Sunday, 7 December 2014

BRAPA - Macclesfield

'Twas a grey, icy morning with a hint of drizzle in the air as I arrived at the much under-rated Cheshire town of Macclesfield, my first visit here in over 10 years when Marc Joseph's goal almost sparked a promotion party, until Hull City predictably cocked it up - still, I wouldn't change Yeovil day for the world.

Back then, the Railway View was my real ale jewel in the crown, now it doesn't even register amongst the six pubs I planned to tick off today.  Such is the ever changing world of pubs.

Having had to run for a train at Manc Picc which I should've had 15 minutes to make (there's really nothing express about Transpenine), I was ready for my first pint .......

Arriving into Macc - 3 pubs in view from the station, none of them mine!
521 - TREACLE TAP - I decided to start here as it'd been highly recommended, but in truth this was too modern to really capture my imagination as a proper old man's boozer might.  It was pleasant enough and three hipster beardies opened slightly early, I was instructed to ask "a difficult question" of them, but in my haste, I could only come up with "can I have a pint?"  This was a delicious Buxton Rednik Stout, perfect for a sore throat as I still had man-flu, as nice a drink as I had all day but there were only two others to choose from in a cramped bar area.  It all became a bit 'traditional Christmas song' next ... "3 Woking fans, 2 vegan diners, and a delayed blonde Scunny bunny!"  Yes, a rare BRAPA companion had arrived in the form of Lizzy, armed with her local knowledge of Macc's streets and real ale outlets.  My first act was to tell her that due to the tight BRAPA schedule, she was only entitled to a half pint, though I admitted I was on an open ticket!  This admission made the most annoying of the bearded trio laugh just a bit too much.  As the Woking fans settled down to some Ox Cheek pies, I reflected this place lacked something of the true Macc spirit.

About to be let in early by the 3 wise men of Macc
522 - WATERS GREEN TAVERN - With Lizzy now in charge of the pub strategy route, we made the short walk to this excellent well-established tavern, which I've heard about for so long, it even gets a mention in a Macc Lads song.  This felt like a proper drinkers pub, lots of good quality ales, helpful staff offering a try before you buy policy, and friendly locals genuinely interested in alien visitors such as myself.  We went for a local Storm 'Arighi Bianchi' beer as we'd just been discussing this famous furniture shop, the ale itself was solid if not spectacular.  The locals offered some (helpful) directions between what would be my 5th and 6th pub which went right over my head but top marks for effort and engagement!  A good solid pub this, but time to move on.

Lizzy gets ready for some serious Macc pubbing at Waters Green
523 - THE WHARF - A bit of a trek uphill out of town next but not too far in truth, it was still a bitter cold day and it is amazing what a roaring real fire can do to lift your spirits, as I was immediately warmed and impressed that this was pub of the day so far.  Another good range of ales awaited us, I unwisely went for a 5% Marble beer (can't go wrong with that fine brewery) whilst Lizzy went for a more traditional Saltaire blonde, both very well kept.  We definitely got the best seat/room in the house as the other side of the bar was a bit more spartan, with locals getting excited over some Premier League game and two little dogs charging about, threatening to escape, and with their bull terrier looks, just threatening to rip your face off in general! A couple of people wandered in to 'warm up' by the fire, but all in all, a proper pub hubbub and yes, I was impressed again.

Me at the Wharf .... another winner.
524 - REDWILLOW BAR - A very different kind of experience awaited next, and suddenly the Treacle Tap seemed like a working man's boozer as we were overpowered by the smell of bleach on entering this antiseptic (if you will) but young & jolly bar.  Friendly staff served a range of ales, many from the local RedWillow brewery so I had a "directionless" in tribute to Sone Aluko.  It was hoppy but clear and wonderfully drinkable once I'd got past the bleach.  It was quite busy with a lot of studenty types eating, drinking and generally being merry in what is now feeling like the long run up to Christmas, more like a hop, skip and jump really.  Lizzy's train was due to depart for Barton via Manchester, so I bid farewell, back in my familiar territory of 'lone pub explorer in crazy northern outpost',

Bleach awaits us at the modern RedWillow bar.
525 - THE MACC - With the light starting to fade and Macc v Woking in full swing, it was now safe to cross town and enter this large, proper old school place (well, it felt it after the last one) which is 'twinned' with Manchester's superb Knott Bar.  The staff were really good, and there was a deceptively large range of beers, with pump clips piled on top of other pump clips on the pumps (if I can use the word "pump" that many times in a sentence!)  I thought it was only right to go for the house beer, 'Macclesfield Bitter' again from the excellent RedWillow.  It was quite quiet in terms of clientele, you sensed this was the football fans' main pre-match venue, and one of the barmen kept flicking around the teletext football scores which felt very 1990's.  He even asked me which division "my" team were in but I soon pleaded with him that I didn't want to see a still screen saying "Hull 0-0 West Brom" for the rest of my life.  There was a bit of upset in the other side of the bar when the news filtered through that Woking equalise, if I'd still been there for Macc's late winner, there'd have been a riot you mark my words!  

Football fun frolics at the impressive Macc pub
526 - PARK TAVERN - After a zig-zagging short cut through some side streets (in tribute to the Waters Green regulars from earlier), i finally arrived at my sixth and last location, the Park Tavern.  This was the friendliest pub of the day, one quite loud woman who was friends with the pub decided I was "her new best friend" and encouraged me to chat to them all at the bar whilst drinking a special version of the local Bollington Oat Mill Stout, with a drop of port in it, just to finish me off.  Had I not already had five pints, I'd have probably found her annoying and gone to sit in a quiet corner but drink does these things to you, and once more my BRAPA tales had the staff and locals at the bar listening and offering advice on where else I should go, regardless of the fact this was my LAST pub of the day as I'm sure I kept repeating, mainly to stop myself going for an unwise final one back at York Tap! The locals actually dispersed before my very eyes, leaving me propping up the bar alone with this powerful Christmassy stout to force down!  The pub itself had a lovely atmosphere, and a huge range of mainly strong Bollington beers.  An impressive end to a high quality BRAPA day.

A hazy sixth pub to match my mood at the time!
So, I did make it back without the need for York Tap refreshments, I did fall asleep on both trains but a helpful Geordie (if you can imagine such a concept) woke me up at Huddersfield just in case I was going to miss my stop, so I did the same for him at York.  Top comradeship.  And I tell you what, Macc is a great ale day out if you feel the inclination.



  1. I thought the day had warmed up very nicely by pub opening time, indeed my entry will feature outside drinking when I come to do it. But then I was out and about at 04:50 so it may just be relative.

    I hope you were on more than one open ticket rather. Which was the delayed train over t'hills.

    You are quite right that Macc is a superb town. It was always one of my favourite lower league away days, barring the 0-0 draw (I'm counting that text as my official by the way). Quite fitting really.

  2. It was truly freezing in Macc that day, trust me! Hope to see another train based blog soon. 09:53 to York to Manc Picc was the delayed one, but when in Transpennine ever Express?