The greater the progress with completing the Beer Guide, the harder it gets. In the early stages you have the joy of towns and cities with multiple entries, most notably a half dozen Robinson’s pubs in Stockport in 2002.
As my crib sheet shows, not many of those left;
The real surprises on that list are tiny Totnes, Aberdare and Kilmarnock. For the first time ever, no Bristol, but still loads in Plymouth, wherever that is.
The real bonus this year is Marple. Three new entries within ten minutes walk of the railway station, and you can see the gleaming spires of Stockport on a clear day, smiling at you over the local CAMRA branch border.
Back in 2002 Marple seemed incredibly alluring to a Fen boy, with its locks, hills and pints of Unicorn.
The town always suffers a bit compared to the heritage village of Marple Bridge (coincidentally over the bridge), feeling like a typical South Manchester suburb with chain shops and uniform streets.
Two traditional Robbies pubs (Hatters Arms and the Railway) have now made way in the Guide for the near-inevitable modern bar and micro.
Nothing wrong with that; only beer quality should dictate what gets in the Guide.
Beer Traders feels closer to the Macclesfield or Heaton Chapel modern beer bar model than your Herne micro, with the sort of early evening crowd you might get in Heaton Hops, and a good range of local keg.
A bit small for me in that “nowhere to hide” sense you get in micros, but good music, annoying cushions, and a Tickety Brew Golden for the standard £3 that I rated highly (NBSS 3.5). A worthy entry.
Passing the Gingerbread House and Icing on the Cake you come to The Samuel Oldknow, a quirky place which was packed out at 4.30pm.
A wider appeal here, with children in the back room and board games. Very east London.
A curates egg, this one. More good beer from Outstanding (though those German beers beloved of east Cheshire seem to hold sway). But I couldn’t find a table. All the seating seemed to be on Tables for 4 or 6 which were occupied by a couple of drinkers.
Still, the bants of the day. As “My Sweet Lord” came on, one chap quipped;
“I wonder how George has got on with him now he’s up there”
I think it was a quip.
The welcome here was exemplary, and immediately you know you’re in a proper pub. The Daily Mirror is the giveaway.
Well-off old boys drinking Berliner Pilsner, young lads drinking Carling, pub tickers wondering whether they can sustain so much cask.
The Fool Hardy Riptide “award winning !!” looked the part though,
and was close to nectar (NBSS 4.5). My notes say “sherbert” and “Simcoe“,which may have been answers in Pointless for all I know.
It gets better. Daddy Cool played, and I celebrated with a packet of Uncle Albert’s scratchings from Sheffield. The subsequent crunching noise drew attention to me as a scratchings connoisseur.
Well done Fool Hardy, this is a gem. And if you need your ration of Unicorn before catching the train back, this is just down the hill….