It’s rare these days that I try to squeeze two pub crawls into a month, what with tight budgets and everything, but given the separation between possible attendees, I was determined to follow Shelts’ Nottingham stag experience (which, I’m sorry to admit, despite having a great time and visiting some excellent pubs, I didn’t write anything about) with one a little closer to home. Enter the #StretfordAndUrmstonPubCrawl, which you can follow almost in real time on Twitter by searching that hashtag.
An actual crawl of Urmston was long overdue, and despite some excellent candidates, I felt there weren’t quite enough convenient pubs (by convenient, I mean pubs within a reasonable distance that I could get people to walk to) to spend the whole day there. For that reason I decided to tack on, at the beginning, a trip to Stretford’s Sip Club. From my base in Flixton, that should have meant a 20 minute bus ride, but Mrs Cake offered to drive me, and that was most welcome.
Arriving at 2pm on Barton Road, I missed any sign of the Sip Club at first, opting to stand on the corner and call Pablo, to see if he knew where it was. He said it was signposted, and that you have to go up some inoccuous stairs. Nothing looked likely at this point, so I said I’d wait for him. It was while I was waiting that I saw, painted on the side of the nearest building, a small white sign. I still wasn’t sure, but after I saw Pablo, I walked past it and saw that it did indeed indicate an innocuous staircase next to an estate agent. If you look carefully, there are also various beer signs that I had missed at first.
On cresting the stairs it’s like one of those antique furniture shops – all tatty old furniture and mismatched chairs (and doillies), none of which would look out of place at your Gramma’s in the 80s. Then there’s a wall, around the other side of which is the bar. Layout leaves a little to be desired, but the overall effect is quirky and appealing.
On tap you’ve got about 4 beers, and a blackboard letting you know what’s in bottles or cans.
Heritage Trail Ale by Lymm Brewing Company. A brewery that’s quite local to me, so I was surprised not to have at least tried one of its other beers previously. This is what I’d call a standard golden bitter, and not something I’d tend to be fond of. That much is reflected in my score of 2/5. No ABV is recorded on Untappd (at time of writing) for this one, but I seem to remember it was something half decent like 4.4.
Pablo and Carl both went for Blackedge Brewing Company’s American Pale Ale, but I’d already had that. So when they went for what I’d just had for my first drink, I tried something different entirely…
Equinox Lager by Chorlton Brewing Company. Another local one, but instead of draught this time, it was from a can. I don’t mind that. At 5.7% it’s full flavoured, with a slightly bitter after taste that Untappd rightly classifies as and Indian Pale Lager – though there was no notification of that, as far as I remember, on the can. I scored this 4/5. A little peruse over my history shows that I’ve only tried one of this brewery’s output before, the Citra Brett Pale, which also earned a 4.
Dave joined us at this point (electing for HOP by First Chop), and it was soon off to the Stretford Mall bus stop where a number 15 duly arrived to take us the short jaunt to Urmston. We got off a stop too late and had to walk a few minutes to get to our next port of call, passing a number of scarecrows along the way. I didn’t know at the time, but Urmston has itself a quaint little scarecrow festival at this time of year (September).
David had also joined us of course, but there’s no tidy way of slotting that into the general narrative now.
We arrived then at Urmston’s Hop House, a bar that Mrs Cake and I had had high hopes for when we moved to the area. We’d been concerned about lack of clientele, but have been back a few times since. It remains quiet, but more alarming is the infrequency with which the selection of beers is refreshed. I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s not at all. On top of that, the bar man seemed to be offended that anyone had bothered to show up at all, and put on some Bruce Springsteen songs that seriously lacked bass, and would probably have sounded better coming out of any of our phones.
I opted for Flying Dog Brewery’s Snake Dog IPA (7.1%), the one remaing beer in the bar that I hadn’t already logged. This was in a bottle, of course. The distinctly average 3/5 that I’m scoring this one fits right along with the other beers I’ve previously tried from this brewery; Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale (3/5), Numero Uno Agave Cerveza (3/5) and the current dangling bollocks of this current Flying Dog, K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale (3.5).
We didn’t fancy staying there for long (and there was nothing different to drink anyway), so we headed over the road to The Steamhouse, and out to the platform side tables of Urmston Train Station. We were probably starting along the road to rowdiness at this point, and started discussing Freemasonry, following a comment I made, inspired by the book I am currently reading about the ridiculous secret organisation.
I went for a Memphis Belle (5%) by Cottage Brewing Company. It is described as an American style pale ale, and I think I normally like those, but this one I’ve scored only 2/5. Previous form for the brewery reveals a mixed bag – from the lows of Sunset (1.5/5), and Pacific and Princess Beia (both 2.5/5) up to the heady heights of SS Great Britain (3.5/5 – so not that heady or high, actually).
Next we decided to see what was going on at new sports bar, Champs. It was Saturday afternoon, so sport was what was happening, and we decided not to stay for a drink because it was all standard lagers – I don’t remember the exact brands, but if I suggest Staropramen, San Miguel, Amstel… you get the idea.
So it was on to the Tim Bobbin, another new experience for me. It’s a Wetherspoon’s pub, which I normally try to avoid, and it does tend to look at bit rough from the outside looking in. Nevertheless, Dave had a recommendation for us, and it seems like Wetherspoons offer the same variety across all their premises. And I have to say, the Tim Bobbin was a real surprise package. Much cleaner, brighter and more pleasant than most – not as striking as those ones that are in historic buildings, but pleasant nonetheless.
At Dave’s behest, I went for a can of the 9.1% Resin by Sixpoint Brewery. It was something like £2.99, which isn’t bad for around 300ml at that strength. Nevertheless, I gave it 3/5 and conversation turned to the very recent Labour Leadership Election.
Before we left I had another can from the Sixpoint range, Bengali which was 6.5% and again scored 3 out of 5.
It was here that things went wrong. I’d been saving for our last stop, the jewel in Urmston’s drinking establishment crown, The Prairie Schooner. But it was closed for a private party. That didn’t leave us a lot of options, but we went for The Lord Nelson, a Joseph Holt pub. Threadbare and local-style, it is nevertheless welcoming enough, and contains all the Holt beers that you never really get to try (because you don’t tend to go in Joseph Holt pubs). In spite of that, I had a Black (only 3.8% when “black” things would normally be expected to be stronger) and it turned out I’d had it before, so I didn’t log it. I can see that I gave it 3/5 that time, and I have nothing to suggest I changed my mind about it on this occasion (and indeed no real recollection of what I thought of it).
Some people had already started leaving by this point. I think we’d lost David and Carl, and after the Lord Nelson we lost Dave too. Pablo and I weren’t finished though, so we embarked on the generous walk to the Roebuck Tavern. For me it was a Vinyl Tap by The Bootleg Brewing Company this time (4.1%), and it managed only 2.5/5. The brewery liked my logging of it anyway. This is the company that also makes Urban Fox, which I had tried previously (scoring it 3/5), and that others in the party were drinking at the Steamhouse, earlier in the day.
The whole thing finished perhaps not as drunkenly as I was expecting, though I did have both a kebab and a pizza that evening. And all that only cost me about 40 quid. Not bad. It is a struggle to draw out Urmston into a full length pub crawl, but I suppose I had been counting on having more than one at the Schooner. Even so, I doubt we’ll be seeing this kind of offensive there again. For a few pints in the afternoon or evening though, it’s well worth a visit if you’re local enough.
Beer of the day then, was Chorlton Brewery’s Equinox Lager, while pub of the day was the Tim Bobbin. Well done to those guys. No doubt we’ll be seeing you again sometime.