Monday, 21 July 2014

A dawdle round Didsbury

Last Friday, the local branch of CAMRA took its monthly “Stagger” around the prosperous urban village of Didsbury. This will be written up (not by me) in due course for the local magazine Opening Times, but there were a number of points of interest that I thought were worth mentioning.
  • While I have recently celebrated my 55th birthday, I was the youngest person amongst a party of nine.

  • We were allowed to have a drink in the private St Catherine’s Social Club, where Samuel Smith’s OBB was only £2 a pint. The club also had a couple of guest ales.

  • The Wetherspoon’s – the Milson Rhodes – was probably the busiest pub of the night. The cask beer range was dominated by Peerless following a “Meet the Brewer” night. The Crisp and Sweet Action Sixpoint cans (although not the stronger Bengali Tiger) had been reduced to £1.49 each.

  • The Stoker’s Arms is a new pub in the former premises of O’Neill’s. One of the party was refused admission by the door staff as contravening the dress code, although someone less likely to start a fight is hard to imagine. This underlines the point that door control is more about social selection than avoiding trouble. It’s a large, airy, open-plan place that would not be out of place in London. It had two cask beers – Doom Bar at £3.45 a pint and Pendle Witches’ Brew at an eye-watering £3.80. Also had a few “craft kegs” including Korev Lager and Brooklyn Summer Ale at £2.30 a half (which one of us tried). The music was so loud it was hard to sustain a conversation.

  • In the nearby Slug & Lettuce, the music was even more deafeningly banging – and it was one of the less busy pubs. We were served half-pints in unlined, fluted 14oz glasses, which is technically illegal. And a generous overmeasure of indifferent Greene King IPA might not be so much of a good thing!

  • In the back room of the Station, I opened a window to provide a little ventilation, but was told by the licensee to close it again as it contravened the licence conditions.

  • There was some excellent beer, including Adnams Southwold Bitter and Thornbridge Kipling, in the Dog & Partridge, the final pub.

Although these events don’t appeal to everyone – presumably on the grounds that you might have to venture into the odd indifferent pub – I always enjoy them as they enable you to “see life” in a cross-section of pubs rather than just drinking your way along the bar in your favourite free house. And yuppie Didsbury takes me out of my comfort zone amongst the seedy grotholes of Stockport. The Didsbury pubs on average were also probably much busier than those in central Stockport would have been.

Edit: it’s worth pointing out that this “Stagger” only includes half the pubs in Didsbury, so some well-known favourites such as the Royal Oak and Fletcher Moss were not visited.


  1. I've always struggled massively with Didsbury. The Fletchermoss is decent and the Dog can have a good (if limited) selection of beer but there's little else worth mention. The Milson Rhodes does what a Spoons does, which is no bad thing sometimes.

    It's still not as bad as West Didsbury though, where the selection is limited to painfully 'cool' bars with one or two 'craft' beers and pubs that seem to have little concept of good cellarmanship.

    Give me Stockport's seedy grotholes any day.

  2. Last time a gaff wouldn't let me in for wearing trainers in I said "Don't you know who I am? I'm the legendary pub curmudgeon of Opening Times!"

    Not only did they let me in but gave me free ale as I sat signing autographs on either copies of OT or ladies boobs. Then 2 chubby orange lasses dragged me behind the bins. Such is the renown and regard held for the column across the North West.

    I've got free ale claiming to be Tandleman too. I've never got owt claiming to be RedNev other than "Who?, Red Who? Piss off"

  3. If only, Cookie, if only...

    FWIW the guy excluded from the Stoker's Arms was rather reminiscent of Neil from the "Young Ones"

  4. Martin, Cambridge21 July 2014 at 16:23

    I do enjoys the Stockport & SM stagger write-ups, one of relatively few newsletters to visit the full range of pubs. Didsbury does seem to mainntain a better cross-section of pubs, for better or worse, than Chorlton, but give me Stockport any day.

    By the way, those 2 craft cans are now 99p in my local Spoons (Tivoli), and still I've never seen anyone other than me with one.

  5. Yes, Didsbury does have a good selection of pubs which appeal both to the traditionalist and the trendy. Some of the criticisms on Twatter are totally unwarranted.

    The Fletcher Moss (not on this Stagger) is consistently the best pub, but plenty of others are worth visiting.

  6. "Who? Red Who? Piss off"

    I get that reaction too, CL.

  7. Dress codes, being told to close the windows, serving beer in un-stamped, non-standard measure glasses, deafening music! It all makes me glad I don’t live in Didsbury, but I have to wonder, are the owners/licensees of these pubs actively trying to discourage trade?

  8. Welcome to Yuppieland, where there's a slight "edge" to the drinking scene that you don't find in Stockport. No wonder I only venture over the border on CAMRA Staggers.

  9. I prefer Mudgies pub going write ups 'ere than the guff in Opening Times.

    In OT it's invariably a mixed bag of boozers ending with a suggestion you check 'em out yourself. Too heavily edited, the voice of bland mediocrity. You get the impression the author wanted to use terms like "rough arsed shit hole" and "vinegary piss water" but these were altered to "a pub needing care and attention" or the "the beer scored the lowest of the evening". Lacks the colour you get here.

    Mudgie on the other hand reveals how piss poor modern pubs are. It's invariably a duff pub, duff pint, duff cheese salad. Too noisy or too quiet. Too scruffy and rough or so smart they won't let him and his sandal wearing hippy mates in. Always too expensive. Mudge reveals the awful experience of the modern pub punter as a warning to steer clear of 'em.

  10. I think you'll be able to read one of my watered-down, sanitised official write-ups in next month's Opening Times and see how I deftly deal with the pub that really is a rough-arsed shithole.

  11. Yes indeed - and very good it is too. I always think we should try and tell it as it is (wihtout being sued that is). I remember a good few years ago now one author took several lines to describe the beer in one pub - which I edited down to "the beer was horible".

  12. >I was the youngest person amongst a party of nine.

    More than slightly worrying isn't it. At branch level, we really do seem to be struggling with socials that have a wide appeal.

  13. I'm a bit reluctant to lump all "the young" together, but might it be that they're not too keen on semi-formal, organised events full stop, rather than that the wrong kind of events are being organised?

  14. Takes his cooking lager mask off for 10 minutes.

    Some events get plenty of people, old and young. What's the difference?

    Maybe some beardy events/evenings/piss ups are a better night out than others?

    Take a pub award. Decent boozer, decent company to chat to, often some free grub.

    Take a pub crawl. Mixed bag of pubs, many of which you'd give a wide berth if out with other friends, sometimes too many or not enough for a decent night out.

    No brainer.

  15. Isn't that just turning it into a cosy drinking club, though?

  16. as opposed to an uncomfortable drinking club for masochists that after a days work like spending hard earned money on halves of indifferent beer in grotty boozers in a mad rush for hopefully finishing somewhere decent?

    Do you find the pub crawls around a balanced number of decent boozers worth lingering in far more popular? You know, the pub crawls like the ones you might normally embark on.

    Are the decent nights out your beard club runs well attended, and are the more dismal ones only populated by the hardcore?


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