So I went down the hill in search of some lunch at the Apricot & Artifice in Dunnyshaw, formerly the Locomotive but now rebranded as a kind of quasi-gastropub. They had six different cask beers on, all from local micros and thus qualifying for the CAMRA Locale scheme. I went for Tearful from Pink Flamingo Brewery (3.9%) at a rather steep £3.40, which I have to say was probably the first pulled that session and borderline returnable, although in this case I decided discretion was the better part of valour. It’s one of a range of well-regarded beers including Bellyful, Fretful and Skinful.
I was pleased to see Traditional Ploughmans on the menu at £7.95, so immediately plumped for that. However, it was desperately disappointing, consisting of a small stale roll, about two ounces of bland cheddar, a mound of lettuce, an apple and a large slice of gala pie. Pork pie with egg in it, how disgusting. No pickle either. Half-way through eating it, a quartet of yummy mummies trooped in and their offspring rapidly started up the kind of co-ordinated wailing you would have heard as the Luftwaffe approached Coventry. So I have to say I left my meal unfinished and went on my way in search of a quieter and more traditional atmosphere.
I knew I could rely on the Feltcombers’ Arms at Arkwright’s Hillock, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a long, low cottage-style building with “weavers’ windows”, probably dating from the mid-17th century and now surrounded by mostly Victorian development. The chintzy lounge with its upright piano is only open at weekends, so I went in the vault with its grandfather clock and stone-flagged floor. A sad sign of the times was that the only other customer was an old gent sitting in the corner chuntering into his pint.
I found a nice bench seat by the window which provided enough light to read the Daily Mail. The only cask beer available is Draught Barf, dispensed by gravity from a little room behind the bar. As usual, it came out with a very shallow head which may not endear it too much to the locals, and a slightly astringent, almost vinous taste. I am told John Smith’s Extra Smooth is actually the best seller. I was pleased to see old Wilf, the pub cat, who is a bit arthritic now but managed to climb up on the bench next to me, although unfortunately he decided to mark his presence by a touch of spraying. Still, cats will be cats. The landlord told me that he liked to spend much of his time asleep in the “cellar”, which he regarded as his territory.
Returning home, I put the faithful Harvest Gold 1.3 Morris Marina back in the garage. This model really is an underrated British classic. Driving duties done, I thought I would treat myself to a bottle-conditioned Old Toad Bitter from Slutchmere Brewery in the heart of Cheshire, which had been settling in a dark cupboard for at least three months. However, there was an ominous silence as I opened the bottle, and it turned out to be as flat as a witch’s tit and, despite the long storage period, still distinctly hazy. So straight down the sink it went.
However, salvation was at hand as, I had a bottle of Ayscue Ale stored in the fridge in case of such eventualities. This darkish, malty 6.2% brew, produced by long-established family brewery Hawkins of Lowestoft, is named after the most senior British admiral ever to be captured by the enemy, and represents the best “bangs per buck” amongst Morrison’s multibuy offer. It’s not bottle-conditioned, so you have a well over 50% chance of it actually being drinkable.
It must have hit the spot, as it seems I nodded off and when I woke up was disappointed to find that I’d missed Countdown, even on Channel 4+1.
(In view of this, I thought I’d better write my own piss-take before someone else got there first)