Pub Stagger 1
"North Of The Border"
Wednesday 12 April 2006
Even if the pre-slow pub crawl apprehension wasn't quite there, we were still enthusiastic about our new project. Well, spaceman was. Spaceman made the trek across town from Beluga to barney's, before we headed further north for our first pub stagger of, well, ever.
It had been barney's idea to try the ones slightly north of the slow pub crawl zone, hence the title. This was an unknown area for spaceman and, it seemed, for barney - having a gander out of your car window does not count.
The only rules for the Manchester pub stagger are that there are no rules and that we should drink beer (dammit, is that a rule?).
Pub 1 - The Crown & Kettle
On the corner of Oldham Road and Great Ancoats Street, the Crown & Kettle looks like quite a new pub from the outside and, as such, quite appealing (it's not a great area "north of the border"). Here, take a look.
This is the view from the South - to the left is Oldham Road. We are greeted, for our first pub, by a very upbeat (possibly slightly mad - it's a fine line) barmaid. She enthusiastically provides our drinkage (two pints of Castlemaine XXXX for £4.40) and we make our way round the bar into a small room with a TV, which we later discover to be "The Snug". There are a couple of people in here, but there is still plenty of room by the fire, so we settle down to watch the football (Arsenal vs Portsmouth, complete with a classic Henry finish).
The view from where we were sat and, um, of where we were sat. There's no shortage of crazy ales that you can get your beer-sodden hands on, as the following blackboard shows (perched above a small bar access point)...
Now this isn't the slow pub crawl. We have no need to move on after just one beer, and the emphasis is on research. So we take stock of the place in as much detail as ever before. First stop, the toilets. Spaceman had visited the gents earlier, but forgot completely (well, not completely) what was in there, so barney takes a special visit to find out. On our separate journeys there, we both notice that there is a door to The Vault. Normally, we would imagine this is for regulars only, but we go in anyway. The people must know.
This is the view from the other side, where we purchase a bottle of Becks (for spaceman), a bottle of Budweiser (for barney) and packets of bacon fries and beef & onion crisps (for both). After all, we have had no tea. Barney, renowned architectural expert (see numerous references in the slow pub crawl), soon spots the fancy ceiling.
And, warming to the observational research theme, barney picks out the "ooo arrrr!" comment on the cider blackboard. (Not as good as Sm's Melon Farm cider.) We can't stand cider, though.
And with that, we venture onwards. (Full details of this pub are shown in the pub guide - the link to the pub is given in the heading.)
Pub 2 - The Beer House
We saunter on a bit of a trek in search of the next pub, in that fine rain that gets you soaked for which Manchester is so famous. Unfortunately, our next choice, Fringe Bar, is shut; but, in a cruel twist of fate, it is back open on Thursday 13th (i.e. the next day). We get déja vu from Tmesis (see description for 14, Lloyd Street). Eventually, though, we make to The Beer House, by which time it is considerably darker than when we first started our pub stagger. See how the rain catches the camera's flash.
This is one of the less glamorous pubs, we discover. Barney gets in two Carlings for £5 and we sit away from everyone else, just in case they don't like non-regulars. Here is the view from our seat.
We notice that the cocktail of the month is the exotic Malibu and grapefruit juice. There is a hushed atmosphere which is abruptly broken by a very, large guy (like a fatter, hairier Keith from The Office) snoring loudly. He seems to slip in and out of consciousness for the entire time that we are there, obviously rapt by the entertainment provided (there is music). We hurriedly investigate the facilities (without actually venturing too far). We note a jukebox, with a pool table and dartboard upstairs (handily signposted by the gents).
We dare each other to put the jukebox to break the musical silence/drown out the snoring, but both of us value our lives more. There is a skeleton draped in an England flag, and the bright yellow and red walls have barney recommending sunglasses for future visits. On the way out, we catch a piccie of the guest and regular beers, none of which we have particularly heard of.
And with that we were gone.
Pub 3 - The Crown & Cushion
This pub caught us by surprise. It wasn't on our radar but we're so crazy we just went in anyway. It was getting dark by this stage, hence the slightly poorer picture quality.
As the only draught lagers that are available are the "sublime" Crystal and Diamond (another Holt's pub, presumably), we opt for bottled lagers, namely a XXXX and a Bud. We are delighted to find a pool table, which we swiftly occupy. Spaceman takes the first and second frames (including three yellows potted from the break). Here is a view of the table, with the bar in the background.
Classic rock tunes play on the stereo, as barney tries to fight back. But these efforts are in vain as spaceman makes it 3-0 with a three-ball clear-up following barney's missed black. Some of the locals were supporting barney, it seemed, and maybe the pressure was too much. While barney took some shots, spaceman was distracted by the dogs playing pool. Very spooky.
The barman appears briefly to be "fucking locked out of my own pub". There are big speakers in the corner, suggesting the possible hosting of live bands, but there is no-one on tonight. Spaceman later secures a not completely deserved 4-0 victory.
Pub 4 - The Ducie Bridge
Our final pub for the night is another new one (for us). And here it is.
We purchase two pints of Carling and the barman brings over two beer mats for when we sit down (everything had been cleared away and he obviously cares about his tables). We don't need any ashtrays, though. We get some Wotsits and Thai Chilli crisps (there are plenty of snacks available) and have a go on the quiz machine. However, mysterious spirits seem to have possessed the camera as barney poses for the obligatory quiz machine shot.
Barney checks out the toilets for the purposes of the pub guide. The description is that they didn't smell too bad, as they have possibly been decorated reasonable recently. Barney says that the décor is rather interesting, with very pale green wall tiles, although they have been scratched off for graffiti. Also, the hand drier is a bit ropey.
Well, we are tired and a bit drunk, and so it's time to go home (it is quite late by this time). And so endeth the very first pub stagger. May there be many more.