It was with some relief yesterday that I completed the Winter Warmer Wander, an annual event organised by my CAMRA branch, Stockport and South Manchester, with prizes for visiting 12, 24 or 46 pubs and drinking at least half a pint of porter, stout or strong ale, or a beer of 4.5% abv or above.
I got off to a good start, beginning with a launch stagger around Stockport in mid-November which ticked off five pubs, another around Manchester's Northern Quarter that added another four and a couple on Stockport's Wellington Road North "beer slope" a week after that, which meant that by the end of the first week in December I'd already done eleven pubs, with just one more to go for the first level of prizes. The rest of the month was pretty much written off though as I was laid low with the lurgy that seems to have afflicted half the country this festive season and it was only yesterday afternoon, the last day of the event, that I felt fit enough to pop into another pub for my twelfth and final sticker.
So what does a wander around pubs in Stockport and Manchester this winter tell us?
First of all, the beers: nine of the beers I drank were stouts or porters, with the rest - including a couple of pints of Robinsons Trooper, in the Arden Arms, Stockport, and the Castle Hotel in Manchester city centre - premium bitters rather than strong ales (I did drink Robinsons Old Tom last month, but not in a pub which was taking part in the event).
Breweries: three of the pubs I went in and beers I drank were owned and produced by local family brewers (Hydes, Robinsons) with the rest being from brewpubs or microbreweries, three of them also local (Fool Hardy, Stockport, Greenfield), and the others from further afield (Saltaire, Five Points, Northern Monk, Harviestoun, Rossendale).
Pubs: three were what you might call traditional locals, albeit with sizeable dining and/or live music areas (the Arden Arms, the Castle Hotel and the Horse and Farrier, Gatley), with the rest being brewpubs and/or specialist beerhouses (the Crown, Hope, Magnet, Railway and Remedy Bar in Stockport and the Crown and Kettle, Piccadilly Tap and Smithfield Market Tavern in Manchester); the Bakers Vaults sort of spans both categories, a modernised traditional pub which mainly sells Robinsons beers, alongside a few guest ones, but also serves food and coffee and has live music.
Best beer: Five Points Railway Porter in the Piccadilly Tap.
Happy New Year to you all, hope to see you at a bar somewhere in 2018.