Richard Coldwell contemplates the title of City of Beer in his excellent blog. It’s a timeless debate that provides easy copy for lazy journalists who are happy to confuse the number of breweries or handpumps with beer quality or pub character.
At the CAMRA Revitalisation meeting in July the one moment of friction came when a chap passionately (if too loudly) denounced the Beer Guide for the lack of pubs in central Manchester. He has a point.
Looking at my NBSS scores for central Manchester suggests to me beer quality is as high here as anywhere, and a large number of pubs that aren’t in this year’s Guide were just as good on my visit. The two near my hotel (Mitre) are as lively as ever, even if Sinclairs will need to bring back cask before I squeeze through the plastic glass-carrying hordes again.
There’s (only) two new Guide entries within the ring road this year, and both well-merited on beer quality.
Simon gave his unique take on the Pie & Ale House yesterday. He’s a pub purist, and didn’t warm to what is basically a quirky canteen with beer. Stylistically and geographically it’s close to the Soup Kitchen, but with pies.
Despite not actually finding the main bar until after I’d ordered the house beer from Charles & Wells (NBSS 3) from a side room, and it breaking nearly every rule of good pub interiors, I can’t be quite as harsh as Simon. But then I doubt Simon views a jukebox playing Judas Priest’s “Living after Midnight” with quite as much affection as I did. And at least it was selling a decent amount of interesting beer, though not to me.
Walking between pubs covers some of the best street art anywhere, of which this is just a taster for the end of year special;
This is urban walking at its very best, always revealing new features of the city. Somehow I resisted the lures of Beermoth and the City Arms (a welcome re-entry in the GBG) on the way to the Sir Ralph Abercromby.
Despite walking these streets many times, I’d never been in the Ralph before. Its appearance in the Guide coincides with the threat of demolition by a minor ex-footballer from Stretford. There ought to be laws against this sort of thing. Perhaps.
As with the nearby Rising Sun, it’s an unspectacular pub which nevertheless captures what is great about many central Manchester pubs; unpretentious, good beer (7 Brothers NBSS 3.5), folk of all ages sitting on proper pub furniture having fun. Not much to ask.
Tradition dictates that I find at least one new Manchester pub on each visit, on this occasion Brink , which some people would no doubt label a micropub, as it’s small. Too small to get a seat on Friday night, but a really good atmosphere and superb Porter from Squawk (NBSS 4). The panorama of Manchester on the wall is gorgeous.
My favourite feature from the old Manchester pub guides was the section on Indian cafes. That normally means This’n’That, but my new curry café of choice is the Marhaba on Back Piccadilly. Pumpkin Beef with rice for less than a fiver in the most “characterful” street in town.