Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Manchester Twissup

I’m fortunate enough not to have to get up at 5.30am on a regular basis, but I will do it for the sake of beer. I'm soon in a panic, paranoid that I will miss my train. I missed the first two Twissups and am convinced that the fates will conspire to make me miss the third. If my local train doesn’t arrive on time, I’m screwed — but it does arrive, and I have enough time to stroll on to the 7.10 Trans-Pennine Express, and it’s only later that I realise how unconsciously Kraftwerkian that name is. The journey south is only three hours which passes quickly. By the time we are approaching Manchester I am already besotted with all the lovely Victorian buildings. Red bricks everywhere.

We are meeting in the stiflingly hot upstairs coffee bar at Picadilly station. Some people I recognise are there and more that I don't. Eventually we figure out — somehow — that everyone who is going to turn up has done so, and move off through the back streets towards the Northern Quarter and the Marble Brewery.

Such is the demand for Marble beers that they have had to construct a new brewery underneath a railway arch about 300m away from the Marble Arch pub where they started. We get in and get to take the edge off our thirsts with bottled Dobber. Then it's on to a quick tour of the brewery. It's surprisingly small. Dom tells us the entire brewery was built for £150,000. And yet they are producing some of the finest beer in the country, though Dom is unjustifiably self-deprecating about it.

In the cask room, we get invited to sniff and rub some of the stash of Summit hops. "If you can't make good beer with these, you're an idiot," says Dom.

Then it's back up the road to sample the beers at the Marble Arch. The crowd at the bar is unbelievable. The other bloggers have managed to drain the cask of Pint just as I get to order it. I have W90 instead. It's superb even though I have ruined my palate by chewing Summits in the brewery. I go dry for a few minutes because I suspect that just as I order a second pint, a fresh cask Pint will come back on. And sure enough, within minutes it is and I get the sublime Marble beer. Without a sparkler, of course. The problem is, though, that here when you ask for an unsparkled beer, the staff assume you're just a tightwad who wants his glass filled to the brim with no head. Actually, I do want a head, I just don't want it sparkled. But the beer is so good that it doesn't really matter.

It's like a party in the pub and the beers just disappear. I haven't been to the Marble Arch for five years and wouldn't mind in the slightest staying here all afternoon. But that wouldn't be much of a pub crawl, and we go around the corner to the Angel. The last time I was here it was called the Beer House. Everyone dives on the Pictish Centennial and drinks the cask dry. Well, nearly everyone. Some enthusiasts at the bar are getting stuck into the cask-conditioned Harviestoun Old Dubh and offering tastes. It tastes like whisky-flavoured soy sauce to me but I nod and smile.

At Bar Fringe, the barmaid throws up her hands in horror at the unannounced deluge of customers. "I'm on me own!" she exclaims. Somehow, though, we all manage to get beers in our hands. I have Leeds Gathering Storm stout which is pretty crap. Then before we know it, we're all being herded out of the pub again and back to the railway station.

Although I’d like to spend more time in Manchester, I’m glad the group is making a move so early. This is because I’m taking a train back to Glasgow at six and I’ve figured out that if we leave Manchester by four, I can travel as far as Stalybridge with the others, have a drink and get back in time for my train home.

Stalybridge is the next stop, because, as any fule kno, there is a bar on the platform. It’s an amazing bar, magnificently cluttered, with a decent range of beer. I’ve made a firm decision to spend a solitary hour in here again some time, just soaking up atmosphere and ale. You would never be bored waiting for a train in here, there’s so much old railwayana to look at. But it’s not at its best when a large group piles in; there are about 25 of us and by the time everyone has managed to get served, it’s almost time to leave again. I get a half of Millstone’s True Grit and a portion of the famous black peas. They are rather like chick peas in flavour and taste pretty muddy and dull until Janine tells me the secret of dousing the little buggers with loads of Worcestershire sauce. What’s the beer like? No idea, we’re all chatting and having far too much fun to start writing tasting notes.

The train to Huddersfield draws in and most everyone else gets on, and I cross to the other platform to get the train back to Manchester instead.

Later on, I realise how remarkably little beer I've consumed. Oh well. I can have fun without getting drunk.


  1. Glad you had fun!!! i can't believe how many people actually turned up, it was way more than we thought!!

    shame you couldn't make it to huddersfield, maybe next time....

  2. It's a pity you didn't try Pint at its best, but it's so good that even without a sparkler it's not bad.

  3. Next time you fancy an hour in Stalybridge let me know, it's not far from ours and we missed it on Saturday!

    PS. Tasting notes on twissup is a non-starter of a concept.

    PPS. A very nicely written report indeed!

  4. Good to meet you - & very glad to hear you made it to Stalybridge, it's a beaut of a place & yes, a very much somewhere to lose a wonderful quiet hour or two (when not accompanied by 30 or so Twissed-up tweeting beerios).

    I thought the same as you about the black peas, until I tipped the end of a bag of pork scratchings in - somehow the salt, pig, pea & crunch just went perfectly together. I'll have to try the Worcs Sauce next time though - they should tell you vital stuff like that!


  5. Nice to meet you - and you seem to have lasted longer than anyone else who's posted so far! The Stalybridge Buffet Bar is a gem; I need to revisit (never had the black peas, although I believe they're meant to go well with vinegar).

  6. Good write up. How did you not enjoy that Ola Dubh that? :S That's one of the best cask beers I've had this year. Fantastic!


  7. Because I like Old Engine Oil and I like whisky and don't see the point of ruining them both by mixing them :P

  8. I've got a blurry head! Seriously though, 'twas a great day and I'm still relishing some of the beers from that day. ANd I loved the Ola Dubh - Mark and I cheekily shared one but It was awesome! sorry!