|Jam jar pub fun at the Berkeley (see pub 813)|
|Me & Tom arrive at this little gem in Hindley|
Like Armthorpe on Wednesday, the best pub of the day proved to be the first. Ultra traditional, it had some great beers from Wigan's Allgates, a bored barmaid with immaculate make-up and a Wigan facelift (hairstyle), a vaping old man with a terrible cough which meant that we entered through a fug of sweet smelling smoke, very much like being on 'Stars in Your Eyes'. Dad had wondered if the smoking ban just hadn't reached this part of the world. We sat in a lovely lounge room which screamed "YOU ARE IN THE NORTH WEST!" with a fantastic 'Smoke Room' stain-glassed window, which investigation led us to realise that it had previously been attached to a door, or at least some other part of the pub. As I went back to the bar to get a swift half as we waited for a taxi, I made an old local in a Motty style Sheepskin jacket jump out of his skin, for he was watching iPhone footage of a fork lift truck accident complete with blood curdling screams, which was unnerving our barmaid and her still stoic expression was wavering somewhat. Incidentally, the local CAMRA mag we picked up was called 'Swiggin' in Wigan' - best name yet!
|Pints of Allgates in the Smoke Room, perfect!|
|I had my reservations about this place - ha ha ha|
809. Gerrard Arms, Aspull
Dad's horrified expression on entering here said it all, the revenge of the restaurant disguised as an old fashioned pub. Well, that was our initial thought and it's no exaggeration to say that EVERY table was bedecked with condiments, menus and holders for knives and forks. These 'holders' soften the blow for me, it's when the knives and forks are laid out with a place-mat that it hits hardest! I decided to lay our cards on the table to the affable young barman about being here for drinks only, and that was a turning point. He was later asking us if we needed anything else, how was the beer quality etc etc - wow, to be treated like first class citizens in a diners pub is indeed a rare treat, and this barman must be an early candidate for 'staff of the year', great rounded Lancs accent too. It even took the edge of an electronic blackboard 'screen' offering specials - perhaps the most hideous thing I saw all day (and I walked through Manchester at 9pm!) Just goes to show how important people are in pubs. We sat in the furthest corner under the horse racing on a table that was (like most) reserved but only from 6:30pm. I thought it was good to show times, but as Dad argued, was it necessary when 6:30pm was so far off? They could "take all the shite off our table" I think was a direct quote. Still, we could've been planning on a 6 hour session here. All in all though, a positive experience due solely to being treated well! We don't ask much.
|Watching the cars go by, at the Gerrard A**s|
We decided to cut our losses and get the next bus (every 15 mins allegedly) to our next pub BUT it didn't turn up either! Was Haigh on strike today? I engaged a miserable old man at the bus stop in conversation who admitted the pub sometimes just opened the back door when Wigan were at home as they were today. Well, for the love of BRAPA, i just HAD to check! The guy said "dunno why you wanna go anyway, it's shite .... Gerrard Arms is much better." Errrm, whatever old man!!
As we walked back to the pub, the bus was rounding the corner and Dad looked on, wistfully at the bus that might have been. Me and Tom are made of more adventurous stuff but I knew I'd be in for a bollocking IF the pub was actually shut. But the gamble paid off as we saw the landlord opening just as we were coming down the street, phew! It was 3pm.
810. Victoria, Aspull
"You were lucky I was just opening!" declared the friendly landlord, and he wasn't wrong. He explained how he'd been tinkering with his opening times for a while now and decided 3pm on a Saturday suited him best. After all, he said, he knew his locals drinking habits and he's got to cater for them first and foremost, even if they do drink John Smith's Smoothflow! And right on cue, one such man walked in at that moment! We were soon chatting on BRAPA and pubs, his wife was confused by a missed call she'd received but I realised it was from me wondering why the pub hadn't been open so I cleared that up. This was another cosy intimate no frills pub with some superb ales, again from Allgates, perhaps the pub didn't quite have the class of Hindley earlier on. Mr Smoothflow is a local pub expert and was not holding much hope for our next pub being open either, so he told me when on the bus, look out of the right hand side, if you see a big white door, pub is shut, and if you see a black hole, it means the pub is open so press the bell to get off! Top local knowledge. But, opening times, the curse of the pub explorer!
|Happy times, seconds before we realised the pub was closed!|
The next bus thankfully did arrive and with our eyes peeled, we could see the pub WAS open so Tom pressed the bell and we bid Dad farewell who wanted to be home in time for tea.
811. Crown, Aspull
And he didn't miss much to be fair, although the couple running it were very friendly and interested in visitors such as ourselves, it never felt GBG quality to me. Jennings Cumberland (yawn) was the only ale I could see, better quality than I've had in York, apparently Prospect Silver Tally was on too but he couldn't the pump clip. The pub was cold despite a not-too-raging fire in the far corner, which as Tom said, didn't really belong there. Entertainment was in the form of a Mum, Dad and daughter who had heated discussions about things like who was buying the next round and the perils of modern technology. Good news came through that Hull City were 2-0 up, and I smuggled a celebratory pork pie from my bag. And that was as good as it got.
|Black hole rather than white door means pub is open!|
812. John Bull Chophouse, Wigan
And we were both suitably impressed by this quirky little side street pub. It was bustling with a Saturday evening crowd and the bar was situated in a tight corner, where I was served by a man strangely not wearing many clothes, maybe this was Wigan's Canal Street area? Still, I'd have to say the Symphonic Ale by Thwaites' was pint of the day, best I've had from that brewery too. There was an amazing old style jukebox, and as we went upstairs, it had a hidden pool room though sadly not big enough to hold more than one group, so we stood on the balcony eating Pain Au Chocolat and reviewing the football results. Hull City had won, hurrah! An excitable group of pool players started an enforced karaoke session and you could tell things were warming up for a crazy Saturday night in Wigan town.
|View from the balcony at John Bull's Chophouse|
Bouncers on a BRAPA pub? Crikey, it really was Saturday night now as we popped in here via the North Western railway station. This seemed to have quite a'Spoonsy feel to me but don't think it was, vast layout with a big screen showing N*wcastle getting hammered by Chelsea and Diego Costa's stupid mask, but somehow the pub felt real and kind of homely despite everything. Staff were very on the ball, and I was soon enjoying a pint of Panner's Gold from the excellent Greyhawk, more common to East Yorkshire than here but not sure where they are from. Unsurprisingly for a pub like this, they had those little off putting jam jars so you can see what colour your ale is, well, in "cloudy off form" anyway - you wouldn't wanna drink those jars. I'd just been talking to Retired Martin about this subject, so fitting I should see it. My drinking speed was seriously dropping off anyway, but Tom was spurring me on and as Andros Townsend got a late consolation, everyone yawned and it was time to go back to Manchester.
|Me hanging with the bouncers at the Berkeley|
Back on the South Yorkshire trail on Tuesday, then our Berkshire debut next Saturday. I can't think of a better hobby.