is still a committee member. I also bumped into a familiar face who until recently was Chairman of Greater Manchester CAMRA. Graham Donning was propping up the free bar. It was also lunch time. as drinking judges we all need that blotting paper to soak up our intake and the choice was Irish stew, Meat pie or Cheese and Onion pie, with mushy peas.

We were called back for the third round and everyone slowly drifted back to the tables, many with their free drink in hand. I was back onto table one with Claire and Mark in attendance, and back on the dark beers up to 4.4%. It transpired that these were the best of earlier tables’ choices in that category and so we expected better things than round one had produced. Yet one of them came along which quite obviously was not a dark beer. It was good but had been put into the wrong group. One member of our table had had bitters in a previous round and said it would have done well in that category. We consulted Guy over this and he agreed with us but said we should make our own decisions and as it was a good beer, I gave it appropriate marks as such but had to mark it down on appearance as it was definitely not a dark beer. On all these tables we had taken a sip or two and done our scoring. Obviously with so many beers to taste it wasn’t advisable to drink too much and like wine tasters, we spat a lot out. However some people kept hold of theirs to enjoy more leisurely once everything else had been finished

Judging was over for me and most of the others with just twenty people over two tables to work on the finalists. But before this could happen the scores had to be totalled up to see which beers had made it that far. As for the rest of us, well there was still the free bar.

Sometime not long after 4pm the results were made known and the presentations were made. There were certificates for 1st, 2nd and 3rd, with a plaque for each of the winners. When each was announced it was assumed that somebody from the winning brewery would go on up to receive their prize and have their photos taken, but not every brewery had sent a representative. I had found myself sitting near the people from Bollington brewery, who would also go up to collect on behalf of Red Willow. Unfortunately for them Red Willow won more prizes than they did, and as they sent up a different representative to collect each time they were running out of recipients. (I honestly thought they might send me up for one.) There were a lot of categories, consequently it took a lot of time. Finally the SIBA North West Champion Beer for 2019 was announced and of all the breweries throughout the region it was the one from two miles away which won: Blackedge’s ‘West Coast’ (4.1%).

The Winners (©Tony Mitchell)

Now the festival beers became available to us an hour before the general public were allowed in. which was good as the free bar had been emptied and was now dismantled. But to us judges this was free too. And with looser tongues, more networking was done among the tradesmen, more friends made all round, and generally more things discovered about our fellow tasters. While many did have that trained palate, or a hearty interest in all things ale, even to the point of knowing what hops are in that particular beer, there was one chap who confided in me that his regular tipple was a pseudo Australian lager. It just shows you, it takes all sorts to judge a beer competition.

Post judging socialising (©Tony Mitchell)

Bar Buzz Extra (December 2019)

An extended look at news from pubs, bars and clubs across the Beer Buzz area.

New openings in the city

Manchester’s latest cask ale outlet is one of the more surprising. The Bull and Bear is located within the newly opened Stock Exchange Hotel on Norfolk Street (between Market Street and King Street). The city’s former Stock Exchange has been converted into a hotel by a consortium headed by former footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs and hotelier Winston Zahra.

©Len Hogkinson

While it sounds like a pub, The Bull and Bear is primarily a restaurant from celebrity chef Tom Kerridge (pictured with fellow chef and local CAMRA activist Len Hodkinson). The TV chef will be hoping to bring similar adulation as his two pubs in Marlow, Buckinghamshire – The Coach has one Michelin star, while The Hand & Flowers boasts two of the coveted stars. Both are known for menus featuring British ‘comfort food’. Kerridge himself is expected to spend two days a week until the New Year helping establish the menu.

The team behind Alphabet Brewery and PLY have opened The Quick Brown Fox on the corner of Swan Street and Oldham Street. The bar which was first rumoured over two years ago finally opened at the start of October. There is no cask ale available (not surprising given the operators) but 12 of the 24 taps on the back bar will dispense craft beers including three from Alphabet. The remaining taps serve premixed cocktails and natural wines.

©John O’Donnell

Historic Victorian pub, The Edinburgh Castle in Ancoats reopened in mid-November. As reported in the last issue of Beer Buzz, the 200 year old building which sits on the corner of Blossom Street and Henry Street has been relaunched by the team behind Northern Quarter cocktail bar Cottonopolis,  after spending decades abandoned and forgotten.

©Steve Davis

It has been very tastefully renovated with a long impressive marble topped bar opposite the corner door. In the area behind the bar there is more seating with another room on the right with mirrors and dark wood panelling. Two cask ales feature including a house beer from Marston’s Ringwood brewery.

Pilcrow on last orders

The Co-operative backed NOMA scheme have announced plans to convert the grade two-listed Old Bank building on Hanover Street into offices. A new seven story extension is to be built extending the building into Saddlers Yard – and the space where The Pilcrow pub currently stands. The wooden structure is expected to be relocated elsewhere in the NOMA development but rather than remaining a pub, it will be ‘repurposed’ for community use. The team behind the pub (Port Street Beer House owners Common & Co) are reported to be in talks about a new venue within NOMA.

New home for GRUB

After completing their summer season at Mayfield Depot, food fair operator GRUB has moved to The Red Bank Project on the fringes of the ‘Green Quarter’. After alternating between summers at Mayfield and winters at nearby Fairfield Social Club, the move will allow them to stay in the same venue throughout the seasons. 

©John O’Donnell

Visitors can expect the same rotating choice of the very best street food operators with the multi-room indoor are offering a bar with 22 keg and two cask lines, a second bar upstairs and even a playroom for toddlers complete with miniature street food stalls. Opening hours at 50 Red Bank will be Friday 4pm to 10pm, Saturday noon to 10pm and 100% vegan ‘Plant Powered Sundays’ Sunday noon to 6pm. Check for weekly food vendor listings.

Fairfield Social Club on Temperance Street continues to operate as a live music and events venue.

Coming soon in the city

The new site for Manchester’s Brewdog bar has been confirmed to be on Fountain Street off Market Street (just along from The Shakespeare pub and Primark). It was confirmed in August that they would be leaving their current home on Peter Street as the block in which it is located is to be redeveloped into a hotel. The new bar will be located in the former Enzo pizza restaurant. It is expected that the Peter Street bar will close and new bar open in March 2020.

Piccadilly Tap owners Bloomsbury Leisure have applied for a licence to convert a former refuse store on Victoria Station Approach into a new craft beer bar expected to be called Victoria Tap.

All change in Manchester suburbs

Technically in Hulme, The Salutation lies in the midst of Manchester Metropolitan University’s Eastern campus, dwarfed by the adjacent Student Union Building and surrounded on two sides by building work for MMU’s new School Of Digital Arms. The pub is owned by MMU itself and operated under the umbrella of the Students Union but, in an interesting move, when it reopened for the new academic year it revealed a new look and a new partnership with Bollington Brewery.

The brewery already has three successful pubs of its own, The Vale Inn in Bollington itself, The Park Tavern in Macclesfield and The Cask Tavern in Poynton. Its first venture into Manchester sees the pub adopt Bollington branding and four cask pumps dedicated to Bollington’s award winning beer range – Bollington Best, Long Hop and Oatmill Stout are permanent plus a guest from Bollington and space for two other guest beers.

©John O’Donnell

Removal of overhead glass storage shelving and supporting pillars from the bar and a contemporary colour scheme of greys and deep reds has opened up the space while the snug has been redesigned and there is new seating throughout. Big brand lagers have been removed from the bar with a new 10-line font wall at one end of the bar serving a range of beers and ciders from micro-breweries including Moravka lager and Shindigger ales.

Moving further out of the city, The Ducie Arms in Greenheys behind the Manchester University campus is reported to be one of the 137 pubs which Chester based Admiral Taverns has purchased from Marston’s. The pub company which is owned by Bulmers, Tennent’s Lager and Magners owner,  C&C Group has been on the acquisition trail over recent months, including 150 pubs purchased from Heineken’s Star Pubs in October. Following completion of the Marston’s deal they will own around 1075 pubs, the majority ‘wet led’ pubs with limited or no food operations.

Overdraught MCR ©Maxine Silcock

Levenshulme’s ever growing beer scene has another new addition with the October opening of OverDraught MCR, the second venue from Martha Winder owner of Prestwich’s First Draught. A copper clad back bar wall boasts an impressive number of taps. Nine core lines are mostly from the Carlsberg family including Brooklyn lager, Mahou and Sommersby ‘cider’ and the rarer Carlsberg Unfiltered lager, alongside Beavertown’s ‘Bloody ‘Ell’ and Shindigger’s West Coast IPA. The bar is located at 855 Stockport Road close to Levenshulme Rail station – the unit was formerly the TSB Bank.

Just down the road in Burnage, The Sun in September has bucked the recent trend for closures amongst the Sam Smiths brewery estate and reopened after around twelve months boarded up.

Across in Chorlton, Cask and Kiln on Wilbraham Road closed in early November, just over two years after first opening its doors. Despite the best efforts of the owners in selecting a changing range of cask beers and offering a range of events, including comedy nights and open mic nights plus pool tournaments, the venue never really seemed to find its market. 

Manchester Road, Swinton

The Farmers Arms has re-opened after a major refurbishment. After a couple of years which saw it go on a downward spiral, losing its way and its ‘Arms’ before closure, it is now on the up again. New landlords Tracey & Red have an aim to be the social hub of the neighbourhood. There is only one cask ale on sale at the moment, but when Beer Buzz correspondent Phil Stout called, he rated his Timothy Taylor`s Landlord as in excellent well-kept form.

©Ian Massey

Just up the road is the Cricketers Arms. Also recently refurbished, this small red brick Joseph Holt pub prides itself on its entertainment offering including sport from Sky and BT as well as darts, live music, quiz nights and karaoke. Holts Bitter is the regular cask ale and when Beer Buzz called, this was supplemented by the latest offer in Holts’ Generations series celebrating their 150th anniversary.

©Ian Massey

A new kid of the block is the Wobbly Stool just a few doors along from the Cricketers at 233 Manchester Road. This ‘micro-pub’ opened in September 2019 in what was formally a flower shop. There are usually three cask ales available which are constantly changing. When our Swinton correspondent called, there were two cask ales that had travelled some distance – Old Growler from Suffolk’s Nethergate Brewery and Wooha Brewing Company’s Rouge Smash, all the way from Kilnross, near Inverness.

White Lion ©Ian Massey

In contrast to the newly opened bar, at the end of Manchester Road is Robinson`s White Lion – a pub which is over 200 years old and is the spiritual home of Swinton Rugby League Football Club. The cask ale available here was Robinson`s Dizzy Blonde.

Assembly change

Urmstons’ The Assembly has changed its opening hours and is no longer open on Mondays & Tuesdays

Stretford gains an Assett

The Robin Hood pub in Stretford has finally been listed as an Assett of Community Value by Trafford council. The listing comes some six months after a local group made the application even though councils should only take eight weeks to reach a decision on ACV applications.

The pub was sold to developers by Greene King late last year with plans to build multiple homes on the pub’s car park and convert the pub building to apartments put out for consulation.

However this development has not progressed and the site was being marketed for sale.

Under the terms of the Localism Act 2011, local community groups interested in bidding for the site should contact Trafford Council within six weeks of an ACV being put up for sale to trigger a six month moratorium on the sale.

Sale Sports

The redevelopment of Sale Sports club has progressed with the new clubhouse up and running and the old club house now being demolished. The site will be redeveloped for housing.

The new club house has the same two cask ales on sale as before – Wainwright and Jennings Cumberland Ale – both from the Marston’s stable.

Trouble in Timperley?

As Beer Buzz went to press, locals in Timperley were in a state of confusion about the future of The Stonemasons Arms. After restaurateur Steve Pilling’s venture to take the pub upmarket failed after just seven months, the pub was taken on by Simon and Rachael Delaney, who also run the Firbank Pub & Kitchen in Wythenshawe, in October 2018. The couple have returned the pub to be a community focussed local hub and it seemed to be on the up.

©Jon Gobbett

Regulars were therefore surprised when on 22nd October, Simon Delaney (pictured below) released a statement on social media saying, “It is with great regret that I have to make this announcement, unfortunately because of personal reasons out of my control my time at The Stonemasons Arms is coming to an end. My intention is to carry on as usual until the end of the year. The new business owner will take over the business as a going concern.”

A week later, he posted a heartfelt video statement on Facebook where he said that since the announcement, they had received messages of encouragement from the people of Timperley, the local council and police telling them that they were doing a great job. However, he then explained that the rent and rates that he had to pay were based on the pub being a lot busier than it currently is and pleaded with the local community to bear them in mind for their leisure activities and choose them over other options as the only independent pub in Timperley.

For an insight into the passion of a publican facing commercial realities of operating a pub company owned pub with high business rates, it is well worth seeking out the video on their Facebook page .

In West Timperley, The Pelican Inn is reported to have been sold for redevelopment. It was reported in July that owner Greene King was marketing the pub and the adjacent vacant Altrincham Lodge hotel site. The current building dates back to 1931 but there has been a pub on the site from at least the early 19th Century. Locals have been advised that the site has been sold but that pub will continue to operate until at least March 2020. No planning application has been submitted to date, but with the combined site being large, there are fears that developers will seek to demolish the pub.

All change in Altrincham

In Altrincham, the management at The Old Market Tavern are working hard to get the pubs kitchen back up and running in time for the New Year.

The redevelopment of the upper floors into letting rooms is now complete and the 12 bedrooms are trading as The Old Market Coaching Inn.

Two years after developers purchased the Grade II listed building from Punch Taverns, it is now back on the market with an asking price of £2.29 million. It is being listed as a 12-bedroom house.

The pub, which is a free house, is unaffected by the sale and will remain open,  The pub is listed as an Asset of Community Value by Trafford Council.

Batch Bottlestore in Kings Court has removed its handpump, citing being uphappy with the quality of product they were serving.

Former Stamford Arms set for demolition

The former Stamford Arms (more latterly known as Home) in Little Bollington is set to be demolished. The pub has been closed and abandoned for several years.

The site was purchased at auction by developer Novo Property Group and has now submitted plans to build 12 homes and a community hub on the site.


In our last issue, we mistakenly listed Sale’s The Bulls Head as being on Church Road – it is of course at No. 2 Cross Street