Pub Curmudgeon knows Cheshire much better than me, but I’m always struck by how many towns of similar size there are, Chester apart.
They’re a mixed bunch as well, with towns a few miles apart providing sometimes startling contrasts. Folk in “Craft Central”Crewe often deny the existence of neighbouring Nantwich, a town surviving on ancient pubs while they wait for a Wetherspoons.
Likewise, Middlewich comes as a surprise when you’ve left Knutsford via Peover to avoid the inevitable M6 South delays. As normal, we followed a hearse into the town.
My low opinion of Middlewich is based on a grim (and tiny) High Street, and poor beer in its only two previous Beer Guide entries.
On a glorious day, again missing the downpours, it redeemed itself.
It’s not quite Pleck ‘s Brown Lion or Wolves’ Posada, but I was impressed by the brown tiling on the Balti place (thanks to Michael Harris and Pub Sign Man for their research). The parish church was very lovely too, with great views of a delivery of Holts, sadly Smooth I think, to the King’s Arms.
But it was the riverside walk (the Croco !) and the string of locks that impressed, even if the thought of a canal holiday terrifies me. (Mrs RM would be sure to fall in). Some nervous looking folk were receiving highly complex instructions on negotiating the first lock that they seemed certain to ignore.
With ducks, informal gardens and brown water, it was a gorgeous slice of nature that even made the canal side pubs I’d rated badly before look inviting.
The White Bear was the clear star though, and a worthy new Beer Guide entry for the town.
This is the premier site in town, but I recall it looking very sorry for itself a few years ago. The refurbishment since then has turned it into a smart but unpretentious pub with a lot of individual touches, though the use of logs may not appeal to all pub traditionalists.
At 11am the main business was clearly coffee and premium lagers. The presentation of real ales was excellent though, with an unusually concise description of the beers next to the clips. A good range of localish beers too, with the Big Tree decent enough for a beer first out of the pump (NBSS 3). Mrs RM was still recovering from the beer tasting.
The rest of Wheelock Street showed little sign of gentrification, though remaining a mecca for fans of takeaways in gorgeous buildings.