Giving column space over to non-alcoholic drinks might seem at odds with the name of this blog but then I’ve always left the door open to writing about any drinks-related topics that interest me, whatever their provenance. And in the case of Mr Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar in Rawtenstall, north of Bury in Lancashire, I’m very much interested.
Mr Fitzpatrick’s is a temple (well, actually more like a chapel), dedicated to the 19th century temperance movement, an ill-conceived effort started by well-meaning religious types to persuade the ‘oi polloi away from the demon drink.
Although temperance bars were once common in the north west of England, Mr Fitzpatrick’s is now the last of its kind. Opened in 1890, Mr Fitzpatrick’s unspoiled, uncomplicated interior of wooden counters and floors, jars of old-fashioned boiled sweets and other ingredients, is a piece of living history that might also provide ideas for the future, as a better alternative to modern soft drinks for those who can’t or don’t want to consume alcohol for whatever reason.
A recent trip north to the land of my paternal grandmother (yes, I’m a quarter Lancastrian) on a quest to see five of the remaining six “Deltic” diesel locomotives gathered in one place (I’m no trainspotter but these monsters took a hold on my imagination as a kid that remains today) also gave me the opportunity to sample a wide range of ales in some interesting bars and pubs in Manchester and in around Bury.
While there are many worthwhile pubs in the vicinity, including historic gems such as Manchester’s famous Peveril of the Peak, I’ll focus on some of the more unusual ones here, in keeping with the leaning of this blog and lack of time and space to do the others justice. Two of these were bars in central Manchester notable for strong emphases on beer while breaking the normal rules of pubs. Another was an on-site brewery bar in Ramsbottom, just north of Bury, while the last was the station buffet at the Bury end of the preserved East Lancashire Railway. Continue reading “Lancashire hot spots: four unusual beer outlets in Manchester environs”
My experiences of pubs and bottle shops in Melbourne and Sydney have certainly whetted my appetite for a return visit. But they also opened my eyes to a parallel but even less explored phenomenon: the even newer vogue for alcoholic cider and even its pear equivalent, perry.
Many of the establishments I visited during my 10 day stay in the country had at least one cider on sale, often on draught, with unthreatening imports such as Ireland’s Magners and Sweden’s Rekorderlig being extremely widespread. Of greater interest, several of the products available came from native producers.
Two days and one full evening in Sydney before returning to Melbourne for a few more days saw me dragging my Australia-domiciled German colleague Carsten to the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel in The Rocks area of old Sydney, not far from our hotel.
While Victoria is perhaps the spiritual heart of the Australian beer renaissance of the past few years it isn’t the only part of the country to partake of the “craft” beer revolution. The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel is a great example of the new beer diaspora the country now enjoys. Indeed, it’s one of the longest standing emissaries of fine beer in the country, having begun brewing in 1986. The pub itself apparently dates from 1841, making it the oldest licensed hotel in Sydney. That it primarily makes British-style beers seems only appropriate. That it makes among the most convincing facsimiles of British beer styles I’ve yet encountered overseas makes it doubly worth visiting. Continue reading “Wizards of Oz part three: Sydney back to Melbourne”
The transformation of the beer scene in Australia over the past few years appears to be even more evident in the pubs and bars of Melbourne than it is in the bottle shops. Even the most resolutely conventional pub seemingly offers at least some small concession to new wave brewing, if not necessarily to micro brews and brewers.
This often takes the form of Matilda Bay Brewing Co’s recently-introduced, American-syle Fat Yak Pale Ale (4.7%, actually owned by Fosters) and Coopers Brewery’s straw-coloured Pale Ale (4.5%, not actually a newcomer but perhaps the brewery that inspired the Australian beer renaissance). Both beers were available widely, including at my Melbourne colleagues’ “local”, the Mitre Tavern on Bank Place off Little Collins Street.
My last hurrah on this trip to Tokyo came at the suggestion of my good friend Nick’s brother Tom, who forsook the north of England for the Japanese capital some six years ago. Taking the train north and slightly east from Ginza brought us to Ryogoku, home of Tokyo’s sumo stadium and many of its training “stables”. While I couldn’t have my fix of Japan’s national sport (“living history” is an equally good descriptor for sumo) on this occasion, as the season was over, I was able to refresh myself in what must be among the most memorable beer establishments I experienced on this trip: the oddly-named but exceptional Popeye bar.
Thankfully free from too many cartoon memorabilia and references, Popeye offers perhaps the best selection of Japan-brewed micros in any pub in the country, preferring to focus on local brews (upwards of 70) and draughts over imports. Moreover, the owners clearly delight in the variety that beer has to offer, with a well-thought out list catering for all kinds of tastes and styles (daily beer menu here).
Prior to visiting Hong Kong I enjoyed overnight stops in Shanghai and Beijing, albeit with little or no opportunity to seek out interesting local products. Not that that should deter one from trying. A small number of modern-style brewpubs are to be found in both cities if you have the time to seek them out – for example Boxing Cat Brewery, of which there are two branches in Shanghai, and Drei Kronen 1308 Brauhaus, apparently an Asian outpost of a Bavarian brewer of the same name, although that’s not easy to confirm. There are several others.
Such was also the case in Taipei, capital of that “other” China, Taiwan, a few days earlier. Here Le Blé d’Or and a branch of the Gordon Biersch brewpub chain are among the establishments offering a break from the near-ubiquitous Taiwan Beer. There was no chance to try these either, unfortunately, although I can report that the national brew went well with local fare.
Thankfully a weekend in Tokyo did provide a few opportunities to sample Japanese brewing, however. This was true both in its established – and heavily German-influenced – form and in the shape of a new generation of micros that, somewhat surprisingly, are taking their influences from well beyond Germany or the more-recently influential US brewing scene.
After almost five weeks of near constant travel for business, I’m back in Blighty and finally in a position to update the blog. There’s much to say. While business travel doesn’t usually offer much scope for tourism it does typically offer the opportunity to try out a few local tipples, especially with the assistance of locally-based colleagues and friends.
Such was the case with my latest overseas adventure, which took me first to Canada, then on to Australia, Taiwan, Japan, mainland China and finally to Hong Kong. Which, as is my prerogative, is where I’ll start, if only to speed up the writing process and to save the best till last.
A busy weekend in Poland for a friend’s wedding offered ample opportunity to imbibe the country’s national spirit and a few of its better-known beers. Regrettably, lack of time and a huge storm during our brief stop over in Warsaw on the first night, restricted chances to delve far into Poland’s alcoholic culture and especially recent innovations. But I still came away with something worthwhile drinkwise.
Polish brews such as Tyskie, Żywiec and Lech aren’t difficult to find in the UK these days. The large number of Polish nationals currently living and working in the UK have encouraged our supermarkets to stock all manner of Polish goods over the past few years, although I’ve largely ignored the beers as rather mainstream. (Polish smoked sausages, especially Kabanos, have not escaped my notice however.)
As a longstanding motor sport enthusiast I’ve become accustomed to spending several long, hot days each summer in the beer desert that is, or rather was, Silverstone, longstanding home of the British Grand Prix. Fosters, Carlsberg, Guinness and John Smith’s Extra Smooth were pretty much the only options for the thirsty racegoer for years, dictated by event sponsors and controlled supply.
No more. This July’s event boasted a small number of outlets where the cask ale drinker could slake their thirst with something nearer to their preferred pub tipple. Although it still takes a reasonably committed drinker to hold out for a better brew when they’re so widely spread out across the event site.