Apologies for the lack of pictures this time as we scour the pubs of Greater Manchester and Merseyside, but after the excitement of Rochdale's Cemetery Hotel last time out, we need a bit of calming down period I think. It's a white water ride, this BRAPA archiving ......
132 - FLYING HORSE HOTEL, Rochdale - 28th July 2012 and Dad & I arrived here off the train in the market square for our pre-Baum 'father & son only, no one else allowed' pint which is sometimes a nice way to catch up. We had chosen it primarily because it was an 11am opener and was new in the GBG. Although it had 'hotel' in the title, this felt more like a no nonsense lounge style pub with lots of blue carpet, a fireplace etc. I seem to remember and staff with tattooed forearms. The range of ales wasn't perhaps as jaw dropping as hoped (especially compared to the Baum) but we enjoyed the local ones they had (JW Lees I think) and as the sun streamed in through the window, it was a nice serene start to the day. I did have to stop Dad looking at the food menu, he does get a bit carried away by them at times!
133 - CROWN & KETTLE, Manchester - Back to 7th September 2011 and day two of my midweek double-header watching the Swingin' Utters (best band of all time in my opinion) found me across the road from my Ancoats Travelodge taking stock in this ale pub. It was only at this time that I realised the previously untapped area of Manchester Victoria's real ale pubs were on my doorstep here! It was a very interesting building, very tall with a high ceiling and a grand sign you couldn't miss however blind you are. There was a healthy range of ales, and I opted for an unusual dark peppery stout which was a killer to get through but gorgeous and memorable all at once. It was very much a locals pub, so I hid round a corner and phoned Dad with progress of my travels.
134 - MARBLE ARCH, Manchester - I visited this in a torrential rainstorm on a midweek evening, probably in the spring of 2012 so maybe April then, before watching the Mahones. I ran to get here as the rain started as I only had a t-shirt and some very unsuitable footwear. It'd been sunny all day. Well, it's quite a famous pub for it's old heritage, ornateness, mosaics etc and the big thing that struck me, was the strange shape of it where you can stand at the bar and all the angles look wrong! Marble is a superb brewery too so the ales on were plentiful and top class. There was a back dining area which looked new and lacking that same wow factor as you go back towards the loos. Space was at a premium so I perched at the bar, determined to be "where the action was". I debated getting a taxi with some orange coated worker, smoking at the door, but I unwisely decided to walk and was drenched for the entire evening!
135 - PARAMOUNT, Manchester - I've been here 3 or 4 times as it is a Wetherspoons and as my initial pub preferences in Manchester took me to the likes of Briton's Protection and Peveril of the Peak in the Oxford Road area, this was a good starting point whilst waiting for these to open so 1/11/08 before the 4-3 defeat at Man Utd was probably my first visit. I returned here when I came to watch "Far From Finished" probably in 2010 and had good standard ham, egg & chips served by a jolly young bar chap who seemed to be confused by the whole order and drink request despite me being the only customer in the pub. I may have been in here since before a Manchester away day, very much busier this time. Ok, it is standard Spoons but good ale, staff & food mean you can do a lot worse if you are waiting for other pubs to open at 11-12.
136 - STALYBRIDGE BUFFET BAR, Stalybridge - An absolute gem of old, a proper buffet station bar, one of only two proper ones along with Bridlington in the country according to my cracking heritage ale guide. I first came here on the first Welly gang summer trip in probably July 2009 before the Transpenine crawl really became full of idiots who eventually ruined it. The problem for me here (and you can't blame the pub) is that on each of my three visits, I've been slightly worse for wear as you've generally had to negotiate Dewsbury and Huddersfield by the time you get this far down the line i.e. to the end! The inside is great but a bit of a long, thin squash serving not just beer but chocolate bars, sweets and even little toys I think. But my overriding happy memories here are of resting your pint on a little cart just outside on the platform, eating a bowl of local very tasty black beans (trust me) and basking in the sun waving at passing trains.
137 - ANVIL, Wigan - Wigan became one of our favourite cult away days in those first two season's in the Premier League, and this pub was a massive reason why, having been lauded to the maximum in the "football and real ale away days" books that we got for the couple of years they existed! I don't think I visited this pub when I came to the Gooligan-tastic league cup game in August 2007 so my first visit as part of the Welly gang must've been 22nd March 2009 and yes, we were very impressed. It has a traditional feel and a few nooks and crannies, if not particularly separate drinking areas so you don't feel too exposed, though it could perhaps be a bit warmer and more comfortable. Being an 11am opener drew is in aswell and most beers come from the local AllGates brewery, which I have always been a fan of. We returned for the FA Cup game in Jan 2010 where Barry from Goole (something about him and this town) told us in his own inimitable style about his snowy journey across the M62. By the time we came here for a final time in May 2010, it was a bit rushed due to time and despite more AllGates fun with friends, Dad and I came to the conclusion we weren't as impressed as we'd initially been and may think about doing something else if we ever come back (so probably next season then!)
138 - BALTIC FLEET, Liverpool - 'Twas early July 2010 and a group of friends went to Liverpool to celebrate Ric's birthday, he being from Runcorn and me having learnt what a great ale city it was while we'd been in the Premier League, it all made sense. Tensions were evident between my sister and Ric in the Philharmonic, who's relationship was coming to a close, but we then met up with his parents' here a bit out of town near the Albert Dock. This is still my only visit to this pub, selling their own Wapping Beers (about six were on when we went) which were very good. The pub was bare boarded and had a nautical theme, reminded me of a few I'd been to in Plymouth, and the atmos was typically jolly Scouse from staff and locals alike. I was told of tunnels found under the pub which might relate to smuggling and press ganging of the past, so I was relieved when we left the pub in one piece, sister and Ric not lost down any chutes!
139 - CRACKE, Liverpool - It was Christine who encouraged us to come here, not on our initial trip and the blinding sun makes me think it was probably 26/9/09 before an embarrassing 6-1 defeat at Liverpool which finally brought us down a side street to here. This pub has a rich local history, with stories of John Lennon drinking here in his college days etc. I remember a very small hatch servery, two characterful barmaids who seemed to run the place with an iron fist, some local muses sat around trying to be cool, an impressive colourful mural in the main back room, and great music throughout. There weren't too many beers on when we went, but one of those traditional Liverpool pubs where it's all about quality over quantity, and here had plenty.
140 - CROWN HOTEL, Liverpool - Our original and often first stop off point in Liverpool due to it's location next to Lime Street and generous early opening time, I've been here a good 4 or 5 times. A good cheap breakfast is always a must before Liverpool drinking, and on our first time 13th December 2008, having been served by a young lad, Dad turned to me and whispered "wow, they really talk like that - it isn't just on TV!" and I don't think he was even joking! Some amazing rooms adjoining the bar are stunning, as is the main bar itself and no surprise it is in the heritage guide - takes a bit of heating up in winter with high ceilings but old pub features in abundance like those old push bells that never work anymore, shame! In the early days, the beer range and quality was quite poor with a cloudy Jennings Cumberland sticking in my mind, but more recently I've had some cracking quality ones, most notably post-match when we were rushing a bit.
So there we have it, 140 done, plenty more to go. Stay tuned for more pubs from Manchester and Liverpool, we may also take a foray into Norfolk too.
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