And so after “HandbagGate“, we come to the great Dick & Dave meet-up. An early start for Stockport that seemed pointless as I flew up a deserted M6 for the first time all year. I assume I haven’t accidentally brought my 90mph driving speeds from Germany home with me.
Parked in the Premier Inn (home of rubbish Wi-Fi) by 11.30, I had time to enjoy Cheshire’s finest town (sorry Crewe) in the quiet before the New Years Eve storm.
Goodness me it looked beautiful. Dick and Dave thought so too. Astonishingly, despite several trips to our little country, this was their first visit to Manchester and around. Their level of preparation for their 5 daysof fun put Simon and me to shame, a folder with detailed pub maps and lists of every NBSS score for the last 3 years. Possibly by scorer.
We met up in the Boar’s Head, where I grabbed the last seat at 11.40. Pub Curmudgeon was disappointed by the absence of a pub cat in this staged photo. My round here was still 25% cheaper than one famous Gin & Tonic recently.
The Boar’s Head is always a busy,but not boisterous pub, and I suspect the ferment of pubby discussion marked us out a bit. Dick & Dave seemed to “get” the Boar, and its bargain, reliable OBB (NBSS 3/3.5). Tellingly, I wasn’t the first to finish my pint, which told me I was in the presence of #PubMen.
Our visitors* were great fun. They even let me copy a random page of their notes. Similar pages of the BRAPA notebook have recently sold at Malton Auction House for £75 , so this artefact is History in the making.
I thought it said 14 pints in the Magnet, but that was a target for the day apparently.
Across the road, the Bakers Vaults (my first visit for 20 years) was a chance for our guests to see at first hand one of the evils sweeping the UK beer scene.
Fortunately I’d applied in writing for dispensation for my half of Plum Porter Grand Reserve to be served in a straight glass, which ensured its status as beer of the day (NBSS 3.5+).
Dick and Dave were sticking to the Robbies, which is what you should do and I applaud them for their Damascene conversion to Unicorn. “The Unicorn and Wizard have a freshness on the tongue” was a great line.
The Bakers is possibly central Stockport’s most modern looking pub, and despite odd seating I warmed to it. Beer and hot dogs were spot on. Less busy than the Boar, but with an average customer age a decade or two below its neighbour.
The next two pubs turned out to be rather quieter.
Up the hill then, and our first disagreement in the wonderful Sun & Castle. with confusion over the identity of the ’70s pop band on the video screen. Mudge said Smokie, so Smokie it is. Stevie Nicks gave us no such identification problems.
If you’re going to do central Stockport, a taster of classic Sams/Robbies/Holts is the way to go. The Sun was quiet and that reflected a bit in the beer, but it still does it for me.
Lack of custom is Stockport’s only Achilles heel. One other customer in the Red Bull at 2.30 on Saturday, and again some mixed beer (my Wizard was a solid NBSS 3 Peter). When you see a beer on offer at £2 over Christmas, it often means slow-selling, and the Hartley tasted like exactly that. A lovely pub though, and one where we were able to chat without disturbing other customers.
Pub Curmudgeon had alerted me to the possibility of a lot of questions. In preparation for that I’d done a bit of homework; how beer is made (just the three ingredients according to the Independent), great pubs in Wythenshawe, changes in average NBSS scores 2013-16 etc. etc.
Instead, our conversation veered from the Coopers Arms to the vinyl revival (what !) to jaywalking to Antony CL Blair. Some of those are fun topics, at least one of them is more “challenging”, as we used to say in the NHS. To be honest, it was better quality debate than I managed to have in my job, and I loved it. It helps that Dick and Dave are as good at listening as debating.
“Mixing pubs and politics, I ask him what the use is ?” Well, I learnt a lot.
Come back soon Dick & Dave, the Stockport economy is missing you already.
*Notice how I talk live I live in Stockport already. My time will come.