Manchester Pub Crawl: August 29

Taking advantage of National Express fun fares we combined a trip to a pet shop specialising in rare animals and fish, with a visit to some of the Real ale pubs of Central Manchester.

My journey got off to its usual difficult start as Merseyrail journeys were terminating at James Street due to emergency engineering work thus necessitating a trip across town to the coach station.

This is a JW Lees house selling their basic entry level best bitter. Opinion was divided on this brew with 2 votes to one in favour. The pub is in one of Mancster’s less salubrious areas with a shop selling porn DVDs, a sex cinema and a white withcraft store along the same street. Can I just say that this wasn't my idea to go there. The culprit knows who he is and denies he knew the street was like that! (and the band played 'believe it if you like!' The beer itself was reasonably cheap but the pub is only worth a swift visit.
Smithfield Hotel
This is near to the famous Band on the Wall club (it seemed to be closed when we went past). This was a shame. It obtained its name from the fact that the artists literally played on a raised stage up against a wall. Many famous bands have been in residence here. Judging from the state of the outside it certainly needs some work doing on it before it rises from the ashes. We were told it will re-open though.
Inside we settled on halves of different beers on offer. Copper Dragon from Skipton Brewery was a good starter at 3.9%. However, we had less success with our second choice of Greenfield’s Long Thumper (4.2%) as this had clearly turned vinegary. It is always a black mark for a pub when the barperson is less than forthcoming with a replacement with the usual ‘nobody else has complained’ being churned out as an excuse. To be fair, it was exchanged for another choice but this type of attitude leaves a taste in the mouth similar to the bad pint. One wonders if we would have succeeded if we had been on a solo visit.

Crown and Kettle, Oldham St, ancoats, Manchester
This was a nice little pub with some interesting beers on sale. I plumped for a Knoll Street Porter by Bazens Brewery (5.2%). A very satisfying dark ale with oaky notes.
We also tried Hornbeam Bitter (3.9%) which was satisfactory. Apparently it has recently re-opened after fire damage. All beers were well kept.
Bar Fringe (Swan Street)
This does not look so inviting from outside but is actually quite an attractive pub inside with a small beer garden facility. Due to the good weather, we took advantage of this. The pub sells a range of Belgian and German beers, which was good to see, but we did not partake as we had other fields to plough.

A fine half of Phoenix Bitter was duly quaffed.

Marble Arch Brewpub, Gould Street/Rochdale Road
This, I feel, was the highlight - a superb pub with its own beers on tap. There are a number of rooms and an outside area. The brewer was busy preparing a mash at the time and I was fortunate to see the some of the process. The brewing area can easily be seen from the window on the doorway. The pub’s website is being updated and not available at the moment.

We then headed for the station after a final beer in a pub in Piccadilly.

We were disappointed to see that The Beer House was not open at the moment. This had been a stalwart from our previous visits to Manchester.

Prior to the pub visits we took the short trip to Manchester Pets And Aquatics neat the Apollo Theatre. They have some weird and wonderful creatures from gheckos to albino chipmonks. There are a number of parrots around the shop. Beware of the one pictured in the slideshow. It'll have your sunglasses off your head if you don't watch it! The hedgehog was priced at £150 but we wondered what the lifespan would be, given that the common hedgehog only lasts a few years in the wild.