Our intrepid group of ladies set out on their travels again, with a trip to to the wet and windy town of Bolton. Ann Ward tells us what they found….
The first of our stops was in the Lifestyle Hall inside Bolton Market, a lovely little bar and aptly named One For The Road.
With three cask ales and plentiful food on offer, we suitably fed and watered ourselves.
Next it was on to the Hen & Chickens, Deansgate, a welcoming bar with multi-rooms, and five cask ales. A nice touch was when the beer barrel ran out before our order was completed the first half pint from the next was given free. As explained, this was the custom of the pub and it was unexpected, as we had already ordered an alternative.
A short walk then led us to Great Ale At The Vaults, Market Place, a very interesting underground bar, four cask ales offered here, with the owners previously having a bar in the market.
Now it was out again and into daylight and back on to Deansgate with rain, we called upon a Theakston’s pub, the Olde Three Crowns at the lower end. A basic old fashioned boozer, and interesting windows. Only the brewery’s Old Peculiar, which went down well at 5.6% ABV and ) Lancaster brewery’s Blonde ale (4.0% ABV were available. Whilst we were there a workman who had come in out of the rain asked one of our ladies if there was a dryer in the ladies toilets – and then asked if she could dry his socks! Not a regular occurrence that happens often one would suspect. She of course obliged and he was thus very grateful.
Further along on the opposite side where it becomes Churchgate, was Ye Olde Man & Scythe, fronted in a mock-Tudor style, a building which goes way back to when there was a pub on this site in 1251. This is Bolton Camra’s Cider pub of the year with friendly locals, up to four cask ales and four cask ciders available too – what more could anyone want – perhaps the resident ghost might join you and imbibe!
Barristers Bar is also on Churchgate, but the entrance is just around the corner on Bradshawgate. Using a door to the right, we encountered another old world pub which boasted six cask ales available.
Our seventh pub, the Northern Monkey Brewery Co Pack Horse bar on Nelson Square has friendly staff and was totally different to the previous pubs, with the addition of a small glass of popcorn to accompany their Film Club Popcorn Stout, and a delicious drop at 6.0% ABV. Three of their beers in total were available,
Lastly we couldn’t do a pub crawl without at least one Wetherspoons. The Spinning Mule, also on Nelson Square was extremely busy but provided a fitting end to our day.
Only one charity shop visited this time, but all the pubs were good, many giving CAMRA discount and kept us dry on a wet and windy day.
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!
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.
Craft Cider is a seasonal drink, it gets made just once a year during the apple harvest.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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%).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.facebook.com/GRUBMCR/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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Earlier this year, we looked at the efforts brewers go to ensure the beer in their casks has enough dissolved carbon dioxide to allow pubs to serve it with the gentle carbonation associated with the format (see here). In this issue, we look at what happens when that cask reaches the pub cellar.
Pubs may buy their beer direct from their local brewers, they may have to source it from their Pub Company landlords, or they may purchase it from a beer wholesaler who supplies beers from many breweries. We will look at how these supply arrangements work in a future issue but the result is that casks may arrive at the pub direct from a brewery a mile away or via a lengthy supply chain.
Cooling the beer to cellar temperature
Once casks are delivered into the care of a pub’s cellar team, the first thing they need to do is give them time to adjust to cellar temperature.
In an ideal world, to keep beer at its very best, it would be stored in temperature-controlled warehouses and delivered to the pub in refrigerated vans. However, such ‘total cold chain’ distribution is rare in the UK. Although casks from a local brewery may have only come out of a cold store a couple of hours earlier, those from further afield may have had a lengthy journey and casks may arrive at the pub at ambient temperature. If a cask is delivered at 20°C and placed in a cellar at recommended cellar temperature of 12 °C , it will take the beer inside the cask over 24 hours to cool to 12°C.
Pub cellars should be meticulously clean places, especially
when keeping cask ales which are open to the atmosphere and whatever airborne
bacteria it contains. Food has no place in the cellar with dairy products a
particular risk – lactobacillus, the natural bacteria which turns milk into
yoghurt or cottage cheese, is one of only a few bacteria that is equally at
home in beer, but its sour flavours are not usually welcome in your best
Spillages should be mopped up at
once – open beer puddles are the chief route for the spread of wild yeast and
bacterial infections. Cellar walls and ceilings should be painted with
anti-fungal paint and washed down frequently.
Give it time…
Cask ale needs time to mature and condition (commonly called ‘secondary fermentation’) after it is racked into casks – this is typically anywhere from a week for a simple pale ale to a month or more for a stronger more complex ale. Beer which has not had time to mature will be what is known as ‘green’ – containing off flavours which can mask the true flavour of the beer.
Traditionally, casks would complete most or all of their maturation in the pub cellar, However, many brewers are aware that modern cellars tend to be smaller than those of old and publicans don’t have the space to hold beer for extended periods.
Therefore increasingly brewers will complete most of the conditioning at the brewery – either in tanks before racking or by holding newly racked casks at the brewery before being delivered to customers. However, some brewers still retain traditional methods and will expect pubs to hold casks in the cellar for a week or more before preparing them to be put on sale.
Some pubs have the good fortune to have large cellars where they can routinely have their beers delivered two or more weeks before they expect to need them. Casks rarely indicate how long the beer has been in the cask (more commonly being marked with a best before date rather than a racking date). Therefore the less fortunate cellarman needs to know how his or her chosen brewers condition their beers – only with that knowledge can they rotate the beers in their cellar to ensure those that need time are allowed it.
A beer that has been largely conditioned in the brewery can ‘drop bright’ in as little as a few hours, whereas a more traditionally conditioned ale may need 48 hours or more. While some unfined beers may be intentionally hazy, most will still clear in some form or other given time.
Venting is the process where the seal on the cask (which may be wooden but is now more commonly plastic) is breached to release the pressure which has built up during secondary fermentation. Traditionally the cask is vented through the ‘shive’ – the seal on the hole in the side of the cask where the cask is filled – but with modern vertical extraction, the cask is vented through the ‘keystone’ (in the round end face of the cask) through which beer will also be drawn out.
The purpose of venting is two-fold. Firstly, it allows excess carbon dioxide (CO2) to slowly bubble out of solution until an equilibrium is reached where each pint of beer will contain just over one pint of CO2 dissolved in it – this level of around 1.1 ‘volumes’ of CO2 is the gentle carbonation level associated with good cask ale.
However, the second purpose is to allow purging of volatile substances such as acetaldehyde (green apples flavour) which are generated during fermentation.
Venting must always be delayed until the cask has reached
cellar temperature. With the volume of CO2 beer can hold in solution
being related to its temperature, to vent a warm beer will result in loss of
much of the hard earned ‘condition’. If dissolved CO2 escapes when a
beer is warm, it cannot be regained when the beer later reaches cellar
After venting, the cellarman may initially insert a porous soft peg (‘spile’), allowing a lively beer actively generating carbon dioxide (CO2) to breathe – allowing CO2 to escape and reach that soft carbonation level we seek out. Alternatively, they may go straight to inserting a semi-porous hard-spile, allowing the beer to continue to develop while keeping its condition until the beer is needed.
Even with a hard spile inserted, a cask which has completed secondary fermentation will still slowly loose condition through the spile. There is no hard and fast rule on how long a cask can be kept on hard spile but more than three or four days would be excessive.
The cellarman’s art
Which leads us to the final, but perhaps most important skill of the cellarman – that of timing their own art.
A beer festival knows exactly when their casks are expected to be ready (even if the live nature of beer and the tight timescales they often work in means they can’t always get it exactly right).
By contrast, the pub cellarman can be juggling the maturation and venting of multiple casks, trying to get each to perfect condition at just the time the preceding cask is emptied by their thirsty customers.
With the variety of factors that affect how busy or pubs are
– from TV events to the vagaries of the British weather – meaning that casks
can sell out in anything from 2 to 72 hours or more, this is no mean task.
When you get that perfect pint – remember the skill that has
been involved in getting it there.
Urmston has a thriving pub and bar scene with many new arrivals over recent years as well as some classic pubs. Many are fine cask ale establishments and this has led to the development of the Urmston Ale Trail, for beer enthusiasts to enjoy.
It is a simple enough idea; pick up a collectors card in your first pub and work your way around the 10 participating pubs (this does not have to be in one day!). Enjoy a pint of real ale in each, get a unique stamp from each bar and receive a free pint once your Urmston Ale Trail card is complete.
The trail loops you around Urmston and Flixton, taking in pubs and bars on the outskirts of the town as well as the town centre and includes varying styles of pubs and bars.
Whatever your opinions on the numbers of small brewers producing KeyKeg and keg beers, few can deny that the drinker has never had more choice of quality beers on both cask and keg formats. But there is one group who don’t like it – the big brewers who used to have a monopoly on the fonts at your local pubs.
The big national and international producers have found that drinkers are turning away from their heavily promoted brands. Like many other sections of society, beer lovers are increasingly looking at the provenance of what they buy, preferring to give their money to smaller artisan producers over what are perceived as ‘corporations’.
The response from ‘big beer’ has been putting beers on the bars that have the appearance of ‘craft’ brands but are brewed alongside the macro-brands. They’ve also been buying up successful smaller brewers to add flavoursome beers to their ranges.
Drinkers seeking new flavours often look to imported beers on draught and in bottles/cans – but what they are buying is often just a subsidiary of the corporations they are seeking to avoid.
In the United States, a ‘craft brewery’ has a clear definition set by the US Brewers Association. Sadly, the UK has no equivalent definition, and this has left the door open for marketeers at some of the UK’s largest brewers to attempt to hijack the term.
So who is behind the ‘craft’ beers at your local?
The world’s biggest brewer AB InBev, maker of Budweiser and Stella Artois, owns over 140 breweries around the world including Camden Town in the UK, the USA’s Goose Island and Belgium’s Leffe (alongside the once iconic British brands Bass and Boddingtons).
Europe’s largest player Heineken hit the headlines when it purchased a 49% stake in Beavertown in late 2018 but already has a portfolio which includes own label Maltsmiths, Lagunitas IPA, Amstel, Birra Moretti, Zywiec and Irish stouts Beamish and Murphy’s, plus minority stakes in Brixton Brewery and Paulaner.
Japan’s Asahi added Fullers and Dark Star to their portfolio in January, joining their existing brands including Meantime, Pilsner Urquell, Grolsch, Peroni and Polish brand Tyskie.
Another Japanese company is behind many more brands – tech giant Mitsubishi’s finance arm owns the Kirin group which in turn owns Lion – the Australian based company which purchased Huddersfield’s Magic Rock earlier this year. Lion also owns London’s Fourpure and a host of Australian and New Zealand breweries include Little Creatures and Castlemaine XXXX.
Burton based Marston’s are behind Revisionist, Shipyard and Devils Backbone beers in the UK – the latter two under licence from their US originators (Devils Backbone in the US being a subsidiary of AB InBev). They also own a host of cask ale brands including Wainwright, Ringwood, Wychwood, Banks’s, Young’s and Jennings.
Despite boasting a range of 682 beers worldwide, Danish giant Carlsberg has been relatively quiet in the UK ‘craft’ segment. They recently relaunched London Fields brewery which they and Brooklyn Brewery purchased in 2017 so you can expect to see these beers on more bars. Shed Head from Sweden’s Backyard Brew is another common Carlsberg ‘craft’ offering in the UK (the ‘backyard’ in the brewery’s name being that of Carlsberg’s massive plant in Falkenberg, Sweden).
Molson Coors is behind the UK’s most common cask ale brand Sharp’s Doom Bar, but their most significant move into the ‘craft’ segment in Europe was the purchase of Cork’s Franciscan Well Brewery. They are also behind curry house stable Cobra. Guinness is another staple brand in thousands of pubs but seeing its sales fall, parent company Diageo launched Hophouse 13 lager in 2015 and has pushed it out to a wide variety of pubs who also stock its stout.
Even our local family brewers are seeking to appeal to new markets with ‘craft’ brands. Joseph Holt acquired the four-barrel Bootleg Brewery when they bought Chorlton’s Horse & Jockey pub in 2012. Since then ‘Bootleg’ beers brewed at Holt’s Cheetham Hill site have appeared in cask and keg across the Holt’s estate and the free trade. Meanwhile Salford’s Hydes markets beers under brands including The Beer Studio, Kansas Avenue Brewing Co and Provenance.
In its basic form, beer is made from water, yeast, hops and malted barley. And malted barley naturally contains gluten – a family of proteins which help foods maintain their shape.
Approximately 1% of the UK’s population suffer from Coeliac disease – a serious autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks itself when gluten is eaten. Another 6% report an allergy or intolerance to gluten. So does this mean that they are denied the pleasure of good beer?
Thankfully not. Malted barley and wheat are used in brewing to provide the sugars that the yeast feeds on to produce alcohol, but they are not the only cereals which can be malted. While other common brewing adjuncts rye and oats do contain gluten, there are alternatives including sorghum, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, rice and maize which do not.
Manchester based Green’s launched what they claim was the UK’s first naturally gluten free beer, Discovery Ale, in May 2004 (although the beer itself is brewed in Belgium). The beer was the result of years of research by gluten intolerant founder Derek Green, eventually teaming up with a Belgian professor who had a gluten intolerant daughter. Made with a combination of buckwheat, millet, sorghum, hops and brown rice, Discovery was followed by a naturally gluten free India Pale Ale and a dry hopped lager which are exported around the world.
The difficulty for those brewing with alternative grains is that as well as providing sugars, barley and other gluten containing cereals also impart much of the flavours and body associated with modern beers. Sorghum can tend to add too much sweetness to a beer and attempts to compensate for barley and rye flavours often lead to an unbalanced beer. Therefore, brewers like Greens need to work harder to match the flavour of traditional beer.
However, brewing with alternative grains is not the only way to produce ‘gluten free’ beers. In the UK and Europe, for a food stuff to be labelled ‘Gluten Free’ it must contain less than 20 parts per million (20ppm) of gluten. To take advantage of this, the brewing industry has developed special enzymes which break down the gluten proteins during fermentation of the beer. These have allowed brewers to produce beers using traditional ingredients and methods, but which contain extremely low levels of gluten in the finished product.
One such commonly used additive is ‘Brewers Clarex’ also known as ‘Clarity’, which is added to chilled wort at the start of fermentation. Clarex was originally developed to remove proteins from beer that could cause ‘chill haze’ and help brewers produce clearer beer. It was already widely in use before it was discovered that it also had the effect of breaking down the structure of gluten.
Pioneers in this new technique included Green’s, along with Yorkshire’s Wold Top and Hambleton Ales and Cumbrian brewery Stringers. They have since been joined by a whole host of brewers across the country, some who have added one or two gluten free beers in their range, others whose entire production is gluten-free.
One local brewery in the latter category is Salford’s First Chop who have a full range of gluten free beer available in cans, bottles, kegs and cask. The proudly boast that all beers are tested to show a gluten content less than 5ppm. All their beers are also suitable for vegetarians.
Brightside Brewery, based in Radcliffe, use Clarex on all their beers which go into bottle, can and kegs (including sub-brand Wildside). Sales director Carley Friedrich explained to Beer Buzz that in order to be able to label their beers as gluten free, a sample of each brew has to be sent to an independent laboratory for testing. They must pay for this test and wait four days for the results to come back before they can release each batch. Thankfully, they’ve never had a brew fail the test.
Carley told Beer Buzz that Brightside saw the introduction of gluten free beers as a sales opportunity having noticed an increasing interest in gluten free products. Some 8.5 million people in the UK are now believed to be following a gluten free or gluten reduced lifestyle, the majority by choice rather than on medical grounds so it was a timely move on Brightside’s part.
Another local brewer who has made all production gluten free is Green Mill, based at the Harewood Arms pub in Broadbottom, Tameside. Brewer Mat Wild told Beer Buzz that they brewed their first GF beer two years ago when a gluten intolerant customer at the pub made them realise there are plenty of ale lovers out there who were being denied a choice of ales. Their full range of beers has been Gluten Free since early 2018.
Other entrants into the gluten free market include Magic Rock’s Fantasma – a juicy 6.5% IPA available in can and keg and Origin, a 5.7% IPA from Leeds’ Northern Monk.
Processing beers to remove gluten isn’t the answer for everyone though. Although 20ppm is accepted as a safe level for most gluten intolerant people, some coeliacs are sensitive to the small levels of gluten in such beers. In UK and European legislation, no distinction is made between products which have been made without any gluten containing ingredients and those which have been processed to remove or reduce gluten – as long as they have <20ppm they can be labelled Gluten Free.
However, this is not the case in the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. In the USA only beers made from gluten free ingredients can be labelled ‘gluten free’. Beers processed to remove gluten can only be labelled ‘gluten removed’ or ‘gluten reduced’. The US market also recognises “dedicated gluten free beer’ – this is beer made in a brewery which only produces gluten free beer and where there is therefore no risk of cross contamination.
Campaigners in the UK argue that the current rules in the UK fail those whose conditions requires them to avoid all trace of gluten, meaning they can’t rely on labelling to find naturally gluten free beers. There are also those that claim to industry standard test for gluten in beers (known as the R5 Competitive ELISA test – the latter an acronym for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) can show beers as gluten free which still contain the antigens which celiacs respond to.
The result of these concerns is a growing call from more naturally gluten free products. One relatively recent addition to the choice available is Steel Cut, a 4.5% naturally gluten free golden ale made with oats, buckwheat, maize and sorghum by Suffolk’s Burnt Mill brewery. It was developed after head brewer Sophie de Ronde discovered that she is gluten intolerant.
Science is also seeking to give yet another option for sufferers with the development of gluten free barleys. Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has developed a barley called Kebari™ which has 10,000 less gluten than regular barley – around 5ppm. Edinburgh’s Bellfield Brewery has been running trials using the barley since 2016.