Monday, 15 February 2016

The Old Harkers Arms, Chester, Cheshire

Chester is an ancient city full of history and character. We went for a recent weekend break and discovered that it is also full of cracking pubs. This left us with quite a dilemma as we wanted to sample as many hostelries as we could whilst remembering what inns we had visited and what beers we had drunk. So much to drink, so little time. Whilst much of the weekend disappeared in an alcoholic blur our visit to the Old Harkers Arms on the Sunday afternoon was particularly memorable.

As well as being an historic place Chester also has an industrial past, much of it close to the Shropshire Union Canal which passes through the city on it's way to Ellesmere Port.

At its  closest point to the railway station an enterprising company, Brunning & Price, have converted the ground floor of an old industrial building into a pub, the Old Harkers Arms. Indeed when you walk in you are greeted by an old punch clock on one of the columns holding the building up.
Behind this column is the L-shaped bar with a fine array of handpumps. My first selection was a pint of 80-\- bitter from Conwy brewery. I can only describe this as a mighty fine pint of beer with a lovely smooth  malty flavour. In contrast Maggie started with a drop of blonde beer called Cheshire Cat. Both these beers were in fine form and set the tone for our all too brief session.
I should add at this point that plenty of people around us were ordering food and that it looked very nice and indeed tempting. However we felt that with so many beers to explore the food might interfere with the job in hand so we concentrated on liquid refreshment. My second pint, which was again memorable for its wonderful smooth flavour, was as I recall Slaters premium bitter from Stafford. Maggie also changed and tried a glass of Eastgate bitter.
We were sat  on bench seating next to a bookcase at the west end of the pub which was not really in keeping with the industrial setting but nevertheless had some interesting tomes in it. From here we could relax and watch the comings and goings of the happy drinkers. The atmosphere was certainly very relaxed compared with other establishments we had visited and the staff behind the bar were friendly and helpful which, for me, always adds to the experience. 
After imbibing such a majestic bitter as the Slaters I decided to follow it with a glass of stout Drystone stout from the excellent Hawkshead brewery was the order of the day and it was so very tasty!
I could have stayed in the Harkers all day. It is nice to see new pubs doing well and it would appear that the Old Harkers Arms has already built up a good reputation in a city full of good pubs. We enjoyed our stay in Chester and will return in the future. When we do we will certainly be calling in at the Old Harkers Arms. Try it for yourself!


Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Lord Raglan, Nangreaves, Bury

Set high up on the hills to the north of Manchester is one of the nicest pub-breweries you could ever wish to visit. The Lord Raglan in the hamlet of Nangreaves is also the home of the Leyden Brewery. A visit to the pub can be quite an adventure as it is "off the beaten track" and the last mile ascends a bone shaking cobbled lane. Once you get to the pub the view is spectacular. We arrived on a crisp clear Sunday lunchtime - 15 miles to the south the towers of Manchester glinted in the sun. Fiddlers Ferry power station can be seen to the southwest and to the north and west are the glorious Lancashire moors.

The pub is on the old pack horse route from Manchester to Burnley. It has been in the same family for 60 years and takes it's name from the commander of the British forces in the Crimean war.
We visit the pub every year - the beers brewed on site include: Raglan's Sleeve, a lovely, well balanced bitter and Crowning Glory, a strong smooth winter brew. On our visit they had had a cultural exchange and there were several local guest beers on offer. I started with a pint of Mistral, brewed on the premises - a light refreshing ale at 4% alcohol. My second pint was a sweet stout from the Deeply Vale brewery in Bury called DV8 which, despite the name, is an interesting and very drinkable ale.
Food at the Rag is traditional  pub food with locally sources ingredients. I had a black pudding tower with Bury black pudding ( where else!) - delicious. This was followed by brewers pie - long cooked beef in the pubs own beer. After that there was a decision to be made - pudding or more beer? I went for a pint of Gold from the Dunscar Bridge brewery in Bolton - another really nice pint. I had forgotten that Lancastrians are such good brewers.
There may well be dozens of brew pubs like the Lord Raglan dotted around the north of England. I am certainly looking forward to finding them and sampling their hospitality. If you are ever in Bury or passing through the area make a point of finding the Lord Raglan and trying what it has to offer. you will not be disappointed.


Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Crescent Inn, Ilkley

I always associate Ilkley with windswept moors, tearooms and blue-rinsed old ladies so when we were invited, by friends from Leeds, to meet up for a walk and a few beers I could envisage the former but not the afters.

My good lady selected a yomp around Romalds Moor which took in the Twelve Apostles and the highest point on the moor. On the way back down our thoughts turned to beer. Our friends had had the good fortune to miss a train back to Leeds once and had called in to a pub right in the middle of town, The Crescent Inn.
By the time I got to the pub, right by the lights where Leeds Road meets Brook Street there was a pint of Saltaire Blonde waiting for me on the table outside. Very nice! This whetted both my appetite and my curiosity so we ventured inside.
For six o'clock on a Saturday evening there was a good crowd in, some watching the cup final and others just drinking. Despite the loveliness of the Saltaire Blonde I thought that I had better check out what else was on offer. There were beers from Ilkley Brewery ( of course), North Riding Brewery, Leeds Brewery and Abbeydale Brewery to name just four plus a brew made especially for the pub.

The one that caught my eye (and made me think of FIFA) was Corruption Ale from Abbeydale so I tried a pint. From first sip to the dregs it was wonderful. I knew that something good must come from Sheffield occasionally. Now I was in a quandary. To order food or get more corruption? Problem solved - I did both. Once I have satisfied myself that a pub serves decent ale I am happy to try the food. I liked the menu at once - burgers, pies and an interesting veggie tart. Proper pub food for those that want it, yes please. I settled for pie du jour which was advertised as chicken but turned out to be a very nice beef and mushroom.
The pie was substantial and delicious. The accompanying veg were slightly garlicky which made them equally so. Did I mention the gravy? Fabulous!  My mate opted for a Crescent Burger which was vast whilst the girls went for the Moroccan Tart, the veggie option.

We all agreed that the food was as good as it looked. I then did a Sep Blatter and got as much Corruption down me as I could. When the third pint tastes as good as the first you know that you are onto a good thing.
Until our visit to the Crescent I had never really thought of Ilkley as a drinker's town. Well after my experience that Saturday I now have to re-adjust my opinion. The Crescent is a nice place to eat, drink and relax. The staff were great and all looked happy to be working there which is always a good sign. I recommend this pub and we will certainly be  going back for another session.