I stayed in Burnley over the weekend and enjoyed some decent walking in the stretch of pretty villages just north of the M65, with Pendle Hill and Bowland as a backdrop.
This is where the Burnley Express ends and Lancashire Life starts, judging by the cars parked next to Ye Olde Sparrowhawk in Wheatley Lane. Lovely looking pub, almost Brunning and Price standard.
You might assume from the photo above that this is a real ale driven pub, with a bar of impressive handpumps supporting a full range from local Reedley Hallows. I only got here through a crowd of diners-in-waiting blocking every inch from door to pumps. Folk standing at the bar blocking other customers are high on my list of pub hates.
Another one is segregation of diners and drinkers. I found a seat without any reservation signs, to be immediately, though extremely politely, asked to move away from the dining area (which seemed to be the whole bar).
I was asked to move to a small area at the end of the pub full of sofas, where I quickly sank a mediocre half of Old Laund (NBSS 2) while catching conversation about “beat them in the war” and “in the olden days” from folk younger than me. I saw one other pint being drunk amongst a sea of Prosecco glasses*.
My mood was akin to the creature on the Reedley Hallows glass. Nice ceiling though;
30 minutes walk to Higham, where things got even worse.
To be fair to the attractive looking Four Alls, it was packed, and so obviously doing something right. Two rooms of standing drinkers meant I couldn’t get to the main bar at all, so got service from the pool room, also serving as a toddlers area.
As I couldn’t see what was on (and rarely care) I shouted “a half of something on handpump”, “yes, beer”, and finally “cask” while pointing at the row of pumps. I got a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. It would have been a better bet than the Moorhouses I did get, which I declined to return (sorry).
I appreciate this makes me sound like a Trip Advisor whinger, and I’m not their audience at all, but pubs should be able to cope with a range of human life, including beer drinkers from the Fens.
Things picked up half an hour later in Padiham, a hard to define small town with mixed housing and some glorious old buildings. A small Halifax, perhaps. The Hare and Hounds was a proper pub, with a large crowd magically finding a seat to enjoy some great beer, including a Worsthorne stout (NBSS 3.5).
My final pub before the Chinese takeaway and Premier Inn beckoned was Ighten Leigh Social Club. I can see why this is in the Guide; a big Cask Ale Bar sign and five interesting beers, including a Reedly Hallows beer (NBSS 3) that proved it isn’t the brewer at fault for the poor effort in the Sparrowhawk. £2.35 a pint, and 50p admission on music night.
Friday night is dressing-up night in Burnley; it looked like Ladies Day at Aintree and had a great atmosphere before the music seemed to start an exodus, presumably for a fag.
The common characteristic of all these pubs, bar the Hare & Hounds, is that they were selling relatively little real ale on a busy night. I did wonder if beer range was a bigger factor than beer quality in Guide selection, but Burnley is the branch that put a Hungry Horse in the Guide a few years back, and I applauded that at the time as the Thwaites there was very good. Well done to Tandleman for tackling beer quality at the CAMRA AGM.
I think real ale drinkers tend to congregate, particularly around established places like the Bier Huis and Wetherspoon’s excellent place in Colne.
I didn’t do much exploring in Burnley. It was Clarets v Leeds in a lunchtime kick-off and some fans were already in The Boot at 8am demanding beer. The Boot is still a lovely looking pub.
*Clearly I have no idea whether it was Prosecco, but you’ll know what I mean by now. I do like Malbec, I’m not a complete wine philistine.