Denton and Hyde
Last Updated : 20/11/07
201 the pub!
three-day work trip to Denton had suddenly come about and to say I was pleased would just about sum it up; an evening in Manchester sampling some winners and then a wander around the grimness which is East Manchester to see what I could dig up in Denton and Hyde plus, as a bonus, the Lowes Arms had just re-started brewing… if you can call drinking rancid beer a bonus, that is…
Tuesday 13th November 2007.
I finished work early at 14:30 and so, after popping back to my hotel to don a suitable beer-drinking t-shirt, I was back out and wandering along the A57 towards Denton’s somewhat run-down centre. For those who don’t know East Manchester let me just explain that if you want to see a full spectrum of urban dereliction then take the 201 bus from Piccadilly to Hyde and you’ll get the full picture all the way from the wastelands of Ardwick via down-at-heel Denton to a more upmarket Hyde – it’s all here. Interestingly, given the region’s previous prominence in hat making, William Bowler (born 25/01/1808) was a Hatter born in Denton who gave his name to the famous headpiece and, as if this were not enough headwear-related jollity, the phrase “Mad as a hatter” occurs – according to local legend – due to the mercury and methylated spirits used in the felting process which had predictable effects on the poor worker’s health.
I walked past the impressive remains of the Moore’s hat factory complete with sturdy Victorian chimney and ornate frontage (this was actually the location of the new Hornbeam brewery which I’d just walked past without even knowing it) before I reached the start of Denton’s seedy high street. There I encountered what I then realised to be a serious problem for my afternoon wander; most of the pubs would be closed! The Bowling Green, an old Wilsons pub, was the first I passed and was closed up tight although a peer through the windows didn’t hold out much hope of any cask ale so I carried on towards the crossroads which serves as Denton’s centre, Crown Point.
I’ve never walked through Denton before, always having done the superbly useful 201 bus to the Lowes arms instead, as so looked around as I ambled along in the murky afternoon at the slightly derelict nature of some buildings and the general “pound shop” feel of the area. Passing the gloriously Victorian brick Liberal club (Sam Smiths, presumably keg-only, I didn’t check) I reached Crown Point where I turned right to head along Stockport Road in order to check out the numerous pubs along it’s length.
I’d already prepared a map showing as many pubs as I could find and knew there were at least six pubs along a half-mile stretch of road so I made for the furthest first – the Carters Arms – passing on my way the unexpected sight of a timber-framed church; St. Lawrence's is just under 500 years old, having been built in 1531, and is a Grade II* listed building with a pirate allegedly buried in the grounds, his grave marked with a skull and crossbones. After this unforeseen cultural distraction I made my way to the pub – owned by Pubmaster and, predictably, closed – where through obscured windows I could see no evidence of real ale supply whatsoever so turned around and headed back towards Crown Point.
The next hostelry was most definitely open; the Chapel House (called the “Big Chap” according to a notice on the wall, and it certainly was an imposing building) is a Holts’ pub and therefore serves the cheap-tasting swill from Empire Street which didn’t inspire me to venture over the threshold although, had I not scooped the latest seasonal the evening before (Fifth Sense in the Ape & Apple, and revolting it was too) I may just have had a quick peek inside as they usually have the specials in here… but I had, so I didn’t. Next pub was the Jolly Hatters, a Hyde’s terraced pub, once again closed although I could see a solitary handpump through the darkened windows meaning that, presumably, Hydes Bitter was the sole offering there.
Next came the slightly dodgy-looking Toll House where my snooping at the window attempting to see if any real ales were on sale brought the barmaid to ask if she could help me. I resisted the sudden urge to ask if she had anything for sale which tasted like beer and just replied “No, it’s okay” so off she went and shut the door with, I thought, unnecessary force – nice meeting you too, glad I didn’t bother to go in if that’s the attitude of the barstaff! Donning my hat against the increasingly cold northerly wind I pressed on back towards civilisation and thus passed the Gardeners, a large Robinson’s pub, which didn’t excite me enough to brave a look inside as it didn’t look the kind of place to do the seasonal beers, if you get my drift.
Beer at last.
On Crown Point junction itself stand two pubs, the Last Orders and the much more promising-looking Red Lion, but first I had one more pub to check out: the Silver Springs on the corner of Annan Street just north of the junction. A great-looking old Threlfall’s pub with etched windows to match, I had a vain hope that I’d find some beer in here… alas, a quick “head through the door” revealed nothing but glaring keg founts and so I returned to Hyde Road gasping for a beer as I’d walked well over a mile thus far and found nothing worth drinking… not to my discerning tastebuds, anyhow!
A quick look at the Last Orders – as if a look was needed with such a crap name as that – revealed garish keg founts lined up along the bar and so, by now increasingly cold and thirsty, I took refuge in Hyde’s Red Lion across the road for a swift fortifying half. Inside the pub was a strange shape owing to the curvature of the road and looked, to me at least, like an old lodge house with brass plates on the walls, large irregularly shaped rooms and some particularly headache-inducing carpets. The beer choice was bitter or light (or 1863 as it’s called these days and it’s now officially a bitter rather than a light mild too!) so I went for the light and found it to be average with a slightly musty note to the malty taste with a creamy, toffee dryness and more maltiness, but not a particularly interesting beer.
Onwards, then… past the entrance to a huge Morrison’s supermarket I stomped, pausing only briefly to see that the Broomhouse was non-real, before continuing eastwards along Hyde Road in the direction of the Lowes. The buildings here became quite derelict and I soon saw why; what must have been a huge factory had been demolished and the associated houses and pubs were obviously suffering from the closure (The factory was in fact Oldham Batteries which had been a major Denton employer with over a thousand employees but had closed a few years back to much local outrage).
My next pub was one not on my list, the Coach and Horses, situated alongside the remains of what looked like the toilet block of the former factory; I imagined how busy this pub would once have been as the factory bell went and then observed at it’s current state of tiredness with the smashed remains of the factory all around… all was surprisingly pleasant inside and I almost stayed for a half; I would have done, just to show some solidarity with the pub, but the sole real ale was Marston’s bitter which I can’t stand and, anyhow, is from W&D who are firmly on my boycott list! Apologising to the barmaid for my sudden interruption of her quiet afternoon I returned to my eastwards yomping.
Eccles cakes – 25p.
The next pub, the Angel, looked very smart and advertised “traditional finest ales” (their words, not mine!) but on closer inspection these ales were conspicuous by their absence – strangely, as it seemed the kind of pub which should sell cask ale. At the bar was one of the locals who had been in the Red Lion and he cheerfully informed me “Don’t bother wi’t Cottage next door, none in there either” – and he wasn’t lying. I’d become aware that some food would be required at some point before I had some beer in Hyde and so my gaze fell onto a small bakery over the road. It looked like something from living history museum and I predict hasn’t changed a lot over the last 50 years or so, but would they have any food on offer?
A solitary sausage roll was the sum of the savoury offerings but I’d spied something much rarer – proper Eccles cakes! Two were duly purchased for the sum of 50p and I carried on along Hyde Road crunching raisins and with shards of pastry flaking from my mouth as if I had leprosy. I didn’t even bother looking in the Broomstairs, a huge plastic-looking theme pub, as I couldn’t see a bar in the place just rows and rows of faux-antique furnishings and other tat but carried on, confident of a drink in the Lowes arms as there must, surely, be something scoopable in there…
Well there might have been, but when a pub’s closed there’s no way of getting it out! So, past the darkened pub I trudged, eyeing the darkening sky with it’s ominously bible-black cloudbank coming my way across the horizon like some army of the apocalypse. I thought my next visit would be Beartown’s Cheshire Ring (named after the canal outside not any effect of consuming their beer, just in case you didn’t know) next to Hyde Central station but first I found an architectural gem of a pub on the way up the hill towards the station. The Whitegates is covered in a superb array of tiling, notably shiny green ones (there’s probably a name for them, but in lieu of that shiny green ones they stay) and the interior looked quite attractive too, but all I could see on the beer front was keg Sam Smiths and so, sadly, I continues uphill. There used to be another pub opposite called the Washington Hotel, a free house says the sign, but this was closed and boarded…
Hyde the scoops.
So, past the Cheshire Ring I went, trying to reach the furthest pub before the impending deluge of biblical proportions fell from the inky clouds which had succeeded in reaching Hyde’s centre and were now heading my way rather smartish. I passed the Red Lion (Robinsons, didn’t bother) before reaching Market Street just as the first spots began to fall but it was then the rain began in earnest and by the time I’d reached some temporary cover - under a concrete NatWest bank’s frontage – the torrent had well and truly begun. A few minutes of absolute inundation followed before I risked a quick dash to the nearby Wetherspoons in the hope I’d find a scoop to allow the worst of the weather would pass over.
On the way I splashed by the White Lion (Robinsons again) and then the Albion (no real ale) before I finally arrived at the Cotton Bale McSpoons which, as you’d probably guessed, could have been anywhere in the known universe from the inside with the archetypal patio doors leading to a cavernous interior complete with 20-watt lighting. Luckily for me there was what was optimistically termed a “beer festival” in progress, although the choice of beers didn’t seem that much different from a usual Monday evening apart from maybe a few less of the usual suspects cluttering the pumps, so I at least had a vague hope of a winner…
I ordered a half of my only scoop, George Wright Pure Blonde (4.6%), and, as usual for the brewery, this was a hoppy stunner with a very pale colour – lager malt, surely? – then some sweet maltiness which was quickly overcome by a full rosepetal hoppiness accompanied by a full bitterness and then some astringency which left my tongue feeling strangely furry… despite that it was a delicious bitter, hoppy beer with plenty of balancing maltiness, and all for £1.39 a pint (or 70p a half in my case).
With the rain having tired itself out for the moment I risked a soaking by carrying on towards the furthest point on the stroll, the Sportsman at Hyde. I passed the Jolly Carter, which looked like I remember Bass pubs in the 1980’s with an all-keg lineup and very dated interior, but I wasn't tempted by Toby Light on keg – strangely enough – and so carried on until I came to the Queens. This is a large Holts pub which, as with many of their houses, oozes a welcome which is rare these days and looked nice enough inside too but, with my dislike of Holts beer in general having been stoked by a truly repulsive half of Sixth Sense the night before, I merely shuddered at the thought of drinking Holts again so soon and carried on past.
Just as an aside here, I remember when I first started visiting Manchester around 1990 Holts seemed to taste a lot better than it does now; I never really liked the bitter which – as any Mancunian will tell you – used to be one of the bitterest brews around, but the mild was my tipple of choice in the Cheadle Hulme and I distinctly remember it being a dark beer akin to a stout with plenty of roastiness undepinned by ample of bitterness… contrast this with the sad parody of a beer it’s become now with a thin toffeeish taste and the lovely nutty roastiness replaced by a tawdry caramel taste. Try as I might I just don’t like Holts beers now – to me, they just taste cheap and nasty – and that repulsive seasonal I’d consumed the previous evening may just be my final Holts beer.
Not many of these left.
Back to Hyde, then, and I squelched along flooded pavements (the rain I’d missed had been very heavy by the looks of things), past a huge glaring Morrison’s supermarket, then a quick look through the windows of Flanagans confirmed what common sense would tell anyone – no real ale. My final destination was soon reached and it was with some relief, having walked approximately four miles thus far, that I opened the door and entered the pub. Inside, it was immediately obvious that this was a proper locals’s pub and was one of a kind which is sadly all too rare these days; two distinct sides, six beers on cask, conversation the only distraction… there were no scoops available but some decent beer all the same – Pictish Brewer’s gold, Moorhouse’s Black cat, Plassey bitter, Whim Hartington bitter, Landlord and another I forget – so I selected Plassey bitter, many years having passed since I’d last tried it, and retired to the back room to soak up the atmosphere.
As I supped my beer I took in the chequerboard mosaic floor, separate rooms, stripey beige wallpaper and the many other details which took me back to when I’d begun drinking 20 years ago. In itself this isn’t that long a time period but it has seen a wholesale change in the character of pubs in England; when I began drinking most pubs were simply that – pubs – and you knew what beer would be on sale from the brewer’s name above the door. Weigh that against the situation in 2007 where most pubs are now “themed” to attract a narrow section of the populace and you’ve no idea what beer will be on sale inside apart from the general rule that nothing worth a wet fart will be available in 95% of pubs you’ll encounter.
The Plassey wasn’t that interesting a beer with a mainly sweetish, toffee taste awash with peardrop esters before a thin, malty finish with more peardrops and a hint of graininess, but it was good all the same to be able to try such a rare brew in Manchester and so I supped away on this and then I indulged in a swift half of the delicious Moorhouse’s Black cat mild which was lusciously fruity and sweet in the manner of a treacle cake with an extremely morish chocolatey finish, just as I remember it, and it certainly a very consistent beer and one of the best milds left – even if they don’t have the guts to call it one these days!
Whilst I supped I listened, amused, to some lowlifes describing their holiday disasters; “We spent £1,000 on an all-inclusive in Alcudia and we all got food poisoning” one wailed, prompting me to splutter into my beer in amusement – if you’re so fuckwitted enough to spend that much money going to Majorca, which you can get to for £50 nowadays, and then stupid enough to believe you’ll be getting proper food in what is basically a compound for sad English council tenants who don’t want to see or taste anything remotely exotic then you deserve all you get, I thought, but there was better to come! “Why didn’t you go out if the food was so bad?” asked someone else, fairly enough I thought, but this was met with a snort of contempt from the sickly lowlife; “I’d paid all that money and I didn’t want to go out of the hotel!” Well, that basically says it all to me about what’s wrong with British tourists… all-inclusives, not wanting to see anything apart from what they’re told by the holiday reps, no exposure to local culture just exportation of our own, chips, lager, more lager… need I go on?
I decided against another beer and so, with a new-found fondness for the Sportsman, I headed back to the Cheshire Ring to see what was available there – and I hoped it wasn't all bloody Beartown as I’m not a massive fan of their distinctly bland beers these days! I was saved by a lone pump dispensing Rudgate Well Blathered (5%, a new strength for me) but I didn’t really care as I got into conversation with some of the locals about beer here and abroad and so ended up having a half of Beartown Kodiak Gold anyway as we chatted at length about drinking in places such as Düsseldorf, Prague, Tallinn, Amsterdam, Brussels and Barcelona. For once I’d actually found someone who knew what they were talking about rather than the usual pub bore who’s generally been nowhere further than the end of the road and I enjoyed a decent half hour’s chat propped against the bar – all very sociable – and the beer was pretty good, too!
My final port of call was the Lowe’s Arms, thankfully now open, and I enjoyed a cracking half of Hornbeam Dark Domination porter (6%) with it’s dark red colour, roasty and toasted grain flavour with fruit and liquorice then a complex roasty, sweet and powerful finish before enduring one of the new Dane Town beers… let’s just say LAB beers had a name for not being the best beers around and I really hoped that the new incarnation of the brewery would raise the bar by a good few feet but, sadly, if the example of Valkyrie Øl (4.2%) I had is anything to go by they needn’t have bothered… some hints of citrus hop peeked above the sour, yeasty, acidic taste but were simply swamped by the off flavours. I’ll try this again one day as it had just come on, but surely a beer obviously as infected as this simply shouldn’t have seen the light of day in the first place? Bus 201 from 50 metres back along Hyde Road (Broomstair Bridge stop) provided my transport back to the hotel as it would to any of the pubs on this crawl… a most useful service!
Whilst Manchester itself is well known as a beer mecca it’s suburbs aren’t as highly mapped our and so I think they are worthy of this rambling pub-crawl monologue. The Hyde Road area is one of the better areas to find decent (notice I didn’t say scoopable, although that does happen sometimes) beer and, fortunately, the Stagecoach 201 bus traverses the full route all the way from Manchester Piccadilly (the stop at the other side of Newton Street to the Gardens, called stop EO, it’s not obvious!) through the dereliction of Ardwick then along the A57 through Denton, past the Lowes, Cheshire Ring, through Hyde and then on past the Sportsman on Mottram Road. A day ticket is £3 on this service making a day out trying all the pubs a realistic proposition; it’s only 30 minutes in normal traffic from Piccadilly to the Lowes after all!
Denton itself is a slightly down-at-heel place which has suffered due to the closure of it’s factories in recent years whilst Hyde is slightly more upbeat and not as derelict as Denton can feel; the Lowes Arms is between the two in semi-countryside although only a ten-minute wander from the Cheshire Ring and, best of all, it’s downhill from there! The Lowes has recently reopened as a brewpub although I really do hope the beer is better than the one example I tried which was, frankly, almost undrinkable and shouldn’t have been anywhere near the bar; any news welcome!
So, whilst not recommending this crawl as a replacement for a Manchester scooping trip, I’d say that if you get bored of Manchester city centre (hard to imagine, I know, but you might…) and have a few hours to spare then a trip out on the 201 bus to the Sportsman, maybe walk back to the Cheshire Ring, catch the 201 back to the Lowes and then back into the centre is a decent enough way to spend an evening and you may get lucky with the winners – but, if you don’t, there are generally some decent enough beers in the pubs to make it an enjoyable trip out and an interesting ride if you’ve not seen this part of Manchester before.
You could also take the train to Hyde Central (Romiley/Rose Hill/Marple trains out of Piccadilly) from where the Cheshire Ring is only a couple of minutes away if you’re averse to buses and continue from there, although the 201 isn’t much slower than the train! If you want to begin at the Sportsman then Newton for Hyde station (on the Hadfield/Glossop line) is only a five-minute wander away so this is another option.
Pub and beer gen.
There’s no point in listing all the pubs I visited as most of them don’t sell real ale and, for the ones that do, you’re unlikely to find anything remotely scoopable which you won’t find in the centre of Manchester – by this I mean Holts, Hydes and Robinsons. There’s a distinct lack of free houses around the area making the three listed here the best bets for good ale.
Lowe’s Arms, 301 Hyde Road, Denton, Manchester, M34 3FF. 0161 336 3064.
Cheshire Ring, 72 Manchester Road, Hyde, Cheshire, SK14 2BJ.
Sportsman, 57 Mottram Road, Hyde, Cheshire, SK14 2NN.
A Google map of these three can be found here, part of my larger Manchester and Salford beer map.
Beer and pub of the evening.
Not a difficult choice on the pub front this time owing to one standout example; the best pub – by far – was the staunchly traditional Sportsman in Hyde which maintains the tradition of a “proper” local’s pub with good ale – something not so common these days, sadly.
As for beer, I’m not sure I can force the page of a scooping book between George Wright Pure Blonde (4.6%) and Hornbeam Dark Domination Porter (6%) – it depends if I’m in a hoppy or roasty mood – and so I declare them both beer of the evening although either could be my favourite dependent on my predilection of the day. With the beers being so totally different I think it wouldn’t be fair to choose one over the other but I will say that I scooped three Hornbeam beers in two days and, with scores of 4, 3.5 and 3.5 they’ve made a blinding start to their brewing career in my eyes!
© Gazza 20/11/07 v1.0